Answers from industry experts
by Kristin Easterling
July 16, 2018

AMERICAN ACCESS

Taylor Walker, Director of Dealer Development
aaramps.com

“AmericanXM Ramp

What sets your company apart in the industry? What are you doing differently?
WALKER:
Product quality, product options and product service set us apart. Product options: We provide three options in ramp systems. The first ramp system is a solid surface, 100 percent aluminum and is named “The Patriot.” Our second ramp system is expanded metal, 100 percent aluminum and is named “XM.” Our third ramp system is designed for commercial use and is named “The Entrada.” All three systems are made of high-quality aluminum and designed for fast installations.

What are the current challenges in the ramp market?
WALKER:
We are educating dealers how important it is to have product in stock. When a consumer needs a ramp, they usually don’t have time to wait. If you don’t have stock, you are at risk of losing the sale.

What trends are you watching?
WALKER:
We have been producing aluminum ramps since 1997. Today, consumers are more knowledgeable about aluminum ramps and how quickly they can be installed. With the internet, consumers have become more aware about the advantages of aluminum over wood, options such as renting, last-minute installations and the resale value after use.

What are some key differences in commercial and residential ramps?
WALKER:
The key difference is that commercial ramps are built to meet specific codes such as ADA, IBC and BOCA. Some states require a 1:20 slope where others require a 1:12 slope. Most commercial ramps are built to handle higher load requirements along with wider widths of 48 inches between the grab rails. Commercial ramps also require 42-inch guard rails with picket railings when it’s higher than 30 inches off the ground.

How can HME providers address the stigma of ramp and mobility products in the home?
WALKER:
The key is education. Have the information and tools necessary to address the stigma. At the same time, provide product options to remove the stigma of utilitarian industrial design. Customers can now get very aesthetically pleasing options that go along with the look of their home.

What kind of training/certification does a provider need to install ramps? What tools does your company provide for training?
WALKER:
American Access provides training as do many other manufacturers. We have a team in place to help assist the first-time installer to help guide them through the installation. Providing them a thorough installation guide along with tech support is a must for new customers. We encourage our dealer partners to gain additional certifications, such as the CEAC program through VGM Live at Home.

How can HME dealers realize a profit in the ramp market?
WALKER:
Profit in a ramp system is driven by need. Most consumers have limited choices when they return home from surgery or a rehab center. Access into the home is a top priority, and that is where modular ramps have advantages over a wooden ramp. Profits are driven by demand and quick ramp installations.

EZ-ACCESS

Emily Fowler, Market Generalist
ezaccess.com

“pathwayPATHWAY 3G Modular Access System

What sets your company apart in the industry?
FOWLER:
We pride our family-owned and operated company on service and quality, and we strive to create and maintain mutually beneficial partnerships with our customers. We have an industry-leading sales support team and production capacity, with the highest of quality products.

What are the current challenges in the ramp market?
FOWLER:
With the current administration’s recent implementation of steel and aluminum tariffs, ramp costs are up nearly 30 percent this year. With our core products primarily being made out of aluminum, we are accepting this challenge and are striving now more than ever to gain operational efficiencies in order to keep our partners' pricing at a competitive level.

What trends are you watching?
FOWLER:
Buying trends are shifting from payer sources, such as insurance and workers' compensation, to retail cash sales. Consumers are looking to our network of dealers to provide safe access solutions and are willing to pay cash for the product and service due to the valuable relationship they have with their dealer whom they view as a respected resource. The traditional DME dealers are converting stores to showrooms, and home modification opportunities are increasing.

What are some key differences in commercial and residential ramps?
FOWLER:
What is considered safe in the residential realm doesn’t cut it for commercial applications, which require different product specifications that meet a variety of code requirements.

For example, our residential ramp system (PATHWAY 3G Modular Access System) was engineered and designed with the ADA in mind. With our picketed handrail option, it can be considered "light commercial," but still may not suffice for commercial applications. Beware, the term “ADA compliant” is very general, vague and does not mean a ramp system necessarily meets all ADA or associated code requirements.

