Accelerating science

In Zizers in the canton of Graubünden, INTEGRA develops essential tools for life science labs across the globe: easy-to-use pipetting systems and other pieces of lab equipment. The production team has been working flat out for months now.

It sounds like a bit of a paradox: the world came to a virtual standstill, and the business of INTEGRA Biosciences, located in Zizers in the canton of Graubünden, is flourishing. Existing employees were called in to do weekend work and the company started hiring new members of staff. “We had to increase our production overnight,” recalls Thomas Granzotto, “while some of our suppliers had shut down.” But not everything that sounds like a paradox actually is one: INTEGRA Biosciences produces pipetting machines that are used across the globe for Covid-19 tests and in the development of vaccines and medication.

 

No sleepless nights

Thomas Granzotto – prudent, structured and solution-oriented – has been working as Head of Instrument Production in Zizers, with responsibility for the company’s entire production operations, for a year now. The 35-year-old organises a team of around 30 employees to ensure that the right quantity of the right product can be in the right place at the right time and in line with the right quality standards. In his line of work, being prepared is the name of the game: “I can only go home and truly relax,” he says, “when everyone knows what they have to do the next day.”

INTEGRA Biosciences produces automated pipetting systems and other pieces of lab equipment for diagnostics, research and development in the life sciences industry. Or: “Picks and shovels for labs,” as management member Alex Studer calls them. Labs around the world use these tools to dig deep to identify the causes of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer, or, as at present, to find active agents that can be used in the fight against Covid-19.

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“There are no sleepless nights here,” says Granzotto, although the demand for tests and, as a result, for the company’s products has doubled during the pandemic. He says that, to a certain degree, day-to-day business has just continued as normal. INTEGRA was well-equipped, not for a pandemic, but in terms of laying the foundation that would allow the company to increase its output. Granzotto explains that processes had been adjusted repeatedly to reflect different variants of the “new normal” in recent years. “I was, and remain, confident that we can master the crisis.” He puts this confidence down primarily to his unshakable trust in the team: “The sense of community and team spirit here is impressive.” He explains that each and every employee has their part to play in contributing to the company’s prosperity.

“At INTEGRA, we have the freedom to be innovative.”

“The secret of our success,” says Alex Studer, “is the fact that we identified the market gap between automation and manual work processes and exploited this opportunity using Swiss Engineering.” Established in 1965, INTEGRA is now one of the world’s leading providers of lab equipment for liquid handling and culture media manufacturing in life science research. Over the past few years, the company has reported growth of between 10 and 20 per cent a year. It doubled the size of its office and production premises in Zizers as recently as in August 2019 and has already bought land for the next expansion stage. “The only question is how big we want to build,” explains Granzotto. “But we certainly know the direction we want to take.” One of the drivers of the company’s success story: one in ten Swiss francs is ploughed into innovation.

 

Intuitive and reliable

No idea that could help the business is ignored, explains Thomas Granzotto. “We have the freedom to be innovative here.” This freedom is also what gave rise to the software used to control the pipetting systems. Granzotto says that using the equipment is “a bit like Lego Technic”: intuitive and reliable. The user interface works in a similar way for all types. This means that, with the right piece of equipment, larger quantities of samples can be processed within a very short space of time if need be – also on an automated basis. After all: “Mistakes tend to happen because of human error.”

Fortunately, the lockdown restrictions are over. “There was never any grumbling from my employees,” says Granzotto looking back, “even though they had to work extra shifts.” They knew that their work was making a valuable contribution: not just for the company, but also, to some extent, for the world.

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