Ottobock—Mobility for People
All around the world, the Ottobock name stands for high-quality and technologically outstanding products and services. The goal of helping to restore mobility for people—or protect what mobility they have—stands behind each and every Ottobock product. The conviction that quality of life is closely associated with a maximum of individual freedom and independence is a key concept that has been a major influence throughout the company’s 90-year history.
„Quality for life“
Since its founding in Berlin in 1919, Ottobock has pursued a vision: to improve the mobility of people with disabilities through innovative products. In doing so, the company equates quality with “Quality for life”: the quality of life enjoyed by the people who use Ottobock products every day. People at the centre, their individuality and requirements and needs with respect to functionality, quality as well as design form the basis for the company's enduring capability of innovation.
Otto Bock HealthCare—The Company
The Ottobock group of companies consists of Otto Bock HealthCare (medical technology), Otto Bock Kunststoff (plastics) and Technogel (chemistry), and Sycor (information and communication technology). “These three pillars will support our success in key global growth markets”, explains Professor Hans Georg Näder, chairman and CEO. A third-generation family member, he took over the position from his father Dr. Max Näder in 1990, the son-in-law of the company's founder Otto Bock.
The medical technology company Otto Bock HealthCare has seen stable growth for years: in 2013, sales rose by 12.2% to EUR 724.1 million, adjusted for currency exchange effects, and the number of employees increased to over 6,000 worldwide. The global activities of the company are coordinated from the head office in Duderstadt. A network of distribution and service companies in 50 countries places the company near its customers thanks to a global presence.
With its five divisions of Prosthetics, Orthotics, Neurorehabilitation, Mobility Solutions and MedicalCare, the company is ideally positioned and capable of offering its customers a virtually unprecedented wide range of products and extensive services.
The fundamental corporate values developed in over 90 years of the family company Ottobock's history are embodied in trust and reliability. Tradition and progress are not seen as contradictions, but as a natural entity. Despite the steadily increasing pace of opening up new markets and target groups and developing new technologies, one thing remains unchanged: people are at the centre of it all. The quality of our products is measured by the degree to which they improve independence and quality of life in everyday life.
Respectful, engaged, human, authentic, playful, open-minded, enterprising and bold - these are the attributes that also describe the company and brand Ottobock today. More than 6,000 employees around the world work with passion and commitment to fill these words with life—in dealing with the users of our products in a respectful manner and through constructive dialogue with our customers. Each and every one of them helps to increase the mobility and freedom of people with disabilities. Converting technical innovation to technology for people poses a challenge. This requires innovative strength and the courage to go where no one has gone before.
Responsibility for the Future
According to Ottobock, economics and ecology represent a single challenge that must be overcome with a view to future generations. Economic success and active social responsibility with respect to environmental protection go hand in hand where Ottobock is concerned. Specifically, this means: at the Duderstadt site, emissions that impact the environment are almost entirely avoided in the production process. Energy consumption was reduced drastically in the entire company, such as through the thermal recycling of production waste, heat recovery from ventilation systems and the use of frequency converter technology to cut electricity consumption. Electricity and heat are supplied from a biogas plant that was built specifically for Ottobock. The substrate to generate biogas is provided by farmers from the immediate area in order to keep transport routes as short as possible. Furthermore, the company uses unmixed recycling systems for metals and plastics as a standard. This is borne out by impressive numbers: by burning wood waste and recovering heat from combined heat and power plants, the company meets 47 per cent of its energy requirements for heating administration buildings, production plants and warehouses as well as regenerated air masses. Fifty per cent of its heating needs are met through ventilation systems, dust filtration, polyurethane tanks, foaming and process cooling. A conventional gas heating system supplies only three per cent of the company's energy requirements.
