17 August 2023 | Thursday | Influencers
Kenneth De Muynck, General Manager, Asia Pacific, Oliver Healthcare Packaging
In this insightful interview, the narrative of Oliver Healthcare Packaging's journey through the intricate tapestry of Asia Pacific's healthcare packaging arena comes to life. With a steadfast focus on innovation, customer satisfaction, sustainability, and strategic partnerships, Oliver is poised to shape the future of healthcare packaging in the region, leaving an indelible imprint on both the industry and the communities it serves.
Can you provide insights into your strategy for leading Oliver Healthcare Packaging's growth across the Asia Pacific region, considering the diverse markets and their unique regulatory requirements?
Oliver’s growth strategy is to stay connected to the pulse of the region’s fast-evolving healthcare landscape, identify key growth opportunities, and expand our business in the biopharma, medical device, and related markets.
Take Asia for example. Following the impact of COVID-19, governments increasingly started prioritising healthcare, and we consequently saw a 9% increase in spend on the region’s US$3 trillion industry. Patient numbers also grew between 15% to 30%, indicating a surge in demand for products and services across Asia. Oliver was already investing in the region to support the consequent need for a greater number of related healthcare products and expanded our presence further by breaking ground on a new manufacturing facility in Johor, Malaysia earlier this year. When it opens in 2024, it will be one of the largest plants in our company’s history and will bolster our capabilities to support increasing demands for sterile packaging.
Recognising that the region is also made up of extremely unique and diverse countries, we will also tap on our ecosystem of trusted partners to address healthcare infrastructure gaps. For example, poor access to safe and affordable healthcare, lack of industry talent, and outdated technology remain daily challenges for this sector, especially in rural and remote areas – so leveraging key industry relationships will help us ensure that healthcare supplies and therapies remain accessible and resilient.
Your experience at GE HealthCare and Cytiva has covered various aspects of the healthcare industry. How do you plan to leverage this multifaceted background to drive innovation and customer satisfaction at Oliver Healthcare Packaging?
In my previous roles, I held various leadership positions in sales and marketing, strategy, customer service, product management, and operations across diverse markets. Drawing upon prior experiences where I managed international teams, led service centres, set up manufacturing facilities, and engaged with government stakeholders, my acute understanding of regional nuances and dynamic market landscapes enables me to harmonise both established best practices and new industry approaches.
For example, while I was with GE HealthCare Life Sciences in Amersham, UK, I drove the launches of two new products and successfully built a pipeline for future projects. I am a firm believer in involving the customer early (and throughout the product development phase), so one can pivot quickly based on customer feedback. It is this customer intimacy, agile mindset, and flexibility that is at the heart of Oliver, too.
I believe that my prior experience also fuelled a more creative problem-solving approach and enabled me to not only anticipate challenges, but craft tailored strategies to enhance customer satisfaction. I look forward to integrating these skillsets into my new role and working closely with our teams to forge new paths ahead.
With the upcoming construction of the new manufacturing facility in Malaysia, what are your goals and expectations for this facility, and how will it contribute to Oliver's presence in the Asia Pacific healthcare packaging market?
When the new manufacturing plant officially opens in 2024, it will be one of our largest facilities at Oliver. It will create hundreds of new jobs in the coming years and support the development of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in Malaysia and beyond.
Our expanded presence will help us better serve our customers throughout the Asia Pacific region, given that the upcoming plant will be close to our existing technical lab in Singapore. This will create greater synergies for our presence in the region and bolster our capabilities to manage increasing demands for medical devices and provide additional technical expertise to help our customers navigate evolving landscapes, including future potential supply-chain challenges.
Could you elaborate on the specific ways in which you intend to capitalize on the rapid technological advancements and increasing investment in the APAC healthcare industry to position Oliver as a leader in flexible healthcare packaging?
The future of healthcare in Asia Pacific is poised for significant transformation with technology playing a pivotal role in bridging the gaps in access and quality. For example, telemedicine is enabling patients to consult healthcare professionals remotely, overcoming geographical barriers to access. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also helping healthcare professionals enhance diagnostic accuracy and predict patient outcomes, thereby improving quality of care.
Collectively, these are causing surges in demand for products and services, and Oliver is responding by not only providing quality products that align with consumers’ growing needs, but also by offering industry knowledge and expertise to help customers nimbly and effectively navigate the fast-evolving healthcare landscape.
For example, Oliver’s team of healthcare packaging engineers have the ability to design packaging solutions that improve material performance and troubleshoot packaging failures. Our presence across key markets like Singapore and the US also enables us to understand regional nuances and develop locally relevant solutions that comply with international standards.
The healthcare landscape is evolving with a strong emphasis on sustainability. How does Oliver Healthcare Packaging plan to integrate eco-friendly practices into its packaging solutions, and how does this align with the growing demand for environmentally conscious products?
Corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship are part of Oliver’s organisational DNA. We know that by “greening” our processes from the inside out, we are better positioned to support our customers in reaching their own high standards of sustainability.
For example, to reduce our carbon footprint, we carefully examine electricity use and waste management practices at our technical labs and manufacturing facilities in the US, Europe, and Asia. We have also installed energy-conserving LED lighting upgrades, HVAC systems and windows, and mitigate emission levels from employee travel and commuting. Additionally, we reduce waste through innovative packaging and design. For example, our Clipless Catheter Dispenser reduces material waste by 20% to 30% and uses less shipping material as well.
We have also implemented recycling programmes in many of our facilities to give materials like high-density polyethylene sheets, corrugate, and pallets and batteries a second life.
All in all, we remain resolute in our efforts to continually explore and utilise comprehensive green initiatives and technologies, and to make a greater impact on the environment and the communities we operate in.
As the healthcare industry continues to grapple with challenges such as supply chain disruptions and changing regulations due to the ongoing global situation, how do you plan to navigate these uncertainties and ensure a stable supply of sterile barrier flexible packaging solutions to your customers?
Over the last few years, medical supply chains have been strained under the demands of the pandemic, geopolitics, inflation, and new therapeutic modalities. At the same time, the healthcare industry is becoming increasingly competitive, but Oliver remains committed to prioritising innovation and partnerships to navigate these uncertainties.
We aim to maintain flexibility and scalability, with a focus on de-risking our own supply chain. An example to illustrate this is our recent acquisition of German based EK-Pack Folien GmbH, a manufacturer of high-quality films and foils, which will allow Oliver to insource these critical packaging materials rather than relying on other suppliers.
With the backing of public-private collaboration models, government initiatives, and the growing role of multinational R&D centres in the region, our continued investment in innovation will help us stay agile and develop locally sourced materials for evolving customer demands.
We will also continue to leverage our technical expertise and relationships with local partners to address healthcare infrastructure gaps. We will endeavour to work closely with them to ensure that healthcare supplies and therapies remain stable and available for all end users.