When Covid-19 hit the world, GE Healthcare Finland rapidly boosted its production of patient monitors and gas measurement modules used in monitors and ventilators. The company makes advanced medical equipment for global markets, relying on Helsinki’s stable and innovative business environment.
When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived at the start of this year, world demand for gas measurement modules and patient monitors rose steeply. Gas measurement modules are contained in patient monitors, anesthesia machines and ventilators used to treat patients with severe Covid-19.
GE Healthcare Finland has supplied world markets with monitors and gas measurement modules from Helsinki for many years. But now it was facing a great surge in demand.
“The demand seemed overwhelming, but we thought that let’s get to work to solve each and every bottleneck and just put in our best effort to scale up the production by hundreds of percentages,” recalls Managing Director Erno Muuranto. “And we did it.”
Production continues amid the pandemic
The stable and innovative business environment of Helsinki and Finland helped GE Healthcare Finland manage the crisis. To ramp up production, the company needed to increase the number of production lines, employees and work shifts – quickly.
“A large part of our production infrastructure comes from Finnish suppliers. Business life in Finland has continued to function amid the pandemic, so our suppliers were able to deliver new infrastructure very quickly,” Muuranto notes.
The technology business is full of dependencies. Fortunately, Muuranto says, Finnish suppliers understood the severity of the situation and prioritised their production to meet GE’s needs.
“The gas measurement module, for instance, includes hundreds of parts. Sometimes only one supplier can deliver a certain part, and that part may further consist of parts from five other suppliers. This makes it very hard to increase production quickly. At the end of the day, the Helsinki factory was able to scale up its manufacturing staff and infrastructure much faster than we were able to get parts from all the global suppliers.”
Finland’s ecosystem as a backbone
On the production line at the GE factory in Helsinki, gas measurement modules and patient monitors are assembled by people and robots, but mainly by people. The company therefore needed to recruit more employees.
“We put the word out that we needed new workers and contacted technology companies and their central federation to seek out people who had been temporarily laid off. Our employees shared our recruitment post to their personal networks in LinkedIn and it worked well. We got hundreds of competent candidates in a short time,” Muuranto explains.
“In general, we benefit from a skilled and highly educated workforce and Finland’s smooth cooperation between industry and public healthcare and research.
ERNO MUURANTO, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GE HEALTHCARE FINLAND
The company added close to 200 new manufacturing employees to complement its permanent production line staff. They are still needed as the production of gas measurement modules and patient monitors remains at a record high.
Muuranto points out that competent employees are an important part of the Finnish ecosystem.
“In general, we benefit from a skilled and highly educated workforce and Finland’s smooth cooperation between industry and public healthcare and research. The legacy of Nokia has generated many innovative companies with deep expertise, which we use in designing, simulating, testing and manufacturing our equipment.
Digitalisation helps focus the resources
Europe’s most influential digital health event, HIMSS & Health 2.0, takes place 7-11 September 2020 and is organised together with Finnish partners. Muuranto is participating in the panel discussion “Covid-19 drove a boom in digital health – True stories from a small giant in health, Finland”. It is the opening event on 7 September.
Why should corporate leaders, officials and healthcare professionals join the event?
“If we look at many of the new giant digital companies, they are using digital technology to completely change how we use resources. For example, anybody can become a car service provider with their own car, rent their apartment with easy access to global markets, get things delivered to their door at the push of a button or become a video publisher. Without digital technology none of these would even be imaginable. So, digitalisation can enable massive transformation of utilisation of limited resources,” Muuranto replies.
“Healthcare resources will always be limited, so I think no organisation in healthcare can afford to neglect digital technology.”
This poses a great opportunity for Finnish health tech startups. Muuranto mentions Buddy Healthcare, a startup that helps hospitals and clinics to be resource-smart. The company is part of GE’s Health Innovation Village in Helsinki.
“The company has developed a mobile application that automates and monitors a patient’s preparation for surgery and recovery procedures. This ensures that patients arrive correctly prepared to their surgery, thus preventing last minute cancellations of operations. This is another example of digital solutions increasing effective utilisation of limited resources – in this case operating rooms and surgery staff,” Muuranto explains.
Photos: GE Healthcare Finland
Cover photo: Working at the GE Healthcare Finland’s factory in Helsinki. Photo taken before the Covid-19 pandemic – nowadays, the employees are wearing face masks at work.
GE Healthcare Finland Fast Facts
- Products: Patient monitors, gas measurement modules used in anesthesia and respiratory devices
- Personnel: Normally 700, now 900
- Target market: Hospitals & clinics