Commissioning That Saves Lives

How quickly Covid can spread and how drastic the effects can be, is demonstrated in India these days. The groninger employees, Markus Ströbel and Sacha Redlich, were recently on the subcontinent to commission the lines where the Covid vaccines are processed. They describe their impressions.

It is terrifying what is happening in India right now. The images are dramatic and leave you speechless,” says Markus Ströbel. The 31-year-old groninger employee returned from another assignment in India at the end of April. There, he and his colleagues commissioned another filling and sealing line for Covid vaccines at the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines. It is the fourth line of its kind that was the last to be delivered to these pharmacists. Covid-19 vaccine is already being processed on two of these machines, the other two will go into production soon.

For Markus Ströbel, who is from Brettheim, it is not the first assignment on the subcontinent.  As a commissioning technician, he travels all over the world; assignments abroad are part of everyday work life. And yet the recent assignment in India was different for him.

It is no surprise that the virus is raging here in a previously unknown dimension. When it comes to Covid-19, India is currently experiencing a tsunami sweeping across the country.  There are almost 4,000 deaths and 400,000 new infections every day. More than 22 million people are now infected.  The number of deaths recently rose to over 245,000. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

These horrific numbers are getting worse every day.

The best feeling for me was finally being able to actively do something about the situation.
Markus Ströbel
Commissioning Technician

“Admittedly, it was a bit oppressive to travel to India during the current situation” says Markus Ströbel honestly. The health system is massively overloaded, there is a lack of everything. However, he never wasted a second to think that “There is absolutely no other alternative. We are very aware of the responsibility we have at groninger in the fight against the Covid pandemic.”

Sacha Redlich concurs. “If we don’t commission the lines on site, the vaccines are simply not going to be processed. This way the fight against the virus cannot be won or rather only won very slowly” emphasizes Redlich, who is from Wallhausen.

Sacha Redlich was the first one who resumed traveling to India in June 2020, in order to commission the line on site.  Two more assignments followed in October and February. “Anyone who has ever been to India knows that things are always turbulent here. On my trip in June last year, I was really surprised to see the country in lockdown.  Everything was completely deserted. Generally, I am used to it being differently and I will definitely remember this for a long time.”

During his second and third stay, social life was “more normal”, despite the social distancing and with a mask.  “I didn’t expect India would get hit this hard again. The country was not prepared for it.”

Both Sacha Redlich and Markus Ströbel are experienced commissioning technicians. And yet the last trips to India were an extreme, almost emotional experience for them. “You don’t know what’s coming and you don’t necessarily want to get infected with Covid, especially, not in a country like India, which simply has different hygiene standards”, both men said in agreement.

They still went. “The best feeling for me was to finally be able to actively do something about the situation and to be able to do my part in the fight against the pandemic. Before that I felt somewhat helpless, almost feeling a little powerless” says Markus Ströbel.

Sacha Redlich is also proud of it, while he sums it up in a more compact way. “If we can’t rock this thing, who can?” he asked with a laugh.

The two rocked the customer’s situation. The lines run perfectly. Each machine processes 400 vials per minute and thus 4,000 life-saving vaccination doses. A good feeling for the groninger employees. A ray of hope for the people of India during this pandemic. Those responsible on site also made it clear. On the way to the airport, Sacha Redlich was stopped for a routine check. A soldier asked what he was doing in India. It was briefly explained to him. The soldier nodded and let him go through with the words: “Thank you for your service, Sir!”

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