Roho builds new facility

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- In a move to remain competitive in a world rife with low-cost imports and shrinking reimbursement, the Roho Group opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility here June 20.
"We never changed the base product, the way it is made and performs," said Senior Vice President of Operations John Schwartz. "We only looked at how we could manufacture our product in the most reliable and consistent way."
The plant now produces all of Roho's neoprene wheelchair cushion products. The company's old plant will manufacture Roho's plastic products and a low air-loss mattresses.
While Schwartz was careful not to give away manufacturing secrets, the new plant, he said, implements processes designed to make every cushion "look, smell and feel that same."
"It's repeatability, repeatability, repeatability," he said.
By redoubling its efforts to control the manufacturing process down to the smallest detail, Roho's goal is, as much as possible, to eliminate the potential for a failure that results in a defective product. Fewer defects, in turn, reduce costs and increase profits, Schwartz said.
The new plant reduces the "opportunity for error" by about 50%. Also, by being more efficient and automated, Roho was able to reduce its labor costs "dramatically." Labor savings come not in the form of layoffs, but in the company's need to hire fewer people going forward -- the ability to do more with less, Schwartz said.
With Medicare unlikely to increase reimbursement anytime soon, and offshore imports starting to penetrate the cushion market, the new facility helps position Roho for the future, Schwartz said.
"This makes us more competitive, and we have more than doubled our manufacturing capability," he said. "For 30 years we have manufactured this neoprene cushion, and every so often we would look at our process and come up with a better way to do what we do. With this step, we probably took our greatest advancement in bringing in state-of-the-art equipment to manufacture cushions."