When a homegrown Madison tech company is acquired, it’s always hard to predict whether the local operations and jobs will survive — regardless of the promises made when the deal goes through.
In the case of TomoTherapy, though, not only has production continued here, it has grown.
Five years after the Madison medical device company was acquired in June 2011 by Accuray, of Sunnyvale, California, for $277 million, the combined radiation oncology company has taken several big steps:
Two major updates of the TomoTherapy system have been released: the H series in 2012 and the Radixact system, just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2016 and the European Union in August.
Accuray’s manufacturing center in Madison now assembles both TomoTherapy’s own machines and Accuray’s CyberKnife systems. During the last quarter, TomoTherapy snagged its largest single order since the companies joined — seven systems to the United Kingdom’s NHS Supply Chain — while CyberKnife orders were the highest of any quarter in Accuray’s history.
“We finished our fiscal year on a high note,” CEO and president Joshua Levine said, in a news release, of the June 30 results.
In Madison, Accuray’s signs have replaced TomoTherapy’s but the company still operates out of the same buildings, with manufacturing at 1209 Deming Way and offices across the street at 1240 Deming Way, in the Old Sauk Trails business park on the Far West Side.
Accuray shifted assembly of its CyberKnife systems from Sunnyvale to Madison in late 2014.
“We get lots of economies of scale by putting all of manufacturing together,” said Accuray senior vice president Andy Kirkpatrick, who has headed operations in Madison for the last six months. “Madison is a much better place to manufacture than California, at least, where we were.”
Kirkpatrick said Madison has talented manufacturing workers, labor costs are lower, and there are efficiencies in building products that, though they operate differently, are both designed to deliver radiation to cancer tumors.
Besides, “it made the campus much more vibrant” to combine operations here, Kirkpatrick said.
Another consideration in Madison’s favor: The buildings here house 20 bunkers used for testing and quality control of the radiation systems. Each bunker has concrete walls about 4 feet thick — expensive to replicate elsewhere, said Rob Zahn, vice president of manufacturing and general manager of the Madison campus.
About 290 employees work in Madison — 245 full-time Accuray employees and 45 contracted workers, Zahn said. That makes it a bigger site than Sunnyvale, which has about 250 employees, he said.
In all, Accuray has about 1,000 employees, with sales and service technicians worldwide and offices in Morges, Switzerland; Hong Kong; and Tokyo, as well as a plant in Chengdu, China, that makes a key part of TomoTherapy’s linear accelerators, the device that creates the photons, or high-energy radiation particles, that blast cancer cells.
The company leases 29 warehouses around the globe to stash spare parts so they can be delivered to customers within 10 hours, said Zahn.
“It’s important business, treating people with cancer,” he said. “Keeping the machines running and making sure people don’t miss their appointments is important to us.”
Accuray’s machines are in more than 45 countries, from Mexico to Malaysia, Myanmar to Ukraine, and the flag of each of those countries hangs over the manufacturing work floor.
When the 500th TomoTherapy system was sent to a Scottsdale radiation center last year, employees signed their names on the shipping crate, which was returned to the company and put on display.
“There’s a tremendous sense of pride (among) employees, knowing the technology was developed at the UW-Madison and knowing what we’re doing saves people’s lives,” Zahn said.