Sunday, September 23, 2018Canada's Leading Online Business Magazine

Demers Ambulances

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Based in Beloeil, Que., Demers Ambulances is the oldest continuous ambulance manufacturer in North America. Demers family has been building and providing vehicle customization since the pre-automotive era. The company started in 1892 customizing buggies, carriages, casket wagons, hearses, and ambulances. Demers evolved with the automotive age, and in the 1960s Paul Demers fully focused the company on building ambulances for Canada, North America, and the world.Demers Ambulances leads the way in ambulance design, manufacturing and distribution. With half a century in the ambulance business, the company has built more than 15,000 ambulances distributed to over 20 countries in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Demers Ambulances builds the three types of ambulances currently used by medical professionals; Type 1. and Type 3. have a modular patient compartments that are mounted onto the chassis. The Type 1. patient compartment is mounted on a truck-like chassis, whereas, Type 3. is mounted on a cutaway van chassis. Type 2. ambulances are built using a van, with the only major modification being the raised roof.

To summarize its history, Alain Brunelle, CEO and President, says, “The company originally focused on building ambulances for Quebec. In the 1970s and 1980s we dominated the market in Quebec, and received some substantial contracts in the Middle East and Northern Africa. We slowly expanded across Canada, and now further into the U.S.”

In 2004, the founder left the business to his family and a private equity firm Novacap. Since 2007, the company has been working to take the business to the a level, growing its domestic market share. Demers’s 54,000 square foot facility currently produces over 700 ambulance units per year. Besides the main facility, the company also operates two service centres, in Beloeil to serve Eastern Canada, and Saskatoon, Sask. to serve Western Canada. Demers is the largest ambulance manufacturer in Canada and second largest in North America.

In 2007, Demers’s market share in Canada was about 45 per cent. Led by the new management, in 2013 the company expects to reach 75 per cent market penetration in Canada. The company also takes on the large U.S. market. The company estimates that it currently holds about five to six per cent of the market, and has been realizing double digit percentage growth in this market over the past few years.

Demers Advantage

Demers’s constantly expanding team, now consisting of over 200 motivated employees, continues the mission of building innovative and efficient ambulances that assist paramedics in saving lives. With 50 years of experience and a culture of continuous improvement, the company’s hundreds of innovative details and differences make a Demers ambulance stronger, more aerodynamic, more fuel-efficient, longer lasting, smarter, and safer.

Part of the company’s success is linked to the fact that many members of Demers’s sales force are former paramedics themselves, strengthening the development of new, more efficient and safer ambulances, and the senior management offers Emergency Medical Services experience, strong entrepreneurial backgrounds, and strong engineering and product development skills.

“Our main focus is always on innovation. Our mission is to build innovative ambulances that deliver on customer expectations and assist paramedics in saving lives. Our expertise comes from understanding the paramedics’ protocols, assisting them in saving lives, and we keep true to this mission,” says Brunelle.

To design an efficient ambulance that can save more lives means to shorten the time paramedic needs to execute the first aid on the patient. To do this effectively, Demers is in constant contact with its clients, learning about new protocols and seeking opportunities for improvement. For example, following an ambulance accident in Alberta where the paramedic was seriously injured while executing the protocol, the chief mandate was to design an ambulance where a paramedic could execute first aid protocols while seated with the seatbelt fastened. “Since then, the province of Alberta as well as British Columbia have opted for this ambulance layout. This is our mission, and every request from a customer is part of our mission. That’s what differentiates us from the competition,” says Brunelle.

International Markets

The company’s international markets are mainly focused on Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Very recently, the first order was delivered in the Asia Pacific. The company was able to enter these markets due to the fact that the whole of automotive markets in these countries focus on the U.S. nameplates, and therefore require ambulances built on the U.S. chassis for easier maintenance and repair.

While the paramedics’ protocols differ from province to province and country to country, the goal is always the same – provide functional, safe, and efficient ways to save lives. That is why Demers has the experience to transfer protocol efficiencies to ambulances worldwide.

“Our international requests mainly focus on shape and form of the ambulance, not the function. However, due to our specialized knowledge and expertise, we know what an international customer may require, and we can have that discussion with them and offer them an optimal design for their market,” says Brunelle.

Challenges

Manufacturing and upfitting chassis that go back on the road for such a specific business segment presents a few challenges. The first important factor is related to the strict certifications and testing needed to approve these vehicles that are sold on a small scale when compared to other automotive markets. Indeed, the North American ambulance market represents roughly 5,000 units in annual sales.

“Majority of our customers require specific designs, heightening the level of standardization complexity. We have to work with our customers to follow the medical protocol but also the road safety protocol.

In terms of the company’s expansion in the U.S., the challenge lies in the unresolved healthcare issues in regard to the overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. With the healthcare awaiting resolution, Emergency Medical Services professionals remain in a holding pattern before replenishing their fleets. However, with the overall growing and aging population of the U.S., the macroeconomic healthcare indicators and business opportunities are positive.

“As we focus on the U.S. market, we are presenting our customer with a different approach, and we are working to transform customers’ views, making them realize the advantages that Demers offers,” says Brunelle.

According to Brunelle, the field of professional paramedics is fairly young, and with the growing expertise of these professionals, Brunelle expects development of much more precise protocols that will continue to challenge the design skills of the Demers team.

“For example, one of the newer protocols for patients with cardiac arrest is to induce hypothermia in the patient in the ambulance to reduce the damage to the heart, so the paramedics are required to have a cooling system in the ambulance. These are very complex procedures, and I expect that there will be more innovation in the future, and we expect to collaborate with them on this innovation,” concluded Brunelle. 

http://www.demers-ambulances.com/

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