Thanks to Google and Apple, the definition of a manufacturer is blurred

P3 medical has counted on the cloud to run its core business applications since 2010, contributing to £75,000 savings over installing an equivalent server-based system, and is saving £25,000 yearly on administration and maintenance.


Managing director of P3, a medical manufacturer that operates two factories in the UK selling medical devices to over fifty different countries believes that technology has altered “the definition of what we are”. He explains to ComputerworldUK how using the cloud will help to compete with its disruptors.

“Google has a contact lens that senses blood glucose. Blood glucose was formerly our territory”, P3’s managing director Simon Talbot says across a table at the NetSuite conference, SuiteWorld, in San Jose.

“The question is, are we a medical device company or a medical technology company? That definition is beginning to be blurred already. Are Google and Apple medical technology companies? I believe they are”, he adds.

P3 produces medical “widgets” that Talbot claims play a critical role in saving patients on the operating table, ranging from surgical accessories to anaesthesia management tools. The firm runs a “cradle to grave” business model, operating two factories in the UK and distributing its devices to the NHS and over fifty customers around the world. It is a “long way off” becoming the next Google, but it is considering how it can extend its life and keep up with internet and video enabled medical hardware, as well as useful medical apps.  Talbot says: “The boundaries between sectors are being blurred ould i eventually become an it supplier as well as a medical device supplier? Arguably, yes.”

The manufacturer would be well positioned should it decide to chase the major trends in the medical technology business - genomics and data. Talbot believes the UK has competitive advantage over international medtech firms due to the NHS, which does not suffer from the same fragmentation and could offer a hugely informative, nationwide data pool.

But for now, Talbot says, P3 employees are simply happy to gain the significant cost reductions and improved busines processes from deploying cloud-based applications.

Cloud for manufacturers

It runs “90 percent” of its core business applications on the cloud since beginning the transition in 2010, when it was left with a sprawling legacy estate, including 7 or 8 different enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) as well as varying instances of Excel after a history of acquisitions.

“It was a mess. We had a had a database that was very close to being green screen. We had one guy controlling it if you needed data, you had to sift through.”

Further, the “hairball” estate was causing customer-facing issues. With a difficult hardware infrastructure and VPN, P3 was suffering from down time, most of the time.

“You could have a sales guy in front of a customer and they couldn’t get into anything. For us, the net - and its availability - was the most important factor.”

“In hindsight we were innovative, but it was really about gaining availability and integrating those different data islands across our ERP and Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), for example.”

In addition, since deploying The company has reduced administration costs by more than £50,000, has cut down on delayed orders to customers and cut its financial monthly reporting time from three weeks to two days. 

Now P3 runs mostly on NetSuite, aside from some on premise Sharepoint systems for regulatory reasons as well as Box and Docusign. 

Talbot says that manufacturing has been growing along with NetSuite, which in 2010 only offered a light module for manufacturers. Customers are updated to new features annually, but there is a possibility to customise where necessary, he adds.

The big data challenge

But P3 is still getting to grips with its data challenges. Seamlessly populating external databases with its product and catalogue information can be a struggle, Talbot admits. Different customers will need different field descriptions - or prices dependant on contracts - to flow from P3’s ERP to the customers’ e-commerce platform, like the NHS platform Global Healthcare Exchange.

Where automation isn’t possible in the software, P3 has to resort to measures like outsourcing to Pakistan, to keep its customers happy.  

For now, Talbot is safe in the knowledge P3 could scale if it decided to go down the IoT route - a benefit not granted to large on-premise IT operations.

“SAP, for example, is much less configurable. NetSuite is an enabler and I can see that we will be going down the cloud route even more for data purposes.

“Data, as a concept, will become more and more important. Having fewer people to do basic transaction processing is a real cash saving, and we have a scalability and efficiency that we wouldn't have without this system.” 

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