Australian Made Quality

Unique Care

“And then we marketed them to other companies and it went from there,” Wendy recalls. Unique Care® quickly grew to become a leading supplier of high quality, Australian made healthcare products to individuals, health care facilities, and wholesalers.

Unique Care® truly is unique because, unlike most competitors, the company manufactures and assembles all of its products in Australia. In fact, the team controls nearly every aspect of the operation from start to finish – from buying the raw materials and fabricating, cutting, and welding the steel, to powder coating the frames, assembling the final product, and selling it directly to customers. “We do every manufacturing process in-house.”

Eighteen employees produce the beds and accessories at the company’s two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. “[We make] sure that we have the highest technology available in equipment and that we have got a multi-skilled workforce,” Wendy says of the process. “We have lots of new, high tech equipment including CNC machines, the latest Mig Welding machines, lathes, presses and many more heavy duty machines.”

Unique Care® has been so successful manufacturing in Australia that the company is experiencing a growth rate of around 40 per cent per year. This is in stark contrast to the countless manufacturing operations that have been forced to send work overseas or simply close their doors. “A lot of Australian manufacturers of hospital beds have shut down,” Wendy reports. “They aren’t doing it anymore. But there is still a big demand for Australian made hospital beds.” Unique Care® has stepped in and filled that niche.

The label Made in Australia is synonymous with quality, Wendy explains, and, because of this association, the product sells itself. “We promote the fact that they are Australian made and they are high quality,” she adds. “We don’t price compete against the imported beds because the quality is totally different and we haven’t given up to imports. It has just made us more determined. The more imported beds that come into Australia, the more determined we are to sell Australian made.”

The determination is paying off. An increasing number of customers are willing to pay a slightly higher price for the guaranteed quality that comes with an Australian made product. In fact, most of the organisation’s business comes from referrals made by satisfied customers. Other Unique Care® customers went with lower priced imports originally – but soon realised that they got what they paid for. “We do get a lot of customers who have had imported beds and they’ve learned it the hard way,” Wendy explains. After struggling with poorly made, imported product, “it is really important to those customers now to find real, Australian made product.” But, Wendy adds, buyers must beware when it comes to the claim Australian Made. “A problem in the industry is that there are a lot of companies that promote their beds as Australian made when they actually import the frames from China and just assemble in Australia. So a lot of customers might think they are buying Australian made but they are actually not… They’ve got to clarify with the company that the frames are actually manufactured in Australia.”

All of the company’s products are assembled and manufactured in Australia, and they all meet rigorous Australian standards and regulations. Each of the company’s beds meets the new IEC 60601-2-52 standard and is tested in a NATA approved laboratory. “It’s independent testing,” Wendy explains. “We send our beds over there and they will test them for two to four weeks straight to make sure they meet IEC 60601-2-52 and AS/NZS3200.2.38:2007 standards, ensuring they are certified as meeting these standards and are therefore safe for use.” In fact, the team is so confident in the quality of their product that all Unique Care® beds come with a ten year structural warranty and a five year electronic warranty. In addition, the team only uses DEWERT or LINAK electronics because they “are worldwide known as the best,” and each bed carries C-Tick & TCA Certification on the electronic components.

In order to successfully manufacture domestically, the team puts tremendous effort into maintaining an efficient, low cost operation. For instance, management plans carefully to keep administration, advertising, and staff costs down. They also minimise the use of Sales Representatives. In addition, the company conducts all of the manufacturing, supplying, sales, dispatch and service directly from its factory. This streamlining increases efficiency and slashes overhead costs, as well as ensuring excellent communication within the company and with customers.

Another Unique Care® strongpoint is its friendly, family oriented culture. Mark and Wendy still work full time in the business and their daughter Sheree is the General Manager. All three of them make it a point to maintain close relationships with customers. “I think one really important thing is that when customers ring, they can speak directly with Mark or myself,” Wendy says. “So they are dealing directly with the owners. They can have an answer right away.” Remaining hands-on also means that the family can keep a close eye on quality control. “One unhappy customer can prevent 15 customers from buying from you,” Wendy explains. “So it is really important to us that the customer gets the bed manufactured to the specs they require and that they get high quality and customer service.”

Unique Care® has been so successful manufacturing in Australia that the company has just opened a brand new powder coating facility. The move gives the team even more control over the manufacturing process, guaranteeing both quality and efficiency. In the past, Unique Care® had to outsource the powder coating, which is the process in which the epoxy finishes (in a wide range of colours) are applied to each bed. “We didn’t have control over efficiency,” Wendy explains. “That company had other customer orders to do and then we’d be waiting for ours to get done. We have control of it now.” The Unique Care® powder coating plant will also take on work for other manufacturers, including those that produce products outside of the healthcare industry.

The team is also planning yet another manufacturing plant to further streamline the production process. At the moment, the team manufactures the beds in one facility, sends them to the powder coating plant for finishing, and then ships them back to the first facility for assembling. A third plant would increase efficiency by completely separating the manufacturing process from the assembly process.

Because Unique Care® maintains control of the entire manufacturing process, it is able to customise products to fit a customer’s particular needs. “If a customer needs a bed built to a specific size or with a specific function we can do that,” Wendy reports. “We do a lot of customised work.” The company also offers 18 standard bed models. These models include everything from solid timber homecare beds to children’s ward beds, double beds, floor beds, full and king size beds, acute beds for hospitals, and standard high low beds for nursing homes. “We are a one stop shop for a customer that has many different needs,” Wendy summarises. “We pretty much have a bed that will cover every need; they don’t need to come to us for one specific type of bed and then go to another company for another type of bed.”

The team is eager to continue expanding so that they can keep meeting every customer’s needs. “It is obvious that our beds are in really high demand,” Wendy points out. “They are just really good beds. A lot of companies expand and then hope that they will find the business to make it worthwhile, whereas we are expanding because we have to.”

This continued growth comes in spite of the challenges associated with domestic manufacturing and the sluggish economy. “They did say when the economy went bad that it will weed out the strong companies from the weak,” Wendy recalls. “They said that the weaker companies won’t survive, but the stronger companies will grow. And I think that is what has happened to us. Business has been booming.” To learn more, please visit www.uniquecare.com.au.

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July 20, 2018, 12:53 PM AEST

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