Synergy of Solutions

Equipmed

Equipmed is a leading cosmeceutical, dermatological, disinfection and aesthetic equipment supplier and manufacturer, with operations in the US, UK and a head office in Sydney. The company has three quite distinct divisions: medical skin, cosmetic skin and infection control…

The Equipmed brand is aimed firmly at the trade – doctors’ surgeries, clinics, salons and physicians – while many of the individual products are also available to retail consumers; the company has a balance between the aesthetic and medical sectors. Chief Executive, Stene Marshall explains that in the last ten years or so the beauty side of the business has dominated the revenue, led by high-priced equipment such as IPLs and lasers, often valued at $100,000 or more. “But the days of the hundred-thousand dollar units are pretty much over,” he explains. “These days the medical side of the business is gathering greater momentum, due mainly to continuing product growth, giving us a more balanced revenue stream.”

There is a great deal of innovation in the area of dermatology in particular. Equipmed has recently released new products for confocal microscopy and is close to launching a non-image based diagnostic tool, “the first such tool to be clinically proven around the world,” shares Stene. “We are very excited about it.” Skin diagnostics is the primary focus of the industry right now, with several major advances almost simultaneously releasing after a relative lull.

Equipmed is both a supplier and a manufacturer and so does not tie itself in to a particular range “unless we feel they are continuing to provide innovation. All the time we are looking for new innovation, new products and trying to lead the market rather than follow it.” That leads to a core group of customers that will follow Equipmed’s lead on almost every introduction, but in fact the marketplace is too dynamic and competitive to have room for much in the way of customer loyalty. “In reality the market moves at its own pace and everyone is trying to create noise to get themselves heard,” says Stene. “The market doesn’t just come to you no matter how good your product is.”

Going back over a history of nearly 40 years (it was established in 1976), Equipmed has always had its roots in ‘real’ medicine (as opposed to cosmetic or elective procedures), starting with GPs and then spreading heavily into cardiology before entering the skin business in 1997. Having the two different aspects has been of benefit as the two rarely seem to both be booming at the same time so one tends to be up while the other is down. Stene agrees that there is some serious benefit to be derived by the beauty side of the business with the company’s involvement in the medical side. “However, we do try to keep them quite separate, with separate personnel and marketing strategies.”

As a brand though, Equipmed is known today for a fairly defined range of product categories, and Stene explains that a marketing initiative called Synergy of Solutions is now being used to help the market better understand, and better tie in, the various brands the company promotes. “That is the way the market is going – to provide a synergy of treatment to provide the best outcomes the market wants. It is no longer acceptable to just have ‘a laser’ or ‘a dermabrasion system,’” that a clinic might market to successfully bring in its clientele. There is a need for synergy both as a supplier and as a treatment provider. Synergy of Solutions makes it easier for the industry to look at the three strands of Equipmed’s business.

Stene takes an interesting line on the infection control side, which is the youngest of the three streams. It is only recently that medical institutions – in general – have begun to take infection control seriously, he argues, beyond the very basics of sweeping the floors and actions at that sort of prime level. “A lot of infection control movements have been lip-service rather than action,” he explains. “In the last years it has turned more to action and concerted efforts have been made by the whole market to address some of the issues that have been plaguing them for a long time.”

There has of course been an awareness of infection control in medical circles for many years – sterilising via autoclaves or wiping down benches, for example. “But really that is the tip of the iceberg when you come to look at the problems that are causing the real issues,” some of which include people – in worst-case scenarios – dying in healthcare institutions. This is about headline grabbers such as ‘superbugs’, MRSA, clostridium difficile and other modern phenomena; viruses and infections that, says Stene, “can be spread in an institutional environment.” Equipmed has advanced systems that can deactivate any known virus of this kind, but Stene points out that they cannot always be completely eradicated. “Given that they are transferred on human touch, they are drawn into the institutions on a daily basis.”

Equipmed maintains staff in Europe to head up that operation and handle the distribution there. The US operation is handled from Sydney (the company also has offices in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth) – surprising at first sight, given that the US is generally thought of as the world’s main market for everything to do with cosmetic surgery and all the nip-and-tuck procedures that are available today for personal enhancement. However, Stene has an interesting take on this too: the US market is not as advanced as you might think and it’s not like selling coal to Newcastle at all. Buyers at both the wholesale and retail levels in the US tend to be sheltered from the innovations that are happening around the world. “They don’t get to see a lot of it,” he says. Partly this is because of the naturally protective effect of the ultra-strong FDA, which regulates the entire market rigidly. Ultimately, he believes the US market only gets to see around a fifth of what really goes on in the rest of the world in terms of new products and processes.

“As a company we are moving more and more into innovation of our own,” he asserts. Because of its experience and position in the market, Equipmed can see or even foresee shifts in demand. “The Dermapen and laser technologies are examples. The Dermapen Family has for example a needling device, but also just released is the Dermapen Cryo. The range will soon include a radio frequency device providing needling and radio frequency at the same time.”

The company has few obvious competitors, the only others being divisions of major multinational conglomerates. Stene looks forward with a mix of joy and trepidation to further growth, but claims the next innovation, to appear shortly, will be a winner. It’s the E-Lux laser, “which is going to set the hair removal market on its ear. As we know, it’s quite a big market.” And he promises to research a version that has a reverse gear for those of us for whom removal is less of a problem than replacement.

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December 12, 2017, 10:54 PM AEDT

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