All production lines at all facilities are operating at pre-hurricane levels.
When visitors arrive at any of the Medtronic production facilities in Puerto Rico, they can’t tell by looking that a hurricane had devastated this area just weeks earlier.
They don’t notice on the production line either.
Every production line, for every product at every Medtronic facility in Puerto Rico is now operating at pre-hurricane levels.
“The employees are proud and so are we,” said Felix Negron, vice president of Medtronic Puerto Rico Operations Company (MPROC). “In the days after the storm, we just put up a sign at the gate saying ‘come help us.’ And the next day hundreds of workers came to help clean up. It was inspiring.”
The return to full production has happened even though Medtronic facilities in Juncos, Humacao and Villalba have been operating on generator power since immediately after the storm. In Ponce, where Medtronic produces a variety of minimally invasive medical products, utility power was restored in October.
Jonathan Torres, newly-hired Medtronic employee in Puerto Rico.
“This was a huge test for us,” said Victor Martinez, the director of manufacturing for the RTG and CRHF product lines in Juncos. “Not only getting back to production and serving the patients, but also because our employees did all this while dealing with a lot of personal matters.”
Virtually all Medtronic employees, like everyone else on the island, suffered some sort of damage in the storm. Power has remained out over large areas of Puerto Rico. Albert Rodriguez, who helps build screws for spine surgery in Humacao, says he was motivated to return to work as soon as possible, in part because Medtronic did so much to help him after the storm.
“I’m very grateful,” he said as he fired up the power generator that Medtronic helped him acquire. “The company proved it cares about us with all the things they provided, and it means a lot.”
Medtronic provided free meals to its 5,000 employees in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and paid their wages even while production was offline. The company also brought in more than one million bottles of water, as well as thousands of boxes of food. And it provided 40,000 gallons of free gasoline, on-site laundromats and day care for employees, along with a variety of other services such as banking and help with FEMA applications.
26-year-old Jonathan Torres heard all about that, and decided Medtronic is the kind of place he’d like to work.
He applied for a job, and was hired shortly after the hurricane.
Felix Negron, VP of Medtronic Puerto Rico Operations Company
“I already like the fact that everyone here is like a family,” Torres said. “We’re all in the same boat and we help each other out.”
Torres and other new employees were added to the Medtronic workforce in Juncos after the hurricane to help meet the worldwide demand for diabetes products.
Native Puerto Ricans who work at Medtronic are gratified by the idea their company is helping their island recover.
“We’ve got to rebuild the country as soon as we can,” said Manuel Mellado, director of manufacturing for Medtronic Diabetes in Puerto Rico. “We have to stabilize the economy quickly. And that’s part of what all professionals on the island are trying to do in our respective industries.”
It will be quite some time before Puerto Rico is completely back to normal.
But the return to full production at Medtronic helps.
And the fact that employees and the company joined forces to make that happen is something no one here will soon forget.
“It’s emotional for me,” said Rolando Vazquez, senior manufacturing director for Medtronic Juncos. “It’s very humbling to think about the sacrifices these workers made and I’m very appreciative of what they have done.”
“I never thought I would go through something like this,” Negron said. “The fact that we went through it, and the way we did it, creates a tremendous amount of confidence. We saw what our people are really made of. This proves there is nothing we cannot do.”