For all the hand-wringing amid the current economic malaise, there is one group of plastics processors who, generally speaking, seem to be weathering the storm better than most — those serving the medical market. Just note some of the stories in this week's issue alone, with Michigan-based Helix Medical LLC opening a new plant in Germany, New Jersey's MedTech Group Inc. opening its second plant in Costa Rica and Illinois' Medical Murray Inc. growing via its specialization in micromolding.
That's not to say such processors don't have some of the same issues as other firms, to include credit squeezes, resin price fluctuations and the like. But once one gets into a steady health-care-products groove, there are some logical reasons why that sector may be less volatile than, say, automotive or building and construction.
For starters, recession or not, people are always getting sick and injured. Hence, demand is not as big an issue as if you were supplying, shall we say … Toyota. Secondly, once you as a processor jump through all the necessary legal and regulatory hoops to get specified as the supplier of a certain critical medical component, your brand-owner customer is loathe to switch suppliers and start that lengthy, costly approval process all over again. So you have some degree of built-in protection against the vagaries of getting dumped for a competitor over a couple pennies per piece-part.
So, if you, Mr. Appliance Molder or Ms. Vinyl Siding Extruder, are starting to develop a severe case of market envy, don't despair. We'd like to help. For those of you who are serious about wanting to develop a health-care strategy, a couple of our upcoming events may prove useful.
Key trends in the medical-device sector is one of the many topics to be examined at Plastics News' March 7-10 Executive Forum in Tampa, Fla. Alex Mastorakos, global sourcing director for plastics at Boston Scientific Corp., will join in a panel discussion there with Gaet Tyranski, director of the fast-growing medical business unit at contract manufacturer Jabil Circuit Inc. Mastorakos will talk about what health-care original equipment manufacturers and device makers want from their suppliers, and Tyranski will focus on some big-picture growth data as well as global outsourcing trends.
Meanwhile, just a month later in Cleveland, we will present Plastics in Medical Devices 2010, a pair of half-day workshops followed by an April 13-14 conference featuring a host of processors, designers, polymer suppliers, device makers and pharma companies. But if you're a newbie looking to learn the ropes, you'll want to start with the “Introduction to Plastics Processing for the Medical Market” workshop April 12. Co-presenters of that session will be Brenan Riehl, president and CEO of current PN Processor of the Year Award finalist GW Plastics Inc.; and longtime consultant Len Czuba of Czuba Enterprises Inc.
For full forum details, go to www.plasticsnews.com/forum2010, or to see the full agenda for the Cleveland conference, go to www.plasticsinmedicaldevices.com.
Grace is editor and associate publisher of Plastics News.