Eric Sherraden, president and chief operating officer of CEA Medical Manufacturing, moved to Colorado Springs 18 years ago from southwestern Kansas.
“I came out here and knew nothing of the area,” Sherraden said. “I happened across CEA, which was, at that time, maybe 40 people. That was in 1998.”
Sherraden took a warehouse position. “I thought I’d give it a shot and took the job because it would give me a month or two to get the lay of the land,” he said. “Then I could move on to something bigger and better. Seventeen years later and I’m still here.”
Talk about the history of CEA Medical Manufacturing.
It’s been around now for about 27 years. Marcus Boggs is the CEO and owner. He started the company in Castle Rock and it was called Castle Pines Medical. … Our focus then, and still today, is 100 percent contracted medical manufacturing. We have none of our own products, but we typically work with the Fortune 20 medical [original equipment manufacturers] throughout the country. We do all kinds of surgical devices held in the hands of doctors or technicians — critical care devices, devices for breast biopsies, some for treating liver cancer, brain-mapping devices. We focus on cardiology, neurology.
Do you work with Colorado companies?
We have only a couple of customers in Colorado, actually. Most of our customers are outside the state. We have a couple international customers as well. We manufacture here in Colorado Springs, plus we have operations in the Dominican Republic. We set up there in 2005 and have two facilities. There it is high-volume, low-mix, while [in the Springs] we are low- to medium-volume and a high mix of products.
How big is CEA within the industry?
Being a contract manufacturer, we’re still a small company. We have about 125 people here in Colorado Springs and about 350 in the Dominican Republic. We’re on a big growth curve and we expect to be at 150 [employees] here this coming year. Corporate-wide, we’ll be well over 500. … Marcus [Boggs] started this company essentially at his kitchen table with his wife. … This time last year, we had about 80 to 90 employees.
What do you attribute the growth to?
A larger outsourcing in the medical industry. As our customers look to continue to improve their costs, they look to companies like us to manufacture for them. It’s been an evolving strategy. Take auto — they’ve been doing it for years. Medical takes some time because of all the regulatory challenges. But we’re seeing a lot of growth. We’re in a good spot.
What has your professional path looked like at CEA?
A lot of years, I worked as supply chain manager. Six years ago, I took over the manufacturing operations. Then I moved into the position of vice president of operations and in February became vice president and chief operating officer. In September I became president and chief operating officer.
How have your responsibilities changed?
My responsibilities continue to broaden. It was managing supply chains and dealing with suppliers, working with customers on new products and specifying suppliers and components going into the devices we’d make. Then I went on to managing manufacturing operations and looking at improvements there. Eventually, I oversaw engineering groups. About the only thing I’ve not managed at CEA is sales and finance.
Do you see a workforce skills gap regionally when looking for employees?
It definitely has been a challenge identifying people with a medical manufacturing background. But our engineering group has doubled in the past year and a half. We have tenured engineers with a lot of manufacturing experience, but we’ve brought in younger engineers who are really learning the medical space. On the manufacturing side, with assembly and our technicians out there, it can be a challenge. There is more scrutiny in the medical industry that’s not there if you’re building a car part. But we work with local colleges, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and veterans organizations.
What’s your vision to grow CEA moving forward?
The focus is to keep doing what we do well and that’s servicing our customers — to continue to provide them with good service at a fair price. That’s worked well for us in the past and it continues to. We definitely see a huge amount of growth in the next five years. From a facilities standpoint in Colorado Springs, we’re good. As we continue to work on leaning operations and becoming more efficient, we’ll be sustainable in the facilities we have here.
What are the job’s greatest challenges?
The regulatory requirements, whether from the customers or the Food and Drug Administration. Being a contract manufacturer, there’s a lot of pressure from our customers to get their products to market. Pricing pressures come into play, and then speed and execution.