Smith & Nephew runs 24/7 on Brooks Road

Smith & Nephew Inc. recently dismantled an office in a Memphis manufacturing plant in Memphis to make way for more computer-controlled machines. Today, 12-hour shifts produce knee implants around the clock, seven days a week.

Demand is strong for the London-based medical device maker's products in the United States and in faster-growing emerging markets around the globe.

That growth is feeding another high demand -- for the machinists, finishers and packagers producing those knee implants in Building H on the low-profile Smith & Nephew campus on Brooks Road.

"Even since the beginning of this year, we've probably added 175 people," said Gene Baker, vice president of Memphis operations for Smith & Nephew. "And we're not done adding."

Perhaps surprisingly to some, Baker said the supply of job candidates to choose from is "generally speaking pretty good, better than I expect, I'm encouraged by it, actually."

He's more bullish about the future workforce. That's because of unusual efforts by the Greater Memphis Medical Device Council to work with community colleges and vocational schools to supply the skills the industry needs.

"I'm even more encouraged by the go-forward position, by working with the medical device council, working with local government, working with the educational institutions," Baker said. "I think that the future is bright for Smith & Nephew in this community because of all of the people that are working together to make it happen."

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