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Edwards Lifesciences: Strengthens its Life Sciences Manufacturing presence in Costa Rica

MAY 23rd 2019

• The Company invested $100 million in the country due to its political and economic stability, as well as the qualified workforce it offers.
• Facilities designed to achieve LEED Certification, with cutting edge technology, and welcoming amenities.

Source: Revista Inversión Inmobiliaria SRL. 

Cartago, Costa Rica. May 23, 2019. Edwards Lifesciences placed La Lima, in Cartago, on the world map of regions where heart valve replacement devices are manufactured.

Currently, the company produces some parts of these devices there, but the finished product will soon be exported to be used in different medical centers around the world.

This operation currently generates 530 jobs and will exceed 1,000 jobs when it operates at 100%.

To get to know this California-based Company’s operation in the country more deeply, INversion INmobiliaria (IN) magazine spoke to Josue Campos (JC), the General Manager designated to lead the launching and consolidation in Costa Rica.

The meeting was held at the Company’s modern facilities, comprised by two buildings that make up 26,000 square meters in total.

The superb and environmentally friendly design is equipped with cutting edge technology and welcoming amenities, to offer the greatest hospitality to its employees.

Also, special attention was placed on logistics, providing five platforms with three receiving positions and two shipping floors, strong decks and high ceilings for vertical product stockpiling.

If you are interested in finding out why this Company focused its efforts toward Costa Rica, and specifically, toward La Lima in Cartago; or on the employee profile it is looking for, we invite you to read the full interview.

IN: What does Edwards Lifesciences produce in Costa Rica?
JC: The current focus in Costa Rica is to support the Edwards’ global heart implantable device strategy. Today, we are manufacturing heart valve replacement sub-assemblies and, with the new facility, we will be able to build heart valves from start to finish, which will be completely manufactured in Costa Rica and then exported and used in medical centers around the world.

IN: Why did Edwards decided to settle in the country?
JC: Edwards’ business has continued growing year after year, thus creating the need to be capable of expanding its manufacturing capacities to keep saving lives around the world. After a detailed research, Edwards chooses Costa Rica for its excellent commercial and political environment, skilled workforce, and broad experience in the production of medical devices.

IN: Why did the Company specifically choose Cartago, as its Operations Center?
JC: It was a combination of having the opportunity to design and build a manufacturing site to meet the specific needs of new products, in a new Free Trade Zone Park (La Lima), the proximity to Technical Universities, and being able to benefit from the great talent the Cartago area offers, while creating new job opportunities at the same time.

IN: Does Costa Rica provide foreign countries with an adequate accompaniment to make it easier for companies to enter the country?
JC: From day one, Edwards has received unconditional support from the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE, for its Spanish acronym) and the Special Economic Area of Cartago (ZEEC, for its Spanish acronym). Not only in the process of understanding what is required to establish the operation, but also the accompaniment process to make that operation grow.

IN: Which are the main features of Edwards’ facilities in La Lima, Cartago, and what amenities do its facilities offer?
JC: The new building has a 20,000 square meter area, and it was built taken sustainable design and building practices into consideration to achieve the LEED certification; it was projected to hold six production clean rooms, a warehouse with the capacity to hold five platforms (three for receiving and two for shipping), Chemical and Microbiology laboratories, different conference rooms, technical training areas with classrooms for training, a mezzanine with office areas for management personnel, and another mezzanine for utility equipment that is protected within the facility, to simplify its maintenance, and allowing access to servicing without the need to enter or impact manufacturing clean rooms. This includes 461 parking spots for automobiles and motorcycles, and covered bus stops that connect with the building for our employees.

IN: What amenities does the building offer to employees in terms of entertainment and to be hospitable, considering it is there where they spend most part of the day?
JC: EThe building design considered the capacity to provide areas to facilitate and support the balanced development of our employees. Most of the office areas have outside views; additionally, we have:
⦁A full kitchen cafeteria and space to sit 520 individuals, including an independent area for coffee, service isles and an open terrace.
⦁An Asociación Solidarista office.
⦁Wide hallways and two elevators to connect with the mezzanines which may support personnel recruitment strategies for individuals with some disabilities.
⦁Private offices, large open cubicles, and work team collaboration areas.
⦁A medical clinic and nursing rooms.
⦁Physical wellness area / Fitness gym with free-weight equipment, multi-purpose machines and a cardiovascular focused workout area.

IN: Why did the Company decide to build its building under the “built to suit” concept?
JC: The building design considered the capacity to include all the improvements and recommendations from our global operations, such as being able to support the future growth strategy in terms of manufacturing, including personnel and material flow analysis. Basically, it was a design created by a team of Edwards leaders and engineers (focused on the needs of the heart implant operation) and by talented Costa Rican engineers and architects from companies such as Garnier & Garnier, Termoaire, and Circuito, among others.

IN: What was the Company’s investment in its Cartago facilities?
JC: The current investment on the new building is of over $100 million.

IN: What percentage of the Company’s production will be carried out from Cartago?
JC: Today, we will have two production clean rooms with a capacity to manufacture transcatheter heart valves and surgical valves. The success we have in this startup will allow us to be capable of building the trust to keep increasing the opportunities at Edwards Costa Rica.

IN: How many employees will the Company have when it is operating at 100%?
JC: Currently, we have over 530 employees, and there is a plan to hire over 300 employees in the remainder of 2019. The maximum capacity will be defined depending on the variety in the type of product families to be considered in the future.

