Not going it alone

‘Regardless of the climate, I think good companies are always going to want to look for efficiencies’
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – Two new partnerships that went into effect in September speak to a growing trend of HME manufacturers combining their resources to conquer new geographies and new markets.

TiLite announced Sept. 6 that its full product line is now represented in Canada by Permobil, and Ottobock announced Sept. 17 that it now distributes Made for Movement’s Innowalk exclusively in North America.

“I think the climate is difficult, but regardless of the climate, I think good companies are always going to want to look for efficiencies, which is a fancy word for cost savings,” said David Boninger, vice president of marketing and communications for TiLite. “We want to dedicate our resources to the quality of our product. So if being more efficient in sales and marketing means having better quality products, that’s what we want to do.”

Different market, same model

Boninger calls TiLite’s partnership with Permobil “a good fit.” The biggest reason: The two companies are in different markets (Pasco, Wash.-based TiLite in manual wheelchairs; Lebanon, Tenn.-based Permobil in power wheelchairs), yet they share the same business model and philosophy.

“There’s a strong emphasis on the individual and making sure each individual isn’t getting a one-size-fits-all mobility device,” he said. “It’s something that’s truly tailored to their needs.”

In the U.S., TiLite has an independent network of about 45 sales reps. In Canada, the company will now be represented by five Permobil sales reps, plus a designated TiLite product specialist.

TiLite’s not new to Canada. It has been selling there for some years, but the partnership with Permobil will give it greater reach in a market that it’s “very interested” in growing, Boninger said.

“Permobil has more bandwidth,” he said.

Rounded-out offering

Minneapolis-based Ottobock’s partnership with Norway-based Made for Movement to distribute its Innowalk, a motorized stander for kids, is the company’s third this year. Already on the books: Krabat AS (pediatric early intervention products) and PatienTech/Vista Medical (BodiTrak pressure mapping systems).

“These are all premium products that fill gaps in our own product line and, most importantly, are in line with our standards,” said Matt Swiggum, vice president of mobility solutions, U.S. Health Care.

While Ottobock already has an established reputation for mobility products in Europe, it’s “more up and coming” in the U.S., Swiggum says.

Using a partnership approach to rounding out its offering allows Ottobock to keep its R&D dollars dedicated to its core products, he says.

“There’s a finite number of areas where we’re going to make heavy investment in R&D,” Swiggum said. “We’re going to be coming out with some pediatric products, but these supporting products were not on our short-term horizon. That’s what we try to look for.”