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A Global Company’s Commitment to a Healthy Workforce

March 07, 2018


Certified Hand Therapist Peg Hau provides therapy services on the floor at Albany International in Kaukauna.

In the business of machine clothing, there are two tenets to be followed in order to achieve success. 

Wait. 

Never heard of machine clothing? Well, perhaps before forging ahead with concepts related to sustainable competitive advantage and customized individual solutions, let’s briefly engage in machine clothing enlightenment. 

Put simply, machine clothing is a custom designed fabric used in the papermaking process. This fabric, representing a fraction of the total cost of paper manufacturing, has a significant impact on paper quality, machine efficiency, and overall operational costs. 

Such products are created at Albany International, a global industrial goods company with revenue exceeding $700 million. One of their plants is found just off of Highway 41 in Kaukauna. 

The machinery used at Albany to create these fabrics require constant attention from a human being, who follows the process with painstaking attention to detail to ensure that the product is exactly as ordered.

Now to the tenets, those words to live by, if, like Albany International, you’re in the machine clothing business:

  1. Make sure every product is world-class.
  2. To create world-class products, it requires a committed and determined workforce.

As the world’s leading producer of paper machine fabrics, Albany clearly understands its priorities. And to keep their workforce healthy, Albany utilizes a program that supplies physical and occupational therapy services to its workers in the most convenient way possible: it supplies these services at work.

Onsite service providers look to identify wellness obstacles a company encounters and turn those challenges into opportunities to improve workforce health and safety. In Albany’s case, onsite services are provided by Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, the largest fully independent provider of comprehensive industrial physical and occupational therapy in Wisconsin.

“Providing onsite workforce solutions is something we’ve done for a long time,” said Rob Worth, owner and president of Advanced PT. 

The team at Advanced PT has delivered services to area businesses and organizations, both large and small, for over 20 years. 

“We work with companies with fewer than 100 employees,” added Worth, “as well as some with more than 3,000.” 

Advanced PT onsite programs are coordinated with the Orthopedic & Sports Institute (OSI), which provides the onsite medical professional the capability to consult with an orthopedic surgeon as needed.

Each program is fully customized to meet the needs of the employer. At Albany, where employees engage in a good deal of repetitive handwork, it makes perfect sense to have Advanced PT’s Peg Hau there.

Hau, a certified hand therapist, roams the floor at Albany once a week, something she has done for the last seven years. Up and down the line she goes until she meets someone with a need. 

In this case, it’s providing soft tissue massage to relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel. 

Hau calls this service “rehab response,” just one of the components of the program tailored to the company’s needs. Others include ergonomic assessment, jobsite analysis, stretching, physical and occupational therapy, and first aid. 

While these main program elements help keep Albany’s workforce at their best, other APTSM services can come into play as needed. For example, Hau, as a hand an upper extremity specialist, might encounter someone with an issue where dry needling is requested. In that case, Hau can call on an Advanced PT physical therapist to provide that service onsite.

“Plain and simple,” says Hau, “our job is to be responsive.”

Hau catches the overlap between shifts and can supply treatments for both first and second shift workers. As the Albany shifts rotate, she is also able to touch third shifters as well.

One second shift employee runs a seaming machine. The work can be hard on the shoulders and low back. Sitting properly can pay huge dividends. An ergonomically designed chair recommended by Hau and purchased by Albany addresses the issue, as do the exercises Hau provided to strengthen her core.

Albany is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for all employees. Their vision is grounded in three core beliefs:

  1. All accidents can be prevented.
  2. An accident and injury-free environment is achievable.
  3. Every employee must contribute to the health and safety of the company.

To realize these health and safety goals, Albany has created a health team that includes an occupational health nurse and a massage therapist to augment the occupational and physical therapy services provided by Advanced PT.

Visitors too are the beneficiaries of Albany’s culture of safety, as each is asked to view a safety video prior to entering the facility and to don obligatory safety gear as well.

Partnering with a leader in onsite service delivery – Advanced PT was recognized in 2013 as the top private therapy practice in the United States – makes perfect sense for Albany, a leader in textiles and materials processing with over 4,000 employees at facilities in ten different countries.

The reduction in employee injuries and employer costs through the use of onsite services can be significant. By ensuring potential risk areas are being addressed proactively, Albany’s in-house healthcare team has optimized program responsiveness and successfully converted medical support from a necessary cost to a competitive advantage.

Being able to positively impact an employer’s medical spend is one of the key motivators of Advanced PT, a group that describes itself as a “strategic partner” that can dramatically impact a company’s bottom line.

An Albany employee summed up the relationship differently.

“The treatments make you feel better, no question, but fact that Albany provides this for us here at work makes us feel better still.”