Alpha Source adapts to change

One of the keys to managing a business is adapting to industry shifts by changing gears and finding new areas of growth.

Milwaukee-based Alpha Source Inc. has been able to do that under the leadership of president Norine Carlson-Weber, who shifted the company’s focus from specialty lighting for the microfilm industry to specialty parts for health care products.

“In 1991, we decided to start selling the technical lighting we had into the health care market,” Carlson-Weber said. “The lighting that we sell is used in medical devices.”

She founded the company in 1986 with three people and has grown it to 48 employees. Alpha Source also grew in size, moving from a 7,000-square-foot facility in Milwaukee to its current 42,000-square-foot facility at 6619 W. Calumet Road in Milwaukee in 2007.

“We needed more space for the manufacturing area and we’ve expanded all the product lines that we sell,” Carlson-Weber said.

The company continues to grow and is currently hiring for four positions to meet needs for product diversification and increased orders. Carlson-Weber also works to stay ahead of changes in customer needs.

“We anticipate what they’re going to need before they need it,” she said.

In addition to technical lighting used in areas like operating rooms, Alpha Source assembles and manufactures a variety of battery packs used in medical devices such as patient monitors and infusion pumps. It supplies medical fiber optic cables, hospital grade power protection and supplies, medical oxygen sensors, medical device instruments and cables and leadwires.

The company entered the battery market with the acquisition of Access Battery of Elizabeth, Colo., in 2005.

Alpha Source assembles a variety of battery packs for medical devices.

Employees complete tasks like welding individual cells together to make battery packs using resistance welders and testing the performance of batteries, lights and parts.

The company also works to engineer solutions for customers. Infusion pumps are a high impact product, so Alpha Source employees have worked with clients to make the product withstand abuse.

Most of Alpha Source’s customer base consists of individual acute care hospitals. The company has been growing its customer base internationally, with between 15 and 20 percent exports, said Don Melnikoff, vice president.

Alpha Source distributes parts and products for many major health care manufacturers. One of its local customers is GE Healthcare, for which Alpha Source distributes health care monitoring systems.

The company aims to be a “one-stop shop” distributor, stocking a large variety of parts for customers, who may need them to perform routine maintenance or fix medical devices quickly, Melnikoff said. That breadth of inventory sets Alpha Source apart from many of its competitors.

“One of the value adds to our customers…is to be able to consolidate their orders,” he said. “The short story is we have a lot of irons in the fire.”

Alpha Source has annual revenue of about $23 million and has seen average revenue growth of between 15 and 20 percent over the last five years. Carlson-Weber said she expects about 20 percent growth again in fiscal year 2013.

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