Program Wants Students to ‘Think Ortho’ Even Younger

By Kylie Veleta, Special Projects ReporterCONNECT

The skills gap, or lack of middle-skill workers, is a top concern for manufacturers throughout the state, but perhaps felt most acutely in Indiana’s manufacturing pockets. Warsaw, for example, is very manufacturing-intense as “Orthopedic Capital of the World,” and Kosciusko County’s low 2.3 percent unemployment rate is squeezing the already-tight labor market. To help solve the problem, local leaders are retooling the Think Ortho campaign to attract more potential workers at an even younger age—as soon as the eighth grade.

“[Finding employees and retaining them] has definitely been a challenge here in Warsaw,” says Precision Medical Technologies Human Resource and Customer Service Manager Mike Conrad. “It’s very competitive. We’ve increased our benefits package to try to entice employees to start working for us or to continue working for us. It’s been very difficult to find machinists and retain them, due to so many competitors with similar jobs out there.”

The state’s orthopedic initiative, OrthoWorx, launched Think Ortho several years ago to raise awareness among students, parents and educators about orthopedic manufacturing careers. OrthoWorx Executive Director Brad Bishop says there are hundreds of advanced manufacturing jobs “in our area that aren’t being filled right now.”

Originally targeting college students to connect them with internship and co-op opportunities, Think Ortho soon extended the effort to high school students, but is now hoping to reach potential workers as early as eighth grade.

“This is the first time we’ve targeted eighth graders specifically. We think we need to reach students earlier than high school; eighth grade is a good target because kids probably haven’t decided what they want to do, but they’re on the verge of planning out their high school curriculum,” says Bishop. “We want to make them aware of the career opportunities, that orthopedic manufacturing serves people, pays well and is a high-tech, clean environment—not the manufacturing jobs of the past.”

OrthoWorx is hopeful the effort will help put more students on a technical education path to help fill the vast number of openings for positions, such as machinists and quality technicians. Equally important, says Bishop, is getting parents on board.

“Sometimes parents can be an obstacle for kids going into manufacturing careers, because their frame of reference is probably grandpa’s manufacturing factory,” says Bishop. “Orthopedic manufacturing is nothing like that.”

As part of the Think Ortho effort, OrthoWorx added the Think Ortho Tour, and the most recent edition included parents for the first time. About 175 students and parents toured local contract manufacturer Precision Medical Technologies, the Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and the Warsaw Area Career Center.

OrthoWorx has even bigger plans for the future of the Think Ortho Tour; leaders aim to orchestrate an event in October that will involve every eighth grader in Kosciusko County touring an orthopedic manufacturing facility as part of the national Manufacturing Day. OrthoWorx is also planning an additional program focused on parents.

“We’re always looking to get young students in here and show them what manufacturing is about today in 2018,” says Conrad. “The main purpose is to open their eyes to what we do, what kind of jobs are out there, what kind of salaries can be expected entering the workforce and try to get more people excited about manufacturing here in northern Indiana.”

Bishop says the Think Ortho Tour also targets educators, including teachers and guidance counselors.

New Surgery Style Drives Ortho Expansion

By Kylie Veleta
Special Projects Reporter, Inside Indiana Business

An emerging demand in the orthopedic sector is drumming up business for Warsaw-based Precision Medical Technologies. While major joint replacements, such as hips and knees, are the giants in the marketplace, Baby Boomers are also driving the need for more minor operations on extremities such as fingers, wrists or toes. Precision Medical Technologies is building a new facility in Wabash County to help enable these smaller surgeries and drive down cost for both providers and patients.

The new $5 million production operation will be the company’s third, and focus solely on making disposable, single-use instruments that surgeons need to implant the orthopedic devices. The contract manufacturer makes implants at its Warsaw headquarters and reusable instruments at its Noble County facility.

“We think [disposable surgical instruments] is an emerging market,” says Precision Medical Technologies co-owner Jeff Thornburgh. “If someone is having hand, wrist, elbow, ankle or foot surgery, they’re going to these ambulatory surgical centers that are popping up. You’re in and out in one to two hours and don’t have to stay overnight at a hospital.”

