Presiding over a global business, Tomáš Kolář, CEO and Managing Director of European healthcare beds manufacturer Linet Group, is keenly aware of the unique challenges and conditions that are part and parcel of operating in different markets around the world. Seeking to position Linet for growth in the coming years, Tomáš points to the need to both adapt to and evolve with local market requirements, and stresses the overriding importance of operating from a stable base.
Appointed to the role in October 2016, Tomáš has a wealth of industry experience and a thorough understanding of the inner workings of Linet, accrued during his more than two decades in the industry. Starting out at Linet spol. s r.o. – a subsidiary of Linet Group – in 1994, he played a pivotal role in the company’s growth over the years, encompassing the expansion and evolution of its product portfolio and its concurrent branching out into markets around the world.
Growth to over 100 countries
Headquartered in the Netherlands, Linet Group is a multinational holding organisation formed in 2011. It oversees Linet spol. s r.o. and conducts sales in more than 100 countries, from the US to the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden. Linet carries out these international operations via 15 affiliated companies, and primarily partners with local distributors outside of Europe.
Tomáš points to the inherent ebbs and flows that characterise different markets around the world when assessing Linet’s international operations, and notes the potential for economic conditions to evolve at pace.
“We are operating in a dynamic environment,” he says. “We are subject to multiple inputs from different sides; and if I assess our operations from the business side, the most important factor, always, is that we operate in stable and developed markets. Europe is a particular focus and comprises more than 75% of our business. However, even in Europe we
must be prepared for change.
“We also have to be aware of what’s happening in the US and how changes there have the potential to influence our business, especially since recent discussions there have focused on healthcare reform.”
Further, Tomáš points to current growth potential in the Middle East, and also notes that the Latin American market holds great promise. Additionally, he singles out the Asian region as having provided Linet with a solid platform for growth. “At the end of day, we’ve been very stable. We are operating from a stable position in a stable part of the globe,” he observes of Linet’s position in the international marketplace. “This allows us to remain very flexible in dynamic and emerging markets.”
In assessing the current and future direction of the healthcare industry, Tomáš says digital technologies will continue to have a wide-ranging influence. According to the Linet leader, the next generation of connected technologies comprises an increasingly important component of the company’s offerings.
As part of the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent healthcare systems link beds with caregivers and provide for integration with smart devices, delivering real-time analytics and data visualisation. According to Tomáš, there is a variety of applications for the IoT technology, and Linet expects intelligent healthcare systems will be a key driver in the next decade.
“We strongly believe that the hospital bed, along with the nursing home bed and the homecare bed, can form a hub, a component of the IoT,” he states. “This technology relates to the patient’s bed monitor and the reading of biological signals, along with the patient’s physical positioning and the positioning of the bed.
Intelligent Healthcare: Hospital beds linked to the internet
“For instance, our bed is linked to the internet. We can monitor it for the correct position and the safest position for the patient. We can monitor the patient’s heart rate and other vital physical activity, and ensure that the patient doesn’t have any issues. We can display at the nurses’ stations, on the one monitor, that all 30 or 50 patients are okay, and if something happens, a nurse knows exactly where to go immediately.”
However, given the naturally conservative approach of the healthcare industry, the development and introduction of new technologies is an extensive process, and the rollout of new technologies is also subject to the specific requirements and regulations of different markets.
“We can work only with very proven technologies, and with technologies that are very heavily clinically tested,” Tomáš explains. “New technologies must be proven, and this takes years. The average time taken to bring new technology to the market is two to
four years. Our long-term relationship with our customers globally is extremely helpful, and any product that we are launching or developing, we do so in conjunction with advisory boards.”
Partnerships drive the business
Collaboration is an integral component of Linet’s business, and Tomáš describes partnerships as being “absolutely key”. Linet works “only with proven and long-term suppliers” in maintaining the company’s rigorous standards.
“We cannot change suppliers often, and we cannot choose suppliers only according to, for instance, cost parameters. It is very important that our partners and suppliers have a full understanding of our business, our devices and our technology.”
It is very important that our partners and suppliers have a full understanding of our business, our devices and our technology.
While the healthcare market presents a range of inherent challenges, Tomáš points out the sometimes double-sided nature of these challenges. “An obstacle on one side can present an opportunity on another,” he says.
“In many countries, both developed and undeveloped, pre-existing systems are struggling under budget constraints. Meanwhile, medicine is delivering more and more opportunities, with the cost of healthcare naturally becoming higher and higher.
“On the other side, Linet has extremely cost-efficient production due to economies of scale. Our systems are highly automated, and we produce a high number of beds every year, which can deliver us an advantage over our competitors.”