- Absence is still an underestimated and too big of a problem
- Aniek set up two companies within a year: PreventiV and Pre-Tec Exoskeletons
- In Germany, Twente is known as a good collaboration partner
During the final year of pre-university education, Aniek chose to study Physiotherapy at Saxion Hogeschool in Enschede. She is 23 years old, born in Enter and now living in Rijssen with her parents and younger sister, who also studies physiotherapy. Aniek stayed in Twente, where she felt good and did not have to travel far for the right studies. Also, because of the equestrian sport, which she practised for years at the top level, Aniek remained in Twente. She never really doubted whether she wanted to stay in Twente. “All major cities, such as Enschede, Hengelo and Deventer can be reached within half an hour. And the people that live here, the culture, it connects well with who I am. If I’d be living alone in Utrecht, I wouldn’t feel happy, I think. It is mostly the environment that kept me in Twente, and the chances of finding a job after your studies. That was no problem here.”
“It is mostly the environment that kept me in Twente, and the chances of finding a job after your studies. That was no problem here.”
After studying Physiotherapy, Aniek immediately followed up with the training course for Work & Health Adviser. “I was shocked by the passive mindset of both employees and employers when it comes to absenteeism. People sometimes wait until the moment of absence before actually taking action.” Working for a health and safety service seemed like a logical choice after following this study, but it was not what attracted Aniek. “I do not want to generalise, but many health and safety services still have strongly conservative working methods. There should be more focus on tackling the source of the absence, instead of brushing away the symptoms.” The creation of the PreventiV company was soon a reality.
Aniek wants to add value to companies and offer insight on how focusing on prevention is profitable. SME entrepreneurs, in particular, find it difficult to implement this. “Absenteeism costs them a lot of money, and they see focusing on prevention as extra costs instead of a chance to bring down absenteeism figures. We understand that entrepreneurs want to be busy with the business, or as we say it in Twente, with the “trade”. Everything that has to do with absenteeism and health and safety services sounds mostly negative, but there are plenty of opportunities. At PreventiV, we do not only look at the medically-related factors that contribute to absenteeism but much broader than that. That means not only improving business processes with an eye to physical strain, but also looking at the personnel policy within a company, the financial situation, and other circumstances that can lead to absenteeism. 70% of all absenteeism is not of a medical nature at all.
“When a customer asked me if we were also working with exoskeletons, the answer was: No, but we actually should be”. Aniek saw great opportunities here, as the emergence of exoskeletons is currently moving fast, and shows us that Industry 4.0 is closer than we think. They offer the possibility of preventing complaints at the preventive stage, and it also offers plenty of opportunities for ageing employees to reach the finish line.
An exoskeleton has the appearance of a backpack and can offer employees relief and support during physical work. It ensures that the load is greatly reduced, and less fatigue occurs. Because of this, employees can continue to work accurately for a longer period. In the future, Aniek believes the exoskeletons can also be widely deployed within the framework of inclusive employment. There, too, are plenty of opportunities for this type of innovation.
The fact that Germany is right in Twente’s backyard offers economic opportunities. Aniek has seized this opportunity by working together with the German company Ottobock. But why Germany, and not a collaboration with a Dutch party? “Perhaps it’s the stubbornness of a person from Twente”, Aniek says with a wink.
“Ottobock is a sleeping giant”. With over 100 years of experience in making medical devices such as prostheses and orthoses, they know exactly how to make unnatural aids as natural and comfortable as possible. Aniek was impressed by the exoskeletons produced in Germany. “From 2012, Ottobock Industrials has worked on the development of the Paexo Shoulder in collaboration with, among others, Volkswagen and the Frauenhofer Institute. They only publicised this in 2017. Paexo stands for passive exoskeleton, which means that no electronic or mechanical activation takes place. This resulted in an exoskeleton of 1.9 kg that can even be worn underneath normal clothing.
By now, exoskeletons that offer support for overhead work are not the only types produced. “We now also offer exoskeletons for the neck and thumb, and in 2020 we expect the introduction of a third type, specifically aimed at supporting the lower back.” Through the collaboration of Twente and Germany, these top-quality products will also be available in the rest of the Netherlands and Belgium.
Something that’s special to Aniek is that through this collaboration, she found out Twente is very well placed in Germany. “They know how the business is here and that we are reliable people and hard workers. The way of working and the no-nonsense approach has a lot of overlap. Still, there is a lot to learn from the Deutsche pünktlichkeit.”
“You do not have to leave. We can offer you everything here in Twente!”, Aniek says. Aniek thinks it is a shame that from time to time, people call for Twente to do things just like in the Randstad, or that it should resemble Brainport Eindhoven. The properties that Twente already has are our unique selling points, according to Aniek. Among other things, Twente is not overwhelming and crowded yet still offers everything. It is something that attracts people. “We have to preserve this Twente authenticity; we do not have to look like anyone else.” Aniek cares for Twente, and when asked how she sees the future, she replies: “We have a great product, and I hope this will ultimately put Twente on the map. I would love to contribute to the reputation of Twente and I hope that we stay close to ourselves. That has made Twente big.”