The company believes these smaller surgery centers are increasing in popularity because they offer two key advantages: lower costs and reduced risk of infection, compared to hospitals. Thornburgh says lower surgical costs decrease health care costs in general, and reduce the amount patients pay. To help drive down costs at the smaller centers, Thornburgh says surgeons prefer disposable, single-use instruments.

“These instruments are lower cost than reusable, but at the same time, the tolerances have to be very tight; it has to be very high-quality but lower cost,” says Thornburgh. “What fits the surgeon’s procedure well is to have a disposable driver, drill guide, drill or other types of surgical instruments that don’t have to be re-sterilized. It’s single use, and they toss it.”

Thornburgh notes the disposable instruments can be challenging to manufacture; the process is exacting, but must also be done cost effectively “if you’re going to compete in this market.”

The new operation in Wabash County, which neighbors Kosciusko County, will help the manufacturer continue to serve its sweet spot in the marketplace. Thornburgh says the company specializes in producing implants and instruments for medium-size orthopedic manufacturers, with a special emphasis on spine, extremities and trauma.

While Precision Medical Technologies currently makes disposable instruments at the Warsaw facility for a few customers, the new production operation in Wabash County will grow its capabilities. Company leaders also considered northwest Ohio and northwest Indiana, but settled on Wabash County based on workforce advantages.

“Of those three locations, we found that Wabash County had a number of people available to be trained and hired,” says Thornburgh. “The labor market for our plant in Warsaw is very tight. We struggle constantly to try to staff the machining positions we have here. We’re betting on it [being easier in Wabash County].”

The company will follow a model that has proven successful at its other two locations: operating smaller, focused factories that employ about 65 to 70 workers. The company expects to employ about 60 when the Wabash County operation reaches full capacity in approximately three years.

“We did a lot of homework to make sure this was the right move,” says Thornburg. “We’re not going to go hire 300 people, but we think the Wabash County location could probably give us 60 to 70 good, solid employees.”

Precision Medical Technology plans to launch the operation in early 2018—adding manufacturing might to a niche that’s gaining traction in the marketplace.

Indiana-Owned Orthopedics Company Establishes Third Facility in Indiana

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (Nov. 30, 2017) – Precision Medical Technologies, a contract manufacturer of orthopedic implants and instruments, announced plans today to expand its operations to Wabash County, creating up to 60 new jobs by 2022.

“Indiana’s reputation as the orthopedics capital of the world is made possible because of growing companies like Precision Medical Technologies,” said Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). “By leveraging our sound fiscal policies and pro-growth business environment, Indiana delivers the resources and the people that companies need. We look forward to witnessing Precision Medical Technologies’ success.”

The company, which already has facilities in Kosciusko and Noble counties, will invest nearly $5 million to expand its operations, purchasing and renovating a 9,000-square-foot manufacturing space at 400 Beckley St. in North Manchester. The site will house CNC machinery and related equipment to support the company’s new operations for disposable surgical instruments, and the company’s current manufacturing implants and reusable instruments operations will continue at its existing sites in Warsaw and Rome City, Indiana. Renovations are underway, allowing the company to be fully operational in the new facility and to launch into the disposable instrument market at the beginning of 2018.

Precision Medical Technologies currently employs more than 140 associates at its two locations in Indiana. The company plans to begin hiring for engineering, quality assurance, finishing, scheduling and CNC machinists positions for the North Manchester facility at the beginning of 2018. These new positions are expected to offer average salaries 24 percent higher than the Wabash County average wage. Interested applicants may apply online.

“We at Precision Medical Technologies are looking forward to establishing our third manufacturing facility in Wabash County and are excited to take advantage of a competent and available workforce, proximity to our supply base and significant opportunities for ongoing technical training,” said Kurt Kamholz, president of Precision Medical Technologies. “The community of North Manchester has been instrumental in assisting us in finding a location to meet both our current and future expectations for a successful operations facility. We look forward to continuing to operate in Indiana – a location that continues to provide manufacturers with a well-trained and stable workforce to support business growth.”

