Innovation in the Cornfields
In rural Birmingham, OH, about 40 miles west of Cleveland, one of the world’s leaders in meat processing and food service is innovating in unexpected ways. Bettcher Industries, founded in 1944 with $800 in a small machine shop in the Cleveland meat district, is innovating in very non-traditional markets and making an impact. Bettcher’s history of growth lies in understanding and leveraging customers’ needs.
In the 1940’s, when meat companies didn’t have the money to buy new equipment because of the war their old machines were kept running by Louis Bettcher who made parts that couldn’t be replaced. Louis knew repairing these machines was temporary; the meat companies needed entirely new types of machines and systems, so he invented them! Over time, Bettcher expanded the types of meat to be processed and added foodservice equipment. Several of its inventions have won global awards.
In addition to making meat processing more efficient, productive and safe, Bettcher ergonomically designed its equipment to minimize its customers’ employee injury and strain. For Bettcher, a second generation family business, it’s customers’ employees are an extension of it’s own family of employees. The strong family, compassionate culture, is palpable when you walk through Bettcher’s halls. Even though Bettcher has successfully grown globally, it hasn’t rested on its laurels.
Bettcher has explored other markets to leverage their core competency in automating cutting operations and processes. They realized their expertise and equipment was well suited for the medical industry. For instance, the process to increase burn and wound healing includes removing the dead or decaying flesh in a way that leaves a smooth, evenly thick surface for grafts and healing. Bettcher’s equipment dramatically improves the efficiency, quality and safety of these procedures over existing medical tools.
With Bettcher’s tools, the physician’s procedure time is reduced by 80%, which also reduces risk of infection and cost. The design of the tools reduces the number of parts to be sterilized, reducing risk of cross-contamination and cost. The tools also improve the quality of tissue and bone grafts. And, given Bettcher’s emphasis on ergonomics, the design, material and efficiency of the tools reduces user injury. For the patient, the benefits are iterative since these procedures are repeated frequently: shorter and easier procedures with less risk of infection, and hopefully less pain.
To commercialize the product line, Bettcher is collaborating with Community Tissue Services in Dayton, OH for additional testing and evaluation. Because of Bettcher’s collaborative culture, unique technology and job creation potential, they were granted $1MM by the Ohio Third Frontier to commercialize this new product line. Who knew that in the farmland of Northeast Ohio, in an area dominated by corn and soy, tremendous advances in healing were being made? You just may be surprised!
Deb, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, is an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm.
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