Healing on the Inside and Out

Duncan Vincent finds the healthiest way for Acelity to operate so that the company can focus on improving the health of those it serves

Through years of industry work around the world, Duncan Vincent has had to learn a thing or two about nuance. He laughs as he recalls a project he worked on several years ago in the Czech Republic as a prime example.

“I attended several meetings with my Czech counterpart as we worked to get permits,” Vincent says. “I kept hearing, ‘No, no, no,’ and thought things were going very badly, but he seemed pleased. It turned out they were saying, ‘Ano, ano, ano’—which means, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’”

Even after all these years, the UK native says nuance still plays a big role in his current position as senior director of global facilities, real estate, and security for Acelity, a Texas-based medical device company. Growing up in England, Vincent loved solving problems and fixing things. So a career in engineering seemed to be a natural fit. He qualified in civil engineering, then in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, before obtaining his Royal Charter as a UK Professional Engineer. At a large design house in London, Vincent worked on a wide array of projects that ranged from hospitals, prisons, and sports stadiums to opera houses, railway terminals, and even the Channel Tunnel.

Duncan Vincent says recognizing nuance is an important part of his role at Acelity. Photo Chris Krebs

Now with Acelity, he oversees various aspects of company operations—although he notes he has to be a little more attuned to the communication in Texas than he was back in England.

“People in the UK are more blunt and direct,” Vincent says. “Communication is less direct and more nuanced in Texas.”

Nevertheless, he’s been able to pick up those cues quickly. Vincent joined Acelity in 2012. A leader in advanced wound therapy and regenerative medicine, Acelity incorporates the strengths of three heritage companies: Kinetic Concepts, Inc. (which specializes in negative pressure wound therapy), LifeCell Corporation (which specializes in regenerative and reconstructive tissue matrices), and Systagenix Wound Management (which focuses on wound care products). Initially, Vincent was brought onboard to help bring the company into a new global headquarters—on a very tight timeline.

“The original plan was to buy an existing building,” he says. “After we spent a lot of time trying to arrange that, the seller decided not to sell. So we had to procure land, draw up a design, build the facility, and move everyone—in 14 months. We managed to deliver on time and under budget.”

With multiple locations now falling under Acelity’s umbrella, another one of Duncan Vincent’s tasks has been to standardize the various offices. “Our branding team worked with a branding company and developed brand guidelines,” he says. “We worked these into physical paint selections, finishes, and building logos, transforming our buildings to the Acelity brand by October 2015. We went on to produce a document that described the new corporate standards—colors to use, types of furniture, what a typical meeting room should look like. So now all of our offices worldwide have a familiar feel.”

His role has grown since then. Vincent is now responsible for serving the company’s internal customers with high-quality services, systems, and resources as well as supporting commercial decisions to move, close, expand, and outsource. He’s also tasked with supporting the company in meeting its legal obligations (such as FDA compliance) and corporate policies, and being vigilant about—and responsive to—assessed risks to property and employees.

“I’m focused on finding better, more efficient ways to do things, while keeping an eye on the smallest details—I’m always the one who notices that a light bulb has gone out,” he says, adding that he has six direct reports and a total team (including outsourced providers) of about 45 people. “It is my responsibility to make sure that the team is happy and healthy—and that they feel they are making a difference.”

Beyond the team being healthy, Vincent is also working to ensure the company is too by reducing Acelity’s carbon footprint. “About three years ago, we began measuring and collecting data in key global sites,” he says. “That helps us identify areas where we excel or are lagging.”

One of the biggest reductions in the company’s footprint came from consolidating offices, but Vincent adds that Acelity is better at managing its energy needs. “We take advantage of local state and in-country initiatives—which might, for example, provide funds to replace lighting with more energy-efficient LED bulbs.”

As part of his job with Acelity, Duncan Vincent developed a security solutions rating system to help determine what needs to be done at each of the company’s facilities to improve security. “Historically, Acelity has had a lot of disparate and autonomous business units around the world,” he says. “We couldn’t really tell what they had in terms of security or what they needed.”

Working with an external consultant and NC4 (a security solutions company that focuses on cyber threats), he launched a system that weighs three elements—scope, threat, and technology—and comes up with a three-digit score for each location. “Scope” covers what is being protected—property, personnel, or both. “Threat” covers factors such as political instability, weather issues, and physical location (such as being on a flood plain). “Technology” includes the sophistication of the technology, amount of integration required, and local support available. “NC4 provides live data feeds for every Acelity location,” he says. “If there’s a serious threat—such as a terrorist attack—we know about it before it hits the news.”

Although there have been several accomplishments, Vincent says it’s particularly rewarding to witness the changes his team has effected in three years in terms of streamlining and consolidation.

“The MAC (moves, additions, and changes) team has transformed what was a hit-and-miss service into a streamlined, predictable, well-managed system,” he says, adding that the team also recently completed a project to align the New Jersey and San Antonio facilities into “Tiger Teams”—a collaborative working arrangement that opens the doors to a more open environment. “You take away the ‘silo’ approach—pulling people from marketing, finance, R&D, etc., and mesh them together. It requires a lot of cajoling and compromising because people don’t like to move, and it requires considerable detail work. It’s a Rubik’s Cube kind of exercise.”

The puzzle was solved, however, as the team moved more than 300 people over a single weekend. They had to tear down and reassemble work stations before moving technology so people could get right to work on Monday morning. Vincent says the combined efforts make the MAC team one that’s “best in class.”