Pandemic poses major challenge for employees
ziehl-abegg maintains sales in the first year of covid -19 and gets 2021 off to a flying start
“The year 2020 was like a rollercoaster ride: alternating suddenly and rapidly between border closures, material supplies being cut off, falling sales and rising order books,” says Peter Fenkl. He is CEO of the global electric motor and fan manufacturer Ziehl-Abegg. The company located in Southern Germany generated sales of EUR 639 million in 2020 (previous year: EUR 633 million); that’s an increase of around 1 percent. In the current year, the performance to date suggests the company will post a good increase in sales.
For a company with a high level of vertical manufacturing, this demands enormous effort: on the part of the organization as a whole and all the employees in particular. However, the Baden-Württemberg based company has one great advantage: “During the crisis, we started up a number of major construction projects worldwide and invested in machinery – so Ziehl-Abegg is now able to absorb the growth,” says Fenkl. However, the Covid-19 regulations place a significant obstacle to production as well as sales. This is compounded by a global shortage of components. And the sword of Damocles of the pandemic hangs over everything – “no one knows if we’ll see the beginning of another downward trend next week”.
The company sensed the onset of the pandemic a year ago and reacted early to it. Fenkl takes a look back: “We were one of the first German companies to issue a warning about travel to and from China and shortly afterwards issued the same message for Italy.” The district of Hohenlohe, where the three German production plants and the company headquarters are located, was one of the three German Corona hotspots in the first wave of the Covid pandemic; this was due to the fact that a number of public events had rapidly accelerated the spread of the virus.
Ziehl-Abegg was quickly forced to abandon its original sales plans in the previous year. The fact that sales performed very well in early summer in some areas, such as elevator drive technology, failed to compensate for the slump in ventilation systems. Ventilation systems only started to catch up in the fourth quarter, enabling Ziehl-Abegg to ultimately post slight growth in annual sales. “This is thanks to the tireless efforts of our colleagues who have done a really good job during the pandemic in Germany and worldwide,” emphasizes the company’s CEO.
The number of employees remained constant in 2020: Ziehl-Abegg employs 2,400 people in Germany, globally the total figure is 4,300. However, this figure is not intended to stay at the same level: “At present, we are constantly searching for employees to join us and ‘lend a hand’ in the production plants at our three locations in Germany,” says Fenkl.