• December 21, 2014

Medical mannequins: Gatesville company to get makeover

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Posted: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 4:30 am

GATESVILLE – The Laerdal Medical Corporation plant in Gatesville will be getting a new look in 2014, company officials said, but the plant’s 200 employees will continue making high-tech mannequins for medical training.

“We plan to make some changes,” said Ramon Sosa, manufacturing director for the Norway-based company’s plants in Gatesville and Monterey, Mexico.

“Some of our buildings are worn out and will be replaced with new construction,” he said.

The sight of familiar buildings being demolished will not mean the company is leaving, said Debra Sloane, environmental, health and safety engineer at the plant.

“We are still going to be here,” Sloane said. “We have no plans of leaving.” In 2000, Laerdal merged with Medical Plastics Laboratory, a 50-year-old local company with a

production plant at 226 Farm-to-Market 116.

The team at the Gatesville plant will assemble about 20 variations of sophisticated mannequins used for medical and first aid training.

Components for the mannequins are made in the Monterey plant, Sosa said, and brought to Gatesville for assembly.

The Gatesville plant also provides research and development, tooling design and “rapid prototyping” of new products, said Marcia Hoge, Laerdal controller.

Some of the mannequins contain sophisticated electronics, allowing users to use computer software to customize scenarios to meet an assortment of training needs.

The military and Red Cross have asked Laerdal to develop new products for training in the field, Hoge said.

“They come to us with an idea, R&D designs it and we produce it,” she said.

The company was asked to develop mannequins to simulate amputations and wounds and symptoms from chemical and biological weapons, she said.

The innovative plastic skeletons and heart models that launched Medical Plastics’ success are giving way to the versatile mannequins, Hoge said.

“The skeletons have come to the end of a good, long life,” she said. “The anatomical products have been discontinued.”

The company also phased out its martial arts training mannequins to focus on medical products in keeping with the Laerdal mission: “Helping save lives.”

Striving to keep pace in “a huge competitive market” of medical training devices, Laerdal is adapting its products to ever-changing needs, she said. Renovating the Gatesville plant is part of that process.

“We have the same number of employees we did 50 years ago, but the site has evolved to meet the workload,” said Hoge, who worked for Medical Plastics before the merger. “We are looking to consolidate the facility.”

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