The promise of mobility – even during the coronavirus pandemic
The promise of mobility – even during the coronavirus pandemic
We learn to live without certain things during a global pandemic. Yet some things are fundamental, even if it might not seem like it at first – enter a person’s mobility. After all, people with disabilities have difficulties ensuring their freedom of movementeven without an ongoing pandemic. Companies that specialize in vehicle conversions can offer solutions. Some of them sum up this unprecedented year.
2020 was not a walk in the park - with the exception of a few lines of business that was likely the case for most companies. It certainly applies to specialists in vehicle conversions, whose clientele is at a higher risk of infection or severe illness due to their disabilities. Under normal circumstances, the specialists’ creativity, imagination, and inventiveness allow people with disabilities to remain independent, self-determined, and mobile. Personal consulting service is a must-have in this case. But what happens if customers suddenly prefer to forego any physical contact with retailers?
In addition to partitions and disinfectants, Veigel's Corona-Kit also includes face shields that enable a clear view and protect customers and consultants.
Vulnerable high risk groups need alternative contact formats
Limited in-person contact obviously does nothing to solve the issue of mobility. Like many other industries, vehicle retrofitters like F. Sodermanns Automobile GmbH, Mobilitätsmanufaktur KADOMO GmbH or AMF-Bruns GmbH & Co. KG offer video consultations, thus enabling customers to stay at home and receive live remote assistance. And in cases where customers prefer in-person contact, the companies practice strict hygiene. KADAMO takes personal service one step further: "We have designated, disinfected rooms to accommodate our higher-risk customers. Aside from the client, only the consultant is in the room, wearing a protective face mask, of course," explains Udo Späker, Sales and Marketing Manager.
The partitions between the driver's cabin and the passenger compartment - here the model made by the Sodermanns company - are a simple but safe means of protecting all passengers. They will initially remain in the companies' product range for as long as there is a need for them.
Protecting passengers with partition screens
Apart from companies that specialize in vehicle conversion, the mobility industry also includes assisted transportation services and driving schools. When driving schools are on lockdown, vehicle retrofitters are also affected: "Without people taking their driver's license tests, there is also a reduced need for converted vehicles," explains Managing Director Frank Sodermanns. This is where the crisis has prompted the industry to come together. The vehicle retrofitters, who are inherently creative simply steered their imagination in new directions.
Veigel GmbH & Co. KG is a great example of this: “Prior to the pandemic, we invested in an industrial 3D printer as part of our in-house innovation initiative. The device subsequently became an essential tool in creating our hygiene kits this year. Our kits include a face shield, protective screen, and a disinfectant, ”explains CEO Jann Hendrik Swyter.
Sodermanns and AMF-Bruns are now also making partition screens. The partition screen separates the driver and passenger compartment, reliably prevents droplet transmission, and keeps sightlines clear. This facilitates driver’s license tests with high-risk patients even during the pandemic. A TÜV certification (TÜVs are German and Austrian businesses that provide vehicular inspection and product certification services) is not necessary, which means retrofitting the protective panel is easy according to Managing Director Gerit Bruns. A fact that makes these screens especially interesting for existing cars in driving schools and taxi companies as a way to offer passenger safety.
The virus barrier screens will be a part of company product portfolios as long as there is a need for it. The same applies to the Veigel hygiene kit. Meanwhile, AMF-Bruns has already made the partition screen a permanent product in its lineup.
The delivered vehicles must also get a routine checkup. Frank Sodermanns provides another unique service to protect those at increased risk for disease: “We offer our special pickup and delivery service, which enables us to perform routine vehicle maintenance and checks. Our customers don’t have to set up an in-person appointment for this. We provide ‘contact-free' pickup and delivery after we have checked and disinfected the vehicle."
The AMF-Bruns partition wall is larger and therefore also suitable for large cars. It can be flexibly mounted inside the vehicle.
Turning the crisis into an opportunity
Yet despite all the new tools and ideas that keep their businesses running, the longtime REHACARE exhibitors agree that this was a tough year. The company bosses weren’t just worried about their respective company’s survival, they were also concerned about the safety of their employees. “We didn’t want to inflict economic loss on our employees by implementing short-time work (‘Kurzarbeit’),” explains Bruns. So far, the company has achieved this goal.
The Veigel Company takes a pragmatic approach that’s summed up in this year’s creed: "Dust yourself off, and carry on.” And was successful in doing so: “So far, we have made the best of 2020 and accomplished a lot. Our company has continued to grow significantly in 2020, due in part because we used the time with less customer interaction to our benefit,” says Swyter. In a few years, Frank Sodermanns also hopes to say his company emerged stronger from the pandemic.
In order to protect the customers and employees of the risk group, KADOMO has built small discussion islands. There, the minimum distance can be maintained and projects can be presented digitally.
Hoping next year will bring more in-person customer interactions
It’s essential to keep hope alive in the face of such daunting challenges. Of course, everyone’s hope is that the pandemic will end soon. “My hope is that we will have a coronavirus vaccine next year, which will allow us to interact like we did in the pre-pandemic era. Many of our employees and customers are at a higher risk of suffering from a more severe form of the disease, so it would be a huge relief if we can reduce the risk of infections,” says Udo Späker.
Either way, the companies continue to plow ahead. Sodermanns plans to build a spacious new state-of-the-art building. The opening ceremony was scheduled to take place this year, but - like so many other events – was postponed until next year.
Jann Hendrik Swyter also remains cheerful about next year and has an optimistic twinkle in his eye: “We have a few products in the pipeline that we plan to bring to market. And no, they are actually not related to hygiene.” Hopefully, we will soon no longer need hygiene products as urgently as we do now.
Kyra Molinari (Translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com