On Changing and Not

Ana Huante, 23 year Lifesaving veteran, laces patient restraint straps onto Medevac litter covers.

I didn’t expect to love this place as much as I do.  It was supposed to be just a job, closer to my family, that would maintain a connection to an industry that so much of my life was built around; a good job, but still …just a job.  “We need someone who can talk to customers about the gear, someone who speaks their language,” they said.  That was all they wanted me to do, so after accepting the job I started talking to you, the customers.  It wasn’t long after those conversations started that I relearned something I’d somehow forgotten over the years; a place like this isn’t a job, it’s a mission.  And you aren’t ‘customers,’  you are the lifesaving teams we support.  You work in different places than we do, but we are all on the same team. 

During every conversation I was reminded of a fundamental truth; that you need us to do our job so you can do yours.  Though our little factory may be half-a-world away, we are right there with you in the hangar during pre-flight, making rounds during boat checks, on deck packaging patients,  hanging above the cliffs,  and pulling the lost from the oceans of the world and bringing them home.  You are on our team and we are on yours.  And though we often get caught up in the day-to-day grind that can be manufacturing, all of us here have always been honored to play our small part in our collective lifesaving mission. 

So, when we knew that Signia Aerospace was going to buy the company and told the crew, there was uncertainty.   “Will they change the team?  Are they moving the company? Are you leaving us? ”  We expected those but there were many that we didn’t expect like, “Will they still let us answer the phones? They love that we answer the phone.”  And, “Are we still gonna do custom products?” They were asking about what the change would mean for you.   I figured they might worry about what it meant for them but I was blown away (and shouldn’t have been) that they mostly worried about what it would mean for the soul of the place they love and for the mission.  We all feel connected to you.

Some of you had concerns, as well, I know.   After the announcement was made, many of you reached out to ask what I knew. “Are they moving the company? Are they changing everything? So, is this a good thing or….?”  After so long hanging from our harnesses and rescue baskets; after decades spent wearing our life vests; after years with our gear as part of your kit, you had your own worries.  To a person, every one of you who asked what the change would mean sounded the same as my team here; your concern was mostly for the soul of the place you love.  So, as I  often say to my crew here when there is doubt, let’s clear this up.

What's Changing

First off, before you say anything, did you know the facade of the building here in Florida has always been blue?  The carpet in the offices is blue.  So about the color change to the website; we simply just aligned the colors of the website and logo to match the factory. (We got lucky on this one. If Signia’s colors were green and yellow this could have been a disaster.)

When we were going through the debates about style and the design of the Lifesaving Systems branding, we first thought it didn’t matter that much.  No one that needs a titanium rescue litter for harsh offshore environments is going to say, “The Medevac II is perfect for our needs, but they changed the logo, so forget it!” Still, that doesn’t mean the change isn’t important.  It is. 

Creating positive change relies on the team first noticing intention.  They need to (want to) see things change before they lean into that change with you.  You can’t just talk about it; you have to actually change things. A new brand mark that also honored the company legacy that this team loves was important messaging: Yes, we’re different now, but we’re still us. 

 For you old-school types out there, don’t worry; the oval with a shield will always have a place on the gear. (stay tuned).


lifesaving systems empty parking lot on the weekend
The original LSC Shield.
That time we tried to look "cool." (ouch)

Big Change One:  It’s About the Team

Now don’t get me wrong, we have always valued our team here at our small little factory in Florida.  But with the collective resources, talent,  and focus of Signia, we are able to support them like never before.  The “they” that any of us had worries about are all one of us. They care about we we care about.  They value what we value and bring a whole lot of support with them to us do the job better than ever before. 

We now have a more robust benefits package than we could have acquired on our own, our crew has more flexibility in balancing time off, we’re all getting more support and training, and these are just a few of great changes that have been put in place since March 1st.  With the support of everyone at Signia, our company is changing from ‘a great place to work’ into ‘one of the best places to work in the U.S.’   Signia showed up with a familiar and infectious team mentality and we’re following that lead.   Just like you, our crew deserves the best possible gear for the mission and they’re getting the best.


Big Change Two: Increasing Capacity 

When you need lifesaving gear you don’t need to hear about production delays or long lead times.  We’re working hard to increase capacity to meet growing demands.  We’re investing in equipment that will reduce production times while simultaneously adding positions to shorten lead times for critical products.  We’re reorganizing our production areas so that our workflows are optimized to waste less time on getting ready to make things and instead just …make things.  The problem with doing something for so long – making rescue baskets for example – is that you automatically think you know how best to do that thing.  By leveraging the collective experience across all Signia brands we’re improving a lot of things by making small changes we hadn’t thought of before. What all of that means for you is increased availability for the gear you need when you need it. 

Change Three:  New Product Lines

Lifesaving Systems was built on inventing equipment that didn’t previously exist. You would bring us problems and we would solve them through careful design and collaboration, filling the space that often existed between requirements and capabilities.  For the rest of this year, we’re going to improve our processes and  increase our production capabilities. Next year we’ll stand up a dedicated development team and create the bandwidth to focus on rapid prototyping of new products, engage with field operators to inform design improvements, and get back to what made us in the first place; finding out what you need and building it for you. 

What's Not Changing

“Lifesaving Systems, how can I help you?”

We’re always going to answer the phone when you call us; always.  If you are dialing in then you need to talk to someone.  There will never be a better way to do that than by picking up the phone. Whether you need help with an order, or you have a technical questions, or you’re just having a bad day and need to complain about it – call 813.645.2748 (our number for 40 years) and if we are in the building we will answer and be there for you. 

If we’re not in the building, leave a message and we’ll call you back.  We’re not sure when picking up the phone was traded for endless voicemail loops and menu options but we dislike it as much as you do and we’re simply not having it around here.  You need us, we’re here.  That’s what a team is, after all.

Shelby Lanser has been leading our admin team and talking to you for seven years. She's not stopping now.
Ian Jobs, our new Quality Manager, relied on Lifesaving Systems gear his entire career. He's working here now making sure that you can too.

Mission Focused, Requirements Driven:

Lifesaving Systems was built by operational professionals that used the very gear we design, improve, and build. From the founder to the new future of the company, there has always been and will always be a connection to the leading edge of search and rescue.  We understand you because we are you. 

Whatever the question, there will be someone here to talk to that understands not just the products you need but the missions you use them on because we’ve been there.  That’s always been the case at Lifesaving Systems and we’re bringing the right new team members aboard to ensure the level of connection remains available.  


Tough Gear for Tough Jobs:

We’re all still here doing what we’ve always done best, designing and manufacturing the best possible gear for the job and shipping it all over the world.  We’re still doing our job so you can do yours.  We still know we’re building things that can’t fail. And though it’s been over forty years,  it feels now like we’re just getting started. 

For my part, I’m going to be here for as long as I’m able and the team will have me.  There will be changes, people will retire as others come aboard, new products will come as others are replaced, and the logo on our business cards might change; but the things about this place that we’ve all loved for so long will always be the soul of Lifesaving Systems.

Christian Villafane "Villa" (USCG Vet) building a 406 Titanium Litter
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