Umano Medical is the hospital bed manufacturer that big players never saw coming – one that is courageous, agile and incredibly innovative.
Over the last decade, they’ve completely redesigned hospital beds to put patients and nurses first. Their passion and commitment to innovation means they now have 35% market share in Canada against well-established brands, and their beds are in hot demand in the US, UK, Ireland, Brazil, Australia – and soon, New Zealand.
Based in the Canadian province of Quebec, Umano Medical will now partner with Cubro to distribute its unique bariatric hospital bed, the ook snow ALL, to New Zealand hospitals and hospices.
They’re capable of holding two people (max load 481kg) and have been dubbed ‘cuddle beds’ because loved ones can sleep side-by-side. They’re versatile and convert into a standard bed when not required by bariatric patients, and are the most technologically advanced on the market.
But what really sets Umano Medical apart is its people, service and story.
In 1920 a small metal shop opened and grew into a sizeable operation, employing 350 people at its peak to make hospital beds. But in 2010 the US owner announced the factory would close and relocate to Mexico where labour and production costs were cheaper.
“We are based in a very small Canadian town, about 100km from Quebec City,” explains Elisabeth Champagne, Umano Medical’s Associate Director of Marketing and International Sales. “There are just under 4000 people living in L’Islet so when they announced the factory would close, it was a huge shock for the community.”
Four determined employees decided to buy the factory themselves and launch a brand new company to retain local knowledge and talent. Their long-term vision was to create and supply the most innovative products and offer the best service in the industry.
“It took a lot of courage as there are huge competitors in the marketplace. We initially launched our ook snow beds in Canada and the US but very quickly we started to expand internationally because we had so many requests. We’ve really chosen our countries, markets and partners very carefully because that’s very important for us.”
Umano Medical has now grown to 420 employees – far larger than it ever was under its old ownership. Its beds can now be found in state-of-the-art hospitals across North America, the UK and Australia.
“We recently celebrated our 10th anniversary and it was wonderful to say we’re and stronger than we’ve ever been. We are very proud of that.” Of course, global success is the result of a lot of hard work, Elisabeth explains.
“We started from a blank page and met with key health professionals all across North America – everyone from nurses to biomedical engineers to members of the wider supply chain. We asked what their challenges were, and we talked with patients to understand what they wanted in a hospital bed. We wanted to know about the hospital bed of their dreams and what was missing from the current offering. We then built our bed around that feedback.”
Fall prevention, infection control and ease of use emerged as three critical innovation areas. Nurses are incredibly busy, so knowing your patient is safe, having equipment that is easy to clean, and controls that are intuitive so no training is required has been crucial to Umano Medical’s success.
Around 70 Umano Medical employees are dedicated to ongoing research and development, and up to 8% of the company’s profits are reinvested each year to innovate and improve. “As we get feedback from our customers, we adapt our products all the time. We’ve never launched a product and had it remain exactly the same – it evolves as patients’ needs evolve and as the market evolves as well. That’s a huge priority for us. A lot of people are working on new innovations to make sure that Umano Medical continues to deliver more solutions to our customers in the future.”
But designing incredible beds is only half the story – customer service and delivery is another key focus.
“We treat our customers as if they were part of our family. If they have a challenge, we want to be part of the solution, no matter what the challenge is. We have a partnership approach with all of our customers, and we make sure we offer proactive service.
“We’ve built an amazing service team. They ship parts within 24 hours compared to the market standard which is weeks or sometimes months. We’ve made a huge promise to offer the best service in the industry. I really believe that that’s what we’re offering right now.”
Co-president of Umano Medical, Ghislain Demers, says one of the company’s main values is to always put people first. “Our employees, our partners and our customers are the single most important thing. We have a very humanised approach to the way we do business.”
Sustainability is another key driver. Materials are recycled and shipping crates returned from abroad for re-use. “Umano Medical wants to be here 100 years from now,” Elisabeth explains. “So we have a very long-term vision and sustainability is an important part of our practices.”
Umano Medical has wanted to enter the New Zealand market for some time and has been searching for the right distributor. Cubro was recommended by their distributor in Australia and it quickly became apparent to both companies they were an ideal fit for one another.
"We share very similar values and the way we operate. Service is very important to both of us, and the Cubro team is really passionate and loves what they do. That really resonates with our company."
"Operating sustainably and putting the patient at the heart of our products is how we both do business. We feel our brand will be very well represented in New Zealand. We can rely on Cubro to uphold our standards of customer service.”
Part of Umano Medical’s mission is to achieve 100% customer satisfaction. “It’s just the way we do business. If customers need something tomorrow, we’re going to do everything we can to make it work.”
Eisabeth says the company’s entire team is committed to offering the best service and best products by designing hospital beds with customers and patients in mind.
“Umano Medical will support you, no matter what happens, and will listen to your needs and offer you a solution to keep nurses and patients happy. I think we'll have a lot of success in New Zealand. It’s very exciting.”