Medical device manufacturer reshores production; invests $100 million in U.S. facility

We have written extensively about manufacturers bringing back operations and jobs to the United States, specifically from China. That phenomenon has been less pronounced in the medical device sector, partly because relatively fewer companies in the medtech supply chain heeded the siren call to offshore production in the first place. Nevertheless, some that did take the leap are now back and shoring up their U.S. facilities. That’s the case for Insulet, a manufacturer of drug-delivery and insulin-management devices based in Billerica, MA, as reported by the Worcester Business Journal (WBJ).

Insulet has operated a production plant in China for five years, reports the WBJ, but its next expansion will be in Acton, MA, where it is building a $100-million facility on a nearly 26-acre site suited for future growth.

“The facility—expected to produce hundreds of jobs but rely heavily on automation—will be able to produce up to 70 percent more devices with up to 90 percent fewer employees compared to all four of the company's current manufacturing lines in China,” writes WBJ reporter Zachary Comeau. The company cites proximity to customers as the primary reason for expanding operations in the United States, but, of course, other forces also are at work.

Rising wages in China in tandem with decades-long wage stagnation in the United States has made domestic manufacturing great again, at least for companies and corporations. Large-scale automation and technology, which have been a far greater drain on manufacturing jobs in the United States than offshoring for many years now, also make it feasible to bring back production. And even in the heyday of offshoring, moving production to China was seen as a bit of a devil’s bargain by an industry that prioritizes quality and safety over cost, relatively speaking, and that is hyper protective of its intellectual property.

The Midwest’s largest advanced manufacturing event is coming to Minneapolis in November. Six co-located events, including PLASTEC Minneapolis and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) Minneapolis, will welcome more than 600 suppliers and thousands of attendees to the Minneapolis Convention Center on Nov. 8 and 9, 2017. Go to the event website for more information and to register to attend.

The WBJ article, “Manufacturers bringing jobs back to Central Mass.,” also name checks MDT Micro Molding, which specializes in medical micro molding and is based in Charlston, MA. The company was founded in 1972 by the father of current President Dennis Tully and has been operating out of the Charlston facility since 1998. Because of the “precision and meticulous attention to detail needed for MDT’s products,” the company never entertained the idea of offshoring operations, reports Comeau. However, as moldmaking shops began to disappear in central Massachusetts in the 1990s, largely because they were unable to compete with moldmakers in China, “staying the course was not really an option” for MDT, Tully told the WBJ.

The company has developed tools related to micro materials, micro part design, micro tooling, micro molding, micro metrology and micro packaging. (A series of white papers describing these tools, which MDT describes as the "six sciences," can be downloaded from its website.) The company’s total focus on micro medical device manufacturing, including its expertise in micro molding bioresorbable implantable products, has kept the company busy even during economic downturns. It is now planning a 12,000-square-foot expansion of its 16,000-square-foot facility.

MDT Micro Molding is one of several hundred suppliers to the medical technology and advanced manufacturing sectors that will be exhibiting at the co-located Medical Design and Manufacturing (MD&M) and PLASTEC events in Minneapolis, MN, on Nov. 8 and 9. Visit the company at booth 1117.

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