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January still got off to a good start at all locations. Production and calls were as expected. When news about a virus from China arrived in Europe, the public was not overly concerned yet. At that time, the word pandemic was not yet in everyone’s vocabulary.
When the first news from our Chinese location reached Karlstein, the situation changed abruptly. The far-reaching measures taken by the Chinese authorities in early February gave us a first hint of the threat that was coming. The Chinese COVID regulations suddenly required daily temperature taking at the entrance and mandatory masks on the entire plant site. The biggest problem: After the Chinese New Year holidays, most employees were not able to return to their jobs.
The virus reaches Europe
In early March, things really started to happen in Europe. Starting in the third week of March, Pollmann in Austria launched an extensive set of measures. A COVID team – consisting of the owners, Management, Operation, HR and Works Council – was formed to facilitate communication. Extensive protective measures (working from home, no external visitors, disinfection, etc.) were introduced to make it as difficult as possible for the virus to spread.
Short-time work becomes inevitable starting in April
In late March, customer demand dropped sharply. On April 1, short-time work for all employees of Pollmann International and Pollmann Austria became inevitable. Pollmann Czech Republic, which did not have the option of short-time work, even had to resort to layoffs. The situation in the US was similar: The plant in Romeoville/Chicago was shut down for two weeks in April and May and otherwise ramped down to a minimum. The employees first had to use up their vacation time and then went on unemployment.
Wrestling with forecasts
Forecasts for the automotive future are a dime a dozen. According to a study by Roland Berger, it will take years for the automotive market to recover and come close again to the (high) level of 2018/19. We find this assessment plausible also based on our market feedback.
The few weeks of lockdown have shown us how vulnerable the global automotive industry network has become. That is why we have been increasingly raising the issue of diversification. No decisions have been made yet. But we will keep you informed about new avenues.
We can do it!
The coming months will not be easy ones. But our underlying conditions are good and resilient. In its history of more than 130 years, Pollmann has weathered many crises and taken steps in the right direction. We will continue to do so.
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