ANAHEIM, Calif.— Without any orders in hand, Minnesota Rubber & Plastics, invested in equipment and started building tools for one of its medical device customers.
The Minneapolis-based company—officially Quadion L.L.C.—then ran its Litchfield, Minn., facility 24/7 and delivered products three times in the five-day workweek to ensure a steady supply of rubber and silicone seals for Medtronic P.L.C. products that monitor and deliver insulin to help patients manage their diabetes.
MR&P came through for a longtime customer that faced big challenges with its supply chain in 2019. For its ability to ramp up quickly to help the medical device provider meet demand for quality parts at a difficult time, MR&P was recognized with a Medtronic 2019 Supplier Excellence Award.
The Dublin, Ireland-based company singled out 10 of its 48,000 direct and indirect suppliers for outstanding commitment to Medtronic's Global Supplier Standards. The world's largest standalone medical device maker considered superior and balanced performance in terms of quality, service, cost, innovation and delivery.
Don Bonitati, MR&P's medical market director, said he is proud of how MR&P rose to the occasion.
"We made sure we were serving their patient population right with reliability and quality of service," Bonitati said at the Medical Design & Manufacturing West show. "It was the entire team's understanding of how important the components that we make are for the products of the patients our customers serve. That's across the board, not just our sales team or management, it's the operators producing the product in our facility."
The Medtronic group that offers diabetes management nominated MR&P for the honor. "There was a period of time when their volumes ramped significantly, and they were trying to bring on another supplier," Bonitati said.
MR&P's production addressed a general increase in the use of wearable devices to monitor and treat diabetes cases, he added. Growth drivers for the insulin device delivery market include the increasing prevalence of diabetes, the rise in geriatric population, an increase in obesity and innovations in diabetes management systems.
"The market is growing globally and there's a high demand for these products, which drastically improve someone's quality of life," Bonitati said. "We were able to step in when their new supplier failed and they were divesting from their old supplier. We made up almost 100 percent of their volume for the course of 2019, which was probably three-quarters of the year."
Founded 74 years ago, MR&P serves the transportation and water markets in addition to medical, with about 1,200 employees at manufacturing sites in Litchfield; River Falls, Wis.; Mason City, Iowa; Tamaulipas, Mexico; and Jiangsu, China.
The privately held company produces a variety of parts, from shower, faucet and irrigation seals to O-rings for carburetors and steering gear to medical valves.
In 2018, MR&P said it set records for both sales and profitability, then broke them again in 2019, with medical leading the way in a year that saw the firm hit about $160 million in revenues.
"Near the last six months of 2019, our new wins for medical was 42-47 percent of the overall business," Bonitati said.
MR&P produces components for a wide range of the medical spectrum, including diagnostics, cardiovascular, structural heart, drug delivery, diabetes, surgical instruments and orthopedic implants. The company offers services from product design to finished sterile products.
At MD&M West, MR&P showcased a component with a very thin layer of LSR overmolded onto a polycarbonate ring for a mechanical system used in cancer treatment. The LSR is permeable and allows blood cells to incubate and grow in number to tens of millions.
"They draw off the cells, further process them, and put them back in the patient to target a specific cancer," Bonitati said.
MR&P provides the LSR and thermoplastic materials for the gas permeable cell culture device, has the manufacturing capabilities to achieve the patented design, handles the assembly, and gives its customer a sterilized product packaged in a variety of sizes for the medical market.
MR&P also produces silicone rubber bladders for eye cups to treat dry eyes. The device massages and heats the glands to open them so the patient can start producing tears again. In addition, the company makes temporary hip transplants that go into patients for short-term uses, usually 30-60 days until an infection is cleared and permanent titanium can be implanted.
The firm also solved a problem for a customer that manufactures automated pill dispensers for pharmacies. The customer was having troubles with the pill counting and dispensing functions because of a seal alignment problem. MR&P came up with a more precise-fitting lip configuration using an engineered elastomer material.
Two programs also are underway to develop new materials for customers for specific applications.
"We have a team of scientists who maintain compliance with existing materials, develop new formulations for customers, and can reverse-engineer a material if something works but the customer wants to move away from a certain supplier," Bonitati said.
MR&P was acquired in November 2018 by the global investment firm KKR & Co. L.P. for an undisclosed price, following six years of ownership by Norwest Equity Partners, which reportedly spent about $20 million to upgrade operations.
The heavy investment poised MRP for growth, which Bonitati expects to continue.
"2018 was a record sales year for MR&P. We have seen double-digit growth within the medical vertical market of our business," he said, adding that KKR has ambitious goals for the next few years.
"They brought a lot of great people on board," Bonitati said. "Whether it's their direct team or consultants, they have helped make us better within operations with lean best practices and within product development process with early-opportunity assessment and transitioning into production."
KKR would like to increase its presence in the medical market with acquisitions that complement or enhance MR&P offerings, Bonitati said.
"We are actively looking at partners to bolt on to our organization to enhance the capabilities we have and add new capabilities that fit with our core," he said.