Q&A with Rob Woodcock (left), sales and support manager, Curtis Instruments
What new products or services for the mobility industry have you got planned for 2019?
Here at Curtis we are working on the next generation of modular control systems to cover a range of wheelchair products. Watch this space. We are also promoting the new Interactive Assist remote diagnostics and support tool, which is new for 2019.
You specialise in advanced technology for electric wheelchairs – what’s the next big thing on the horizon for this market?
Taking modern technology and implementing it into the electric wheelchair field is a complex process, as we have to consider the needs and abilities of our clients, first and foremost. The major focus at the moment is on providing the user with access to the digital world such as the Internet and home automation systems from direct from their chair to keep them in touch with everything and everyone that is important. We are also looking at ways to help reduce servicing and overhead costs for users through remote access options. The idea is that technicians at service providers will have access to wheelchairs from a service desk for easy, remote evaluation to save on unnecessary and inconvenient visits/service trips.
What is your go-to-market strategy when it comes to the UK mobility market?
The UK mobility market has many facets, and there is no single method that can cover all options. Our approach is to ensure that we forge a close bond with our customers, working closely within with their network to provide training, support and ongoing technical information
You are known for working heavily with Pride Mobility/Quantum – is this your main customer or do you work with other wheelchair manufacturers?
Our relationship with Pride/Quantum is very strong in the UK and Europe, as well as right around the world, and we will continue to develop and promote our products and support services with the same intensity throughout 2019. We also work with a number of other smaller partners globally and part of our current development plan is to expand our global business in this area with other electric wheelchair manufacturers as our product range grows.
Who are your main competitors and why should potential partners choose to use your systems?
The main competitors in this market segment are dynamic controls and Curtiss Wright (PG Drives). We at Curtis believe that we offer products that are more reliable with unique technical features that provide an exceptional “drive” experience. Some of these features offer a real bespoke service that can be very tailored to individual requirements. We are focussed on providing the best level of technical support and training to both OEMs and also to their customers.
What challenges have you helped overcome since joining Curtis?
Initially, the biggest challenge was to help grow the Curtis name for wheelchair controls in the UK and Europe. Curtis is a household name in the US for wheelchair controls as we have been supplying Pride/Quantum in the US for many years. The Curtis name in Europe had previously been synonymous with Industrial Controls. We are now seeing a greater level of awareness of the product capability that Curtis controls has, and sales in Europe are growing accordingly.
How are you finding the current market – what the biggest opportunities and threats?
The current market on the wheelchair control side is strong, and demand continues to grow. With expected life span growing globally due to modern healthcare techniques, there is increasing demand for living aids and the wheelchair and scooter markets are not as badly affected as in some other areas since a wide variety of products are provided by national bodies such as the NHS in the UK. However, there are still some challenges with budgetary cuts and general issues around costs of living that can affect private sales. Additionally, competitors are all striving to improve their product ranges, so we at Curtis have to rise to the challenge to keep ourselves ahead of the game.
What are the biggest issues currently affecting the industry in the area that you work in? One of the biggest global challenges at the moment is on the electronic component side. Dealing daily with global shortages and obsolescence of components makes it challenging for engineering resources and logistical teams. Politically, the situation in the UK is causing some concerns whilst Brexit continues, as companies cannot make investments and growth until the situation becomes clearer.