News: USA - remanufacturer of hospital beds is booming in Indiana
Long before Michael Wilson and Tim Brandes started their own Southern Indiana company, before they learned to be international exporters, they tinkered with old cars and learned to repair broken hospital beds while working for Batesville-based Hill-Rom.
Tuesday, 12th July 2011
When Hill-Rom decided to outsource some of the work, Wilson and Brandes had an idea. If they left their jobs as service technicians for Hill-Rom, they could start their own small company reconditioning and remanufacturing Hill-Rom's used hospital beds, stretchers and other patient-room furnishings. With just a few dollars a decade ago and a love for the products they were repairing and selling, Wilson and Brandes launched Bed Techs, a remanufacturer of hospital beds. Bed Techs then began growing up in the shadow of the multinational Hill-Rom, which reported nearly $1.5 billion in sales last year. The privately owned Bed Techs -- still owned equally by Wilson and Brandes -- doesn't disclose its financial information. However, the company announced plans last week to invest $7.2 million in a Dearborn County facility to consolidate operations from three sites and add about 55 employees, doubling the workforce. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Bed Techs up to $225,000 in state income tax credits if the jobs are created. "Hill-Rom is the best. If you have a Hill-Rom hospital bed, people around the world know it's like owning a Mercedes," Wilson said. "The thing is, not everyone can afford the price of new." New medical beds often cost from $3,000 to $40,000 or more, depending on features that can include vibration or rotation of the patient. Wilson said Bed Techs has developed the remanufacturing expertise and, in some cases, the ability to re-create out-of-stock parts that let it sell refurbished beds for a savings of 35 percent or more. Many of Bed Techs' employees formerly worked at Hill-Rom, where they learned about the beds. "We don't pursue any active employees at Hill-Rom," Wilson said. Over the past two decades, they've remanufactured and resold about 20,000 used Hill-Rom beds worldwide. "We're not changing the designs. Some of these beds have 20 circuit boards in them, so they are sophisticated," he said. Wilson remembers he and his co-founder signing their first deal when they were in their 30s -- and flipping a coin to determine their official corporate titles. Wilson became president and Brandes the treasurer. "Our first order came from Pakistan. It was an order placed over the Internet for 20 beds," Wilson said. Bed Techs later participated in a state-run programme to help small companies in Indiana learn how to create markets and export Hoosier-made goods around the world. The programme has expired, but Bed Techs still has customers of its remanufactured hospital gear in Egypt, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other countries. Used beds have been shipped to hospitals, clinics, institutions and even to homebound patients across the U.S., including facilities in Indianapolis.