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Briggs Medical plans to surpass last year’s 80 percent growth


Hospitals and clinics can’t afford to wait a week to get supplies when they’re running low on necessities such as syringes and gloves.

Briggs Medical Service Co. in West Des Moines has achieved 15-fold growth in the last 20 years by meeting the time-sensitive needs of its customers and adding new product lines and subsidiaries to serve its clients in the health-care industry.

“The health-care industry needs products that they can get on a regular basis and that we can deliver to them in a matter of a day or two,” said Steve Hoffman, Briggs’ executive vice president for business development. “That’s very key for our customers, that we’re able to get them their products when they need them, and that’s something that we’ve done well for a long time.”

Briggs Medical added two affiliate companies to its roster in 2004 when it purchased Duro-Med Industries Inc. and Mabis Healthcare Inc. Together, the companies employ about 450 people, with more than half of those in West Des Moines. They serve a variety of sectors within the health-care industry, including acute care, long-term and extended care, physicians and clinics, and assisted living.

The companies also sell specialty products to podiatrists, chiropractors and sports trainers. Hoffman said trainers for professional sports teams, including the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, purchase orthopedic products from Briggs Medical.

Founded in 1947 by Blaine Briggs, Briggs Medical changed hands several times before it was acquired in 1984 by Merwyn Dan, who is its chairman and CEO. In April, the company and its affiliates reported an 80 percent increase in revenues during 2004 from the previous year.

Although Briggs Medical’s products and services have expanded over the years, one of its original product lines, professional documentation systems, are still a big part of business today, Hoffman said.

“Between Medicare and Medicaid and a lot of other external factors, the documentation and record keeping in the medical industry has become very significant,” he said. “If you go in to see the doctor, there’s a good chance that your medical history form or the form the nurse uses to take notes could be provided by Briggs Corp.”

Like the documentation forms, many of the more than 12,500 products Briggs Medical sells are one-use items. As a result, the company is constantly taking orders and making shipments. Briggs Medical takes great care to ensure that it processes and ships orders with accuracy by 4 p.m. on the day the orders were placed.

“We fill in excess of 95 percent of our products with in-stock inventory and we ship with more than 99 percent accuracy,” Hoffman said. “If somebody orders 10 of something, we get them 10. We have an enormously high compliance rate.”

The company ships those orders from its distribution centers in Clive; Waukegan, Ill.; Sparks, Nev.; Atlanta and Jesup, Ga.; Scranton, Pa.; and Dallas, Texas. Hoffman said Briggs Medical’s sales are greatest in heavily populated parts of the United States and in areas with a high concentration of senior citizens.

Home care is a segment of business with enormous growth potential, Hoffman said, as Americans try to minimize the amount of time they spend in hospitals and care facilities.

“There is a continuous trend in the health-care industry that more services are being offered in the home instead of hospitals or clinical settings and in the home,” Hoffman said. “More people spend their recuperation time from illnesses in the home as opposed to acute care or intermediate care, and Baby Boomers seem to have a strong desire to have more services provided for them in the home or on an outpatient basis.”

This trend is causing a growing demand to make medical products more accessible to the public. In response, Briggs Medical is selling more of its products to retailers, including digital thermometers, blood pressure monitors and hot and cold gel packs.

“We’re selling more and more of our products directly into the consumer market through retail outlets,” Hoffman said. “We’re developing new relationships with retailers all the time.”

With its new products, affiliate companies and larger customer base, Hoffman said he expects Briggs Medical to surpass 2004’s sales and profits this year and repeat double-digit sales growth.

“We are continually looking for products that will fill niches or roles in the marketplace, both for our retailers and customers that are direct health-care providers,” he said.

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