India should encourage automation and robotics to overcome workforce shortage in medical devices manufacturing industry, says GlobalData

COVID-19 crisis can be an opportunity for the Indian medical devices manufacturing industry. However, it has resulted in the shortage of workforce and subsequently impacted the demand and supply of medical devices in India. Against this back drop, the government should encourage/incentivize India’s medical device manufacturers to integrate more automation and robotics into their manufacturing process. This will ensure less interruption in supply/output when a smaller workforce is available, as is the case with current COVID-19 related lockdowns, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s research reveals that the Indian medical devices market, which accounted for more than 13% of the Asia-Pacific medical devices market in 2019, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% through 2025.

India faced shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators when the country started it’s battle with the outbreak since the production was almost negligible. However, over the next few months India became one of the largest producers of these devices. Existing and new manufacturers together managed the production when a large number of workers went back to rural India.       

Rohit Anand, Medical Devices Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Companies from other sectors started manufacturing PPE and ventilators as they could sense the opportunity. This means that the existing medical devices manufacturers need to revisit their strategy in the long term as the new entrants may need workforce skilled in manufacturing devices.”

Since a large number of migrant workers already headed back to their native villages, medical devices manufacturing sector may face scarcity once the full-scale operations are commenced.               

Anand concludes: “Companies may continue to allow office staff to work from home but this policy will not work with staff employed in factories managing production. Many of the workers may not want to go back to work immediately till they feel it is safe to return and this could lead to a crisis.

“Domestic manufacturers have an option to either move to states with an abundant workforce completely or can set-up smaller units in these states. Companies may gradually increase the use of robotics and automation but it may take time for all the manufacturers to adopt these technologies. Indian government should promote automation and robotics in manufacturing by incentivizing MNCs to tie-up with domestic manufacturers. In addition, it will also allow for a quicker and more efficient ramp up of production of essential medical devices during widespread healthcare emergencies.”  

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