However, our new PATHWAY HD Code Compliant Modular Access System is a commercial ramp system specifically designed to meet all requirements of the ADA, IBC, OSHA and other similar codes used by most states and municipalities. The PATHWAY HD features 42-inch guards, a major key in in the commercial space, as well as 4-inch curbs.

How can HME providers address the stigma of ramp and mobility products in the home?
FOWLER:
Listen to the user’s preferences. Some consumers prefer their ramp system to be powder coated in order to better match the aesthetics of their home. The key is to let the consumer know that they have options for safe access that can be implemented in a way that makes them feel most comfortable while still helping prevent accidents and injuries. HME providers can offer creative solutions to assist consumers in making the right choice.

What kind of training/certification does a provider need to install ramps? What tools does your company provide for training?
FOWLER:
Training is provided by our CEAC-certified sales team. We offer our manufacturer certification training at many events throughout the year. This is in addition to training at our two 100,000 square foot manufacturing facilities in Washington and Kentucky. A wealth of product information and in-depth videos can also be found on our website for 24/7 access to gain product knowledge as well as a refresh of installation processes.

How can HME dealers realize a profit in the ramp market?
FOWLER:
Competitive pricing is an important factor, but in many cases, it is timing that makes all the difference to the end user or the paying source. Oftentimes, ramps are needed fast, and having stock on hand is the key to success in realizing a profit in the ramp market, especially when time becomes a more important factor to the paying source than simply the price. We offer financing and suggested stocking orders for dealers who want to be ready at all times for business that requires a quick turnaround, which tends to be more profitable.

ACCESS4U, Inc.

Bob Heffernan, President
access4uinc.com

“ModularModular Ramp

What sets your company apart in the industry? What are you doing differently?
HEFFERNAN:
Access4U provides special sizes of ramps and platforms to accommodate obstacles (such as pillars on a porch). We have expanded our product line accessories to include everything needed to customize a ramp for a client’s home.

What are the current challenges in the ramp market?
HEFFERNAN:
Aside from the ongoing challenges of affordability, there is a new sticker shock resulting from the aluminum tariffs that have caused suppliers to increase prices recently. Even though much of the U.S. aluminum is recycled, it becomes resold at prices tied to world markets.

What trends are you watching?
HEFERNAN:
Long-term growth from demographics, competitive challenges and raw material pricing (aluminum).

What are some key differences in commercial and residential ramps?
HEFFERNAN:
Commercial ramps are designed for higher load specifications, sometimes wider ramps or platforms. Frequently, commercial ramps must pass an inspection as part of a government occupancy certification. Almost all residential and commercial applications follow the ADA guidelines to meet building codes.

How can HME providers address the stigma of ramp and mobility products in the home?
HEFFERNAN:
Sometimes ramps are placed in garages or at rear entrances to avoid any stigma. At Access4U we have designed our products to have clean lines, and legs, handrails, etc., terminate inside posts so that angles, cutoffs and fasteners are not visible. We believe that our Access4U ramp is as good looking as it can be.

What kind of training/certification does a provider need to install ramps? What tools does your company provide for training?
HEFFERNAN:
We work closely with our installers to insure proper installation. Experienced people are always available. We have an online video that walks new installers through an actual installation and answers a myriad of questions.

How can HME dealers realize a profit in the ramp market?
HEFFERNAN:
New dealers can use existing installation technicians or partner with an established local contractor. Set a rate for installation, include everything (travel, permits, handholding), and stick with it. It is important to get into a routine that is comfortable.

ALUMIRAMP

Jenifer Burke, President
alumiramp.com

“rampACRFL Landscape Collection

What sets your company apart in the industry? What are you doing differently?
BURKE:
Our quality and service set us apart. We have a strong history and have been in business since 1986 when my father designed our first modular ramp system at the request of a local elementary school. Since then we have worked to provide durable products that will make people’s lives easier.

