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Medical Manufacturing Growing in (Possibly) Unexpected Places

Lauralyn McDaniel









By Lauralyn McDaniel
Industry Manager--Medical
Manager, Innovation Watch, MicroManufacturing, Medical Manufacturing Innovations

You probably know that medical device manufacturing is complex, highly regulated, and driven by innovation with North America being the world leader in producing devices. You probably think the Los Angeles and Boston areas have the highest direct employment in medical device manufacturing, but are they? Yes, the Los Angeles metro area still has the most direct medical manufacturing employment, but Boston is no longer the second largest. Supported by advanced technology, low-volume, high-value devices like those for cardiac care, the Minneapolis area is now the second largest in North America. Nearby Milwaukee has also seen tremendous growth with employment more than doubling in a two-year period spurred on by more low-volume, high-value devices.

Another surprising location for growth is Ontario, in particular, Toronto. The number of people directly employed in medical device manufacturing makes this Canadian center similar in size to the hot bed of medical technology, San Jose, California. While much of Canadian medical manufacturing has been in sanitary paper products, today we're seeing growth in the development of similar advanced technologies to those of Minneapolis and Milwaukee. With a wealth of resources available including more than 200 government funding programs, research at many universities including the University of Toronto, and the support of many organizations like the Canadian Medical Manufacturers Association (CMMA/MEDEC), Clinical Trials Ontario and SME, medical device manufacturing is a growing sector in Ontario. More than half (C$3.6 billion) of the C$6.3 billion Canadian medical device manufacturing industry is produced in Ontario with nearly 20% of Canadian production exported to the US.

Comparisons based on direct employment don’t tell the whole story. What these numbers don’t reflect is the extended network of those involved in the actual manufacture of devices. Even for larger medical device companies, much of the manufacturing takes place through contract manufacturers. With a strong history of extended supply chains and contract manufacturing for automotive and more in Ontario, a robust manufacturing community is available to support the continued growth of medical device development and production.

What may not be surprising is that while there are many differences between the medical device industry in Canada and the US, there are also similarities. They face many of the same challenges including:

  • FINDING RESOURCES: Funding, ideas, talents, and more
  • JUSTIFYING VALUE: For startups and small companies, this can be critical to gain funding and investors. For designers and engineers, this is one of the greatest challenges to adopting a new technology or process.
  • REGULATORY COMPLIANCE: Several processes and tools can support a manufacturer’s efforts to comply with both Health Canada and U.S. FDA regulations, particularly in the design and quality areas.

Supported by several Canadian manufacturing organizations including MEDEC, the national association created by and for the Canadian medical technology industry, SME will explore and offer potential solutions to these challenges and more at the upcoming CMTS event scheduled for September 30-October 3 at the International Centre, Mississauga (Toronto), Ontario. Featuring the Medical Manufacturing Innovations (MMI) Series, participants will have access to technical conference sessions, an interactive, focused medical conference program, and informal discussion in the MMI Centre on the show floor. For more information, visit:  

About SME

SME advances manufacturing and attracts future generations through its strategic areas of events, media, membership, training & development and the SME Education Foundation. A 501(c)3 organization, SME has been gathering, validating and sharing manufacturing knowledge for more than 80 years. SME – Making the future. Together.


Published Date : 8/8/2013

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