December 2012

Med Spec: Homegrown innovation drives success

By Shalmali Pal

Overseas outsourcing in the manufac­turing industry was a hot button topic during the 2012 elections. For Medical Specialties Inc, a maker of orthopedic and sports medicine products, going overseas was, and remains, a nonissue.

The 52-year-old Med Spec maintains a US-based 40,000 square foot production plant in Wadesboro, NC, along with its headquarters in Charlotte, NC. Being able to label its products “Made in the USA” is a large part of the company’s success, said Scott Gaylord, Vice President of Med Spec.

“A lot of our competition has gone overseas, but what you trade for lower cost is slower turn-around time, slower innovation, and reduced quality control,” said Gaylord, who is the son of Med Spec founder John Gaylord.

“We are able to implement our developments and designs into our products much quicker and to better control our quality.  We also want to keep our jobs in the US.  That’s why we’ve remained in the US, and stayed successful and competitive,” he said.

That innovative spirit led to the creation of one of Med Spec’s bestsellers, the Ankle Stabilizing Orthosis (ASO), designed to treat ankle sprains and protect against future sprains. The device is indicated for inversion or eversion ankle sprains; medial or lateral ankle instability; and subtalar joint instability. Like many flourishing inventions, development of the ASO involved taking a simple idea and making it better.

“The ASO was developed to function similar to athletic taping,” Gaylord said. “It has figure-eight stabilizing straps that replicate a basket weave or heel lock.” This strap stabilizes the subtalar and talocrural joints, according to the company’s ASO brochure.

“We’ve developed the ASO to appeal to the toughest critics—athletes,” Gaylord added. “They put the greatest demand on the product in terms of performance so we designed it to meet their standards.”

Gaylord pointed out that “our ASO can also be worn by nonathletes—someone who sprains an ankle and needs to stabilize it in order to get back to work and get on with his life.”

The popularity of the ASO didn’t mean the company rested on its laurels.

Gaylord acknowledged the early iteration of the ASO offered good function, but wasn’t necessarily the most durable ankle brace. In keeping with Med Spec’s need for innovation, the company continued to refine the ASO.

“We had a good product to begin with but we weren’t satisfied with that; we wanted to make it even better,” he said. “We focused on making the device more durable—our product now lasts longer than it did years ago—and more comfortable, particularly along the Achilles tendon.” This meant beefing up the CoolFlex padding along the interior of the boot for greater comfort along the Achilles tendon.

The company’s newest product, the ASO EVO (short for “evolution”) Ankle Stabilizer, represents the next step in the ongoing efforts to enhance and improve.

“It incorporates the three main elements of an ankle taping application, “ Gaylord said. The EVO features the stabilizing strap and the elastic cuff around the top of the brace, along with an internal stirrup strap to capture the calcaneus and limit ankle inversion or eversion. Other features include an internal plastic cuff to apply circumferential compression around the distal tibiofibular joint.

“It fully replicates an ankle taping application and gives even better support for inversion ankle sprains, as well as high ankle sprain or syndesmotic ankle sprain,” Gaylord explained.

Ankle bracing is just one of Med Spec’s product lines, which also include knee bracing, wrist supports, and spinal bracing. This wide range of products will put the company in good stead to meet any increase in demand for its braces due to the overall health issues—aging, diabetes, obesity—the country is facing.

“One of the best ways to manage diabetes and obesity is exercise,” he said. “If you have products that better enable these patients to exercise, that’s going to help these patients long term. So a lot of our products will assist these patients—if they have weak ankles, if they are overweight—in getting that exercise.”

Again, the home court advantage will be a key to Med Spec’s continued success.

“Since we control our manufacturing, we’re able to control our quality that much better. Quality assurance is a problem when you are outsourcing. We feel fully prepared to handle any increase in demand for our products because we control our own production,” Gaylord said.

Shalmali Pal is a freelance medical editor and writer based in Tucson, AZ.

Article sponsored by Medical Specialties.

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