Discovering new worlds

Harald Peter, Director Operations North America and Industrial Engineering, Fresenius Medical Care, Schweinfurt, Germany

After completing my physics degree, I could never have dreamed that I’d end up working in so many different fields, meeting so many fascinating people, and spend time living and working in different countries and cultures. But Fresenius made all of this happen.

I spent the first two years of my career working on speech recognition and data transfer at an SME. Then, in 1986, a college friend told me about an open position in the development department at Fresenius, which I applied for and attained.

At college, I learned how important it is to stay inquisitive and open-minded if you want to be creative.

In my first two years at Fresenius, I worked on developing components and processes for hemodialysis machines. Then I was given the opportunity to design and produce a “bedside station” together with colleagues in the U.S.. In this type of hemodialysis machine, the dialysate is prepared by a central delivery system before being channeled to individual treatment units. As a result of the experience I gained working on this project, I became head of the team responsible for adapting the bedside station to the needs of the French market.

Visiting several French hospitals in the course of the project, I met dialysis patients and saw how they lived and what their needs were. This left a lasting impression on me. I’m especially glad that I’m able to contribute to patient well-being through my work.

In 1990, Fresenius decided to establish a separate product line in the U.S., rather than simply supplying the country with machines made in Germany. We wanted the U.S. machines to be especially user-friendly – such as by including a display. (Later, we upgraded this to a colored display.)

I was closely involved in the development of these machines and often spent several weeks at a time on-site in the U.S.. When it was time for clinical trials of the new functions of the 2008H dialysis machine, I moved to the U.S. on a long-term assignment for one and a half years. As well as managing our projects there, I got a chance to meet leading U.S. dialysis experts. I was extremely impressed by their friendliness, expertise and vision.

I never planned my career in the conventional way – it was always a question of weighing the options available to me against what I wanted to do.

Once I returned to Germany, my previous job seemed rather sedate compared to the intensive, fast-paced nature of my work in the U.S.. So I was extremely honored to be appointed acting head of basic development in Bad Homburg. Fortunately, I was also able to maintain my links with the U.S.: I’m now responsible for coordinating our U.S. development activities, supported by colleagues in Germany and at our sister plant in Walnut Creek, California. Not only that, I’m also responsible for the production of key components for the North American market, and for the introduction of new products and production technology for machines at our Schweinfurt site.

These wide-ranging duties give me the chance to lead from the front and launch all kinds of new projects, while addressing the challenges of the current and future dialysis market.