Environmental commitment from Olympus Keymed

Since its formation in 1970, Olympus KeyMed has grown from a staff of four to become firmly established as an international leader in the manufacture and supply of specialised medical and industrial equipment.

Today, the company employs over 1200 people at its purposebuilt headquarters in Southend-on-Sea, Essex in the UK, its branch office in Scotland and subsidiaries in the US, Ireland and Plymouth, Devon in the UK.

A wholly owned subsidiary of the Olympus Corporation, Japan, Olympus KeyMed is an important part of the organisation’s global network and has specific responsibility for the development and manufacture of medical and industrial equipment for distribution worldwide.

Olympus took full ownership of KeyMed in 1989 and since that time, the managements of both companies have developed an excellent relationship and strong mutual trust – a fact that has attracted the attention of a number of governmental agencies, who continue to use Olympus KeyMed as a model of Anglo-Japanese co-operation.

Now one of Britain’s largest medical and industrial specialist equipment companies, Olympus KeyMed has core technology in optics, electronics, thermo-plastics and precision mechanics. The company researches, develops and manufactures products within its own facilities, and with a number of distinct sales divisions, supported by highly motivated service and administration teams, has direct responsibility for marketing the complete range of Olympus medical products, not only in the UK and Ireland, but also in Africa and the Middle East.

Olympus is recognised around the world as a manufacturer of high-quality electro-optical products, such as cameras and microscopes and endoscopic instrumentation, for both medical and industrial applications. Olympus KeyMed, as one of the global business centres for Olympus endoscopy products, is the exclusive distributor and service centre for the entire Olympus range of flexible and rigid endoscopes, accessories and ancillary products in Great Britain, with KeyMed Ireland handling sales and service in Ireland.

Olympus medical products are manufactured in Olympus’ Aizu, Shirakawa, Hinode and Aomori facilities in Japan, by Olympus Winter & Ibe in Hamburg, Germany, and by Olympus KeyMed in the UK. Olympus KeyMed is also the exclusive UK distributor and service centre for Aloka diagnostic ultrasound systems – an area which now represents a significant part of the company’s medical business.

In recent years, Olympus has utilised Olympus KeyMed’s expertise in sales and marketing by expanding its responsibilities further to include the US surgical and industrial businesses, and has applied Olympus KeyMed’s management approach to the entire European medical business, through the appointment of its group managing director, Michael Woodford MBE, as executive managing director of Olympus Medical Systems Europa GmbH.

He commented: “While the company is widely recognised for its sales and marketing prowess, since its inception, Olympus KeyMed’s manufacturing activities have also developed considerably and remained focused on the production of value-added products for medicine and industry, which complement the systems manufactured by Olympus in Japan for sale worldwide. With the desire to not only remain competitive with other organisations in an increasingly global economy, but also to compare favourably with any international reference point, two years ago, with the support of Japanese engineers, Olympus KeyMed embarked on a radical manufacturing improvement programme aimed at bringing its operations up to the highest possible standards. This project necessitated a comprehensive restructuring of our manufacturing organisation and approach, to support a continuous and uncompromising pursuit of excellence in production, similar to the world famous Toyota Production System.”

To achieve such exceptionally high levels of quality, it became clear that Olympus KeyMed’s existing manufacturing facilities needed to be expanded and upgraded, resulting in a multi-million pound construction programme to develop a state-of-theart Medical Device Manufacturing Centre (MDMC). The finished result is impressive and a statement of Olympus’ commitment to manufacturing products of excellence in Southend-on-Sea.

The design of the new MDMC is consistent with the enlightened practices and policies of Olympus KeyMed and the wider Olympus Group’s philosophy of minimising the environmental impact of its products, processes and facilities to ensure that, as a corporation, it contributes to a healthy environment and sustainable development, through business activities and technological advances that are in harmony with society and the natural environment.

The new MDMC has an extremely innovative design and incorporates many environmentallyfriendly features including:

  • Solar panels for water heating
  • Rainwater recycling for use in the toilet facilities, cleaning and irrigation of exterior planting
  • High-level insulation and sealing of the internal environment of the building
  • Most interestingly, from a technical stance, a geo-thermal heating and cooling system

Having only been completed in March of this year, the building has already attracted considerable interest, particularly as the combination of eco-friendly features is the first in a building of its type anywhere in the UK. The design creates a flexible space which has been configured to accommodate the needs of the current business to maximise efficiency and reduce costs.

This new development is set against the background of Olympus KeyMed’s having been honoured with a Queen’s Award for Industry in the category of ‘Sustainable Development’ in 2004, in recognition of its environmental activities and community-involvement. This was followed by a second Queen’s Award for Olympus KeyMed in the category of ‘International Trade’ in 2006.

Highlighting this new investment in the UK, and the profile of Olympus as one of the leading environmentally-progressive companies, the new facility was formally opened on May 25 2007 by Mr Kikukawa, the worldwide president of the Olympus Corporation. The formal opening was attended by Angela Smith MP, Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Comunities and Local Government, and His Excellency, Yoshiji Nogami, the Ambassador of Japan to the UK, together with representatives of local government, influential opinion-leaders in the field of sustainable development, and representatives from the many community groups with whom Olympus KeyMed has developed longstanding co-operative relationships.

Commenting on the formal opening, Michael Woodford said that the programme for the day highlighted Olympus KeyMed’s ongoing development and provided an opportunity to celebrate Olympus as an organisation which seeks to minimise the environmental impact of its activities in a meaningful way, with actions rather than words – in short, a corporation that is ‘green at heart’.

Products: Medical and industrial equipment
Sites: The UK and US
Employees: 1200