Issue Jan Feb 15
As new competitors appear daily in the mounting solutions industry, GCX Corp. plans to remain the leader and stay competitive by opening a state-of-the-art facility in El Paso, Texas. “We have been in El Paso for 11 years,” says Rich Dodele, manufacturing manager. “We just opened a 100,000-square-foot facility we have been working on for the past six months.”
Gary Gilbert founded the Petaluma, Calif.-based company in 1971 by developing a novel vertical wall track system that allowed hospital room TVs to be safely lowered, serviced and returned to their positions. It continued to serve the wall-mounting needs of its healthcare clients, gaining a reputation for producing high-quality, sturdy products that were CNC machined from aluminum extrusions.
As medical devices and computers became smaller and more interactive, the company branched out into mobile carts, stands and wall-mounting systems with greater ergonomic adjustability.
By dedicating itself to the healthcare industry, GCX has developed a unique understanding of the interaction between medical devices, users and healthcare environments. The company engineers and customizes products for OEMs, but also offers an array of internationally recognized off-the-shelf products, customer service and support.
GCX has been a leader in the industry for four decades, but is continuously working to stay ahead of its competition. “It seems like every day we wake up to someone new who is dying to do what we do,” Dodele says. “Ten to 15 years ago there weren’t as many competitors. I think what has got more people involved is the movement of IT into the healthcare sector. If someone is making mounting hardware for computers in an office setting, they think they can apply the same product in a healthcare environment. Of course, it’s not that simple.”
GCX has two main sets of customers: medical device OEMs and hospitals. The company sells to more than 400 OEMs that use the GCX product as a component in their devices or as an accessory to them. The company also sells its branded products directly to hospitals. “We do both and have a strength in both because we have a direct understanding of the medical device, user interaction with that technology and the environment where it is used,” Vice President of Sales and Development Cris Daugbjerg says.
Maintaining long-term relationships with its customers is vital to GCX’s success, Dodele says. “We have been working with some of them since the early 1980s and that helps us to stay in front of what is coming out,” he explains. “Having relationships with OEM customers allows us to see what’s coming, plan equipment purchases proactively, develop products and train people. We work with the leaders in patient monitoring, companies that include GE, Philips, Drager and Medtronic.”
GCX sets itself apart by caring about its end users, and ultimately, the patient, Dodele notes. “We feel the detail and quality that goes into a GCX product is unmatched,” he adds. “That culture starts at the top and is expected throughout the company. The fact that we will take ownership and responsibility of the way our product is performing 10 years after it leaves our doors says a lot to our customer.”
The company has a strong reputation in North America and is working to grow its presence rapidly in Asia and Europe. Over the past several years, GCX has invested heavily in its salesforce and logistical support in those locations, Daugbjerg says. “We have a very high-quality product and reputation,” he adds. “In some cases, a sale is as simple as us showing up because the customer knows who we are, but doesn’t know how to get our products.”
GCX’s Petaluma, Calif.-based facility houses 120 people in two buildings where the company performs the bulk of its product design work, rapid research and development, machining, and new product assembly. “This facility is key to getting our product to market quickly,” Dodele says.
The company’s El Paso, Texas facility works on the bulk of its long-run production and reconfiguration engineering. Its machinery is tooled for quick turnaround and can deliver prototypes to engineers or products to a customer within hours of receiving a request. Its 30,000-square-foot facility in Taiwan handles assembly and distribution for the Asia and Europe markets. All GCX facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art quality control labs that include Zeiss CMM equipment for fast and accurate inspection of tight tolerance components.
The company is continuously developing new products so it can keep up with the market, but its products are also designed so that similar platforms can be utilized for several different configurations. “GCX is constantly looking for ways to improve, either by enhancing its manufacturing capability with new technology or by listening to its customers’ needs, which is why we chose to be ISO 13485-certified,” Dodele says. “It makes a difference to our medical device customers and helps in getting both our product and our customers’ products to market faster.”
Before making any decisions that will affect the entire manufacturing process, GCX always starts with the customer and works its way backwards. “We really focus on what is best for our customer, the end-user and align the best manufacturing/distribution model to meet that need,” Vice President of Operations Del France says.
Because GCX sells to OEMs and directly to hospitals, the company often has to implement different manufacturing and supply chain models based on customers’ differing needs. As a result, GCX performs a lot of work on speculation and internal forecasting.
GCX recently opened a 100,000-square-foot facility in El Paso, Texas where it performs final assembly of its products. “The facility is very lean and designed to be fast and responsive to a customers’ needs,” Daugbjerg says. “The place is designed around speed and reducing waste, not around trying to reduce the number of labor minutes that go into assembling a particular product.”
Dodele agrees that the layout of the facility is noteworthy because the company really focused on the manufacturing flow to make it highly efficient. “When you have a big shell you can take a fresh look at all the different things you do,” he adds. “We now have a full-scale machine shop with a total of 140 employees on the production staff. As we continue to grow, we continue to exceed our 99 percent on-time shipment objective.”
The El Paso facility includes state-of-the-art technology that allows GCX to access information in real-time and drive it throughout the organization, France explains. “We need that level of information system and visibility so people on the line can make informed decisions,” he says. “That’s a cornerstone for the building in El Paso and our manufacturing organization.”
GCX plans to install solar panels at the El Paso facility to reduce operating cost and increase efficiency. The company also has the space to expand, if the need arises. “We have excess capacity in El Paso and a skilled workforce there,” Daugbjerg says. “We have some amazing people who are very empowered and passionate about what they are doing. They are believers in American manufacturing and we believe we can do better there than anywhere else in the world.”