C.R Bard Finds Success All Over the Map

How Kevin Phoenix of C.R. Bard's Global Facilities Group anticipates the needs of a rapidly expanding company throughout North America

Kevin Phoenix Director, Global Facilities
Kevin Phoenix
Director, Global Facilities

C.R. Bard, Inc. hasn’t stopped growing since Kevin Phoenix arrived in 2001. As director of global facilities, Phoenix has seen the medical device company’s sales rise from $1.5 billion to $3.4 billion by the end of 2015.

The company’s need for more real estate increases in conjunction with those sales, and Phoenix says he has anchored himself to a set of long-held criteria at C.R. Bard, which was established 108 years ago.

“Every project we work on must fit into some absolutes, one of which is our set of corporate values—quality, innovation, integrity, and service,” he says. “We want to create a productive environment for our employees, protect them from harm, and protect our supply chain to customers.”

Those tenets, and the use of strategic facility planning, have helped Phoenix stay on track on an array of different projects that each come with its own unique set of challenges. He discusses some of the highlights here with American Builders Quarterly.

Bard Access Systems Division HQ  |  Salt Lake City
BAS Bldg Full View_1
C.R. Bard is already considering expansion options for the Bard Access Systems Divisional HQ Building in Salt Lake City.

Completed in 2007, this project was motivated purely by the massive growth of the Bard Access Systems division. Given its rapid growth, Phoenix says, the old divisional headquarters building simply ran out of space. This compelled the division to move to a 185,000-square-foot location—more than double the size of the old one.

“This was a relatively easy one for us in that we were taking employees from a cramped, dingy space and moving them into a roomy and totally renovated space,” he says. “The challenge at Bard is staying ahead of our growth. That building has already filled up again.”

With a lease that runs into 2021, Phoenix says his team is evaluating future expansion options.

Davol Division HQ  |  Warwick, Rhode Island
Kevin Phoenix says that from the outside, you’d never know research work is done in the Davol Division HQ.
Kevin Phoenix says that from the outside, you’d never know research work is done in the Davol Division HQ.

Founded in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1874, Davol is Bard’s oldest division. Before 2008, it was based in an old commercial industrial building that lacked the best lighting and space for its tenants. The company approved a project led by Phoenix to move them into their current dedicated office building—a first-of-its-kind experience for him.

“We wanted to create a workplace where people wanted to go to every day,” Phoenix says. “Where they enjoyed the daily workplace experience and being productive. We took a clean-sheet approach and built a very attractive—yet cost-effective—building.”

The key to the whole design is the atrium, a central three-story glass enclosure that lets in an abundance of natural light. Additionally, most offices in the building are situated on the interior to allow more light to come through the building’s exterior windows.

“The entire first floor is dedicated to labs and research, but from the outside you’d never know it,” Phoenix says. “The facility still looks and functions like an office building. I think we really hit the mark on that one.”

Humacao Manufacturing Facility  |  Humacao, Puerto Rico
The Bard Humacao Manufacturing Plant was designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.
The Bard Humacao Manufacturing Plant was designed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.

Phoenix says his proudest accomplishment during his tenure at Bard was completed back in 2005. Damage to the previous Bard manufacturing facility from Hurricane Georges in 1998 prompted the construction of the new plant, which remains in operation today. The main challenge of the project was ensuring future hurricanes wouldn’t hurt the company’s Puerto Rican operations again.

“The new facility had to be cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing,” Phoenix says. “It also had to withstand the direct hit of a Category 4 hurricane, and we had to make sure the design was flexible.”

With the company’s growth, C.R. Bard wanted a plant that could make just about anything—including devices it didn’t foresee making at the time. If that wasn’t challenging enough, there were also a few physical hurdles.

“The site selected had some of the toughest soil conditions the team has ever worked with,” Phoenix says. “It wasn’t good weight-bearing soil. We had to truck in loads of good structural soil and implement a surcharge soil compaction technique where we put the bad soil on top of good soil and let it compact naturally for months. We used that as the foundation of our final building foundation.”

Neighbors also had to be taken into account. The plant stands next to a housing complex, so the design of the site and support equipment was important. Activity in the facility couldn’t disturb the neighboring community, and the aesthetics of the building would also have to complement the surrounding areas.

“It turned out to be a beautiful facility that our employees and neighbors are thrilled with,” Phoenix says. “It’s probably our finest location.”

Industry Week magazine agrees. It recently named the facility “2015’s Best Plant.”

Juarez Manufacturing Plant  |  Juarez, Mexico
The Juarez Manufacturing Plant opened in early 2016. Even though the plant was built in Mexico, C.R. Bard made sure construction was in compliance with US process safety codes.
The Juarez Manufacturing Plant opened in early 2016. Even though the plant was built in Mexico, C.R. Bard made sure construction was in compliance with US process safety codes.

Shortly after C.R. Bard agreed to acquire Rochester Medical in 2013, executives knew the company would need the additional capacity in order to handle production of Rochester’s catheters. When C.R. Bard settled on a site in Juarez, which is about 20 minutes south of El Paso, Texas, Phoenix and his team met a new set of obstacles.

“We build to US standards for safety and functionality—[and do so] globally where feasible,” he says. “Some local codes there were not up to that same standard as US standards in some areas. We used an organization in Pennsylvania to implement process safety design that would be in compliance with US process safety codes. A building with our specifications was a new requirement for the Mexico-based builder.”

At the same time, Phoenix and his team needed to learn the manufacturing process for a product C.R. Bard hadn’t produced before. The catheter-dipping process uses flammable chemicals, which added another element of risk to the project.

Although the timeline was tight, Phoenix can breathe a little easier now. The factory opened right on time in early 2016.

Harnessing Diversity

Throughout his professional career, Kevin Phoenix has helped mentor and develop people and foster sound leadership practices and workplace diversification. He learned these virtues the hard way, however.

Phoenix says that early in his career, he tried to tackle projects on his own, whether he understood the people his work would ultimately affect or not. It didn’t take long for him to realize he needed help.

“You have to get the right people from a cross-functional team to tell you what is needed from their unique perspective,” he says. “Once you have that team together, then you have to foster communication and listen more than you talk. That’s critical to getting the information you need to ultimately be successful.”

Phoenix said it’s a tough lesson to learn because disagreements are inevitable.

“It seems easier to take four people you already know that think similarly to you,” he says. “But you have to put in the effort to realize you have strengths based on experience but also limitations and prejudices. I want to build a team that supplements who I am.”

He says it’s important to choose a support team that has a diversity of opinions, ages, and cultural backgrounds. It’s particularly crucial to be inclusive of the local culture as well, even when you’re talking about a region of the United States. Phoenix says you have to be prepared to hear things with which you disagree.

“At the end of the day, the project deliverables and deadlines must be achieved, and the project manager is the captain of the ship,” he says. “Your job is to listen to your team, but you have to have the confidence to make the ultimate call on issues when the time comes to
do so.”