Metron US, Grand Rapids, Mich, specializes in testing and simulation equipment for numerous medical devices. Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Trondheim, Norway, the company services biomedical equipment for hospitals around the world. Scott Ackerman, an industry veteran with nearly a quarter century of experience, is the Metron US marketing and sales manager for North and South America. We recently spoke to him about how the company supports and markets its product lines and how it stands out from its competitors.
24×7: How does Metron US accomplish its goal to provide biomedical professionals with reliable and accurate testing equipment?
Scott Ackerman: We continue to have strong ties with the people we target as our customersthe biomeds and clinical engineers in the hospital environment. Through staying in touch with these people and soliciting feedback from them, we continue to develop the equipment that they want and need to do their jobs.
24×7: So even though Metrons core business is technical, there is still a strong human touch?
Ackerman: To bring products to market successfully, we really put a lot of effort into staying in touch with the target audience for our products.
24×7: Who is the target audience for Metrons testing products?
Ackerman: We can look at our market and break it up into two or three different segments. The biggest segment is the biomedical engineer, the clinical engineer, the guy who works in the average hospital maintaining the medical equipment. The hospitals range from 100 beds to more than 1,000 beds. The majority of our business comes from those people. The second part of the market is third-party service companies. The last part of our market is companies that manufacture medical equipment. The individual biomed in the hospital who is responsible for maintaining the equipment is where the majority of our business comes from.
24×7: How do you market your testing equipment to these market segments?
Ackerman: We use a number of methods. We advertise in the appropriate trade journals, and we go to three or four major trade shows. We do direct-mail campaigns. In those ways, we generate leads to find out who is interested in our products. Then we have local representatives across the country who go into the hospitals with our equipment and show it to the customerslet them try it out. We participate in a number of biomedical organizations around the [United States]. There are 12 to 15 local biomedical societies with which were involved.
24×7: How do you support the equipment?
Ackerman: The local reps do a certain amount of local support, generally on the operation of the equipment. One of the things that is different about Metron is that we have a service depot in Grand Rapids [Michigan] where we service our equipment. Test equipment has to be recalibrated annually to maintain traceability. We do that in Grand Rapids. Weve got another group of companies that weve trained and authorized to service our equipment. Some of our competitors want to keep that business to themselves, because they have a fairly good revenue stream from service and repair. When it comes to applications, we do have an 800 number through which we provide telephone support if [customers] need it. They can post a question on our Web site, and someone from one of the Metron locations around the world will respond within 24 hours.
24×7: What makes Metron stand out from its competitors?
Ackerman: We have a complete range of equipment. We offer safety analyzers, simulatorsall the standard pieces of equipment that the biomeds are looking for. One of the things were focusing on these days is being innovative and coming up with new pieces of test equipment that our competitors dont have. For example, we have the PS-320, which is a fetal simulator. It allows you to test the performance of a fetal monitor that is hooked up to a mother when she is giving birth. So were focusing on having a complete range and offering of equipment as well as new technology, new innovative products that our competitors dont offer. One of the things that we do on our Web site is post all of our operator and service manuals. You can download them. Other companies charge for the [manuals]. Weve put that, as well as upgrades to our products, on the Web site. Firmware upgrades are up there, and the customers can download them at no charge and update the products in the field at no charge .
24×7: What is the next step for Metron? Develop more products? Offer more services?
Ackerman: I think were going to continue developing new, unique products that our competitors dont have. One of the things that were doing is focusing on test equipment. Some of our other competitors are developing database software programs as well as all the test equipment. Were focusing purely on the test equipment, and we have a relationship with [another company] for customers who want a complete solution.