The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains, resulting in shortage of critical healthcare equipment as well as raw material for the local industry involved in manufacturing drugs and protective gear.
The challenge has highlighted the importance of manufacturing medicines and medical supplies locally so to enhance the level of drug security and meet the requirements of the local market.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), in coordination with government and private organisations, is continuously collecting details and evaluating the effects of the health crisis, which has led to unprecedented damages and created challenges for the public and private sectors, including the industrial sector involved in manufacturing medicine and healthcare equipment in the sultanate.
Eng Sami bin Salem al Saheb, Director General of Industry, MoCI, said, “As part of the national effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, we are continuously working at a fast pace and with transparency to deal with the emerging challenges. The measures and procedures in this regard are also being updated.”
He said that the ministry was continuously supporting the Omani medical industry to meet the unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and medical items. “This is considering that a wide range of personal protective equipment is needed to fight COVID 19, such as masks, gloves, and sanitisers, as well as highly important medical goods, products and services.”
Increase in demand
Eng Saheb said that there was a significant increase in the demand for personal protective equipment supplies. “This requires swift response by prioritising orders of the customers and making sure that they reach the markets where they are required the most. MoCI, in coordination with other government organisations, is simplifying and expediting the procedures required for obtaining regulatory approvals to produce new medical products. This will increase the supply of basic personal protective equipment and medical items to the already extended healthcare supply chain.”
The director general pointed out that one of the biggest current economic challenges for many Omani medical manufacturers was the availability of raw materials, which affects production levels. “It has also largely affected healthcare supply chains, many of which depend on imports. The response of the industrial sector has been distinct in this regard as some industrial establishments have changed some production lines to adapt to the new requirements.”
Eng Saheb said, “With the companies intensifying production and re-equipping their factories to manufacture medical items, there are many apprehensions of risks. Increasing production will require retooling of the already complex supply chain, retraining staff, and searching for alternative local suppliers, especially if source countries are under a ban.
“Any change in the operational model of existing businesses has risks involved which must be understood, reviewed, and managed. The changes to the operating model should lead to a relook into all processes and equipment to ensure quality, workforce training and safety controls, such as a review of how new processes and materials affect the manufacturer’s risk profile and whether there is a need for more controls, a review of exposure to any new regulatory obligations, map making of robust supply chains, reviewing product and management quality procedures, as well as ensuring legal inspections in line with legal requirements.”
Product diversification opportunities
The new situation has provided an opportunity to diversify products and move on to new ways of working, said the director general. He said, “We will increasingly see more cooperation between manufacturers. This will lead to changing positions and supply chains of the future as well as new working methods and new cooperation which attract opportunity for industries to achieve integration.”
He also said that there was need to review and manage risks. It will require officials of industrial establishments to ensure that workers’ workplaces are safe. “This would mean adapting to the latest guidelines for precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19.
He added that the ministry would continue to support industrial enterprises with innovative technologies and solutions which can help in tackling the spread of the coronavirus.
Eng Saheb further said that during the pandemic, global trade and investments have slowed down sharply. The access to imported raw materials and intermediate goods has become very limited. The disruption of the global value chain has intensified the interest of Omani industrial enterprises in adjusting their supply chain strategies to the alternative sources or transfer of production to the region.
“Despite this approach, the timing of the re-supply chain is critical as not all supply chains can be restarted at the same time. It will require a minimal technical capacity for domestic industries to meet manufacturers’ demands. MoCI has embarked on the launch of the national In Country Value (ICV) across sectors. It is a set of manufacturing opportunities, including that of medical products. They have to be determined on the basis of the current and future demands in the sultanate. There will be rationalisation of ‘quick profit’ opportunities by the promotion of strategic industrial projects as part of the tenth five-year plan.
“Given the size of the Omani market and its growth potential, the investment in the supply chain and an imprint of innovations to serve the sultanate will remain vital. Oman will continue to seek global technological inputs to maintain productivity growth,” he said.
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