Manufacturing Futures – Shannon Coiled Spring Case Study Introduction Shannon Coiled Spring was chosen as a case study for the Forfas Manufacturing Futures project because of the Company’s successful strategy of diversifying from its base in construction products to successfully identifying new market opportunities and technologies in the medical devices field.
Background/statistics The Shannon Coiled Spring company (SCS) is based in Limerick and was founded in 1978 to supply the construction sector manufacturing wall ties and springs. The Company had gained some 60-70% of the construction market for wall ties in Ireland but recognised that construction was a cyclical market and that demographic trends meant that this market was not sustainable. As a consequence, the Company decided to develop a strategy to search for alternative markets and products and worked in collaboration with the University of Limerick on a collaborative project which led them to the medical devices field. The company employs around 80 people and had a turnover of Eur 6. million in 2010 (about half the turnover of 2007)
Technology and markets The Company specialises in the manufacture of wire shapes and springs and has its headquarters in Limerick and a subsidiary in the UK in Lytham St Anns. Shannon Coiled Springs original market was predominantly in wall ties for the construction sector and the manufacture of various types of springs for the Dairy industry. These products were manufactured from round wire at a thickness of 0.20mm using both manual coilers and automatic coiling and wire forming machines. Performance Spring manufacture a wide variety of specialty engine Valve springs and have ISO/TS16949/QS9000. And were automotive Company of the year in the North West of the UK. They also received the export company of the year in the North West of the UK. Micro components for medical devices were also part of Shannon Coiled Spring company’s product range but strict standards and regulations together with differing market characteristics were restricting development in the medical devices field. In 2004, the Company started a project with the University of Limerick to develop new processes and subsequently achieved ISO13485 accreditation (the international standard for medical device quality assurance). In 2005, the Company set up a specialist division (SCS Shannon Microcoil) investing some Eur 1.5 million to develop the medical devices business. Since this time, the Division has developed a growing business in manufacturing micro-springs and coils for the medical industry in areas such as neurostimulation, cardiac rhythm management and minimally invasive procedures. The company provides both standardised and custom products for these markets and specialise in supplying to the research and development area’s in multinational Companies and specialty medical design Companies providing a quick turn round from order to delivery. Micro components for the medical devices sector are produced using mainly stainless steel wires with diameters from 12.5 micron to 254 microns (one micron or micrometre is ten to the minus six
metres) in a variety of pitches and diameters. These micro –coils are used mainly for reinforcing a range of tubing used in medical products around the world with exports to the US and Germany. A large amount of exotic materials are also used for the manufacture of micro-coils including gold , platinum and nitinol in particular because these materials (which display ‘radio peak’ characteristics) are important for non-invasive surgery where there is a need for accurate tracing to enable surgeons to position devices accurately within the body. We have also developed a wide variety of medical grade stainless steel tubing capability, cannulas with specialist welding and tube cutting also mandrels in standard design and mandrels in round and shaped profile which we have led the market in. The Company has developed these new products and markets in areas of adjacent capabilities where it could bring existing skills and knowledge to bear (adjacent possibilities). For example, when Shannon Coiled Springs entered the medical micro-coiling sector, they brought 28 years of experience of growth in the coiling industry and approached development issues from an engineering perspective rather than a medical perspective allowing them to develop a range of new products and services for the medical sector and to manufacture these efficiently. In particular, the Company’s services for the medical sector include:
Assessing requirements such as material specifications Regulatory processes Validation and documentation Prototype development and testing Production process such as welding, micro coiling, grinding and wire forming
During 2011 the Company also introduced a range of PTFE coated wire products which brings characteristics such as anti-stick, non-flaking, close tolerances, chemically inert, abrasion resistance, bio-compatibility, chemical and corrosion resistance. In 2011, Shannon Microcoil launched a new ‘Integra TM’ range of medical shaft reinforcement coils. The medical devices business has grown and is expected to be close to 50% of the Company’s business in 2012 with further doubling of the medical devices business over the next two or three years. Shannon Micro coil now occupies a 25,000 square feet building on a 5 acre site and employs 24 staff in Ireland and 56 in the UK.
Conclusion The Shannon Coiled Springs case study illustrates the importance of recognising that traditional markets such as construction are often subject to decline and that continuing success may require the development of new growth market areas such as medical devices which have international growth potential. Whilst the market for medical devices was relatively new to the company, the development of medical coiled springs, an area of adjacent capabilities, allowed them to make maximum advantage of their existing considerable engineering expertise in the field of coiled spring manufacture. However, entering a new field such as medical devices required sustained technical and market investment over many years and an important part of the Company’s development involved collaboration with the University of Limerick for the development of new products and
accreditation. The company had to set up a separate division to develop the new micro-coiling technologies with much smaller diameters, work with new materials such as stainless steel, gold, platinum, nitinol and PTFE and seek internationally recognised accreditations such as ISO 13485 in manufacturing of components in all of the previous ly mentioned materials and (recognised as meeting medical device quality standards). Overall, the development of the new division required an investment of one and a half million Euros to achieve success. A further new division has been established in the past three years for the repair and supply of flexible and ridged endoscopes for which we are the first Company in Ireland to achieve ISO13485 Which gives the Company the unique feature of having two separate ISO13485 accreditations Our programme for the future is ambitious and bold and relying on our past record we are quietly confident we will firstly achieve a return to the heights we achieved in our past and surpass it in the very near future in our new endeavours. In our fight back to stabilise and then take the Company forward it is essential to comment on the back up and help we received from Enterprise Ireland and our Bankers in Ireland (Ulster Bank) and Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK they have been brilliant in understanding firstly our dilemma at the time of the markets crashing worldwide and in getting us over the very big hurdle we faced in reorganising the Company. John F Walsh Managing Director.