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Brian Stewart, director of manufacturing for Sekisui Diagnostics P.E.I., left, Cathy Adams and Cody Gotell, packaging technicians, discuss the launching of a multi-million-dollar plant renovation in Charlottetown coinciding with its five-year anniversary in the province.
When Brian Stewart, originally from Crapaud, completed his engineering studies and headed to Ontario for employment, he assumed he wouldn’t live in P.E.I. until retirement.
But, new opportunities are flourishing in the P.E.I. bioscience sector. Stewart is now director of manufacturing overseeing Sekisui Diagnostics P.E.I. in Charlottetown – the largest North American facility in Sekisui Chemical’s Diagnostics Group.
Sekisui’s origins in P.E.I. are rooted in Diagnostic Chemicals, founded by P.E.I. entrepreneur Regis Duffy. Acquired by Genzyme Corporation in 2007, the company was purchased in 2011 by Sekisui Chemical. It is headquartered in Japan and has 23,000 employees worldwide and $13 billion in annual sales.
The P.E.I. facility develops and manufactures clinical chemistry reagents and diagnostic tests, primarily for cardiovascular, liver, and infectious diseases, and diabetes. Each year, 1.5 billion clinical chemistry tests made at the P.E.I. facility are used worldwide.
“Our diagnostics are essential to measuring and improving human health,” says Graham Coll, manufacturing process development scientist.
Since Sekisui arrived in P.E.I., its annual revenues have grown 125 per cent and staffing from 70-to-117 employees. The company just signed a 12-year lease on its facility with a multi-million-dollar renovation planned to maximize space and efficiency. A new packaging line will dramatically increase capacity.
The company is implementing Lean Six Sigma training for all P.E.I. employees.
“It empowers staff to see problems and promote efficiencies,” says senior operations manager Eugene Howatt. “Six Sigma is part of Sekisui’s “lean” culture, and our P.E.I. model includes everyone, promoting employee engagement. We’re family oriented and haven’t lost our P.E.I. roots.”
Vickie Perry and Cathy Adams agree. Perry, quality assurance specialist, began working for Diagnostic Chemicals in 2000 and still relishes coming to work.
“Everyone’s involved in the finished product. People matter here.”
Adams, a P.E.I. grandmother with fish-plant experience, is a packaging technician.
“We’re proud to help people around the world. Plus, I appreciate the fulltime job and benefits.”
With its fifth anniversary, Sekisui is poised for future success.
“We’re established and growing, “says Stewart. “There’s great support from government and the P.E.I. BioAlliance. Sekisui’s a hidden gem people need to know about.”
Sekisui is launching an engagement program to connect with Island students.
“We have high-quality jobs, all of them attainable with local degrees,” says Stewart. “Opportunities exist; our job is to showcase them. And in the process, we may pull others back to P.E.I.”
- Margaret Magner, Ph.D., is a freelance journalist in Charlottetown (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on P.E.I.’s bioscience sector.