József Farkas, Managing Director, Sanatmetal Ltd.
Sanatmetal (a word of Latin origin, meaning metal with curative effect) manufactures and globally distributes large joint prostheses (hip and knee) and implants used in traumatology, orthopaedic surgery, spine surgery, dentistry and veterinary medicine. The strong, medium-sized enterprise with a history of fifty years is one of the 40 best companies in Europe in the orthopaedic sector, which is a huge success for a business fully owned by Hungarian owners.
It was renamed Sanatmetal in 1992 when the Precision Mechanics Company in Heves county, established in 1967, was privatised. After several silent years, the intention of a large multinational company to acquire Sanatmetal gave the company a serious headache. “We operated well as a Hungarian company and we had the necessary expertise, at the same time we only had outdated machinery and technology” - remembers József Farkas in charge of the company since 1991.
After a long period of contemplation, they agreed to continue as a joint venture as of 1996. From this point on, competing with the best known and largest players of the sector they withstood competition on the global market as DePuy-Sanatmetal British-US-Hungarian joint venture. “We became the integral part of a global corporation and we had the opportunity to send our personnel to the UK or the USA to further develop their knowledge.” Later in 1999 DePuy was acquired by an even larger player, Johnson & Johnson and it was time to make a decision: they either liquidate the company or repurchase their 51 percent share of the joint venture. They opted for the latter, which they managed successfully and they again became a 100 percent Hungarian company, which with international experience and modern technology entered the market after a one-year moratorium (this was a precondition for the buyout).
This was when the real success story started in the life of the company and the story has not ended yet: they have won several awards and they are able to expand on a permanent basis. They export 70 percent of their products to Mexico, Turkey, China, they can be found in a large number of hospitals. Through their subsidiaries they are present in several other countries, the most recent investment was the implant manufacturing plant built in Russia.
Engineers and designers work together
They have a relatively broad range of products in six categories: orthopaedics, spine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, diagnostics and traumatology. They are up to something great now: the most frequent types of bone fractures, globally and also in Hungary, are the so-called trochanteric and hip fractures, which frequently (but not only) are the problems of elderly people and in many cases they are accompanied by other diseases and complications. In 2016 within the Economic Development and Innovation Operational Programme (EDIOP), Sanatmetal was granted HUF 115 million to develop revolutionary implants and a toolkit related to these types of injuries. “Our objective is to make the cure for such fractures simple and fast with the smallest possible intervention, with excellent mechanical and biological results, which help the bones have a stronger chance of recovery in a shorter time’ - says József Farkas managing director.
The more effective treatment of this type of fracture is all the more important as with longevity (the life expectancy at birth is on the increase all over the world) the number of injuries at old age and the number of old-age patients also increases. In addition, fractures are always more dangerous at an older age, thus with quick and simpler interventions it is possible to significantly reduce risks. The introduction of the new types of implants is also very important from the physicians’ points of view: the radiation burden of medical doctors carrying out the operations can be reduced efficiently because the new generation of surgical devices require much less X-raying. This is also beneficial for the patient, but the radiation burden due to the series of operations might have harmful impacts on the health of medical personnel in the first place. Shortening the operation also has several positive impacts: the capacities of operating theatres have their limits, thus the possibility to carry out more surgical interventions in the same period of time shortens waiting lists, as well. In addition, due to the shorter duration, the unit cost of an operation will also be lower. For example, according to a study in the US, ten minutes of operation time may cost more than USD 130,000 to a hospital!
“The initial objective of Sanatmetal was to make the world’s best intramedullary nail with the world’s best surgical device.” For the time being, the company submitted a patent application relating to the new trochanteric implant and toolkit, which forecasts a genuine innovation to appear on the market soon. A further unique feature of the company is the involvement of external collaborators, a team of designers, in developing the device along with engineers, focusing on ergonomic design.
The whole system shall be premiered in March at the largest congress of orthopaedic surgeons organised by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), Sanatmetal will present their products together with about one thousand other companies having a similar profile. “Such international fora are indispensable for us to see market orientations and to be able to gauge our competitors.”
In the headquarters of the company in Eger workshops and trainings are held throughout the whole year: physicians from all over the world gather through subsidiaries and partners to get acquainted with new technologies with the help of the team of developers and learn how to use the most up-to-date surgical devices in practice.
Az egész rendszer nagy bemutatója márciusban a legnagyobb amerikai ortopéd kongresszuson (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons - AAOS) lesz, ahol a Sanatmetal nagyjából ezer másik hasonló profilú céggel méri össze tudását. „Az ilyenfajta nemzetközi megmérettetések elengedhetetlenül szükségesek, hogy lássuk a piaci irányokat és hogy fel tudjuk térképezni versenytársainkat.”
A cég egri főhadiszállásán egész évben workshopok és képzések vannak: a leányvállalatokon és partnereken keresztül a világ minden részéről jönnek ide orvosok, hogy a fejlesztőcsapat segítségével megismerkedjenek az új technológiákkal és elsajátítsák a legújabb eszközök műtéti alkalmazását.