Romeoville, Illinois-based Formerra now distributes plastic and polymer products from more than 40 suppliers, helping medical device developers and manufacturers — including contract manufacturers — select the best materials for applications such as drug delivery, diabetes devices and remote patient monitoring.
This week, Formerra announced a new Nordic hub in Malmö, Sweden, to better serve customers in Europe. Medical Design & Outsourcing spoke with Formerra GM Kelly Wessner about the polymer distributor’s offerings and growth.
What’s Formerra’s pitch to medtech manufacturers?
Wessner: “A lot of people would probably say, ‘Well, why in the world do we care what a plastics distributor is doing in the healthcare space?’ We are uniquely positioned in the healthcare market in a very different way than other distributors. We work with our customers all the way from concept through production, commercialization and long-term support. … What our customers always tell us when we’re engaging in that manner [is] they’re very used to it with the resin manufacturers themselves — many manufacturers do have those application development resources — but what is beneficial and of high value from Formerra’s perspective is that we’re doing that within a much larger sandbox of materials to play with. As opposed to a manufacturer coming in and saying, ‘I’m going to talk to you about [one material] for the next however many hours,’ we go in completely agnostic about material and truly do roll up our sleeves and work with our customers to find the best technical solutions.”
Where is Formerra growing and how?
Wessner: “When we became Formerra just over a year ago, we made very clear that we’re going to be expanding, growing geographically as well as growing our portfolio and one of the first things that we did was we acquired Total Polymer Solutions based in Ireland to support the health care market in Ireland and the U.K. This is a progression of that. It is a progression of our commitment to growing to support our global health care customers, both OEMs as well as contract manufacturers, in places where they need us. We know that there is a great hub of innovation and technology and development in the Nordic region. And by positioning our logistics, expertise and services more centrally in that area, it makes it a lot easier to service those customers more efficiently than via Ireland and the U.K. … We’ve seen so much M&A activity over the years. OEMs and contract manufacturers — the big ones — are global and their needs that cross regions have changed over the last several years. So we have had to change with it. And that is one of the reasons why this is such an important move for us, first into Ireland and now into the Nordic region. Because our customers need to have consistency in how they’re approaching design, in the materials that they have access to, meeting all the regulatory and the the quality and delivery requirements that they have to maintain their pace of production. This expansion allows us to engage with customers in Europe, North America, and Asia.”
What has changed about Formerra under private equity ownership?
Wessner: “We have all of the capabilities that we had in the past [and] as we grow, we’re bolting on complementary services and products to our portfolio and more rapidly expanding into additional geographies. That’s what’s changing. We’re growing much faster than we ever had in the past, because we’ve been enabled through different ownership, through this different structure. We now have investment to grow into targeted spaces, like the Nordic region. This is the beginning of continued expansion where our customers need us within Europe. We’re making significant investment in Mexico — we just announced in November our acquisition of Suministro because that’s where our customers have said they need us to be — and we’re investing there and Asia as well. … When people hear private equity they think of the strip-and-flip sort of model. We’re operating the inverse of that. In strategic markets we’re benefiting from it the most, because that’s where the investment is coming. Healthcare is our flagship industry. We’ve had a long-term leadership position in healthcare, and we’re being given more tools and resources to do more in that space. It is the people, it is the geographies, it is the portfolio expansion that we’re undergoing right now.”