It started 38 years ago with a bid for a new ambulance that would serve the village of Lithopolis, Ohio. From there, Braun Industries, Inc. developed into a leading supplier of high-quality ambulances to large and small municipalities across the nation. Through it all, the family-owned company focused on creating customized, innovative products geared to fire/rescue and EMS industry demands. “Our solutions address current as well as anticipated needs,” says Kim Elick, Braun Industries’ president and co-owner.
The Patriot, one of the company’s latest products, illustrates this approach in action. Designed to accommodate the reduced budgets that many fire departments face in today’s economy, the Patriot offers fire fighting, rescue and transport capabilities: a three-in-one deal that provides customers with several needed pieces of equipment within a single unit. “In this way, the product saves on operating and capital expenses,” notes Chad Brown, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, adding that the Patriot was designed to respond to 95 percent of all emergency calls.
Production of the Patriot and other Braun Industries ambulance models are carried out at the company’s Van Wert, Ohio plant. The facility includes more than 100,000 square feet located on 18 acres. In addition to its Van West headquarters, Braun Industries has 15 independently owned distributorships located throughout the country.
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Behind the company’s success and growth is an engineering family that always demonstrated a knack for manufacturing. “We celebrate three generations of family ownership and our customers know exactly whom they’re partnering with,” comments Elick, adding that each generation oversaw production level increases that enabled the company to expand its presence throughout the United States.
Roots date back to 1961, when the Braun family started a pattern shop in Lithopolis. With the pattern making industry decline in the early 1970s, the owners decided to diversify. The company shifted gears into ambulance production following a request from Lithopolis for a new ambulance. At the time, there was a growing demand for a quality, custom-built product in the ambulance industry. The Braun family responded accordingly. In 1972, when Braun Industries took on ambulance production, the company designed and custom built 12 ambulances. Demand for company vehicles subsequently grew and, in 1976, Braun Industries relocated to a large production facility in Oakwood, Ohio.
By 1984, production reached 160 units, and Braun Industries was well on its way to forming a reputation for quality. Then, in 2001, following continued growth, the company moved to a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing and administrative facility in Van Wert. “We expanded again in 2006, and focused heavily on an integrated operating system,” adds Elick. Today, the company’s 192 employees control the quality, scheduling and delivery operations from one location.
“The structure of our vehicles is unlike any offered by other manufacturers,” says Brown. This is particularly evident in the company’s trademark SolidBody™ construction. Braun ambulances are made as one integrated module from .125-inch flat sheet, marine grade aluminum. All parts – from the floor to the roof, sides and doors – are constructed from brake-formed parts with fully welded seams. The result is a lightweight vehicle that absorbs impact and minimizes the transferred damage, thereby increasing safety. “Ours is an all-welded unit. Other manufacturers often use glues and adhesives. As such, our units are stronger yet lighter,” explains Brown.
The company incorporates other innovative features such as Eberhard latches. Typically, traditional handles connect to the latch by tie rods. Conversely, Eberhard latches disengage the tie rod from the handle when the door is locked. This reduces the chance of bending or breaking the handle or tie rods.
Braun Industries has also developed the EZ Glide™ Door, which provides both safety and convenience for ambulances at work. The door slides wide open and remains snug against the vehicle, creating an open space that allows personnel much more movement during an emergency situation.
The MasterTech III™ by Braun Industries is a multiplex electrical system that simplifies many of the operations conducted inside an ambulance. It consists of display screens that include large font sizes and easy-to-see colors. It also uses a touch button control panel for all emergency warning systems, warning messages, door ajar visual indicator, and access to additional menu screens.
The VitalMax™ lighting system is used in all Braun Industries ambulances. This system creates shadow-less light, which makes it easier for personnel to care for patients. Combined intensity adjustable dome lights and angled fluorescents offer the industry’s highest standard lumen output.
AMBULANCES FOR EVERY NEED
The company’s product line consists of six different models. The spectrum ranges from the Patriot (which provides fire, rescue and transport capabilities) to the Express, a vehicle that has earned a reputation as a workhorse among numerous private and municipal emergency medical services (EMS) managers. The Express integrates all of the aforementioned innovations – SolidBody construction, the EZ Glide Door, MasterTech III and VitalMax – into a single unit.
Other models include the Super Chief, regarded as the industry’s premier ambulance. The model offers an interior comprised of more than 73 inches of headroom and additional equipment storage areas. Clients choose from colors and materials available to customize the patient compartment.
The Chief XL model provides the best in terms of room, storage and comfort, according to the company. Customers can opt to have it built on the Ford E-Series Gas or F-450 Chassis, the Chevy G-4500 or Dodge D4500. It has a headroom height of 72 inches and ample storage space both inside and out. The company’s Liberty is a base unit that allows customers to choose the options they need for their particular department. The Liberty is built on a multi-chassis platform, making it possible to utilize the Dodge, Ford or GM Chassis. It offers progressive package options, helping departments meet current and future budgets.
DIVERSIFIED CUSTOMER BASE
Thanks to these models, Braun Industries has secured contracts with many fire and rescue providers throughout the country. Clients include Boston EMS, Rural Metro, Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake City, the El Paso Fire Department, Miami Dade Fire Rescue, DeKalb County Fire Rescue, Cincinnati Fire Department and the City of Cleveland Fire Department, among others.
However, while Braun Industries has made contracts with major EMS providers, it has not forgotten departments that need only one or several ambulances. “Smaller fleet units are just as important, if not more important, to us. We remember who and what made us successful,” notes Scott Braun, vice president and co-owner.
In recent years, the company has experienced annual growth of more than 10 percent. Elick reports that the management team constantly seeks new opportunities to expand and diversify within the fire and rescue industry. Meanwhile, conceptualized vehicles such as the Patriot (numerous capabilities within a single unit) will keep both the company and the departments it serves thriving in years to come.