Geberit AquaCLean Mera Care Remote
The Geberit AquaCLean Mera Care Remote
Simon Thomas, Geberit
Simon Thomas, Care Sales Director at Geberit

Geberit is a European market leader in sanitary products which combine adaptability with clever features, creating more independence for the user in the bathroom. THIIS talks to Simon Thomas, Care Sales Director at Geberit, to find out more about how the manufacturer continues to drive awareness of its product, and his first-hand experience of how the firm adapts and devises innovative new products…

Despite all that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at it over the past year, accessible bathroom designer and manufacturer, Geberit, has continued to thrive, developing new products and devising new ways of interacting with its customers.

Most recently, Geberit announced that it was sponsoring the Technical Officer of the Year Category at the 2021 National Healthy Housing Awards, with the awards ceremony taking place this month in Manchester. THIIS chats to Simon Thomas, Care Sales Director, to find out a bit more…

Can you tell us about your story with Geberit?

“I joined the Geberit Care Team in 2013 to take the position of Area Sales Manager for the North. This meant co-ordinating the day-day training for end-users before and after a shower toilet had been installed.

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“In 2014, I stepped up to lead the Care Team and created an equipment compatibility guide to further support the occupational therapists (OTs) that we work in close partnership with.

This provided everything about the product itself, such as the shower chair, that works alongside the toilet to enhance accessibility for patients.

“Through increased understanding of the product and its end-user enhancements, OTs were able to take a holistic approach to end-user requirements and advise a range of products that work together to enhance user experience.

Geberit AquaClean Mera Care

“This saw increased demand for the product, which led to sales doubling in the space of a year. Following this, I took on more responsibility and stepped up to Care Sales Manager in 2015.

“In this role, I focused on making the toilet and team more visible and accessible to the OT community. My team grew, with Richard Wheeler and Denis Harley coming on board, each bringing 30 years of industry experience to the force.

“From here, we continued to drive awareness, focusing on market needs and helping local authorities save money and reduce the ongoing cost of services.

“After much development and testing, we launched the Mera Care toilet as it’s known today in 2019, which retired the original GAC 8000+ Care model.

“From cistern through to aesthetics, this new model was as accessible as it was adaptable, providing every requirement the healthcare market needed. In 2021, we’re a team of seven and going strong, covering the entire country with a market leading product.”

What was your experience in the mobility industry prior to joining Geberit?

“My brother owned a mobility shop, and I started working with him in 2000, specialising in motorised chairs, stairlifts, mobility scooters and equipment.

“Throughout this time, I got to know some great distributors who took me under their wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the industry – I looked up to them and learnt a lot.

“I spent over 10 years focusing on specialist seating and specialist bathing and showering, so I was already familiar with shower toilets when I took the role at Geberit.”

Have there been any stand-out projects you have been most proud of at Geberit?

“Having the opportunity to redesign the toilet itself, which saw the end of the old range and the dawn of the Mera Care toilet.

“I was really proud to be in charge, not only of the team, but to use my experience and knowledge for the input of the essential elements too. It was a team effort, from design to launch, marketing and training, ensuring a smooth transition old to new with the best possible end-user journey and experience.

“The team took a multi-disciplinary approach, from the design team based in our Switzerland HQ through to the product management and technical team in the UK.

“I was able to see the project through from start to finish, seeing it grow and grow. The positive feedback we received, and continue to receive, was testament to the care that was taken in developing the finished product.”

Can you tell us a bit more about how your products are distributed in the UK?

“With our Care range, we don’t sell directly as we have a specialist and trusted distribution network which consists of Nicholls and Clarke (N&C), AKW Medi-care, PROCare Wigan, and, in Ireland, Sync Living.

“Although our distribution network do the selling, the Care Team take overall responsibility for the assessments that are done with the OTs before the sale, during the installation, aftercare and training.

“The Care Team remain hands-on throughout the process, which ensures we can not only support the OTs and technical officers, but that all the adaptions, products and accessories are tailored to match the needs of each individual end-user.”

