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Case study

Speed at Scale: The Thermo Fisher story

From zero to 1 billion tests: Thermo Fisher responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with remarkable hypergrowth in a brand new testing division.


covid tests produced

The Story

President of Genetic Sciences Mark Smedley tells how Thermo Fisher achieved true scale at speed.

As Covid-19 turned their customers’ lives upside down, Thermo Fisher built a new testing business that went from producing zero to 10M PCR tests per week in just 6 months. Within 10 months of its inception, the new testing division came to account for 25% of the company’s global revenue. How did they do it?

What Speed at Scale Looks Like

  • Executive teams rallied to slice through bureaucracy, tossing out typical finance-enforced spending limits and enabling “borrowing” of hundreds of team members from across the company to enable early stages of scaling
  • Built new accelerated hiring process to bring in 1,300+ new employees, doubling the division’s workforce to scale with the opportunity
  • Temporarily walled off the team with a companywide message: “The Covid teams are doing something important for us and for the world. Please leave them alone to do it.”
  • Acquired Mesa Biotech, a small maker of rapid testing devices, and immediately scaled up its manufacturing and commercial capabilities, increasing sales volume on those products by 10x in less than a year
  • Became a leader in Covid testing worldwide, and set an ambition to achieve similar feats of scale in other areas in the years ahead

"We literally went to: A day is a week, a week is a month, a month is a quarter, and a quarter is a year. And we rebuilt all of the business planning processes on that time cycle."

Mark Smedley, President of Genetic Sciences, Thermo Fisher

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