Business Category : Environmental, medical and welfare
Created on 2018-3-22
Updated on 2018-3-22
Ryoichi Kume, representative of COLABO Co., Ltd.
Tools indispensable to our daily lives are different from one person to another: eye-glasses, hearing aids, false teeth and so on. When something goes wrong with them, we need them adjusted or repaired as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will be forced to live a very inconvenient life. COLABO Co., Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of prostheses in Adachi Ward, is unique in that it provides their users with active support services for their adjustment and repairs. So far many of its peers have had a hard time to provide unprofitable after-sales service, but Ryoichi Kume, the representative of COLABO, has embarked on this new challenge. He wishes persons with physical disabilities will be able to keep using prostheses - their arms and legs – constantly in good condition. We interviewed Mr. Kume to know why he came to pay attention to the so-far unspotlighted area.
Many prostheses are used for years without repairs.
Mr. Kume used to work as a sales staff member of a prosthetic manufacturing/distributing company and used to visit their users at their homes to take orders. But he noticed many customers were in distress or had trouble with their indispensable tools that got broken or became unfit for their walking, etc. “Some customers kept using broken tools. Others stopped using them since they did not have a chance to have them adjusted in time with changes in their physical conditions, and both met with difficulty in walking. I witnessed many such serious cases,” said Mr. Kume. For prostheses companies, maintenance work of their products pays little, whether repairs or function adjustment. So many companies cannot pay much attention to the field of after-sales support service. To Mr. Kume, conversations with his customers brought home the importance of the “after.” “Once you manufacture prostheses, more important is how to keep maintaining their best conditions and keep them fit to respective users,” continued Mr. Kume. He decided to start up his own business that would provide much of the after-sales service.
Studio staff busy with manufacturing prostheses
When Mr. Kume was working as a sales staff, he was in charge of the Adachi area, which is why he decided to establish his company there. He describes some of its merits, “Adachi Ward’s ‘Welfare Center for Persons with Disabilities Assist’ is one of the few institutions, even in Tokyo, authorized to determine whether the prescription for a prosthesis is appropriate. Partly for this, ward officials have an insight to prostheses and are welfare-conscious. That was my impression.” He was also helped very much by a variety of municipal services for citizens planning to start up a company. “I began to learn basic knowledge to start a business at the entrepreneurship seminar sponsored by Adachi Ward. The ward’s Adachi Industrial Center also gave me a helping hand. I could study there even on Saturdays and Sundays. Registered management consultants on duty gave me a variety of advice. I could make full use of these municipal services for citizens in Adachi.”
What helped him most was his human network cultivated during his days of sales activities. People living in Adachi, as well as hospital staffs, gave him an empathetic helping hand. “They gave me information on candidate locations for my studio to manufacture our products. One of the manufacturers of prostheses who decided to close his business provided me with his machines. Hospital staff channeled job orders into my new company. All these helped me a lot,” said Mr. Kume. He said, looking back, that he could not have been in the present position without these supports.
Based on the lifestyle of the user, COLABO coordinates the artificial limb harness.
Making just one lower-limb prosthesis requires many processes
Mr. Kume, busy with visiting hospitals and users’ home daily, defined the central part of his business as manufacturing prostheses and their maintenance from repairs to upcycling. He also sponsors workshops for care managers, physiotherapists, etc. to deepen local citizens’ understanding of prostheses and welfare. “When users come to be able to use their essential tools properly, they will surely realize that the tools are useful and can help them a lot. Moreover, people around them, that is, family members and helpers, will also find caretaking burdens have been eased greatly. Caretaking is a daily task. If a user comes to be seated on the wheeled chair by himself, for example, the situation will change greatly,” said Mr. Kume smiling.
Mr. Kume believes that once a prosthesis fits in a user’s life comfortably and becomes part of his or her body, his or her quality of life will be improved tremendously. “One of my customers began to walk by himself with his prostheses and enjoyed travels to many places. After he passed away, his family told me that they thought the two-year period for him with prostheses was the most valuable time for him after his disease attacked him. I was so much impressed by the word. I was happy with my work.”
Prostheses possessed by users gradually come to fit into their daily lives. Mr. Kume is confident in that his company’s mission is to walk together with his customers on that journey.
COLABO holds the events positively to have healthcare workers share knowledge to artificial limb harness.