If you visit Ballard Medical Products don't be surprised if you're ushered into a small room to start scrubbing as if preparing for surgery.
It isn't that company president Dale H. Ballard thinks you might contaminate the premises. Instead it's a chance to show a visitor or potential customer how one of his products works. In this instance, it's a surgical scrub system called Foam Care.To demonstrate, Domenick P. Treschitta, vice president of sales and marketing, steps on a foot pedal. A blob of foam squirts from a wall-mounted plastic container into his hands. After a quick demonstration and explanation about the foam, it's the visitor's turn.
After a good cleaning with the foam and a small, flexible, plastic brush, also produced by Ballard, it's time for rinsing and then an application of lotion.
The scrub and foam system is just one of many products created for the medical industry by Ballard, which has grown from net sales of $335,532 in 1984 to $15 million in 1988. Company officials expect sales to expand to $20 million in 1989.
Ballard Medical has been on the INC. 500 list of fastest growing small businesses in the United States for two years and ranks first among the fastest growing medical companies.
The secret to Ballard Medical's success is its ability to respond to the market quickly and offer medical items no other company has, said Treschitta. A person who asks Ballard Medical to manufacture a new item can see a prototype within a couple of days because the company does all of its own work and doesn't depend on other companies, except for supplies.
This isn't the first business venture for Ballard, who originally graduated as a pharmacist, but soon found himself caught up in the creation of disposable medical devices, the cornerstone of Ballard Medical. Treschitta calls Ballard the "father of the medical device industry in Utah."
A native of Magna, Ballard graduated from Jordan High School in 1941, was drafted in the U.S. Army and served four years during World War II. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah, attended pre-med school for two years and then graduated with a degree in pharmacology four years later.
In 1951 he started working for Parke-Davis, a pharmaceutical company, but in 1956 quit to form Deseret Pharmaceutical Co. He sold shares to raise $300,000 that year and Deseret soon grew to be the fourth largest non-government business in the state with 2,300 employees and 450,000 square feet of space.
Treschitta said Ballard made some of the medical products in his basement when Deseret first started. Victor Cartwright and James Sorensen were with Ballard in the early days of the company, but Sorensen sold his interest in Deseret in 1958 and went on to establish Sorensen Research.
Several other companies were offshoots of Deseret Pharmaceutical.
In 1976, Ballard sold Deseret to Warner Lambert for $138 million and Ballard remained as the chief executive officer. Ballard guided Deseret for more than a year after the sale but soon tired of the corporate structure and the company's unwillingness to respond to market needs, said Treschitta.
Both men left Deseret in 1978 to start Ballard as a research and development company, and one of their clients was Deseret. Deseret produced "new concept products" such as the first disposable intravenous catheter, a disposable surgeon's mask and a scrub and patient preparation system, said Treschitta.
Today, they are standard in most hospitals.
While under contract with Deseret, Ballard continued developing new products and offered them as part of the research and development agreement. "Somehow they got lost in the shuffle so Dale decided to market them after receiving permission from Deseret," said Treschitta.
In August 1983, Ballard went public and the Ballard shares that started at $6 are now valued at $30. Together they have hand-picked their research and development employees along with the machinists who make the molds that produce a seemingly endless number of plastic parts for the devices the company sells.
Treschitta is a native of Connecticut and received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Connecticut. He served in the U.S. Army from 1963 to 1965 and worked three years as a salesmen for the Upjohn Co. before becoming a salesman for Deseret in 1968.
Treschitta said many of Ballard's competitors aren't involved in research and focus mainly on development of medical products. Ballard does both, which allows the company to compete with larger companies.
"We are experts in disposable materials. We don't get involved in black boxes," Treschitta said, referring to machines used in hospitals to monitor various patient functions.
Ballard said his company deals only with innovative ideas in medical products. "We don't copy existing products, but we continually try to upgrade our own innovative products," he said.
Both men recently attended a meeting of the Association of Operating Room Nurses and noticed there weren't many new products exhibited. "The key to our success is to produce new products that nobody else has," Treschitta said.
Because Ballard has technicians who can make aluminum molds quickly to produce a product and meet a need, the company is "self-contained," that is, it deals with the product from creation of a prototype to the finished mass-produced item.
For example, a doctor visits Ballard and requests an item that will make his job easier. An aluminum mold is made, hot plastic poured in and the finished product taken to the doctor within a couple of days. If something is not right, Ballard employees make the changes and return it to the physician.
The same process is true for Ballard's regularly produced items. A mold is made and put on a machine. Hot plastic is poured into the mold and within 30 seconds several of the component parts of the medical devices are completed. This process goes on 24 hours per day in automatic machines that seldom need attention.
All of the parts are taken to an assembly area where large groups of workers dressed in blue laboratory coats and white hair nets (for cleanliness) bring all of the parts together. The finished devices are sterilized before packaging and then placed in boxes for shipment.
About the only finished products the company purchases are plastic tubing and paper, Ballard said. "Because we produce everything, we don't have to depend on anybody and we can respond to the market quickly," he said. The technicians also make some of the machines used in the production and packaging process.
Ballard has focused on products used in hospital critical care areas and operating rooms, as well as items used in infection control. Treschitta said it is important for clinicians to be protected from diseases transmitted by the patient and it is important to protect patients from diseases transmitted by the clinician.
One of Ballard's products is called Trach Care, which is a device used on critically ill patients that permits removal of secretions from the lungs without unhooking the oxygen source. Another system is used to clean patients' mouths. Still another drains condensation fluids from a ventilator circuit to a closed canister for disposal. A safety shield kit Ballard produces contains an eye shield, a face mask and gloves.
For newborn babies there is a secretion-removal system and a percussor (used to gently tap a newborn's body), both of which are disposable and are thrown away after one use.
Ballard's foam care system consists of several types of foam for different uses and the lotion that prevents the return of bacteria. The small plastic disposable brushes aid in the scrubbing. There also is a foam and dispensers used to prep patients for surgery.
Treschitta said foam reduces the surgery preparation time because it doesn't require water for use.
Ballard Medical got its start in one small building at 6864 S. Third West, and has expanded into 71,000 square feet of space.
The company recently acquired a building across Third West for future expansion and this year will expand its international market to the Far East and Europe, which means that physicians in those areas might soon be scrubbing for surgery with Ballard foam.