Business Monday

Gateway City/Who’s Here: Cordis plant in Miami Lakes produces high-tech cardiac catheter components for world market

A view inside the Cordis Corporation plant in Miami Lakes.
A view inside the Cordis Corporation plant in Miami Lakes. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

With a key manufacturing plant in Miami Lakes, Cordis Corp. is one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of high-tech devices for diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular disorders through the use of catheters, stents and other highly specialized equipment.

The company got started in Miami in 1957.

Dr. William P. Murphy Jr., a physician and inventor with impressive engineering skills, that year set up Medical Development Corp. to produce new types of medical devices. Murphy’s company expanded, received scores of patents and changed its name to Cordis.

Despite creating a wide range of innovative medical devices, Cordis had problems with its coronary pacemakers in the 1980s and later faced lawsuits related to stents used to relieve blocked arteries.

Nonetheless, Cordis continued to develop a wide range of other highly successful devices, like catheters for diagnosing and treating heart disease. The company set up its main manufacturing facility in Miami Lakes.

Cordis was taken over in 1996 by Johnson & Johnson and in early October of this year, Cardinal Health Inc., a giant Ohio-based supplier of pharmaceutical, medical and surgical products, acquired the company for more than $1.9 billion.

Cordis, which in Latin means “of the heart,” remains a major international player in designing and producing devices that interventional cardiologists and radiologists and other specialists use to diagnose and treat heart and vascular problems. Interventional means that physicians insert catheters into arteries, and guide them through the body to diagnose and treat heart problems, like blocked arteries, as well as other vascular problems.

With 2014 revenues of $780 million, Cordis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cardinal Health, sells to large and small hospitals, clinics and distributors in 50 countries.

Miami Lakes is one of the company’s three manufacturing facilities and has about 300 employees out of Cordis’ global headcount of around 3,000. The other two production centers are in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and Santa Clara, California.

The Miami Lakes plant remains an important facility for Cordis, and is expected to play even a greater role under Cardinal’s ownership.

“Our Miami Lakes facility used to manufacture more products, but now we specialize in catheter bodies for a range of Cordis products in our global portfolio,” said David Wilson, president of Cordis, who is based at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Fremont, California, where its main labs and R&D center are.

“Our Miami Lakes people have become more specialized,” said Wilson, who visits the South Florida center every six to eight weeks. “They make highly specialized products from composites strengthened by wire braids. Doctors have to be able to move our catheters in the human body … there are many twists and turns in blood vessels and these instruments have to perform perfectly every time.”

Wilson, who began working with Johnson & Johnson in 1996, was president of Cordis before Cardinal’s acquisition and was asked to remain in the same position. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University, a master’s in biomedical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an MBA from Columbia University. His first job at J&J was working on advanced research and development projects.

Cardinal Health is one of the largest North American suppliers of pharmaceuticals and medical, surgical and laboratory products to clients worldwide. With nearly 35,000 employees, Cardinal manufactures items like surgical gloves and apparel and fluid management products. It also distributes branded, generic and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and provides pharmacy services, including nuclear materials.

Cordis’ Miami Lakes facility is a highly secured, one-story structure packed with high-tech equipment that works around the clock. The machinery, always overseen by Cordis personnel, melts and extrudes different types of composites to fabricate plastic tubes of different diameters, precisely braids tiny, steel wires around tubing to provide strength and then covers the tubes with another layer of plastic.

The wide range of products made at Miami Lakes — called catheter bodies — are sent to the Cordis plant in Mexico for final assembly.

“We test for precise specifications at each step,” said Laurie Low, director of quality assurance at the Miami Lakes plant. “Inspectors use machines and visual inspection to ensure that the catheters are smooth, that braids are precisely spaced and that specs are exact to thousands of an inch,” said Low, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Miami. “Anything not meeting our quality standards is recycled.”

Low, pointing to walls covered with Cordis patent approvals dating back decades, said that many employees at Miami Lakes have worked at the plant for 20 to 30 years.

“Miami Lakes is a world-class facility,” Wilson said. “We bring doctors here from all over the world to demonstrate our new products and train them in their use.

“We’re going to be in a growth mode with Cardinal, and we will be expanding our product portfolio. Cardinal wisely understands that Cordis and Cardinal are a winning combination for the rapidly growing area of cardiovascular medicine.”

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Business: A leading designer and manufacturer of high-tech devices used for cardiology and endovascular (inside blood vessels) procedures, such as catheters, self-expanding stents, guide wires, balloons to open narrowed arteries, vascular closure devices and other specialized instruments. Cordis was started in Miami and currently has manufacturing plants in Miami Lakes, Mexico and California. It sells its products to hospitals, clinics and distributors in 50 countries. Cordis was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 1996, and in early October became part of Cardinal Health Inc., one of the largest suppliers of pharmaceuticals, medical and surgical products in North America.

Founded: Cordis was established in Miami in 1957 as the Medical Development Corp. It later changed its name to Cordis and built its manufacturing center in Miami Lakes.

President: David Wilson.

Headquarters: Cordis’ U.S. headquarters are in Fremont, California.

Manufacturing sites: Miami Lakes, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and Santa Clara, California.

Employees: About 300 in Miami Lakes out of approximately 3,000 worldwide. Parent Cardinal Health has nearly 35,000 worldwide.

Revenue: About $780 million in calendar year 2014. Parent Cardinal Health had revenue of nearly $103 billion in fiscal 2015, which ended June 30.

Ownership: Cordis is owned by Cardinal Health, a publicly traded company (NYSE: CAH).


Sources: Cordis, Cardinal Health