Roland Tanner in the Basler Zeitung: The Covid effects are bearable
Roland Tanner explains that the past effects of the recession are noticeable, but can be coped with. This is not least due to the strategy of a broad base of many customers. The decisive phase, however, is now the third quarter. Only now will it become apparent whether the change in consumer behavior, for example the reduced demand, is sustainable or whether it will pick up again.
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Müller Verpackungen benefits from order backlog at the beginning of the year
The broad base of many industries and customers pays off and helps in the crisis.
The Müller Group has already gone through some difficult phases in its 123-year history. The most threatening was during the Second World War, when the borders were closed and the supply of raw materials caused huge problems. The Corona crisis is currently also causing the only Swiss manufacturer of steel drums to suffer. But the people of Münchensteiner will also overcome this hurdle.
The effects of the recession so far are noticeable, but can be absorbed. This is due not least to the strategy of broad-based support for many customers. «The influence of the different industries could not be more different,» says COO Roland Tanner. The automotive, construction and standard chemicals sectors have suffered, in some cases significantly. The volume of orders decreased continuously from March to August. On the other hand, the company benefited from additional orders from the food, pharmaceutical and specialty chemicals industries. The bottom line was a five to ten percent drop in volume.
Customers react differently
Apparently, customers have reacted differently to the situation. Some would have continued to produce normally and filled their warehouses, while others cut back production and introduced short-time working. Short- and medium-term planning was therefore correspondingly difficult. «Fortunately, we have a broad customer base with 25 large and 100 medium-sized customers, well distributed in the various sectors,» says Roland Tanner. Both in Münchenstein (150 employees) and at the Reiden plant (60 employees), Müller AG Verpackungen has so far been able to do without short-time working. The company is still benefiting from a «very good order situation» at the beginning of the year.
«First of all we are reducing overtime. If necessary, we will reduce the number of individual temporary employees who we recruited from the good times before Corona,» says Roland Tanner. Earnings have suffered, but not dramatically. «We are in the black, but we are vigilant. And we are prepared. The measures we took last year are still having a positive effect,» says the COO.
The decisive phase is now the third quarter. Only then would it become apparent whether the change in consumer behavior, for example the reduced demand for cars, was sustainable or whether it would pick up again.
Stronger in niches
Short- and medium-term changes in corporate policy are currently not imminent. The basic needs of the customers are changing slowly. The customers need years for the development of basic materials and the approval in the appropriate dangerous goods packaging. Following the investment in the new building at Tramstrasse 20 in Münchenstein, which cost almost CHF 20 million, the budget for operational investments for 2020 has been halved. But only for this year.
Trade fairs are missing
Roland Tanner believes that the Federal Councillors have «shown very good crisis management and have guided Switzerland optimally through the difficult phase». The Swiss middle course with its ability to make compromises with various stakeholders has proved its worth, he says. With regard to the National Bank, Müller AG Verpackungen - with an export quota of 40 percent - considers stable euro and dollar exchange rates important. What is missing are the trade fairs, the personal contacts to customers and suppliers. Roland Tanner would like to have these back as soon as possible.
All in all, he is optimistic about the future. The German government has classified the two plants in Münchenstein and Reiden as being of systemic importance for the national supply. This means that Müller AG Verpackungen, as the only barrel manufacturer in Switzerland, must ensure the basic supply of industrial packaging for raw materials. If the federal government had to impose drastic measures due to events such as the Corona crisis, Müller AG Verpackungen would be protected by the federal government and could continue to produce.
The family business is now in its fifth generation. Walter Müller chairs the board of directors. In addition to Müller AG Verpackungen, the Müller Group also includes Müller AG Intralogistics and Müller AG Cleaning Solutions based in Münchenstein, Müller AG Plastics, Muttenz, and Müller GmbH in Rheinfelden, Germany. 410 employees in the group generate annual sales of 120 million Swiss francs, of which Müller AG Verpackungen accounts for just over half.
Picture rights: © Müller Group (MVM Pack-Holding AG), Münchenstein, Switzerland