Jarl Severn, Owen Mumford’s Managing Director, talks to B4’s Richard Rosser about the company’s role as a global leader in the medical devices field, developing the talent pool and maintaining their innovative edge.
About Owen Mumford
‘We are a family company jointly owned by the Owens and the Mumfords and this year we are 67 years old. We have been around in this space that we currently occupy, medical devices, for the last 30 years. We design, we manufacture and we sell through our own organisation all of our own products around the world. We have sales offices from Asia to North America and around Europe as well. That has been our business model for many, many years and so far we have been relatively successful and we certainly enjoy being in this sector.’
About Jarl Severn
‘I was born and raised in Denmark and I came to the UK as a young teenager when my father got a job here. I left school after my A Levels and joined Maersk, a Danish conglomerate and worked for them for about eleven years. I then joined Invacare, a large American group who specialise in medical equipment. They posted me to Switzerland for five years, after which I returned to the UK and joined Owen Mumford, where I have been for the past ten years.’
‘Our Woodstock office is our global HQ and we have over 700 employees here. In the ten years I have been here we have grown the company organically by 70%. As I like to tell the staff and all of our associates, what has brought us to where we are now will, I very much doubt, be what takes us to our next step and future growth. Technology changes, products change, the markets change and we need to change, we need to adapt to all of those changes. To do that we need to continue to invest and we are going through quite a large investment programme right here in Oxfordshire. We are building a new factory in Woodstock inside our current premises to introduce future products to keep us here in Oxfordshire for the foreseeable future.’
More investment = more people?
‘With modern processes we like to think we can make more with the same number of people and thereby increasing productivity and efficiency. However, we are always looking for new people as there are certain areas of the business that are growing, not least our need for engineers, toolmakers and designers…the specialist areas where we are looking for good people to join us. It is one of the key challenges we have in this area because we are competing with a lot of great companies locally for the same skills.’
As an Oxfordshire Voice partner, are you confident that Owen Mumford can attract the right skills to the business for the future?
‘Oxford is a very desirable area, for many reasons. The geography is fantastic, we are centrally located, we are in the Cotswolds …it’s a wonderful place to be. There are fantastic educational institutions on the doorstep, with whom we work, so attracting people to the area is always going to be relatively easy, on the surface.
‘But, actually getting people to settle here and make this their place to work has its own challenges. The infrastructure, communication, houses…all of those elements beg questions which we are keen to see answers to in the long term. By joining Oxfordshire Voice, alongside fellow employers in the area, to try and make sure that we can find solutions or at least ask the right questions of the people who can find the right solutions to deal with some of these issues, is very important for us.’
How are you working to get around the aforementioned issues like skills, transport, housing etc…?
‘Certainly in terms of skills we are very much involved in local schools – for example we encourage STEM subjects to be prioritised in The Marlborough School here in Woodstock and also Chipping Norton School, so that we have a steady flow of young people who have an interest in engineering to come through the school system and at least consider Owen Mumford as an employer of choice in the future. That, coupled with quite a large apprenticeship scheme means that we don’t become reliant on attracting skills, we are actively playing a role in developing skills internally as well as locally.’
Local development of talent means a more local workforce?
‘Certainly it helps us to attract staff from a more local catchment area. It helps if pupils are interested in engineering and its related disciplines as an attractive career choice – that’s a very important first step. We may not be able to retain them forever, but, just by encouraging STEM subjects to be considered more proactively by boys and girls at school at an early stage is a really important mission for us.’
4th Queen’s Award in 2018 and global recognition
‘This was for innovation and that has been one of the cornerstones of our business. We are pioneers and the first in the field of medical devices in many different areas. Last year it was a pen needle for insulin pens that got us recognised and we have had tremendous commercial and business success with that device globally.’
The cost of innovation
‘Innovation undoubtedly comes at a cost. We have a very large research and development team here and we literally invest millions of pounds every year. In fact, we invite our research and development team to come up with a new globally patentable invention every 30 days. That is quite a tach rate. We are very proud to say that we hit that consistently and repeatedly every year. This gives us a very rich source of intellectual property to choose from and then invest in, industrialise and go out and promote and sell in the future.’
‘We of course patent our inventions – today we have a patent portfolio of in excess of 175 different inventions. But, a patent has a lifespan, typically twenty years, after which we have to contend with competition. It’s then the cost of the product that becomes key. We can’t just rely on cost reduction … we have to continually add new, innovative products so that we can continue to be different and bring value to the customers so that they continue to choose Owen Mumford as their supplier of medical devices.’