HUI Manufacturing is celebrating a milestone of 20 years in the medical device cart industry in 2021. In 2001, the sheet metal fabricator and contract manufacturer expanded its business into designing and building medical device carts, a decision that has paid dividends in innovation and sustaining its workforce. Today, our HUI team designs and produces medical device carts for major medical technology companies that are used in hospitals and clinics across the country and beyond.
A New Market Brings a New Era
For Mark Collins and Dwayne Beckmann, reflecting on HUI’s journey to becoming a world-class medical cart manufacturing company is a walk down memory lane. Dwayne was an original member of the team that began HUI’s journey into the industry. For the past 20 years, he has been lending his expertise to engineering innovative medical carts… and making them manufacturable. Meanwhile, Mark was brought on to the team at HUI a bit later, after the company realized that they needed a dedicated product development capability and an engineer to take on that role.
The decision to expand into medical cart design and manufacture was a strategic move on the part of company leadership at the turn of the century. By finding a niche in the expanding medical market, HUI was able to diversify our business model while playing to its strengths. CEO and president Kurt Bell reflected on the evolution that the company has made. “We were looking for opportunities for growth into a new niche that would capitalize on HUI’s strengths. In developing the new process and practices required to service the medical device industry, we relied on our agility and commitment to continuous improvement. From 2001 until today our team has worked hard to learn new things while maintaining our standards and I couldn’t be prouder about the success our team has earned.”
Twenty years later, the bet on making medical carts has paid off in a big way. The medical device industry has grown into a $156 billion market today. Medical carts now comprise a third of HUI’s annual sales: the added value stream has allowed the company to weather dips in the economy and seek opportunities to grow its internal capabilities.
The early days of the journey presented challenges for our company and the small team assigned to seek new business in a new industry. We had to shift our collective mindset and its production from making products designed by others to providing our own product development function. In fact, every part of the business has changed and grown: from design engineering capability to more complicated assembly, complex supply chain management to new quality and compliance standards, HUI has experienced an evolution in its processes.
Former HUI Medical Business Division team member Julie Collins calls the transition a “case study in total organizational change.” She went on to say, “we figured out how to build a cross-functional product and sales team. From customer service to engineering to sales to service a customer. In a lot of organizations, you wouldn’t get that.”
At the same time, HUI’s previous experience as a contract manufacturer for industrial components became an advantage, bringing agility and a “can-do” attitude to the medical cart industry. HUI product engineer Mark Collins recalls, “it was a good fit because we were able to make changes pretty quickly. We had that contract manufacturing experience where we had to deal with rapid changes all the time.” This responsiveness to customer engineering changes soon became a differentiator for HUI. In addition, Mark says that HUI’s “made-to-order” philosophy of producing smaller quantities on demand was valuable. “We also were made to order while some competitors were holding inventory. For example, a customer would have a logo change that affected an entire lot that had already been made.” Customers choosing HUI did not face those issues. “We matched our strengths we already had to the white space in the medical cart market.”
The local community might be surprised to learn how innovative and far-reaching the products that leave HUI are. The company designs and builds carts that are used to carry and house devices that improve surgical outcomes, provide early diagnosis, and more. From neonatal cranial imaging to intricate eye surgery, HUI’s medical carts are a part of how the device is used by doctors and medical staff. In fact, the company produces a cart that has been vital in the fight against COVID-19: a cart that houses a ventilator hood system used by clinicians in highly infectious environments like those experienced at the height of the pandemic.
When asked how HUI employees feel knowing that the products they make are helping people, Mark says: “I think many employees feel more inspired about their jobs. These products are something that will ultimately be used to help improve people’s lives through medical outcomes, and it feels good to know that. I know I certainly feel that way.”