The Prosthetics division is the largest business unit of Otto Bock HealthCare GmbH. Its distribution and service companies in 50 countries place the company near its customers around the world and thus form a solid foundation for the company's further development. As the global leader in exo-prosthetics, products particularly in this area are constantly setting standards in the prosthetic care of people with disabilities. The C-Leg launched in 1997 was the first complete microprocessor-controlled lower limb prosthesis system in the world. The firm conviction that this technology would be revolutionary for transfemoral amputees and allow for a new dimension of ambulation was the basis of many years of intensive research and development. Another milestone in product development is the Genium - Bionic Prosthetic System. It was presented in 2011 and simulates natural, physiological ambulation almost perfectly. The Genium supports the natural movement pattern down to the last detail thanks to state-of-the-art computer, sensor and control technology and, in combination with the new Triton prosthetic feet made from carbon, represents a quantum leap in prosthetic care. The creative process in research and development efforts consists of deriving technological solutions from knowledge about natural movement patterns and biomechanical relationships. This was achieved in an extraordinary manner with the Michelangelo prosthetic hand. It offers, controlled by muscle signals, four movable fingers and a thumb that can be positioned separately and electronically. With the Michelangelo Hand, upper limb amputees can carry out different grasping movements precisely, quickly and reliably on a thus-far unprecedented level. „With our prosthesis system, amputees can experience mobility and quality of life in a way like never before“, summarises Dr. Helmut Pfuhl, head of the Prosthetics business unit. „Our goal is to offer custom product solutions in different countries and regions around the world. The special challenge in this consists of taking into account the very heterogeneous requirements and health systems. Apart from a consistent customer and market orientation, this requires a high degree of flexibility. But one thing remains unchanged: our expectations with respect to the quality of 'made by Ottobock' products will always have top priority.“
The Prosthetics business unit also comprises the „Socket Technologies“ division, which deals with the best possible way of connecting the prosthesis to the human body. The right combination of liner and closure systems is essential for the success of each and every prosthetic fitting. With a large selection of liner materials, the use of patented negative pressure technology as well as different closure systems, an essential contribution to the safety and wearer comfort and thus integration of lower limb amputees into professional and private environments is guaranteed.
The Orthotics business unit, an Ottobock division showing vigorous growth, is divided into two business areas. Orthopaedic Rehab specialises in temporary fittings with orthotics after accidents, injuries or in connection with other mobility issues that support medical therapy in a targeted and effective manner. „We see our product as an important and contemporary component of medical therapy“, explains Frank Bömers, head of the Orthotics business unit at Ottobock. „For us, close cooperation and the intensive exchange with doctors is therefore of key importance to us. The goal of our innovative product developments must be their meaningful and effective integration into medical therapy.“ It is against this background that Ottobock has established the Clinical Excellence Circle (CEC), a network of medical specialists who share the goal of developing innovative orthotic products as well as therapy and training concepts. The experienced team of orthopaedists, specialists in sports medicine, neurologists, physical therapists, orthopaedic technicians and biomechanics forms the basis for promoting interdisciplinary cooperation. In addition, studies are conducted to provide firm evidence of the therapeutic benefit of the products. The result of a successful product development in cooperation with the CEC is the re-centring orthosis Patella Pro. Anterior knee pain is one of the most common reasons for visiting an orthopaedist. Patella Pro sets new standards in this context. Its unique alignment helps to reduce pain, which has been confirmed by scientific studies. Another product that was developed in collaboration with the CEC is the Malleo TriStep. This orthosis is used in connection with ankle sprains. It is aligned in such a way that special functions and stabilising elements can be added or removed in three steps depending on the healing process. This allows the entire healing process to be covered with a single fitting.
Ottobock is a world leader in Neuroorthopaedics. The orthoses for paralysed users - complete leg orthoses and lower leg orthoses - provide a permanent fitting for people affected by the full or partial paralysis of a leg. „Giving people the freedom of movement and allowing them to walk safely in everyday life again is the same as giving them the gift of quality of life“, says Frank Bömers. Against this background, the C-Brace is the most recent example of an excellent development that restores lost mobility for users. This first mechatronic orthosis system in the world controls the entire gait cycle dynamically and in real time. The system responds intelligently to any situation in which the user may find himself/herself, regardless of whether he/she is on a staircase, a ramp or uneven terrain.
Giving people with disabilities the chance to participate in life equally, return to work, pursue hobbies and navigate everyday life without anyone's help and independently within one's personal means: for the Mobility Solutions division, the issue of „inclusion“ is a central aspect that forms the basis of a large number of developments of this business unit. The extensive range of products with manual and power wheelchairs, as well as numerous rehabilitation products, such as standing supports, seating systems or seat cushions, help to restore mobility for people and to integrate them permanently into society and social life. An example of this is the 24-hour posture and positioning concept for children: to help children with movement issues to use free space for playing, moving around and social contacts, a suitable device is used to give them the necessary posture during the entire day and night. Users who are more motor-impaired experience freedom and independence through the integration of special and environment controls for power wheelchairs, which are adjusted and customised for their requirements and abilities. With state-of-the-art Bluetooth and infrared technology, for example, it is possible to control the phone, mobile phone, computer, wall outlets, lamps, blinds, doors and much more around the house or in the workplace. Different sporting equipment allows, apart from the important therapeutic aspect, people with disabilities to experience a sense of community and engage actively in pastime activities. „It is essential for Mobility Solutions to find custom mobility solutions that are absolutely appropriate for the requirements of the users, because: our products are aimed at a very heterogeneous target group, such as active or athletic users, older people or users with multiple impairments“, explains Gunter Röper, CEO of Otto Bock Mobility Solutions GmbH. In view of the worldwide demographic development of society, the care of stroke patients is gaining in importance. In this context, Ottobock works across divisions and areas with the business units Orthotics and Neurorehabilitation to develop solutions that are to restore mobility for people after a cerebrovascular accident. „One of the biggest challenges for us can be summed up in a single word, 'glocalisation'„, according to Gunter Röper. „We want to develop global products that are in line with the specific local requirements all over the world. And we are in the best possible position to do that, thanks to our international production and logistics strategy.“
The wheelchair fabrication has been based in Königsee/Thuringia since 1992, and has since grown steadily through the addition of international production sites. For the purpose of bundling competencies in a single location and further optimising communication and development processes, the divisions of research and development, product management and production were combined here under one roof.
