Brenner's Steel Will: How One Savvy Woman Turned Her Manufacturing Business on its Head
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (August 18, 2015) – When your family has been in the business of making field hospital beds for more than 60 years with designs that are still in use today, what do you do for an encore? You make an even better bed that adheres to the same standards of quality for which that the corporation has become known. That’s exactly what Christine Brenner did, and her attention to detail and dedication to her customers shine through in every aspect of her corporation’s products.
In 2011, Christine came into the family business spotlight as the owner and CEO after the passing of her husband Sidney Brenner. Ever since she took the reins of the 60-plus year-old company, she has continued to uphold Brenner Metal Products Corp’s reputation for quality while refining and redefining the corporation’s offerings and products to better suit customers’ requirements. But as Brenner will tell you, it has not been smooth sailing and she has done her fair share of kicking and screaming to get the corporation where it is today.
While the corporation makes more than adjustable field hospital beds, this product has certainly become the feature item as a testament to the exacting attention to detail and specifications that brought mainstream production of the bed back to Brenner. Brenner Metal Products Corp. was the original manufacturer for the Department of Defense (DOD) beds in the 1960s. While their original design has definitely stood the test of time, new requirements prompted U.S. Army Medical Material Agency (USAMMA) leaders to revamp the original design.
“I built it for the end-user. If anybody truly deserves the very best, our wounded warriors do.” – Christine Brenner, Owner and CEO of Brenner Metal Products Corp.
It wasn’t until 2013, after dwindling DOD requests and a noticeable shift in the way government agencies made purchases, Brenner began asking questions about new procurement methods before finally being directed to a “DOD Vendor Day.” It was there, she met USAMMA officials who informed her of the previous request in 2012 and the existing necessity for a modified bed that could meet all specifications. As Brenner stated, “I needed to find a place where I could fit back in. It felt good to finally find an audience because it gave me an opportunity to make Brenner Metal the corporation it needed to be. This was my time to define the business.”
Brenner asked for a shot at the contract and was given consideration for the bid based on the corporation’s past performance and a long-standing tradition of excellence with regard to the existing field hospital bed design. There was no doubt in her mind that her team could match the desired specifications, stating that this redesign was more than just a “square-filler” project but rather would be the result of thoughtful design. This was her opportunity to prove that Brenner Metal Products Corp. could once again deliver the types of products that would hit every mark and stand the test of time.
The team at Brenner was shooting for perfection, but that can only be achieved by asking copious questions, lots of trial and error and unwavering attention to detail, all the way down to what type of clip to use when securing the bed for transport and the length of the bedrails. There was obviously a deliberate hand in the creation of this product. Laughing, Brenner states that she will never be finished perfecting this bed. It’s the thing that keeps her up at night and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was only given very general specs so I had to put this together in my own mind and think what would be best,” said Brenner. “But I knew, this would be the thing that redefined who we are as a company. After lots and lots queries and research, we made the bed what we thought it should be. I built it for the end-user. If anybody truly deserves the very best, our wounded warriors do.”
The field hospital folding bed is constructed of aluminum alloy and weighs only 70 lbs. It was modified for use by field medical personnel at fixed medical installations. Now, the bed consists of an outer frame with attached folding hinged legs and pad-type feet, modified to interchange with caster wheels at either end. The head can be raised to 65 degrees in order to support sitting or lowered for the Trendelenberg position, where the head is lowered and the feet are elevated. Accessories include a swivel tray, detachable side rails, adjustable feet pads, castor wheels, mattress pad, mesh under mount shelf and personal effects bag. The bed, along with all components easily fits into a nylon bag with Velcro buckles for easy transport, all proudly made in Wallington, N.J.
Improvements from the currently in-use field hospital bed are the adjustable side rails, a three-inch mattress pad for extended patient care, adjustable leg positions at one-inch increments, interchangeable six-inch castor wheels and a dual purpose swivel arm mayo tray, to name a few.
While this bed will undoubtedly see plenty of action in remote field hospitals around the world, its most noteworthy venue will be as one of the components of UN Level II hospitals currently being sourced by the U.S. State Department, through ADS, Inc. The latest request for these facilities was provided to Togo for support in Mali. The connection came as part of ADS’ kitted solution that provides fully DOD and FDA qualified UN Level II medical centers for use in designated areas of conflict. More than 45 partners joined with ADS, Inc., the Virginia Beach-based solutions provider and force multiplier to develop a one-stop medical solution for the U.S. State Department. The entire facility can be transported anywhere in the world via six, 20-foot shipping containers. Brenner’s portable, folding field hospital bed is an important part of that solution.
What’s the next step for Brenner’s team? After partnering with ADS, she began fielding orders from U.S. Marine Corps medical teams, as well as continuing to fulfill orders for adjustable field hospital beds to USAMMA and the DOD. Brenner views the ADS partnership as the game-changer when it comes to taking her business to the next level. “I’m really excited to work with ADS because our partnership put my product out there at different level. I have domestic and international exposure now. It’s really going to take me to the next level.”
Brenner also plans on revisiting and reengineering other medical field equipment, breathing new life into the tried and true designs of the business. Her take on this, “I am excited for the opportunity to modify and create products that will satisfy my customers and brand Brenner Metal Products as a leader in supplying medical field equipment for the next generation.”