Sunday, February 29, 2004

OCONOMOWOC, Wisc. - Bruno has always prided itself on groundbreaking products. Now it is breaking ground on a new 100,000 square foot manufacturing plant.

The new facility underscores the suburban Milwaukee mobility products manufacturer’s vision of unbridled opportunity in the HME industry despite potentially catastrophic Medicare reimbursement cuts and heightened government scrutiny of K0011 power chair sales. CEO Michael R. Bruno told HME News that he intends to reach $100 million in sales in the next two years and that the spacious new plant is the vessel that will carry the company to that goal. Company sales are currently in the $75 million to $80 million range.

“We simply need more manufacturing space,” said Bruno, who founded the business in 1984. “We’re introducing new product lines that will give our dealers the ability to present a complete mobility package and this expansion will help us do that.”

At press time, neither Bruno nor his son Michael R. Bruno II were willing to elaborate on what types of products comprise the new lines, but both contend they are new concepts for the HME industry. The lines are being produced in a partnership with other companies and Bruno claims they will blaze new trails in the same way as the company’s lift and turning automotive seating (TAS) systems.

“These are products that will create new areas of business for dealers,” he said. “We don’t follow anyone or benchmark ourselves against anyone else. Let them benchmark against us.”

Bruno II, who serves as president, said the organization has refocused its efforts on new product development and that perhaps as many as five new nameplates could be ready for unveiling by Medtrade in the fall.

“We hope they won’t be a secret for too long - we may be ready to announce two of them by Medtrade Spring, but we’re not sure at this point,” he said. “We won’t bring them to market until the time is right.”

When completed in June, the expansion will give Bruno four facilities and 250,000 square feet of space at its headquarter complex. The Brunos have overseen consistent expansion at the site since 1994. The company added to its holdings by acquiring Auto Adapt in Stenkullen and Boras, Sweden in December 2002.

The Brunos assert that the company is leading the way for mobility dealers to diversify their market and gain greater independence from Medicare through commercially viable products and services. One area they see as being underserved is adaptive equipment for the automotive market. Most car manufacturers will pay up to $1,000 in rebates to new car owners for accessibility modification and are looking for companies to provide the service.

“This is a new marketplace for HME dealers - there is a definite need for this,” Bruno said. “Strengthen your relationship with car dealerships. Consumers can’t install these things themselves.”