LAS VEGAS – Medtrade Spring 2018 attendees voted on their favorite new products in the long-running New Product Pavilion Providers’ Choice Awards, sponsored by HomeCare Magazine. The third place (Bronze Award) went to a new product developed by an individual who saw a need and invented an apparatus to fill that need.
• New Product Pavilion Providers’ Choice Bronze – Werth Folding Walker Storage Rack by Werth, LLC
The Werth Folding Walker Storage Rack holds walkers individually, allowing for quick and easy selection and removal. Leg height and brakes can be adjusted while the walker remains in a racked position, allowing for sanitary and efficient modification.
The inventor’s name is Chris Werth, owner of Werth LLC, Zeeland, Michigan, and his Werth Folding Walker Storage Rack provides an elegant solution for HME providers and therapy practices. Medtrade Monday chatted with the 31-year-old Werth to learn about the product’s development and plans for the future.
Medtrade Monday: How did you come to invent the Werth Folding Walker Storage Rack?
Werth: I was in college [Grand Valley State University] and getting my degree in physiology, so I needed an internship, and I did it at a rehab hospital. One of my duties was to help PTs and OTs, so that meant getting them the proper equipment. One of the most difficult things was to locate a proper walker. They’d maybe request one with wheels, a junior, a small one, or a bariatric. In the particular storage room, they had about 50 to 60 walkers, and they were all stacked against each other.
It was difficult to dig through those and find the right one. I said, ‘Ok I’m gonna look online and try to find you guys something to store them more conveniently,’ and I couldn’t find anything. I went to my shop to see if I could make something that would work for them.
Werth: I have a background from high school, and just growing up in general, of metal and wood fabrication. I had an idea of how to do this, so I came up with a prototype. The first one was made out of wood. I brought it in and it worked. Prototypes evolved from there, and I eventually got to my final one, which was all metal construction.
Medtrade Monday: What type of metal do you use now?
Werth: It’s made out of mild steel. The original one was aluminum and it kind of evolved. To be in a hospital, it has to follow certain codes. There’s a rust factor. That’s why we originally had aluminum, but it wasn’t as strong, so we did mild steel with a powder coat, and now we don’t have to worry about rusting or any sort of infection transmission.
Medtrade Monday: Where is it manufactured?
Werth: We could have gone overseas, but we decided not to. It’s a little more expensive here, but everything is made locally in Michigan. One company laser cuts the metal and bends it, and then I get the hooks and posts bent from another guy, and then I take it to the third guy to do the welding. All that is here in Michigan.
Medtrade Monday: What misconceptions (if any) are there about the product?
Werth: The misconception is that it’s very simple, but every angle is specific. The length between the top hooks and the bottom post is all designed to fit all of the multiple types and brands of walkers. Everything is specific. The distance out from the wall has to be a certain amount to accommodate a walker with large 5-inch wheels on the bottom. It looks simple, but every measurement is specific, and intricate. It took a lot of reworking and design to get to the exact dimensions I have now.
Medtrade Monday: Did you have an idea at that time that this might turn into something more?
Werth: No. The plan was to just leave it there and that would be it.
Medtrade Monday: Why did you start making more?
Werth: Other facilities in the area wanted it, and so I made a couple more, and then other people started asking about it, so then I just said, ‘Ok, I need to first get this thing protected and get a patent on it.’ I did, and from there I got the company going, and we got online and started selling. We also picked up a couple distributors along the way. It’s been growing from there. The plan was never to be a business owner.
Medtrade Monday: Do you have competitors?
Werth: There’s really not. This is the only device out there specifically made to hold folding walkers. I guess the competition is what people currently use to hold walkers, and that is just a generic rack with posts that come straight up so that you can hang any object on it. For example, canes, crutches, and oh by the way, you can throw a walker on there too. However, nothing is made specifically for walkers, except what we have.
Medtrade Monday: How was Medtrade Spring for you?
Werth: Medtrade Spring was excellent. We’ve done one of these before. We’ve done something called CSM, and that was more geared towards actual physical therapists and such, so they understood the product. Medtrade Spring was more of the retail side of things. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was awesome because these people need this device too for displaying the walkers that they want to sell in their store. That was a big success, and I got a lot of good feedback. I’ll definitely do Medtrade Spring again.
Medtrade Monday: Do you plan to go to Medtrade (scheduled for Oct 15-17, 2018) at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta?
Werth: I haven’t fully decided on it, but the talk is that it is going to be a little bit bigger. Likely we will, but I haven’t pulled the trigger just yet.
Medtrade Monday: What’s your level of optimism these days?
Werth: Pretty high actually. I loved the feedback from everyone at Medtrade Spring, and realized that we could be in the retail space. The plan is to continue pursuing this one product, and then to add more products. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now, but one of the biggest questions we got when folks were coming to the booth was, ‘What else do you have for storing canes and crutches and such?’ So that’s the next step, adding more product, and hopefully to build a company that is the one stop shop for all rehab equipment storage.