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|Interview: CEO Arno Gaertner about the KARL MAYER Group's position during the Corona pandemic and for the future|
Immune to crises with innovations
The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown the world off course and has also caused great uncertainty and many challenges for companies in the textile industry. In these difficult times, the KARL MAYER Group has once again provided reliable support to its customers in the warp knitting, flat knitting, technical textiles and warp preparation sectors. It quickly created the necessary organizational and IT conditions for this situation. But how is the global player itself coping with the crisis period, and how is business currently developing? Ulrike Schlenker from "Kettenwirk-Praxis" asked Arno Gärtner, CEO of the KARL MAYER Group.
The Corona pandemic has also left its mark on the economy worldwide. What is the current business situation of your company?
Arno Gaertner: The Corona pandemic, like most crises, led to a reduction in consumption and, thus, to a decline in capacity utilization by our customers. As a result, we recorded sharp declines in order intake in all our business areas. However, demand began to recover in the middle of last year. The upward trend began in China and Turkey and led to a significant increase in orders, particularly from the 4th quarter of 2020. In early 2021, customers in our other global markets also began to invest and look positively to the future. Even in the apparel sector, which was hardest hit by the crisis, consumer sentiment increased, thus improving the business situation of our customers and of our company. In particular, new products that we placed on the market, such as the TM 3 and the HKS 3-M ON in the warp knitting machine sector, helped and continue to help us achieve full order books. The new models achieved record order intake values. This shows that even in a difficult business environment, the market rewards innovation.
How have you handled the challenges of the Corona pandemic so far?
Arno Gaertner: Shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, we mobilized all our forces to ensure support for our customers even under the difficult conditions of the crisis. In particular, the travel and contact restrictions were and still are a challenge. Thanks to our IT infrastructure, we were quickly able to use the possibilities of online communication to support our customers. The changeover went quickly and professionally, both in terms of service and sales. Of course, our international setup with our own subsidiaries in the main markets and worldwide representatives also helped here.
Just as important to us as supporting our customers was protecting the health of our employees. At each of our sites, we immediately implemented all regionally applicable legal measures and were thus able to act at all times. We were able to produce and pursue our business activities without major disruptions throughout the pandemic.
What milestones do you have in view this year? What challenges do you have ahead of you?
Arno Gaertner: Our top priority is to process the large number of orders in perfect quality and on schedule despite the corona-related difficulties in the supply chain. Material procurement in particular is problematic with high costs and low availability, and a lack of transport capacity is also a major challenge at present.
As in 2020, we are continuing to drive forward our innovation topics this year, too. An important milestone here was the successful ITMA ASIA + CITME just behind us. Against the backdrop of Corona, the leading trade fair was a rather national event, as expected. Due to a Corona outbreak in Guangdong Province, fewer visitors from this important customer region came than expected, but we are still very satisfied with the quality of the discussions and the interest in our exhibits. In Shanghai, we showcased new product developments as well as digital pioneer solutions for machines and technical services that make our customers faster, more self-sufficient and more flexible. Since June 18, we have also been presenting our innovations to our customers in the other markets at a hybrid trade show with a tour of our virtual exhibition stand.
Supporting our customers is another issue on which we focus our energies. The latest innovation is a digital generation after-sales system that combines our diverse support offerings and digital solutions to enable our customers to achieve maximum competitiveness.
We are also continuing our investments in the expansion of our group of companies without any restrictions. Following the relocation of our STOLL site from New York to KARL MAYER North America in Greensboro, a state-of-the-art customer and development center is currently being built here. The new building will provide us with capacity and space for creating partnerships and for machine presentations. This will provide us with a strong location to optimally serve our customers in the Western Hemisphere in all our business areas. I look forward to the opening of the new center in Greensboro in the middle of this year.