14 Jun 2023
Silvalea: Celebrating 30 years of innovation
YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING AT SILVALEA FOR 25 YEARS NOW, AND THE COMPANY WAS ESTABLISHED 30 YEARS AGO. DID YOU EVER IMAGINE YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN WORKING AT THE COMPANY FOR SO LONG?
“Silvalea was started in 1993 by mother and daughter team Pauline Guilfoyle and Lynne Timm. Its initial vision was to provide a range of patient handling slings designed to assist with the new moving and handling regulations hitting the UK, which created a no manual lift policy for all caregiving environments. “Its entry to the market was perfectly timed to help provide those products, and its first customers soon came in the form of local hospitals and care homes, and from there the word spread quickly across the UK. “I joined the company in 1997, under an internship, and only saw the role as being for a few years. However, the passion behind the founders’ ideals for problem solving and the ability to share in the infancy of the company mean that here I am 25 years later, after working in many different departments and still as passionate as ever about the products and services we provide. “I am now one of five in the company celebrating over 25 years in 2023, and this just proves how rewarding it has been for each one of us after all that that has been achieved with the product range we have crafted over the years.” CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW THE COMPANY HAS EVOLVED DURING YOUR TIME WORKING THERE? “The company evolved quickly in the late 1990’s, and we undertook some game changers for our industry. We became ISO ready and were the first to launch unique serial numbers on all our products for ease of identification (something now pretty much mandatory). Innovations in fabric choice and designs meant we quickly established ourselves as the sling solution providers. “The company had a strong belief in finding new markets very quickly and has also had an active presence in the EU alongside the UK. I assisted in that growth by expanding into new markets in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Our ethos has always been to provide the highest quality products alongside the best customer service in the industry.” WHAT HAVE BEEN THE STANDOUT PROJECTS FOR YOU AT SILVALEA? “There have been many outstanding achievements by the team over the years. The introduction of the UK’s first in-situ fabrics, which enabled slings to be better equipped to individual body shapes and moulded wheelchair seats, was an absolute game-changer for our company. Our unique Silva-Superfine in-situ fabrics, in particular, helped us achieve a lot of growth very quickly in the more specialised and paediatric patient sling market. “A particular project we are most proud of is the launch of our Global Training by Silvalea platform. Long before Covid made us all Zoom-savvy, we created an interactive training studio and offered a variety of live real-time training across the world, helping to support our dealers in any time zone. “We also used this platform to assist in patient individual assessments, something which we offer more and more of now, supporting our healthcare professionals both at home and abroad with complex sling assessments and tips and techniques on application of our varied product range.” IN WHAT WAYS HAS SILVALEA CHANGED SINCE ITS ACQUISITION BY SAVARIA CORP IN 2019 IN TERMS OF PRODUCTS AND WORKING PRACTICES? “In 2019 Silvalea was acquired by Savaria Corp. Naturally, when there’s change, there’s anxiety about how that will impact the company. I met Marcel Bourassa, the CEO of Savaria, and he is a down-to-earth person who appreciated what Silvalea had accomplished. He gave us his trust to do what we do best, and that made the acquisition very smooth. “It was a marriage of minds. The Savaria team had produced a gamechanging range of overhead hoist solutions, and they needed a sling line to match their expectations in quality and professionalism. We are now part of a larger group, including a range of companies from pressure care to stairlifts, so the product portfolio is diverse and adaptable across all countries. “I am supported in strategy by Patrick Mongeau, Vice President Business Development, of the newly formed Savaria Patient Care team. Working from the North America offices, Patrick heads up the entire global team and has already had 30+ years in the industry, so this additional support from a likeminded industry specialist will be invaluable in elevating Silvalea and the team further in the years ahead. “The next few years look set to be an exciting chapter for the global Savaria team.” HOW IS THE COMPANY PLANNING TO CELEBRATE ITS 30TH ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR? “We will do a number of social media postings and editorials throughout the year to showcase our milestone of 30 years in business. We are also planning a 30th get-together for the Silvalea team and will be proudly displaying our 30th banners at the next OT Show exhibition at the NEC. “We will continue to raise awareness of our chosen charity in 2023 (Cancer Research UK) and have already planned a Silvalea team 100-mile walk challenge in May. I am sure we will be posting images of all the unusual places we might end up on our challenge.” WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BESTSELLING ‘HERO’ PRODUCT AT SILVALEA, AND WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS SUCCESSFUL? “It is tricky to highlight an individual product, as we have a database of over 800 designs. Some are major sellers; some we may only sell one a year. But it is normally that one sling sold that is so unique or specific to a client’s condition that can help change a life the most in terms of personal independence. “The Silva Jolly Jumper is one that we get a lot of customer feedback from, usually designed for the paediatric market. It can be the first sling used to help a child with complex needs find their first steps. “The harness is designed to offer full support in a standing position and can be a great tool for rehabilitation purposes and therapy, as well as giving the ability to play and interact with family, friends and loved ones.” The product specialist team at the OT Show in 2022 Research and development of products is ongoing