Veteran aviation supplier adds medical device wing

For PWI, a maker of lighting and electronic devices, the aviation industry has always been its largest market.

While it will remain in the aviation industry, it's taking on a new business as a way to diversify — medical devices.

To do that, it had to change its thinking.

"The big thing for us was getting over the fear factor of medical devices," said Robi Lorik, PWI president. "I had all these images of pacemakers and replacement hips and whatnot."

Entering the medical devices industry won't be a big leap, Lorik said. It has the equipment, knowledge and personnel, he said.

And it already works in an industry that requires oversight and government certification of products.

"One of our core competencies has been lighting," Lorik said. And he said the company can make laser products that use the low-level laser technology used in medicine.

"Light is light, and lasers are a frequency of light," Lorik said. "There's really no difference in technology. It's just about what frequency you use when it goes to building the product."

Rather than develop its own products for the medical industry, it wants to be a contract manufacturer for other groups that do the engineering or research and development.

Before it can manufacture a product, it must first obtain the certifications from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required to manufacture medical devices. It's preparing to begin that process.

The change also may require some changes to its facility, such as adding a special "clean room" where devices will be manufactured, he said.

Diversifying its products is a way to adjust from the impact of a downturn in the general aviation industry. PWI's employment dropped from 70 before the downturn to 35 today.

"It's just been a tough last two and a half years," Lorik said.

"We're not just sitting around wallowing in the poor economy and saying, 'Poor me.'

"We're looking at all the possibilities."

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