Unprecedented success in medical device manufacturing

Digi-Key’s vice president of global supplier management, David Stein, illustrates how the company is supporting suppliers and customers through Covid-19 supply chain challenges.

Demand for medical equipment put tremendous pressure on supply chains and certain components. Suppliers who were running out of product requested we quarantine inventory for customers building critical medical technology. We provided this for medical and other key customers in dire straits, ensuring they had the components they needed when they needed them most.

This abnormal situation puts pressure on popular devices and they become scarce. Digi-Key’s product management team worked closely with customers to identify options to keep their manufacturing processes moving. For example, one customer building ventilators specified a certain temperature sensor on its BoM. That part had already sold out but we had three other variations that our product management team felt could be substituted. Samples were sent overnight and the customer’s design team used the parts to continue producing ventilators.

Digi-Key also partnered with Z2Data to offer priority support and component data for companies creating devices such as ventilators and testing solutions. By offering these services at no cost, Digi-Key helped medical device manufacturers source components quickly and ramp up production. Through the partnership, Z2Data offers no-cost access to its database of over one billion electronic components through its Part Risk Manager and Supply Chain Watch tools. These tools help organizations meet market demand by: managing their BOM; making informed part selection decisions; finding cross-references and alternatives; and tracking inventory availability of parts alongside real-time pricing and lead times.

Digi-Key also reallocated its engineering resources to help create a new, open-source ventilator called the Coventor, in partnership with physicians at the University of Minnesota and several other companies. At about the size of a cereal box, the inexpensive and rapidly scalable device will help meet the demand for ventilators in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

After physicians at the University of Minnesota reached out to Digi-Key the company quickly assigned a team to help with the life-saving project. Digi-Key’s team of engineers focused on identifying parts and addressing supply chain issues, including identifying vendors who could provide the needed components with a much quicker turnaround time than normal.

From design through production, Digi-Key helped not only select the parts but design the Coventor and provide the parts needed for production. Supporting the majority of parts on the BoM helped jumpstart the project and keep it moving. Digi-Key’s sales team also played an important role, providing one point of contact.

Thanks to strong collaboration and speed, the Coventor was the first ventilator approved for use under the US Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 outbreak. It took just one month from concept to FDA approval: unheard of in the medical device world. The team also made sure this would be an open source device so manufacturers around the globe can quickly copy it: an unprecedented move in the medical device market.