In 1988, Medtronic established its first perfusion set assembly plant in Kerkrade, Netherlands. The site was primarily chosen because of its proximity to an existing Medtronic pacemaker production, which facilitated employee cooperation.
Medtronic Cardiac officially opened its doors on Oct. 27, 1989, with 10 employees, including some new hires. The first products were assembled in a 400-square-meter cleanroom on the building's second floor. Over the years, under the inspiring leadership of Gerrit Harder, retired Director of Operations, and Helma van den Berg, Senior Manufacturing Manager, the organization gradually expanded.
Medtronic bought Avecor Cardiovascular, Inc. in 1998, and a decision had to be made whether to close the Kerkrade facility and transfer production to another site – or to expand the existing plant. It was decided to add 600 square meters of cleanroom space to Kerkrade and production was stepped up. Guided by the plant's motto, "Quality first, quality second and quality third," Medtronic acquired its marketplace reputation as a quality benchmark for custom perfusion sets.
After Harder's retirement in 2009 after 20 years with Medtronic, Frank van Wijk, Director of Operations, took his place. "I had some pretty big shoes to fill," van Wijk said. "The last five years have been anything but quiet. We've had to pull out all the stops, making changes to comply with new government regulations, upgrading our quality assurance system, and launching new products, We've seen our sales grow even faster than before. In the past year, we installed a new air-processing system in the cleanroom, made warehouse improvements, and added a new training center. All this was done so we can offer customers an even higher standard of service."
This past November, Kerkrade employees officially celebrated the plant's 25-year-anniversary. "Medtronic Cardiac has had an exciting and productive 25 years. I am proud to have been a part of it for the past five years. Every employee is to be congratulated for their help in making this facility a quality benchmark for the organization and the market," van Wijk concluded.