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A great history... and a great future - Merck

You probably have heard the name before. It’s been around for a long time. You maybe even have a clue what does the firm produce. You’ve seen the logo, you’ve watched the commercials. It’s hard to ignore, as Merck is one of the most active pharmaceutical companies worldwide. You’ve been a customer and perhaps you didn’t even know it. The variety of goods produced at Merck’s is truly impressive. Little do you know that there are two companies called Merck...

Pharmacy ages ago
It all began way back in the seventeenth century. In 1668, Friedrich Jacob Merck, a German pharmacist from Darmstadt decided to take a risk and acquire a company called Angel Pharmacy. Thus began the history of the oldest pharmaceutical enterprise still operating on any market. The 18th century was a time of development for the enterprise, however it’s in 1816, when Emanuel Merck took over the company, when a vast progress began. His scientific background combined with technology available only at Merck’s factory at that time allowed him to concentrate on his studies, which resulted in the ability to isolate alkaloids. In just a couple of decades Merck’s business shifted its focus almost entirely to production of alkaloids. A chemical-pharmaceutical factory was consequently built. Medications produced by Merck (including cocaine, back then produced for medical purposes only) truly changed the face of the health care of the time. Subsidiaries were shortly founded in London, Russia and, naturally, the United States. The American subsidiary was said to be the best business investment to date. If only anyone could predict the outbreak of the World War I. As a consequence of the war, Merck lost control of its subsidiaries overseas, including the American one. Its shares had been sold in the United States and even though a part of them were bought back by George Merck, a member of the Merck dynasty, the company changed its name to Merck & Co. and to this day remains an independent company.
Merck during and after the World War II
The World War I didn’t seem like much of a setback for the enterprise. In the 20s and 30s it continued its expansion by founding another subsidiaries in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. It launched its another famous product – Cebion – the first vitamin C to be commercialized. Its activated charcoal tablets were of common use. Unfortunately, during the times of the Third Reich, the company was brought into submission of the party and as such, was destroyed by a targeted air raid of the allies. 60 lives were lost and most of the buildings were destroyed – it sure did not seem like the firm was going to be able to compete in the international markets. However, some of the subsidiaries overseas were quickly brought back under Merck’s wing. The factory in Germany was rapidly rebuilt. The power of the progress was unstoppable. A series of successful innovations were introduced, which allowed the company to continue its development.

Merck worldwide and in Spain
Currently Merck is present in more than 60 countries and employs almost 33 thousands people. With 54 production centers in 24 countries is one of the most globally active companies worldwide. Recently, the acquisition of a company called Serono, one of the world leaders in biotechnology, only strengthen the position of the enterprise. One of the most important branches of Merck is the Spanish branch, with three headquarters – located near Barcelona, Madrid and Tres Cantos – is one of the five most efficient subsidiaries. Founded in 1924, the Spanish branch has come a long way during the 20th century and has almost a thousand employees on the payroll at the moment. Nowadays, the firm’s activity is based on two important sectors – pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The pharmaceutical part of the business focuses on over the counter medicines (cough & cold remedies, diet supplements, women and children care products) and – due to the aforementioned acquisition of Serono – innovative prescription drugs. The latter consists of drugs attempting to cure diseases with unmet medical needs such as cancer, infertility or cardiovascular diseases. The chemical branch however concentrates on several business activities. It provides liquid crystal materials for the display industry. It supplies effect pigments in the coatings and painting for several industries – for example the automotive industry benefits from Merck’s activity. But the chemical production at Merck’s also provides solution for manufacturing of cosmetics, drugs and even food.

Production plant near Barcelona
Spanish subsidiary of Merck is exceptionally proud of its production plant located in Mollet de Valles, near Barcelona, in Catalonia. The pharmaceutical plant was founded in 1974 and started as a factory packed with state of the art technology and extremely qualified staff to ensure the highest quality of the products. The factory has been put through various innovations during the years, but the constant characteristic of its production process is the attention to detail. The plant is capable of producing 3 billions drug doses annually on total area of 130 thousands square meters. The capability of production in Mollet de Valles is truly impressive. The factory is able to produce up to 10 thousand blister per hour on eight production lines. 3 additional production lines are dedicated to production of sachets with the ability to manufacture up to 60 thousands units per hour. 30 thousands tablets in strips can leave the factory every hour, while 3500 tubes of effervescent tablets is being made on another production line. These numbers have been recognized by many customers. Thanks to its exceptional technological flexibility, the plant is being used by more than 40 companies for production purposes. Said flexibility is the key to the factory success as it’s able to adapt to customer’s need – there’s no project too big, nor project too small to be realized at Mollet de Valles. All kind of medicine can be manufactured by Merck’s plant – tablets, capsules, extemporaneous suspensions, effervescent tablets and liquids in sachets and bottles. Moreover, Mollet de Valles is one of the very few production plants manufacturing a certain group of antibiotics - cephalosporins specifically – in Europe. Given that the production from the factory is being supplied to several countries on various continents, the plants is obliged to have all the necessary permissions and certificates. Indeed, the production process has been approved by Spanish Ministry of Health and Social Policy, but also by European authorities (EMEA) and parallel institutions in specific countries in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

A recipe for success
The business philosophy of Merck Spain is quite simple indeed. Total mastery of complicated technological processes combined with great flexibility and immaculate reputation bring new clients to the company every year. Merck has been one of the most innovative companies in its sectors literally since centuries. Constant training of the staff and investments in the infrastructure keeps the company at the forefront of the technological race with its competition. Every single of 240 people hired at the factory in Mollet de Valles performs ones job with maximum focus on Customer’s needs. The company puts every effort to maximize the main asset of its production plants – the technological flexibility. It’s what differentiate the company from the other and allows it to keep the prices competitive. The enterprise also implements a dedicated program of continuous improvement called Operational Excellence. The program works on five axes: production, supply, innovation, technology and human resources. It’s a program designed not only to improve the processes, but above all to encourage the employees to develop their skills. With such business model, Merck Spain does not have to fear the crisis. It seems that during these hard times Merck overtakes the competition just by putting maximum effort to what the company does best. The reputation build over the years is incomparable with any of Merck’s competition. During almost 350 years worldwide, and over 85 years in Spain, Merck has become a synonym for reliability, flexibility, transparency, competitive prices and – above all – highest quality possible. 

Written by Łukasz Światowie

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