Heinz-Walter Große, Chairman of the Management Board
Wolfgang Feller, Head of the Avitum Division
Hanns-Peter Knaebel, Head of the Aesculap Division
Meinrad Lugan, Head of the Hospital Care & OPM Divisions
Caroll H. Neubauer, Head of the North America Region
Otto Philipp Braun, Head of the Iberian Peninsula
and Latin America
NO. OF EMPLOYEES: 45,559
GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS: Melsungen, Germany
Pharmacist Robson Tavares and engineer André Madureira double as equipment managers at Clínica São Vicente de Gávea, a grandiose medical center nestled in the hills of Rio de Janeiro’s most affluent neighborhood. The joint position is a demanding one: Not only must the pair track supplies and measure the sufficiency of equipment, they also must keep abreast of new technology.
Tavares and Madureira strive for objectivity in their selections, preferring to rely on quality and efficacy rather than flashy gadgetry or brand-name products. They make an exception, however, for the hospital’s infusion pumps, exerting authoritarian rule to restrict their choice to B. Braun Melsungen AG products.
While they are used throughout the 80-year-old hospital, B. Braun’s infusion pumps are perhaps most prevalent in the facility’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where medics tend to critically ill patients amid a cacophony of flashing lights, buzzes, beeps, alarms and colors. The sounds are triggered for different reasons—a malfunctioning pump, for instance, or an empty infusion container—but they seldom abate, confounding all efforts to pinpoint their precise source. “The various alarms are certainly an issue,” Madureira admits. “Our staff has to be on constant alert to ensure that all patients receive the right medication at the right time.”
Indeed, Vicente de Gávea staff members are always on constant alert but the mechanized melody emanating from the hospital’s ICU and other specialized care units no longer is a source of anxiety for them. Last summer, the hospital tested a software-based central alarm management system that gives clinicians an overview of the infusion data and alarm status of all B. Braun infusion pumps within a ward. The company’s Space OneView alarm management system allows healthcare professionals to monitor all ward beds and connected intravenous systems from a central location (such as the nurses’ station); the software simulates a floor plan of the ward and shows the current alarm status of all beds using the universal traffic light colors of red, amber and green to reflect the level of needed care. The system also gives nurses advanced warning that an infusion is nearing its end.
B. Braun’s Space OneView software was so popular with Vicente de Gávea staff that hospital administrators expanded its use to the ICU in January.
“We want to make a difference for our customers with products and services that improve efficiency in their workplace,” Management Board Chairman Heinz-Walter Große told stakeholders. “Examples…include a software-based solution [Space OneView] that improves safety and efficiency when using infusion pumps and…Nexadia, a system that facilitates data collection and analysis with regard to dialysis patients. Both support greater process efficiency for our customers. Efficiency is the driving force behind everything we do.”
It also was the catalyst for B. Braun’s historically profitable year: 2012 sales exceeded 5 billion euros ($6.67 billion) for the first time in the company’s 173-year existence and gross profit jumped 7.3 percent to 2.3 billion euros ($3 billion). Operating profit swelled 7.9 percent to 469.2 million euros ($620 million) and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) climbed 9.6 percent to 757.5 million euros ($1 billion) after slipping 1.7 percent in 2011. (Editor’s note: Percentages reflect changes based on the local currency in which the financial data were reported—in this case, the euro—and do not take into account annual foreign currency exchange fluctuations. Dollar amounts were converted using the exchange rate on the last day of the reporting period, Dec. 31).
Executives attributed last year’s 9.5 percent revenue growth to strong sales in each of the company’s divisions, though the Hospital Care and Aesculap units led the pack, generating 2.4 billion ($3.18 billion) and 1.4 billion ($1.9 billion), respectively.
Hospital Care dividends sprinted past their B. Braun brethren on the stamina of emerging market sales (particularly in Brazil, Russia, India and China) and high demand for both injectable drugs and automated infusion systems. The stimuli lifted sales 11.7 percent and helped offset a six-month suspension of NuTRIflex three-chamber bag production.
Surgical tools, motor systems devices and closure technologies largely were responsible for the 6.4 percent sales increase in the Aesculap division. New products helped as well, including the Einstein Vision system, a robotic 3-D endoscopy system for laparoscopic surgery; the Arcadius XP spinal implant; the Vega knee system, an artificial joint designed with the help of U.S. orthopedic surgeons to stabilize the knee in posterior cruciate ligament-deficient anatomies; and a permanent implantable intracranial pressure sensor for hydrocephalus patients. The latter device transmits intracranial pressure readings telemetrically, making such pressure monitoring easier and more comfortable for patients.
Two new additions to B. Braun’s Askina wound care family helped boost Out Patient Market (OPM) division sales 6.6 percent last year to 606.2 million euros ($800 million). The Absorb+ dressing, which absorbs and “locks away” bacteria and wound discharge, is ideal for traumatic or surgical injuries, while the Calgitrol silver alginate paste is better suited for poorly accessible wounds.
Strong product demand in China, Russia and the United Kingdom also contributed to overall OPM sales growth in 2012.
B. Braun’s Avitum division fostered the largest growth rate last year but trailed its kinfolk in sales volume, garnering just 559.2 million euros ($738.7 million), an 11.7 percent increase compared with the 500.6 million euros ($648.2 million) the unit earned in 2011. The surge came mostly from hemodialysis machine sales and solid earnings in China, Russia and the United States, all of which helped compensate for losses in Germany and Russia, and the brief disruption of H.E.L.P. Plasmat Futura and Diapact CRRT Kits following last spring’s destructive 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Mirandola, Italy (the company has a production facility there).
While B. Braun’s main focus revolved around efficiency last year, the company also invested heavily in its future. To improve its global market share in the clinical and enteral nutrition sectors, the firm bought Japanese nutritional specialist Nutrichem diät+pharma and acquired 75 percent of the shares in Ahlcon Parenterals, an Indian manufacturer of large- and small-volume parenterals. B. Braun also acquired a majority of shares in South American vendor Ventas Paraguayas SA to expand its presence in the Latin American region, where sales rose 8.7 percent to 337.6 million euros ($446 million).
The company also bolstered its footprint in its own backyard by expanding and reorganizing production at its Tuttlingen (Germany) facility; adding nutritional product manufacturing areas in Melsungen and Crissier (Switzerland); and inaugurating a new intensive care training center in Altmorschen (Germany). The projects likely helped inflate domestic sales by 3.2 percent last year.
Similarly, an increase in the production of Russian infusion solutions and expansions to production capacity in France beefed up overall European/African sales 3.8 percent to 1.8 billion euros. The company continued to work on the expansion of its Penang (Malaysia) location and began building a pharmaceuticals factory in Indonesia as well as a production line for intravenous catheters in Allentown, Pa. When those facilities finally are finished, B. Braun’s sales in both regions conceivably could rocket past last year’s 17.1 percent growth rate in North America and 22.8 percent increase in Asia/Australia.