The Australian and New Zealand arm of the Medline brand offers region-specific medical equipment with a vision to grow.
Medline, the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of health care supplies in the United States, has a dedicated division of the business in Australia and New Zealand committed to providing for the region-specific needs of the health care industry.
The brand was founded in 1966, but the company’s roots can be traced back to 1910 in Chicago, U.S. and A.L. Mills, the great grandfather of Medline’s current owners. With the humble beginnings of sewing butcher’s aprons, Mills branched out to sew surgeons’ gowns and nurse’s uniforms. Now the company distributes more than 350,000 health care supplies with its product line ranging from advanced wound and skin care, gloves, and infection prevention to incontinence care, equipment, and lab supplies and diagnostics.
With over 12,000 employees worldwide and operations in 25 countries, Medline hit $7 billion in sales in 2014.
In Australia and New Zealand, Medline focuses its product line on the surgical space—supplying product solutions including surgical packs, drapes, gowns, and surgical gloves—and servicing the acute care space as well as aged care. The company distributes all over the world to hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centres, physician offices, home care dealers, home health agencies, and retail outlets.
But as this division of the brand continues to grow, General Manager Brian Palmer will be focusing long term.
“Being a large company that’s privately held and family owned is a unique position to be in. It sets us apart from our competitors in that we do not have to divert our attention to service share-holder requirements. We can have our sights set on long-term goals and be 100 per cent customer focused” he shared.
An Employer of Choice
Last year the Chicago Tribune—the company’s headquarters is located in Illinois—named Medline in its 2014 Top Workplace List. It was also awarded the title 2014 Great Place to Work in Healthcare and 2014 Best Place to Work for Medical Supply Reps. Many of these titles come from surveys in the industry, proving that Medline’s employees love working for the company.
“Employees are looking for companies that are financially stable, that can record consistent growth,” Palmer said. “We’re a mix of being a global company, but family owned, which has its appeal.”
But that’s only the beginning of Medline’s offerings to its workforce. The company does everything it can to empower employees, which starts as simply as development opportunities and training programs to tuition reimbursement, a management training program, and an entry-level rotation program.
Palmer commented on the opportunity for growth Medline offers, saying that he has worked for the company since 2006 and has been able to move up through the ranks in the American office, then move to his current position in Australia.
“We want to give our employees the tools to be successful in their jobs, and responsible for their work,” Palmer commented. “We believe in mentoring our staff to reach their potential and surpass it. Encouraging them to grow and be confident in taking ownership and responsibility not only empowers them but provides Medline with a strong workforce excited to be part of the Medline journey.”
A Global Presence but Australian Focus
Medline has offices in 25 countries, and manufacturing facilities in more than 15. The dedicated manufacturing facility in Australia focuses mainly on assembling custom surgical packs, which speaks to a significant percentage of its focus in surgical products.
The U.S. operations complement Medline’s Australian business in many ways. With the already established name of 50 years of business in the U.S., Medline Australia and New Zealand was able to immediately become active competitors in the region with confidence from the Australian market.
“There was no need to rebuild the wheel,” Palmer said. “We already had the foundation and business model in place.”
Another key to Medline’s success in the Australian market is its strategic partnerships with its suppliers. “Because Medline is such a big company, when we start a new partnership with a business, we can offer them the chance of great growth,” Palmer shared.
Medline is investing heavily in providing a direct distribution service to its customers here in Australia. By the end of 2015 they will be wholly delivering product via their own warehouses in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane negating the need for third party services and allowing flexible delivery solutions.
“Medline’s significant financial investment in the purchase of our own distribution network will provide us with unique opportunities to take our customers experience to the next level. This is a very exciting time in the growth of our business and our service.’’
Medline’s Australian and New Zealand business will never look exactly like the U.S.’s, but the company is planning on offering more of the U.S.-available products in this region. On top of aligning the product portfolio with that in the U.S., Medline is currently in the process of launching a more diversified line of exam gloves, aged care items like adult diapers, and an expanded offering of skin care.
Palmer said the company is always open to pursuing acquisitions, but they would have to be the right fit. The Australian side of the business really kicked off for Medline through an acquisition about four years ago. Since then, the goal of the worldwide brand has always been to expand globally.
“While we have the luxury of being focused day-to-day on our customers, we also have the opportunity to look forward long-term and really plan for the future,” Palmer said. “We want to see continued sales growth in our current products, but also continue with innovations and pushing the industry forward product-wise here in Australia.”