R&D BEING EXPANDED IN COSTA RICA MEDICAL SECTOR

Costa Rica 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Isaías González, Site Director Costa Rica of ICU Medical, on the country's importance for the firm on a global level, standing out from competitors, and advances in information exchange.

What is the importance of Costa Rica for the company globally?

We were recently acquired by ICU Medical. This means we are no longer part of Pfizer and are now one of the largest pure play companies in the Infusion Therapy business. In this facility, we manufacture dedicated sets, gravity sets, accessories, as well as several infusion pumps. From the Costa Rica site we supply all the world market requirements related to pumps and its sets, which makes this facility a very critical and important asset to the corporation. We also have operations in Mexico and Salt Lake City that are focused on the non-dedicated portion of sets, as well as many other monitoring and oncology products that are key to the company's portfolio.

Where do you export your products?

We export all over the world. We have different distribution centers in Europe, the Middle East Asia Pacific Latin America, the US, Canada and Australia. We are 100% compliant with all the regulations in all the countries we export. We compete across the entire world in terms of different geographic locations and free trade zones benefits, among many other things. We are extremely fortunate to have found a place that has the people with the required academic skills to develop this business. We are allowed to sell some of our production in the domestic market, but it is small compared to our biggest market, which is the US.

Do you have any partnerships with universities to foster people?

We do, though not officially; we are in close contact with students who want to work part-time and learn. We fully support such programs and they have become a great source of talent.

What is the profile of your clients?

This is a manufacturing facility and we supply the requirements to our own commercial organizations. In general, our customers are hospitals. These are whom we sell our products to, even though we make products that impact specific patients across the world and that is how we see it in our culture across the organization.

What innovation strategies are being implemented in Costa Rica?

In our world, especially in manufacturing, companies have to improve every year. We have programs to innovate and pursue continuous improvement. That is present in everything that we do and every year we are better than the year before. A great deal of innovation comes from our headquarters, although we have our own R&D On Market Department here considering what the next step will be. We have many brainstorming sessions and are open to receiving ideas from our employees. Quality is also something that is very important as a main driver of growth. Once the entire workforce understands that all ideas are welcome to improve the quality, there is a side effect and we see the other financial benefits and processes flow.

Medical devices production is one of the main exports of the country. What has made this sector so important for Costa Rica?

We have experienced a form of domino effect in the last few years. Costa Rica has grown a great deal in attracting FDI, though in a strategic way. Costa Rica has an environment that has become a little more expensive and a company truly has to fight its battles to find its value added processes. The medical industry is perfect for that because companies can always bring more complex processes and products, which is our case, where we have in sourced the vast majority of our components. In addition, in Costa Rica there is not much investment anymore in simple assembly processes. The country is capable to carry out complex processes and extremely complex technology. We have the medical sector doing a great deal of R&D; however, if we look at the profile of the country, we have to keep bringing higher technology products to survive long term.

How do you stand out from your competitors?

Our product is seen as one of the best infusion system pump in the world. There are many things that point to the fact that we are focused on quality and that is paying off. Compared to other products out there, we have customers saying they are extremely satisfied with ours.

How do you see innovation focusing on new advances in terms of the exchange of information?

We are excellent at that; this is why our products are seen as one of the best. We gather data in terms of wireless capabilities and drug libraries. We have a safety-focused software process for pumps and all the data is one of the many key assets that our customers get. That reflects in the medication errors that are significantly reduced in our systems. In addition, this is the time of being competitive in terms of getting into the technology era of computer systems. We monitor many things and have a large number of controls to guarantee the quality of the product.

Regarding 2018, what plans or challenges do you have in terms of new products and growth?

Next year will be an excellent year for us. We are starting with a new company and are revamping all our portfolio and logistic strategy as we are no longer part of Pfizer. Besides, there are several production lines that we are bringing from another facility. It will be very positive in terms of growth. We will bring in many people to do this. It is an interesting growth and we are being able to forecast a profitable year. We are aligned with the new strategy and vision of ICU Medical as a pure play company, which is all related to being the best in the infusion systems world. That gives us a great deal of focus to be the excellent in what we do.