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A project manager must accept the difficult challenge which requires a global understanding of a project and the ability to reconcile contradictory requirements. Here is a testimonial of a specialist in the medical field.
(Published on June 2008 – JEC Magazine #41)
INTERVIEW WITH MR. RONALDWIELING, PROJECT MANAGER, MEDICAL, ICOTEC AG, SWITZERLAND
JEC Composites Magazine: What does your role as project manager involve?
RONALD WIELING: In my specific situation, the project manager has a rather broad role in the horizontal and vertical structure of the project and in its evolution. During the first contacts, we mostly have to teach the client what our material and technology can do for them; what the advantages and opportunities related to the use of carbon fibre/PEEK composites in medical applications are. It is important to make sure that the customer is aware of the potential and limitations of our material, product and technology. What can a medical implant made out of carbon fibre/PEEK composite do, and what expectations cannot be fulfilled? After our partner knows what he has to know, we go into the project acquisition phase. These two steps in the process may take several years. Others have informed themselves thoroughly and are ready to jump into a development project rather fast. Developing new implants requires knowledge about the specific application and the surgical procedure. This is desirable practical knowledge, and very important on a daily basis. After the acquisition, the classical project management process starts: timelines, budgets, controlling. As all implants need to be tested and to be very well documented, we need to ensure that this exchange of information and documentation is optimal. After the delivery of the first parts, we also support our partners in the training of their sales people and/or end users. For most surgeons, the material will be new and need to be introduced intensively.
JCM: What is the most difficult task in your job? How do you handle it?
R. W.: It is particularly important to recognize the customer’s change of focus. Projects evolve as the partner starts to understand the CF/PEEK implant material and as he discusses with the end-user. The market is the surgeon community who has a big stake in product development. Most developers have so-called key opinion leaders for each product group. Depending on the feedback from these surgeons, the project focus and implant requirements change. The end product has to reflect the changes. It is very important that this is also communicated and understood within our own team. This is the most difficult task, as many people are rigid, are not prepared to change, and are not aware of the changed focus of the customer. These changes need to be communicated, both formally and informally.
JCM: Is your current position the result of specific training, degrees?
R. W.: My position is the result of 15 years of experience and training in R&D and participation in several hundred projects in the medical field. My experience and knowledge in orthopaedics and traumatology research enable me to discuss very specific applications with engineers and surgeons. This is the vertical aspect in my position. In my spare time, I completed a MBA, with a focus on creativity and innovation, financial management and global marketing. This gives the required horizontal approach to the projects and tasks.
JCM: What skills and qualities does this job require?
R. W.: Communication skills, a deep understanding of the applications, development processes and production technologies involved. A broad view of the overall project. One has to think out of the box in finding solutions, but be able to make the end-product acceptable for the common user.
JCM: How do you manage the interface between your customer and the inhouse teams?
R. W.: My goal is to work with an integrated complementary team. As many of our partners have developed only metal implants so far, they don’t have experience with composite materials. The mechanical characteristics, the design opportunities and limitations, the production process and the required data for the notified bodies largely differ from what the partner is used to. Therefore, I like to know all the people from our customer who are involved in the project. By evaluating their skills, knowledge and experience, it is possible to select the right in-house people who should be involved in the project.