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Swissray adds Hitachi Medical as partner for digital x-ray, PACS


Agreement expands Swissray’s distribution reachIn its continuing bid to boost its market presence, digital radiography developer Swissray International last month signed a wide-ranging distribution agreement with Hitachi Medical Systems

Agreement expands Swissray’s distribution reach

In its continuing bid to boost its market presence, digital radiography developer Swissray International last month signed a wide-ranging distribution agreement with Hitachi Medical Systems America. The one-year, exclusive deal stipulates that Hitachi will provide sales, marketing, and service for the distribution of Swissray’s ddR Multi-System in certain parts of the U.S.

Swissray and Hitachi’s agreement gives both firms key leverage in a market each has been working to penetrate. While Hitachi gains a digital x-ray product cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and ready for shipment, Swissray gains access to Hitachi’s sales network, which will extend its reach by approximately 38 states. The deal also adds clout to Swissray’s marketing efforts, according to Ueli Laupper, CEO of Swissray America.

“(The deal) immediately gives us strong distribution power and credibility,” Laupper said. “Hitachi has great distribution networks and an experienced sales force. We’ve been telling the market that (CCD-based digital x-ray) is the best, that clients shouldn’t wait for flat panel. But when you’re a small company and you tell this to customers, you don’t carry the same weight (as a larger company).”

For HMSA, the partnership with Swissray allows it to continue to broaden its offerings beyond MRI. At last year’s RSNA, Hitachi exhibited some high-end angiographic products from Japan that it plans to bring to market in the year 2000. With Swissray’s ddR system, the company can offer a conventional x-ray product as well. The deal also gives Hitachi access to the services of Swissray Information Solutions, Swissray’s PACS integrator subsidiary.

“Our strategy is to expand our product offerings beyond MRI—with an emphasis on high technology,” said John Mewland, marketing manager for x-ray systems. “Traditionally HMSA has marketed, sold, and serviced MRI systems. We want to broaden our offerings and x-ray, angiographic, and digital imaging is attractive. So we’re going in that direction, and we’re going to move forward aggressively with it.”

Hitachi found Swissray’s direct digital x-ray system attractive because of the elegance and stability of the design of the CCD-based unit, according to Bill Bishop, director of business development.

“(The industry doesn’t have) much experience with flat-panel detectors yet, other than in the lab,” Bishop said. “What we like about Swissray is that they have quite a few systems that have been running clinically for more than a year, so we’re able to see it in action in high-throughput situations.”

As for Swissray, the Hitachi deal is the company’s latest move to bolster its market visibility. In July, the New York City-based company hired investment banking firm Raymond James & Associates of St. Petersburg, FL, to support it by finding financing for its ambitious growth plans (SCAN 8/4/99).

Swissray sells ddR directly in parts of Texas, New York, Illinois, and California, and will continue to do so, Laupper said. The company has existing distributor relationships that will continue as well, such as its agreement with X-Ray Inc., a Warwick, RI-based company that distributes ddR in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine (SCAN 10/28/98). But Swissray expects the agreement with Twinsburg, OH-based Hitachi to further boost its sales of ddR Multi-System. The company increased its sales by 100% from fiscal year 1997 to 1998, and in the first few months of fiscal year 1999 it has sold more units than it did in all of the previous year.

“(These increases are) just our direct sales, and now Hitachi will add to that,” Laupper said.

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