RMS Rehab factory
A bird’s eye view of RMS’ manufacturing facility in Sittingbourne

After launching a new e-commerce platform and with some exciting product launches waiting in the wings, RMS has plenty going on at the moment. THIIS chats to Alan Wombell, Company Director at RMS, about the firm’s proud history and what is coming next for the firm…

Mobility equipment supplier RMS (Rehabilitation Manufacturing Services) has been supplying the NHS, schools and child development centres for 40 years.

Alan Wombell, who is Company Director, started at RMS in 1994 and was previously employed as a rehabilitation engineering manager at Kings Healthcare.

“At the time I was only the ninth employee to join RMS, which seems very small now that we are up to over 45 members of staff,” comments Alan. “I was bought into the company to work alongside Roger Thompson, the previous owner of the company, as a seating engineer and to identify key strategic solutions to expand the business.

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“I’d like to think I was very successful in this pursuit before finally buying the company alongside Wayne Cotter and Derek Bryant in 2005.”

One of the projects Alan says that he was most proud of at RMS was being part of the team that developed the Gillingham Tilt Wheelchair in the late Nineties.

“It was the first fully customisable system developed with the individual needs of the user in mind. This wheelchair went on to be supplied throughout the UK, and was the initial building block that led to RMS becoming an established supplier into NHS Wheelchair Services.”

Boosting its online presence

RMS Rehab Virtus
The Virtus Seating System has done extremely well since its launch in 2020

RMS recently launched a new e-commerce platform, which provides customer with the tools they need to purchase products directly. The website includes a comprehensive archive of technical data and drawings.

Explaining the idea behind it, Alan says: “We wanted to create an easier route to market for our products. We know we are very good at what we do, we just sometimes haven’t made that purchasing journey as easy as we could have done for our customers.

“We manufacture a lot of products, by their very nature highly customisable, which can lead to an overwhelming amount of options. We are hoping new tools like our Interactive Product Builder will be able to solve those issues and make it easier for our users to place their orders.”

RMS has also accelerated its offering of informative webinars since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Alan adds: “RMS used to do a lot of awareness days before the world changed, centred around the clinical benefits and the best ways to use our products. Since the pandemic, we have learned to adapt and take these sessions digital to make sure the therapists we work with have access to as much clinical information as we possibly can.”

Talking of the pandemic, Alan admits that having hard-working staff in key positions within its sales, marketing and technical departments has meant that the firm has been able to roll with the punches of the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side.

Shipping delays haven’t really impacted the firm either, he says, as RMS have always invested heavily in stock so that it has a surplus of materials to fall back on if supply chains become disrupted.

“Coupled with the fact that as a manufacturer we can then produce most parts – or any replacements for parts we can’t get hold of – at our factory in the UK means we have been able to minimise the impacts of global issues that have plagued other companies,” explains Alan.

RMS Rehab Buddy
RMS developed the Buddy Classroom chair for young users requiring mild postural support

Bestselling products

Alan admits that RMS has always done really well with its accessories range, especially its belts and harnesses.

He adds: “We have our own in-house upholstery department that makes every pelvic belt, dynamic harness or chest strap by hand. These products are then so well made we often get phone calls from customers asking to replace a pelvic belt they bought over a decade ago!

“More recently, we have had great success in this area with our clamp on swing-away laterals, flip down pommels and stump boards.”

Since its launch at the start of 2020, the Virtus Seating System has done extremely well, he says.

“This seating unit bridges the gap between the wheelchair service and school markets, with one seat unit being able to be interfaced onto a wheelchair or hi-lo base. This flexibility and uniqueness has allowed us to let the product flow into a wide range of environments.”

The keys to its success with its products, particularly with being successful internationally over the last few years, has been down to building successful relationship with suppliers, explains Alan.

“Over the years we have moved naturally from seating to buggies, then into walkers and standing frames. We have been able to do this by finding the absolute best products – wherever they come from in the world – and by forging strong and enduring business links with those manufacturers.”

RMS Rehab by hand
A harness being made in the in-house upholstery department

Targeting the smaller retailers

As part of its newly-developed digital platform, RMS is keen to open its business up to smaller mobility retailers, explains Alan.

“We want to give this very key sector within the industry the ability to come directly to the manufacturer and place one-off or small batch orders at competitive prices. It’s not just taken a new website to realise this goal.

“We have also implemented new systems across the business including accounting, stock management, and workflow to allow this to happen.”

RMS invests heavily in R&D, and while Alan admits he cannot share any specifics, he says that the firm is coming up with some clever and “never before seen” designs for new products.

“As a teaser and example of one innovation, we are currently in the process of reviewing our headrests and the way in which we manufacture certain components to make them easier for carers and therapists to use.”

The firm is doing a lot of work at the moment based around the benefits of early intervention, which it hopes to develop on in the future.

Alan says: “This means we have developed and worked with companies to create products that can help users start therapy from as young as 18 months old.

“This includes an exclusive global contract to distribute the well-established Spex Discovery seat unit on our newly developed My-Lyte buggy frame; the development of our Buddy Classroom chair that has a seat size as tiny as 190 x 245mm (about the same size as your hand spread out); and another exclusivity deal to supply the new Easystand Zing Portable in the UK, a fully foldable tilting standing frame that can fit in the boot of most hatchbacks!”

The next year for RMS, Alan says, will be about solidifying its position in the market. “Lockdowns gave us a lot of time to develop new products and solutions, now it is about allowing those products to bed in and filter through the market.

“We are also investing in talented long-term staff and apprentices. Our goal at RMS has always been about creating products that are perfect for the end user and improve their quality of life – now we are instilling that core value into the next generation of staff here at RMS.”

www.rms-rehab.co.uk

RMS Rehab products
The My-Lyte Discovery and Zing Portable, two examples of RMS’ new early intervention products.
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