Shimadzu seeks niche in down market

September 16, 1993

It's hard enough to secure a foothold in the U.S. MRI market duringboom times. Perseverance is critical in today's tight market conditions.Shimadzu, for one, will need plenty of perseverance as it drivesto build MRI share in the U.S. Shimadzu has

It's hard enough to secure a foothold in the U.S. MRI market duringboom times. Perseverance is critical in today's tight market conditions.Shimadzu, for one, will need plenty of perseverance as it drivesto build MRI share in the U.S.

Shimadzu has targeted the U.S. medical imaging market for anumber of years. But its MRI effort lagged behind x-ray, CT andultrasound as the Japanese vendor worked its way through the Foodand Drug Administration approval process. Earlier this year,however, Shimadzu Medical Systems of Gardena, CA, hired a veteranmedical imaging executive and revamped its U.S. MRI operations,enhancing market focus for the modality and providing dedicatedstaff (SCAN 7/28/93).

Mark Silverman, MRI division director, served previously withHitachi Medical Systems of America, where he helped in that vendor'ssuccessful effort to establish a position in U.S. MRI. Previously,Silverman spent 13 years at Johnson & Johnson's now-defunctTechnicare medical imaging subsidiary, rising to the positionof vice president of worldwide sales and marketing.

Shimadzu is acutely aware of the strategic significance ofbuilding MRI market success in the U.S., Silverman told SCAN.Although the U.S. market has hit a period of stagnating MRI sales,it remains the world's largest. MRI strength will not only aidin the sale of other modalities within the U.S., but also buildthe image of the vendor worldwide.

The overall U.S. imaging market will remain tight as health-carereform comes into play. Sales growth will likely dip for MRI andother modalities over the next couple of years, he said. However,U.S. hospitals--under pressure to provide state-of-the-art service--willseek to maintain investments in high-technology equipment withemerging imaging applications. They will string out the life ofolder technologies, such as standard x-ray, he said.

"MR will come out the best however we come out in total,"Silverman said.

Hitachi's MRI effort was successful in the U.S. because ofHMSA's targeting with a direct sales effort of a lucrative nichein small- and medium-sized hospitals as well as private imagingcenters. Shimadzu might be wise to target the same sort of hospitalbuyers with its 0.5-tesla and 1-tesla systems, he said.

While Shimadzu sells a 1.5-tesla unit in Japan, the vendoris not likely to introduce this system in the U.S. in the nearterm, Silverman said.

"The 1-tesla product we offer is a good value in termsof high performance and moderate cost," he said. "Wewill be most effective selling the 0.5- and 1-tesla (systems),rather than competing head on with GE with the 1.5-tesla modeltargeted at university-type hospitals."

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Denis Piet has been named chairman of Sopha Medical S.A.,the French parent company of gamma camera developer Sopha MedicalSystems of Columbia, MD. Colin McNaught, president and CEO ofthe U.S. subsidiary, was appointed vice chairman of the Frenchcompany.

The appointments come after Sopha's parent company, FrenchAtomic Energy Commission branch CEA-Industrie, replaced Sopha'spresident, Raymond Chastel (SCAN 8/25/93).

Piet previously was CFO of CEA-Industrie, which purchased amajority interest in Sopha Medical S.A. earlier this year (SCAN4/7/93).

In other Sopha personnel news, vice president of marketingRandy Weatherhead has left the company. Company representativeswere not available at press time for comment on Weatherhead'sdeparture.