United Care develops and supplies innovative tools for health and welfare organisations. The Groningen-based company also searches for suitable and safe solutions for people with reduced mobility. Engineering agency VIRO helps United Care keep its development capacity at full strength.
VIRO Mechanical Engineer Meine Kootstra was seconded to United Care around a year ago, where he works as a project engineer. ‘I had a very different job in the first six months,’ says Meine. Operational Director Johan Mooibroek from United Care adds: ‘Our R&D always had two dedicated engineers. Being true techies, they could find a solution for anything. When one of them retired, we tried to recruit someone for his job, but we really struggled to find someone with the same skills.’ Three different candidates worked there for a while, but things did not go as hoped. A colleague later informed Johan about VIRO: ‘I had a meeting with Klaas Krol, commercial representative at VIRO’s Groningen office. He had a good story and could see partnership opportunities, but I was only thinking about one thing at that time. We needed a good techie and someone with knowledge.’
Klaas introduced Johan and Meine to each other: ‘There was an immediate click’, Johan remembers clearly. Meine felt the same. He gradually developed to fulfil the role United Care needed. ‘Innovation is always a key focus point here’, he explains. ‘Sometimes to reduce the cost price of a product, sometimes to launch a new invention on the market, and other times to ensure that you stay ahead of the competition. More stringent legislation and regulations also come into force in May 2021. United Care currently works in accordance with ISO 9001 and MDD, the Medical Device Directive. This will be replaced by the MDR, the Medical Device Regulation, in May 2021. If we’re to comply with this, we need to work in accordance with ISO 13485, a higher classification than 9001. That’s something else I’m working on.’ Johan continues, ‘Meine is incredibly knowledgeable about this standard and really understands what’s needed. He just gets stuck in and comes up with concrete measures. Right now, he’s the best person we could have wished for in that position.’
‘This guy is accurate, critical and fast. He gets actively involved in things and isn’t afraid to give his opinion.’ It’s clear that United Care is delighted with Meine. ‘If he’s typical of the rest of VIRO, we’re going to really enjoy our partnership. I find sellers quite irritating, especially if it’s about an acquisition. Klaas Krol already saw partnership opportunities during our first meeting but I kept things at a distance, as I just wanted Meine for a project. However, I do need to revisit Klaas’ initial proposal for closer cooperation,’ says Johan. United Care is actually seeking a permanent project engineer. When it has one, Meine will go back to VIRO. ‘From that point on, he will be our helpdesk at VIRO. Other VIRO engineers are also gaining knowledge of United Care, which will enable us to ensure a scalable engineering department. Moreover, we’ll not have an immediate problem if our new project engineer leaves or is absent for another reason. Our knowledge is now spread among different people at two companies. And we have the assurance that these people will handle our information with integrity.’
And how does Meine view his experiences? ‘I’ve learned so much here. The organisation is structured like a family company. It’s easy to talk to everyone and I really like that. I also get a real sense of satisfaction that we’re developing safe solutions for vulnerable groups.’