How Global Lab Instrument Suppliers Are Combating the Outbreak
SDi released its flagship 2020 Global Assessment Report at the end of February, which provides detailed market data for 83 categories of lab instruments, with revenues coming from over 1,200 supplier companies. Though the early part of 2020 had a rosier outlook for the year, laboratory suppliers have just recently had to adapt to a very different reality in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
While it is difficult for suppliers to contend with the threat of transmission and the continued viability of business operations at the same time, they are also learning to adapt quite rapidly to the situation in order to protect business operations, employees, and customers. In looking at how top lab supplier companies are reacting, there are generally four types of resources that are being commonly used by companies to remain strong and actively combat the outbreak of COVID-19.
Corporate Response Teams
Many companies have rapidly developed corporate response teams that serve to implement, communicate, and enforce business continuity plans (BCPs) and other measures that protect organizational health, employees, and customers from the viral outbreak. To help combat the spread of COVID-19, such measures generally include the restriction of travel and visitors, enhanced on-site hygiene, and the encouragement of remote work. The extent of such measures varies by region, which is why large suppliers with multiple facilities and offices around the world rely on a network of company leaders across different geographies to organize the proper response.
For example, Thermo Fisher Scientific assembled a Corporate Incident Response Team and released a guide detailing the steps the company has taken during this time. The company has regional response teams in place as well. To aid in communication, Thermo also set up a company-wide intranet. Since the initial outbreak in China, Agilent established an Enterprise Risk Management Program that incorporates BCPs across all of its critical activities, risk assessments, and crisis-management protocols. Meanwhile, Danaher has a Global Response Team set up to actively monitor, prepare, and manage its COVID-19 business response based on direction from local and state governments.
Automated technical support has been growing in popularity in recent years, and it seems now that the industry is having to depend on it more than ever before. Thermo has expanded its digital remote support for lab instrument service. Agilent is striving to resolve customer issues remotely using virtual tools and technologies. Beckman Coulter deployed BeckmanConnect, a remote troubleshooting technical solution where trained service experts can get real-time secured connectivity to systems. SCIEX is also implementing enhanced remote support, allowing free software licenses for home use.
Decentralized Production Strategies
As many countries and regions enter lockdown mode, it is a threat to the manufacturing facilities that produce analytical instruments and supporting consumables. Prior to the outbreak, many suppliers had already set up BCPs that dictated alternative production sites in the event that one is shut down. For instance, Beckman Coulter has multiple locations built into its manufacturing footprint, so it can shift production in most cases to unaffected sites. Other companies, like Agilent, are introducing split shifts at manufacturing sites that are still open in order to minimize transmission risks.
Technologies for Hospitals & Clinical Labs
Perhaps the most important steps of all right now come from the companies that can offer technologies and techniques that help the world fight the COVID-19 outbreak. This is where the life science suppliers shine.
Thermo Fisher and Roche have received FDA emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 test kits, and they are shipping these as fast as they can. Thermo’s test uses the Applied Biosystems 7500 Fast Dx Real-time PCR instrument, while Roche’s tests run on its fully automated cobas 6800 and 8800 systems. Combined, these suppliers are able to ship at least a couple million tests per week. Meanwhile, QIAGEN just announced that it obtained CE marking for its newly developed QIAstat-Dx Respiratory SARS-Cov-2 Panel to be sold as an IVD for the detection of the virus that causes COVID-19. Shimadzu is currently taking steps to deliver a new one-hour test kit for COVID-19 using a PCR variant method that skips the procedure for taking DNA from the virus. The company is hoping to commercialize the test kit as soon as possible.
Other life science suppliers, like MilliporeSigma, Bio-Rad, and GE Healthcare are able to quickly provide PCR and immunoassay reagents and standards that aid in COVID-19 detection and diagnostic assay developments. In fact, GE Healthcare has increased its manufacturing capacity for ventilators, hiring new manufacturing workers and increasing the number of shifts to produce these products around the clock.
While the pandemic is currently on course to get worse before it gets better, laboratory suppliers are also proving just how adaptable they can be to this change. During this time, SDi remains fully operational and is continuing to monitor the industry as results become available, releasing updates through IBO and our 2020 Global Datastream.