“Croom Precision Medical is my father’s company, I grew up here,” says Patrick J. Byrnes, Head of Research and Development at Croom Precision Medical of the village in Limerick, Ireland.
Byrnes’s deferential tone and down-to-earth approach belies his most impressive track record. Last year, the mechanical engineer received the prestigious ‘Enterprise Ireland Graduate of Outstanding Innovation Achievement Award’ at Cork Institute of Technology. After graduating from a masters in International Business at UCD, he went on to do further studies, embarking on a PhD in additive manufacturing, and working first for Zimmer Orthopedics, then Stryker Orthopedics in Cork, before finally joining the family business two years ago.
What has changed in his time there? “We are 35 years in business this year,” says Byrnes, “and for 33 of those years, we primarily focused on the domestic Irish market.” In the last 18 months, the company has won five industry awards for research, innovation and excellence in supply and formulised a company IP strategy. “Our strategy for international growth specifically targets tier 1 and 2 medical device companies.”
The growing technical team has experienced unprecedented demand from multinationals, including a recent contract to manufacture over 140,000 Class 2 medical implants a year.
How Croom Precision Medical laid the groundwork for success
Croom Precision Medical is predominantly a B2B business, supplying precision components and high value consultancy services for medical devices, like orthopaedics, trauma and extremities, cardiovascular and vascular. “We also design and manufacture custom implants from titanium on our validated additive manufacturing equipment” explains Byrnes.
The company’s strong academic relationships with Irish universities create a vibrant environment that supports innovation. Last September, its highly skilled engineering staff gained AS9100 aerospace manufacture certification and supply chain 21 status. The company now specialises in the field precision machining and metallic additive manufacturing and has rapidly branched out into the international medical and aerospace markets.
“Our pioneering work on metallic additive manufacturing gained the attention of international aerospace companies, inviting us into new engineering challenges,” he says. “We iterate prototypes and experiments over and over until we get it right. It’s relentless.”
The reasons for this rapid expansion are many fold. Croom’s attention to detail, and innovative and collaborative approach, are exactly what is required for developing the 4.0 technologies that are increasingly sought after in the medtech market. Ireland’s reputation and favourable regulatory environment contribute to making companies like Croom Precision Medical an attractive choice for multinational and U.S. companies. What has placed Croom Precision Medical in the perfect position to maximise on these advantages is that the company has patiently fostered client relationships for years. “It’s a long road into these projects,” explains Byrnes, “It’s typically one to three years before any return is gained.”
The Irish hub
Ireland is now one of the largest exporters of medical products in Europe, with annual exports of €12.6 billion to over 100 countries worldwide. One reason why multinationals have switched to Croom Precision Medical, says Byrnes, is “we deliver low risk, high value solutions with significant engineering complexity, in addition to making upwards of 40% cost savings”.
Ireland also has a reputation for innovation and scholarly excellence, while ethical compliance organisations like the Irish Medtech Association focus on further developing the industry. The country hosts almost 300 homegrown medtech businesses supported by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, the biggest seed investor of start-ups in Europe.
“Without events like Med in Ireland, we would not get an opportunity to invite the key people from our customer base abroad and meet them face-to-face. For us it’s very important to get those people in person to showcase our capabilities.”
The right investments
The company has recently invested heavily in recruitment and advanced technologies, such as 3D printing, collaborative robotics and state-of-the-art automated machining centres.
“In January 2017, we formed a Research and Development Innovation Board internally, and with that then we filed patents through the Enterprise Ireland IP Strategy fund. It’s a fund that helps SME companies form an IP strategy and start filing valuable IP thereby increasing company value. Once we started filing IP, we got international recognition from a lot of Swiss, German and American companies for our work in additive manufacturing, and that brought significant investment into new technology in Croom. We selected high-end automated equipment where we can enable significant price savings. This all happened promptly – within a four to five month time period. We then found ourselves receiving enquiries from new American counterparts of customers we would have supplied for 33 years, to share value add to their respective teams and projects.”
Collaboration is key
The company has been fostering relationships with clients for years, taking on even small and specific orders. “A major healthcare provider got in touch with us back in 2013, and they were a customer who wanted very complex components in small volumes. As a supplier, you have to take it, bring them along and build the relationship to enable higher series value-add production. People do business with people.” The higher level of work came when Croom had proven it could provide the attention to detail and collaborative approach needed to develop groundbreaking solutions for the medtech industry.
“We’re not a company that just delivers a solution. It’s more a strategic partnership where we will develop a favourable process with the client’s team.” That same client has now provided a game changing contract for Croom Precision, winning them the Contract Manufacturer of the Year award at the 2019 IMR Manufacturing and Supply Chain Awards.
“The conversation first started as they were getting poor service from their existing medical supplier. It was a right place, right time scenario. They were not getting the attention that we can give here at Croom, and going with us also made major cost savings for them which was an additional win.”
Croom Precision Medical is working with rapidly evolving manufacturing technology and a dynamic market, and it remains to be seen where this innovative generation will take Irish medtech. “Metal additive manufacturing is something that requires a specific skillset,” says Byrnes, “We have many white papers published building on our work in accelerating new manufacturing technologies forward in regulated environments.” The company has expanded its facility, with an additional 20,000 sq ft available in 2020.