Acuson ends dual track in product engineering

February 26, 1992

Acuson closed its nascent Seattle ultrasound engineering facilityearlier this year. Coordination of complex product developmentprograms between Acuson's Mountain View, CA, headquarters andthe Seattle facility proved too hard to handle, according to

Acuson closed its nascent Seattle ultrasound engineering facilityearlier this year. Coordination of complex product developmentprograms between Acuson's Mountain View, CA, headquarters andthe Seattle facility proved too hard to handle, according to SamuelH. Maslak, president and CEO.

The dedicated ultrasound vendor hired Quantum Medical Systemsco-founder Paul R. Norris in late 1990 to establish and lead thesecond R&D effort (SCAN 12/12/90). Norris' engineering groupdid initiate several development projects, which will continuein California, Maslak said.

"The programs and projects we had planned for Seattle arevery much under way. We made the decision to move them down toMountain View because we found we needed more coordination thanwe were able to achieve with the two organizations so far apart,"he said.

Norris opted to leave Acuson and remain in the Seattle area whenthe center was closed.

"We very much appreciate what Paul has done for us,"Maslak said. "He played a key role in Acuson's strategicplanning process, which among other things ultimately resultedin this decision. It wasn't the outcome any of us wanted, butit became clear that this was the way to move those (projects)ahead as fast as possible."

Acuson's decision to close the Seattle engineering site wasn'ta reaction to the sluggish ultrasound market (see story, pagemm1), he said. The vendor increased product development expenses23% in 1991 (end December) from $27 million in 1990 to $33 million.

"We have made a very significant expansion in engineeringexpenses, both in absolute dollars and as percentage of revenues,"Maslak said.

The original concept behind the Seattle engineering effort wasto increase Acuson's R&D productivity by running two developmentprograms simultaneously. These programs could then make separatebut coordinated leaps at new technology.

"Even though those principles seemed sound, it didn't cometo fruition. The reason was distance and complexity of interrelatedprograms," Maslak said.

Acuson had also hoped to improve its access to trained ultrasoundengineers by recruiting in Seattle. The market for engineers inCalifornia's Silicon Valley had been very tight in 1990. Sincethen, the supply of available engineering talent has increasedwith the recession, Maslak said.