Cerebrovascular accidents, or strokes, are today a „lifestyle disease“, and the number of those affected is growing steadily. This has to do with the lifestyles prevalent in our affluent society, but also with demographic trends. As emergency medical assistance for stroke patients has been on the rise, cerebrovascular accidents are today the primary indication for lasting disabilities in adults. The challenge here is to re-integrate into society people with physical impairments following a cerebrovascular accident, and to give them a chance to live independently. Neurorehabilitation is the newest business unit of Ottobock. The term „Neurorehabilitation“ or „functional electrical stimulation“ denotes generally the effects on the nervous system created by electric pulses - either via electrodes placed on the skin or via implant directly on the nerve. The goal is to mobilise patients after neurological diseases, such as a stroke, multiple sclerosis or incomplete paraplegia, by means of electrical stimulation and to restore functional everyday movements, such as grasping for an object. „Our Neurorehabilitation business unit concentrates in functional electrical stimulation on the mobilisation and/or remobilisation of the persons affected“, explains Dr. Peter Krautgartner, head of the business unit. „Together with the other Ottobock divisions Orthotics and Mobility Solutions, we are thus in a position to offer a unique product portfolio to provide prosthetic care for people following a stroke.“
In ActiGait and MyGait, the business unit offers products for innovative therapy that provides effective help for people with weak dorsiflexion after a stroke, multiple sclerosis, incomplete paraplegia or craniocerebral trauma. Permanent neuronal damage often means the brain no longer transmits pulses to the nerve that controls the lower leg musculature. This results in a hanging forefoot and thus unstable gait, posing a risk of falling for the person affected. Two technically different approaches can now be applied: the surface stimulator MyGait is attached above the calf bone with fabric sleeve. In the process, the fibular nerve is stimulated via the skin surface, re-activating the calf muscles, which lifts the forefoot when walking. The ActiGait neural implant is implanted in the thigh, controlling via electric pulses directly on the nerve the motor system of drop-foot patients very precisely. In combination with external components, the system supports the controlled lifting of the foot. „Of course, patients are advised by our partners specialised in strokes to tell them which therapy is suitable for them“, says Dr. Peter Krautgartner. „The education of the medical specialist staff and, in particular, providing the persons affected with objective and easy-to-understand information are things that matter to us very much. In this context, there is still a lot of educational work to be done, because many are not aware of the new fitting options for weak dorsiflexion.“
With extensive services for high-quality patient care and professional workshop management, the MedicalCare business unit demonstrates that Ottobock is a highly specialised service company. As part of Patient Care, Ottobock today operates as many as over 75 supply centres around the world. The know-how in patient care acquired there, a detailed understanding of the market and the individual business models developed for countries and regions benefit not only Patient Care companies, but also business customers to whom Ottobock Business Service makes this range and know-how available as services. „Our primary goal is to develop new markets and ensure high-quality orthopaedical technical care for people in cooperation with our business partners and our own Patient Care centres“, sums up Dr.-Ing. Michael Hasenpusch, head of the MedicalCare business unit. „We want to share the knowledge and experience gained in our own Patient Care centres, for example, as concerns process optimisation, with our business partners as services.“ But this transfer of know-how is not unilateral. Practical experience in using Ottobock products in the Patient Care centres is also incorporated into the research and development of new products and services. „This intensive transfer of know-how will eventually benefit everyone“, says Dr.-Ing. Michael Hasenpusch.