IN: What employee profile does the Company require for its operation in Cartago?
JC: Thanks to the construction of the new building and the interest in expanding the operations, the Company plans to increase the number of employees. First and foremost, there will be openings for operators, supervisors, process trainers and engineers, quality control personnel, logistics, finance, facilities and maintenance engineers, among others. These employees will be responsible for the operation of the new manufacturing site. The minimum profile required for operators is to have graduated from ninth grade, attention to detail and developed fine motor skills. Additionally, we need manufacturing, quality and facilities engineers; training and manufacturing supervisors; quality inspectors; etc.

IN: What is the new hire orientation process that Edwards uses for people that wish to work for the Company?
JC: For manufacturing personnel, the new hire orientation process starts with the “on boarding” process for the first two days as a new Company employee. During this time, employees receive critical information on the Company’s culture, key goals, vision, mission, quality system, etc. Then they are transferred to the training area, where they must undergo the certification process prior to entering the production area. For management personnel, the first two days are the same; and then they undergo a culture awareness process to ensure the employee understands how our culture impacts the lives of our patients.

IN: What advantages did La Lima Free Trade Zone Park offered that made you settle there?
JC: In 2016, La Lima allowed us to establish temporary offices at their administrative building; and then we started operating in a rented building in which we were able to continue the entire development of the construction project for the new building, in a nearby land, which was adjacent and custom designed for Edwards’ products.

IN: Are there any problems in the area that may affect, in some way, your adequate logistics operation?
JC: With support from the Special Economic Area of Cartago (ZEEC) and the rest of the companies established at La Lima Free Trade Zone Park, we are aiming at being capable of supporting all efforts to improve transportation related infrastructure as well as improving the roads, in order to facilitate the flow of the expected growth at La Lima which, at its maximum capacity, might reach over 10,000 employees.

IN: What social work do you carry out in the community?
JC: The social work is a highly important area that was considered when our operations settled in Cartago. This is part of our Culture at Edwards, and we currently have a schedule with monthly activities to be able to promote the intention and aspiration of being able to achieve 100% employee engagement. Some examples of engaging community focused activities are donating time to clean parks, supporting schools at the beginning of the school year, celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day at Nursing Homes, and grants of over $200,000 for non-profit organizations in Costa Rica (at places such as the Cartago Children Community Cafeteria [Comedor Infantil de Cartago], Cartago Nursing Home [Hogar de Ancianos de Cartago], the Ujarras Museum, the Wheelchair Foundation, Faculta Foundation, and the Cartago Sports Center, among others).


The beginning of Edwards Lifesciences goes back to 1958, when Miles "Lowell" Edwards set out to build the first artificial heart. Edwards was a 60-year-old engineer who had recently retired, with 63 patents in various industries, an entrepreneur spirit and dreams of helping patients suffering from heart disease. His fascination with curing the heart was triggered when, as a teenager, he suffered two episodes of rheumatic fever, which may cause scars in the heart valves and even heart failure.

Name: Edwards Lifesciences
Activity: Heart valve production
Headquarters: Irvine, California
Markets: 100 countries
Employees: Over 10.000 around the world
Patients served: 2 millions
Operations: In Asia, America, Europa, Africa

INversión INmobiliaria asked Edwards Lifesciences’ General Manager five questions, to get to know the leader behind the project in Costa Rica. These are his answers…

IN: What does it mean for you to have the responsibility of starting the operations in Costa Rica?
JC: Being responsible for starting a new operation from the ground up to what we have today — with two buildings, over 530 people and growing each month — has been a challenge but it has also been rewarding. In our culture at Edwards, we use the term “Accountability” which in other words is a combination of being a leader, being responsible, and taking ownership of your actions in order to achieve the expected outcome. To be able to be part of this project in Costa Rica allows me to be able to be part of a team of professionals, who are really focused on creating a world class medical products operation that saves lives, while at the same time creating job opportunities, helping to develop our employees, and supporting the community. This project is a great investment for Edwards, so I feel really proud that they are relying on Latin American talent, and that the Edwards family continues to grow and benefit from the talent that exists in Costa Rica.

IN: Apart from Costa Rica, have you ever had the responsibility of starting operations in other countries?
JC: For over 22 years, I have been working in Manufacturing Operations and had experience in Operations Start Ups and cultural transformations in roles within Engineering, Quality, Manufacturing, and Operational Excellence in companies such General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and, for the last nine years, Edwards Lifesciences. With Edwards, I have had the chance to work in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and, nowadays, in Costa Rica.

IN: Do you consider yourself as a boss or as a leader?
JC: I like the word leader… I prefer to be called a leader instead of a boss... Every day, I strive to be a leader that aims at inspiring, facilitating, motivating and developing.

IN: What are the main challenges you face in the country?
JC: With the investment and construction completed, our challenges will be more focused on being capable of completing the facilities and the equipment and process validations, while we continue looking for the necessary and trained talent to support the expected growth. For one hand, the personnel with the necessary skills and expertise has to be identified; and on the other hand, and specifically for the manufacturing assembly role, personnel with the necessary manual skills to perform the manufacturing operations has to be found.
Another important point is to be active in University-Government-Private Sector alliances, in order to support efforts focused on expediting the development of technical knowledge and on country projects that focus on improving systems and infrastructure, in order to ease transportation in a better way, with a particular focus on the needs and requirements of the medical device industry.

IN: What are your aspirations within Edwards globally?
JC: In the heart products market, Edwards is #1 in 95% of the products it manufactures; therefore, my aspiration is that we can continue to increase our global impact. I have been working for Edwards Lifesciences for nearly 10 years, and I feel prouder every day of the contributions and impact that we have, not only by improving the quality of life of patients and their families but also the positive impact on the development of our employees and the community.