Making It In Northern Michigan: Precision Edge Surgical Products
If you’ve had orthopedic surgery, there’s a good chance the 63 employees at Precision Edge Surgical Products’ Boyne City manufacturing facility did their part to assure a good outcome. Precision Edge serves virtually all the major domestic surgical equipment suppliers and enjoys a solid reputation with the medical community.
Finely-tooled, dependable precision cutting tools are essential in a surgical setting. Not surprisingly, Precision Edge places an extremely high premium on quality. Patients’ health is at stake.
Even aesthetics – the way a tool looks – matter. That’s because surgeons are notoriously picky.
“When surgeons see something they don’t like – maybe just a slightly different color on the tool than what they’re used to – they won’t use it,” said Drew May, plant operations manager at the Boyne City plant.
The FDA is Watching
Actually, the pressure is on even well before Precision Edge’s products ever reach the operating room. May said government oversight of the entire process has increased in recent years. The FDA now has the last say about the entire supply chain. The agency monitors design specifications, the exact materials used in production and the entire history of each piece of equipment.
One of the ways Precision Edge has managed to remain atop this high-pressure industry sector is by encouraging employees to become actively engaged in the continuous improvement process.
That requires a culture of open communications.
Shop floor organization revolves mostly around work “cells,” teams of employees who produce certain types of tools. But daily “Cross Function Team” meetings have become an important venue for a vertical and horizontal information exchange.
“That’s where employees review where we are from a SQDC [safety, quality, delivery and cost] standpoint,” May said. “Everyone has an opportunity to make suggestions, point out what’s working and what we need to change.”
To further support continuous improvement, Precision Edge also has Northwestern Michigan College’s training services lead on-site courses in Lean Manufacturing and other business process systems.
That level of employee involvement and attention to detail has paid off. Precision Edge is growing.
“We’re about half full now,” May said. “We’ve expanded from a handful [of employees] to the current number of 60. We’re on a track to go to 140 employees here in Boyne City over the next five years or so.”
The Boyne City facility itself was the outgrowth of increased demand for the company’s products.
Precision Edge’s original facility in Sault Ste. Marie, which houses research and design functions, corporate headquarters and production, currently has 145 employees. The Boyne City plant was created because the company outgrew production space at the Sault Ste. Marie facility.
Precision tool production requires the talents of mechanical engineers, metallurgists, programmers, machinists and front office staff. Everyone involved is expected to contribute in his or her own way to overcome what May called the biggest challenge surgical tool companies like his face: the need for precision.
Like other manufacturers, Precision Edge is always on the hunt for skilled machinists.
The company tackles the problem through a variety of strategies, including an internal training program and a machinist apprentice system. It also cooperates with North Central Michigan College’s “mobile fab lab,” a machine fabrication laboratory on wheels which visits area high schools. In addition, the company sponsors engineering co-op rotations with Lake Superior State University and Michigan Tech, hosts frequent plant tours for various engineering clubs and has hired employees through NCMC and Baker College’s machining programs.
May is upbeat about the company’s future. Much of his optimism is based on Precision Edge’s current workforce.
“We have very talented employees who want to take responsibility for the quality of the products they make,” he said. “They take real pride in what they’re producing.”
More information on the company can be found at precisionedge.com.