Our vision on the upcoming times

With the lockdown in all countries being eased, we will continue to work at our branches in Europe and North and Central America in the coming weeks. The office and shopfloor in China are since mid-March fully operational. In this article, our CEO, Brand van 't Hof, gives an overview of the current status and what we expect in the coming weeks.

What is the status of the restart for Europe and the locations in China, Mexico, and the United States?

Brand van 't Hof: The Coronavirus is a problem with global impact. The measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus differ per country. That is why the steps per branch are different, as well. We work with different scenarios and adapt if necessary. There are still a lot of colleagues working from home, but we increasingly work in the office again.

AWL has developed a technology vision for the coming five years, and then came corona. How do you view this vision in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Brand van 't Hof: We still stand behind this vision. We need to prioritize, focus, and choose our battles and align with customers. Making decisions is essential. We need to focus our resources on the right spots. Modularization, with M-Line, is for us the process of delivering a high-quality product against the best cost. We continue supporting our customers in setting standards in their production equipment.

In every aspect of our work, things will change. Joining techniques is the heart of our company. We have a long history in welding technologies: spot, arc, and in the last decade with laser welding. We know what we speak about in gluing, flow drilling, and other cold forming joints. We are adapting to new material developments.

The industry is moving to digitalization. It will give new ways to improve productivity. Ways we will support and help innovate. If you are looking at our machines, you'll see more and more handling robots and logistic equipment. We are successful in bringing this know-how and competences to other markets, and we will continue to do so.

Are we able to provide our customers with the service they are used from us?

Brand van 't Hof: Yes, our service is carried out as usual. We adapt to the situation locally. If we cannot meet face to face, because of travel restrictions, we use gaming-inspired solutions such as augmented reality to help our customers remotely. Using a mobile phone as a remote camera isn't sufficient in all situations because the user needs to have his hands free or being able to share more technical details. Otherwise, it isn't easy to explain what the user has to do where. This was a great success, commissioning the machine went faster, and we were able to overcome issues with the support of colleagues wherever they are.

Are there any projections as to how badly the shutdown has affected us and what impact it will have on our annual results?

Brand van 't Hof: There is an initial forecast for 2020 and some reflections to 2021. The figures are very sobering. This corona crisis has had a significant impact on us all, also on our employees. Sick leave, however, is still low. Our staff has grown in the last years. Unfortunately, in this challenging time, we need to re-align a lot of things in the company. However, it is still far too early to make a forecast for the entire year.

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