Ottobock celebrates 100 years – 100 years of Quality for life
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Duderstadt
The city of Duderstadt is commemorating Ottobock’s anniversary on 18 February 2019. German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Duderstadt Mayor Wolfgang Nolte are set to speak during the ceremony. The city has invited some 350 distinguished guests from politics, industry and academia to attend the celebration.
The Ottobock name has stood for “Quality for life” for 100 years. Technological innovations in the field of orthopaedic technology helped the family company develop from a start-up in Berlin to a global market leader based in southern Lower Saxony. “We are very excited about the difference our fitting solutions make in the lives of our users around the world. And we will continue to do everything we can to enhance their quality of life and promote progress in future,” says Professor Hans Georg Näder, Chairman of the Management Board of Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA. “We are positioned precisely where the fields of human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, cyborgs and robots converge.”
Some of the most recent examples of the company’s innovative capacity include the C-Brace orthotronic mobility system, which helps users with partial paralysis walk again, as well as the Myo Plus pattern recognition technology, which uses artificial intelligence to automate the hand movements made with a prosthesis. The company has also succeeded in transferring its expertise in the field of biomechanics to applications for the industrial sector in the form of the Paexo exoskeleton.
Ottobock will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a variety events and activities throughout the year. “I would like to thank all of our employees and their families as well as Ottobock’s associates and the city of Duderstadt who have contributed to our company’s success in the past and continue to do so today,” says Näder. The family entrepreneur is expressing his thanks by hosting a new edition of the Eichsfeld Festival, which will feature performances from regional acts as well as Peter Maffay & Friends in Duderstadt’s city centre from 6 to 8 September.
From start-up to global market leader
The story that began when Otto Bock founded a start-up called Orthopädische Industrie in 1919 fundamentally changed the field of orthopaedic technology. By introducing the fabrication of components, the company succeeded in providing quick, reliable treatments to the many wounded soldiers who had returned from the First World War.
From this point onwards, the turbulent history of the two Germanies was also reflected in the history of the company. Periods of political unrest in Berlin prompted Otto Bock to move his new company to Königsee in the Thuringian Forest before the end of its founding year. In just under 30 years, the company’s staff grew to more than 600 employees at this location.
The division between East and West Germany: an ending and a beginning
During Soviet occupation, the company made the strategic decision to establish an additional location as close to Königsee as possible, but in the neighbouring British zone. The intention was to use this location to exchange materials for finished goods, thereby ensuring that it could continue to supply its customers. Dr Max Näder founded what was then referred to as the company’s “branch” and today serves as its headquarters. Näder was Otto Bock’s son-in-law and, together with his wife Maria, essentially built the location from the ground up starting in 1947.
Following what was likely the most difficult period in the company’s history – the expropriation of the Königsee location without compensation – the company also had to start production in Duderstadt from nothing with the support of a dedicated group of employees. During the Cold War, the family set its sights on the early expansion of the company’s activities at the international level. It secured its future by establishing several global locations, starting when Dr Max Näder founded Ottobock’s first foreign subsidiary in Minneapolis, USA, in 1958.
Globalisation and internationalisation help the company grow
The fall of the Berlin Wall represented another turning point in the history of the two Germanies as well as Ottobock’s own. This event enabled the company to repurchase its production location in Thuringia, where cutting-edge wheelchairs are produced today. The company group was also able to further advance its international growth at the global level.
Dr Max Näder transferred the management of the company to his son, Professor Hans Georg Näder, in 1990. The entrepreneur took a dynamic approach in expanding the company’s global network while pushing forward with research and development as well as marketing and sales. Today, more than 7,000 employees at over 50 locations around the world work together to help people retain or regain their mobility and quality of life despite physical disabilities.