Historically, RMI in Noblesville has focused on orthopedic solutions for spinal surgeries, as well as hip and knee replacements. It’s had quite a bit of success in this industry, but RMI leadership now sees an opportunity to expand its focus.
"More recently, we’ve been looking for opportunities for growth in the non-medical field," President James Evans explains. "So we’re in the process of getting our aerospace certification."
Evans relays that expansion is one of the key reasons the company moved to Noblesville from Rochester in fall 2011. He explains the move gave the company more access to talent, and provided a more central location and close proximity to customers. While quite an undertaking, 19 of RMI’s Rochester staffers made the move south with the company, which currently has 25 employees (although that number will grow to 28 in the near future and well beyond once it expands into aerospace).
"We build low volume precision components out of exotic materials for the medical industry," Evans clarifies. "It’s a natural outgrowth opportunity to build products for other markets. Aerospace (and government, high-reliability military and aviation industries) all have requirements for the kind of capability that we have. Fairly high value componentry and assemblies are what we specialize in. In the spinal parts we build, the cervical plates, the hooks, the rods, the screws, which are mainly out of titanium and stainless steel and exotic plastics — we could really apply those to other markets."
Evans adds that the company has worked to evolve from just a component supplier and has expanded into full assemblies, which now comprise 40% to 50% of its business.
"When you start adding components together as part of an assembly, you have all of the interferences and system-level issues that you uncover," he notes. "And frankly, most of our competitors don’t want that hassle — so we look for more of those opportunities and that separates us from the competition."
He adds that the company now focuses on getting products to market faster by increasing engineering staff and adding equipment, which has helped build customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Evans remarks that RMI now serves more second tier developers.
"In 2005, most of our business was with large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), and we had very little flexibility in defining the manufacturing of these products," he says. "We had little say in product improvements, and now we’re with customers who are competitive with large OEMs; they’re design houses and they’re working with orthopedic groups. … they look to us for manufacturing solutions."
Challenges still face Hoosier companies in the medical device industry.
"With people out of work, they don’t have insurance and put off having surgeries," Evans offers. "People are also doing tigher inventory controls, so purchasing habits have changed and so we don’t get as many large orders as we used to get. And of course Obamacare has had its own set of challenges, as well as the medical device tax — those things will affect the marketplace."
When asked about Indiana’s pipeline of talent for his industry, Evans explains central Indiana provides more access to talent, but he believes the state has room for improvement.
"The people who actually run our machinery, they need to be trained machinists and need to know a lot about metallurgy and inspection processes, and we have to train every one of them that comes in here," he asserts. "So there’s always a talent gap."
Would you like to know more about RMI or its products? Reach out to Evans at [email protected].