Listening to its customers and acting on their wishes is paying dividends for Acor Orthopaedic, a manufacturer and supplier of orthopedic materials and orthoses based in Cleveland, OH. When customers asked for more durable laminates, Acor updated its manufacturing processes to supply just that.
“Acor has changed its materials handling processes,” Director of Sales Joseph Merolla told LER. The way we manufacture products has changed dramatically.”
“The industry demanded a better product, a better quality of lamination,” he continued. “When we listened to our customers last year, that was the overwhelming request. They wanted better-quality laminates that would not fall apart, even under extreme circumstances. This could include competitive biking, running, and other activities that can stress the materials outside of what one would consider normal use.”
The company took ownership of an automated laminating machine in June 2013. For the next six months, company technicians and engineers tested the machine to work out any possible issues.
“We didn’t put it into production until we had a full understanding of it,” Merolla explained.
They also tested different adhesives but ultimately decided to have a unique adhesive developed based on Acor’s specific needs.
“If a material goes into the shoe of a patient, it can reach high temperatures,” Merolla said. “It needs to be designed to withstand heat, pressure, and a variety of other factors. That was the key to the right adhesive. The adhesive we switched to is a more aggressive adhesive. It was formulated directly for us. We worked about nine months to select the traits that we wanted and, now, we have the adhesive made especially for us.”
Acor’s customized adhesive facilitates:
- Lamination that will not fail without causing the material to tear first;
- Lamination that will last for twice the duration of its current rating; and
- Lamination that can withstand greater temperature variables so it will hold up even under the most extreme scenarios.
The automated laminating machine sprays the adhesive continuously and evenly, which allows for a more consistent product coming off of the production line. The laminator, combined with its custom-formulated adhesive, has enabled Acor to dramatically increase its production while providing the industry with products of superior quality, Merolla said.
“We can produce twice as much material now as we could eighteen months ago,” he said. “We’ve reduced our delaminations to the point where they are virtually nonexistent. Quality control is up.”
Acor manufactures products for the orthotic market, including products for pedorthists and podiatrists. Products include orthopedic soft goods used to manufacture foot orthoses and laminated sheet materials, most notably Acor’s Tri-Lam combinations.
The new machine makes Acor highly versatile at producing laminated sheets. “You can take any combination of materials up to five layers, and we can put them together,” Merolla explained. “We did one project that had seven layers. Projects like this help us to increase our capabilities. It gives us the incentive to try new things, which, in this instance, was a seven-layer lamination that we then cut into blockers. We love projects that push the envelope. They help Acor become a more versatile company. We have the capacity, and everything’s made right here in Cleveland, Ohio.”
New products and colors
The company also supplies other products, including comfort shoes by multiple brands, as well as prefabricated and custom orthotic devices, its own custom footwear, and orthotic materials. A recent addition to the orthotic materials line is high-density DuraForm EVA. Produced as a closed-cell structure, DuraForm will not absorb perspiration and is easily cleaned.
Customers can choose from various colors, densities, and materials.
Acor has expanded the range of colors available for some products. P-Cell, a closed-cell EVA foam orthotic material, is now available in silver, light blue, black, and traditional pink. The Multicork material is now available in black or tan, and Plastazote is now offered in pink, white, blue, green, yellow, black, and red.
With a renewed focus on customer service and delivery, Acor offers same-day shipment of orders.
The company is interested now in expanding into private-label production of foot orthoses and coming up with more and innovative new materials and material combinations. “New projects like the seven-layer project are always welcome,” Merolla said.
Brothers Greg Alaimo, CP, and Jeffrey Alaimo, CPO, own Acor. They have built a team of practitioners and engineers who know the needs of the market and design and make products to fill those needs. They started in 1972 as a patient care company, expanded into wholesale products, and now concentrate on manufacturing and wholesale.
The willingness to change with the market and listen to customers keeps them all going, but sometimes they have to sit back and enjoy their advances.
“You have to be able to adapt,” Merolla said. “We’re always looking to make changes, and we’re always looking for ways to upgrade our processes. But, for now, we’re proud of the products we’re producing.”
Larry Hand is a writer in Massachusetts.
Article sponsored by Acor Orthopaedic.