Good things happen when people listen to each other. At Parker, we have a standardized approach to new product development, we call Winovation. Through this process our divisions are encouraged to partner with their customers early on to ensure our innovation projects lead to valuable solutions.
Part of my role as a Global Business Development Manager for Life Sciences is to lead and consult on various Winovation projects pursued by nearly 30 divisions who serve the market. Rather than just taking orders for our standard products, I encourage our employees who interact with customers to ask the right questions and then really listen to solve the challenges they face.
Parker’s TechSeal division is focused on expanding its presence in the medical equipment market, so to further understand the market; they followed the Winovation process and engaged their existing customers for feedback. When inquiring about resealable polymers used in medical device and diagnostic applications, this is what they heard:
- We are experiencing delays in getting these parts and, when we do get them, we see defects like voids and flashing.
- The customer thought they had the part dimensions fixed, but on later testing, they had to change the dimensions. This involved more tooling costs, which didn’t make anyone happy.
- The parts tend to delaminate and fragment when exposed to caustic materials or high pressures. It causes product quality problems for us and for our customers.
- It’s difficult to pass the self-sealing capacity test, USP 381, which more and more of our customers are demanding.
For the TechSeal Division, this information translates into opportunity! By asking the right questions and listening to their customers, they were able to use their specific expertise in materials science to develop high-quality, customized solutions for various healthcare applications including a new extruded self-sealing septa.
“Through market research and customer interviews we identified an opportunity in the market for the combination of unique polymer characteristics and our proprietary extrusion process. We’ve received good feedback so far. People seem to really like the versatility in terms of being able to provide custom colors and custom sizes.” Rebecca Smith, Business Development Manager for Parker TechSeal.
It’s really a case of the right material properties meeting the right manufacturing process, which has proven to be a competitive advantage for us at Parker. Here are some of the real benefits TechSeal customers can expect from the new products:
- The process, being extrusion-based, avoids the time and cost associated with molding processes.
- The resulting parts are more precise because extrusion avoids things like voids, shrinkage and flash that may be experienced with molded parts.
- The parts are made of a single material to avoid the delaminating and fragmentation that can occur with some layered septa products.
- The septa require significantly less force to break through resulting in easier repetitive processes for lab techs and other healthcare workers.
- The self-sealing capacity has been demonstrated by passing USP 381.
Parker’s advanced materials expertise at the TechSeal Division is unparalleled in the industry. The self-sealing capacity measures the septum’s ability to reseal itself after being punctured by a needle. In the test, 10 vials of septa are punctured in 10 different places, and then placed under a vacuum in a bath of blue dye. The Parker septa easily passed the test, but the testing engineers were curious to find the resealability limits of the product. The engineers started by puncturing each of the vials once more and putting them back in the bath. No dye in the vials. They added another puncture and put them back in the bath. Still no dye in the vials. And again….and again….. No dye in the vials. After the septa passed the test with twenty punctures, the engineers gave up.
“We just ran out of time that we had dedicated to doing the test,” says Gino Banco, principal research and development engineer.
Product enhancements benefit healthcare
So how might these product enhancements benefit an end-user in the healthcare industry?
Suppose a patient needs to have five different diagnostic tests completed using his or her blood. Using Parker’s resealable septa allows the clinician to draw just one blood sample. Without a resealable septa, the clinician would have to draw and store a separate sample for each test. The resealable septa allows the blood sample to be preserved in a vial that can be safely accessed up to 10 times. Fewer blood draws means less discomfort and anxiety for patients, time saved for clinicians, and less chance of mislabeling samples.
Or envision a situation where a patient needs to be administered a liquid medicine. One vial of medicine can be accessed numerous times if a Parker resealable septa is used to seal the vial. Using one vial of medicine instead of multiple vials protects patients by leaving fewer opportunities for medicine administration errors.
In my opinion, ‘listening’ should be included in the list of education basics: ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’. This example and many others throughout my career and personal life have illustrated for me that good things happen when people listen to each other.
Article submitted by Arun Ranchod Global Business Development Manager - Life Sciences, Parker Hannifin Corporation
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