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3 Tips to Reduce Orthopedic Implant Manufacturing Lead Time

Reducing lead time for orthopedic implant medical devices is one of the top priorities for our customers.

It’s understandable to want to know exactly how long a process will take until the first article or first shipment is on its way to the customer.

One of the best ways to reduce lead times is responsive communication between suppliers and customers.

Read on for more tips we’ve learned that can help reduce or prevent shifting lead times on your next project.

Tip #1: Have open and responsive communication about project details between you and your orthopedic manufacturer.

There are few things that will derail a project more quickly than long turnaround times on answers to questions, which is why responsiveness is the top way to reduce lead times.

Responsiveness applies to both manufacturers and customers, as every project requires collaboration to stay on track.

From a customer’s point of view, the manufacturer needs to understand your requirements and quickly share any design questions or clarifications they have.

From a manufacturer’s point of view, each project has a schedule and needs to reach specific milestones before the next phase can begin. Delays early on have a greater chance of pushing out future deadlines, so quick responses to questions is important to keep things moving forward.

Tip #2: Make sure there are clear expectations around manufacturing lead times and understand what may impact your project.

There are different lead times for different types of project milestones, such as lead time to first article and lead time to when the whole order is complete.

For the biggest orders, there may also be lead time to first shipment. For example, if there’s an order for 12 kits of 400 cervical plates, the first five may be due at 12 weeks, with the final seven due at 24 weeks.

Having a clear expectation of lead times for each milestone is important to everyone on the project. This can alleviate potential misunderstandings later on about lead time length and give a good picture of where lead time may be reduced or optimized based on the manufacturer’s resources.

One expectation that manufacturers should set with their customers is around the variables that could affect their project. At Lowell, we confirm project lead times after receipt and acknowledgement of order.

There is often discussion around aspects of a device between an order being received and acknowledged. Holding on lead time agreements until acknowledging an order helps us project more realistic lead times based on our machining capacity and workload.

For example, if we quote a project with a 10-week lead time, but a month passes before the order is placed and acknowledged, we may not have the capacity to hit that 10-week timeframe because of other orders that have come in.

Tip #3: Have complete drawings and models before establishing lead times.

Drawings and models should be final and in agreement with clear direction on materials, finishes and inspection alignment before starting a project. When details are still being finalized, it can delay project starts or shift lead time milestones.

Reviewing all details of a device before finalizing timelines is the best way to avoid shifting lead times. Pre-production meetings are a valuable opportunity for this question-and-answer period, because the manufacturer can have a better understanding of the design intent and manufacturing requirements of a specific device.

On a recent project, the customer provided clear guidance on surface finishes and laser marking requirements during a pre-production meeting. Having this information at the beginning of the project can help to eliminate the constant back and forth that can happen when these issues come up ad hoc.

Waiting to confirm lead time until after this pre-production meeting helps manufacturers better deliver on projected timelines for customers.

Lead time is an important factor for any manufacturing project, including time-sensitive orthopedic device launches. By working together, manufacturers and their customers can work to reduce the lead time to manufacture implants and stay on track for milestones.