New owners seek to promote Butler lines

Thursday, March 31, 2005

YORK, Pa. -- If Butler Mobility has flown under the HME industry's radar screen for 46 years, the new owners think now is finally the right time for the company to get noticed.
Indeed, the long-established accessibility product manufacturer has operated since the late 1950s and its parent company Flinchbaugh has been around for nearly 70 years. So why aren't more people aware of them?
"The previous owner was a highly skilled machinist who focused on producing the best quality product possible, but paid very little attention to marketing," said Kurt Weber, who purchased the operation recently with partner Greg Jenkins. "Together Greg and I have perfect synergy because his background is in manufacturing and mine is in marketing. His task is to continue the tradition of making high quality products and mine is finding ways to let people know about it."
Butler's core product lines are stair glides, wheelchair inclines, vertical chair lifts and dumb waiters, and in the course of their due diligence, Weber and Jenkins learned just how "old school" the company's practices are.
"In reviewing the parts inventory we were questioning why the company had so many outdated parts in stock," he said. "As it turns out, many of the units have been out there for 25 years and are just now getting calls for maintenance."
Ultimately, the new owners want to retain all the elements that distinguish the company, such as its retroactive manufacturing process of making every part in-house while at the same time refashioning it's product lines for a contemporary marketplace. First on the list is a redesigned stair climb that Weber says "is visually appealing but has the longevity that customers expect."
About 70% of Butler's sales have been through dealer channels and Weber says they are looking to strengthen these relationships. The company is also interested in partnering with a manufacturer of scooters and wheelchairs that are "complementary" to Butler's product line.
"During the course of our research on the HME market, we've learned that there is an increasing curve in the need and demand for our products, but we also see an increase in the number of competitors," Weber said. "Finding a mobility manufacturing partner will help us compete and we think good opportunities exist for that to happen."