The Corona virus turns our private and work lives upside down. The entire world of work changes and becomes more digital in many aspects. Companies adapt within a short amount of time to home office; appointments are made via video platforms and it leaves time for extensive phone calls with clients. Most companies use a 2-shift work regarding production. On the other hand, many companies apply for short-time work, work stands completely still and important industry fairs are either postponed or cancelled entirely. Frank Wolpers, Global Sales Director Process Analytics tells us via a Skype meeting, how the business unit Process Analytics of Hamilton Bonaduz AG handles the situation.
Mr. Wolpers, Hamilton Process Analytics is specialized on different sensors for the biopharma and chemical industry as well as for breweries and is hence not directly systemically relevant or rather does not have a direct added value in the current situation. How does the segment position it-self right now?
F. Wolpers: Our sensors may not be directly relevant, but are necessary to safely and reliably run production processes in all industries, especially Biotech and Pharma productions. In order to continue to support our global customers we, like most companies, have established home office work for our employees wherever possible. Production has changed into 2-shift work to ensure that not too many people are at work at the same time. In this way, we ensure that we stay in production and reduce at the same time the risk of illness for the staff.
How do your customers react to the current situation? Have you notices changed behaviors?
F. Wolpers: We‘ve noticed across the globe that after the spread on the respective continents, it became very calm for a week to a week and a half. Which is obviously related to the fact, that our customers had to organize themselves first. By now, our customers’ requests are rising continuously again and they reach us via mail or phone. In contrast to that we realized that we can reach our customers much better now as opposed to on normal business days. They enjoy the conversations and there is even time for a bit of small talk next to the professional exchange.
In the Process Analytics field the topics service and training are very important, especially regarding certain products. Do you provide, next to phone calls, other possibilities for professional exchanges and information procurement?
F. Wolpers: We established webinars within a week. A co-worker presented our cell density technology in the first seminar. The seminar was held during two dates at different times for the Eastern European area with 40 participants in each case. Additionally, one customer declared spontaneously to share her experiences with our cell density sensors interactively. Again, 40 interested parties participated and engaged in buzzing discussions with each other. Since both presentations were well received, we decided to offer the webinars before Easter for West Europe and after Easter for Germany again. If anyone is generally interested to participate in a webinar, you are more than welcome to contact Volker Kupitz (email@example.com). Since the interest has been great, we will definitely offer more webinars and expand the topic field. Right now, we are planning a practice series regarding pH measurement.
The demand shows that the market has interest in such formats. Were webinars part of your regular offer before?
F. Wolpers: To be honest: no. We’ve only offered one webinar series about PAT. Our international customers were also able to participate and the demand as well as interest were high. However, the current response shows us that it is an important way to reach existing and new clients, in the current situation as well as in the future.
Due to the cancellation of important trade fairs it is difficult to acquire new customers. How do you handle the situation in this regard?
F. Wolpers: That is indeed rather difficult right now. We have a new sales colleague in Germany who has great problems in reaching potential clients. It is obviously easier for an experienced sales representative with long-established customer relationships. But I’m certain that requests from new clients will start to come in soon. There is hopefully a time after Corona, in which the companies can start to produce normally again. Moreover, most vaccines against Corona, that are in development right now, are based on biotechnological manufacturing processes, which will lead to a great, world-wide need of production capacity after its clearance. Our sensors for control and monitoring of these processes will play an important role.
Do you count losses in incoming orders?
F. Wolpers: No, not until now. We have the highest order intake that we ever had in Europe, USA and China for process analytics. Business was collapsed briefly in China, in February to be specific, but started up again with high intakes in March. However, the virus spread in China has been ahead of us for six to eight weeks. Which means that an order collapse in other areas could be eminent. Still, we cannot complain at the moment. Many companies report about delivery delays, but until now, we as well as our suppliers were able to deliver on time.
Let’s come back to the current situation. How do you proceed, if a client is in need of an urgent personal consultation, a sensor evaluation or if maintenance is coming up?
F. Wolpers: Repairs are no problem, since the sensors are mostly sent in or replaced directly. The challenge is the personal customer contact as well as consultation that is not possible on-site. Our customers don’t open their doors for us on the one hand and on the other hand we aren’t able to reach many places due to travel restrictions. One co-worker did a live demonstration via Skype and presented in this way our hard- and software. That worked well. Besides, we are all further on available via phone, mail or skype and are able to conduct consultation.
Thank you very much for the interview and all the best for you!