Based in Chatsworth, Calif, Replacement Parts Industries (RPI) has carved out a niche over the last 43 years supplying alternative parts to hospitals, physician’s offices, and dental offices. President Ira Lapides has helmed his family’s business for the last two decades, taking it over from his parents after earning an MBA from UCLA. During that time, his team of engineers (including some former biomeds) has worked to produce more effective, less costly substitutes for OEM parts, often sourcing products directly from OEM suppliers for a fraction of the cost. RPI replies on its customers’ feedback to identify equipment for future support, and it offers a guarantee unusual in the industry—a flexible warranty tailored to the customer’s satisfaction.

24×7 spoke with Lapides about reverse engineering parts to improve on OEM design, how technologies like 3D printing are changing the way they do business, and how both the company and the industry have evolved over the last 40 years.

24×7: Where does Replacement Parts Industries fit into biomedical equipment landscape?

Lapides: We were founded in 1972. We’re probably one of the oldest after-market parts companies in this industry. We do reverse engineering of parts to fit a variety of biomedical equipment, from sterilizers, centrifuges, neonatal equipment, patient cables, and lead wires to other physician and dental office equipment and laboratory equipment. Alluring teens wall crosser in accidental lesbian fucking with horny border officer Super Hot Mandy Shows Us What Shes Got And Shes Still Got Plenty Blonde teen Lily Rader gets punished by boyfriends big dick Horny officer picked up an undocumented immigrant Two horny schoolgirls sharing the teachers cock Close up view of lesbian pussy pleasure A Dodgeball Where Youll Get Naked And Expected To Fuck Amazing Afternoon Hookup with Mom Agreeable milf gets a doggy position fucking Samantha Saint, Jayden Cole, Shyla Jennings and masturbation with a dildo Monique Symone Gets Picked Up And By W fuck We started into electrosurgical units this year, and we did a set of parts for the Welch Allyn line of wall transformers. We also do parts for hydroculators, cast cutters, parts for aspirators and pumps, scope washers, and specialty hardware, hospital-grade power cords, plugs, and connectors. We reverse engineer the parts and subcontract the manufacturing. We have an engineering team and people who do drafting and engineering prints for basically every part that we do.

24×7: What is involved in the reverse engineering process?

Lapides: At the very beginning, we decide that we’re going to support a piece of equipment. We open it up, take a look, and try to understand everything we can about it. We look at what parts our customers have identified as wear parts that they need us to make, and other parts that they might not have mentioned that we know frequently would wear. Then we’ll put together the list of parts we want to engineer.

There are two possibilities in reverse engineering. One is to custom manufacture the part, and the other is to purchase it from the manufacturer. There are many items out there that just don’t make sense to make yourself, such as off-the-shelf items. In that case, we would want to identify who the manufacturer of that item is, identify all the relevant specifications for that part or assembly, and then see if we’re able to purchase it from the manufacturer. A lot of the parts that we sell are literally identical to what you’d get from the OEM. We’re going to be lower priced, and we’re going to be able to ship the same day.

The custom manufactured parts are a little different. Those are when we’re doing machined metal, molded plastic or rubber, stamped metal, or a PC board or heater or other custom parts. That’s when we get into more detail on the engineering side, because we’re identifying materials, specific measurements, and dealing with other engineering design issues.

24×7: How often are you able to improve on the OEM’s specifications?

Lapides: Sometimes we can. Most often, we can’t. The part is going to be as good as the OEM’s, definitely. There have been a few parts we’ve done over the years where we’ve made definite improvements on an OEM design. And those parts have sold very well. But you can’t do that too often, because OEMs generally do a very good job with the parts in a machine.

We sell one part for a valve assembly for a tabletop sterilizer that the OEM had difficulty continuing to manufacture. We worked on it for quite a number of years, trying to figure out an alternative to the design. We actually came out with one design and thought we had it fixed. It turned out that after 6 months, it didn’t work quite as well as we thought. So we went back to the drawing board, made some changes to that design, came up with something different, and it’s been working now for over 15 years. It’s done very well. The OEM doesn’t sell that part anymore.

24×7: How long is your typical development process?

Lapides: Probably 9 to 12 months, from deciding to support a piece of equipment or deciding on a set of parts to having actual inventory in stock.

24×7: How do you decide to support a piece of equipment? Could a biomed come to you and request that you add a certain part?

Lapides: Exactly. We absolutely rely on customer feedback for input as to what equipment we should be supporting. Or if we’re supporting a piece of equipment and there are parts we’re not carrying, what we need to add to that particular line. We don’t pretend to know it all.

24×7: What kind of warranty do you offer?

