One of Coleraine’s leading companies, Armstrong Medical, is reporting a positive year in business as it continues to supply high quality, innovative respiratory disposables for anaesthesia and critical care to over 60 countries across the world.
Based at Wattstown Business Park on the outskirts of the town, the hi-tech firm was established in 1984 by Managing Director, John Armstrong.
His visionary leadership saw him being awarded the MBE in the recent Queen’s New Year Honours for services to economic development spanning three decades in Northern Ireland.
This week Mr Armstrong thanked his staff for their professionalism and industrious efforts over the past year at the 90,000 square foot manufacturing plant and suggested that such is the opportunity for its current product range the company is “barely scratching the surface”.
The business now employs 127 staff, an increase of nine in the past year, with 10 new jobs becoming available in sales, production, design and engineering.
Investment in product development and manufacturing has exceeded £1 million in the past year and, despite external concerns over the impact of Brexit, the company continues to be optimistic of continued growth over the next 12 months.
Commenting on the success, Mr Armstrong said: “We are excited about the future potential for Armstrong Medical products. Following significant investment, several new products are to be launched in the next six months.
“Our export business continues to expand and currently we are barely scratching the surface of the opportunity. Most health services throughout the world have serious budget constraints which makes our industry extremely challenging, but with experienced and knowledgeable staff, along with innovative products, we are making an impact.
“Our company purpose is ‘Creating Support for Life’ - ultimately that’s what our products are designed to do - but on a broader scale our success also has a positive effect on the local community with the increase in jobs.”
Recalling the early days, Mr Armstrong said: “I was something of a one-man band when I started out on this journey 33 years ago, custom-building disposable breathing systems in a small space at the Causeway Enterprise Agency.
“There has never been a grand plan, but looking back, the company and its products have developed more through times of adversity and challenging moments than anything else. “Following a fire in May 2007, which wiped out 90% of our company manufacturing and administrative facility, we managed to survive that and today employ 127 people.
“Looking ahead, we must be aware the picture can change, and the effect of events like Brexit are impossible to predict. However, because we have been concentrating specifically for the past five years on countries outside of Europe and have realised significant interest and growth, we feel Armstrong Medical is as well positioned as anybody for whatever the challenges may be.”
The company’s impressive global reach shows no sign of abating.
Andi Regan, Export Manager, revealed: “We now supply 117 companies in 64 countries worldwide, with products focusing on anaesthesia, acute respiratory and neo-natal care.
“This past year, the company has appointed 19 new export distributors, mainly in Scandinavia, the Middle East and Latin America, the latter becoming a major growth region in itself.
“We are in current negotiations with 11 potential distributors which would give us market entry to four new countries. We have delivered sales growth from more than 60 of our distributors this year and are confident of continued growth and market expansion. The significant level of activity in export markets has been eased with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland, which has been very important to us and is very much appreciated.”
Five years ago Mr Armstrong placed a dynamic new focus on energising and developing the firm’s product range and to engage more effectively with clinicians and medical professionals all over the world.
In January this year, a five-strong Armstrong Medical team, headed up by Nigel Armstrong, hosted doctors and distributors from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and UAE for a product launch and clinical workshop at the Surgical Robotic Centre in Doha, Qatar.
The ground-breaking Middle East workshop allowed the firm’s representatives undivided attention of both key medics and distributors for 48-hours, giving them a better understanding of the Armstrong Medical story, its products and future opportunities.
Nigel Armstrong, Sales and Marketing Director, said, “We are now directly engaging globally, speaking with heads of departments, anaesthetists and professors, discussing our products and what they can do for their patients.”
And it’s this outward and international approach to business which has brought significant rewards over 33 years.
As well as all the many thousands of air miles travelled by Armstrong staff they continually invite distributors and customers to visit their facility in Coleraine and to enjoy the Causeway Coast and Northern Ireland.
In addition, it hosts up to six product training and educational seminars at its manufacturing facility each year.
In February the European Federation of Critical Care Nurses held their annual event at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, with more than 300 nurses attending from 29 countries.
Armstrong Medical was a ‘Gold Sponsor’, hosting three sessions and also took 20 visitors from the UK, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Norway for a tour of its facilities and to visit some of the sights of the north coast.
Next month the company plan to stage an exclusive Anaesthesia Symposium with speakers flying in from Qatar, Netherlands, South Africa and Spain as well as up to 40 doctors from Ireland, the UK and Europe.
The firm’s recent successes has also spelt good news for the wider Coleraine economy as recruitment continues to increase.
David Campbell, UK & Ireland Sales Director agreed that it is an exciting time to join Armstrong Medical.
“Due to sustained growth of business within the UK and Ireland healthcare marketplace, we are seeking to recruit three additional Business Development Executives to cover territories in the North East of England, the Midlands and the South of England.
“These roles will be crucial to the continued growth of our business and our ultimate goal of becoming the preferred partner supporting healthcare professionals to save lives in acute respiratory care. Potential candidates will be offered an exciting opportunity to work for a Company at the forefront of the introduction of new therapies and products in a role that makes a difference to people’s lives.”
And Peter Francis, Production Manager, is certain the business can cope with expansion into new markets worldwide.
“The increase in sales will put demands on production and manufacturing capabilities but I have every confidence we are more than capable of coping with them,” he said.
Non Executive Director, Mark Fryer believes that the calibre of staff is undoubtedly one of the company’s greatest strengths.
“Winning business is about relationships. For now, this is very much a relationship business, not a transactional business.
“People choose to buy from Armstrong because of the quality of the products, the quality of service and the quality of the people. They continue to buy from Armstrong because of that.
“With the strategic plans we have, with the vision of John and the Board members, we will see the sales and distribution teams physically grow in number. That will strengthen sales performance and the acquisition of new business.
“I think it will be a very exciting and diverse company to work with. I think it will be good for the local region and economy.”