5 questions with Westfall Technik CEO Mark Gomulka
Mark Gomulka has had a busy first year as CEO of plastics contract manufacturer Westfall Technik.
Gomulka joined Las Vegas–based Westfall Technik in September 2021 after five years at Flex and 15 years at Nypro before that.
Formed in 2017 with 20 acquisitions closed and more on the way, the end-to-end plastics manufacturer’s revenue is now around $400 million per year with approximately 20% year-over-year sales growth, Gomulka said.
“I’m having fun doing this, because I think we’re creating something,” Gomulka said in an interview. “We have 2,500 employees. That means we serve 2,500 families. And most importantly, we have incredible customers that took a gamble on us and continue to take a gamble on a company that five years ago did not exist. … We’re a single-source provider to the next-generation insulin pump. That’s going to change people’s lives.”
The following has been edited for clarity and space.
MDO: What did you learn in your first year as CEO?
Gomulka: It definitely was an interesting year to become CEO. We saw some unprecedented shortages of raw materials. It was a bidding war. Who’s going to stay? Who’s going to have the materials to run products for our customers? There’s no better way to prove yourself and how resolute you are than in times like that. We saw inflation faster than the average consumer. We saw it coming. We are early indicators. Contract manufacturers see what raw materials are doing, what conversion rates are doing, what labor rates are doing, shortages of labor. And we had to revamp almost our entire operational strategy to deal with this. One of the things that I’ve learned: You have to surround yourself with fantastic people. I think I’ve done that pretty well, between Merritt Williams on the commercial side and Chief Procurement Officer Dave Schultz — he’s a nine-year executive from CONMED and he used to be my customer back when I was at Nypro. We built out our engineering team, especially tooling, focusing on medical. Cause we’re seeing a lot of momentum when it comes to devices, true devices. Not something that’s been around for 10, 15 years. I’m talking about devices that really improve patients’ lives from outpatient to in-home care. Wearable autoinjectors, insulin pumps, stuff that’s not even on the market yet.
MDO: Are we out of the woods on resin shortages?
Gomulka: It’s improving. It’s definitely improving on the commodity grades, no question about it. There’s still some pressures, especially around medical grades like nylon, nylon 6 and polycarbonate, certain grades and some custom compounding ones. There are still some shortages of components that go into it. But for the most part, I think it’s going to start stabilizing. And it’s also helping that the entire other industries around us are stabilizing, meaning they have inventories. Demand is dropping a little bit while they have really improved their capacities. There’s a lot more polypropylene capacity. There’s a lot more other capacities that were installed since 2021 that’s helping us. What you’re going to see is — I don’t want to call it an artificial decline in sales when materials start stabilizing and polypropylene goes from $1.50 to 50 cents, or certain grades go from $10 back to $5 — but you’re going to see that natural reversal. We look at value-add outside of materials. So we’re growing value-add year over year. I’m trying to keep the material noise out of it. I’m not a speculator. If I was, I wouldn’t be running a molding company. I’d probably be sitting on Wall Street somewhere. So that’s what we’re seeing, barring another Ukraine situation or something like that.
MDO: What trends do you expect in device manufacturing?
Gomulka: People are going to start planning a little bit more when it comes to capacities and surge capacities, especially on the device side. [Diabetes device makers, for example, are] governed by one thing — their ability to provide patients with their devices and there’s not enough. They’re not even scratching what the market needs with what they can build at a sustainable rate. Libre has a 14-day wearable. Every patient that’s installed has X amount per year. If the world capacity is 115 million for Libre, you can only serve so many patients. Diabetes is not going away, and we’re only talking about western countries. Think about India and China. The world does not have enough capacity to make those devices and there’s not enough sterilization capacity in the world for all those devices. Devices are the future, from surgeries to wearables, everything’s getting smart, getting miniaturized And it’s getting mass-produced. Those who can embrace how you’re going to do it a little bit differently and provide truly, totally vertically integrated solutions including items like sterilization are the ones who are doing to create a lot of change in this industry.
MDO: What’s different about Westfall Technik?
Gomulka: We pride ourselves in having a lot of differentiating technologies, especially in micromolding, which is incredibly important to med devices. Because everything’s getting smaller, wearable. We built our own micromolding machine, eliminating the need for runners. We pioneer how we process bioabsorbable materials, implantable materials and things like that. We have a platform that’s finally getting the attention of a lot of the OEMs, solving a lot of issues for the Abbotts, the Hologics, the Medtronics. If I can eliminate 90% of the waste that comes out of the product stream, I don’t compete on price.
MDO: How do you hold it all together as CEO when rolling up so many companies?
Gomulka: What’s the secret of acquiring 18 companies in 18 months, or 20 companies in 24 months? Zero secrets. You write checks. The secret is how you integrate and who you surround yourself with. There are phenomenal CEOs, COOs, general managers that enter a company that’s already been established. I like to say, the roads are paved, stop signs are up, stoplights are up, the lanes and traffic patterns are defined. They go in and they do a phenomenal job running those companies. It takes a different person to actually pave the roads, stripe the roads, put stop signs up, stop lights up and everything else, and create one company system, creating one company culture, creating commonality and even as simple as design software. That’s where the fun is and the last 20 years of my career, that’s what I did. Everybody who works in this organization on my team has a passion for growing a business like nobody has seen before. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Are we perfect? Hell no. We will trip more often than not, but the one who gets up first and continues running is the one that wins. Because we learn from the mistakes as we go along. It’s been a phenomenal ride.