Millipore Corporation History
Bedford, Massachusetts 01730-2271
Telephone: (781) 533-6000
Toll Free: 800-645-5439
Fax: (781) 533-3110
Incorporated: 1954 as Millipore Filter Corporation
Sales: $758.92 million (1997)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: MIL
SICs: 3826 Analytical Instruments
Millipore Corporation has a three-dimensional commitment: to be the worldwide leader in the eyes or its customers, employees, shareholders, and suppliers in the high-value-added purification industry; to achieve leadership through a global focus on customer satisfaction, employee participation, and technological excellence; and to improve the quality of life through products that advance achievement in science and technology.
Millipore Corporation, a multinational high-technology company, is a world leader in membrane separations technology and has pioneered the use of membrane technology in hundreds of diverse applications. The company applies its purification technology to critical research and manufacturing problems in the microelectronics, biopharmaceutical, and analytical laboratory markets. Millipore has manufacturing plants in the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia; it offers more than 10,000 products. Within the United States, the company sells its products through its own direct sales force, while in international markets the company sells primarily through wholly owned subsidiaries and branches located in more than 31 major industrialized and developing countries, including Canada, Central and South America, Europe, and the Asia/Pacific region. The company's customers in the microelectronics, biopharmaceutical, and food and beverage companies use Millipore products in their manufacturing processes. Millipore also sells its analytical products, filter cartridges, and laboratory water-purification systems to chemical manufacturers and processors. Universities, governments, and private and corporate research laboratories, environmental science laboratories, and regulatory agencies purchase a wide range of Millipore products. Approximately 57 percent of Millipore's net sales were made to customers outside the United States in 1997.
Early Years: 1954-69
During World War II, European drinking-water supplies and testing laboratories were destroyed. As a result, there was a massive increase of water-pollution problems and the threat of water-borne diseases. Concerned about this situation, scientists developed a crude microporous membrane filter to detect bacteria in drinking water. When information about this purification technology became available after the war, the California Institute of Technology perfected the membrane, and the U.S. government contracted the Lovell Chemical Company of Watertown, Massachusetts, to begin pilot production of the membrane. John H. Bush, a Lovell engineer, recognized the potential for applications beyond the analysis of drinking water; he purchased the rights to the membrane-production process of his employer. Using the word millipore to refer to the large number of small openings in the microporous membrane, Bush founded the Millipore Filter Corporation in 1954
In the mid-1960s Bush changed the company's name to Millipore Corporation, reflecting that the company had gone beyond manufacturing filter membranes for water analysis to making a wide range of products for the analysis and purification of many other fluids. By year-end 1967 Millipore was circulating its General Catalog in five different editions and was distributing its products throughout the world. Through significant investments in research and development, as well as acquisitions, the company operated nationwide and in wholly owned subsidiaries in Canada, England, France, Germany, and Italy. Revenue for 1963 reached $3.43 million. Equipping the brewing industry for the production of draft beer resulted in 30 percent of 1966 sales, which peaked at $9.96 million, allowing for a three-for-one stock split in that year.
Among new products introduced in 1967 were the Super-Q water purification system and the PhoroSlide electrophoresis system, examples of how the company applied its integrated-systems approach and gave customers a total solution to processing and analytical problems. The Millitube expendable-cartridge filter for high-volume processing reduced customers' operating and handling costs for many process applications. In 1968 Millipore introduced a fully automated, high-volume filtration system.
An Industry Leader: 1970-79
During the 1970s Millipore built on the technological base of the preceding 16 years to establish its leadership in markets related to membrane technology. The company was the leader in the manufacture of products and systems embodying "microstate technology" (words used to describe Millipore's expertise in treating the microscopic and submicroscopic organic and inorganic components of fluids). Continuous development and production of the company's original microporous-membrane filter and membrane-based systems led to a wide range of applications in laboratories, hospitals, and various industries. The Milli-R/Q water system combined the technologies of reverse osmosis, de-ionization, and membrane filtration to replace the expensive stills laboratories used to obtain the high quality water they needed.
