Keep on rolling

Sunday, January 23, 2011

KENNEWICK, Wash. ­– Ultralight wheelchair manufacturer TiLite has rolled out some big moves recently.

In December, the company gained major operational efficiencies when it moved from four separate buildings totaling 45,000 square feet into a new 73,000-square-foot facility.

“Peoples’ jobs in the past required them to move from one building to another 12 times a day,” said CEO David Lippes. “That may have taken two hours a day. Suddenly, that person has two hours a day of free time. Now they can do more. They are doing tasks that add value.”

TiLite formed 13 years ago, and as business increased, it grew piecemeal into four different buildings. For the first time ever, the company now has a linear manufacturing process: orders come in one side of the building and go out the other as finished products, Lippes said.

In other news, in November TiLite acquired Three Rivers Holdings.

The Mesa, Ariz.-based company, which will operate as a subsidiary, manufactures Natural-Fit Handrims; GameCycle, a rehab product that helps manual wheelchair users strengthen their upper arms and improve their coordination; and the SmartWheel, an evaluation tool that helps providers and clinicians fit patients to ultralight wheelchairs. The company has other products under development, Lippes said.

“We bought Three Rivers for two reasons,” he said. “We can give them some financial and engineering horsepower. And the people at that company are very bright, motivated and share the same down-to-earth philosophy that we do: It’s not primarily about money; it’s primarily about user experience.”