Nolato Treff AG

Infectious Disease | COVID-19

Suppliers behind the front lines of COVID-19
Suppliers are finding novel solutions to help diagnostic companies like QIAGEN ramp up production to provide urgently needed COVID-19 testing materials.

Producers of medical technologies heavily rely on vendors to ramp up production capacity to accommodate the needs of labs and hospitals testing for coronavirus. Before any real increase in production can happen, however, the necessary processes need to be in place and components available.

Of course, dramatically boosting production is not something that can change overnight: employees and suppliers alike need to be trained, raw materials must be procured and production has to keep running around the clock. From keeping staff motivated to figuring out logistics, suppliers are a driving force in delivering urgently needed COVID-19 testing materials to customers.

Dramatically boosting production in record time comes with its challenges. The employees at Pöppelmann explain how they stay motivated while continuing to ramp up production of components necessary for coronavirus testing kits.
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Employees are sacrificing time with their families and pull weekend shifts just to keep up with production.
Sebastian Hännover, Project Leader, Pöppelmann

Pöppelmann 

Plastics play a vital role in laboratory diagnostics as the materials are durable, sanitary and resistant to corrosion. A family-owned company since 1949, Pöppelmann has grown into a leading manufacturer in the plastics processing industry and is a QIAGEN supplier for plastic components used in coronavirus testing kits. Alexander Neiwert, a team lead at Pöppelmann, is responsible for ensuring that production of plastic components runs smoothly in the facility’s clean rooms, while also leading and motivating employees. He recognizes that a lot has recently changed in the workplace since the outbreak. “Now when we have our team briefing in the mornings, I almost have to use a megaphone because people have to keep their distance – and the team is quite big. But that’s just the way it has to be,” says Neiwert.

His team is facing more challenges than just communication these days. “Ramping up also means getting more colleagues on board. Staff from other plants went through a two-week training program to learn the entire process. Tasks are not easy, especially for quality control,” says Neiwert. Despite the demanding hours, the employees are in it for the long-haul and remain optimistic. “Together with QIAGEN we are going to curb the pandemic and that really motivates me,” says Sebastian Hannöver, Project Manager and Customer Service Representative at Pöppelmann. Reaction times are also much shorter now and some processes have become more streamlined to keep production up. “Things that were unimaginable yesterday are now being implemented today.”

Plastics play a vital role in laboratory diagnostics, as the materials are durable, sanitary and resistant to corrosion. As project manager and customer service representative at Pöppelmann, Sebastian Hannöver remains optimistic that together with QIAGEN they will help curb the pandemic. Alexander Neiwert, a trained technician who’s a division manager responsible for production in the clean rooms keeps morale high by “knowing what they are holding in their hands and how important this is”.
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Some challenges are unexpected. We had to convince the manufacturer that getting facemasks for the employees was an urgent matter. We’re not a hospital or lab, but we deliver to them.
Sladica Peric, Deputy Shift Manager, Nolato

Nolato Treff AG

Vendors may not be at the front lines, but companies like Nolato Treff AG in Switzerland produce supplies to those who are. As a key supplier of QIAGEN’s RNA extraction kits used in COVID19 testing workflows, Nolato has had to ramp up production to help QIAGEN reach its goal of producing enough kits for 20 million patient samples per month.

Just when demand for diagnostic kits skyrocketed due to the outbreak, Nolato was faced with an unexpected setback: “priority 1” clearance was not granted to the company, resulting in an initial shortage of face masks for employees. The teams worked fast to move bureaucratic mountains so their essential work would not remain interrupted. “We had to convince the manufacturer that getting face masks for the employees was an urgent matter.

We’re not a hospital or lab, but we deliver to them,” recalls Sladica Peric, a Deputy Shift Manager at Nolato. Sladica and her colleagues are working tirelessly to make testing more widely available during this crisis. The current atmosphere at work and her family’s health are what motivate Sladica to keep going. Playing with her children outside again and returning to a semblance of normalcy is the goal, but she knows that the teams need to keep persevering: “It is important that we all stand together and do everything we can to get back to normal as quickly as possible,” says Sladica.”

Sladica Peric, Deputy Shift Manager, has worked at Nolato for seven years and continues to sacrifice time with family to contribute to Nolato's ramp-up efforts. The company introduced special security measures to protect employees, such as spatially separating rooms and creating more clean rooms.
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Everyone knows the importance of the instruments. What they are used for. We are doing our part to counter this pandemic.
Markus Kienberger, Zollner Elektronik AG

Zollner Elektronik AG

Often referred to as the ‘high-tech region in the countryside’, the rural district of Cham in Bavaria is situated near the Czech border and home to Zollner Elektronik AG, a key producer of instruments for QIAGEN. This seemingly quiet place is where Markus Kienberger and his team work around the clock to keep production up to speed. Together they managed to drastically increase the output of QIAcubes and QIAcube Connects while dealing with the current challenges. “Zollner has more than doubled the production of instruments for QIAGEN. And demand is only increasing,” says Kienberger.

Beyond the increase of production, the COVID-19 crisis threw up another hurdle for the company: the closure of Czech border. Since a good number of employees commute from the Czech Republic, the initial border closure resulted in fewer employees in production able to show up to work. Zollner had to act fast. The company opted to rent as many rooms as possible in local hotels for their employees from the Czech Republic so production could continue.

Banding together and knowing they are part of something major is what motivates Kienberger and his colleagues to keep going. “Everyone knows about the importance of the instruments and what they are being used for,” he says. “We are doing our part to counter this pandemic.”

Zollner Elektronik AG produces devices ranging from in-vitro diagnostics to RNA and DNA analysis systems, all the way to breathing-supporting devices. Markus Kienberger and his teams managed to increase the output of QIAcube Connects while dealing with the current challenges. He likes to quote a famous German astrophysicist during this time: “There is no alternative to optimism.”
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