Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have imposed new supply chain and regulatory hurdles for medical device manufacturers and further complicate the process of navigating the strict requirements applied to packaging materials for medical devices. While the market for medical device packaging is projected to grow to just shy of $44 billion by 2026, growth may be restrained by health and safety regulations governing sterilization and a plethora of other compliance issues. In this environment, attention to scalable, innovative, and unconventional production methods will be a key driver for sustained market growth.
Amy Stewart, chairperson of the Institute of Packaging Professionals Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee (MDPTC), will explore the current state of packaging sterility and safety, including regulations in place to avoid healthcare-associated infection and the gravity of packaging integrity to patient safety, in her keynote presentation at Virtual Engineering Week, an all-new digital event taking place November 30 – December 4, 2020.
Virtual Engineering Week is organized by Informa Markets – Engineering — producers of the nation’s largest advanced manufacturing events, which includes Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M), WestPack, EastPack, Cannabis Packaging Summit, PackEx, and MinnPack, and owner of Packaging Digest. The five-day event is designed to connect suppliers with buyers and purchase influencers in the medtech, automation, design, packaging, materials, plastics, sustainability, and product development sectors. It offers world-class education for the close-knit manufacturing community through comprehensive conferences and networking at a time when in-person connection is not feasible.
Packaging Digest spoke with Stewart for a preview into what attendees can expect from her keynote address “Leading Change in Medical Device Packaging,” scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, at 11:15am EST. For anyone interested in tuning in to the event, registration is open at engineering.im.informa.com/2020.
As chairperson of the IoPP Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee (MDPTC), your keynote presentation at Virtual Engineering Week is “Leading Change.” What does that mean?
Stewart: Medical device packaging is an industry with range of technical expertise with one common mission — patient safety. We all have our roles in the supplier value chain to serve the patient through medical device packaging integrity and sterility assurance. Not only are there new ideas and challenges to decades of technical convention to explore, there are new faces in the industry. This brings a greater opportunity — being intentional with our differences.
As the leader of a professional organization in a well-established industry, I am passionate that our organizational culture is built on the pillar of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Our conversations are richer because of the various perspectives in our membership (and overall in our industry) and our Board.
In one “closest” example, I work with a talented young packaging engineer, Seema Momim, events chair on the MDPTC Board. Seema, a packaging engineer with Network Partners, is a consummate professional and is making an impact with the aggressive events schedule of MDPTC Tech Talks, meaningful forum-style discussions. In spite of competing priorities in this new world, Seema is “leading the change.”
Where are the opportunities in the medical device packaging industry?
Stewart: In my keynote presentation, I share a few highlights from the last 12 to 18 months, where we’ve seen trends and insights from less conventional sterilization methods to new medical device packaging innovation groups. These topics illustrate what’s happening in the industry that may resonate and inspire someone to seek his/her opportunity to further contribute.
Many speakers at Virtual Engineering Week are presenting on facets of medical device and medical device packaging, including regulatory changes making a global impact and the “global” concern of healthcare waste.
In the last eight months of COVID-19 support, there have been many activities leveraging the experience of medical device packaging professionals, including educators and media partners in our MDPTC membership. There’s no better time to answer the call-to-action, lean into the conversation, and provide technical leadership.
If you’re a new packaging professional in this field, how do you break into this industry and be a contributor on game-changing advancements in medical device packaging?
Stewart: Whether this was 2019 (pre-pandemic) or 2020, a good start is to join the Institute of Packaging Professionals and its Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee. Membership offers immediate access to programs and other like-minded professionals who are driven to see medical device packaging...be better, the timeless goal.
Also, in my presentation, I share the relationships between IoPP MDPTC and other industry organizations, such as the Sterilization Packaging Manufacturers Council (SPMC), a council of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA); the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI); and ASTM International, organizations that collectively are passionate about advancing medical device packaging technical guidance.
Hasn’t this industry had those leading the change already? Will we hear about new faces leading the change?
Stewart: Yes, and yes. Thankfully, we continue to have strong technical leaders who have built the technical foundational knowledge of medical device packaging. I share some examples of how industry professionals are leading “their” change. As we close out 2020, we thank once again lifetime medical device packaging industry contributor and MDPTC Honor Award recipient John Spitzley. A key objective for IoPP’s MDPTC is to be a valuable resource for new medical device packaging professional members — for industry education, networking, and professional development. In the next couple of months, MDPTC will be accepting applications for two industry recognitions, the annual MDPTC Honor Award and the Student HealthPack Award, in addition to open positions for Board re-elections. These applications are great indications of the faces leading the change.
Steve Everly is group event director for Informa Markets – Engineering. He leads the teams producing top industry events, including Virtual Engineering Week, EastPack, Powder Show Digital Flow, iPBS, and the Cannabis Packaging Summit.