EMS Ready To Double Footprint In Bartlett

By Michael Waddell

After holding on to an adjacent parcel of land for more than a decade next to its facility in Bartlett, medical device manufacturer Engineered Medical Systems LLC is gearing up for a major expansion of its facility. The company is investing $10.5 million in a move that will create 40 new jobs.

EMS hopes to break ground by July on the addition of 57,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space to its existing 47,500-square-foot facility at 3325 Appling Road, where it makes surgical instruments, implants and other specialty medical devices almost exclusively in the spinal industry for companies within and outside of Memphis.

“We are at capacity in our existing facility, and yet we’re continuing to see our customer demand growing,” said EMS chief financial officer Charles Stanford. “We’re a $35 million to $40 million business, and we’re doing business with companies with billion-dollar balance sheets. One percent growth to them can overwhelm a shop like this, so we have to manage that.”

EMS, founded in 2003, built its Bartlett facility on the southwest corner of Appling and Brother Boulevard in 2006. The company bought the adjacent land that will be used for the new addition in 2007 in anticipation of a future expansion.

Bartlett-based Engineered Medical Systems LLC produces a variety of surgical instruments and specialty medical devices. (Submitted)

“EMS exemplifies what’s taking place in the medical device industry in the Memphis area,” said John Threadgill, president of the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce. “The company started here in Bartlett in a small multitenant space before building the facility they’re in. They’ve continued to grow by putting out a great product and taking care of their customers.”

The contract manufacturer currently employs 140 people and is excited about keeping its headquarters here and investing in the future of the local market.

“I think the location is fairly central to a number of the TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology) schools,” Stanford said. “TCAT is also building a new training facility across the street from us on Brother Boulevard, so that makes this location even better for us.”

TCAT offers a program that trains individuals to use high-tech, precision equipment known as computer numeric controlled machinery. CNC machinists make up approximately 75 percent of EMS’ workforce and will make up the majority of the 40 new hires generated by the expansion.

“EMS has developed tremendous partnerships with world-leading biomedical OEMs (original equipment manufacturers),” president and CEO Ben Smith said in a recent statement. “We have built an extraordinary team of managers, engineers and machinists that have enabled us to respond to the challenging demands of our industry.”

He added the company’s Bartlett facility has been “foundational” to housing its operations and that EMS is looking forward to expanding its footprint.

Construction is expected to take nine to 10 months before an opening of the new space next spring. A 5,000-square-foot mezzanine deck that overlooks the manufacturing floor will be part of the plans. A general contractor has not been named yet.

EMS has been hiring over the past couple months and will continue to do so between now and when the new facility is ready.

“We have to enhance our management team a bit, so we’ll be looking to hire some quality engineers, manufacturing engineers, quality control team members, and floor coordinators,” Stanford said. “We’ll be using the next several months to get that team in place to support that growth.”

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe recently highlighted the state’s robust medical equipment manufacturing industry, stating Tennessee companies exported more than $3.3 billion in medical equipment and supplies in 2017.

The Bartlett area continues to establish itself as an epicenter of the medical device industry. A Greater Memphis Medical Device Council study released in November 2015 reported device makers employed 6,500 workers directly and another 10,000 indirectly in greater Shelby County, creating an economic impact of $2.7 billion.

“Most of the companies I can think of in the medical device area have been growing – adding more employees, needing more space,” Threadgill said.

The Memphis area has been particularly attractive for device companies because of its logistics distribution channels. Employment in the Memphis medical device industry has grown 50 percent since 1999, more than four times the national rate of growth.