Automobile Companies Diversify to Enter Device Industry

Maria Fontanazza

May 1, 2008

2 Min Read
Automobile Companies Diversify to Enter Device Industry


Automotive engineers may find the device industry is a natural fit for their manufacturing skills.

A program in Michigan is helping automotive manufacturers expand into the medical device industry.

Why? The world is rapidly transforming into an interconnected market, and companies are looking for ways to gain on global competition. One strategy is to diversify by entering different industries, Irene Spanos of Oakland County's Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs (Waterford, MI) says.

Companies in Michigan have a financial incentive to diversify. According to Spanos, a Michigan-based economic stimulus fund allocates $2 billion to help companies commercialize products in the life sciences industry and other growing technology areas.

The Emerging Sectors program looks at the top growth markets and targets firms that are interesting in expanding into Oakland County. The point of the program is to bring high-technology global business into the county, which is just north of Detroit.

“Obviously being the home of Detroit, this state is the world leader in auto­motive technology and traditional manufacturing,” Spanos says. “With the restructuring of the global auto­motive industry, we wanted to help traditional manufacturers stay in business, so we helped them transfer their expertise into other industries.”

Automotive engineers and manufacturers are a natural fit for the medical device industry because they share common issues, says Spanos. Both industries are pressured with controlling quality, cost, product life cycles, lean manufacturing, and speed to market.

Suppliers in the automotive industry have voiced interest in medical devices because they think they can manufacture some products more efficiently. “I also think the lean processes and cost savings that the automotive industry continues to perfect is something the medical device industry can definitely learn from,” says Spanos.

Automotive companies that have branched out to the device industry include PTI Engineered Plastics Inc. (Clinton Township, MI) and Creative Technology Services (Canton, MI).

The Emerging Sectors program holds events that provide an opportunity for industries to mingle. In April, it scheduled a seminar for automotive suppliers that wanted to diversify into the medical device industry. The seminar's topics included intellectual property, contract manufacturing, and FDA regulations.

Such collaborations between industries have already seen success. For example, an oncology doctor invented a cancer radiation treatment from an idea that emerged after meeting automotive engineers at a medical symposium. Engineers from Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) were using imaging to detect defects in engine blocks. This led to the development of a treatment that combines computed tomography with a medical linear actuator.

“We've seen success already from several of our manufacturers,” says Spanos. “The success is that they are actually doing work—manufacturing parts [and] designing devices for some of the largest medical device companies in the world.”

Copyright ©2008 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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