6 months Corona: Webasto boss looks back

The news of the corona outbreak in his company reached Holger Engelmann at home by email. Suddenly he was "in the middle of the corona pandemic". His positive conclusion on crisis management

Half a year ago, the whole of Germany looked at Stockdorf near Munich: There, at the company headquarters of the automotive supplier Webasto, there were the first known corona cases in Germany. A Chinese employee brought the virus on a business trip. The news of her positive test reached company boss Holger Engelmann at home on Monday morning, as he told the German press agency.

“On Monday evening we had the first German employee who tested positive, and on Tuesday there were three more. That happened very quickly, that we were in the middle of the corona pandemic. ”But Engelmann now draws a positive conclusion from the crisis management.

Measures at Webasto as a template for containment

“I think we did a hell of a lot right. How we acted back then is, from today's perspective, a blueprint of how to break chains of infection, ”says Engelmann. “We reacted quickly and transparently, tested quickly and introduced hygiene measures. I think that's how you can get a grip on flare-ups. But of course you always need a bit of luck. "

Two days after the first case became known on January 27, Webasto closed its headquarters for two weeks. Together with the government agencies, it was possible to capture the outbreak. "The authorities were able to exercise a kind of test case on us, which turned out well," says Engelmann in retrospect. "Maybe that gave us a small head start in Germany before the real wave started."

Quick and consistent action is required

“Speed ​​was and is extremely important,” summarizes the manager his experience. You have to put together lists immediately, test them immediately and get a result quickly. This is the only way to catch up with the virus. “We certainly helped the authorities in the initial phase because we made our staff available to telephone the employees afterwards.” Overall, he rates the cooperation with the authorities as “very good” from today's perspective. One has learned together.

Webasto itself has already made use of this experience. "We still had cases in different locations: USA, Mexico, also Europe," says Engelmann. But they didn't have to close there. "It was enough to react quickly and consistently to prevent further spread."

No noticeable damage to image

According to Engelmann, Webasto coped well with the outbreak at its headquarters in Stockdorf. Economically, it did not have a major impact. And also a possible damage to the company's reputation bypassed the company. "We were worried that we would be the ones who brought Corona to Germany," he recalls. But it has succeeded in being seen as a company that handles the challenge responsibly.

Nevertheless, Webasto is also suffering from the corona pandemic. “In economic terms, we have felt massively in recent months that our customers have stopped their production,” says Engelmann. In the meantime, it is starting again from region to region, but a drop in sales of two to four months remains. That is no longer catching up, even on an annual basis. "In the long term, we will have lower volumes in global vehicle production over the next four or five years," says Engelmann. "That makes necessary investments in new areas such as electromobility more difficult."

Webasto boss remains optimistic

Nevertheless, the manager is convinced: “We will get through this situation well. It has even strengthened the cohesion in the company. ”Webasto is also financially positioned in such a way that the crisis can be overcome.

Among other things, Webasto manufactures roof and heating systems for the automotive industry. The company also relies on batteries and charging systems for electromobility. The supplier has around 13,000 employees worldwide.