Medical’s Mystique

Medical manufacturing is a challenging topic to cover because of the proprietary nature of so many of the products. But the technology involved and its impact on people make it exciting.
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I knew at university that medicine was just not for me. I saved many lives by not being a doctor!
— Zubin Mehta


I look at doctors, and really anyone in the medical profession, with great respect. Their roles in keeping people healthy are so important; I often think about how rewarding it must be to have a job with such a direct and significant impact on people’s lives. But whether we work in the medical field or not, we need to take satisfaction in our contributions to society. Many manufacturers can claim a place in medical based on the parts they produce.

Many areas of manufacturing have a direct impact on everyday life to some extent, just as many professions (including publishing!) have their own significance. I don’t mean to say that the medical field is necessarily any more important, but only that it tends to generate a little more respect than average. It’s sort of like how a quarterback on a football team might have more star power, although without a strong offensive line and good receivers, he can’t perform his job well.

I believe that my views of the medical profession are not unique, as I see many people look at it with a certain level of exalted esteem. As a kid, our family doctor was my uncle. Unlike our typical names for such relatives, instead of calling him Uncle Art, we called him Doctor Doyle, even at family get-togethers. It was a natural way of paying him extra respect. These days, even the term “family doctor” seems more commonly replaced with “primary care physician,” a term that of itself brings an increasing level of grandiosity.

The manufacture of medical components can bring its own level of self-importance. The struggles we editors face in trying to get medical manufacturing shops to tell their stories are closely related to the proprietary nature of these parts. The shops’ customers rarely are willing to share information, and so these shops must respect their customers’ need for secrecy. As such, we must dig to get details about processes without revealing too much about the sensitive final results.

This month, for our Special Coverage: Medical feature, I visited MMD Medical in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The folks in this organization also experience a strong sense of value in their contributions to the health profession. Vice President Darren Bjork even uses this position as a rallying cry for job performance and satisfaction. On one surgical component alone, the shop makes 10,000 parts a day, meaning it has the potential to impact that many lives each day. “If we do it right every time, which we must, then we know we played a role in helping to save someone. It’s pretty cool,” he says.

MMD has an interesting story to tell. The company turned to dry Swiss machining of certain components to alleviate the problems of contamination in difficult-to-clean part features. In the process, the shop was also able to cut lead time by 67 percent and save the customer $150,000 per year. It’s worth a read; check out “Dry Swiss Machining in Medical”.

Our Last Word column also takes a look at the current state of the medical manufacturing industry. It’s written by Ray Ziganto, who is the founder & CEO of Linara International, a strategic advisory firm with expertise in domestic and international manufacturing. Mr. Ziganto discusses the outlook for the coming year in medical device manufacturing and provides observations of the changes happening and what suppliers in this industry must do to remain competitive.

The medical industry continues to be a bright spot in manufacturing. A recent report written by Michael Guckes, chief economist for Gardner Intelligence, indicates that medical industry manufacturers are experiencing strong growth in new orders, production and supplier deliveries. The analysis he presents predicts total capital spending growth of 6.6 percent in this segment in 2019.

Medical manufacturing is one of the topics I most look forward to covering in the magazine. I find it interesting both for the technology involved and the impact it has on people’s health. While it may be one of the more challenging areas for getting people to open up and share, the stories are great to research. I hope you enjoy the coverage like I do.


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