PB opens new Helios factory

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

PLEASANTON, Calif. – A 65% rise in liquid oxygen usage over the past three years has inspired Helios manufacturer Puritan Bennett to move assembly of the personal oxygen device to a new Indiana factory nearly twice as large as the old one.

As a result of the move in late May, PB is striving for a 30% increase in production of the Helios units as well as working on design modifications to improve the product's performance and quickening distribution and service response.

This new thrust toward enhanced logistics doesn't include Invacare, which no longer functions as a Helios distributor. Although neither side would release specifics, the companies reportedly severed ties months ago.

Raj Roychoudhury, PB's group marketing manager for oxygen therapy products, told HME News that as demand for Helios dramatically grew in 2001, the PB corporate braintrust knew production would stagnate unless capacity expanded – quickly.

The new site in Plainfield, Indiana, has more than 140,000 square feet – nearly twice the size of PB's former location in Indianapolis, which had 80,000 square feet.

Relocating Helios production also gives the company an opportunity to improve the design, delivery and service of the product, Roychoudhury said. PB has dispatched a quality improvement team to handle comments about performance and service.

Puritan Bennett's move doesn't surprise Bob McCoy, managing director of Savage, Minnesota-based Valley Inspired Products, an independent testing lab for respiratory products.

"Helios is a marketing phenomenon – it has given high visibility to ambulatory oxygen," McCoy said. "It's the first oxygen product to have consumer pull-through. Consumers like it and are demanding it."

And according to Roychoudhury, Helios sales could inflate to much larger proportions in the future.

"Although we've seen a 65% increase in liquid usage, only 16% of all oxygen patients currently use liquid," he said. "The number of oxygen users is predicted to grow to about 2 million in 10 years, so we've only scratched the surface."

Helios' impact on the respiratory market has helped insulate PB from the financial struggles of its parent company, Tyco International. In fact, more money than ever is being channeled into the division, Roychoudhury said. HME