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Innovation, attention to detail, and specialization have fueled sustainable growth for medical molder Medron Inc., helping it stand out in a region with a burgeoning medical manufacturing base.

Tony Deligio

March 1, 2010

4 Min Read
Spotlight On: Medron Inc.

Innovation, attention to detail, and specialization have fueled sustainable growth for medical molder Medron Inc., helping it stand out in a region with a burgeoning medical manufacturing base.

When Ron Wortley arrived in Salt Lake City, UT in 1973 to found medical supplier Vital Assist, the region was already becoming a hotbed for medical devices. Six years prior, Willem Johan Kolff, inventor of the artificial kidney and considered the father of artificial organs, became the head of the University of Utah’s Div. of Artificial Organs and Institute for Biomedical Engineering, helping make the Salt Lake Valley a top destination for medical technology development.

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Ron Wortley, medical maven.

At one time a pre-med student, Wortley started up two medical device suppliers in the intervening years since his arrival in Utah nearly 40 years ago. In 1981, he began a company called Med-West, which was eventually sold to Kendall Healthcare (later Tyco) in 1988. After satisfying a five-year noncompete clause, Wortley then launched his current business, Medron Inc., in 1994.
Innovation and specialization in the field of vascular catheters have helped the supplier enjoy steady growth—a pace of healthy expansion that suits Wortley just fine. Asked how his company has maintained positive business, Wortley jokes, “Always be profitable,” before adding, “I’ve never believed in growth just for growth’s sake. What we do is predicated on whether or not we can do it well and make money at it.”

Eric King, VP product development, boils down the company’s success to a simple tenet: “Take on the products that make sense, and the ones we want to work on as well. That’s almost a luxury we have.”

Saying the company moved away from “piecemeal” work a long time ago and became more selective in its partnerships, Wortley explains that today, “[Medron] will look at anything that’s profitable and a good fit for both companies, as long as it’s medical.”
After starting out in a 4000-ft2 space, the company now operates from a 14,000-ft2 facility, staffed by approximately 120 employees working two shifts, five days/week. Of Medron’s 19 injection molding machines, which are a mix of vertical and horizontal systems, two are equipped for silicone molding, with presses from Lawton, Boy, Engel, Autojectors, and Illinois Precision. Around 2000, the company considered adding extrusion to its capabilities, but decided instead to invest in liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding.

As stalwart plastics processing markets such as automotive and even packaging struggle, a great deal of attention has been given to the medical segment and its perceived imperviousness to economic downturns. Wortley has heard many of the accepted truths about the segment he serves, and sees some elements of truth as well as misperceptions. Asked whether cost is in fact not king in medical, while it reigns in other segments, Wortley says, “[Cost] obviously comes up, but it’s not a major driver. If we were more in the commodity area, I’m sure we’d be hard pressed all the time. These products, for the most part, are not easy to make and that gives us an advantage in the pricing area.”

And higher margins too, right? “There’s a reason for [higher margins in medical],” explains Dave Wortley, VP manufacturing. “With the regulatory issues that you have to conform to, building the product is just 50% of the story. That’s why there appears to be a higher markup, but you’ve definitely paid the price with conforming to regulatory requirements.”

Medical is insulated from offshore competition? “Part true, partly not true,” says Ron Wortley. “A lot of companies have the goal to try to transfer to a supposedly lower-cost manufacturing locale, such as Mexico or Puerto Rico, so that is part of what we deal with,” adding that many that do go overseas, do so through a wholly owned foreign subsidiary.

Regardless of the market a processor serves, success typically boils down to a very simple concept, according to Ron. “No matter what market niche you’re in, if you do a better job against a majority of the companies you’re dealing with, then the market is probably there.”  —Tony Deligio

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