Medux is the umbrella name for a cluster of companies that supply healthcare and rehabilitation aids and support services to healthcare insurers, facilities, professionals and (local) governments. With an eye on the growing number of elderly people and their rising life expectancy, this NPM participation is in the process of reinventing itself, according to CEO Jop Pollmann and CCO René Martens. ‘We are leading the market, but we can lead it even better.’
Medux has been growing rapidly for years: last year by about 8%, with revenues rising to 400 million euros. Why consider a strategic reorientation?
Martens: “You are right that we have had our hands full simply managing the organic growth. But when Jop came in as the new CEO, it was a natural moment to take a fresh look at the future. This process has led us to redefine our ‘why’.” Pollmann: “We determined together that our market is going to double in volume over the next fifteen years. The combination of an aging population and a rising life expectancy will result in a society with a far larger group of elderly people, and hence also more people who will need healthcare aids of various types. Of course, that is an opportunity for us. But there is another side to this, because the labour market is tightening. Simply scaling up our current business model – doing more by hiring more people – is not an option. So we set ourselves the goal of working smarter instead, by investing more than before in digitalisation. This strategy has internal ramifications, such as digitalising our logistics, route planning, scheduling and various product categories. But we also want to become more digitally connected to our clients, through better customer portals, omnichannel service delivery, and digital invoicing for municipalities and healthcare insurers. Martens: “I might add that we are also adding a digital component to our medical equipment itself, allowing it to be connected to the internet of things. Soon, we will know exactly what items are stored where in a nursing home, and we will be able to monitor the technical maintenance status of mobility scooters from afar. That does not just improve the user experience of our products, but will also allow us to save costs.”
Will that require negotiating with your suppliers?
Pollmann: “In general, many of these solutions are already available on the market. Our main challenge is that our product range encompasses a vast range of medical equipment made by many, many suppliers. A certain degree of standardisation in the market would benefit us. To make that happen, we will have to assert our role as a market leader, in the literal sense. We may have been the market leader, in terms of market share, for some time. But we can be better leaders for the market. That is what we want to focus on now. It also means that we will be thinking along with suppliers throughout the research and development phase of their new products. Instead of buying something ready-made out of the catalogue, we want to try and influence the entire life cycle of the products.”
Martens: “We are well aware that digitalisation is not just a matter of more and better IT, but something that concerns every aspect of the business, and that means each of our 2500 employees. To achieve our desired rise in efficiency, we will also invest in additional training of our staff. The department of Learning and Development has quadrupled and offers a curriculum to all our colleagues. We are also developing management development training programmes and will do more career counselling in the future.”
Does Medux have the in-house knowhow to make these digitalisation efforts a success, or will you need to lean on external expertise?
Pollmann: “There is a lot we can do ourselves, and as we said, we are also investing significantly in internal training and education. But external expertise can be very valuable and we want to welcome it. On June 1st, two new directors have joined our Board: Rianne Meijerman and Huub Vermeulen. Rianne came from Philips, and she can help us with the digitalisation of our entire product range. Huub was previously CEO at bol.com and he has an impressive track record in the digitalisation of ordering processes.” Martens: “Our challenge is that we want to transform, but we also want to offer the guarantee that our end users will have the healthcare aids they need delivered within 24 hours. We are like roadside assistance: when there is an acute technical issue, we can't tell people ‘sorry, I suggest you sleep on the floor tonight, because your bed won't come until tomorrow.’ The same is true for ordering. In some ways, we are a more complex company than bol.com: besides outbound product flows, we deliver services and also deal with large inbound flows, refurbishing, and so on.”
Will Medux continue to focus primarily on the Dutch market?
Pollmann: “We evaluated our European growth opportunities in 2021. In the process, we realised that we are a market leader on a European scale as well. That is not to say that there are no other large players, but they tend to operate in markets that are less well-developed than the Dutch one. Either way, our research led us to take a first step toward expanding our activities in Europe by acquiring Medequip Assistive Technology in the UK. Medequip offers a wide range of healthcare aids and home support, allowing people to live independently for longer. Just like Medux, they are a partner of healthcare facilities. They employ about a thousand people, so through this acquisition our company has grown by about 50%. A larger scale also means we have more resources to further digitalisation, standardisation and innovation in the market.”
To what extent is sustainability part of that strategy?
Pollmann: “Sustainability cannot be ignored and we are extremely active in that respect. In part, because we know that new corporate social responsibility legislation is around the corner, but also because sustainability is an increasingly important part of large tenders, both nationally and internationally. We also pursue sustainability as part of our vision on real market leadership. We simply want to be ahead of the curve and achieve carbon neutrality before Europe and the Dutch government demand it.”