Exemplary crisis management and clear visions for the future
"Every crisis offers opportunities - and we seize them. Not in order to 'somehow' get through the Corona crisis, but to emerge from it stronger", explained Dr. Kurt Schmalz, managing partner of J. Schmalz GmbH, on the occasion of the first virtual press day of Schmalz. And he continues: "Our systems are particularly challenged, for example, when handling food in distribution centres or when gripping medical products. We make our contribution so that our customers can also overcome the crisis - that is our claim.
That's why we secured our supply chain at an early stage, our ability to deliver is assured. What's more, despite the cancellation of trade fairs, we have not only succeeded in maintaining personal contact with our customers, but have also expanded it through new channels: For example, we have established tools such as a live chat and video consultation in a very short time, and our first virtual trade fair is about to start. We are using these channels to introduce our customers to the numerous product innovations we launched in the spring, including solutions for robotics and for the digitization of gripping processes.
It goes without saying that the Corona crisis has brought with it enormous challenges for our company. However, we are very well positioned as a financially independent family business. Even in the first few days, we set the right course to mitigate the consequences: This includes, for example, the establishment of an internal crisis management team that constantly reassesses the current situation and implements appropriate measures. With our hygiene and conduct rules, we go beyond the requirements and recommendations of the authorities.
Very early on, Schmalz established external warehouses worldwide and equipped them well in order to remain able to deliver - also because the products were and are urgently needed in many areas, especially during the Corona crisis. "Just think, for example, of the logistics surrounding the significantly increased demand for disinfectants. We play an important role here", says Schmalz.
But also as a company, all the stops were pulled out. For example, in the various branches, where help was provided with the procurement of masks and protective materials, or by using the 3D printers to produce new types of face masks to combat the pandemic. In principle, the company from the northern Black Forest still sees itself as well prepared for the future: Schmalz, as a family business, is financially independent and has a high equity ratio. During the last few months, the company has done everything in its power to ensure the stability of the company and to secure all jobs worldwide, according to the statement.
Due to the consistently high or even higher demand in some areas, Schmalz can look back on a quite good first quarter of this fiscal year. Nevertheless, the family-owned company is now also experiencing declines in orders and has reduced production capacities accordingly. "We are currently working with various scenarios and have prepared ourselves intensively for a double-digit decline in incoming orders and sales. However, we hope for an improvement from the second half of the year onwards, if the situation does not deteriorate again," explains the company owner.
Schmalz's performance last year was very good: the vacuum expert recorded sales of around 190 million euros. The commitment to research and development was about nine percent of the turnover. The sales network in Austria has been expanded by a branch office, which means that Schmalz now operates 20 of its own locations and cooperates with sales partners in 60 other countries. In addition to the headquarters in Glatten, there are production facilities in Melbourne (Australia), Shanghai (China), Pune (India), Yokohama (Japan) and Raleigh (USA). The demand for Schmalz products up to the Corona crisis was very strong in North America and especially in the USA in the last one to two years, and there was also dynamic growth in Asia - with China and Japan as drivers. Europe showed consistently good growth, led by Poland and Turkey. Broken down by industry, interest was very good in logistics, packaging, electronics and the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
Schmalz had recently invested again in the headquarters in Glatten and expanded production. Construction work began in autumn 2017 and the entire building was ready for occupation in summer 2019. There was an expansion of around 11,000 square metres. Construction of a new office building was also started in mid-2017, and the company moved into the building in autumn 2018. Around 3,000 square metres are now available here for the Innovation department as well as for testing and laboratory facilities, the expansion of global sales, flexible working environments and in the form of creative rooms. In total, space for well over 100 new jobs has been created.
The family-owned company has also grown internationally: In China, there was a new greenfield site with an initial 7,600 square meters of floor space for construction phase 1, in Poland a new building with around 900 square meters and in Italy a comprehensive renovation of an existing building.
In order to continue to position itself effectively in the future, Schmalz is focusing, among other things, on the area of robotics. The manufacturer definitely wants to take its place in this growth area and has a broad domain knowledge. The goal is to provide ready-to-connect complete solutions for gripping, and a powerful team is working on this topic.
In addition to robotics,
digitization plays a decisive role, with the clear vision that there should be
a noticeable added value in every step of the process. "Customers only
benefit from digitization when there is visible and noticeable added value for
them - in all process steps, from design and configuration to procurement,
operation and service," explains Dr. Kurt Schmalz. And he continues:
"This is what we are aligning our organisation and our products to. The
organization includes a Digital Lab for technology and product digitization,
Digital Business for e-commerce, sales channels and customer front-ends, and
GPS Gesellschaft für Produktionssysteme as an external development unit. On the
product side, we proceed in such a way that the hardware requires high
intelligence and connectivity. At the same time, new software solutions are
needed to help leverage the potential of the devices. Then there is added value
through the intelligent use of data."