Lapides: I think it’s unique. We warranty our parts to the customer’s satisfaction. There’s no arbitrary time limit. We really leave it up to the expertise of the technician to say, “This part didn’t meet my expectations. It didn’t last as long as it should have.” The way we look at it, the door gasket for a sterilizer should have a different lifespan than a solenoid valve in that sterilizer, and a door gasket in one sterilizer that’s being used 10 times a day should last differently than a door gasket in a sterilizer right next to it that’s being used three times a day.

24×7: Do you require any supporting data to make a return?

Lapides: All the defective parts go through our tech support guys. It’s a closed-loop process. The same guys who are designing these parts are also hearing about issues that might be happening. So if there’s a problem, they know it right away, or they can talk to the customer about it and say, “Hey, did you try this?” or “Did this happen to the machine prior to the part failing?”

24×7: It’s like free R&D for you.

Lapides: It is.

24×7: How are new technologies like 3D printing impacting your business?

Lapides: 3D printing allows us to prototype custom-manufactured parts much faster than we used to. So we can make sure before we do large investment in tooling that all of our specifications are dead on. It really expedites the process for us. Before, you really would just have to do a first article. We would do the engineering prints and then our vendor would cut the tooling, they’d do first articles, and we’d put those first articles in the machines and test them for form and fit. If the form and fit weren’t right, then we’d have to go back and cut the tool a little bit. With 3D printing, they’re doing all that before they even cut the tool. It cuts down a month or two at least.

24×7: What sorts of business challenges have you run into over the years?

Lapides: Probably the biggest bugaboo is that every so often, an OEM will develop a proprietary relationship with a manufacturer on a part. So they will be buying that part from this manufacturer to put in their piece of equipment, and they will sign an agreement prohibiting that manufacturer from selling that part to any other distributor—anyone like us. There are some big OEMs out there, and when they’re working with certain vendors, they like to lock things down and lock out service opportunities for other parties. This makes life difficult for us, because we can’t get the identical part. So we have to find somebody else who makes something that will be equivalent in performance, fit, and function.

24×7: Does this issue seem to be getting more frequent?

Lapides: It’s not tremendously frequent, because OEMs want to keep their costs down as well when they’re designing a piece of equipment. When they go to a valve manufacturer, they’re not going to want to pay all this extra money to design a whole new valve or switch for their product. If that company has something they’re already making, they’d much rather do that. Well, if it’s something the company is already making, then the OEM can’t make it proprietary.

24×7: What are the biggest shifts you’ve noticed in the industry over the years?

Lapides: If you look at the size of the multivendor service organizations—the Aramarks, GEs, Sodexos, Crothalls, and so forth—it’s a bigger business. The imaging parts and service companies are bigger, and there are more of them than there used to be. If you look at the industry shows, the number of vendors has grown a lot over the years. The statewide biomed associations have grown significantly in the last 5 or 10 years. There’s really been a lot of growth in the industry. I think it’s really helpful. It’s good for healthcare; it’s good for the OEMs. The OEMs have still thrived in this industry.

24×7: How did you get involved with RPI?

Lapides: My father and uncle founded the business. They were mechanical engineers in the aerospace industry. My mother and father ran the business, and my uncle and his family and our other partner were investors. My parents were kind of pioneers in the industry. They supported AAMI since the mid-to-late 1970s and supported CMIA since way back when. We’ve always had a level of involvement in the industry and tried to provide some ideas and direction.

I’ve basically been in healthcare management as long as I can remember. I worked for a large regional publicly traded health maintenance organization for 9 years. In 1994 I joined the board at RPI and found that the family business was at a size where I could jump into it. My parents were starting to consider exit strategies, so the timing worked out really well for me. I’ve been with the company formally now for about 20 years.

24×7: How has the company evolved during that time?

Lapides: We’re really not that big a company. We keep the size and the growth manageable. By the time I came into the business, we were close to 20 employees. We’re at 28 employees now. Our financial growth has been more much significant than the growth in the number of employees, because we’ve just become so much more productive over the years.

In the year 2000, we became ISO 9001-certified. I think we were either the first or the second company in the business to do that. That also helps us with international sales. It indicates to companies that buy from us across the world that we’re a company that can be trusted, and they’re not going to need to worry about the quality of the parts shipped overseas. We’re also FDA-registered. We have a few items that we sell that require FDA 510(k) clearance. We go through regular FDA inspection like a regular equipment manufacturer would, either once a year or every other year.

24×7: What is RPI’s mission as a company?

Lapides: Our primary goal is to try to make things as easy as possible for our customers, so they don’t really have to think or worry about whether the part is going to work right, or where they’re going to get technical support on this piece of equipment, or installation instructions for a part. We just want to make life as easy for them as possible. If we can do that, then they’re successful; if they’re successful, then we’re in good shape. That’s really what we strive to do.

Jenny Lower is the managing editor of 24×7. Contact her at [email protected].