Paying Attention to the Details
The old saying goes something like, "The details will get you if you don't watch out." We spend a lot of time paying attention to the details when building our wheelchair lifts, Entervans, Rampvans, and other mobility products, and I found out why one cold winter day in 1977.
It all started with my first van, which I bought for a very reasonable price from my employer because it had been used as a research test bed for some of our new product ideas. In other words, there were holes drilled and things welded everywhere. It was a window van with raised doors and a raised top, but it didn't have interior panels and insulation. In below-freezing weather, that's not a small detail.
One of my first missions was to drive to Indianapolis for a sales trip and pick up our head sales guy, Burnie Blackmon, and our head mechanic at the airport at the end of the day and drive them back to Winamac. They had been installing a lift for a new dealer in Burnie's home town in southern Alabama and training the dealer's mechanic.
Of course, their plane was delayed and by the time we hit the road for the two hour trip, it was midnight and the temperature had fallen to ten degrees (about minus seventeen Celsius).
Burnie was sitting in his TriWheeler between the two front seats and he realized almost immediately that something was wrong.
"Don't you have any heat in this thing?"
"It's on full blast."
"Well, I'm being hit in the face by a cold blast of air!"
Our mechanic spent about twenty minutes looking around in the dark until he located a hole in the floor boards between the gas and brake pedals. He had made the hole during one of his "experiments" and neglected to fill it when he removed the experimental equipment.
We had no choice but to continue our trip with Burnie slowly becoming a block of ice. But, the good news was that his chattering teeth caused him to talk at twice the speed normally allowed by his southern drawl.
The details will get you. We have learned again and again that they are important. We have turned our attention to the details of all of our products, but especially our Entervan and Rampvan wheelchair van conversions.
Inside, the carpet is factory-matched. It extends into the corners and is properly trimmed. Molded plastic panels give a factory-like look to the conversion. Our switches match the van manufacturer's controls and blend into the vehicle and our remote control operates through the van's keyfob. Outside, our ground effects are painted to match the van's paint and blend into the vehicle's lines. Even our chromed decals add to the style and finish of the vehicle.
None of this happens by accident. Our engineers spend countless hours fine-tuning our conversion so it blends effortlessly into the original vehicle. We hope the results are like a performance by a musician, or elite athlete, and look effortless despite all of the work.
Consumers, employees like Burnie, and our dealers all provide input to let us know what's good and what's not working well. If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please share them with us by commenting below.
You'll be pleased to know that Burnie didn't suffer any long-term effects from his trip in my van. He's still with BraunAbility as an Assistive Technology Specialist and has many interesting and valuable contributions to the AbilityVoice Blog. Check out this recent video series in which he discusses the important issue of buying your wheelchair van from a local dealer.
As for the old van, I took it with me when I moved to Florida and later sold it to a young man who lives in the Panhandle, about 30 miles from Burnie's home town. As they say in the South, "go figure."