Europe | Equitable distribution of infusion pumps

Nikolina Borovic | 48
Regional Head of Hospital Care for Western Europe, Melsungen

On March 13, 2020, Nikolina Borovic, who was Senior Business Development Manager at the time, received a call from Ireland. They wanted to order 1,200 syringe pumps - for immediate delivery. Normally, B. Braun sells only 400 of these pumps in Ireland in an entire year. The call was the first sign of an extraordinary situation that would soon turn into a veritable flood of requests. Infusion pumps are needed to administer drugs over a long period of time and in an exact dosage, and play a critical role in intensive care. An ICU bed without a pump is of only limited use. At the peak of the pandemic, they became a scarce resource—and their distribution became a task on which lives depended. 

Ms. Borovic, what challenges did you face in distributing the infusion pumps?

As infections all over the world skyrocketed, we started getting requests for exorbitant amounts of pumps almost every hour. Quantities we would normally sell over years were suddenly being ordered all at once. While B. Braun does have a process in place to deal with bottlenecks, it wasn't designed for a situation like a pandemic. We didn’t have a plan we could follow step by step because it really was a situation we had never faced before.  

How did you and your team handle this responsibility?

We set up a pandemic crisis team right away. Before, I had been responsible for Central and Western Europe and now, suddenly, I was the contact for every country in the world. We then thought about how we could set up a process that also met with ethical standards. Profitability was explicitly ignored. Our primary focus was on how hard each country was being hit by the pandemic. 

How did you manage to get through this difficult time? 

It all hinges on an agile and diversified team: national organizations, product managers and the supply chain all working together and everyone stepping to help everyone else. It’s important to mention the support from the local sales team and product management, who were ready to go the extra mile for our customers with great passion and commitment. The Management Board’s confidence in the pandemic crisis team also helped us a lot. People were doing everything they could to get pumps and somehow still get preferential treatment, but they still always referred to us and our established process. And lastly, also, was the extraordinary performance from Production - without them, everything would have been a lot harder. 

What gives you hope? 

With this great cooperation, we were able to actually fulfill more than 90 percent of all orders. The experience has taught us a great deal about how we can be a dependable partner for our customers even in times of crisis - and we’re sharing this knowledge throughout the company. This will make B. Braun ready for similar situations in the future.