Tom Borcherding: “There Will Always Be a Place for Individualized Solutions”

When news broke in January that Permobil had acquired Prairie Seating, the immediate question was what lay ahead for the small, but much-admired custom-molded seating business.

Permobil purchased ROHO in 2015, but ROHO has a much wider range of client applications via its air-cell backrests and seat cushions. Where would a custom-molded seating business fit in?

A Custom Seating Investment

Tom Borcherding, president, Permobil Seating and Positioning, confirmed the ongoing importance of highly individualized seating.

“Custom seating is an important part of the total spectrum of the seating and positioning market, as custom solutions help solve problems for clients with complex postures and individualized needs,” he noted. “We see this as an opportunity to broaden our seating products portfolio and therefore become a solutions provider for more clients. Prairie Seating, with its 22 years of experience in custom seating, is a perfect match for Permobil, so we jumped at the chance when the opportunity for acquisition presented itself.”

Borcherding added that Permobil would invest in custom seating technology — starting immediately.

“We see this as an investment in building a platform for Permobil’s portfolio of custom seating and positioning products,” he said. “With this acquisition, we took the first step. We will introduce some exciting new additions to this platform at ISS [International Seating Symposium] as our second step. And I can state with absolute certainty that we will take additional steps in building this platform and bringing innovation to custom seating over the coming months and years.”

The Need for Customized Solutions

Despite the versatility that many cushions and backs currently offer, Borcherding believes customized seating will remain a significant need in complex rehab.

“As we look at the seating and mobility market overall, one thing that is apparent is a trend towards providing more individualized product solutions,” he said. “We can meet this trend to some degree with our adjustable, adaptable off-the-shelf products, but now the addition of a true custom seating platform will allow us to optimize seating and positioning solutions around very specific individual needs.  

“Since Permobil’s acquisition of ROHO in 2015, we have established a goal to expand our seating and positioning portfolio to become a more complete solutions provider.  We have expanded significantly with our AGILITY backs offering, including our very recent introduction of the AGILITY CARBON back. And now we make the next move in this strategy with our entry into custom molded seating, which aligns perfectly with both our growth ambitions and our desire to add premium solutions to our already strong seating products portfolio.”

Room to Grow

Borcherding added that at Prairie Seating, it will be business as usual. “Prairie Seating has excelled at serving their customers and providing top quality products, and we will maintain this high standard,” he said. “One of the defining strengths of the Prairie operation is rapid turnaround of orders. We don’t think ATPs, clinicians or clients should wait four weeks for delivery of custom-molded seating solutions. Upon receipt of an order, we strive to deliver even the most complex solution within 15 days.”

As for collaborations between Prairie Seating and ROHO, Borcherding said, “There will always be a place for individualized solutions in this business. Our goal is to make the business processes supporting custom seating more user-friendly and less labor intensive.

“Permobil was founded in Sweden 50 years ago, and we believe in unique and innovative solutions to solve problems for individual clients. This acquisition of Prairie Seating will drive innovation in custom seating, which will further expand the demand for this technology. As for further collaborations between Permobil’s product portfolio of ROHO and Prairie technology solutions, stay tuned!”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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