The 1975 purchase of Worthington Biochemical Corporation (integrated into Millipore as the Worthington Diagnostics Division) expanded Millipore's expertise in enzymology and immuno-chemistry and gave it a segment of the diagnostics market. The acquisition of Texas-based Continental Water Conditioning Corporation allowed Millipore to establish a service base for the Water Systems Division; Continental had a nationwide network of 67 sales and service locations. During the last half of 1979, Millipore's Water Systems Division was consolidated with Continental's operations in El Paso. Acquiring California-based Chemetrics Corporation filled Millipore's need to protect its market position in diagnostic reagents by making available complete diagnostic systems, such as the Chemetrics' Analyzer II. This preprogrammed and user-reprogrammable instrument performed all routine blood chemistries and even printed out test results. Less expensive than most other comparably priced instruments, the Analyzer II was especially suited for small laboratories and hospitals not able to afford large automatic systems.
The Worthington Diagnostics Division produced purified enzymes for use in clinical assay applications, as well as enzymatic tools for protein chemistry, nucleic acid research, genetic engineering, and tissue culture. This division also developed a full line of lipid tests that could check for predisposition toward coronary artery disease. Another new product was Ultrafree, used to detect the levels of free and bound drug in a patient's blood, thereby enabling a physician to determine the appropriate level of total drug to be administered to a patient. Other Millipore products for hospitals included the Ivex-2, a final sterilizing filter for intravenous solutions; and reverse osmosis systems engineered to process water for hermodialysis.
Millipore offered products to provide clean, sterile fluids for use in manufacturing, to clean or sterilize final products, and to concentrate or reclaim materials from industrial waste water. The food and beverage industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the electronics industry were the primary industrial users of Millipore products. Millipore products prevented contamination of foods and beverages during their preparation and packaging; a quality-assurance program introduced to bottlers specified how monitoring micro-organisms during the bottling operation could detect contamination before it caused product spoilage. Millipore offered the pharmaceutical industry the means of assuring pure water for the production of pharmaceuticals and provided for the sterile air and liquids necessary in the fermentation process that produced antibiotics. Furthermore, the 1979 introduction of the Durapore membrane stood out as a highlight of the company's technological achievement. This membrane, made from a fluorocarbon polymer, had a temperature resistance of greater than 135 degrees centigrade and could be in-line sterilized. It was used principally for sterilizing injectable pharmaceutical products, such as antibiotics, blood fractions, and vaccines.
In the electronics industry, all fluids used in manufacturing integrated circuits (ICs) had to be free of bacteria and particles in order to prevent contaminants from bridging the microscopic gaps between circuit components. Large quantities of water de-ionized by Millipore water systems were used to rinse the wafers on which the circuits were printed. Millipore introduced MilliChem, a filtration system for acids. This was a small self-contained unit used at the etch station to continually recirculate the acid used in the process of etching the printed circuit pattern into the wafer. MilliChem increased the production yields for integrated circuits by five to ten percent; it also extended the life of the acid bath, thereby saving on both the original cost of the acid and on the expense of safely disposing of the depleted acid.
During the 1970s, Millipore's fundamental separations technology gained acceptance in many new markets. As a whole, the company grew tenfold. Consolidated net sales reached $153.39 million and net income was $16.84 million.
Rising and Slipping: 1980-89
Millipore entered the 1980s well positioned to compete in the multi-billion-dollar separations industry. The company opened two new subsidiaries, built two new overseas manufacturing plants, acquired two additional plants, tripled the capacity of its French plant, and initiated limited manufacturing in Brazil and India. In Japan, Millipore maintained local manufacturing and product development operations; the Japanese government and industry invested heavily in electronics and pharmaceutical processing--two of Millipore's strengths. The United States remained the company's largest market.
