Digitization in Medical Device Manufacturing: 4 Priorities


The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges across the globe. For medical device manufacturers, it exposed the cracks and weaknesses that already existed in manufacturing, such as agility and adaptability.

According to a December 2020 survey of manufacturing leaders, 29% of businesses believed their business systems did not provide them with the availability and accessibility to manage the changes that the pandemic introduced. 1

This may help explain why, over the past year and a half, the global business disruption has created a sense of urgency around accelerating efforts to digitize and connect offline or siloed areas of operations.

In a 2021 survey of manufacturing professionals by Fictiv2, a cloud-based network of hundreds of manufacturers:

  • 91% of respondents reported increased investment in digital transformation efforts in the past year.
  • 77% of respondents stated that the increased investment in digital transformation was significant or dramatic.
  • 95% of respondents agreed that digital transformation in manufacturing is essential to their company’s future success.

Agile manufacturers were able to adapt and fulfill unprecedented demand for products like ventilators, face masks, and other medical supplies. The shift underscored the need for manufacturers to be nimble and scalable. The medical device companies that were able to pivot had already digitized and could transition production lines quickly.

Though most manufacturers may recognize the benefits of digital transformation, many don’t see the roadmap. After all, there are real barriers, as strategic imperatives often hit the “reality wall” in environments like the shop floor:

  • Reworking processes and retraining is expensive.
  • Capabilities in existing software are too costly to implement.
  • Paper is proven and relatively easy to modify.
  • Legacy systems can’t be easily integrated.
  • New technology must be tested/validated.

But there is a realistic path forward that helps mitigate or minimize these challenges. The key is to make small changes in areas where you will see the biggest impact.

4 Areas to Prioritize Applying Digitization

As manufacturers look for ways to leverage technology, there are a few ways to apply digitization to enable agility and improve operations:

#1: Adopt Cloud Technologies

COVID-19 has accelerated the migration to cloud computing.3 The cloud simplifies data organization and sharing, and bandwidth increases on demand. Moving from on-premise to a scalable cloud environment makes it easier to harmonize different platforms and break down siloes, improve communication and collaboration, and deploy data-intensive applications for more thorough, accurate, and real-time data analytics.

#2: Prioritize Connected Platforms

Moving from rigid integrations to modular interfaces enables smoother data transfer and more connected data intelligence. Systems connected with application programming interface (API) or integration platform as a service (iPaaS) solutions offer a broader integration ecosystem, eliminating errors and improving data integrity shared between the existing systems.

#3: Invest in Configurable Applications

Configurable, flexible software solutions can be fast to implement, adopt, and deliver quantifiable benefits. A purpose-built application lets workers quickly build out and use a variety of device history record templates, streamline production, and ensure quality. Configurabilitylets manufacturers quickly and easily scale up to increase production capacity or scale down to produce smaller batches.

#4: Start Small and Smart

Rather than initiate a large-scale digital transformation initiative, make small, nimble changes with flexible, adaptable solutions that are quick to implement and fill gaps created by existing systems. Identify specific areas of improvement, and pilot small, smart technological updates that impact those areas. Simply put, start small, test the concept, prove out the value, and then expand the initiative.


As the medtech industry continues stabilizing, moving from managing crisis to adapting to the next normal, digitization is here to stay. The manufacturers that transform successfully will gain a significant advantage over slow-moving competitors due to the greater agility and operational improvements achieved through digitization.


  1. The Inflection Point for the Factory of the Future,” SYSPRO, Dec. 1, 2020.
  2. 2021 State of Manufacturing Report,” Fictiv, April 27, 2021.
  3. "Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report," Flexera, March 9, 2021.


David Butcher has covered business and technology trends in life sciences and industrial manufacturing for more than 15 years. Currently a content marketing specialist at MasterControl, he previously served as editor of Thomas Publishing’s Industry Market Trends and as assistant editor for Technology Marketing Corp.’s Customer Interaction Solutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the State University of New York, Purchase.

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