New centre for orthopaedic technology

A paragon of planning

Building on a rich tradition: on 1 November 1918, Bergmannsheil Hospital in Bochum, operated by the miner's guild, founded an orthopaedic workshop for artificial limbs. Over the decades, the workshop blossomed into one of North Rhine Westphalia's most modern service providers for orthopaedic devices and rehabilitation technology – as Care Center Deutschland GmbH. And just two years after celebrating the company's centenary anniversary, CEO Uwe Brockmann once again had cause to celebrate, when he and his staff moved into brand new premises in their new "Centre for Orthopaedic Technology" on 1 October 2020. When planning and equipping the new premises, the Care Center team left nothing to chance.

The ground floor of the new two-storey building is a spacious 1250 m2 in size and houses the Care Center's new 900 m2 orthopaedic service centre. Upstairs on the first floor, various offices are located alongside the 500 m2 orthopaedic footwear service centre. Both service centres were previously housed in a 75-year old building in Bochum's city centre. But moving to an industrial estate in the Weitmar district of Bochum made sense for numerous reasons, according to Uwe Brockmann. "One advantage is that we can now exploit various synergies by having both service centres in such close proximity to our administration and rehabilitation technology departments, which are housed in a building directly opposite the new premises. Another aspect is that we have seen vigorous and steady growth for a number of years. And our former premises were quite simply unable to cope with any more growth," Uwe Brockmann explains.

Care Center Deutschland GmbH focuses primarily on patients who are covered by employer's liability insurance, accident compensation funds or statutory health insurance. Offering a comprehensive range of products and services, the Care Center currently has more than 190 employees, around 60 of whom work in the new service centres as orthopaedic technicians or orthopaedic footwear specialists. Most commendably, the employees were asked at an early stage in the planning process to contribute their ideas and suggest improvements for their future workplaces – a step that was fully approved by the company's CEO, who has always attached great importance to best practices in HR. "Our employees are given a great deal of freedom to organise their work processes in the way they think best, which also entails a high level of responsibility for these processes. As a result, the atmosphere is very pleasant and teamwork is very focussed on results, which has gained us quite a reputation in the industry," Uwe Brockmann explains. Twice in a row, Care Center Deutschland has won awards as a top employer. With apprentices accounting for around ten percent of the workforce, the team in Bochum Weitmar has remained virtually unaffected by the general shortage of skilled workers in orthopaedic technology.

3D visualisation brings plans to life

When planning the new service centres, working conditions played an important role. The aim was to ensure that everything – from the rooms themselves to the fittings and equipment – complied with the very latest specifications in order to maximise occupational wellbeing. Involving the staff in the planning process was a special service offered by Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA. As a longstanding technology partner, Ottobock has been supplying the Care Center with products and services for many decades. "Ottobock's Planning & Equipping department offers advice and support to orthopaedic businesses that are looking to modernise their workshops or build new service centres," reports Dirk Maiwald. As project manager for Ottobock, he was heavily involved in the Bochum building project. "Nowadays, before work begins on a major project like this, one of our key jobs is to create a 3D version of the classic 2D building plans, because the 3D format really brings it to life for the client. For example, we create a video that takes you on an imaginary flight through the building so that the client can visualise the rooms better and explore all the little details. If they then want to make any changes to installations or facilities, we can discuss them immediately."

The 3D format had another most pragmatic advantage for Uwe Brockmann. "The 3D visualisation not only made it easier for our employees to provide input on their future workplaces," he explains. "It also helped me to get our supervisory board and shareholders excited about the project. I'm sure the fact that everyone was so motivated played an important role in the success of the project."

The key to success: working hand in hand with the architects from an early date

Over the past 45 years, Ottobock has helped to establish more than 2600 service centres. Nonetheless, the new Care Center premises were a particularly special project for Dirk Maiwald and the Ottobock team. The expert planner explains how he met up with the architects at a very early stage to discuss layouts and floor plans. This proved to be particularly beneficial when it came to drawing up detailed plans for aspects such as the electrical wiring. "In general, clients take some of their machines and equipment with them when they move to a new property. Integrating old and new machines is not a problem. But in this case, Care Center Deutschland retained less than five percent of their existing technology. Instead, they decided to upgrade to state-of-the-art machines that would allow them to work efficiently for the next 20 or 25 years, which is the standard cycle for modernisation measures," Dirk Maiwald explains.

Precision work and a heart-stopping moment

As well as improving the efficiency of work processes (compared to the old service centre), the move also provided an opportunity to make significant improvements to working conditions. All workplaces – such as at the new socket routers – can now be adjusted to the optimum height. Powerful extraction systems have been installed next to any equipment that emits fumes or generates dust or shavings and the air inside hazardous substance and safety cabinets, for example, is purified continuously by carbon filters.

Clean air was a top priority in the new service centres. Able to cope with around 9000 m³ air volume, the main HVAC system ensures all rooms are well ventilated at all times. Fresh air is cooled during the summer and warmed during the winter to create a pleasant ambient temperature inside the building. But according to CEO Uwe Brockmann, it was this HVAC system that triggered a heart-stopping moment during the interior construction work. "Most of the equipment was brought into the building through an opening in the facade on the first floor. This opening had been planned very carefully so that the HVAC system would fit through in one piece. What I didn't know beforehand was that our architects and the Ottobock team had got it down to the very last millimetre. You couldn't even squeeze a sheet of paper between the wall and the machine."

Everything from a single source

Care Center Deutschland has chosen its partner Ottobock to service and maintenance the new machines and equipment. A maintenance agreement has been drawn up for this purpose, and a service team will be making regular inspections to check for wear and tear and to replace filters and other parts. "Right from the start, I knew I needed to find a partner who could handle everything – from planning to implementation to service and maintenance," Uwe Brockmann says. "Throughout the entire project, we had fixed contacts at Ottobock. This direct line of communication meant we were able to discuss details and resolve challenges extremely quickly and easily," he adds with a satisfied smile.

But what do the employees say about their new workplace? "On their first day at work, their reactions ranged from a simple smile to an enthusiastic "Wow!" They were already highly motivated, but it's great to see their excitement and optimism. We're all set to get going as a team, and hope that we can continue to grow healthily as a company over the coming years. We certainly now have the space we need!"