January 22, 2024
Greg Gratson, Stryker
Greg Gratson is currently Director, Advanced Operations at Stryker focusing on Business Development for the AMagine® Institute, Stryker’s center of excellence for additive manufacturing. In this role, he is responsible for developing the strategy, business models and partnerships to grow platform technologies, like Additive Manufacturing, across Stryker. Including his 7 years at Stryker, Greg has over 20 years of experience in and around AM whether through developing novel printing materials, partnerships for government programs or educating PE firms on the value of AM for their investments. Greg holds a BS from Northwestern University and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both in Materials Science and Engineering as well as an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Stryker was one of the very first global manufacturers to embrace AM comprehensively across its product lines. What drove this early adoption, and how has Stryker’s path been different than other major manufacturers?
Greg: Stryker is the global leader in additive manufacturing (AM) for the healthcare industry. We began working in AM in 2001 in collaboration with the University of Liverpool to find novel ways to make titanium structures with porosity that mimics cancellous bone.
At our high-tech manufacturing facility – and home to AMagine Institute, Stryker’s global center of excellence for additive manufacturing – in Anngrove, Ireland, we print a special porous surface onto the Triathlon® Cementless Baseplate. That surface encourages bone to grow into the implant, which secures it more firmly in place. When combined with the precision of our robotic surgical processes, this makes replacements more predictable. As our first 3D-printed product, it now accounts for a significant portion of Stryker’s total cementless knee procedures in the U.S.
AM grew at Stryker primarily to meet unmet healthcare needs, and now it has become more common in the overall Orthopaedics industry. But, aside from being at the AM forefront, what sets us apart is our team and level of investment. We have a team committed to expanding what we can do with AM – from ground-breaking design features and materials to faster product availability and increased service. We are growth company and continue to be dedicated to investing in state-of-the art manufacturing and supply chains to meet the needs of our customers.
In our conversations you have referred to Stryker’s People-Place-Product framework. What is this all about and how does it enable Stryker to better leverage new technologies in AM and elsewhere?
Greg: People are one of our core values at Stryker, and we are committed to investing in and engaging our workforce. We put the People-Place-Product framework in place specifically around our sustainability efforts at the AMagine Institute where we explore, develop and industrialize innovative technologies to enable manufacturing and supply our next generation of products.
In terms of sustainability at AMagine, we have many ways people can and do get involved, including a beach cleanup day, an onsite biodiversity garden, and composting and recycling efforts. This all creates a buzz around the site about making it a greener place to work.
Our Place efforts focus on making the plant more efficient. All the energy for our Ireland plants come from renewable sources, but we also want to reduce energy consumption where possible. For example, we’ve run projects to reduce freshwater consumption and argon consumption per machine.
We want to design products with sustainability in mind, then produce them with the most sustainable manufacturing processes available. We recently conducted an independent lifecycle assessment (LCA) of our Triathlon® Cementless Baseplate, which revealed that AM has environmental benefits over subtractive manufacturing that go beyond waste reduction. This doesn’t necessarily mean AM is always better than conventional manufacturing as more research is required, but LCAs can provide us guidance on hot spots to improve our processes.
How does Stryker view the economic vs the sustainable vs the patient in its production lines? Are these competing or complementary objectives?
Greg: Patient outcomes come first in all of our products. The reason our AM products have performed so well in the market is because of their clinical history and positive outcomes. That being said, we are always looking for ways to improve our manufacturing processes and overall operational efficiencies across our Global Quality and Operations team. Our legendary former CEO John Brown had a mantra: “Design it, make it, sell it,” which to me makes the three objectives complementary. We need to design products that perform to our customers’ standards, make them in an affordable and sustainable way and sell them at a competitive price.
Your approach to sustainability is multi-faceted, beyond just CO2 emissions. In what other areas is Stryker making sustainability gains?
Greg: Stryker has aggressive corporate targets, with a goal to be powered by 100% renewable electricity in our facilities by 2027 and carbon neutral by 2030. We recently announced a power purchase agreement with global clean energy leader Ørsted and the Sunflower Wind project which will account for over 70% of Stryker’s electricity consumption for our facilities in North America.
Stryker also has a business unit called Sustainability Solutions, which helps reduce healthcare industry waste by reprocessing medical devices that would otherwise be disposed of after a single use, extending the life of these products and reducing material consumption. Sustainability Solutions collects and reprocesses devices spanning thousands of SKUs. Over the past five years, more than 3,000 customers saved approximately $1 billion through reprocessing programs and diverted over 25 million pounds of waste from landfills.
Greg, you recently proposed an AM End-User Working group within the AMGTA and offered to lead that group. How do you think bringing AM end-users together, across various industries, can benefit those companies to promote more sustainable manufacturing through AM?
Greg: Every member has a reason why they are part of the AMGTA. We all believe in the power of AM to be a force for good in sustainable manufacturing and that we have a lot to study and to learn in terms of the best ways to utilize the technology. The AMGTA has a broad membership base including end-users like Stryker, and I think we can help each other by telling our respective stories on how AM is working for us and how we can leverage AM for sustainability. Diverse perspectives can lead to new insights, and the End-User group represents just about all industries that leverage AM: medical, aerospace, industrial and consumer products. We can learn from each other and create a force multiplier effect for all our sustainability efforts.
With the idea of “better information from (AM) users gets better products for (AM) users,” how has Stryker benefited from your partnership with the AMGTA?
Greg: AM is still a relatively new technology, particularly when it comes to production at scale. It’s also been unclear historically whether AM is a more sustainable manufacturing process. It makes sense that there would be less waste than machining, but there are more energy intensive inputs, like metal powder.
Having comprehensive, full cradle-to-gate LCAs, which are supported by AMGTA for its members, will provide the industry with the information it needs to leverage the sustainability benefits of AM in the right ways for the right applications. It’s important that the industry collaborates on LCAs, I look forward to reading all the LCAs that the AMGTA sponsors.
As I mentioned previously in our interview, Stryker learned a lot from our independently conducted LCA on our Triathlon® Cementless Baseplate product. This led to new projects to tackle hotspots in both additive and conventional manufacturing processes. Knowledge is power, and we all stand to gain from clear, collaborative, objective studies.
In our conversations you have often stressed the need to understand the entire business use case, not just the manufacturing stage. Why is this so important and how has that impacted how, when and where AM has been implemented at Stryker?
Greg: The days of AM being the next big thing, or the hot new technology are long gone. AM is a manufacturing process that must compete with all others from a quality, cost and scale perspective. AM finds its way into products based on the design freedom it provides to make healthcare better, and we are using the technology to unlock innovation in new products across our portfolio.
Anything else you would like to share with the other AMGTA members and the broader manufacturing sector?
Greg: Our Anngrove facility in Cork, Ireland, operates with the same continuous improvement processes and targets for operational efficiency as other plants across our network. The manufacturing industry can get to a point where AM isn’t a “special process.”
We see a lot of growth ahead for AM. Nearly any innovation that improves the cost per part, the process capability or the overall quality of the outputs will also make AM more sustainable and competitive.
The claims and views expressed in this Member Spotlight Interview are not necessarily those of the AMGTA, its staff, its Board of Directors, or member organizations. The AMGTA is not responsible for the content or accuracy of any information or claims provided as part of this Member Spotlight Interview and shall not be responsible for any decisions made based on such information.