In 1920, a national study listed Reading, Pa., among the top 12 industrial centers of the United States. It was home of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, the Daniels and Duryea Motor Companies, and a significant number of textile manufacturers. One of those manufacturers, Textile Machine Works (TMW), assembled the first American full-fashioned knitting machine and opened a hosiery factory, Berkshire Knitting Mills, that would become the largest full-fashioned knitting mill in the world.
The genesis of Precision Medical Products, Inc. began in the Needle Department of TMW, making precision parts for its own machines and for the knitting industry in general. To train mechanics, the company established a separate educational department, known as the Wyomissing Trade School, in 1927. Eventually the school became incorporated as the Wyomissing Polytechnic Institute and became a fully accredited junior engineering college. This college would later become part of the Pennsylvania State University system, serving as its Berks County Campus. Today, that campus educates over 3,000 students.
From Hosiery Needles to Hypodermic Needles
The focus on engineering — and designing and producing specialty metal products to tight tolerances — would serve TMW well. When the U.S.-based textile market began to decline after World War II, the company looked to expand its business by making medical products. Throughout the 1950s, TMW manufactured hypodermic, vaccinating, and surgical needles for a variety of government and non-government customers.
These capabilities attracted the attention of other companies, and in 1968, North American Rockwell (later Rockwell International) acquired TMW to contribute to a growing business that made parts for the aerospace, electronics, and automotive industries. One of the TMW divisions evolved to become the Arrow Products Division of Rockwell and, in 1972, got contacted by Survival Technology, Inc., a medical device manufacturer located in Bethesda, Md. Survival Technology was designing auto-injector technologies that would enable individuals to self-administer lifesaving medications. Survival needed help manufacturing the product and reached out to Arrow Products for assistance. The collaboration resulted in the EpiPen and AtroPen, devices used to deliver epinephrine and one of medicine’s most successful products.
From Needles to Devices
In 1975, a group of investors bought the Arrow Products Division and called it Arrow International Inc. At the time, a majority of the company’s business was still focused on manufacturing knitting needles and other elements for the knitting industry. Ultimately, however, Arrow International owners hoped to venture more significantly into medical device manufacturing and to develop a proprietary line of products to be sold under the Arrow name. In 1977, it achieved this goal when it became the first company to offer sterile catheter kits with matched components for specific procedures. The kit became extremely popular, especially in teaching hospitals, and it became a great success.
Then, in 1984, Arrow spun off Arrow Precision Products to focus solely on contract manufacturing of medical devices — making parts or subsystems that are used in another company’s end product. Its efforts in medical device manufacturing were so fruitful that, in 1990, Arrow Precision Products sold its remaining textile business to focus solely on making products for diagnostic or treatment purposes.
Putting Precision First
When Arrow Precision Products moved to Denver, Pa., in 1997, it did so with a new name — Precision Medical Products, Inc. (PMP). Almost immediately, the company diversified its business by investing in Hershner Enterprises, an injection and insert molding company, that enabled PMP to add plastic processing and manufacturing capabilities to its already extensive metalworking and assembly portfolio. It would go on to acquire full ownership of Hershner Enterprises and solidify its position as a premier contract medical manufacturer capable of delivering on any project, regardless of size and materials requirements.
PMP got the chance to prove itself on the biggest stage when, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the federal government put out a call for enough vaccination needles to inoculate every person in America in the event of a smallpox attack. PMP won the contract and then delivered more than 400 million bifurcated vaccination needles in 15 months.
Today, Precision Medical Products, Inc. continues to deliver the same precision, quality, and agility from its state-of-the-art, 106,000-square-foot facility in Denver, Pa., built in 2005. With its ISO-certified Class 7 (FS209E Class 10,000) and Class 8 (FS209E Class 100,000) clean room areas, its in-house metalworking and plastic processing capabilities, and its dedicated family of engineers, machinists, assemblers, extruders, visual inspectors, and other specialists, the company can truly call itself a single-source provider to pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers looking for a reliable OEM partner.
It seems such a great leap from Prohibition-era Reading to PMP’s ISO-certified, cleanroom-gleaming facility, but in many ways, it’s not. TMW was founded on a commitment to quality and craftsmanship, to employee development and satisfaction, all of which can be found, just 25 minutes away and more than 90 years later, in a company that remembers its heritage, yet surges forward on a quest for innovation and, of course, precision.