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INNOVATION – In France, only one company markets the super-freezers essential for the preservation of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine. Located near Lyon, Froilabo has stepped up to meet growing demand.
– The drafting of LCI
In the midst of a health crisis, an SME sees its orders soar. Based in Meyzieu (Lyon Metropolis), the French manufacturer Froilabo is the last company in France to market super-freezers. They drop to minus 70 degrees, or even minus 86 degrees, the temperature at which the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine must be stored. Enough to transform these freezers into essential products for the medical profession.
While the Covid-19 epidemic continues to spread around the world, this Lyon box of 80 employees finds itself playing a pivotal role in the logistics related to the transport of vaccines in France. Its super-freezers with two compressors are expected in hospitals, vaccination centers and research laboratories. In each freezer, it is possible to store between 200,000 and 300,000 doses of the precious serum. Enough to vaccinate an entire city of over 100,000 inhabitants.
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A few weeks before the launch of the vaccination campaign, the manufacturer declared to have accelerated its usual production. “We are tripling our capacities through investments and reorganizations”, explained Christophe Roux, CEO of the company, at the microphone of LCI. The company sells half of its production in France and the rest abroad. All over the world, demand is now exploding. “Ireland is good, Vietnam, Greece is on hold”, lists a member of the company by checking the boxes ready to be shipped.
Until now, the manufacturer Froilabo has contributed to supplying a niche market, confined to hospitals and pharmaceuticals. But the situation has changed and the small industry born in 1918 decides to think big. “We feel a great demand, our objective would be to multiply by 2.5 our production capacity”, says Sébastien Colomb, director of production and supply chain management, Froilabo-Meyzieu. Before the epidemic, the Lyon SME sold around fifty devices each month. Today, the company sells about 20 more and this is just the beginning for a product traded for 10,000 euros each.
These new demands were still unimaginable a few months before. Two years ago, this SME encountered significant difficulties. In 2018, manufacturers invested two million euros to triple the surface area of its Romanian factory, where large series are produced. And the epidemic has helped strengthen the finances of this company. Today, the message is optimistic, especially on employment.“During the year 2020, we have already made a dozen hires. Today, we already have a projection to do the same thing in 2021”, says Antonin Duval, Managing Director of Froilabo-Meyzieu.
Good news for this company which, according to Les Echos, did not wait for the vaccine to increase its turnover (currently amounting to 8 million euros). During the two waves of the epidemic, Froilabo’s activity increased by 20%. In the columns of the specialized newspaper, the director general Christophe Roux explained to have delivered “a hundred devices in hospitals in Paris and a few dozen in those in Lyon”, since the spring, in order to keep the biopsy samples taken from Covid patients. Ironically, this company originally made incubators for babies.
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