How significant is the topic of sustainability, which as a result of lightweight design is quasi an innate part of your business, in internal day-to-day operations?
This is a thematic area in which customers and investors are also showing growing interest ...
Heiko Gabbert: We recently started to regularly evaluate and optimise our investments with respect to the related consumption of energy and resources and environmental impact. Energy recovery, efficient production and the optimised use of media that are essential to production are just some of the topics within this context. Primarily, we have not had a focus on short-term savings, but rather have been consciously searching for sustainability, although an economic advantage must also always exist. We see the complete production process as a chain and constantly scrutinise its individual links such as raw materials, energy, water and compressed air consumption from a holistic perspective. Measurement values are registered and analysed in targeted fashion and proven solutions are rolled out on a full-coverage basis. In this way, we endeavour to achieve continual improvement.
These initiatives add up to our contribution to climate protection. In 2020 we constantly measured our CO2 emissions in Scope 1 and Scope 2 pursuant to the Carbon Disclosure Project for the first time. In the coming years, we aim to continue to successively reduce our CO2 footprint. Our customers, who attach value to sustainable production, are increasingly demanding that we implement this improvement along with corresponding audits such as those regarding CO2 emissions. We are currently planning a major project for regenerative energy for 2021 and 2022 in the course of which photovoltaic systems are to be installed on the roofs of several plants. The concepts for this undertaking are on the verge of realisation.
While we are on the topic of plants, what does your international footprint look like in connection with your new works in South Africa and your production facilities in China and the UK?
Markus Huemer: Last year, we closed four plants, but further extended our production footprint, as overall our follow the customer strategy has proven effective. In China, we can point to good performance, which is largely unaffected by corona, and are continually expanding our production capacities and what is a generally complex, technological portfolio. In spite of the crisis, sales revenues increased by 5.5 per cent during last year although they remained at a low level. As far as the UK is concerned, where we have made major investments in recent years, following a problematic start-up and the uncertainty created by Brexit, we are currently witnessing growing demand, which in view of the trend towards local value added is likely to increase still further. To this extent, Brexit may even have a positive impact upon our business.
Heiko Gabbert: Despite corona, the construction of our new plant in South Africa is proceeding according to plan. Clearly, due to the pandemic the building phase constituted something of a challenge, but we were nonetheless able to avoid sizeable delays. From the summer of 2021, the plant will start to manufacture parts for the volume car model of a European premium-class manufacturer, which will then be sold in the global market. In general, it can also be said that the plant closures and production transfers of the past 18 months have ensured optimum use of capacity at the remaining locations. Indeed, the positive effects have already been tangible since the beginning of the year.