How to convert a factory in the event of a crisis

By diverting a local factory, you can keep your supply chain functioning in the event of a crisis. Credits: Marcin Jozwiak / Unsplash

According to experts, healthcare suppliers need to change the way they manage their supply chains, and factories are turning to manufacturing a variety of products to respond quickly to the next major crisis and avoid a shortage of critical medical supplies. You need to be able to respond quickly.

The lack of PPE and ventilator at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was due in part to the fact that few companies knew the sources or the risks they faced.

Before the pandemic, 28% of manufacturing output was in China. When China’s factories and borders were closed and transportation routes were cut off, the impact was global. At the same time, medical supplies companies faced a rapid surge in demand.

Some countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, turned to a local network of 3D printers to fill the supply gap at the start of the pandemic, but European factories could not completely fill the shortfall. ..

According to experts, one of the key ways to keep the supply chain functioning in the event of a crisis is to reuse local factories to bridge supply gaps when demand surges or transportation routes are disrupted. That is.

“If you have an existing (local 3D printing) network, especially for less complex devices such as face masks and eyeglasses, it’s easy to get started,” said the coordinator of the Eur3ka project, which was founded in response to a pandemic. Angelo Marguglio said. To help European healthcare suppliers become more resilient to the next crisis.

The Eur3ka project wants to help SMEs be ready to reuse their machines and manufacture new products within 48 hours in the event of another crisis.


One of the key challenges is authentication. Even if a factory can quickly divert a manufacturing process, it cannot supply medicines without the permission of a medical institution. “We need to certify machinery, manufacturing processes, workforce skills, and final products,” says Marguglio, head of the Smart Industry and Agrifood R & D unit of the Engineering Group, an international company working on digital transformation. Says.

Eur3ka is working with healthcare licenses to establish pre-certification schemes for businesses. This can be quickly turned into a full certificate if needed. “This is a kind of cooked certification process, so you can start production right away,” he said.

To obtain that pre-certification, companies need information about what changes are needed in their machine, process, and staff skills. And it requires the trust and cooperation of the company that holds the patents for the products and processes.

“As the owner of the product, I provide a license to start manufacturing the product only if I trust to use this IP protected file or process within the agreed terms. For example, only during a pandemic. ”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, owners of several patented products and processes have established their own secure networks with manufacturers on a one-to-one basis. “It took a while, but it worked,” Marglio said.

“The question is, how can we facilitate this collaboration and speed up this phase,” he added.

One of Eur3ka’s solutions is to develop a community, or digital factory alliance, that connects healthcare with existing networks of organizations such as government agencies, ICT companies, manufacturing companies, and the World Economic Forum.

“It’s not just the technical impetus that can solve the problem. It’s not just the political impetus that can solve the problem. We need a multi-actor approach,” says Marguglio.


Another important change is to make sure that the supply chain is designed using a risk-based approach, says Marguglio.

“We need to ask,’What are the risks of relying on a single supplier or country, as well as financial costs?’ … (and) how to build, design and operate a more flexible supply chain,” he says. It was.

Another pandemic can occur at any time, but the next crisis is likely to be political, he says. “In today’s South America, for example Brazil, there are many instabilities that can explode in any direction at any time.”

Even a very local crisis can affect suppliers. For example, a 2019 Hong Kong rebel protest temporarily closed the world’s busiest air cargo airport.

Other risks include political decisions to limit exports, for example if India banned the export of paracetamol in March 2020 to protect its domestic supply.

However, discovering the risks inherent in a particular supply chain requires a lot of work, says Saskia Sardesai, a medical supply chain expert and senior scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Germany.

For example, one supply chain is dotted with 70 suppliers around the world, and each supply chain can only exchange production data with the next company in the supply chain, Sardesai says.

“Even the most sophisticated logistics industry in the automotive industry struggled during the pandemic because it didn’t know who all its suppliers were and where they were based,” she said.

She is working on CO-VERSATILE, a project to develop tools to help European healthcare suppliers and other companies prepare for the next crisis.

The CO-VERSATILE project is developing an online portal called Digital Technopole. This portal provides European manufacturers with advice and simulation tools on how to adapt their factories and supply chains in the event of a crisis.

“We will consider (providing) instructions on who can provide the raw materials, how to set up the supply chain, and how to set up the production line,” says Sardesai. I did.


Many supply chains take weeks to order raw materials and convert them to final products, which makes them unable to respond quickly to sudden changes in demand.

She says that digitization of supply chain information is essential for businesses to act swiftly in times of crisis. Small businesses typically send orders by email or fax and manually enter information about supplies and suppliers into the company’s database, says Sardesai.

Companies cannot adapt quickly unless they work closely with their suppliers, understand the problems they are facing, and identify major bottlenecks.

“Once you know it, you can act,” Sardesai said.

COVID-19: Impact on supply chain

Provided by Horizon: EU Research & Innovation Magazine

Quote: How to reuse the factory in crisis (February 23, 2021) was obtained from on February 23, 2021. Was

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How to convert a factory in the event of a crisis

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