“These are machines for metal processing,” says Sylke Becker from the Association of German Machine Tool Builders (VDW). She gives examples of processes such as milling, turning, drilling, machining, grinding, pressing or sawing. Some systems do several of these tasks at the same time. Parts of a machine tool are mainly used to make other machines.
They then produce car parts, food, textiles, smartphones or toys. Or gearboxes for wind turbines and microchips. “Machine tools are what make industrial production possible,” says Becker. “Without them there is practically nothing.”
One of the largest manufacturers of such machines is Trump. The family company from Ditzingen near Stuttgart builds laser cutting machines, punching machines, bending machines, arc welding cells and marking systems for metal processing.
With a total of 14,500 employees, Trumpf mainly produces in Germany and Europe, but also in the USA and in Mexico, China and Japan. Sales in the 2018/2019 financial year – the key date is June 30th – were around EUR 3.8 billion. The main competitors are DMG Mori based in Bielefeld and providers such as Heller and the Grob Group or the United Grinding Group from Switzerland.
Trumpf is managed by the Leibinger family. Nicola Leibinger-Kammuller is at the helm of the company founded in 1923. Her brother Peter Leibinger is the head of sales, service and research and development. Her husband Mathias Kammuller is responsible for the digital transformation in the group management.
What could be dangerous for the company:
… a virus that has kept the country in suspense for months and can cause great damage to a company in a very short time. The meat company Tonnies is currently experiencing this. Production is closed, the entire region is locked down, and public outrage is immense.
Now the first federal states have banned accommodation for travelers from the region. In the case of Tonnies, the fact that he has been criticized for a long time, especially because of the working and living conditions of his employees, plays into it.
A lot is different at Trumpf: the temperatures in production are not so low, they probably less favor the spread of the virus. The workers are not so close together, they do not live in collective accommodation. Nevertheless, Trumpf’s managers know that Corona could be dangerous in many ways in the company: expensive, bad for the image, dangerous for customer relationships and, above all, for its own workforce.
What Trump does about it:
“We have implemented a whole range of measures to prevent infections and to ensure operations,” says Lars Findorff, Head of Corporate Security at Trumpf. Among other things, shifts were rectified, teams were stabilized, masks and distance rules were ordered, the administration was largely moved to the home office, the canteen was temporarily closed and later switched to emergency operation.
On one point, however, Trump has gone much further than most companies. “We tested our employees ourselves,” says Thomas Brandt, the company doctor.
At least at the headquarters in Ditzingen. Around 4000 employees work there. And the number of those affected remained comparatively small, says Brandt. There were 26 cases.
Trumpf identified most of it through its own tests. “In the end, that saved our production,” says security expert Findorff. Because several cases went without symptoms. “They might never have been discovered, but they could have paralyzed entire departments.”
Not every employee has been tested, says company doctor Brandt. Anyone who had symptoms of the disease or was unsure whether they might have come into contact with those affected could contact the company’s hotline. “And that was used by a few hundred colleagues.”
The company doctor accepted most of the interviews. For a number of callers, the phone call was enough to rule out infection. Brandt says that he has ordered, examined and, if necessary, tested others in his practice on the factory premises.
In some cases, the contact persons who were followed up by a team at Trumpf. They often knew nothing about a possible infection. “From a medical point of view, the test was always the last step,” says Brandt. The bottom line was around 200 so-called PCR tests and 70 rapid antibody tests.
That cost a lot of money. Initially, a test cost around 150 euros. “I had to swallow first,” admits company doctor Brandt. However, there were never any discussions in Trumpf’s crisis team. Especially since the local health authorities were very busy in the initial phase of the pandemic and were sometimes overwhelmed.
The state hotlines were often unavailable, the test kits were scarce. Brandt says: “With this we were able to calm the moods in our company quickly and, above all, avoid panic and protect our colleagues.” For Trumpft that was a competitive advantage.
The machine tool industry is one of the five largest branches in German mechanical engineering. In 2019, around 370 companies with a total of almost 74,000 employees produced systems worth 16.9 billion euros, reports the Association of German Machine Tool Manufacturers (VDW). The majority of these systems are supplied by manufacturers abroad.
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