Hand Hygiene Solutions that Save Lives Globally
When was the last time you sang happy birthday – twice? This is how long it takes to wash one’s hands properly. In a world where antibiotic resistance is on the rise and 80 percent of infections and illnesses are spread through hands, it is undeniably disconcerting to consider that some hospital staff do not follow strict hand hygiene procedures that prevent the spread of infectious diseases and superbugs.
Lucky for us, OpHardt Hygiene is here. To minimize the need for antibiotics, this global leader in hand hygiene dispensing systems has developed robust training and tracking technology that monitors the hand hygiene history of individual, touch-free cleansing stations in hospitals and other medical environments. OpHardt’s replica hospital training facility in Germany, for example, teaches medical staff how to operate its equipment, giving them real-life experience on how it all works before new devices are installed in their hospitals.
Of course, keeping hands clean is not only of concern to medical professionals. The food and hospitality industries, airports, and other high-traffic areas are also hotbeds of germs looking to hitch their next ride. OpHardt Hygiene Business Unit Director Fred Roffel joined me for a very interesting discussion on the company’s valuable contribution to how we deal with hand hygiene.
“Our dispensing solutions are designed to deal with unique formulations and dosages. We also develop dispensing units made from specialized materials with custom features as well as IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities – like those we use in our monitoring systems,” says Fred.
The company is supported by a solid foundation of research and development teams in its desire to modernize the way in which the world deals with hand hygiene. With fifty years’ experience in the industry, its top-performance equipment can be found in cleaning stations and bathrooms all over America, Europe, and further afield.
Naval engineer Hermann Ophardt founded the company as an engineering consultancy in 1962. Work from the hygiene industry started flowing in as he made the shift from consultant to formulation developer. Ingo-man was developed and quickly became the German market’s top sanitizer solution, a position it has held for over fifty years. With its dedication to research and development, the company is continually investing in ever more advanced automation and dispensing techniques, and its electronics team is making sure that products evolve together with the Internet of Things.
Today, OpHardt Hygiene’s creativity is driven by Chief Executive Officer Heiner Ophardt, the son of the founder. This engineer is a visionary beyond all else and has been leading OpHardt for seven years, during which time it has doubled in size.
“Heiner is heavily involved in some of our most exciting future developments. He has continued his father’s philosophy of driving growth through innovation, with heavy investment in a large research and development team, an expansive patent portfolio, and advanced manufacturing technologies,” says Fred.
The privately-owned company typically teams up with the best hygiene product producers in Europe and North America to assist healthcare, food processing, restaurant, and other industries in protecting staff and the public from the spread of infectious diseases. These business to business collaborations include developing high-quality pumps for next-generation soaps, soap foams, alcohol foams, and sanitizers. It also fabricates custom liquid or paper dispensers of stainless steel and aluminum as well as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, favoured for its malleable yet hardwearing qualities.
Some clients, recognizing OpHardt’s commitment to quality, even build their own dispensers around OpHardt pumps. The company’s 400-plus registered patents explain why many of its competitors prefer OpHardt Hygiene’s original components. As Fred describes, “Our OEM business has historically been largest in North America, but has seen significant growth in Europe over the last five years.”
Indeed, OpHardt Hygiene is greatly favoured by European distributors in the sanitary and medical fields, as well as by architects and planners. The company has earned renown for its medical and public washroom ranges, like ingo-man and SanTRAL, the former being the top-selling dispenser in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is particularly favoured for withstanding the extreme temperatures of autoclave laboratory sterilization.
The company has six manufacturing sites that each specialize in a different aspect of manufacturing and supply its three well-integrated business units: medical, washrooms, and technologies. The company produces medical dispensing systems, high- and low-volume pumps, plastic dispensers, and washroom systems; performs metal treatments including anodizing and electro-polishing; and conducts advanced research and development.
Each business unit focuses on a different area of trade, with the medical unit taking care of its European medical range, including touchless waste bins, paper towel dispensers, pre-surgical brush dispensers, mounting solutions for dispensers, electronic hand hygiene monitoring, and of course, sanitizer dispensers. This team’s main aim is to develop reliable and convenient hygiene systems that integrate seamlessly into healthcare and food service environments.
As the name suggests, the washroom team deals with washroom hygiene, ranging from soap and disinfectant dispensers to electronic monitoring and everything in between. In this segment, ease of use, economy, aesthetics, and reliability are the main design considerations.
OpHardt Hygiene’s technologies team, meanwhile, is at the forefront of original equipment manufacturing and cartridge solutions. This modern answer to an old problem is based on the same principle as printer ink cartridge in that these pumps are custom-designed to fit only a specific chemical producer’s refills.
Of course, with hard work and dedication, achievements naturally follow, and the company is especially proud of its recently won CMS Purus Innovation Award for its Untouchable technology. This state-of-the-art faucet dispenses a choice of three cleansers through gesture recognition.
The OpHardt Hygiene Monitoring System (OHMS) was released in 2011 and not only provides real-time data through the latest IoT technology but also educates hospital staff about regular and effective hand sanitizing, thereby protecting patients. IoT connects devices to the internet, allowing remote controlling and gathering of data. The OHMS device is unique in that it protects individual identities and instead only monitors group activity. OpHardt Hygiene also offers a patented dispenser that uses the energy generated from pushing its dispensing lever to power data transmission to a central location with no batteries needed.
As anyone who has ever dealt with liquid soaps and chemicals commercially will attest, the pumps are what make or break the product. Not only are OpHardt Hygiene’s alcohol foams the best in the industry, but its standard pumps alone come in hundreds of designs. All its pumps are 100 percent functionally tested before leaving the facility, are made in Europe or North America, and are completely recyclable.
The company’s large research and development teams allow it to stay ahead of trends as well as legislation. “Regulatory changes, especially in the healthcare market, can come quickly and change the types of products that are needed overnight. For us, this means that we innovate by anticipating where regulations are heading and offer solutions to customers in this space before they are required,” says Fred. A few examples of such instances include the creation of a standard-sized bottle for the European market that allows customers to switch between chemical suppliers; dispensers that can withstand autoclave pressures; and single-use pumps, required in specific markets.
With this determined focus on the future, a lot is happening at OpHardt Hygiene, particularly in the IoT field. IoT products will soon launch in its OEM and public washroom units. New technologies like fuel cells will soon allow touchless dispensers to run purely on the alcohol in the sanitizer formulation, saving the environment and making the design much sleeker.
The surprisingly small group of 500 employees work as a close-knit team with a reputation for creative problem-solving. While the company may be small, it is known for its efficiency as well as its big heart. In 2017, the company started its own charity and raised enough money to purchase an ambulance for a hospital in the Philippines.
Its sense of responsibility also reaches far beyond its customers and employees to the natural environment. To this end, OpHardt has installed a solar power system at its Belgian facility and published its first sustainability report in 2017. It also has a brand new bioplastic dispenser on the market, and a number of other environmentally conscious contributions to the industry are in the pipeline.
There are plenty of developments at OpHardt Hygiene. It recently opened a next-generation facility in Germany that offers metal processing. This hygiene giant has an exciting and promising future. In a bid for more affordable hygiene access, it is expanding its production into Eurasia, and we look forward to seeing it share even more of its great work with the world.