"The aim is to make our healthcare business even more global"

Felix Hess talks for the first time about the high investments and the resulting future plans of OECHSLER in the healthcare sector.

Interview with Felix Hess, Vice President Sales Healthcare of OECHSLER

OECHSLER is realigning its healthcare division. To this end, a high single-digit million sum is being invested in new clean rooms. Felix Hess talks about where the challenges lie and why OECHSLER considers the medical technology sector to be a safe investment in the future.

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What are the tasks of the Vice President of Sales Healthcare?

By 2028, we want to exceed the sales threshold of EUR 100 million at OECHSLER in the medical devices business. My task is to coordinate this growth offensive and provide our customers with efficient solutions worldwide, especially in the product categories of drug delivery systems and diagnostics. The aim is to make our healthcare business even more global. It’s a fortunate circumstance that I come from a background in implementation and project management and am not an “original salesperson.”

How much expertise do you need for your job?

A great deal. For our customers, we are a technology services manufacturer. Customers place specific demands on their products and expect perfect functionality, which also extends to the well-being of patients. Our job is to translate that into plastic.

What areas does your service cover?

The entire product development process. From concept to lifecycle management, including moldmaking. We are proud to provide our customers with models for functional tests and pilot studies within and concise time with the help of our 3D printers. This capability helps us optimize product cycles in an ever-accelerating world.

Which technologies are part of your offering?

Polymer injection molding, additive manufacturing, powder injection molding, and assembly. We offer a broad portfolio of technologies and materials. Our products are often a combination of different materials, such as plastic and metal.

You plan to invest a high single-digit million amount. What specific projects are planned?

The focal points of our investment in infrastructure are Ansbach, here in Germany, and Querétaro, Mexico. At the German site, 900 square meters of cleanroom space will be created, 700 square meters of which will comply with the ISO 7 standard. In Mexico, it is 600 square meters, half complying with ISO 7 and half with ISO 8. We will then be able to manufacture products in cleanroom classes ISO 7 and 8 or cleanroom classes C and D of the EG-GMP guidelines.

What will take place in these areas?

First of all, we will provide the infrastructure. In the next step, we and our customers will together invest in new machinery for the cleanroom areas. With this“well packed technology backpack”, we are then ideally positioned for partnerships and cooperations.

You will have a specific range of products in mind ...

We concentrate our contract manufacture offering on Class II a and II b medical devices. These include, for example, drug delivery systems such as inhalers, diabetes therapy systems, and portable pump systems. We are also strong in the field of diagnostics. Among other things, this involves cuvettes or cassettes with microfluidic structures. Everything you need to run analyses.

Does your investment only include the “empty cleanroom,” the infrastructure, or is there more to it?

We are investing in four pillars altogether. The first is cleanrooms. The second pillar is personnel. Here, we will also work with universities to attract the right up-and-coming talent. The third pillar involves processes and procedures. And point four is our public image. We want to be perceived even better in the healthcare sector.

Processes and procedures – that sounds more like internal organization ...

Moldmaking is to be digitized, and computed tomography is also to become our standard measurement method in ongoing serial production. We are supported by a full-time employee as a change manager, who supervises 48 work packages. We are really questioning every process right now.

By 2028, we want to exceed the sales threshold of EUR 100 million at OECHSLER in the medical devices business. My task is to coordinate this growth offensive and provide our customers with efficient solutions worldwide, especially in the product categories of drug delivery systems and diagnostics. The aim is to make our healthcare business even more global.

Felix Hess
Vice President Sales Healthcare of OECHSLER

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Okay, that sounds like a big commitment.

Motivation for expanding the medical technology business is very high in our company from the Executive Board to the operational staff. We are pursuing the expansion very consistently – half measures are not enough.

You are expecting significant growth in the field of drug delivery systems and diagnostics. Why is this?

The global demand for medical devices is growing by 5 percent annually. Reasons for this include the continuing growth of the world’s population, higher life expectancy, and an increased standard of living. Today there are about 380 million diabetics worldwide, in a few years there will be about 500 million.

Let’s take an autoinjector for particular medications or insulin as a product example. Please explain to us a typical project process at OECHSLER.

That’s a good example. Autoinjectors are right in trend and a very highly regulated and patent-backed area. Every primary pharmacist prefers to rely on their system here but also buys from OEMs, which is associated with license fees. There are patents for the manufacturing processes or on the functionalities of the devices ... Our first step is usually a search of the existing patents. We then clarify with and for our customer, be it a pharmacist or OEM in the case of a new development, what we are allowed to make at all.

What do I bring to the table as a customer when you develop such a system for me?

Actually, the basic idea is enough. Autoinjectors always consist of similar components: there is a cannula behind which sits a push button, which is triggered by a strong spring. We then develop a concept such as a modular system independent of medication.

How long does it take to get the first drafts?

It’s an iterative process that can take a few weeks until the first proposals are made. Then the first parts are printed for engineering tests. At the same time, CAD models are produced, tolerance analyses are developed, and the risk of failure is calculated.

What are the biggest challenges in development?

The biggest mistake would be, for example, if the device does not trigger or doses inaccurately. We have to make sure that the system works 100 percent reliably. In addition, the patient must not injure himself on the needle after use.

What role does moldmaking play in the development phase?

In the first step, we examine how a particular component can be produced. Our moldmaking engineers pay particular attention to scalability. It makes a huge difference whether the product is subsequently assembled by hand in a quantity of 400,000 – or whether 40 million units are to be manufactured fully automatically.

Is sustainability an issue for you?

A very important one. We take different approaches: On the one hand, we are working to reduce CO2 in production. At our site in Mexico, more than 35 percent of our electricity needs are covered by solar energy. On the other, we also calculate the CO2 footprint of the product and offer consulting services on how the product can be CO2-optimized by using sustainable materials.

What about the use of recyclates? Is this even per- missible in the medical sector?

As long as there is no contact with the drug or sensitive areas of the patient, we discuss alternative materials. There are initial trends here. But, of course, we produce single-use products. In the industry, we want to work together to ensure closed-loop manufacture with recycled products after use.

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