Rapid asset repurposing: The secret to getting ahead of the curve

Posted on 14 Apr 2020 by The Manufacturer

In the current Coronavirus-related medical supply shortage situation, activities that normally take months must now be executed in weeks or even days. The only way to achieve this is to sacrifice efficiency for effectiveness.

Experts from global management consulting firm, Kearney, outline the key success factors for achieving rapid asset repurposing.

Quick solutions rely on dedicated cross-functional, cross-organisation teams with clear reporting lines to empowered decision makers and access to quick lines of communication.

This must be paired with a structured yet flexible process capable of quickly analysing trade-offs.

To ensure maximum impact, there are several key factors:

  • Focus on solving the problem, not on the solution. Leave out all nice-to-haves and only tackle features that solve the problem; clearly frame the problem and set unambiguous measures for progress; focus on a limited number of tasks at a time until completion.
  • Use existing solutions as much as possible.Share knowledge, forge cross-organisation collaborations, reach out with new ideas and requests for help.
  • Reduce iterations. Minimise process iterations by ensuring effective communication and reporting lines, and a single, empowered decision-maker hierarchy.
  • Reduce interfaces. Cross-organisation interfaces must be reduced to a minimum, while at the same time keeping communications open and flexible.
  • Ring-fence resources. Include a limited number of empowered internal and external team members (for example, regulators to agree on compassionate use, financial organisations to access funding), each with a defined task; have direct access between team members; set up a clear reporting line and an effective escalation method.
  • Manage execution risks. Handle risks with expertise to prevent re-work and, more importantly, “cure is worse than the problem” scenarios.

To enact these factors, both process and people must be considered.


Kearney recommends a five-step approach that can be applied to any repurposing activity.

Kearney - Approach to Rapid Capacity Asset Repurposing Framework

The steps do not need to be followed sequentially but the trade-off of not following the sequence carries a heightened risk of both re-work and unintended consequences. Risk management activities, cross-functional expertise, and single decision-making authority are crucial.

Production of low-complexity products such as masks has been set up from scratch in as little as two weeks by automotive suppliers in China. Conversely, production of unfamiliar and relatively complex products such as ventilators requires considerably more effort.

Sharing knowledge drastically reduces development time, but introduces additional efforts, for example in intellectual property (IP), new supplier qualification, and regulation. These must be handled through an integrated project team with dedicated, empowered resources.

Execution may be iterative, and a scrum framework is well suited to it, while retaining a high-level view of execution risks. Kearney classifies repurpose complexity in three levels: Level 1 (example: masks), Level 2 (example: simple ventilators), and Level 3 (example: complex ventilators) (see figure 2).

Kearney - Time to complete repurposing by complexity Framework

Assuming effective IP sharing where applicable, the time to complete repurposing ranges from one to two weeks to eight weeks or more.


The magnitude of the coronavirus crisis and the scale of resource coordination required has necessitated national or regional-level governments orchestrating the response.

For this reason, a cross-organisation, cross-functional government-led task force, or integrated project team (IPT), is crucial to concentrate efforts, focus decision making, and retain flexibility. Key skills needed in the IPT are from the medical field, product design, prototyping and industrialisation, regulations, certification and testing, manufacturing and supply chain, and finance.

Kearney - IPT involvement across rapid capacity repurposing Framework

“…There are so many aspects where government can play an active role to speed things up, for instance adapting regulatory authorisation procedures in a crisis situation for manufacturing the critical products, facilitating the combination of expertise from the medical device field with other relevant manufacturers who could offer capacity, and providing financial support.”

 Commercialisation VP, medical devices

Getting the people and process right will ensure a swift and effective response to capacity repurposing. Both should be dedicated to a set problem and should encourage clear reporting lines and immediate communication pathways.

The people, organised in an IPT, need to include members from all relevant organisations, both internal and external and should be empowered to take decisions and incentivised to share knowledge with minimal iteration.

Taken from a wider three-part series of white papers from Kearney

*Header image courtesy of  Belova59 from Pixabay.