The effects of the Corona crisis hit Bavaria’s economy hard in 2020: Many companies complained of losses, entrepreneurs feared for their economic existence, employees for their jobs. And yet this year there are also bright spots to forget. Because despite everything, some companies have invested a lot of money, successfully dared to try new things or simply demonstrated solidarity. Five examples that at best give courage for 2021:
From seat cover to mask
Reinhard Zettl reported on the phone about a “very interesting time”. That could possibly be an understatement. Up until spring his Zettl Group in Weng ( Landshut district) was known as an automotive supplier that produces interior parts in small series. Then China and the rest of the world slipped into the Corona crisis, and respirators soon became scarce. When the Zettl Group therefore suggested setting up a mask production facility in Bavaria, it found open ears. Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (FW) in particular developed into an advocate.
Together with other Bavarian companies, a supply chain has now been set up, and certified FFP2 masks are now being produced in Weng. This is long-term, says Zettl: 3000 square meters have been created for production, on which there are two systems developed for this purpose. 15 more followed in the coming year. Zettl plans to manufacture up to ten million FFP2 masks per month in the future. The jobs of around 270 employees are likely to be secured, a privilege in the crisis. In order to meet the demand for masks, 100 new jobs are to be created.
A heart for colleagues
It was only in December 2019 that Marlon Hassel opened his own shop with friends in Fürth, the Pixels. If you want, you can experience virtual adventures there with the help of virtual reality glasses and then enjoy a real drink. But the Pixels had to close again in spring. Lockdown. “ That was the worst possible time,” says Hassel. “ We were completely desperate.” And they wanted to do something. Without further ado, they built a web shop for the whole city. On “ Ein Herz für Fürth” locals should buy vouchers from local traders to redeem after the lockdown. “ We were the only business with the infrastructure,” says Hassel.
In any case, they hit a nerve with the idea: the shops that took part turned over tens of thousands of euros in a short period of time, even though they had closed. The project has since been extended with the support of the city. Around 60 shops are currently represented on the portal. The Pixels takes a few percent commission for each voucher to cover the server costs. However, that is not enough to compensate for the losses from the store, which has now been closed for the second time. In return, the project is an asset for the local retail trade. And for the image, after all, many people in Fürth have now heard of this VR shop. “ Sure, we had crazy work,” says Hassel. But: “I’m glad we did it.”
Invested in ventilation
In the wake of the pandemic, ventilation has almost become a kind of popular sport: according to the current state of knowledge, regular fresh air supply helps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus via aerosols. However, putting the idea into practice sometimes turned out to be difficult. For example in school, where teachers and students complained about having to choose between freezing to death and infection with the onset of autumn weather. This is exactly where the Wolf company from Mainburg wanted to start.
The Lower Bavarians have specialized in heating and air conditioning systems, such as those installed in modern single-family houses or sports arenas. “ But we thought about how we could help from the start,” says company spokeswoman Melanie Waldmannstetter. The result: a self-developed air purifier for offices, classrooms and daycare centers. The device, about the height of a cupboard, has two filters and, according to the company, separates up to 99.995 percent of all bioaerosols. It is intended as a supplement to window ventilation, TÜV-tested and can be quickly retrofitted without a specialist. Of course, the development of the air purifier means a financial risk for Wolf – but it could pay off: Before Christmas two shifts with around 30 employees each were busy with its production. Hundreds of them left the factory every week.
Instead of Christmas presents, there was a social plan. MAN Energy Solutions will cut 2,600 jobs worldwide in the coming years. Nevertheless, good things from 2020 will also be remembered by the Augsburgers. When Corona came across the world, Uzbekistan was about to put a nitric acid plant into operation for fertilizer production. For something like this, the company usually sends engineers out for several weeks to personally monitor all tests. But that was no longer possible because of Corona. Without further ado, everyone involved dared to experiment – and for the first time moved the commissioning to the home office.
From the kitchen table, the technicians checked machines at a distance of 5,500 kilometers; adjusted parameters on the laptop or guided the Uzbek colleagues, who were equipped with data glasses, through the system so that they could see through their eyes, so to speak. That could have gone terribly wrong. But the experiment succeeded. “Then the inquiries came”, says project manager Jörg Massopust. MAN Energy Solutions has now put two more plants into operation in this way, with more to follow. Because there are no travel costs, remote commissioning is even cheaper for customers. And apart from financial issues, something unexpectedly new has opened up for the company and its employees. “The positive thing is that we have noticed what we can do,” says Massopust. “ That inspires.”
With courage and solidarity
You can’t complain about too little work this year at Sandler in Schwarzenbach an der Saale (district of Hof) in Upper Franconia: everyone wants to have the medium-sized company’s nonwovens to make masks from them. An unusual situation, reports board member Ulrich Hornfeck. Because the production of hygiene articles only makes up part of the portfolio, the rest actually goes to the automotive, textile or furniture industries. But while in some of these areas the orders dropped within a week due to Corona, the demand for mask fabric increased.
So employees were retrained, systems and processes changed and, above all, a lot of things were sorted out: A specially assembled team worked its way through the inquiries to separate reputable suppliers and customers from speculators and fortune-tellers. The cohesion in the company was great, says Hornfeck, everyone tackled. This is the only way to open up a new field of business in a short period of time – a process that normally takes years in industry. “ You have to have the courage to leave the usual path,” says Hornfeck. In the long run, the new business is not one for the masses, but that is not the most important thing. Companies shouldn’t just be about profits. “ Doing business also has the purpose of being there for people.”
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