Millipore founder John Bush retired from Millipore management in 1980, remaining on the board of directors. He was succeeded as chairman and CEO by D.V. d'Arbeloff, who had served as president for the prior 15 years. D'Arbeloff died in 1985. His successor, Jack Mulvany, served as chairman, president, and CEO for one year before he was killed in a tragic helicopter accident. Mulvany was succeeded by John A. Gilmartin, who had been Millipore's chief financial officer and had just been put in charge of Millipore's largest operating division.
Millipore introduced new products to its various clients. The industrial customer base included pharmaceutical, biotechnology, semiconductor, chemical, environmental testing, and food and beverage companies. Separations technology was particularly important for the new generation of biotechnology-derived pharmaceuticals. Millipore's technologies played a major role in eliminating and reducing particulate and chemical contamination in the growing manufacture of semiconductors. As environmental concerns drew increased attention, Millipore's analytical devices and instrumentation helped monitor and control environmental contamination. The company made products for university, government, private analytical, and research laboratories, as well as defense and regulatory agencies. Healthcare and medical research companies were also served by Millipore.
During the first half of the 1980s, Millipore earned more than 13 percent on capital and grew per-share earnings by 20 percent annually. Around 1985, however, problems began to surface in the company's Waters Chromatography Division, Millipore's first attempt at diversification. Waters, which made equipment for separating liquids, was a highly profitable company when it was acquired in 1980, but it soon adversely affected Millipore's profitability. While Millipore's business depended on products made to customer specifications, Waters' focus was the launching of new instruments for a very different market from that of Millipore's membrane business. In 1985, Jack Mulvany had started up the MilliGen/Biosearch Division, focused on the emerging market for automated DNA synthesis and sequencing, and on protein and peptide synthesis and sequencing. Part of the impetus for this step was the Human Genome project and the dynamics of the life-science research market of the mid-eighties. The new division incorporated the instrumentation skills of Waters Chromatography as well as the membrane and chemistry skills of Millipore's filter business. MilliGen/Biosearch, however, never turned a profit.
Sales of chromatography products slowed down in both the United States and Europe. At the end of the 1980s, a stronger U.S. dollar on the worldwide market depressed growth by three percentage points; the sale of the Process Water Division in November 1989 depressed growth by an additional percentage point. In Europe, however, membrane product lines--especially those sold for analytical purposes--sold particularly well. Millipore benefitted from strong sales of electronics in the Pacific region and from increased sales to its pharmaceutical customers. In 1989 consolidated net sales increased six percent to $365.83, but net income declined three percent to $52.5 million.
Refocusing Strategies: 1989 and Beyond
By 1989 the $3.5-billion separations industry in which Millipore competed had slowed from a ten to 12 percent growth rate to a five to six percent rate. Competition was on the increase: more and smarter competitors were investing heavily in Millipore's market segments. On the other hand, there was a broader, deeper appreciation of discoveries in biochemistry and their potential applications in human therapeutics, agriculture, and clinical diagnostics. These discoveries occurred in the micro-chemical research laboratories utilizing membrane technologies and bioinstrumentation systems. Millipore benefitted from the electronics industry's growing need for ultra-clean manufacturing environments to produce ever more complex semiconductor chips. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries showed increased interest in purifying the manufacturing processes of viruses and bacteria. Moreover, the environmental industry needed products for the precise monitoring of very low levels of pollutants. Millipore entered the 1990s determined to refocus its strategic vision and capitalize on the opportunities created by these emerging global trends.
In August 1994 the company sold its Waters Chromatography and Bioscience Divisions, used the proceeds to buy back 12 percent of Millipore's stock, and focused more intensely on developing internally and through selected acquisitions. The 1996 acquisition of the Amicon Separation Science Business added molecular separation and purification products for the life-science research laboratory as well as for biopharmaceutical and manufacturing applications. In January 1997, the company's purchase of Tylan General, Inc. expanded Millipore's role as a supplier of liquid and process gas purification products to the semiconductor industry, thereby including the manufacture, marketing and sale of a broad range of precision processes and instruments for manufacturing ICs.
