Company meets rapidly changing needs of industry
by: MARIA SONNENBERG FOR FLORIDA TODAY
Just steps behind the Oaks shopping plaza, Melbourne-based Contec has established itself in the medical device industry. The company provides embedded computing platforms and touch-screen LCDs to operate custom-designed diagnostic or imaging equipment, like blood analyzers and CT scanners that are distributed to hospitals, clinics and labs around the world. “The customer has a market need, and comes to us with basic specifications from a technical standpoint,” Contec sales and marketing manager Katherine Morland said. Unlike mass-produced commercial products like cellular phones and personal computers, medical devices must adhere to strict government specifications to pass regulatory inspections.
To avoid rapid technology turnover, which, in turn, jeopardizes regulatory certifications, Contec developed a Planned Technology Control product management program that tracks even the smallest of components. “We continuously make sure we have the solutions for these companies as they grow world-wide,” Morland said. “This industry is getting more and more competitive.” Company president Art Schmitt and vice president of business development Gene Garofalo founded Contec – an acronym for Digital Technology Exchange – in 1991. The company originally functioned as an obsolete-parts broker for a wide range of original equipment manufacturers.
After just six months, however, the company changed tracks when Schmitt and Garofalo realized that original-equipment manufacturers constantly were being forced to shut down production lines to recertify products because of changing technology. Soon afterward, the company began producing and managing the embedded computing platforms of its customers. Contec adjusted its focus to include a broader range of services to both commercial and public customers when it was acquired by a large systems integrator in 1996.
But, by 2002, management wanted to return to its former business model. Schmitt played a role in the successful management buyout that returned the company to its roots. To better position itself in the market, the company also added two new groups – the Advanced Display Solutions and the Medical Computing Solutions. The company has a staff of 70, primarily based in Melbourne. The 20,000 square-foot head-quarters include a manufacturing floor and “clean room.” A service facility in England is used to upgrade and refurbish customer equipment.
“It’s a way for us to better service our European customer,” Morland said. “Many of our customers have their products all over the world.” Solutions range from repositioning a product for better competitive pricing to the mechanics of durability. For example, a medical device manufacturer needed a durable, high-brightness LCD touch display for deployment in a mobile X-ray machine.
Requirements were that the display integrate with the mobile equipment; be driven by a low-power, medical-grade power source; and the durable enough to withstand mobility. With another customer, competition was eroding its market share or digital video recording, or DVR, device. Although the customer’s product was high-end and well-made, the lower cost of inferior units was driving sales down.
To solve the problem, Contec reengineered the instrument and its control software, developing both hardware and software to perform the video capture at a much lower cost. Because of the reduced productions costs, the customer was able to price its DVR more competitively without compromising functionality. For the manufacturer of a high-performance, three-dimensional cardiac visualization workstation, Contec developed a computer platform for stepped up performance that, because the workstation was located in the patient area, took into account acoustic levels. Because of the aging of the American population, Michael Sobolewski, Contec executive vice president of sales and marketing, perceives an aggressive market ahead. “The market is continuously growing and expanding,” Sobolewski said. “The industry is one of the strongest in the country.”