THUASNE, THE JOURNEY OF AN AGILE COMPANY DEDICATED TO OPTIMIZING HEALTH AND MOBILITY.
Thuasne is a midsize family operated medical products manufacturer focused on innovation and international expansion.
While Thuasne initially (since 1847) specialized in the fabrication of narrow elastic textiles, the company has progressively expanded into the development and manufacturing of medical and sport devices.
Thuasne has become a European leader in medical devices for orthopedics and compression, now with worldwide distribution, by demonstrating agility in adapting its products and long-term strategies to diverse market conditions.
ESTABLISHING A FOUNDATION FOR INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
In 1847, Auguste Cattaert, the great-uncle of Maurice Thuasne, established a ribbon business in Paris. In 1852, Élie Paillard opened a factory producing narrow elastic fabrics in Quevauvillers (Somme).
In 1881, Gustave Cattaert, the son of Auguste, took over the business from Élie Paillard.
Even in the initial years of operations, Thuasne displayed a remarkable talent for combining industry and commerce.
RECOGNITION AS A TECHNOLOGY LEADER
The company established a respected reputation for its technical expertise and manufacturing capabilities. Thuasne received an award at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 (which saw the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower), and was awarded second prize at the 1900 edition.
In 1910, Thuasne also began making sports headbands for Suzanne Lenglen, the legendary tennis player.
MAURICE THUASNE CONTINUES THE LINEAGE OF VISIONARY ENTREPRENEURS
Maurice Thuasne, the grandnephew of the company founder, was trained as a textile engineer.
Maurice took the helm of the company in 1903, at the tender age of 21, following in the footsteps of his uncle (Gustave Cattaert) who had led the company until 1901.
Maurice provided inspirational and entrepreneurial leadership for over 70 years, working continuously to improve and expand the company until his death in 1976.
A RESILIENT COMPANY DURING A PERIOD OF ADVERSITY
In 1911, a fire completely destroyed the Thuasne factory in the Somme. In search of skilled textile workers, and with a vision for expanding the company’s domestic business outward from Paris, Maurice Thuasne relocated the company in Loire.
Three years later, Maurice was called up to join the country’s military force, and the company’s business fell into decline during the war. But the company survived and overcame the burdens of war, reaffirming its status and history of being a resilient company. This boundless determination has become a character trait of the Thuasne’s leadership.
THE CONTINUOUS DESIRE AND ABILITY TO INVEST
Beginning in 1920, after the war had finally ended, Maurice Thuasne reinvested in modern manufacturing equipment. In 1924, there were additional capital investments. With each generation of entrepreneurs, the financial resources of the entire family would be constantly channelled into the company.
In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Maurice Thuasne temporarily suspended the manufacturing of narrow fabrics. At the time there was a short supply of wool fabrics needed for clothing. So he refocused the company’s resources to help meet this national need.
A STRATEGIC TRANSITION TO MEDICAL DEVICE MANUFACTURING
In 1936, based on empirical observations and influential relationships with prominent French and American doctors who specialized in vascular disease, Maurice Thuasne recognized the potential therapeutic benefits of elastic fabrics.
He helped pioneer the concepts for the use of “elastic compression” to treat vascular conditions, and funded research to scientifically validate the medical benefits and improvements to patient health and mobility.
Applying the principle of elastic compression for the treatment of numerous medical conditions, he created healthcare solutions and among the first medical devices in France — long before the establishment of a European framework (the 1993 Medical Device Directive of the EU).
USA EXPANSION INCLUDES RIGID BRACING AS A NEW CORE COMPETENCE
As part of its emergence as a global company, Thuasne had long desired to have a presence in the United States, which is the largest healthcare market in the world.
Thuasne opened a small product development and manufacturing subsidiary, Thuasne North America, in 2001. But it wasn’t until the acquisition of Townsend Design in 2011 (workforce of 140) that Thuasne created the business platform for expanding awareness of its brand and textile compression expertise in the USA. Townsend also brought the Thuasne Group substantial technical expertise in rigid bracing, with products that could be deployed through Thuasne existing global distribution network.
By incorporating the core expertise of rigid braces, Thuasne will continue to invest in the development of innovative technologies, including customized offerings (made to measure) and a strategic focus on specific pathologies.
This focus on specific pathologies integrates the therapeutic properties of Thuasne’s medical devices with the clinical objectives and treatment protocols defined by health authorities and key opinion leaders in the medical community.
As a result, instead of maintaining a traditional focus on products, Thuasne is moving toward a more globalized focus on customized therapeutic solutions that integrate with the diverse health, social and economic needs of different countries.
JEAN QUENEAU BRINGS NEW DIMENSION TO THUASNE
Jean Queneau, who married Janine Thuasne and was the son-in-law of Maurice Thuasne, joined the company in 1944. As a graduate of the illustrious Ecole Polytechnique, he brought new perspectives and energy to the company. After a decade of gaining experience and serving in a support role to Maurice, he took over as CEO of the company in 1955.
He is credited with the modernization of Thuasne, transforming the structure and strategies of a century-old business without losing sight of Thuasne’s heritage of excellence in innovation, technology and investment. He was also a specialist in information technology.
