Local Expertize Boosts Air Purification Specialists
Q: How has VECO evolved since its foundation?
A: VECO is a family company founded in 1968 and created in order to provide direct services and supplies to pharmaceutical laboratories. We faced many challenges at the beginning, as there were many low-quality and counterfeit products on the market. While the amount of low-quality products has diminished, so too has the number of laboratories, with only the most competitive remaining. Others either close or are acquired by international companies. When we created VECO, there were 650 pharmaceutical laboratories in Mexico, but now, according to our calculations, there must be approximately 130, of which few are Mexican-owned. VECO began by commercializing equipment to manufacture medicines. We then moved on to the development of fume hoods and laminar flow cabinets, used to provide a sanitary environment for experiments, to avoid sample contamination, and to protect users form toxic fumes. Our fume hoods have HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arrestance) filters capable of filtering particles down to 0.003mm. Some are able to filter as far down as 0.00001mm. Gradually, we decided to stop manufacturing devices that were not economically profitable, deciding instead to focus on fume hoods, as the product range has gained strength in the market. We are working as two different companies, VECO and de Vecchi Ingenieros, within Grupo Devinsa, and we collaborate with Vectech Pharmaceutical Consultants, an international consulting company which validates pharmaceutical manufacturing practices to ensure they comply with regulations.
Q: What was VECO’s strategy to position itself in the market?
A: At the beginning, we imported our filters from Sandia National Laboratories. This manufacturer developed these filters for NASA, which used them for space travel as instruments had to be completely free from dust which could damage them. In 1972, we began to manufacture equipment in Mexico under the slogan “quality is developed throughout the entire process.” While this motto is important for many sectors, it is extremely relevant for healthcare as this area deals with peoples’ lives. When we started we were heavily criticized by international manufacturers, as the law at the time strongly regulated the sales of imported products. Even though our critics disagreed, we were perfectly able to provide quality products, which allowed us to grow in the market. Many years later, former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari opened the market to foreign products, thus increasing the competition. Recently the market has become centralized. While there are around 500 companies in Mexico able to manufacture them, the market has centered in only four. This has discouraged competition as the cost to implement a plant of this type is too high.
Q: Besides the need for continuous renovation, what other strategies have companies implemented to compete with foreign companies?
A: We began by exporting products. In 1974, we created Veco do Brasil and we opened an office in the US in 1977. We currently export to Europe, the Middle East, and all of Latin America. Now that markets are open, we compete with companies from all over the world. We are currently focusing on the construction of clean rooms, which were initially used for the manufacture of computers but now are mostly used in hospitals and pharmaceutical laboratories, for many reasons including the preparation of mixtures for chemotherapy. In those cases patients must be completely isolated inside these rooms as their immune systems are compromised. At this point the public sector represents 60% of our sales and the rest goes to the private sector.
Q: What are the main opportunity areas for these air purification systems?
A: These systems will always be necessary for the production of large numbers of medicines. When we first created the company air purification inside these rooms was achieved with UV light, but this light causes skin damage. We are constantly trying to follow the latest trends pushed forward by international markets. At the beginning, we did not develop our own technologies as we used to adapt those from foreign companies, but gradually we began to develop our own products. Our main advantage is our size, which allows us to have great versatility to create highly specific products to address individual needs. We work with the pharmaceutical industry on research, manufacture, and quality control, and we also work with university and hospital laboratories.