SPECIAL REPORT: What’s next for Drive DeVilbiss following Sidhil acquisition?

Bringing the Sidhil manufacturing facility in Yorkshire into the fold means Drive DeVilbiss now has four complementary UK-based production sites. These include West Sussex-based medical equipment manufacturer Welland Medical, which was acquired in 2011. Significant investment since the acquisition has seen Welland double its footprint and triple in size.

Tutbury, Staffordshire-based business Specialised Orthotic Services, which focuses on specialist seating and mobility products for children and young adults, has also enjoyed significant investment since being bought by Drive DeVilbiss. This has included additional robotic manufacturing capacity and specialist scanning equipment to enhance its services, where every seating system is bespoke.

Managing director, Richard McGleenan, says: “Over the last five years, we have moved from a position where 100% of our products were imported to a healthy situation where more than 40% of all sales come from goods manufactured in the UK. UK manufacture will remain one of the strategic factors when targeting future acquisitions to achieve our growth objectives.”

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Regarding Sidhil, marketing director Tim Newby, tells AMP: “We are committed to retaining and growing the footprint of Sidhil’s advanced production facility in Halifax, as well as keeping all skilled manufacturing teams in place.” Major investment in the Sidhil manufacturing facility is expected in the foreseeable future, with Drive DeVilbiss already approving funds to further enhance efficiency and quality on the production line.

Just a few weeks into the integration process, the group was already investigating the potential for moving the manufacture of identified products to the UK, which could lead to increasing the footprint of the Sidhil facility. “Sidhil enjoys a long history of manufacturing excellence, and this acquisition will expand Drive’s existing manufacturing capabilities in the UK while adding significant manufacturing expertise to our European platform,” comments Harvey Diamond, CEO of Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare.

Initial plans will focus on initially bringing in additional assisted living products but Newby insists that the expertise and skills of Sidhil’s manufacturing and R&D teams would open up an “exciting new range of potential and possibilities”. The Sidhil brand is to be retained as Drive looks to build on its reputation for quality and performance and its premium product range, which is well respected in the market place.

“UK manufacture will remain one of the strategic factors when targeting future acquisitions to achieve our growth objectives”

Newby says: “Combining the Sidhil product range with the existing Drive DeVilbiss portfolio gives customers a great choice, easy to access and all available from one single source. Combining Sidhil’s brand reputation and premium range with our infrastructure of additional support service centres, clinical nursing team, dedicated audit team and global network is expected to create an even stronger offering for all customers who use the products and services we offer.”

It remains to be decided where new access and mobility products would be produced in the UK, according to Newby, but the business is firmly committed to growing its manufacturing footprint through targeted investment.
The US company’s latest UK acquisition comes at an interesting time with the Brexit process getting underway and social care experiencing a funding crisis.

“Like all UK businesses, we are keeping a careful watching brief on developments regarding our proposed exit from the EU,” remarks Newby. “Although as a group we do import some products from overseas, therefore the current pound-euro and pound-dollar exchange rate remains an issue, this is a problem faced by all importers and we are working hard to make sure we maintain stable pricing levels for our customers.”

Funding for social care remains a concern for the business, despite Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement of an additional £2 billion for the sector over the next three years in the Spring Budget. “Combined with the uncertainties inherent in the Brexit move, the manufacturing sector in the UK faces some interesting challenges,” Newby comments. “However, Drive DeVilbiss offers a comprehensive portfolio, covering the development and supply of mobility products, sleep and respiratory products, beds, bariatric wheelchairs, sleep surfaces and pressure prevention products, self-assist products, power operated wheelchairs, rehabilitation products, patient room equipment, personal care products and electrotherapy devices,” he adds.

By increasing its investment in UK manufacturing, it is Sidhil’s long-term objective to continue its growth pattern and deliver the best possible value to the huge customer base it has built up. “We are an ambitious organisation, but we never lose sight of our key goal, which is to enhance the quality of life of the people who need and use our many products and services,” assures Newby.

While uncertainty and headwinds lie ahead, Drive’s further investment represents a major vote of confidence in UK manufacturing and a timely boost for the access and mobility sector.

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