The importance of strong relationships in manufacturing


Innomech and iFast Diagnostics demonstrate how a good working relationship between supplier and client can have a huge impact on innovation and success.

Innovation is an inevitable and necessary part of the evolution of healthcare.

Since healthcare is an inevitable part of life, the real challenges for the industry are meeting patient needs and controlling costs. The use of automation and robotics in the medical field supports the industry in many ways, including reducing labour costs while providing both flexibility and repeatability.

Developing and designing new machinery to encompass new and novel technologies isn’t a simple process; it takes time and a lot of work. However, Innomech and companies like it exist to help smooth that process. The company’s technical expertise allows it to work with companies to develop and design purpose-built machines to meet the needs of their clients. It’s integral to any design and build process that the supplier and client have a well-rounded and trusting working relationship. Developing machinery involves constant adjustments, developments, and build(s). Without good communication and trust, the relationship between manufacturer and client can have a negative impact.

One client Innomech is proud to have developed this type of relationship with is iFAST.

iFAST is at the forefront of addressing the current $4bn Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (AST) market. Based at the University of Southampton, the company approached Innomech at the end of 2022, looking for support in building novel technology for the detection of antibiotic (AB) resistance.

The company looks to address a big problem in the healthcare industry. Bacteria are increasingly resistant to antibiotics – resistance levels are 20%-98% and unpredictable. Current Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (AST) takes 48-72 hours, and patients can deteriorate whilst waiting for the correct drug.

To address this, iFAST wanted to create a machine that reduces the AST time from 48+ hours to four. They began with a consultation between CEO Toby King and Innomech to discuss what exactly they needed from the machine. This was followed up by the development of the machine and, finally, the design and build of the first machine (Mk I) delivered by May 2023. Mk I had a tight deadline, and despite supply chain issues, Innomech delivered.

In response to the project, iFAST CEO Toby King commented: “Innomech’s flexibility and pragmatism enabled iFAST to keep the project on track without constant changes to the scope, costs and timescales. Similarly, when things didn’t work quite as expected, we were happy to muck in and help fix them. Weekly project update calls throughout the project definitely helped with this.”

Ongoing development continued, leading to further Mk I machines being made. Units 1.2 and 1.3 were developed and delivered by the end of summer 2023. Further development work was undertaken to create Mk 2 to increase the capacity and automation level of the machines, and the first Mk 2 machine was delivered by the end of September 2023.

According to Toby King, since the design, build and development of the first unit, the machines have already demonstrated that the iFAST technology can speed up AST testing so patients can receive the right antibiotic sooner. In their very first hospital evaluation in Southampton General Hospital, iFAST achieved around 95% agreement with the current ‘gold standard’ method, but in four hours instead of 48 hours, across a total of over 600 tests. Once the product is approved, fewer patients will die as a result of antimicrobial resistance, which currently kills well over a million people a year.

Innomech continues to support iFAST through ongoing discussion and collaboration. With vital technologies such as this, the communication and forward-thinking needed to develop the best possible technology cannot be understated. Only through an effective working relationship can this be achieved.


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