In 1982 pharmaceutical giant Sandoz moved away from respiratory products and sold its Midlands-based medical device subsidiary. “We were supplying only UK hospitals then, had no inhouse manufacturing, turnover was around £100,000,” says Stephen Williams, sales director of that subsidiary – now Intersurgical, a global company with a £130 million turnover.
The catalyst for Intersurgical’s success was the medical sector’s desire to improve healthcare standards, growing concern about cross infection, and a hospital market increasingly embracing convenient single-use products, which avoided the necessity for cleaning.
When acquired, the company had a small product range, but through market knowledge and manufacturing expertise developed into a key global supplier of respiratory consumables across airway management, anaesthesia, critical care and oxygen therapy.
Today, Intersurgical’s product portfolio covers 2,200 standard products and 1,750 specialist items, from life-saving airways to Baggins the Bear systems, helping child patients when facing an operation. Launched in 2007, the i-gel airway device has been a key product for Intersurgical.
The company manufactures millions of products weekly, all in-house, at its five factories based in Wokingham, Guernsey, Italy, Lithuania, and very soon China.
Today, Intersurgical’s products – easily identified by their distinctive green design – are used in ambulances, operating theatres, respiratory wards, A&E and ICUs worldwide.
Intersurgical has built its respected and proven B2B sector reputation on providing its customers with products and services offering ‘quality, innovation and choice’ – core company brand values.
As a medical device manufacturer, quality at Intersurgical is paramount and dictated by demanding medical device regulations and standards. Products have to be CE marked for sale in Europe, and many country-specific regulations need to be met to market globally.
Use of traceable medically-specified materials, the latest technology, comprehensive staff inductions and e-learning updates, are standard at Intersurgical.
Intersurgical maintains control of its processes through its fully integrated model. “We rarely outsource any key functions. We research and develop products aligned with our customers’ needs, make our own tooling, manufacture the devices, pack them, warehouse them, sell and distribute them all ourselves. As a totally integrated company, we can react very quickly when necessary.”
Product and engineering R&D takes place within the company, along with industry and market research ensuring an innovative approach to Intersurgical’s future.
Intersurgical focuses only on its niche sector: “We do nothing else but provide products required to help people breathe, and have become experts in the respiratory care sector through our continuous programme of product development and improvement.”
With products primarily single-use, their availability is essential when needed. Extensive warehousing enables stock call-off for ‘Just-in-Time’ supply to UK and European hospitals – a 24/7 distribution service ensures critical needs are met.
A knowledgeable and skilled workforce is another of Intersurgical’s main attributes, with minimal turnover signifying a loyal staff within an attractive working culture and environment. “We promote from within, where possible.”
The UK market currently represents more than 15% of Intersurgical’s turnover – “As our first market it continues to be our largest, however, we see this reducing as our worldwide subsidiaries grow.”
Increasing sales through direct subsidiaries and export distributors led Intersurgical to recently win the TV250 Award for International Growth.
Wider markets are today being targeted, not least USA. Williams praised UKTI international assistance and advice.
Worldwide the company has established a commercial supply network of 21 in-country subsidiaries and 80 distributors. “We set up sales operations with people we have worked with before, those we know are 100% focused on our products and market.”
“We have not traditionally looked at M&A as a growth strategy, but starting up in some mature markets can be tough.” Business acquisitions have been made.
What else challenges Intersurgical? While sales volumes continue to grow, margins have reduced on some products, so greater market competition, cost-efficiency and the introduction of automated manufacturing is likely.
But Williams remains upbeat about continued Intersurgical growth in both domestic and international markets.
“We have a recurring business model. Our global markets aren’t saturated. By offering high-quality products and continued new product development we are meeting changing market and clinical practice needs. We see continued sector opportunities and look forward to the future.”
Business tips from Intersurgical:
- Your people and customer service are key
- Co-ordinate, integrate work, persevere, be patient
- Focus on what you need to know
- Control your own future
- Enjoy what you do
TV 250 SPOTLIGHT
TV 250 Number 29: Intersurgical
Scale: £142m turnover, 100% to hospitals
Scope: Europe’s leading designer, manufacturing and supply organisation, specialising in respiratory care systems
Staff: Worldwide 2,800; Thames Valley 350 (Wokingham)
HQ: Crane House, Wokingham where the company relocated in the early 1990s
Founded: 1982 in Rugby, Warwickshire