Whirlwind is building a global network. The network includes designers, manufacturers, providers/distributors, riders and disability activists.
You may be interested to learn more about:
Why a Global Network
A great wheelchair design is nothing without a quality manufacturer. Whirlwind works together with independently owned factories around the world to produce excellent quality chairs. From our headquarters in Berkeley, California, the Whirlwind engineering team regularly monitors production quality at each of the quality-certified facilities in the Global Network. The network presently includes 5 certified regional wheelchair manufacturers in Mexico, South Africa, Vietnam, Turkey, and Indonesia as well as provision and assembly centers around the world. The Whirlwind Network functions as a non-profit social business, competing in the global wheelchair market on the basis of quality of workmanship, durability and price. Success has generated income for Whirlwind and our partners. This market-based approach to our social mission allows Whirlwind to serve donors, purchasers and ultimately wheelchair riders with an efficient, high quality, and cost competitive production system.
Regional production decreases shipping costs, shipping transit time, and our carbon footprint. Multiple manufacturers give Whirlwind the flexibility to choose which manufacturer is most appropriate for each order, usually based on available production capacity, lowest shipping cost, and fewest tariff and customs problems. Durable wheelchairs that give a genuine and lasting benefit to wheelchair riders are an expression of one of our deeply held values that we should help people to help themselves. Our regional manufacturing approach creates jobs in many developing countries around the world. Many people with disabilities are given jobs in these facilities’ regions. Economic benefits from local manufacturing centers ripple through local communities. Through these centers, Whirlwind is bringing world class wheelchair technology to places that previously only had access to rudimentary and second-hand wheelchairs much like those used in mid-20th century U.S. hospitals.
The underlying unifying concept of the Whirlwind Network is the combination of the benefits of centralized mass production with appropriate local provision in an economically viable and sustainable manner. On the country level, Whirlwind is expanding the Global Network by adding Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Centers (WPAC) where wheelchair riders can access repairs and other services. A WPAC is cheaper and faster to set up and oversee than full scale manufacturing. With imported parts, quality can be maintained at world-class levels while keeping prices reasonable. Best of all, local entrepreneurs can participate in the wheelchair market with excellent products instead of being cut out by imports of low-performance chairs.
Design and Manufacture: Whirlwind provides high performance wheelchair designs to manufacturers, transfers the technology, provides initial and ongoing quality control, and certifies the quality of their production. Whirlwind uses its international reach and well-known brand to market to international non-governmental organizations and charities that are committed to doing the very best for wheelchair riders. Network members have the right to use the Whirlwind logo and other marketing materials. They have the right to free design updates, including design improvements and innovations that are generated elsewhere in the network, and the right of first refusal on any new Whirlwind designs. Manufacturers receive these benefits in return for providing Whirlwind with the lowest cost, highest quality products at agreed upon prices. Whirlwind represents the network’s manufacturers on all international transactions and is the sole agent for international sales, defined as sales where the funds originate outside the country, regardless of where the chairs are distributed. Whirlwind plays this role in order to ensure manufacturing quality on each order and to see that our chairs are responsibly provided to the users through proper assessment, fitting, and training.
Provision and Distribution: Wheelchair provision must be done locally in order to ensure that the necessary services such as assessment, measuring, fitting, adjusting, user training and repair are provided. The general lack of infrastructure for the delivery of wheelchair services in developing countries has led to a situation where donated wheelchairs are usually distributed without proper services or in the best case scenarios, are distributed by foreign volunteers on short visits. In order to improve the quality of wheelchair services, Whirlwind is establishing Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Centers (WPACs). The WPACs receive unassembled wheelchairs from a regional factory. Since twice as many unassembled chairs can fit into a container as assembled chairs, and because the WPACs provide some labor intensive value-added services such as sewing the upholstery, savings on shipping and factory labor costs are available to the enterprise to fund service provision operations. A financially sustainable WPAC can be the anchor for creating a sophisticated wheelchair services infrastructure that can grow to include other assistive technology. It can serve as a base for disability advocacy and other disability-related projects. Capable, entrepreneurial organizations are invited to submit business plans for a WPAC and to begin working with Whirlwind to establish local wheelchair provision. With WPACs and other business innovations, Whirlwind hopes to return to its roots and work directly with wheelchair riders in design, testing, feedback, job training and employment, and collaborate in their advocacy efforts to improve access and opportunity.
The Whirlwind Guarantee
When you buy a certified RoughRider®, in the event there is some problem with the quality of the manufacturing, Whirlwind will repair or replace. From our non-profit mission to serve wheelchair riders, this just makes good sense. Our ‘guarantee‘ is not a gimmick used to drive sales; we go to great extent and cost to resolve problems simply because the well-being of local wheelchair riders is key to our mission. And, if you need to communicate with a factory but don’t know the language? No problem. Whirlwind does it for you. Need help with complicated logistics so your shipment isn’t delayed or lost? We have experience and connections. Want help in finding a local partner for distribution? We help free of charge with relationships we’ve built for thirty years. Need to learn more about how to properly and responsibly provide wheelchairs? We have educational and training materials free of charge. Want to have access to already trained volunteers to help with distributing the chairs? We can connect you with the right people.
In sum, when you purchase a certified RoughRider® from Whirlwind, you get not just a wheelchair but a commitment to quality and service. You get our guarantee that we will do what we can to make sure the end user gets a good chair that will last a long time and will permit active participation in the daily life of his or her community. You get our guarantee that the funds you donate will do the most good and make a real difference in the lives of wheelchair riders.