Millipore had begun to implement the priorities and goals defined in 1995 when, in 1996, John Gilmartin tendered his resignation after 17 years with the company, for ten of which he had served as chairman, president, and CEO. He was succeeded in those responsibilities by C. William Zadel, president, and chief executive officer of CIBA-Corning Diagnostics Corp., a leading supplier of diagnostic instruments, reagents and data management systems to the global clinical laboratory market.
Millipore continued to emphasize technical expertise, product quality, and responsiveness to customer needs. The company developed more effective customer-feedback techniques and expanded its use of customer surveys. New market-assessment techniques were implemented to define and segment major markets, and a process called "Future Mapping" was initiated to conduct five- to seven-year assessments of all the company's market segments and businesses. For better clarity, accountability, and alignment with customer-focused divisions, in 1995 Millipore identified its three major markets for purification technologies as being microelectronics manufacturing, the analytical laboratory, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
The following products were some of the new contributions that Millipore offered to these markets. The company provided the microelectronics industry with cost-cutting and technology-enabling "smart purifiers," consisting of chemical purifiers that selectively removed ions from acid solutions; an in-line monitor gave ongoing feedback on the level of molecular contaminants in process gases. The IntelliGen Photochemical Dispense System with Impact LHVD Filter was an integrated filter and pump designed for easy, rapid and safe filter changeouts. Pre-wetted filters and a new gas process control system were also launched.
The company's products were sold to hospitals, dialysis centers, and healthcare providers, among other customers. Millipore sold disposable filters/devices and water purification systems to more than 200,000 laboratories. Millipore products were used to provide the ultrapure water needed for research, and to purify, sterilize, concentrate, and isolate various biologicals, chemicals and particulates. The company's membrane and device expertise was used to develop home diagnostic kits, and clinical-laboratory and infection-control devices. Laboratory customers were very receptive to a new family of Milli-Q water purification systems.
The company capitalized on the fact that the biopharmaceutical industry was rapidly changing through mergers and acquisitions, globalization, worldwide regulations, biotechnology, genetics, and new approaches to healthcare for an aging population. In 1995 there were 226 biotech drugs in Phase III clinical trials. Millipore, particularly well suited for the isolation of cells and the purification of protein solutions, worked closely with biotechnology companies to design purification systems and protocols at each stage of scale-up, manufacturing, and final formulation of new drugs. New products included Pellicon XL, a laboratory bench-size filtration device; Integritest Exacta, a new on-site integrity tester for filters in the pharmaceutical environment; and a new Millipak sterility filter family. Furthermore, through its global infrastructure, Millipore helped multinational biopharmaceutical companies set up new manufacturing facilities in China, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
Over the years, Millipore products effectively enabled many countries to safeguard the environment--and Millipore played its part well. Millipore's worldwide manufacturing operations continually improved their efficiencies and exceeded environmental milestones while increasing their volumes of manufactured products. From 1990 through 1997, the company's plants reduced the total amount of chemical emissions by 68 percent. In December 1997 Millipore began constructing new headquarters in Allen, Texas, for its microelectronics gas business. The cost-cutting purpose of the new plant was to consolidate into one unit three Tylan manufacturing sites. Millipore expected to have pilot manufacturing operations certified by August 1998 and full-scale operations running by October 1998. Products to be manufactured at this facility included components to control flow and pressure of gases used in semiconductor manufacturing.
Much time and energy went into incorporating Amicon and Tylan as part of Millipore. Amicon was smoothly integrated into Millipore and actually added to Millipore's total profitability. The accretion of Tylan was more challenging not only because of a downturn in the microelectronics industry but also because Tylan was a composite of three small companies: Vacuum General, Tylan, and Span! The slow accretion of Tylan affected Millipore's 1997 results. Nevertheless, 1997 sales grew more than 15 percent to $758.92 million (due in part to sales from the acquired companies), despite the negative impact of currency fluctuations during the year. Among external events affecting the company were the economic turmoil in Asia and the shift in business mix resulting from the acquisition of Amicon and Tylan. While the Japanese yen had weakened against the dollar by more than 30 percent, the severest negative impact was from the Korean business: the Korean won had dropped 50 percent in value--and Korea was a major microelectronics center.
