Among the high-profile industries with a significant presence in the Juarez-El Paso region, the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez has great potential for continued growth. As a part of a binational cluster that has a presence of 34 industry companies installed in the region, the medical device industry in the area has experienced remarkable growth in recent years.
Today, the medical device industry has a notable presence in Ciudad Juarez. According to figures from Cecilia Varela, director of the Bio Juárez Cluster, as of 2019, there were 34 companies installed in the area (95% of which are in Ciudad Juárez) that employ approximately 40 thousand workers. These companies produce Class I, II, and III medical devices.
It is worthy to note that Mexico, as a whole, occupies the 8th place as one of the world’s most prolific exporters of medical devices, while it ranks number 1 in this category in Latin America. Additionally, Mexico is the largest supplier of such items to the United States. In terms of foreign capital invested in operations involved in exporting medical devices, the state of Chihuahua has attracted approximately US $73.45 million to date. Most of these funds were employed in manufacturing in the medical device industry in the city of Ciudad Juarez.
Devices manufactured in the region include:
- Catheter-based devices
- Orthopedic supports
- Surgical kits
- Aerorticand thoracic stents
- Imaging equipment
- Surgery kits
- Electronic PCBA for medical devices
- Pressure belts
- Breathing devices
- Ophthalmic devices
- Electronic and mechanical infusion pumps
According to Juan José Rivera, the chief operating officer of RexMed, the evolution of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is important because it has demonstrated the potential for exponential growth. For Rivera, Juarez has historically been dominated by other industries, such as electronics and automotive, but in recent years the development of the medical device industry has stood out in terms of its dynamism and prominence.
“The sector has not only made its mark on the city’s industrial map, but it also stands out as one of the main industries within the local maquiladora market,” he said.
Significant investment in the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is needed
Juan José Rivera further emphasized that, unlike other industries, medical devices are particularly demanding, due to the strict quality rules that are required by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States and COFEPRIS in Mexico. Therefore, in order for plants to meet the stipulated medical device requirements, these companies must have adequate capital investment in order to perform their operations in a suitable manner. The industry requires physical and human infrastructure that includes clean rooms, a trained staff, and a good relationship with the FDA. Rivera added that” It’s not as easy as some would like to think. We have to meet a number of rigorous requirements. For example, Mexico’s medical device regulatory agency, COFEPRIS, audits us as well as does the FDA. This is true despite the fact that our clients are not Mexican, but American. Despite that fact we have to comply with their requirements as well,” he stressed.
Medical device industry: an opportunity for job stability
For Cecilia Varela, the importance and advantage of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez lies in the fact that it represents one of the community’s best-paid industrial sectors, as well as the one that offers the greatest amount of job stability for workers. “On average, other industries have a 7% rate of employee turnover, while the rate of personnel rotation in the medical device industry is between 1 and 3%.”
One of the features of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez that affects this worker’s permanence stems from the fact that plant personnel in this sector are often specially trained. “Maybe the workers will do a single, specialized process, but it often is one that requires a high level of skill. For this reason, people stay in their positions for a longer period of time than in other industries with a presence in the city. In the cases in which they change companies, they often continue to be employed in the region’s medical device sector. “
For his part, Juan José Rivera is of the opinion that the training of the employees of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez must be stricter and more thorough. This is due to the final destination of the products: the patient.
On the other hand, Rivera also emphasized that the industry requires specific certifications to conduct business. Among them are:
- Good Manufacturing Practices, by COFEPRIS3. FDA rules in the US
Growing talent for the industry
An interesting aspect of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is its talent. Due to the complexity of the processes that are carried out in the maquiladoras that produce medical goods, it is of primary importance that workers that are employed in this sector are well-trained.
“For certain positions here in Ciudad Juarez it may take some time to hire certain staff since there is considerable growth being experienced here as of late. Some of the higher-skilled workers in the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez come from cities such as Guadalajara or Monterrey because there is more experience historically in the industry in these communities. That’s why companies in Ciudad Juarez often train their workers in their own plants. Companies in the medical device industry here often invest in in-house training,” Rivera explained.
Research and development
Another notable aspect of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is research and development. There are companies in the region that have research and development units within their plants to design products that will be marketed in the future. Cecilia Varela notes that companies in this sector in Ciudad Juarez have been involved in R&D activities for more than ten years.
For his part, Juan José Rivera emphasizes that operations for research and development in the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez are not as prevalent as they might someday be, but the potential for more such operations is concrete. Many of the manufacturers in the industry own their own products, while plants located in Ciudad Juárez manufacture the goods. Increasingly, companies in the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez are involved in suggesting changes to production processes and products.
On the other hand, according to Rivera, in cases where foreign medical device companies contract work out to independent third-party manufacturing plants in Mexico, they provide all product specifications. Under these circumstances, however, it is not common for local manufacturers to have direct input into product modifications. They are increasingly working with their clients, however, to promote the continuous improvement of processes.
However, Juan José Rivera believes that an especially important factor for the improvement of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is that it is an industry focused on the patient, rather than the customer.
“Production workers need to fully understand how delicate and important this industry is. When they understand this fact, they will think differently about how and why they perform their jobs. ”
Medical device suppliers in Ciudad Juarez and growth
An important feature of the industry is its supply chain. For Juan José Rivera, it is important that the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez is able to provide inputs for itself locally. This will make price advantages available to the region’s manufacturers.
“There’s no reason not to get it. Mexico and the local suppliers that are found here are increasingly able to provide high-quality material and products,” he said.
On the other hand, for Cecilia Varela, the growth of companies in this sector is often organic. Medical device companies that have a presence in Ciudad Juarez often bring their own new production lines and manufacturing know-how to their Mexican plants.” They promote the need for the propagation of new skills and new projects on their own,” she shared.
“Currently, there are many investments in this sector in the Ciudad Juarez. Most manufacturers have room to grow or new projects that they expect to begin work on. With increasing frequency, they have their production lines ready for new products,” she went on to add.
When commenting on the future of the medical device industry in Ciudad Juarez, Varela expressed that it is promising due to the growing recognition of the region’s ability to manufacture quality medical products.