As part of our meet the team series, we chatted to Paul Rogers, Ocura's Sales Manager.
1. Before you joined Ocura in April 2017, can you tell us a little bit about your career in the industry?
I started off wanting to focus on Accountancy and Law, however very soon the furniture industry had me within its grips. I’ve always been passionate about how good design and well-made products can improve everyday life for people.
I have worked in commercial, educational and now the healthcare furniture market and in each industry the key focus for me has always been how furniture can improve the environments it is being purchased for, for all stakeholders.
2. As we mentioned you began working at Ocura in April, how have you found your time with Ocura so far?
In a word – exciting! It’s been great and I enjoy coming to work.
Our customers understand how investing in our products can improve healthcare, however as we all know the budgets, particularly within the NHS are very tight. What has been rewarding for me is seeing how Ocura can work within these budgets, applying knowledge of both the market and the component supply chain to deliver exceptional results for both hospital staff and patients.
3. Looking at the industry, how do you feel the hospital furniture industry has developed over the last decade?
You could say it has developed, but I would say it has changed. There have obviously been cuts put in place across the NHS, which has put up barriers. With a focus on cost reduction sometimes the bigger picture can be missed.
On the flip side, I feel where individual choice has perhaps been slightly lost, there are opportunities now for a closer relationship between procurement departments and furniture suppliers. Working in partnership with each other to drive positive outcomes for all involved.
4. What challenges are currently facing hospitals in terms of how they’re buying furniture?
As I touched upon, the main challenges tend to be financial.
In addition, when it comes to tendering for projects, the quest for ever lower prices can lead suppliers to ‘value engineer’ products to meet a sometimes very vague specification.
As a tender is designed to ensure a level playing field, sometimes due to this vague specification, it can drive the award of a product that the end user does not want or need. Quality can suffer and in the long term, I’ve seen the cost increase.
The Carter report clearly showed savings could be made in many areas. I strongly believe that procurement requires human intervention to deliver the best results.
We recently launched our Milos chair. In terms of complying with the highest level of infection control, it’s our top performer. When we submitted this chair for a tender at a new build hospital the procurement team removed it as it did not fit into the excel model they use for evaluation. This was due to the tender being based on products that have always been purchased in the past.
5. As you say, when it comes to choosing furniture decisions are often driven by price. Can you tell us what should always be considered to make the purchase of a piece of furniture successful?
For me, it is a back-to-basics approach that really works. How is the product going to be used and by who, what does the product need to do, where will the product be used and why are you embarking on the purchase? Understand the need and what the outcome expectations are will help us here at Ocura make sure the correct product is focused on. It all goes back to communication.
6. What sorts of technology do you feel hospital furniture manufacturers and suppliers should be looking to introduce? For example, do you envisage there being ranges of ‘smart furniture’ in the next few years?
I see furniture as the bridge between the human and technology, laptops and desktops tend to need to be used on a surface of some sort, we often use smartphones while seated, wherever you choose to work or play with technology generally an item of furniture is involved.
Technology is great at supporting manufacturers to improve efficiency within factories and yes, I think technology within our products will also increase to support demand. For example, if a patient wants to use a tablet or smartphone while in hospital they can now easily do this to the point that power runs out. We are used to USB charging points being built into office furniture, waiting room furniture and furniture within the hospitality market so why can’t you change your phone from the furniture in a hospital?
7. Hospitals are changing in terms of design and colour schemes – no longer are the environments considered to be dull and depressing. How can furniture companies assist hospitals achieving an aesthetically pleasing goal?
Most trusts and private healthcare providers invest a lot of time into their ‘brand’ – does the environment their customers see uphold the vision of the board? Does reality deliver against the aspiration? Furniture can help improve staff morale, improve mood, aid navigation, change perception and carry a brand. Our role needs to be one that highlights how investment in furniture can deliver real-world improvements that a far greater than an aesthetic refresh.
8. And finally, having a good life-work balance is very important. How do you like to unwind?
I am a big believer in the work/life balance. I am very lucky both my finacé Helen and daughter Poppy provide me with everything I need to feel valued, fulfilled and energised about life. We live right on the river and have a small boat that we enjoy messing about on, we all love cycling and I play golf. Cooking and spending time together are my most valued moments.