Kimal – A Trial by Pandemic
We talk to Kimal about innovating in the healthcare sector, and becoming CEO of a medical device manufacturer in the midst of a global pandemic.
Since its inception in 1964, Kimal has always been passionate about improving patient outcomes through innovation.
We introduced numerous innovations to the UK, predominantly from the US,” explains Matthew Press, Kimal’s CEO. “Examples include the introduction of central venous catheters (CVC) to the UK and Europe alongside products that revolutionised the field of Cardiology and Dialysis.”
In the early nineties, Kimal switched its focus from being a trusted distribution partner to that of a trusted manufacturer.
“Under my father’s stewardship and then under his successor, Mark Pettitt, we focused on developing our own innovation as well as manufacturing our own products. Our mission today remains to deliver healthcare innovation but now it’s our own innovation,” says Press.
Kimal’s portfolio today can be separated into two product offerings. Procedural Solutions is the Company’s speciality procedure packs, which are supplied to the NHS and hospitals worldwide, and which contain everything Clinicians require to carry out their procedures in specific clinical fields.
Kimal’s Vascular Access portfolio includes its range of ground-breaking Altius® CVCs, designed in conjunction with Clinicians to improve patient outcomes and minimise risks associated with traditional technology.
“Our USP has been about working with Clinicians and Hospital Trusts to improve patient outcomes, whether that be through product innovation or service levels that help drive clinical efficiencies,” says Press.
Bringing healthcare innovation is not quite like introducing innovation to any other sector though. Certification and regulation for products used in medical procedures are essential, and when those rules are not standardised around the world it makes it a challenge to introduce a new product.
“If we look at the regulatory landscape within the medical devices world, it’s a regionalised structure. There is no harmonious international regulation so rolling out innovation across the world is not an easy thing to do and the processes are very different,” Press tells us.
“The COVID-19 Pandemic has really highlighted what a small business world we’re in but from a regulatory perspective, you don’t see that. Being in one market does not guarantee you international opportunities without a clear regulatory strategy and a suitably skilled team to drive those international opportunities, which now includes the challenge of Brexit. We have invested significantly in this area and have an excellent team that underpins our strategy both domestically and internationally.”
These are interesting times in the healthcare sector, and so it is surprising to learn that Press has stepped into the role of CEO of Kimal during this crisis. In a lot of ways, the experience has been a trial by fire for him.
“The Company was run by my grandfather, then my father, and then Mark Pettitt,” Press tells us. “Having been with the business for four-and-a-half years and working closely with Mark, I have seen the business both pre and post COVID-19. It’s certainly not a normal year to step into the role of CEO but COVID-19 was not on the horizon when the process was started in 2019, and I am extremely lucky that both my father as Chairman and Mark as a Non-Executive Director stay involved with the business whilst I have an extremely strong operating board of Directors to support me.”
“The Pandemic has thrown the rulebook out the window, and there will be learning we need to hardwire into our systems and procedures moving forward. In terms of stepping into the role, it’s made sure I’m fluid and flexible.”
Supporting the NHS
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Kimal saw demand for its core products decrease significantly following the cancellation of routine procedures whilst the NHS worked tirelessly to tackle the pandemic. However, the Company saw a huge demand for its critical care products including its CVCs, to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. This, on the one hand, was a financial offset for Kimal against the impact on its core business, however, everyone within the Company could not fail to appreciate the seriousness of the situations these are used in.
Kimal was also able to leverage its experience and international supply chain to design and manufacture a purpose-built procedure pack for the NHS Nightingale facility in London.
“Whilst our packs are used in hospitals around the world, it felt morally right to pivot our efforts to help in the fight that’s right on our doorstep, here in the UK,” says Press. “So, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made the decision to commit 100% of one of our manufacturing facilities and a significant proportion of the other facility into producing products for the NHS in their fight against COVID-19. From manufacturing to logistics, our team has worked tirelessly to meet the urgent needs of the NHS,” says Press.
For Kimal though, the focus has not been solely on manufacturing the Company’s own products to help during this unprecedented time. The Kimal team was approached by Shield Aerosol Protection who required a manufacturing and logistics partner for their innovative disposable AerosolShield™ Miniature Isolation Tent. Kimal naturally offered its support, utilising its UK manufacturing facility to help meet the urgent requirements for this product, and providing a faster route to saving lives.
“Everything that we have been able to achieve during the COVID-19 Pandemic would not have been possible without the dedication of our employees across all departments who share a combined passion and understanding of the difference our products make,” says Press.
“The short-term plan is supporting healthcare systems in their return to normality. For the long-term we are looking at continued international growth,” Press says. “Therefore, a core focus for us is continuing to support the UK market and continued expansion within Europe, as well as taking our innovative catheter range to a wider international audience; with all of this under the clear vision of delivering healthcare innovation for the improvement of patient care.”