Global electric motor and fan manufacturer Ziehl-Abegg has reported sales of €639 million (AU$995 million) in 2020 – an increase of around 1 per cent over 2019 – and is expecting continued growth in 2021.
“The year 2020 was like a rollercoaster ride,” says Ziehl-Abegg CEO Peter Fenkl, “alternating suddenly and rapidly between border closures, material supplies being cut off, falling sales and rising order books.”
COVID-19 regulations presented significant obstacles to production and sales. This was compounded by a global shortage of components. And, as Fenkl points out, they live with the threat of further disruptions.
“No one knows if we’ll see the beginning of another downward trend next week,” he says.
Although Fenkl acknowledges the challenges for the employees, and for the company overall because of its high level of vertical manufacturing, he says Ziehl-Abegg had an advantage.
“During the crisis, we started up a number of major construction projects worldwide and invested in machinery,” says Fenkl. “So Ziehl-Abegg is now able to absorb the growth.”
According to Fenkl, the company’s fast reaction to the pandemic also helped.
“We were one of the first German companies to issue a warning about travel to and from China and shortly afterwards issued the same message for Italy,” he says.
The district of Hohenlohe, where the three German production plants and the company headquarters are located, was one of the three German COVID-19 hotspots in the first wave of the pandemic, due to a number of public events that accelerated the spread of the virus.
Ziehl-Abegg was forced to abandon its original sales plans for 2020. Strong early sales in elevator drive technology failed to compensate for a slump in ventilation systems. Fenkl says that these only started to catch up in the fourth quarter, enabling Ziehl-Abegg to ultimately post slight growth in annual sales.
“This is thanks to the tireless efforts of our colleagues who have done a really good job during the pandemic in Germany and worldwide,” he says.
The number of employees remained constant in 2020: Ziehl-Abegg employs 2,400 people in Germany, and 4,300 globally. Now the company is hiring again.
“At present, we are constantly searching for employees to join us and ‘lend a hand’ in the production plants at our three locations in Germany,” says Fenkl.
Photo: Ahmed Hamdi Hamodi works on an EC fan at Ziehl-Abegg’s Kupferzell plant in Northern Baden-Württemberg.