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Between tradition and digitization Thinking outside the box

Issue 02/2019

How can the transition from a traditional craft business to a modern service provider be achieved? Werner & Thiele Orthopädie-Schuhtechnik GmbH in Dresden, Germany, combines traditional craftsmanship with digital technologies of the future – for holistic, efficient and tailor-made care.

Loud hammering rings out from the workshop of Werner & Thiele Orthopädie-Schuhtechnik in Kesselsdorfer Straße, Dresden. Orthopedic shoemaker Sven Thiemig is just drumming the lining leather over the last on a custom-made orthopedic shoe and nailing it down to the shoe tip. He then bonds the lasting fold, taps it and lays the shoe on the shelf to harden. “Traditional orthopedic craftsmanship plays an important role for us and is practiced by our employees on a daily basis,” Ronald Werner says proudly. “That’s where we come from, and craftsmanship still forms our backbone today,” explains the master technician, who learnt the trade from the bottom up and has run the company for exactly 25 years. Not all that much has changed in the field of orthopedic footwear technology as regards processing techniques, that is how a shoe is made. “We still build the last from wood by hand and grind it here,” Ronald Werner says.

Traditional craftmanship still plays an important role at Werner & Thiele in Dresden.

More efficient production, improved care

By contrast , the manufacture of foot orthoses has changed drastically. “In this area, new, digital processes and innovative materials have had a lasting effect on both the workshop and the service,” Ronald Werner says. There is now less demand for the traditional cork/leather insoles, which was the standard for a long time. “Instead we work with materials of various shore densities. These have a much more positive effect on the posture and the muscular status of our customers and ensure a higher level of wearing comfort.” At the same time, the company uses completely new types of material. “We have co-developed particularly thin foil materials for the production of foot orthoses, which are especially suitable for women’s shoes due to their low density,” Ronald Werner explains. “They are the opposite of the fairly bulky cork/leather insoles and fit into almost every business shoe.” That is an important aspect since almost 70 percent of the customers at Werner & Thiele, which is based in a large city, are women who require exactly this sort of foot orthosis.
What is also new in orthotic care is the fact that the company now uses tools such as the Bodytronic ID:CAM system solution. Here, foot orthoses undergo web-based, customer-specific modeling at the company and are then milled precisely to a hundredth of a millimeter with the latest technology at Bauerfeind. “Moreover, for synthetic foot orthoses, we use thermal manufacturing processes to ensure they are perfectly adapted to the foot and to optimize their fit in the shoe,” Ronald Werner says. “We finally only adjust the foot orthoses using the plaster model of the foot , which can be done in about one quarter of the time – without compromising the effect or function.” That is how the production of foot orthoses has changed at Werner & Thiele in the past few years – towards increased efficiency for the company and better, more effective care of the patients.

“The Bauerfeind systems work faultlessly and can be used optimally in everyday treatment.”

Ronald Werner

Ronald Werner, one of the managing directors of Werner & Thiele Orthopädie-Schuhtechnik.

Measurement technology as a customer magnet

In addition, Werner & Thiele has consistently developed new business areas such as compression stockings and orthotics to be able to offer holistic care. “We have expanded our service range from being a traditional orthopedic footwear technology company to a consultancy and treatment service provider, focusing on the entire body,” Ronald Werner emphasizes. “For this purpose, we deliberately rely on new, digital procedures and expand our equipment and technology range permanently.” In addition to a digital foot scanner, Werner & Thiele uses a Bauerfeind Bodytronic 200 system for the early detection of vein problems, a digital back scanner for spine analysis and the Bodytronic 600 3D body scanner. The latter is used for compression stockings as well as supports for the knees and ankles. “The Bauerfeind systems work faultlessly and can be used optimally in everyday treatment. They enable us to work especially fast and efficiently, as in the area of foot orthoses, and the extremely precise measurement technology guarantees the absolute optimal treatment for our customers. At the same time, these systems are also highly effective for promotional purposes to acquire new customers, for instance at trade fairs and exhibitions.” Many patients now come from far away to Werner & Thiele to have themselves measured specifically with the new technology. A further advantage: the data of all the measurements ever performed are stored in the system and are retrievable at the touch of a button at any time, for example for a “before and after” comparison.

Rising market volume

With its mix of traditional craftsmanship, digital technologies and innovative materials, Werner & Thiele GmbH is excellently positioned for current as well as future requirements. After all , one thing is certain: “The market volume will continue to rise in the future, especially in the field of foot orthoses,” Ronald Werner estimates. “Here, demand will also increase for materials that offer increased durability and rebound properties, meaning added efficiency on the foot , while offering a low height. With its adjustability to various heel heights and variable supporting force, the ErgoPad weightflex from Bauerfeind is already moving in absolutely the right direction.”

 

Images: Thomas Lebie


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