Are you looking to expand your dealer network? 

“We have a great network of dealers that we work with already, such as TPG Disable Aids, Wealden Rehab and Yorkshire Care, which provide us with an extended retailer network and increased presence on the national market.

“We are always on the lookout for appropriately placed companies that share our values and ethos and are suited to our products and brand.

“All of our current and prospective dealers are specific to the healthcare market and undergo specialist product and installation training – both in-house and on-site.”

Geberit is a sponsor of the 2021 National Healthy Housing Awards. Why did Geberit choose to support this?

“We chose to sponsor the Specialist Technical Officer Award as they play a vital role in the measuring, specification and installation of our toilets and are often the unsung heroes of the project.

“For a huge number of people across the UK, the reality is that an everyday task such as using the toilet can be something they’re unable to do alone and with dignity.

“It can be difficult to provide this independence, especially in the bathroom, however, when adapted correctly, it can make the biggest difference. Installing the right equipment makes life easier and supports wellbeing.

“Seeing the difference our technical officers make each and every day, sponsoring this ensures they not only feel valued by us for the incredible work they do, but that they receive the recognition they deserve.”

Is Geberit looking to get involved with any other events in 2022?

“This year was our first season working alongside Foundations, which has been a great way for us to build our relationships with OTs, technical officers and grants officers.

“We plan to do more of these next year, alongside our regular attendance at The OT Show and as an exhibitor at the Occupational Therapy Adaptions Conferences.

“Attending events and exhibiting makes us accessible to the industry and provides a real opportunity to demonstrate the value our products provide and to see them in action.”

What are your thoughts on the accessible adaptation market at the moment and the future of it?

“The market is definitely growing and, since the increased use of social media and online shopping, it has widened the audience and reach, increasing the accessibility to products and services.

“There is also a wider range of products available on the market, for instance, the GAC Mera Care technology and design is very modern and cost effective. It comes with a free five-year warranty and the product is self-servicing, which means no ongoing maintenance costs.

“The London Paralympic Games led to increased awareness and helped to normalise disability, with people less afraid to come forward and ask for help.

“Coupled with the increased funding available through the Disabled Facilities Grant to support home adaptations, more people can care for themselves in their own homes instead of requiring assistance.

“At Geberit, we will continue to innovate, staying at the forefront of technology with an approach to not only expand our product adaptability, but incorporate the latest developments in smart technology to further enhance it.”

How has Geberit managed to navigate challenges in the past year, such as Covid and shipping delays?  

“When it comes to our Care network, we continue to work closely with our distributor network and, even during lockdown, all of our distributors had a good stock of toilets.

“We worked with our core distribution centre in Germany to ship our stock to the UK, and we prepared for the end of lockdown by ensuring we had bulk stock ready to meet demand. This provided a two-day turnaround from distributor to end-user.

“When lockdown hit, we might not have been able to visit houses, but this didn’t stop us from working. We moved online, creating a full demonstration video for OTs and end-users, with an interactive video call follow-up to provide additional guidance and support.

“This was so successful that we’ve since created a full online resource centre with a range of educational videos too – all free of charge and accessible through our YouTube channel here: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCBFiWWAvP89ulaQwJLGy7Zg

“Since July, we’ve been able to go back to house and face-to-face visits, all Covid-safe, to assist with assessments and support our OTs.”

What’s next for Geberit over the next 12 months?

“Geberit continues to go from strength to strength in the care sector, and going forward into 2022, the Care Team will continue to work closely with the OT community to improve service and manage demand.

“Key to this will also be growing our relationships with manufacturers and installers. This will allow us to further support disabilities and the range of adaptions available to those that need them most, and, in turn, ensuring the best possible standard of living.”

www.geberit.co.uk

Geberit AquaCLean Mera Care Wall Panel
Geberit AquaCLean Mera Care Wall Panel
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