The services of the business unit include, in particular, the process optimisation in orthopaedical technical workshops. Service Fabrication plays a crucial role in this context, which custom-fabricates and supplies products on the basis of user data. This ranges from custom orthotics to prosthetic sockets and liners as well as silicone products - Service Fabrication works with state-of-the-art technology, materials and production methods. Process optimisation and safety in the workplace also shape the Planning and Equipping division, which provides professional support for spatial concepts and area utilisation plans. The service comprises not only consulting and planning, but also equipping workshops with appropriate machines. This also includes financial planning and a cost-efficiency analysis. In addition, IT Systems provides support for Ottobock partners in the implementation of patient administration software. The services are rounded out with an extensive range of programmes of the Ottobock Academy for professional orthopaedical technical and therapeutic development.
Sharing state-of-the-art specialist know-how, ensuring the quality of prosthetic care, and working in a targeted manner to counter the international shortage of skilled workers: these are the objectives of the Ottobock Academy, pursuing a strong role in the training and further training of orthopaedical and rehabilitation technicians. To ensure satisfied users and thus the business success of Ottobock partners, all experts involved in the fitting of aids must have top qualifications. This includes, among others, orthopaedical and rehabilitation technicians, doctors and therapists - the training and further training programmes of the Academy are thus directed at all persons involved in the fitting process. The industry is undergoing change, and the requirements for medical and technical know-how are becoming ever more complex. „Our goal is to support our partners through our training and further training programmes in such a way that they can provide their customers and patients with optimal fitting services“, explains Dr. Sönke Rössing, Chief Strategy & Human Resources Officer (CSHRO). „We can ensure the quality of care and establish uniform standards of care only if we give our partners the necessary support. Interdisciplinary know-how is also crucial in this context. The qualification of partners is an investment in the development of the industry.“ In order for Ottobock employees to advise and support customers and partners in their work in a qualified manner, the further training programmes are also directed at them. But the focus is always on the user of the products, because good care has a direct effect on the user's quality of life.
A successful example of promoting and further training of orthopaedical technicians is the cooperation with the private university of applied sciences in Göttingen (PFH) and the University of Göttingen. Together with partners (BUFA Federal College of Orthopaedical Technicians; BIV Federal Guild Association Orthopaedics Technology; ISPO and UMG University Medical Centre), Ottobock has developed three study programmes in the Orthobionics and Healthcare Technology, thus closing the gap between modern medicine and orthopaedics technology.
Ottobock’s commitment to sports for the disabled has long been a fixture of the company's philosophy. Moving people with disabilities into the centre of society, giving them a face and voice and showing them off as outstanding athletes and role models for the fact that sports and performance can restore the will to live and that living with a disability must not be the same as an impaired life: the Paralympic Games, which Ottobock has been accompanied and supported actively since Seoul 1988, reflect this notion. Back then, five orthopaedical technicians from Australia provided to the Paralympics a free repair service, which has been expanded and professionalised continuously since then. In London in 2012, the Ottobock team, consisting of 78 orthopaedical technicians from 20 countries, worked on 2,080 repair orders in 10,684 hours. The work is demanding, because the prostheses and wheelchairs used by top-flight athletes at today's performance levels are subjected to extreme conditions. But it is also about contributing to equality of opportunity. At the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, Ottobock was again on site with its workshop and a dedicated international team of technicians to support athletes from around the world. In Heinrich Popow, who won the gold medal in the supreme discipline, the 100 metre sprint, Ottobock has gained an extraordinary athlete and person as Paralympic Ambassador, who lends an authentic face to the Paralympic ideals.Ottobock has been a cooperation partner of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) since 2005, and in London extended this contract through and beyond Rio 2016. Looking ahead to Rio 2016, Daniel Dias from Brazil was now also brought on board as an additional Paralympic Ambassador.
Science Center Berlin
The fascination of the human body, the interest in its function and that which seemingly is taken for granted and that is concealed behind complex movement patterns: all that illustrates the enormous challenge for modern medical technology that restores mobility for people through artificial limbs. Between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate, the Science Center Berlin, under the motto „Discover what moves us“, has been an open stage, scene and meeting place for stakeholders, laypeople and experts from all over the world since 2009. Applying a unique approach, this centre has succeeded in giving medical technology a platform with a far-reaching mass appeal. The façade is based on the structure of muscle fibres. It is here that the Walker moves about—a laser installation that captures the essence of the human gait pattern in an amazing manner. Inside, interactive displays invite visitors to experience the functionality of prostheses and orthoses or to take a virtual wheelchair ride across Berlin's Pariser Platz. Experts meet on the top floors for exchanges, and this is also where high-end patient fittings are demonstrated.
With the Science Center Berlin, Ottobock returns to Berlin, where the company was founded by Otto Bock in 1919—in a manner of speaking, establishing a bridge between tradition and modernity.