300 million turnover in 2019 just missed
2019 was a very successful year for the Ima Schelling Group with an increase in turnover of around 10 percent – a total of 299 million euros were generated. The hurdle of 300 million was thus narrowly missed, thus definitely representing the target for the next few years. Maximilian Lehner, Managing Partner of the Ima Schelling Group, is also very satisfied with the internal processes when talking to “möbelfertigung”: “We have restructured a lot in the last few years, last year we restructured the management once again and have now managed to make the individual companies Ima and Schelling really grow together into a group with one management floor and cross-location managers”. The last major change was made with Christoph Geiger. He previously held the technical management of Schelling in Schwarzach and, after the departure of Andreas Rinke, the long-standing technical managing director at Ima at the end of 2019, he took over overall responsibility for the areas of research & development, contract engineering, production, materials management, quality assurance and installation & customer service in Germany and Austria. With this new constellation, the group now sees itself as really well positioned, says Lehner.
The fact that the 300 million sales hurdle was within reach was proven by the current 2020 financial year until the COVID 19 pandemic massively spread to Europe: “We still had a very good order intake until mid-March. If things had gone on like this, it would have been a really fantastic year 2020,” describes Lehner. “In the first few weeks after the lockdown, there was certainly some uncertainty among everyone. And we sensed that decisions were rather not made in the last few weeks, the order intake has noticeably declined since mid-March. However, the time was certainly used to deal with the latest technology, which is why we even had a relatively large amount of customer contact. Digitally and not live, of course. However, it is currently difficult to estimate the extent to which this will result in purchasing decisions. We are definitely ready. Basically, the year 2020 is already very much marked by a number of major projects that will keep us busy for a long time: We will feel the ‘corona bend’ above all in 2021,” assumes the Sales Director.
Lehner is basically very satisfied with the performance of the Ima Schelling Group worldwide in the current corona phase: “As we have a subsidiary in China, we were aware of the corona problem at a very early stage and were able to come up with ideas for it. We were alarmed simply by the fact how massively the Chinese government had introduced measures. And we also saw live what happens during a lockdown, because all our customers in China had to close down their production facilities and our service employees were unable to travel. In addition, some Chinese employees returned very late from the New Year celebrations because they were from the Wuhan area and had to be quarantined accordingly.
We were therefore able to set the course for Europe as early as February to safeguard the health of the employees, to take care of home office workstations or video conferencing systems and the like and to ensure that work processes did not come to a standstill. In the beginning, of course, it was only hygiene instructions to the employees, we also provided disinfectants. However, when the first restrictions were imposed in Austria, we had at least one day’s notice because we maintained good relations with the authorities. Within just one day, over 450 employees were able to move directly to the home office. All in all, it has to be said that it went very well for us and we had no worrying incidents within the group”.
And yet the Ima Schelling Group also had to solve unforeseen difficulties. Lehner commented: “We were no longer able to deliver in Italy or Spain, for example. Because no one was on site at the customers’ premises any more, because our fitters were no longer allowed to travel there either and simply could not get a hotel room. We had to rent space to store the machines that had already been completed, as space was needed in the factories. On the other hand, we have succeeded in making customer acceptance tests using video on the virtual route, for example in Canada. So we have been able to put our digital possibilities to the acid test under real conditions – with very good results. Fortunately, everything is now opening up again and we are confident that we will also be able to make up for delivery delays.
The Ima Schelling Group is now intensively involved in determining what the next steps will be, for example if trade fairs as a sales tool are cancelled for a longer period of time. Lehner explains: “This is exactly the topic we are currently working on and we are looking into how we can provide our customers with all the information they need without analogue trade fair presentations and real meetings. We are thinking about various tools and examining how we can make the best possible use of them. For example, in the form of a virtual trade fair stand or similar. We think that in 2020 it will indeed be very difficult to have trade fairs. However, we hope that we will have a “Ligna 2021″, for example, and we are driving projects and new developments forward with this focus. Especially when we are now talking about a longer phase until we return to a halfway normal everyday life, the trade fair in Hanover is a great way to get in touch with customers again on a larger scale”.
In addition to the sales and the change in management, there were other highlights at Ima Schelling in the past fiscal year: The construction of a new central warehouse in Lübbecke has begun and is fully on track, with completion planned for August. In the long term, this will not only optimize costs, but above all will further improve the flow of materials at the German location. This will result in reduced production times, and customers will be able to obtain spare parts even more reliably. However, investments were not only made in Lübbecke: in Schwarzach the company moved into a new office building in 2019. “A nice sign to the employees is the new company day-care center in Lübbecke, which will move to another building once the situation with the coronavirus has calmed down a bit – the day-care center had already been put into operation,” says Lehner. In addition, the Ima Schelling Group founded a new subsidiary in Switzerland last year. “From a perspective perspective, it is very important for us to have a local branch office especially for the Swiss market”. In addition to Germany, Austria and now Switzerland, the mechanical engineering company has sales and service branches in the USA, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Singapore and China. In Slovakia there is a pure production site, in Poland machines from the Ima as well as from the Schelling range are now manufactured.
Group-wide, the Ima Schelling Group employed 1,660 people at the end of 2019, 120 of them trainees.