Q&A with Guillaume Laverdure, CEO at Medicom
by Madalene Arias
Laverdure shared with Canadian Manufacturing the three pillars that shape Medicom's future.
When the coronavirus arrived in Canada and the population began to see its first outbreaks, Medicom became the company the federal government turned to for the rapid production of protective equipment desperately needed in hospitals and various other institutions across the country.
Medicom’s roots in supplying medical protective equipment within and outside of crisis periods go as far back as the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s.
As the company’s new CEO, Guillaume Laverdure explained, Medicom would step back into this role in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak.
Canadian Manufacturing had the opportunity to speak to Laverdure about his new role with Medicom, the company’s future and its journey in strengthening the domestic supply chain for PPE.
Q: Tell us about your history with Medicom and your plans for the future with the company?
A: I joined Medicom in 2009. It was in the middle of the H1N1 pandemic. I was coming from a background where I had experience in Europe and North America, manufacturing and finance, general management.
So I came to Medicom in 2009 to have the second part of a career in Canada, my first being in Europe and the U.S.
Medicom has grown a lot by building on the core business which is really the PPE business as well as manufacturing, distributing.
That’s what helped to answer the surge in demand at the beginning of COVID, which was a lot. We had four factories prior to COVID, and we opened six factories in six months during COVID just to answer the needs of local governments, institutions, distributors, hospitals to get more PPE.
Q: What was your personal role in helping Medicom make those adjustments to meet those demands at the beginning of the pandemic?
A: I was a chief operating officer, so I was coordinating all of the functions.
One thing we did with with COVID-19, because of the rapid expansion, and the worldwide aspect of the crisis, we reinforced the worldwide governance and leadership for the group. We have three divisions, one in Asia, one in Europe, one in North America, and they were run with a lot of autonomy and independence because they were local markets.
COVID-19 made us realize that all these markets were intricate, and the needs were global. So, we worked a lot in reinforcing the global footprint, leadership team and capability.
I was coordinating the whole team between the divisions, the global functions, to make sure that the projects we had, like building a factory in the country in record time, were successful.
Q: Now, in your new role as a CEO, what are your plans for the company?
A: I don’t know if we’re exiting COVID or not. There are waves which are still going on. We’ve had two years of just very, very active demand projects and so on.
We embarked on a plan with three pillars. One is to consolidate our basics, which were shaken by the rapid growth and the crazy demand that we had with COVID — its our people our systems our supply chain.
The second pillar is to control our destiny by integrating vertically. One of the things that COVID made us realize even more, even if we were already producing before, is that we need to be controlling our manufacturing to be in a position to answer the rapid surge in demands in markets. That’s why we built a factory during COVID.
That’s why we have three projects running now with three new factories, through which we’ll be making nitrile gloves — one is in France, one in Canada — which is new for us.
We used to buy these gloves from Southeast Asia and one in Montreal was used to produce the filter medium which goes into masks, which is a key raw material for the masks.
The third part is how do we innovate? How do we bring better products to the market? For example, we’re working very diligently with some good results on greener products, being recycling biodegradability — all these products with added value so that they better serve the protection of the people in the healthcare system.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the efforts to make greener products that are biodegradable?
A: It’s confidential research, so I can’t talk too much about it, but we don’t have biodegradable masks on the market. And recycling them is very difficult because the collection is very difficult in hospitals. It makes them a product which is not as green as we would like them to be for the environment but with a high demand and high consumption. So, we are working on developing new solutions.
Q: What issues have come up for the company as a result of labour shortages in manufacturing and what strategies do you have for mitigating them?
A: The success of Medicom during COVID is thanks to its employees, who were here, trained and had a sense of purpose.
We doubled our headcount during COVID, bringing new people and where it was a challenge on the market because of shortage, it was a bit easier for us because of the sense of purpose that people felt at Medicom producing PPE to protect our healthcare workers.
In many countries, recruiting is a challenge, so we are focusing on our employees first, making sure the conditions, environment, communication are helping them. We’re also investing in automation. We’ve bought a highly automated investment during COVID-19. The factories we are building are also going to be highly automated.
Q: And in terms of the supply chain, you described a bit of the changes you made to meet the demand during the pandemic. Going forward, what strategies would you implement to strengthen the supply chain for PPE?
A: We’ve always had the vision that we needed local manufacturing to answer some of the demand and some of the needs.
What COVID revealed is that the supply chain resiliency is key. How do we do that? We do that by producing more locally.
So, reorganization of manufacturing, onshoring of manufacturing is very important to guarantee supply, and that’s why we built our factory in Montreal, for example. That’s why we’re building the glove factory in Canada as an example.
Building even stronger relationship with suppliers, with redundancy. We will favour suppliers who have redundancy and resiliency themselves.
The redundancy and resiliency is in all the stages of of our supply chain to answer that challenge.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.