;   Medical Translation Insight: Medical device companies push to consolidate supplier base - ForeignExchange Translations

Medical device companies push to consolidate supplier base (medical translation)Modern business thinking states that reducing the number of suppliers you deal with offers distinct advantages: companies can reduce headcount and negotiate lower prices thanks to a consolidated spend.

Medical device companies have been busy rationalizing their supply base for years. Initially the focus was on "widgets" but over the past few years, procurement groups have turned to consolidate their service suppliers.

For most device companies, translation spend is relatively small and procurement instead focused on other, larger services - but this is now changing. Category managers are formulating, often for the first time, procurement strategies for the purchase of language translations. But once they start looking, they often find a hot mess.

It is not uncommon for a company to use many hundreds of translation suppliers. Even in situations where an "approved supplier list" exists, there are usually a multitude of geographies, departments, and individuals who don't know about or disagree with the "approved" suppliers. Because typical medical device companies are made up of various acquired businesses, systems and procedures may vary greatly across the organization.

At ForeignExchange we have experienced this first-hand. A decade ago, RFPs were rare. Now they are common place. And clients are working harder to leverage suppliers' expertise.

All of this was exemplified in Edwards Lifesciences' EMEA group of ForeignExchange (see press release here). Their U.S. group had been working with us for several years. While their EMEA translation spend is managed separately, the groups nonetheless coordinated efforts and identified savings opportunities from working with us in both geographies. Other clients are going even further. Several are formulating strict "you are only allowed use approved suppliers" rules and are strictly enforcing those rules globally.

For medical translation providers, this trend represents a double-edged sword: If you get selected, you stand to benefit from significantly larger volume (albeit at somewhat lower prices). But if you don't make the cut, it will take many years of sustained efforts to try and get back in. It also creates a chicken-and-the-egg problem: A company won't get selected without demonstrating extensive medical translation expertise - but how do you gain that expertise if you can't win clients?

It will be interesting to see how far the pendulum will swing. In the mean time, medical translators better beef up their client management and RFP response teams.

ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services to the world's largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.


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