Shimadzu plans North American ultrasound line

February 13, 1991

Shimadzu initiated a joint U.S./Japanese ultrasound R&D programlast month with the goal of developing an entire new ultrasoundproduct line for the North American market. The vendor also hiredaway an experienced ultrasound executive from competitor

Shimadzu initiated a joint U.S./Japanese ultrasound R&D programlast month with the goal of developing an entire new ultrasoundproduct line for the North American market. The vendor also hiredaway an experienced ultrasound executive from competitor ATL tohead up the research team.

"If you look at Japanese and U.S. ultrasound companiestoday, both sides have something innovative to offer. This blendof the two (national engineering groups) could create rather remarkableresults," said Deborah A. Zane, Shimadzu's new R&D directorfor ultrasound.

Ultrasound is an important part of Shimadzu's growing Americanmarketing effort in medical imaging. The vendor expects this researcheffort will help the modality take off rapidly in North America,said Hiroyuki Hattori, general manager of Shimadzu's Medical Systems.

The engineering team is already in place at SMS headquartersin Gardena, CA. Yutaka Imai and Yutaka Shimizu, two top Japaneseengineers from the company's Kyoto facility, will help spearheadthe effort, Zane said.

Japanese ultrasound companies are known for their reliable,cost-effective and well-manufactured scanners, she said. On theother hand, there have been developments in U.S. ultrasound researchthat the Japanese have not matched.

Zane is a 14-year ultrasound industry veteran. Originally anultrasonographer, she first joined the now-defunct Johnson &Johnson ultrasound organization. She worked five years for ATL,most recently as manager of strategic marketing.

Although American manufacturing of the ultrasound equipmentmay be considered in the future, the current plan is to producethe systems in Japan, according to Edith Stone, director of salesand marketing for Shimadzu ultrasound.

Shimadzu will combine direct sales with its existing ultrasounddealer network once the ultrasound line is ready for market, Stonesaid. The vendor sells its ultrasound products through a separateset of dealers than it uses for x-ray, computed tomography andmagnetic resonance imaging products.

"With the introduction of a new product line, we willbe vastly increasing distribution," Stone said. She wouldnot comment on a time line for commercialization of the new technology.

Locating the R&D effort in the U.S. will help investigatorsmeet the specific clinical and technical requirements of thismarket, Zane said. U.S. customers, for example, require more systemupgradability.

Long-range R&D efforts require close cooperation with clinicalsites throughout the process, not only when a prototype systemhas been developed, she noted.

"When you put a prototype in the laboratory, it is aboutfinished and ready to go to manufacturing. At that point, it isusually too late for a doctor to suggest a major change withoutmissing your launch deadline," Zane said.