Stefan Kaufmann, Executive Managing Director of Olympus Europa SE & CO. KG, talks about instruments for minimimum-invasive surgery and brilliant imaging technology that is superior to open surgery in an interview with Hamburg News.
Olympus announced Wednesday (February 15) the massive development of its Hamburg operations and the company is constructing a new corporate building in Hammerbrook for sales and marketing products across Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) as well as Olympus Deutschland GmbH. Olympus is also expanding its European development and production centre for medical technology in Jenfeld. The investment is one of the biggest in construction in recent years in Hamburg. The Hamburg-based Gerkan, Marg und Partner group of architects has been commissioned with the design. Kaufmann said in a statement: “In accordance with the trend in recent years, we are planning strategic global growth of 6 per cent annually until 2021. The new building takes account of this development and will offer our staff a modern, inspiring work environment.” He added: “At the same time, the buildings in Hammerbrook and Jenfeld reflect the committment of the biggest Japanese employer to the Hanse city.”
Thunderbeat – a highlight of surgical products
Experts believe people’s interaction with technology will change medicine in the long-term. And Olympus is playing a key role in medical technology with its focus on developing surgical products – one of the company’s growth areas. Kaufmann, 49, head of Olympus Europe, is particularly proud of Thunderbeat. The world’s only electrosurgical device integrates two types of energy and can cut tissue and seal vessels. Two years ago, surgeons in Cologne used the technology to successfully separate conjoined twin girls Tamaria and Tebrole from Georgia.
Kaufmann noted: “The use of 4K ultra HD technology in surgical imaging is another highlight.” Tools such as Thunderbeat for endoscopic imaging and surgery are put through tiny incisions in the abdominal wall. The surgeon can steer the instrument’s movements on a screen. “The extremely high-definition resolutions, zoom functions and brilliant colour reproduction improve the viewing experience and help the specialist to perform minimum-invasive surgery,“ Kaufmann pointed out. And the images on screen are even superior to those revealed during open surgery. Panorama views on 55“ 4K monitors allow surgeons to concentrate entirely on the operation.
Over 90 years of pioneering spirit and innovative strength
Kaufmann said: “Olympus is a market leader in endoscopic instruments e.g. for colon cancer prevention“ and is aiming for even more innovations. “We wish to grow products for use in general surgery, urology, gynaecology, and otolaryngology (HNO).” Founded in Japan in 1919, for over 90 years, it has led the way in designing endoscopy and microscopy products, medical and industrial equipment, as well as cameras and voice recorders. Operations in Hamburg began in 1963 with only 12 employees in Steindamm from where it manages marketing, sales development and production from Iceland to South Africa, and from Russia to Portugal. Now, the company employs over 33,000 people worldwide and around 2,000 staff in Hamburg. Olympus is planning personnel growth of up to 5 per cent annually in sales, marketing, service, research, development and production mainly in medical technology by 2021. Kaufmann said: “Then Hamburg will remain the biggest Japanese employer in Hamburg.“
Over 2,000 annual registered patents
Olympus has been developing innovations in optoelectronic medical technology since the invention of the gastro camera in the 1950s. The product range also includes endoscopic and surgical devices as well as microscopes and measuring instruments for science and industry. Medical technology is the largest business sector with 77 per cent, followed by science and industry, then cameras and audio products with 11 per cent each. Olympus Europa earned revenue of EUR 1.74 billion in the 2015/2016-business year and the company’s growth worldwide came to 5 per cent. EMEA accounted for a 24.3 per cent share of growth.
Innovation is key to growth. Every year, Olympus invests 9 to 10 per cent of turnover in research and development and has over 2,000 annual registered patents. “Basically, we develop products that meet our clients’ demands,” Kaufmann stressed. Thus, the firm places great emphasis on active customer relations to gauge their needs and develop custom-made products. “All our clients are highly-skilled experts – that applies equally to doctors, photographers and researchers who all require high-precision instruments to reach their potential. Their relationships to their instruments are akin to those of musicians to their musical instruments. Developing and marketing the best instrument for our end customers is an exciting, daily challenge,” he noted.
Combining imaging procedures with artificial intelligence
Asked about future developments in technology, Kaufmann said: “I think imaging procedures that allow doctors to detect illnesses early and surgeons to perform minimum-invasive, complex surgery will become even more advanced. Today, the procedures yield images that are almost on a par with human vision and even surpass it.“ Imaging procedures could be combined with advances in artificial intelligence and so-called deep learning programmes. “In that way, real-time images of striking tissue could be steered by algorithms and compared and analysed to many archived images and help the doctor achieve a real-time diagnosis,” said Kaufmann.
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