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welcome to the manufacturing heart of Europe

FARE INSIEME - Ep. 20 - B.Braun, innovation in the name of tradition, the earthquake and restarting

«It’s typical of people from Emilia to face difficult situations yet turning them into opportunities»

13/01/2022

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Welcome to the biomedical district of Mirandola, a town with less than twenty-five thousand people north of Modena. A land of talent with well-grounded roots and the capability of exporting excellencies anywhere in the world - B.Braun is located precisely in this hi-tech area. A history made of research, innovation and - most of all - listening. Giampaolo Colletti interviews Giuliana Gavioli, senior vice-president R&D at B. Braun Avitum, for FARE Insieme.
 

di Giampaolo Colletti
@gpcolletti

There are stories made of a before and an after. At the centre, as a sort of watershed, there are often-painful experiences that can be faced only by starting from people and teamwork. Or, actually, by a game that involves different teams. This is what happened to B.Braun in Italy, with the ordeal of an earthquake that hit Emilia almost ten years ago. This global colossus set up in Germany and now present in 160 countries worldwide with over forty companies tackled the effects of the earthquake in Emilia first-hand. And it did so with courage and determination. After all, it is typical of the Emilian people to take advantage of what happens, even the hardest and most distressing situations, and turn them into opportunities. Rather than lose heart, we decided to work even harder and step on the accelerator,” reports Giuliana Gavioli, senior vice-president R&D who has been working for the company since 1991. We are located in the biomedical district of Mirandola, a town with less than twenty-five thousand people north of Modena. A land of talent with well-grounded roots and the capability of exporting excellencies anywhere in the world - this hi-tech area boasts what is best in the biomedical sector. Among the many companies, we also find B.Braun. The company has always worked in the sector of treatment systems for hemodialysis and dialysis for acute patients and apheresis. It is also one of the leading global suppliers of systems of the extracorporeal treatment of blood, with a complete range that starts with the research & development phase, continues with production and reaches the patient therapy phase, as it even manages its own network of dialysis centres. It employs over 250 operators in the Modena district alone.  

From Germany to Italy.
The group was actually set up in 1922 in Germany, to be more precise in Melsungen, a small town of medieval origin with fifteen thousand people located in Land Hessen, in the Schwalm-Eder district. Italy was its first foreign branch, and there are now four companies employing over 700 operators in total boasting an aggregate turnover exceeding €258 million a year. There is B.Braun Milano, dedicated to products and services for anaesthesia, intensive care, artificial feeding, infusion therapy, surgery, cardiology, primary care, home care, dental medicine and veterinary medicine. There is B.Braun Avitum Italy, with services and systems focused precisely on dialysis. There is also ATS Italia, which provides advanced solutions for maintenance in surgery. Lastly, there is B-Pack, a leader in the production of primary and secondary packaging solutions for the medical and food sectors. It is the latest, acquired not long ago and a leader in the production of primary and secondary packaging solutions. It is the sign that we never stop. Innovation is imperative and innovating starting from people is a necessity in order to grow better,” stresses Gavioli. But let’s go back to the production plant in the Mirandola district, those focused on dialysis and plasmapheresis and therefore essential for patient survival. Since 2007, the Mirandola facility has been a Centre of Excellence for the development and design of tubes, kits, containers, vascular accesses and BU Avitum catheters.  

The earthquake.
Mirandola once again. Falling and getting quickly back on its feet. Determination, courage, desire for redemption. There is all this and much more in the history of B.Braun’s men and women. A history that involved a whole community that was indeed profoundly hurt, but cohesive and animated by the spirit of enterprise. In May 2012, two violent earthquakes hit Emilia and the Mirandola area in particular, causing extensive damage to the facility. Immediately afterwards, the warehouses were full and production halted.  But there was the need to restart in order to help the 45 thousand patients on dialysis in Italy, 90% of whom depended on companies located in the Mirandola district. Despite all this - or maybe precisely due to this - we managed to restart the production and supply of life-saving products for patients and hospitals in Italy and abroad. We couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves, there wasn't time. We had excellent feedback from our people and the community. The Fire Department helped prop up the facility and we came up with a remote-controlled forklift, like those used in nuclear environments, to safely empty our warehouse. Outside the condemned building, we had a server and a person with a historical memory to continue providing assistance to patients. Then there was the solidarity from our local suppliers, who welcomed us to their facilities so we could continue working. Both us and those who would be our competitors helped each other a lot. We set up a team made up of different teams, with a sense of responsibility and belonging that went beyond the ‘colour of our jerseys’,” reminisces Gavioli. We already started rebuilding the following month i.e. June 2012, and completed the facility with new laboratories and a technological warehouse. We achieved everything in just seven months, using state-of-the-art techniques and high-performing materials for safety and environmental sustainability reasons. How was it possible? We wagered on people. We faced two earthquakes one week apart, and the second was particularly strong. The damage was structural and the buildings were condemned. Worst of all, there was the human tragedy, as sixteen people died in our area. You just cannot forget certain things. I remember almost everything about the restarting phase, as the tragedy we lived through was unforgettable. But I have pleasant memories of the following months, of the sense of community not only on a local i.e regional level, but on an Italian level,” reports Gavioli. An ongoing growth. In October 2016, a new production area was inaugurated for an innovative type of artificial nutrition bags. Two years later, the construction of a new office building and a third “white room” with advanced equipment for the production of special containers for a new drug destined for the American market was completed.  

Yesterday, today, tomorrow.
Between past and future, with the focus on values. They are what makes the difference, our compass. We maintained our values, which are fundamental. After all, our motto is sharing expertise. Sharing becomes strategic and our employees are considered our group ambassadors. Patients have always been at the centre, and we keep in constant touch with them. Listening makes the difference.” What changed over time? Gavioli has no doubt about this. Everything, and so quickly that I am surprised myself. Working for this company, I have learned a lot when it comes to various automation, industrialisation and digitalisation fronts. The part linked to digitalisation transformed the company. We now have new eco-friendly warehouses as part of this Emilian biomedical district, which is a true global gem.”

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