Manufacturing success

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RMI moved to Noblesville for more space, now the company is expanding its products

When Peyton Manning had his neck surgery two years ago, a herniated disc in his cervical spine was removed and replaced by a bone graft held in place by steel plates attached to the vertebra above and below the removed disc.

Those steel plates were an orthopedic implant like the ones created by Noblesville’s premier contract manufacturer RMI. Like Manning, many residents locally and across the globe may be walking around with parts created by RMI to replace or provide fixation of a missing joint or bone or to support a damaged bone.

“RMI supplies thousands of products, including titanium, stainless steel and PEEK (polyetheretherketone) plastic implants as well as the specialized tools used by surgeons to install them,” RMI President and General Manager Jim Evans said. “The spinal products help carry the load…  and mechanically separate vertebra.”

RMI began as a contract manufacturer of medical devices in 1995 in Rochester, Ind. It changed its name from Rochester Medical Implants to RMI after making the move to Noblesville in October 2011. Evans said the move to 9650 E. 148th St. significantly added to the company’s capacity and ability to quickly design and produce custom products.

“The Noblesville move has worked out well for us as we now have a world-class facility offering greater access to customers and a skilled workforce,” he said. “It was hard to get talent and retain talent and get customers to visit because it was off the beaten trail. We chose Noblesville because of the location and (the building) being across from a major highway. Customers said this area had good talent and they were right.”

About two thirds of the company’s employees and their families moved to the Noblesville area like Lana Morrison, who has worked for RMI for six and a half years.

“We were prepared to build a new home in Rochester when my husband and I heard the company decided to relocate. So, we put our plans on hold and relocated her,” she said. “We bought a house and were here before the company was.”

Morrison said she loves her job and being able to work and live in Noblesville.

“It’s great to see us growing the way we are,” she said. “I’m glad we’re in Noblesville and not Indy. You’re getting that small town feel but not as small as Rochester. I love the downtown and all the things they have.”

Besides complex assemblies (pictured) creates orthopedic im- plants such as bone screws, cervical plates, expandable interbody implants, fixation components, hooks, interbody cage

Besides complex assemblies (pictured) creates orthopedic im- plants such as bone screws, cervical plates, expandable interbody implants, fixation components, hooks, interbody cage

Office Manager Tammy Ellet still commutes to work, but spends two days a week in the area visiting family and her grandchildren.

“I live her partially,” she joked. “Noblesville is a great place. It still has that hometown feel but offers a lot of amenities that larger cities offer. It’s a great place. If it were up to me I’d live here.”

By moving, RMI also increased its space from 9,000 to 33,000 square feet.

“It was like going from a barn to a palace,” Ellet said. “We were very limited on office and manufacturing space and had outgrown the facility.”

“We installed a Mazak Integrex i200S CNC machine that we just didn’t have space for in our old plant,” Evans said. “The Integrex multi-tasking automation technology gives us an incredible ability to machine small, highly complex parts meeting tight design and production schedules.”

Vice President David E. Langenkamp said the facility has 20 work centers that can produce 200 to 250 pieces a day. The average time per part is 30 minutes but creation can take between 10 minutes to two and a half hours.

“We keep running machines in 45 minute cycles,” Langenkamp said. “It’s sculpted from raw material.”

Raw materials consist of titanium, stainless steel, aluminum, tantalum, special alloys and plastic resins. All unused chunks or filings are recycled. RMI creates orthopedic implants such as bone screws, cervical plates, expandable interbody implants, fixation components, hooks, interbody cages, pedicle screws, rods and stackable cage systems. The company also custom creates many products.

“People who design the products, they’re in charge of all the distribution; we’re just the manufacturer,” Langenkamp said, adding the average lot size is 25 to 50. “We’re a job shop. We’re constantly the first to make it… The paper (documentation) weighs more than the job.”

“Every product we manufacture starts as a 3-D mathematical model in our CAD/CAM system which is used to generate the programs for our CNC machines,” Evans said. “We have a great record of first-time success.”

Noblesville has four medical device manufacturers in the city: RMI, Nexxt Spine, Helmer and King Systems. What separates RMI from others is it has passed formal certification audits to provide equipment to the aviation, defense and space industries such as engine components and braking and landing gear systems. Evans said the move to aerospace manufacturing is a logical one for RMI because of the company’s experience in building precise medical instruments with critical tolerances, short cycle times and repeatable results.

“We have always been in the failure-is-not-an-option business,” he said.

“Having aerospace gets us in the door, where before you couldn’t get answers,”

Langenkamp said. “We make highly precision products. That lends itself very much to avionics and the aerospace industries. We’ve engaged in discussions and are trying to make a splash… The sky is the limit.”

Ellet said the company has 31 employees and is looking to fill another 10 positions in administration, quality control, manufacturing and engineering. Those interested can apply online at www.rmi.us.com.

Robert Herrington

Managing editor of Current in Noblesville. A 1999 graduate of Noblesville High School, Herrington has been covering Noblesville and Hamilton County as a journalist since 2004. The military brat lived all over the east coast before calling Noblesville home since 1994. He and his wife, Maggie, live in the community with their baby daughter (and youngest Boston Red Sox fan), Caroline. From school board to common council meetings, First Friday events and summer concerts in the city parks, Herrington loves to attend and cover all that Noblesville has to offer.

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