It was a fateful day in 1985 when Ray Byrnes was inspired to found Contech Medical Inc. “I walked into the office one day with a customer at the medical packaging company where I was at the time, and asked him what they had that I could do. He threw a dispenser across the desk at me and said ‘Can you make this?’” recalls Byrnes, CEO and Founder.
The Providence, Rhode Island-based company specializes in producing dispenser coils for the medical device industry, doing business with device manufacturers around the world. These dispenser coils serve as a sterile protector for procedural products that enter the body during surgery, namely guidewires for catheters and similar devices. The recent trend is to utilize this same packaging for imaging devices and fiber optics.
60 percent of Contech Medical’s business comes from its dispenser coil sales, and the other 40 percent comes from contract manufacturing and selling custom device components made from its injection molds.
“Being a salesman type of guy, I told the customer, ‘Sure, of course,’” Byrnes continues. I was able to design a machine to make dispenser coils, and he said if we could make those at a reasonable cost, rather than have him make them by hand at a high cost facility, we’d get a piece of business.”
By 1987, Byrnes had founded Contech Medical, surrounding himself with an exceptional team of four other people, and Contech quickly took off, setting itself apart by its pricing, service, and quality, where patient safety cannot be compromised in a cost conscious industry. Contech’s innovative automatic spiral winding technique made dispenser coils more accurate yet less expensive.
Today—just 30 years later—Contech is the largest supplier of dispenser technology and one of the fastest growing private companies in Rhode Island, with a growth rate of 35 percent over the last five years. Don LeBrun, Sales Manager, tells Business in Focus that last year, Contech shipped about 15 million dispenser coils to manufacturers all over the world, including both medical device start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. “We’ve seen several clients over the last few years go from 5,000 coils to 500,000 coils. Companies are growing and we’re growing with them,” says Byrnes.
The veteran-owned company’s success can be attributed to its dedicated team of 107 employees. Contech’s principals and upper management are deeply involved in all aspects of the business and extremely transparent with customers. In order to remain accessible to their customers in various international time zones, they even have their mobile numbers on their business cards, living up to the company’s tagline of “Local Touch. Global Reach. Real Value.”
“If customers have any issues or requests for the products, they can come right to us. We don’t segregate ourselves from what’s going on in the business,” says Frank Barrett, Executive Vice President.
Because of this unique and successful approach, Contech has never had to advertise. Just a simple Google search for “dispenser coil” will result in “Contech Medical” appearing several times as a top result.
“We are very in tune with what goes on here every day,” says Barrett. “It shows in how a lot of our growth has come; we don’t advertise and we don’t do trade shows. Word of mouth over the years and the way we run our company has allowed us to become a leader in our business.”
As the company is always looking to remain at the forefront of the newest, greenest, and most advanced technology, Contech’s latest development is EZ-LOAD® blended tubing. EZ-LOAD® is a patented, medical grade material available only from Contech. It offers increased lubricity, reducing both labor costs and the loss or rejection rate by alleviating some of the “stickiness” associated with insertion of longer products with longer and thinner wires. More lubricity allows for easier loading and removal of wires from the dispenser—a major advancement in dispenser manufacturing.
Contech is also remaining competitive with its new data capture program, which it has developed and implemented to continuously stream data from the production floor.
“This internal initiative allows us to do data tracking of all the jobs coming through. The big thing is having our operators logging in to real-time devices that allow us to track our products, our quotas, our quality, and our downtimes. It gives us a more accurate picture of how our processes are, and if we have anything prohibiting us from being lean and efficient,” says Rodney Jennings, Operations Manager.
With the data capture program, equipment operators can communicate their needs directly to material handlers, track low materials and downtime trends, and even eliminate risk by ensuring the proper tooling has been scanned to the job at setup. Having the ability to see all active and in-process orders, monitor progress and efficiencies, and foresee performance issues to take corrective action, Contech will be able to operate with even greater efficiency—a necessity for a company that has built its reputation around this quality.
“We have our own in-house manufacturing capabilities and product specification capability. We do a lot of what is needed in-house, and we are able to ship things out very quickly,” Byrnes tells us.
Contech is building upon its data capture system to eventually incorporate operator training-based restrictions and advanced inspection methods, such as inline cameras with intuitive controls. The ultimate goal of the program is to lead the company to a paperless state, increasing its sustainability and reducing its ecological footprint.
Moreover, all of Contech’s manufacturing is conducted under strict, federally regulated guidelines as determined by the FDA, and the company is registered under the FDA as a Class I, Class II and Class III Device Manufacturer. Contech is also ISO certified (ISO 13485: 2003 and 2012), demonstrating its Quality Management System’s ability to consistently meet international regulatory requirements in the medical device sector. Contech’s clean rooms are certified to class 100,000 according to Federal Standard 209E (or ISO class 8) clean room manufacturing standards.
All these certifications require high levels of cleanliness in the working environment. Contech takes great precautions to maintain these standards and avoid any risks to employees. Its valued workers are not exposed to any health or environmental hazards.
Contech’s Providence-based facility is 110,000 square feet, and includes 12,000 square feet of clean room space, in five rooms. By the end of this 2017, the company will have a fully operational “Clean Room 6” in Costa Rica.
Contech has just opened its second location, a 15,000 square-foot facility it has leased in the Central American device manufacturing hub, an amazing location with easy access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Costa Rica location will employ about 30 people and have all the capabilities of Contech’s Providence location. Most of Contech’s Fortune 500 clientele are located in Costa Rica, and having another facility there allows Contech to be right next door to its customers, staying true to its motto of providing a “local touch.”
Contech’s new Costa Rica location offers a balanced complement to its Providence facility. The company headquarters is in a federal “HUBZone,” (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) as designated by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) program. These American-owned HUBZone businesses are encouraged by the SBA to employ a local workforce and thus boost the local economy, which Contech strives to do. Employee retention, notoriously low in the manufacturing sector, is not an issue at Contech, where many employees have worked for 15 or 20 years.
The company is also well regarded in the community. Governors and senators have visited Contech’s facility, located in Rhode Island’s capital.
The expanding business is always looking to add to its team. Contech finds new people the same way that clients have found the company: via word of mouth. Contech hires new candidates from local universities or tech colleges (of which there are many in and around the diverse community of Providence), and the team enjoys taking on interns to help provide a new perspective on company processes.
“We’re getting a fresh take on our situation, and we’re also allowing interns to get a jump on what they may be pursuing as a career,” says Jennings.
Equipped with a growing and forward-thinking team, a prime second location, and more plans to expand on the horizon, Contech will continue to work toward leading the medical device industry into a technologically advanced, economically efficient, and environmentally sustainable future.