by Michael Severino, Ginolis Sales Manager, U.S. East Coast
A global pandemic presents many challenges for diagnostic device manufacturers, especially those dependent on traditional manufacturing processes that are not conducive to the social distancing of workers on the line. As a result, diagnostic device manufacturers have recently been asking how they can ensure the uninterrupted production of vital diagnostic devices when they are critically needed.
Historically, lateral flow device and rapid test manufacturing were done on assembly lines that relied heavily on the manual labor of several workers on the factory floor. A setup where a viral outbreak can spread rapidly since social distancing could interfere with the production line. Additionally, the fear of potential exposure could lead to increased absenteeism among workers, which also has the very real potential to slow down production. Traditional manufacturing may seem deceptively cheaper, however, when you compare it to automated, robotic manufacturing, it becomes abundantly clear that manual-labor-dependent processes are not only inefficient but during a pandemic, they also place undue stress on line workers. As a result, the production of essential diagnostic devices could be halted at a time when communities need easy access to rapid tests in order to identify and stop outbreaks.
How automated production lines can minimize production interruption during a pandemic
Decreased worker density
An automated lateral flow device assembly line only requires one worker to operate two high-speed production lines. This facilitates social distancing on the factory floor and reduces the risk of spreading infections.
Automated assembly lines can be operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (with minimal interruptions for routine maintenance), making it easier to meet sudden increases in demand for lateral flow devices during a pandemic.
Eliminate human error
When well-trained factory workers get sick or have to quarantine for several weeks, temporary workers come to keep production flowing. This is a high-risk proposition for diagnostic device manufacturing, where accuracy and experience on the line are key. An automated production line, on the other hand, eliminates this quality control concern raised by inexperienced workers.
Reduced reliance on manual labor
We have seen first-hand instances where automated assembly lines allow 60 workers to be repurposed during a pandemic. This means production workers can be used to work remotely and stay out of harm’s way while the robotic assembly lines complete the repetitive assembly tasks.
The lateral flow device manufacturing industry had already recognized the importance of investing in assembly automation. During the pandemic, however, the need for automation was made abundantly clearer to ensure the safety of workers while meeting increased demand for critical diagnostic devices at points of care.