Drägerwerk is a world leader in the production of ventilators. In an interview, company head Stefan Dräger, 57, discusses the challenges of keeping up with current demand as the corona crisis accelerates. Following is the excerpt:
DER SPIEGEL: The German government has contracted you to build 10,000 ventilators. How far along are you?
Dräger: The contract has a detailed delivery plan that spans the entire year. The first devices are now finished. When the news came in from Wuhan, the consequences were almost predictable. We are familiar with them from the SARS crisis. But the contract with the German government represents only part of our output. A larger portion is made up of customers from outside the country.
DER SPIEGEL: Who all is buying equipment from you?
Dräger: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was on the phone earlier. He needs 1,000 ventilators, but we can only make 50 available to him at this point. Countless ministers from all kinds of countries have called, and last weekend, the king of the Netherlands called.
DER SPIEGEL: Can you meet the demand?
Dräger: Not completely. We doubled our production volume in February and will ultimately quadruple it. In Lübeck alone (where the company is based), we are hiring up to 500 new employees.
DER SPIEGEL: Given the number of contracts, you have little choice but to set priorities. Is “Germany First” the rule?
Dräger: No. At first, almost all of the devices went to China, where need was greatest. They needed a rather simple device, and we were able to produce 400 of them a week. The device turns ambient air into purified air, only requires an electrical socket and, if necessary, an oxygen cylinder, and requires no connection to a hospital’s medical gas supply system.
DER SPIEGEL: How do you decide these days whose order gets filled?
Dräger: That does, in fact, present some difficulties. We are currently receiving news every hour about the situation in various countries that we need to take into account. This means we put human factors first.
Read full interview here.