Baxa Corporation is a medical device company recognized worldwide for innovative technologies that efficiently prepare, handle, package and dispense fluid medications for pharmacy and hospital use. David Soyka gets an injection of how this Colorado company’s customer-focus helps healthcare providers effectively treat patients with complete confidence of safety.
Sometimes it is just not enough to be the best out there. For companies like Baxa Corporation, no matter how good your product, there’s always the possibility to make it better. Baxa makes products that ensure the dose accuracy of IV and oral medications, ensuring safe handling and process control.
A case in point is the new Repeater™ Pump II, which replaces the predecessor Baxa pump, the state-of-the-art fluid handling product. “We introduced the first peristaltic pump for pharmacy use in 1988, which we patented and eventually branded as the original Repeater Pump,” notes Marian Robinson, vice president of marketing. “While initially designed for batch filling of oral medications and IV (intravenous) admixtures with accuracy within 0.02 mL, it proved to be more versatile than anticipated. The company developed a unique valve controller, to complement the pumping technology, which was introduced as the MicroMacro™ TPN Compounder, the first automated compounder for micro and macro ingredients.”
Over the years, the Repeater Pump was further improved through various software upgrades that integrated the product into a complete handling and dispensing solution. The technology set the benchmarks for the industry, until last December when Baxa trumped its own technological standard.
The Repeater Pump II is the first no-calibration pharmacy pump, thanks to a fixed-volume positive displacement pumping design, which the company brands as P2™ Technology. This technology provides accurate liquid delivery regardless of source container, final container, tubing diameter and fluid viscosity. The pump’s ability to automatically adjust to the viscosity of the pumped fluid enables easy handling of IV or oral medications to and from bags, bottles, vials and syringes, all with the same efficiency and accuracy.
Additional advantages, according to Laura Zoerner, strategist, product and growth, include a “vibrant touch screen that eliminates buttons and knobs that can be hard to press. The product’s icons and colored graphics make controls easy-to-find and easy-to-use. Also, snap-and-go tube set installation and memory field recalls at the touch of a button simplifies start-up for common applications.”
Zoerner emphasizes that the new product is the result of the Baxa philosophy that “the customer is always the boss.” She notes, “Some companies develop products internally and expect customers to accept them. By contrast, we partner with our customers to understand their needs and develop products that address them. The Repeater Pump II is the direct result of customer collaboration.”
Listening to the customer is an ongoing process. “We introduced the Repeater Pump II at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting, which is the largest annual gathering of industry professionals. It then went into controlled release with select customers. During the development, we did extensive surveys with these targeted users. Not just asking, how do you like it, but comprehensive questionnaires about specific expectations requiring detailed responses on how well specific applications were fulfilled. That way, when the product goes to full commercial release in fall 2008, it’s fully optimized for performance and usability. Of course, we want to get any issues identified and solved before we go to commercialization. That’s another value add that we offer – our products are fully tested and proven before their release.”
This value perspective extends beyond the products themselves to the support services, including the operating manual. “I think we’re unique in the industry in the attention we give to our product literature, Zoerner notes. “We view it not just as a book that gets thrown into the box, but as a consumer product in and of itself. The manual for the Repeater Pump II is particularly noteworthy for its readability. You don’t need to be a super technical person to follow the instructions. And, for anything that you can’t find in the manual, we have a 24/7 technical support line and a users’ Web site with downloadable technical resources.”
Similarly, Baxa offers end-user training through its STAR (Skills Training, Academics and Resources) Center, a first-of-its-kind facility for furthering professional development in pharmacy, healthcare and environmental control. The center offers Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)-certified training covering such topics as aseptic compounding, cleanroom physical design and layout, engineering controls and airflow science, hazardous drug
handling, media fill testing and principles associated with work flow, staff training, cleaning, monitoring, validation and documentation. In addition to such hands-on training, Baxa also offers the convenience of online Web-based education, comprising a range of modules
covering sterile compounding and regulatory compliance.
RECORD OF INNOVATION
Baxa Corporation’s longstanding commitment to meeting customer needs and being first in the market dates back to 1975, when Brian Baldwin and Ron Baxa founded the company to sell the first pre-packaged inhalation drugs in pre-filled syringes. This led to a focus on unit dose preparation through its Exacta-Med® Oral Liquid Dispenser line, which today remains the industry standard for safe, simplified delivery of oral liquid drugs. Though it was sold
to the Cook Group, in 1987, Baldwin and four partners purchased it back, and Baxa remains privately owned. Baldwin, who invented the pump that became the foundation for the Repeater product family, is still actively involved in the company, and, in fact, was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 by Ernst & Young.
Today, Baxa is headquartered in Denver suburb Englewood, in a 105,868-square-foot facility that features an 8,000-square-foot cleanroom for sterile products manufacturing. The plant features an additional 33,178 square feet of manufacturing space, along with 26,907 square feet for office space and a 33,178-square-foot warehouse. Another Baxa office facility in Englewood totals 15,000 square feet, and its office/warehouse facility in the United Kingdom totals 15,200 square feet. Baxa quality standards are IS0-certified and registered to EN46001 (CE) to assure its products meet the highest level of design and production capability in the industry.
Baxa employs about 400 people worldwide, with annual sales of approximately $100 million. In 2006 and 2007, Baxa was named one of the 25 best companies to work for in Colorado by the Society for Human Resource Management. The company has direct sales representation in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and The Netherlands, with distribution partners worldwide.
The healthcare industry in North America presents certain unique marketing challenges, one of which for Baxa is that its products mostly are not treated as reimbursable expenses. “We have to
cost-justify our products,” Robinson notes. “Over the past 10 years, that’s become more of a hard sell. Particularly in Canada, which has a regional system; if you can make the case and the
regional system purchases, great, but if you don’t, you’re locked out of the entire market. In addition, their selling cycles are much longer than they are here in the states.”
That said, Baxa is good enough at making its case that it expects to continue its double-digit growth path. “We can demonstrate how our products reduce labor and operating expenses while, at the same time, improving safety and enhancing positive patient outcomes. We deliver exceptional value to better prepare, handle, package and administer medications with superior technologies backed by the best technical and customer support.”
At the same time, Baxa scrutinizes its own internal processes to ensure it can offer its products at the best prices. One problem is that the chief raw material for its products is plastic, a petrochemical rising in price as the cost of oil continues to escalate. “We practice rigorous supply chain management,” Robinson notes. “We work closely with our vendors to reduce expenses and share higher costs as much as possible to minimize the effect of rising prices on our customers.”
This effort goes hand-in-hand with its own internal cost-reduction and continuous improvement efforts. Recently, in contrast with the prevailing trend among manufacturers to outsource certain functions, Baxa has started to “insource.” According to Robinson, “We’re taking a close look at certain vendor operations that we can bring in-house more efficiently with at least the same level of quality. The more direct control we have, the more we can ensure overall product quality, supply and cost.”
This focus on cost-reduction extends even earlier than the actual manufacturing process. “One guiding criteria during the product design phase is how can we do more with less,” Robinson says. “Any inefficiency we can eliminate, any way we can streamline the physical structure of the product while it’s on the drawing board results in a more efficient production process using fewer materials and, ultimately, customers get a better product at a lower cost.” This focus on efficiency extends beyond product launch to continuous improvement activities throughout the product’s life cycle.
In a time in which the state of the general economy is causing some manufacturers to scale back expectations, particularly those who sell to regulated industries, Baxa anticipates continuing double-digit growth. This just goes to prove that the right dosage of customer focus, compounded with technological innovation, yields a healthy business plan.