Vertex Pharmaceuticals
A researcher in Vertex Pharmaceuticals San Diego, California, lab works on test samples. Much of Vertex's cystic fibrosis research comes out of the California lab.

IW U.S. 50 Best Manufacturers: Vertex Pharmaceuticals Takes Top Spot

July 10, 2024
A more diverse set of companies landed in IndustryWeek’s annual ranking of companies that manage their operations most efficiently with no one sector dominating results.

It wasn’t the biggest company, the most profitable or the fastest-growing. However, Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. placed near the top all of our financial metrics, making it the No.1 performer on the 2024 IW 50 Best U.S. Manufacturers list.

Pulled from our annual IndustryWeek U.S. 500 list of the largest manufacturing companies in the country, the IW 50 Best list evaluates those publicly traded companies on six financial metrics throughout a three-to-five-year period.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals

The manufacturer of cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia and pain management drugs is no stranger to the IW 50 Best U.S. Manufacturers list, having landed at No. 12 last year and No. 3 in 2022. Really, it should have been No. 1 in 2022, given that the companies ahead of it were Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. two companies that we have since removed from consideration because neither makes its own products.

So, what makes Vertex the best in manufacturing? Solid, consistent performance anchored by steady revenue and profit growth.

Treating disease creates an odd set of financial targets. While most manufacturers want growing markets for their products, few pharmaceutical company executives would celebrate having more gravely ill patients to treat, even if it’s good for business.

One note in Vertex’s recent financial statements pops out – the estimated number of people living with the genetic lung disorder cystic fibrosis is going up. That increase in patients is a bizarre sign of success. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in the 1950s, few children diagnosed with the disease lived long enough to reach elementary school – today, many patients live well into adulthood.

“Continued investment in scientific and serial innovation will allow us to complete our journey to transform [cystic fibrosis] by bringing all eligible CF patients down to … where there are no manifestations of disease,” says Dr. Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., president and CEO of Vertex.

That focus on investing in the future is the core reason for Vertex’s top placement. The company was in the middle of the pack for income and revenue growth, but at more than 30%, its profit margins have been in the Top 10 on the IW U.S. 500 list for the past five years, and the company has similarly excelled in other metrics. Put simply, Vertex’s leadership has invested its resources well for years, creating new products and lowering its costs in ways the provide long-term growth opportunities.

How the Best Performed

The IW 50 Best Manufacturers list isn’t a simple measure of sales or profitability. Inventory management and return on investment are also major factors. However, the best manufacturers did perform significantly better than the rest of the IW U.S. 500.

The broader list posted $6.4 trillion in sales last year, down about 3% from 2023, and $48 billion in net income, up a little less than 1%. The IW 50 Best had just more than $1 trillion in sales, up 2%, and about $151 billion in profits, up 8%.

About the Author

Robert Schoenberger



Bio: Robert Schoenberger has been writing about manufacturing technology in one form or another since the late 1990s. He began his career in newspapers in South Texas and has worked for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he spent more than six years as the automotive reporter. In 2014, he launched Today's Motor Vehicles (now EV Manufacturing & Design), a magazine focusing on design and manufacturing topics within the automotive and commercial truck worlds. He joined IndustryWeek in late 2021.

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