A huge stage
The reward for all this hard work came in 1992 with the market launch of the 4008 family. “We all felt an incredible sense of euphoria when we unveiled the system at ERA-EDTA, the annual European Renal Association – European Dialysis and Transplant Association conference in Paris,” says Spickermann. The response was overwhelming. Spickermann goes on to explain how, boosted by this success, the company continued to build on its technology leadership for both the dialyzers – the heart of the system – and the actual dialysis machine in the years that followed. Another milestone included the market launch of the 5008 therapy system in 2005. This delivered significant benefits for patients and increased the survival rate by 35 percent.
Becoming the market leader
The continuous improvements to the dialysis equipment ultimately paved the way for market leadership. By 1999, 100,000 dialysis machines had already rolled off the production line in Schweinfurt. Just four years later, we were treating well over 100,000 patients a year and annual production had grown to over 50 million dialyzers. Dialyzer production passed the 500 million mark in 2007 and the 1,000,000,000 mark six years later.
Continuity despite complexity
Our defining feature is continuity. This is apparent in the company’s growth and the ongoing improvements to the actual machine. Yes, these are often small successes, but every little step gives patients a better quality of life and a longer life expectancy. “There’s no better motivation in my eyes,” stresses Spickermann. “The big challenge is reproducing the complexities of renal function as effectively as possible,” he adds. The design of the dialysis machine is correspondingly complex. It consists of around 8,000 components, some of which are made from highly specialized materials and have special properties. For example, they need to be biocompatible. In other words, the components must not pass on any impurities to the blood. They also need to withstand high temperatures, acids, and alkalis. The valves are another key component and must work with absolute precision and reliability over their lengthy operating period of around 5,000 hours per year with an average service life of ten to twelve years. “It’s also important that the individual components operate in perfect harmony like the wheels of a clock so that the blood parameters, such as temperature and pH value, and the patient’s circulation remain stable,” underlines Spickermann. He explains that the blood’s composition must not be changed too rapidly and any clotting must be prevented. “Our mastery of this complex challenge makes us stand out from the crowd,” says Spickermann.