Jill Barnett, general manager at Magic Mobility, which supplies All Terrain Wheelchairs with its powerchairs, is looking to drive product development forward with an advanced and flexible R&D strategy. Here, Barnett shines a light on how the company is working on its new products.
How important is R&D to you as a company and what sort of approach do you take towards managing R&D?
Magic Mobility prides itself on its ability to innovate to solve real customer problems. A powerchair is a vital part of a physically disabled person’s life and the art of creating a great wheelchair is making it ‘forgettable’ so that a user doesn’t have to think about it – the perfect prosthesis, that reduces pain and enables users to stay comfortable for longer so that they can keep going all day. The R&D we pursue aims at empowering wheelchair users’ lives. Our R&D starts and ends with the user. We pose questions, listen, observe, discuss and gain as many insights from wheelchair users, carers and therapists to understand current problems and/or future aspirations. We have a highly engaged audience and these insights are vital in our quest to continue to innovate and create relevant products designed to enable powerchair users and their families do more, go further and live the life they choose.
When it comes to recent R&D activities, what are you as a company most proud of?
The fact that we do genuinely connect with our community to draw on their ideas to meet powerchair user’s unmet needs. For example, we heard from users questions such as ‘how can I manage my powerchair more easily to let me drive a car, load it into an everyday wagon, or take it in a plane’s cargo hold without risking damage?’ As a result, we responded with four new products to meet this need. Our retractable docking pin won the award for Best New Innovation at the 2016 Assistive Technology Suppliers Australia annual expo, which was a very proud moment.
How do you see your R&D strategy developing in future?
Magic Mobility is reaching out in many new ways to stay connected to the ever-changing needs of our customers. We have created local communities through our face to face meetings but as we grow, the need for these global communities to be connected using social media is vital. Customer feedback is instant and more demanding – as it should be. Magic Mobility aim to not only respond to known demands but anticipate and push people further than they thought possible. Our marketing and engineering teams work closely together and are directly connected to our customers. We are continually striving to empower our clients with increased reliability, better battery technology, digital connectivity and all terrain capability. Our R&D aims to break down the social barriers between wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users by designing powerchairs that enable participation in society, community, family and work.
Why is it important for retailers and dealers to work with suppliers that are committed to R&D?
Or customers’ demands are always changing. Those not committed to R&D will be left behind and are doing powerchair users an injustice by leaving them behind too.
What are the main barriers and challenges to R&D in the mobility equipment industry?
While regulations are very important, they can sometimes fail to keep pace with rapid advances in technology. Magic Mobility will always put client safety and product quality first. However, we like to rapidly adopt new technology and push boundaries in order to deliver the best possible mobility solution to our end users.