Ottobock takes a seat in city to improve efficiency

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A GERMAN company has moved its entire mobility and bespoke seating operation to Leeds so that it can now manufacture the products and increase efficiency.

The new Ottobock building was officially opened yesterday by MP Hilary Benn and the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, and her husband Graham.

Managing director of Ottobock UK, Philip Yates, said the German-based company had been based in Leeds for 20 years carrying out the digitalisation process for specialist seats, which were previously manufactured in Germany out of carved foam, polystyrene or other materials.

But Ottobock has now decided to migrate its entire mobility and bespoke seat manufacturing to Leeds, which represents a £1m investment by the company. The family-owned company manufactures seats for people with limited mobility that are moulded to their body shape and are a bespoke product that cost between £1,500 and £5,000.

As part of the investment, a £300,000 machine was brought in to the Yorkshire site to enable it to manufacture the products and reduce the time it takes to produce them.

The company employs 32 people at its specialist seating operation in Yorkshire, and has a total of 250 employees across sites in the UK. The specialist seating has a £2.5m turnover, its general UK operations has turnover of £24m and 700m euros worldwide.

Mr Yates said the whole production process has moved to the UK and research and development is also based at Leeds as the company recognised the expertise of the workforce. He described it as a “win-win” situation for Yorkshire. “Previously, we were in two neighbouring units and it was a bit like a rabbit warren.

“Now we have the neighbouring unit and the buildings have been refurbished and improved. We have a private facility where patients can come in and be seen and they can look at different seating systems.”

He says he is passionate about what he does and “improving the life and mobility of people”. The company also provides prosthetics to the NHS and to ex-service personnel who have been injured in recent conflicts in Afghanistan. In the UK, they supply 100 items to private patients and they have supplied the NHS with 11 in the last year.

By moving the manufacture of seating to the UK, it has improved the speed of delivery. The manufacturing process previously used to take upwards of eight weeks, but has been reduced now to a matter of days.

Mr Yates added: “The important thing is that Germany had the foresight to recognise the expertise of the UK production.”