Medical refrigeration specialist B Medical Systems manufactures and distributes medical refrigeration systems. Originally set up as part of the Electrolux group, the company works in two main segments: vaccine cold chain and medical refrigeration for blood and biological samples.
“We usually work a lot with countries in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia that carry out big infectious disease vaccination campaigns,” says COO Mario Treinen. “We have an extensive international distribution network, and in Luxembourg we rely on a range of logistics companies for shipping our products. Here we have easy access to transports by air, train and multimodal solutions, and can quite quickly reach the ports in Antwerp or Rotterdam.”
Innovations fighting COVID-19
In 2020, B Medical System was faced with a radically new situation when the preparations of large vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 created a huge surge in the demand for its cold chain storage devices. In order to define its priorities for this scale-up phase in a structured manner, the company joined Fit 4 Resilience, a programme set up by the Ministry of the Economy and national innovation agency Luxinnovation to help companies reposition themselves after the COVID-19 crisis.
With these flexible freezers, even if at the very last minute one vaccine has to be replaced by another, the cold chain can still be ensured with the same equipment.
However, the company’s most substantial competitive advantage on the world market is its wide range of products as well as its innovation capacities. “Most vaccines have to be stored in normal refrigeration – around 4°C – but some COVID-19 vaccines have to be kept in more extreme temperatures: -20°C, or even -80°C. Our company is one of the few providing solutions for all these cases,” explains Mr Treinen. In order to meet the new needs, B Medical System’s in-house R&D team expanded the temperature ranges of its ultralow freezers, which can now be set at a range of -20°C to -86°C. “This might seem trivial, but it is both complex and important. With these flexible freezers, even if at the very last minute one vaccine has to be replaced by another, the cold chain can still be ensured with the same equipment.”
In addition, a lot of work has been invested in what type of energy sources the freezers can run on. They can be connected to energy grids of 50 as well as 60 Hz and run on solar generators. At the end of 2020, employers’ association FEDIL also awarded B Medical System its Innovation Prize for a wide range voltage stabiliser that makes it possible to maintain the cold chain even when using unreliable electricity sources. A crucial innovation to preserve vaccines in many low- and medium-income countries where power cuts are frequent.
Expanding production capacity
The company is also working on improving the traceability of its devices. “A fridge with a volume of 700 litres can contain 280,000 doses of COVID vaccine, so making sure that the temperature stays right at all times is of utmost importance. We have developed a remote temperature logger that stores up real-time information about temperatures, lid openings and the freezer’s GPS position.”
Luxembourg is not a low-cost production country, but when you look at the cost/quality/efficiency ratio, it is still an interesting country for manufacturing companies.
The pandemic has created a new market for B Medical System’s products in Europe and North America. The company’s staff has grown considerably to meet the increased demand, and it is expanding its production capacity with a new hall. The new facilities are expected to be operational in July 2021 and create an additional 150 jobs. “Luxembourg is not a low-cost production country, but when you look at the cost/quality/efficiency ratio, it is still an interesting country for manufacturing companies,” Mr Treinen points out. “It can be challenging to find the right profiles, but Luxembourg is so international and when we recruit from abroad, people are happy to come here.” B Medical Systems is also in the process of building a new factory in India.
A great place to invest
The Ministry of the Economy is supporting the company’s expansion, and on several occasions Luxinnovation has helped B Medical Systems to apply for subsidies for new product development. “I have worked in several industrial companies here, and the entrepreneurial relationship with the ministry has always been excellent,” says Mr Treinen. “Luxinnovation’s support is also a key element.”
He is confident about the future even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he notably expects the blood management market to pick up again after a slow period. “We are setting up our strategy in a sustainable way, and things we have learnt during this crisis will help us remain strong afterwards. Over all, Luxembourg is a very nice place to invest. If I had my own company, I would definitely do it!”