The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s smallest member company is making a play for a bigger footprint and a better customer experience.
WillowWood, the prosthetic product manufacturer and COE member based south of Columbus, opened a new office in Salt Lake City, Utah, in recent months as part of a move to cut down on shipping times for its West Coast customers and gain more business in the market. The company is leasing office space and manufacturing space, running a four-employee operation that’s – for now – exclusively dedicated to its custom fabrication business.
WillowWood makes a number of products for amputees, but its custom fabrication operation is a critical part of it. This entails making “sockets” that slide over a protective sock-like liner the company also makes. To avoid discomfort or, worse, injury, the socket must be custom-made to fit perfectly on an amputee’s residual limb – sometimes above the knee, sometimes below – before connecting to a prosthetic foot or pylon.
At the beginning of this process, a prosthetist sends WillowWood a plaster cast of the residual limb to ensure the socket is precisely custom made, but shipping that from the West Coast to the company’s Mt. Sterling headquarters could take nearly a week in some instances before fabrication could even begin.
WillowWood COO John Matera said that for the company, which employs 211, the new office was “a small step, but a big enough step for us.”
“Our big push was to get service turnaround time a lot shorter than it was for the West Coast,” Matera said.
Sights also are set on growing sales in the market without plaster casts and finished custom fabrication needing to criss-cross the country. It’s a notable step forward for a company with a 100-plus-year history that’s now led by Ryan Arbogast (pictured in featured image above), whose great-grandfather founded WillowWood in 1907.
“WillowWood has been working to provide innovative products and services to clinicians and amputees for over a century,” Arbogast said. “When we see an opportunity to expand our services in a way that gives our customers more and better options, we do our best to take advantage.”