By 1960, his efforts and strong leadership brought a daring new technical edge to Thuasne’s business platform.
THUASNE’S NEW ANGEL LOGO BOOSTS THE COMPANY’S BRAND AND IMAGE
The little Thuasne angel was brought to life by Gérard Viou, a designer from Saint-Etienne.
Dynamic, winged, friendly and resolutely optimistic, the Thuasne angel became the symbolic hallmark of a patient’s determination to find the best solution for their health. More than 50 years later, the symbolism of the Thuasne Angel still influences the company’s intentions and mission to provide “Wings for your health.”
INNOVATION AND BRAND AWARENESS MAKES THUASNE THE MARKET LEADER IN FRANCE
By the 1980s, Thuasne had emerged as the leader in France in its various areas of expertise. Major brands such as BIFLEX®, LIGAFLEX®, LOMBACROSS® and LOMBAX® became widely recognized as comfortably providing compression, support and therapeutic solutions for the entire human body.
During one of the most important decades in the company’s long history, electronically-controlled textile production was introduced to elevate the company’s capabilities and efficiencies. This required the employment and training of skilled technicians to operate the equipment. It was also during this time that Thuasne made the landmark decision to become a specialist in knitting technologies.
In 1992, Thuasne launched VENOFLEX®, the brand for a full range of compression socks and stockings.
To protect its proprietary concepts, technology and brands, Thuasne had to become very active and diligent in the processes for seeking patents and trademarks.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH CREATES GREATER AUTONOMY
To maintain its independence and create increased control over all aspects of its operations and supply chain, Thuasne made significant investment in the integration of all of its activities.
In 1996, Thuasne constructed an automated, computerized logistics centre to enhance the capacity and efficiency of making shipments to other countries around the globe. The success of this investment was demonstrated by a service delivery rate of 98% in France (Thuasne, from 01/01/2012 to 30/06/2015).
Step by step, Thuasne made incremental improvements in the integration of all industrial processes in order to retain control of its value chain. Several industrial companies joined the Group:
in 1987, Filatexor (upstream processing of elastic fibres by wrapping),
in 1994, Serena (medical silicone).
In addition to its operational integration, by 2005 Thuasne had fully integrated its internal sales and customer support functions, including a state-of-the-art call center located in Saint-Etienne.
ELIZABETH DUCOTTET-QUENEAU COMMENCES AN INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY
In 1991, Elizabeth Ducottet-Queneau was appointed by her father, Jean Queneau, to lead the Thuasne Group. She is the architect of the strategies and business structures that dramatically expanded the company’s influence beyond the borders of France.
Through her vision and leadership, Thuasne evolved from a French company to a European company, and now an international company with a network of subsidiaries and distributors. This has enabled patients around the world to benefit from Thuasne’s expansive range of medical devices.
The search for new markets outside of France necessitated restructuring of the company’s customary business practices. As part of the geographic expansion of the company’s manufacturing and distribution, in 1991, Thuasne made its first major acquisition by purchasing Zimmerman, a German company.
A SIXTH GENERATION OF FAMILY LEADERSHIP
The next generation of family shareholders, the children of Elizabeth Ducottet, have accepted the mantle of leadership and important roles within the company. They bring diverse expertise to the Group as well as the determination needed to ensure the company’s long-term future.
The eldest daughter, Delphine attended French schools and later earned an MBA in the United States, brings financial expertise. The son, Matthieu (ENSAM Engineer) helps direct product development and innovation. The youngest child, Anne-Sophie (a graduate of the Ecole des Mines and holder of a Masters from Berkeley University in California) has worked with the company’s USA subsidiaries and also held management positions in marketing and customer service.
The children work hand in hand with their mother on a day-to-day basis to understand and determine the critical elements for furthering Thuasne’s success in the future.
The Thuasne family has recruited and nurtured the development of a team of managers who support Thuasne’s mission and help to define the Group’s strategy and maintain accountability for key actions and results.
SPREADING ITS WINGS BRINGS HEALTH BENEFITS TO THE WORLD
In 2015, Thuasne adopted the baseline “Wings for your health” as the central theme for its brand positioning. This supports the company’s priority to support the individual as a key player in their own health.
As a modern and ever evolving company, Thuasne has centralized its design approach for uniformity and efficiency, with even more agile product development methods (“Thuasne Product Factory”).
A new approach was also initiated to achieve more social awareness for Thuasne’s customized health solutions. By using a variety of digital technologies and communication platforms, Thuasne will increasingly give patients immediate and continuous access to information about the many ways Thuasne can provide “Wings for your health.”
The concept and construction of Agora is another hallmark in the rich history of a company that has been continuously family owned and operated since 1847. Agora is a vibrant building, a fifth site in Saint-Etienne, that physically embodies and showcases Thuasne’s modernization.
A new website reflects the company’s new strategic directives and global focus on providing customized health solutions.
With the acquisition of Quinn Medical in January 2016, Thuasne became an orthopaedic medical device multi-specialist in the United States.
In October, Thuasne acquired the London-based Orthotic Composites Limited, which produces and markets a range of ankle orthoses made from carbon materials.