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Motor in the crisis

Staying on course | Whether machine builders, tool manufacturers or automotive suppliers - many companies have mastered the crisis well so far. Pragmatic improvisation with digital means was and is the order of the day. [...]

Staying on course

Whether machine builders, tool manufacturers or automotive suppliers - many companies have mastered the crisis well so far. Pragmatic improvisation with digital means was and is the order of the day. [...]

Bergische Wirtschaft, March 2021

Positive turnaround

In the opinion of Dr. Andreas Groß, the German supplier industry and mechanical engineering have worked quite well so far - "and under the most difficult conditions," says the managing partner of Heinz Berger Maschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG in Wuppertal. His own company, a manufacturer of grinding machines and robotic solutions, was affected by Corona in two ways. Firstly, by the disease itself: "We had a number of infections in our own ranks last year," reports the entrepreneur. Fortunately, only mild symptoms had occurred. To be on the safe side, the machine factory sent around 30 of a total of 160 employees into quarantine for up to two weeks. Any work that needed to be done had to be put on hold. An important supplier was hit even harder. "Here, practically the entire production was closed." Because elementary parts were missing as a result, delivery and commissioning were delayed at the Wuppertal-based company.

On the other hand, the special machinery manufacturer felt the economic consequences of the pandemic: after Carnival, there was a total collapse. For four months, the order books showed an entry "of 0.0", says Dr. Andreas Groß. At first, he was calm about the slump, but by the third month he was having second thoughts. "And from the fourth month, I took the worries home with me in the evening." The lead-up of 17 months at the end of 2019 shrank to 11 months in August 2020. "That may still sound comfortable, but from seven months' lead time, we have to declare mandatory short-time work due to the internal lead time," the CEO points out. In the fall, however, Berger managed to turn things around. Currently, the order lead time is 13 months, "an ideal time frame." In a podcast to the workforce earlier this year, Dr. Andreas Groß described his view of the near future as "cautiously optimistic."

It was the first time the company's management had resorted to this means of communication to minimize contacts. There is also a reliance on digital tools in other ways. Video conferencing was now part of the daily routine. Groß's brother-in-law and co-partner Marco Chiesura, a sales expert who normally spends weeks traveling the world, currently sits in front of a screen for up to seven hours a day. Dr. Andreas Groß and five of his engineers conducted an exam at the beginning of February in the special mechanical engineering course at Bergische Universität via camera - with 30 young students on the other side. "This is how we now have to proceed with our customers," he explains. The usual procedure is for the customer to come to Wuppertal for machine acceptance, experience the new machine in operation on site and give his "okay." Only then does the plant go on its way. "That no longer works today. Now commissioning is done with cameras," regrets Dr. Andreas Groß. [...]