China was less affected by the economic crisis than many of the other Asian countries in which Millipore did business. In 1969 the company had established a presence in China with limited chromatography sales, mostly to research institutions and universities. During the early 1970s and 1980s, the company had participated in technical seminars, conferences, and trade shows. Millipore had opened a sales office in Beijing as early as 1981, a sales office in Shanghai in 1985, and two other offices in 1990: one in Guangshou, one in Shenyang, and two in Hong Kong, which became part of China in July 1997.
March 1998 marked a milestone for Millipore's business in The People's Republic of China: the official opening of The Millipore Suzhou Filter Company, the company's first manufacturing operation in that country. The dominant markets for Millipore products in China were the pharmaceutical and food-and-beverage markets. In 1998, throughout China, there were more than 2,000 factories making drugs and more than three factories making bottled water, beer, and soft drinks. Demand for Millipore products were increasing because of their numerous critical applications in Chinese pharmaceutical and food-and-beverage production.
Revenues grew during the first quarter of 1998, but there was a loss in gross margin for the quarter. Millipore dealt with slower sales growth by reducing expenses throughout the company but protected future-oriented programs. For the first six months of 1998, revenues were down three percent. Chairman and CEO Zadel commented that the revenue shortfall and the poor earnings performance were due to the continuing worldwide slowdown in the microelectronics industry, a slowdown that showed no sign of a near-term rebound. The second quarter brought no overall growth in the biopharmaceutical business, due primarily to the food and beverage part of that business. However, the drug-approval pipeline and ordering trends boded well for growth in the next six months. Millipore's strategic direction and investments in research and development, new products, and new sales channels paid off in the analytical business, which reported ten percent growth in the second quarter.
As the 21st century drew near, although Millipore remained subject to the volatility of its ultrafiltration and microelectronics segments, the downsized company's new products, established reputation for customer satisfaction, and strong worldwide infrastructure in the analytical laboratory and biopharmaceutical markets, over the long term seemed able to mitigate cyclical declines in the microelectronics business.
Principal Subsidiaries: Millipore Asia Ltd.; Millipore Cidra, Inc. (Puerto Rico); Millipore Intertech, (V.I.), Inc.; Millipore (Canada) Ltd.; Millipore S.A. de C.V. (Mexico); Millipore GesmbH (Austria); Millipore International Holding Company B.V., (Netherlands); Millipore (Suzhou) Filter Company Limited (Peoples Republic of China).
- Beard, J., and A. Coghlan, "Filters Provide Traps for Catching Viruses," New Scientist, July 20, 1991, p. 20.
- "Going Beyond Green," Modern Materials Handling, September 1995, pp. 12-14.
- McGrath, Dylan, and Chad Fasca, "The Fab Line," Electronic News, June 15, 1998, pp. 40-41.
- "Portable Environmental Tools Make Field Testing a Breeze," R&D Magazine, July 1994, pp. 31-32.
- Powitz, Robert W., and James J. Balsamo, "The Millipore Sanitarian's Kit," Journal of Environmental Health, April 1998, p. 34.
- "Pure Water Tap," Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics, May 1996, p. 55.
- "Products and Materials: Scientific Apparatus and Instruments," Science, March 21, 1997, pp. 1811-13.
- "Show Products Quality Control," Beverage World, October 1996, pp. 190-98.
- Ward, Amanda E., and Michael K. Ozanian, "Out to Pasture: Badgered by Big Shareholders, Millipore Is Finally Selling Its Losers. Now What?," Financial World, September 27, 1994, pp. 28-29.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 25. St. James Press, 1999.