At the risk of seeming provincial, let me talk a little bit about our home town, Detroit. Known for nearly a century as the Motor City, we are a region in transition. The problems of the domestic auto industry are well known, and while we know that this great American industry will make a rebound, it and this region will never be the same. Recent articles in the press tell the story of auto-related companies seeking to diversify into other industries where their expertise at design and manufacturing might be of value.
Not surprisingly, one of those industries is medical device. While the efforts of auto suppliers trying to diversify from a troubled industry is not a new phenomenon, I was touched personally by the trend when a friend of a friend first contacted me a year ago about employment opportunities in our industry. He was recently laid-off from an auto supplier and was seeking opportunities outside of automotive. He felt his extensive engineering design experience would be of use in a market that showed strong long term potential.
While not able to help him directly with knowledge of companies that were hiring, I did point him in the direction of industry trade groups and publications where he could learn more about the market and perhaps make valuable contacts. I have not heard from him recently, but the last time I did, he had had several interviews with very good prospects for employment at a couple of these firms.
This summer I took a day trip over to the MDM meeting in Chicago. A short flight from Detroit, this was a chance to seek potential new suppliers as well as learn first hand that which was new and exciting in healthcare. I was amazed. Walking the floor, it was more like the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers held annually in Detroit) than an MDM.
One company after another showed their manufacturing capabilities and/or equipment. Robotics, small parts fabrication, plastics extruding and converting, precision quality testing devices, etc. Not only the same kinds of equipment you would see at the SAE, but in fact the same companies. Many of these exhibitors were first timers. They were from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Ontario, all areas with heavy concentrations of automotive parts manufacturing. They were there to see if their capabilities could be of value to the medical device industry and in a broader sense the delivery of quality healthcare.
The trend continues. Just in the last 12 months, we have had a number of meetings with companies long focused on automotive now seeking partners in the medical industry to help them develop and market product. Some of these meetings are sure to bear fruit. I am reminded of the closing line in the movie Casablanca - the partnership between former automotive engineering and medical device could be the start of a beautiful friendship.