Mortara Instrument Inc.
7865 N. 86th St., Milwaukee
Industry: Medical device manufacturing
Employees: 422 (229 in Milwaukee)
For Justin Mortara, putting up a new 64,000-square-foot manufacturing facility along Bradley Road is an extension of his company’s commitment to the Milwaukee area. So, too, is the decision to source 30 percent of the components for Mortara Instrument Inc. products from within 100 miles of its facility.
“It’s a long view, but nothing that we do here is looking out 90 days; it’s always looking at the multi-year horizon,” said Mortara, the company’s chief executive officer.
Mortara Instrument designs and manufactures medical devices for diagnostic cardiology and patient monitoring. The devices are used for resting electrocardiograms, stress tests and other applications mostly outside the operating room.
While the number of electrical components in medical devices might conjure ideas of Asian manufacturing used for many consumer electronics, Mortara has found the benefit in sourcing items like printed circuit boards and some LCD screens from nearby.
“The physically closer your supply chain is, the faster you can react,” Mortara said.
Reacting quickly is part of what Mortara does. Even with about 80 percent of its orders including some sort of custom configuration, the company is able to ship most orders within 72 hours. Many are shipped within 24 hours and some make it out the same day.
Local sourcing allows Mortara to reduce lead times, but it also serves as an investment in the community, Mortara said.
“It’s helping the local community thrive and we are dependent on that thriving community,” he said.
The company counts GE Healthcare among its competitors, so innovating while moving at a startup-like pace is important to remaining competitive.
“We try to innovate on a timeline of one to three years, whereas the typical rhythm in medical devices is five to seven years,” Mortara said.
The company puts about 8 percent of its revenue back into research and product development, working to make devices that are more mobile, more powerful and have more diagnostic capability.
Those efforts have also focused on things like connecting devices to electronic health records and testing algorithms for alarms against monitoring data to reduce “alarm fatigue” in hospital settings.
But innovating, let alone doing it at a faster pace than the rest of the industry, requires the right talent. That means continuously recruiting and retaining top talent, especially in engineering.
“Once we get the right people, our execution is really good,” Mortara said.
Being located in close proximity to a competitor like GE helps, as the larger company draws talent to the area, but people sometimes decide they are looking for a different environment. It’s also important for the region as a whole to attract talent from major universities, he said.
Drawing those graduates requires a strong community, Mortara said. Just as he hopes local sourcing will help area businesses and fuel the region, he hopes the new manufacturing facility also demonstrates a commitment to the region.
“We don’t want to pick up manufacturing and move it out of country to a low-cost country or anything like that,” he said.
The new facility was built with a number of environmentally-friendly features, including heating and cooling powered by a geothermal system; a blue roof that pools water and releases it in a controlled fashion, eliminating the need for a retention pond; porous asphalt; and LED lighting.
The upgrades were made “knowing that we’re going to be here for a long time,” Mortara said, adding that the size of the building is also a reflection of the company’s commitment.
“We’ve got a lot of empty space, but that’s intentional. We know what we’re going to do; we’re going to grow. We know what we’re going to do; we’re going to stay in Milwaukee,” he said.
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