When Middlesbrough’s UK Pods sought an exporting partner to support its burgeoning international presence, it connected with fellow Teesside firm LV Shipping. Steven Hugill finds out more about the alliance and how it is delivering great success

Look closely at UK Pods’ unique apparatus and you open a window into the wider world.

Neatly embroidered into every one of its specialist safety products are insignias – set in the shape of the Middlesbrough company’s logo – that flag their end destination.

From Britain’s Union colours to Australia’s starred ensign and countless territories in between, the pennants symbolise a business whose worldly approach to safety is helping it stitch out growth across domestic and global markets.

The company, which recently moved to Middlesbrough’s Skippers Lane Industrial Estate, is known for its innovative safety pods.

Dramatically improving the wellbeing of vulnerable people in sectors such as mental healthcare and education, the pods are also becoming increasingly prevalent across the police and prison services.

For many, the process of physical intervention – previously referred to as physical restraint – can be frightening and painful.

However, UK Pods’ distinctive systems – created after undertaking research alongside frontline clinical teams and health and safety experts – offer an advanced solution.

The products reduce the risk of stress and injury, with facets such as inflatable head support – which dim echoing sounds to create a calming influence – and impact vents – which enable the product to mould to the contours of a person’s body shape – making the process of physical intervention a less unpleasant experience for the subject and for staffing teams.

With its pods now used by approximately 90 per cent of NHS mental health trusts, including Mersey Care, Surrey & Borders Partnership and West London NHS, the business is also garnering international attention, with clients in Australia complementing customers in Asia, Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

For director Palkesh Darbar Crawford, who runs UK Pods with wife Genevieve, such demand is indicative of the firm’s pioneering ethos around physical intervention, with the company’s products offering a cultural shift to a previously disparate process.

“We came to the idea in late 2014,” says Palkesh, who formerly worked in child and adolescent mental health forensics for a local healthcare trust.

“There was a report from the charity MIND that looked into the use of physical intervention in the UK – it was quite an alarming study.

“It found there to be inconsistencies in how the process was approached and how people dealt with it,” continues Palkesh, who is also a trained physical intervention instructor.

“There was a big gap between existing methods of ground intervention and intervention through sitting.

“There needed to be a common ground, something that could be portability-led and could allow the access of certain techniques.

“We came up with our idea and got people to share practices and talk,” adds Palkesh.

“We’ve bridged healthcare trusts and are now at the centre of an ever-growing network.”

With such a strong product portfolio in place, the firm – which was shortlisted in the High Growth Business of the Year category at last year’s British Chamber of Commerce Business Awards – needed a distribution partner to maintain its momentum.

It reached out to international logistics operator LV Shipping, a fellow North East England Chamber of Commerce member that counts a Middlesbrough base among its global footprint.

The relationship has catalysed UK Pods’ reach and assisted in manoeuvring the company to the vanguard of physical intervention approaches and techniques.

Helping UK Pods export its equipment – which is made by a Peterlee-based manufacturing partner – Palkesh says
LV Shipping provides key distribution support that allows his business to focus clearly on its products and growth plans.

“Our relationship was pretty much instant,” says Palkesh, who combines his directorial title at UK Pods with that of clinical skills consultant.

“They really stood out as a massively reassuring partner and have taken a lot off our shoulders.

“As a growing business, that has been extremely beneficial.”

“This is our lifeblood,” enthuses LV Shipping’s company ambassador Matthew Ord.

“It is great that we work with some of the biggest businesses in the world, but it is equally important for us to be helping those companies that are on the up too.

“It is fantastic to work with a firm like UK Pods, which is delivering ground- breaking change to lives and doing that work with an ethos that is from the heart,” adds Matthew.

Describing the companies’ partnership – which included the delivery of ten safety pods to Australia on the day of CONTACT’s visit – Matthew says LV Shipping’s commitment to clients means its team is always available to help, regardless of the situation or query.

“We take a holistic approach to UK Pods’ exporting by understanding what our customers want and simplifying the process for them,” he says.

“When the phone call comes in, I can identify the best person in the team, with the right skillset, to improve the process for UK Pods.

“There isn’t a silly question when it comes to shipping, and Palkesh and his team know they can pick up the phone anytime and ask for our help,” he continues.

“The trick to exporting is not thinking, ‘will someone buy my product?’ It is all about ensuring your products get to where they need to be, at the right time in the right condition.”

With LV Shipping’s support easing UK Pods’ transportation needs, Palkesh says the partnership is enabling his business to press ahead with renovation plans, which will see its new Middlesbrough headquarters revamped to include a dedicated physical intervention training space.

“Up until now, we have been training people in their facilities,” adds Palkesh, who had previously operated UK
Pods out of Middlesbrough’s Materials Processing Institute.

“We’ve worked with people like Middlesbrough Football Club and healthcare companies to increase their knowledge, but it will be brilliant to have something here.

“We have an exciting future ahead of us.”