Two decades in the healthcare industry

Lessons learned and looking toward the future

In the early 2000s, we delivered our first order for a client in the healthcare industry. Today, the vast majority of our moulds are for medical devices. And despite the global pandemic, we are on course for record-breaking revenue this year.

In short: IGS is doing well. But the past two decades have not always been easy. We are very proud of what we have accomplished, but we’ve also had plenty to learn along the way. In this article, we want to share some of the ups and downs of our journey. We will reflect on the challenges alongside our successes.

A dime a dozen

At the start of the century, IGS was a company with a long and rich history, but essentially tool makers like us were a dime a dozen. We built moulds for a range of applications: healthcare, mobile phones, printers, the automotive industry… There was not enough to set us apart from competitors, so in 2006 we set a bold new course: we wanted to build high-precision moulds for the healthcare industry. A number of decisions laid the groundwork for the IGS GeboJagema of today. Our CEO Peter Mertens decided to acquire an injection moulding machine, which raised quite a few eyebrows. What would a tool maker need that for? But Peter was convinced that mould validation was essential in becoming a high-quality mould maker. We also started to invest in automation, a more procedural approach, and machinery to achieve greater precision.

Finding our way in the dark

Our new direction would prove to be a journey of extreme perseverance. It would take years to build the trust required to be awarded our first major healthcare order in 2009. At that point though, the worldwide recession of 2008 was proving very challenging. It was a difficult period of finding our way in the dark. But in 2011, everything seemed to fall into place when we merged with HTP Tooling. With their experience in the optical market, HTP brought a new level of accuracy and precision to our organisation. It proved to be a winning combination with our focus on automation and innovation. We moved to our new factory in Eindhoven and the new IGS GeboJagema took off.

Looking back, that focus on innovation, extreme precision and automation has been instrumental in getting where we are today. For example, when we build our moulds we focus on the manufacturing of the components that come into direct contact with the plastic. We acquire non-critical parts from third parties. This has allowed us to focus our investments and automation efforts on the mission-critical parts of our business. It has helped us achieve much greater precision and ensure perfect reproducibility for the parts of the mould that make the difference.

Healthcare industry

Growing pains

Automation has been indispensable in our growth over the past decade. As our revenue quadrupled from 10 million in 2010 to around 40 million in 2020, our team has only increased from 70 to 100 people. Automation helps us to be more efficient and realise higher quality. Moreover, it has been a way to deal with the lack of skilled workmen in the labour market. Increasingly, the activities in our tool shop are turning from manual tasks to operating and programming machinery. Our staff is only present during the day, yet our factory runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the evening, we turn off the lights and everyone goes home.

Still, there are downsides to relying on automation to this degree. We might be less dependent on finding good people to expand our workforce as we grow. But the impact of colleagues leaving or falling ill is much greater on a smaller team. The fewer people you have, the more important each individual colleague becomes. More than once, unexpected absences have lowered our efficiency and at times our customers unfortunately had to deal with delays as a result. Instead of looking away from these mistakes, we’ve paid close attention to what went wrong and made plans to prevent anything similar from happening in the future.

The path to 2030 and beyond

IGS is looking forward to the coming decade. We are continuing to invest in cutting-edge machinery as well as excellent people to ensure we have more than enough capacity to serve both current and new clients. Also, we will soon be opening a new office in the United States to be closer to our fast-growing number of customers in North-America.

Aside from growing through new clients and new projects, we also expect a lot of repeat business. IGS is currently involved in every single large strategic project for the development of autoinjectors and insulin pens, and almost every project for metered dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers. As such we expect quite a few requests for duplicate moulds, moulds with only small changes, and refurbishments to expand our order book.

We expect plenty of challenges ahead as well. Our team is already preparing for various growth scenarios in order to keep up with demand while maintaining the highest possible quality. IGS is also opening an office on the other side of the Atlantic: in the United States. This is an exciting move, which will no doubt present us with new obstacles to tackle as well. We wouldn’t have it any other way: our team thrives when challenged.

We would like to thank all our customers who have chosen to work with us and have allowed us to grow into the organisation we have become. Without their enthusiasm, trust and sometimes patience we would not be where we are today. Especially with a pandemic that has taken the world by surprise, we feel prouder than ever to be part of the healthcare industry and to work tirelessly to keep people all over the world happy and well.

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I’d love to hear more about your plans to see how IGS can assist. Even if your project is in the earliest stages, we are more than happy to share our expertise, so don’t hesitate to reach out.