Abdallah Salloum is an expert in strategic initiatives and workflow. He has spent his career managing and driving workflows for advanced manufacturing engineering at GE Healthcare, where he was responsible for driving the MRI supply chain division to $2.5B in revenue. As the COVID-19 pandemic upended supply chains and manufacturing, Mr. Salloum was front and center to see how global events can change everything overnight.
“Covid-19 didn’t hit an industry,” says Mr. Salloum, “it hit the world. The best way to describe it is that we were caught cold in our tracks, unprepared for how this disease would affect the world.”
As Mr. Salloum recounts, the world found itself with untested, insufficient disaster preparedness plans to combat the effects and continue operations. The world was faced with a common-cause issue, shutting down suppliers and leaving important industries scrambling to find new material sources. Such was the case for healthcare and the medical device space, but that didn’t stop the work that needed to happen—if anything, it increased demand and required quick thinking to ride the tide and produce the medical equipment hospitals around the world so desperately needed.
How Did Covid-19 Affect Directly Affect the Production of Supplies within Healthcare?
The medical device space was one of the rare sectors where production absolutely could not stop. There were halts, pivots, and moments for realignment, but as the number of cases surged and hospitals found themselves unprepared to meet patient needs, the demand for ultrasound machines, ventilators, and other supplies was higher than it had ever been historically. The need for ventilators quadrupled, and then some, in terms of volume.
GE and companies like it found themselves tasked with designing products in the shortest amount of time they have ever had. FEMA sought out the engineering giant with an urgent request—design a simplified ventilator in three months, something that had never been done before. With their design team hard at work, the group solicited Ford Manufacturing to produce as quickly as possible. No industry was prepared for this curveball, but the ability to bridge these unanticipated gaps between growing needs and insufficient products was astounding.
How Did Design & Manufacturing Teams Handle the New, Unprecedented Demands?
Historically, GE had never designed a product like this in three months or less, nor had any others. There are systems, processes, and bureaucratic considerations that prolong an end-to-end design and production process. For GE to cut out the unnecessary bits of the process and focus entirely on critical elements necessary to design the best products became a study in paring down the excess, prioritizing safety and functionality, and producing a quality product.
“From the supply chain standpoint, plants struggled, but in our sector, they did not—and could not—shut down. We were moving into an alternate-shift pattern and performing extreme, in-depth contact tracing to ensure our production lines could maintain if a group became infected,” remembers Abadallah Salloum.
Team leaders and supervisors who had never worked the line were jumping in to help keep systems running and production humming. Every person wore multiple hats, and collaboration became second nature. As if those challenges weren’t enough for companies like GE, materials were limited and suppliers were hesitant to commit. An all-hands-on-deck approach became the way daily management operated, and making each shipment happen was a vital, challenging task.
As the healthcare industry bowed under the pressure of this unanticipated health crisis, people were stepping up, and bridging gaps wherever possible.
How has COVID-19 Changed the Healthcare Industry?
There’s something about having a mutual purpose that enables individuals to step out of their box. They’ve set safe boundaries and defined their own space and operate within their silo, but then a big event brings clarity of purpose and a united mission that makes teams come together. Whether a person is responsible for the hands-on piece or operates in the layer beyond that, when the work becomes purposeful, it is innate in people to jump in and do their best to help.
“I’ve never seen anybody who possesses the right skills, when presented with the right purpose and clarity of mission, simply stand in front of you and refuse to help,” Abdallah Salloum muses.
As healthcare and other sectors look back on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an important lesson emerges—that leaders in the industry must have clarity of purpose and a mission to rally any team. Only then can the impossible be achieved. When an environment becomes purposeful, the right people step up and do anything and everything to achieve the mission. Purpose becomes important. It motivates, inspires, and unites.
About Abdallah Salloum
Abdallah Salloum began his career in the automotive industry, working for Mazda motor manufacturing while completing his undergraduate and graduate studies. He graduated from William Tyndale College before completing his MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University. Since 2017, he has worked with GE Healthcare, driving its MRI supply chain division to $2.58 in revenue. He is a member of the University of Michigan Industrial Engineering Advisory Board.
Mr. Salloum believes in the ability of purposeful leadership to bring the right vision to a team and a clear, meaningful path forward. At the core of Abdallah Salloum’s work is a willingness to leave from the front.