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Zoom In: Donny Hamilton

Donny Hamilton, a member of management at Hamilton Bonaduz AG, is currently completing the International Executive MBA (IEMBA) at the ZHAW School of Management and Law in Winterthur. This interview provides exclusive insights into how Hamilton Bonaduz AG is acting in the current Corona situation.

April 2020

Donny Hamilton works in the management of the company Hamilton Bonaduz AG, which is making an important contribution to the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The company supplies laboratories around the world with equipment and consumables to automate patient testing for COVID-19 and to develop vaccine compounds to combat the virus. Hamilton Medical has also been working on the development of intelligent ventilation solutions since 1983. These ventilators are in high demand in the current situation and save lives every day.

Donny, how are you doing in these very turbulent times?

This is a very trying time for all people, not just for people that are focused in the laboratory and healthcare markets. To see countries that are very stable such as Switzerland hit a standstill as it pertains to normal daily life is a shock, but you also see how strong a country is and its ability to make drastic changes in a short time frame. Like most, I am taking it one day at a time, days have been long and there still is a lot to take care of and also control as the world seems to change on a daily basis as it adheres to the issues of COVID-19.

How has Hamilton Bonaduz AG prepared for a pandemic like the current situation with the corona virus?

One word: inventory. When your company deals in the consumable markets of the scientific business world, the business needs to have product available on the spot and also with the flexibility to move it at a moment’s notice. Secondly, and a more general business practice, communication. Internal and external communication are key. Internally keeping all employees up to date on how the company is moving forward with these global issues and what our main plan is to handle such drastic changes. Then externally, we need to speak with our customers and know how can we help and aid them on taking care of their customers. With those two assets and the flexibility to make changes as needed, a company will evolve and adapt to any situation or surroundings that it finds itself working among.

Flexibility is last thing that I mentioned above, we are running our production on ventilators and automated liquid handling machines to two shifts, six days a week. As well as having our consumable production units running three shifts and seven days a week, Hamilton Bonaduz AG can focus wherever is needed at any specific moment and that we make sure we are aiding the most critical areas at the right time.

What is the atmosphere like in your company? Can you hire additional staff to cope with the flood of work?

The company and its employees are doing their best to remain normal in a period of our lives that is nowhere close to being normal. Adjustments to working conditions, breaks, and our internal restaurant have been made, but the atmosphere has been positive and centered on getting our products in the right hands and as quickly as possible.

Actually like most companies, we have a quite few employees working remotely, but also by being a close-knit production company, we are able to move production employees from one business unit to another and with relative ease. Although we have even moved marketing team members into production on a short-term basis to help with the extreme fluctuation. Our HR team is now focused primarily on filling production needs; all other vacancies within the company have been put on hold for the unforeseeable future so that the team can focus on finding more people for our medical and robotics production.

Hamilton Bonaduz AG has announced automated coronavirus test stations and a preferential treatment of all orders in connection with the fight against the pandemic. How did the management react to achieve this focus?

Our management team has been working very closely with our customers, government agencies and other laboratories to provide the user interfaces to perform the specific tests needed. This comes with having products with customizable platforms that fit tests for many different applications. As a company we have set a mission statement that pertains to this particular situation, “We drive innovation to improve people’s lives.” This could not be more true and is also something that all Hamilton employees take great pride in, knowing everything they do could save just one more life.

We drive innovation to improve people’s lives

Mission statement of Hamilton Bonaduz AG

At the beginning of February 2020 you participated in a crisis management simulation in which you practiced crisis management over several days using practical examples. How did this module of the International Executive MBA prepare you for the current situation?

If there was ever a perfect time for such an exercise, it was this simulation. As with the simulation our company has seen, multiple issues come in scope during this whole situation. The biggest aspect not to overlook is company goals or targets that have been set forth before these issues arise. Making quick and intelligent decisions during a time of distress and not losing the focus of what the company does will and has helped Hamilton Bonaduz AG throughout this pandemic. Of course, communication, which was a very big part of the simulation, is something that continues to be of the utmost importance as things change so rapidly. All employees need to be informed no matter where and what their role is and when changes such as these occur, the information needs to be present. The simulation provided us with tools, even if not used are a starting point in any company situation, and just putting that first foot forward usually moves things in the right direction.

You have reacted very quickly and are doing everything possible to support the health care system. What is the biggest challenge for you right now? And what are you particularly happy about during this time?

The biggest challenge at the moment continues to be the supply chain. Yes we have seen a huge wave of demand in the past month, but that does not mean things are settling down. We have suppliers who have suppliers of their own that could be hitting bottlenecks with that production and that is vital for us to move forward. Production capacity is a daily issue, personnel resources, space, are items that just do not show up overnight, so it is quite important to keep the supply chain teams synced as much as possible. It does not hurt to have separate business units within a company to help when help is needed.

I am happy with how well this company has moved forward together to solve problems, create solutions and do what is expected of them no matter what. Hamilton and its employees produce products that help people live and I can tell that company pride has never been stronger. It is hard to say, but you never see how well the company is organized until something of this magnitude happens and we could not be more proud of all the people who wear that Hamilton employee badge.

We wish you, your family and of course all employees of Hamilton Bonaduz AG good health and hope that we all get through the difficult times well.