Companies use x-ray products to redefine corporate images

January 8, 2003

Marketing concentrates on name recognitionEclipsed in recent years by top-tier imaging conglomerates, some midlevel manufacturers of x-ray equipment are trying to emerge from the shadows by increasing their corporate visibility.

Marketing concentrates on name recognition

Eclipsed in recent years by top-tier imaging conglomerates, some midlevel manufacturers of x-ray equipment are trying to emerge from the shadows by increasing their corporate visibility. Canon Medical Systems is scaling up its marketing department under the direction of interim head Elaine Proseus. The move is an extension of efforts over the last few months to project a global identity. Proseus explained that Canon Medical Systems in the U.S. (Irvine, CA) has traditionally operated as a sales office, but the U.S. division is now being positioned as an integral part of Canon's worldwide operation.

With the release at the RSNA meeting of products that enhance or support digital radiography, Canon strategists believe the time is right to launch a marketing effort aimed at attracting a wider array of customers. They hope to build on key new products shown in Chicago. Among these is the company's DR Image Viewer, which allows private practitioners to view, transmit, and archive DR images without PACS.

"Orthopedic surgeons, internal medicine specialists, and many others have asked us for digital radiography for their office buildings, but they didn't have the money to go to a full PACS," Proseus said. "This takes care of the problem."

The new CXDI-40G DR system promises to expand the appeal of Canon technology further. Engineers have revamped the company's amorphous silicon flat-panel sensor, which has evolved from a 17 x 17-inch detector composed of four panels stitched together to a detector fabricated as a single piece. This design has reduced the cost of manufacture, while miniaturized electronics have allowed the detector to be encased in smaller, lighter housing.

"The old fabrication limited us to working with certain equipment made by OEMs that could accommodate the weight and shape of our housing," she said. "We now have a lot more flexibility."

Shimadzu Medical Systems (Torrance, CA) has had other problems. The biggest, according to Frank Serrano, Shimadzu manager of business development and marketing, has been a lack of corporate awareness among customers, at least in North America.

"Too many times, when I go into a customer presentation, people say, ŒOh, Shimadzu. You make cars, don't you?'" he said.

Serrano and colleagues hope to increase the profile of their company by emphasizing Shimadzu's commitment to radiography and fluoroscopy, as well as vascular and interventional imaging.

"We've been in the x-ray business since 1897," he said. "We need some serious marketing efforts to make that fact known and to get our name recognized."

Shimadzu executives hope to focus attention on the company's offerings in x-ray equipment. Examples are Shimadzu's MH-200S ceiling-mounted C-arm, which provides head-to-toe vascular and interventional coverage. The system was introduced at the 2002 RSNA meeting. It is accompanied by other high-quality products featured at the show, such as the company's Digitex Premier vascular digital subtraction system and its MobileArt Plus mobile x-ray system with automatic positioning.

SwissRay International (Elmsford, NY), like Shimadzu, plans to leverage its engineering prowess to gain wider acceptance.

"As we continue to evolve our products, we will create a sales and marketing message to make sure people understand the real nature of their choices in digital radiography," said Rex Harmon, vice president of marketing and PR.

Despite being among the first companies to introduce a DR system in the U.S., SwissRay has struggled financially. This struggle is coming to an end, according to Harmon. SwissRay has reinforced its core competence in digital radiography with the recent infusion of capital from the Audax Group. The company this past month recruited a new CEO, ex-Imatron president Terry Ross.

"We have a lot of capital, which we never had before, and a major league executive who has a track record of taking small companies in our business and making them bigger," Harmon said.