The pandemic has disrupted supply chains around the world. Being no exception, orthopedic CDMOs have faced great challenges, and resiliency has truly been put to the test. Earlier this year, our Director of Orthopedics and Strategic Business Development, Jodie Gilmore, participated in a webinar hosted by OMTEC. Together with other leaders in the orthopedic industry, they talked about challenges, lessons learned, and how to build resiliency for supply chain interruption in the future. Here is a recap of the experience, knowledge, and insights shared by Jodie.

Jodie, as a global supplier to the orthopedic industry, what keeps you up at night as far as supply-related issues?

What keeps me up at night is the generally high level of uncertainty and the great unknown, which we cannot predict. Over the last 12 months, we have learned that many of the things that we used to count on completely, are shifting and changing in ways that we could never have possibly imagined. Realistically, who could have predicted the pandemic, the extreme winter weather, resource shortages, a container ship stuck sideways in the Suez Canal, and massive logistic woes?

What this means is that our historical behavior patterns and our tried-and-true methods are ultimately less effective. All of the most amazing tools we could have had to predict things, cannot. We have to be entrepreneurial, we have to be flexible, and we have to adapt.

What are you doing to make sure you are aligned with your customers and keeping relationships fresh when you can’t do the face-to-face?

At the end of the day, when you cannot be together in person, you need to use all of your available resources to stay in touch and connect – pick up the phone, start a Teams chat, open a Zoom meeting, send a text message – literally reach out in every way possible. Share your information, share your concerns, be very real and transparent, and don’t be afraid to ask the very direct questions of your suppliers and customers: What are your biggest worries? Where do we need to make sure we are shoring up any potential holes or gaps?

Don’t be afraid to put it out there. Because, at the end of the day, we are all in this together. We all have a shared interest in making sure that this industry can continue to grow, roll, and serve, because it is essential and meaningful. That human element of just picking up the phone and reaching out, texting on a random Friday afternoon, and just saying, “Hey, I’m just checking in.” is really important.

In the words of Rahm Emanuel, you never let a crisis go to waste. As a CDMO to the orthopedics industry, what do you see as opportunities taken out of the COVID crisis?

We can all say that we definitely fast-track the use of our digital tools and increased usage of our digital resources. That kind of digitization of our businesses has definitely been accelerated during this time. But I also think one of the really interesting things anytime you have a crisis or challenge is to see how teams come together and how people don’t take anything for granted and make sure to get in touch early and stay in touch.

Watching teams go to work in a time that is challenging is fascinating. It helps to bring everybody together in a much closer tighter-knit way, trying to make sure that we can maneuver early and quickly and have that sense of urgency and purpose, not just for the whole grand scheme of things, but for really saying, “We’ve got to come together and solve this problem that is right ahead of us.”.

I think that is one of those things that come out of this situation – you really get a sense of the people you are working with and the true merits of everybody pulling together. It just helps to reinforce the fact that our people in all of our organizations are truly our greatest asset, and really working together as a team is just incredibly rewarding and ultimately the most successful in the end.

What is a COVID lesson learned that you will continue to follow after the pandemic is behind us?

It is incredibly important to have a solid foundation – whether it is financial, risk mitigation plans, or business continuity plans. From a pure leadership perspective, the personal lesson was that we always expect that we will have the answer, and as executive leaders, we are supposed to have a plan for every situation. But that is not realistic. However, we need to communicate, even when we don’t necessarily have a specific solution or know exactly what is going to happen next. That communication, trust, and transparency is really important. And also giving yourself the grace to say, “I don’t exactly know.”. Normally, we have an exact plan for the next five years down to the wire. This was one of those scenarios where you simply could not have that.

And so, again, you have got to be flexible and entrepreneurial, you have got to use your resources, keep your eyes and ears open, and communicate. There is not a playbook or a roadmap for how to do this. You are ultimately going to have to build one, and people need to know that. We are going to do it together, and it is going to be just fine. We are going to get to the other side, and we will be stronger because of it.

How have you worked with your team members to allow them to grow in their roles when there is so much stress and things going on?

As part of our business continuity and disaster recovery plan, we already had line items and risk analysis based on critical employees, both in leadership as well as technical. But one of the things that we really activated throughout this year was doing a realistic succession planning across all of our operating sites, identifying the first, second, and third options for doing different key tasks. That was a really good exercise. It really highlighted how important it is for us to have a developing venture and identify any gaps you might have.

That is another thing that we are doing extensively now across our global organization, is a full gap analysis of both process and technical competence: Where do we need to be, where are we now, and what is the path to fill it. It sounds pretty simple, but it is really important to do – and it is not simple at all. It helps us identify specific gaps, develop them, build up the team, and invest internally within our businesses and our people.

In this nonstop world where we are not slowing down, do you have any tips to keep teams engaged and resilient as COVID persists?

For me, it is easy, because we are in the most amazing industry. I would let people know they are important, that their work is valuable, and what they do makes a meaningful difference every day in the lives of millions of people. We are very lucky to be in this industry because it automatically gives you a sense of being needed; lives depend upon our good work. 

That is incredibly satisfying and one of the reasons that I personally chose to come into this industry many decades ago: it is truly meaningful. When things get tough and difficult – if you know what you are doing is meaningful and moves the needle every day – it will keep you going. So, from my perspective, it all comes down to that.

And then loving the people that you work with. You’re going to spend a lot of time with those folks, whether on Zoom or in-person. Genuinely respecting, appreciating, and enjoying the people that you work with is incredibly important.

Do you want to listen to what the other panelists had to say? Watch the full OMTEC webinar on-demand here.  If you want to learn more about how Elos Medtech specializes in the orthopedic market, just visit our website.

The webinar was hosted by Howard Levy, Vice President of Global Sourcing at Zimmer Biomet. The other panelists featured in the webinar were Brandi Maranian, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain & Procurement at Smith+Nephew, and Victor Swint, Chief Executive Officer at Tecomet.