Discipline is the driver behind Katecho Inc.’s success. “The best definition of ‘discipline’ is following a set of rules top to bottom,” according to Drew Woodworth, vice president of operations.
Katecho Inc. is a full-service contract manufacturer of pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic products that specializes in hydrogel processing and advanced printing techniques.
The company offers a wide variety of services, including product testing, engineering and design, regulatory support, manufacturing, inventory management, warehousing and transportation logistics.
Woodworth joined Katecho five years ago to help the company change its organizational philosophy. “I was brought aboard as the mechanism to create momentum,” Woodworth says. “This helped to achieve buy-in at top management levels that in turn created a tsunami of culture change that has migrated through the organization.” The changes have bred success, as Katecho’s transition into a lean enterprise has led to a 47 percent sales increase over the past five years.
Woodworth initiated the 5S methodology of management that describes how to organize a workplace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items and sustaining the new order.
“In each part of the plant, everything has a place, and everything is to be in its place,” Woodworth explains. Additionally, expectations are “clear and concise” throughout the organization, he says.
Woodworth says support from the company’s owners – the Scharnberg family – was critical to Katecho’s recent accomplishments. “Without them, the process would have stalled,” he says. “I am not the hero, they are.”
There are several keys to Katecho’s achievements, including cultivating strong relationships with both customers and suppliers. “We treat suppliers like customers,” Woodworth says, adding that the company always pays invoices within 30 days.
Katecho also places a significant focus on hiring quality employees, Woodworth says. The company employs individuals who exhibit integrity, attention to detail, positive attitude, strong work ethic and a continuous desire to improve, Woodworth says. Hiring individuals who display those characteristics pays off. “Whatever we set as goals, we get done,” Woodworth says.
One of the company’s ongoing objectives is to eliminate waste, including time, materials and space. The goal can be difficult to achieve, but so far Katecho has developed higher-quality products less expensively.
On the manufacturing floor, Katecho has space dedicated specifically for assembly and integration. The company also provides a full range of assembly options, from hand assembly to fully automated assembly using advanced robotics. A controlled-environment room allows for production with minimal exposure to bioburdens, Woodworth says.
The increased use of robotics also allows Katecho to decrease its supply chain and improve vertical integration, Woodworth says. “We can build on demand,” he says. “It allows us to turn on a dime.”
Katecho management is intimately involved in the company’s day-to-day quality control. Each day the company’s nine directors walk through sections of the factory with a keen eye on quality and productivity. “They’re looking for things that are working and things that are not working,” Woodworth says. “Ninety percent of the time they find something.”
When problems are identified, they are addressed immediately, Woodworth says. “Management is not allowed to walk past an obvious problem,” he says. “We’re not managing the problem, we’re eradicating it. We’ve created a learning organization; we share knowledge.“
The company’s expertise in hydrogel design and manufacturing is what sets it apart from the competition, Woodworth says. Katecho offers customers standard, modified and custom hydrogel options and uses a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility to bring customers’ ideas to life, he says.
Katecho processes hydrogel in roll-form or pour-in-place. They can also process hydrogel with 3-D spray, which can be used as a mist to create 3-D objects. Hydrogel is used in numerous applications, including electrodes, grounding pads, ultrasound gels, wrinkle-reduction products, scar-reduction products, trauma bandages and burn care products.
Katecho’s also has advanced printing capabilities, including flexographic printing, bed-screen printing and conductive ink printing, Woodworth says.
The company is capable of achieving extreme precision through its servo-controlled roll-to-roll printing technique. Its ability to create and utilize custom conductive ink formulas allows for printing on virtually any substrate, including paper, foil, foam and nonwoven materials, Woodworth explains.