What are the current challenges in the ramp market?
BURKE:
Our single biggest challenge is competition. There are so many new companies, both foreign and domestic, selling very similar products. The challenge is to distinguish your product while staying both competitive and profitable. This was a much different industry in the late 1980s when there were only three companies making ramps in the United States.

We are also continuing to see an influx of low-priced and low-quality portable ramps being imported and sold online. With the increases we are seeing in domestic aluminum manufacturing this will definitely continue, making the portable market even more challenging.

Inversely, we are also seeing a trend toward more customized designs both in layout and color options. As the U.S. population continues to age, with many wanting to stay in their homes longer, ramps will become more of an integral part of life and less of an afterthought designed for short-term use.

What are some key differences in commercial and residential ramps?
BURKE:
The biggest difference is in terms of code requirements. Commercial systems need to meet OSHA or IBC codes, while residential systems are designed to meet ADA or ANSI guidelines. This difference in the code requirements is most obvious visually in the strength and design of the handrails.

It is also important to look at each system’s durability. Some ramps meet the code requirements but are not built to withstand the heavy use that some commercial systems endure such as at a public building or school. In these situations, it will be more cost effective over time to go with a more durable system.

How can HME providers address the stigma of ramp and mobility products in the home?
BURKE:
Initially some customers may not like the look of an aluminum ramp in front of their house or blocking their porch. However, for most the ease of installation and use will quickly make up for this. For others, there are options to enhance the ramp and accent the style of their home. We offer custom powder coating in a range of colors in addition to our Alumilite Landscape Collection, which is designed to blend with the landscaping. Another option is the addition of planters and plants to reduce the visual impact of the ramp.

What kind of training/certification does a provider need to install ramps? What tools does your company provide for training?
BURKE:
Ramps are not a complicated or especially technical product, so very little training is needed. Our Armada System is designed to be assembled with only a half-inch wrench and has only six bolts per section, so anyone can install it. Obviously, a familiarity with code issues is helpful, but we are happy to offer advice as well as free quotes and work with dealers and homeowners to help them design a ramp that will meet their needs along with any required codes, and work with their site.

How can HME dealers realize a profit in the ramp market?
BURKE:
Ramps are still extremely profitable, but dealers need to look carefully at which models they want to offer. With the low-cost imports offered all over the internet, it is much harder to offer portable models at full retail. To really take advantage of the market, dealers need to think of offering ramps as a service with installation and rental options.

COMPLETE ACCESS CO

Nick Vizzare, Marketing and Development Director
completeaccess.co

“residentialResidential Ramp

What sets your company apart in the industry? What are you doing differently?
VIZZARE:
It’s a joint effort, and we’re just one of the companies answering the need for independent travel as we move people with safety, ease of use and adaptable durability. We’re glad to be part of the team, and fully focused on what we do best.

What are the current challenges in the ramp market?
VIZZARE:
Distribution and installation partners answering the prescriptions with focus on local and regional ramp permit requirements. Again, we are all in it together and partnering for strength; best practices will help design, refine and map the travel path of our valued, independent patients.

What trends are you watching?
VIZZARE:
The heal at home movement is well-documented in its success and heavy on the radar, but who grabs the baton in their field of expertise has yet to be fully formalized.

What are some key differences in commercial and residential ramps?
VIZZARE:
Code and traffic ratings meet installation with limited neighborhood impact with acceptable visual barrier. It’s a scalable balance using all of the same mechanical engineering adjusted for the demand between residential and commercial traffic use.

How can HME providers address the stigma of ramp and mobility products in the home?
VIZZARE:
Round-table super focus: Meet the players that are all in for the patient and in support of individual support crews. Set goals to provide an independent path to health care providers that allow solutions to emerge.

What tools does your company provide for training?
VIZZARE:
We provide education on our products and training in installation. We also educate in adapting to surroundings.

How can HME dealers realize a profit in the ramp market?
VIZZARE:
Prioritize healing, independence and getting our patients back in the game.