Since 2003, Precision Medical Technologies has been manufacturing orthopedic implants and instruments with a strong focus on the spine, extremities, and trauma markets. Currently, the company is divided into two separate operating divisions, implant and instrument manufacturing, with both segments having their own quality engineering, production engineering and operating management. The instrument division is located in Rome City, Indiana, while the implant facility is located in Warsaw, Indiana. The company manufacturers surgical instruments and implants for original equipment manufacturers nationwide in the orthopedic industry.

The IEDC offered Precision Medical Technologies up to $430,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $45,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. These incentives are performance based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. The town of North Manchester will consider additional incentives during the town council meeting on Dec. 6 at the request of Grow Wabash County.

“We are thrilled that Precision Medical Technologies has chosen to locate their newest facility here in North Manchester,” said Jim Smith, president of the North Manchester Town Council. “They have been a great partner to work with and we look forward to building upon our already strong relationship to help them grow in our community.”

Innovative medical device companies like Precision Medical Technologies continue to grow in Indiana – a global leader in the life sciences industry. According to BioCrossroads and the Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana is the second largest exporter of life sciences products in the U.S., totaling nearly $10 billion and accounting for nearly one-third of Indiana’s total exports. More than 1,600 life science companies operate in Indiana, supporting more than 56,000 Hoosier jobs with average wages of nearly $99,000 annually.

About Precision Medical Technologies
Precision Medical Technologies is a contract manufacturer of orthopedic implants and instruments with a focus on spine, extremities, trauma and sports medicine. The business is divided into two separate operating Divisions; Implant Manufacturing and Instrument Manufacturing with both segments being staffed with their own Quality Engineering, Production Engineering, and Operating Management. The Instrument Division operates out of the Warsaw and Rome City facilities, while the Implant Division is only located at the Warsaw facility.

About IEDC
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) leads the state of Indiana’s economic development efforts, helping businesses launch, grow and locate in the state. Governed by a 15-member board chaired by Governor Eric J. Holcomb, the IEDC manages many initiatives, including performance-based tax credits, workforce training grants, innovation and entrepreneurship resources, public infrastructure assistance, and talent attraction and retention efforts. For more information about the IEDC, visit www.iedc.in.gov.

DWD and OrthoWorx Announce Warsaw Region Digital Job Fair

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development and OrthoWorx are planning a digital job fair for the Warsaw area on Thursday, November 16 from 2-3 p.m. EST. As one of three trial programs, it will give selected local orthopedic manufacturing employers the opportunity to virtually present information about their businesses and share brief job descriptions and job application instructions.

Participating employers include Zimmer Biomet, Paragon Medical and Precision Medical Technology. Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center will also participate to discuss the training programs it offers to help individuals qualify for manufacturing openings.

“DWD and its local partners in Warsaw are accomplishing two goals with the launch of digital job fairs – meeting the needs of sophisticated job seekers and helping area employers find workers. We selected the communities of Warsaw, Jasper and Elkhart for the trial job fairs because they are three areas with significant, immediate workforce needs,” said DWD Chief Communications Officer Bob Birge. “With the emergence of online communications, we wanted to make this as easy as possible for everyone involved.”

Job openings presented during the digital job fair will be high demand, high wage opportunities. Interested participants may register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1990268165352576001. The job fair will be recorded, so those who register but aren’t able to participate live will still be able to view the discussion and apply for those jobs presented by each employer. They will receive a follow up email with a link to the recording.

“Many businesses in the Warsaw region have more advanced manufacturing vacancies than they are able to fill,” said OrthoWorx Executive Director Brad Bishop. “Traditional job fairs may not work for a variety of reasons including schedule conflicts, family commitments and transportation issues. We hope this digital job fair brings Warsaw area employers and job seekers together in an effective format that saves everyone time.”