From its modest start more than two decades ago, ACIST Medical Systems has become a leader in advanced contrast imaging technology. “Our business has grown very nicely,” President and COO Thomas Morizio says.
Based in Prairie, Minn., the firm manufactures cardiology and radiology equipment, such as contrast injection systems and patient data networks. Dr. Robert F. Wilson, a professor of medicine and director of the Interventional Cardiology program at the University of Minnesota, founded the firm in 1991 with a small staff.
Since then, the company has grown to employ 230 workers and earn $130 million in annual revenues. “[We have been] successful scaling up into an organization that manufactures over 1,000 systems annually [that are] sold in every major market worldwide,” Morizio says.
Understanding Its Clients
ACIST’s customer base consists of two groups, Morizio says.
“First and foremost, in the cardiovascular area, our customer base is really the cardiologist who works in the cath lab,” he says.
The second half, he notes, consists of the radiology portions of hospitals, with computerized axial tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scan rooms. Because its products directly help people, ACIST’s work can be rewarding for its employees.
For instance, in 2011, “We had our 10-millionth patient who had their case managed by our system,” he says. “That was a major milestone.”
One of the keys to ACIST’s success in this area is the medical expertise of its staff in processes such as cardiac catheterization. “We really demonstrate the value of the cardiologist [to others],” Morizio says, noting that the company understands cardiologists’ needs.
In addition, to keep its products up to date, “We invest a significant amount of resources in R&D,” Morizio explains. “We have a significant amount of activity going on to enhance our current product offering, but also expand into new areas.” Currently, the company is investing in and evaluating products in market spaces adjacent to its current CV injector market.
As a medical device company, it is critical for ACIST to maintain its manufacturing quality. Director of Operations Dave Markovich says the firm manages this in many ways, including maintaining open lines of communications with its suppliers.
“Our information is sent back to their quality systems,” he says. “We have complete transparency from the top to the bottom. We’re extremely progressive.” ACIST shares such information as customer reports of problems and performance issues.
The company is so progressive that lean has not passed ACIST by. “We continually work with lean,” Markovich says. “Last year, our cost reduction was in the 13 to 15 percent range on manufacturing.”
Both Morizio and Markovich are proud of their employees at ACIST. Thanks to these people, “We have a really strong history and we have a very satisfied customer base,” Morizio says. “That will help us enter new [markets] in the years ahead.”
Morizio adds the firm’s senior management team consists of very experienced associates. “We all understand the business we’re in and what we’re trying to do,” he states. “We have a lot of depth in the medical technology space.”
Building On Its Position
Even as ACIST has endured the tough economic climate, “Our fundamental core strategies have not changed,” Morizio says. “During the worst of the financial crisis four years ago, we did find that our hospital customers were unable to finance capital equipment.”
Although the company did see a downturn in sales, ACIST adjusted its pricing to help customers. Since then, “We’ve seen a recovery,” Morizio continues. “Our business base is growing and driving more consumable sales, and we have an extremely high retention rate.”
For the future, ACIST plans to grow its capabilities in the cardiovascular arena. “We have a strong brand image and reputation,” Morizio says. “We intend to grow by opening in new markets worldwide. We’re going to build on from our unique positions in the cardiac cath lab.”