Leading with Integrity
At Sunrise Medical, Motion is the Mission
The global wheelchair market is speeding ahead, poised to reach an estimated $6.1 billion by 2022. As one of the world’s most renowned manufacturer of mobility devices, Sunrise Medical is in prime position to take advantage of that acceleration.
As well they should. The motivation to improve people’s lives with assistive technology powers the company’s beating heart. With 2017 revenues hovering around $584 million, Sunrise leverages its considerable purchasing power and engineering expertise to develop innovative mobility products, including power and manual wheelchairs, motorized scooters, and advanced seating and positioning systems.
Sunrise CTO Bernd Krebs is unabashedly candid about the benefits Sunrise Medical brings to the world, and how a mission can alter the tone of a workplace. “We’re not in a typical consumer industry or even in the defense industry; we don't build bullets. We are helping people in a very traumatic moment in their lives. Something I’ve learned over the years is not to underestimate how you can identify yourself with your work tasks,” he said.
“Our work environment is unbelievably motivated. It's a work hard, play hard culture. Everybody is highly engaged because of our philosophy of improving people's lives.”
Creative, Customized Mobility Solutions
One of the company’s key strategies is to bring the customized, state-of-the-art mobility devices they design and manufacture to market at top speed. “Our core competency is the customization of the product for the end user and doing this in a very precise and quick manner. We pride ourselves in delivering a product that can be fashioned in millions of configurations in just seven days,” Krebs noted.
Sunrise products reach end users through an extensive network of dealers specializing in rehabilitation products. The company also works in tandem with hospitals, training their clinical staff, and providing support to physical therapists who are charged with matching the needs of patients with complex rehabilitation needs with appropriate mobility solutions.
“We definitely work closely with end user feedback within our concept development phase. We are proud that within our product management, engineering, and commercial teams we employ users of our products. This way we have within our daily work environment continuous end user feedback,” Krebs said.
When it comes to designing and building advanced power mobility systems, cross-industry collaboration is an essential aspect of the company’s agility. “One of our core competencies in the R&D group is to constantly scan the globe for technologies outside our core manufacturing capabilities that provide value improvement for our product applications,” he stressed. Technological partnerships enable the firm to add value to their products, and dramatically shorten development cycles while minimizing project risks.
“We have a unique, three-pronged engineering philosophy: advance, design, and project,” he explained. “Our advanced engineering group scans other industries and vendors for potential technical applications for our product solutions. This group also monitors universities and their tech programs for future technologies we may adapt for our products.
“The design group works hard on our own technical solutions and to implement and adapt solutions from our vendor-based technology programs. Finally, there’s project management. For Sunrise Medical it is of essence to implement projects transparently throughout our company.” Interdepartmental involvement in project implementation advances that clarity.
“This way we ensure that all project work is implemented throughout the latest standards of their particular area of responsibility. Within Sunrise, we live a very unique project management culture. The executive team meets on a regular, high-frequency basis with the project management teams to ensure the prioritization of all programs, alignment on the critical project path, and a clear understanding of the resolution process.
Designing wheelchairs and mobility scooters that are easy to handle is a high priority challenge for the Sunrise Medical engineering teams. “We constantly look for easy to customize lightweight materials, and of course the IoT is definitely a future trend we are investing in.”
A Dedication to Quality and Industry Transformation
Six Sigma methodology rules the day at Sunrise. As medical device developers and manufacturers, the company also embraces and complies with a host of global industry regulatory requirements and standards, including ISO 13485, FDA and CE standards, Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of America certification, as well as global standards established by the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action and Technischer Überwachungsverein, a consortium of German businesses that provide inspection and product certification services.
“We consistently monitor all world-wide regulatory and industry norming boards, and update our global testing procedures accordingly,” Krebs said. “Because we have development centers in Germany, Holland, UK and the USA, we are part of the industry norming boards in all of those countries. This ensures that we have the latest knowhow in norming, regulatory, and technology trends.”
In the United States, matching people with the best mobility devices for their needs is a time-consuming, and often convoluted and lengthy process, hamstrung by a complicated funding and reimbursement landscape. Sunrise is actively trying to change that.
“We put a lot of effort in working in the USA with the members of Congress at the White House to create more awareness of the end user challenges within our community. Our VP of Government Relations is leading all our efforts within the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers Association.” Krebs pointed out.
Raising awareness through social media has been a part of their strategy since 2009. “In our view it is critical for us to build a social community around our product solutions to create awareness for our end users, and to break up our old, crusted reimbursement systems for better support of the unique individuals who are in need of modern, innovative mobility product solutions.
In the long run, the company’s ability to respond to the needs of a population whose needs run throughout the entire scope of their lives – from designing pediatric power chairs to heavy-duty scooters and wheelchairs to meet the needs of the rapidly-increasing bariatric patient population, to developing the very latest in lightweight and durable athletic mobility devices – will keep them at the top of the market.
“We believe the agile and nimble company will be successful, if not necessarily the big one. We grew to be one of the biggest in our industry because we still believe it is essential to design our work procedures around agility and staying nimble. We also believe in a relatively flat hierarchy,” Krebs admitted. “This way, the organization ensures quick and transparent communication, which enables quick decision making and provides fast alignment throughout the organization to ensure timely deliverables of agreed work tasks. Another aspect is that we also believe in better – good is not good enough – if we can do better!”
Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the development, design, manufacture and distribution of manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, motorized scooters and both standard and customized seating and positioning systems. Sunrise Medical manufactures products in its own facilities in the United States, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Holland, Poland, and China.
Sunrise Medical's key products, marketed under the Quickie, Sopur, Zippie, Breezy, Sterling , JAY, Gemino, Switch It, RGK, Magic Mobility and Coopers proprietary brands, are sold through a network of homecare medical product dealers or distributors in over 160 countries. Sunrise Medical is headquartered in Malsch, Germany with North American headquarters in Fresno, California and employs over 2,200 associates worldwide.