Machinery sales barely faltered throughout the difficult period of the coronavirus crisis, according to Michael Wittmann.
"We felt the impact of the pandemic particularly in the second half of last year, but at the same time, it created new opportunities. Not only did we learn to cope in a difficult situation, but we saw a truly dramatic increase in slower moving segments, such as garden furniture. People had to stay at home and therefore started doing more around the house. In the end, in terms of business figures the impact has been small," said Wittmann, CEO of Vienna, Austria-based Wittmann Group.
Speaking at the company's Fakuma 2021 press event on Oct. 7, he said the group was on track to record between 360 million ($417 million) and 380 million euros ($440 million) in sales this year — up 21 percent from the previous year. However, the actual figure will be largely determined by the availability of materials and components, he added.
"Given a normal parts situation, we could be looking at well above 400 million euros. But it depends on how that situation develops and what happens with the materials shortages the market is experiencing right now."
One thing is certain: At the moment, all the markets, in all regions, are moving in a single direction, and that direction is up. Order levels broke all records for the group in the first quarter of 2021 and have remained high throughout the year, even in the months of August and September. As a result, the company will be entering 2022 with a healthy backlog that will cushion the effects of the slowdown that must, inevitably, come.
"Of course, the shortage situation will cause a cooling off to normal, or even less than normal levels," Wittmann said. "But due to this backlog, we will not feel an effect before the first quarter or even the middle of 2022."
The machinery maker, which has a workforce of 2,240, has continued to invest over the past year, both in the expansion of existing production capacity and in the construction of new facilities. Among others, the group is adding a third facility in Dongguan, China, to strengthen the existing sales and service activities in Southern China; the subsidiary in Romania moved into new headquarters in Bucharest, while a second facility is under construction in Oradea; and Wittmann Battenfeld Bulgaria, which had moved to new premises in Plovdiv, the second-largest town in the country, started construction on new office space, a showroom and warehouse.
Extensive renovations are also being carried out on the two production facilities in Vienna. At the production area in Kottingbrunn, also in Austria, some 3,000 square meters of additional space is being added, which will house a fully automatic pallet racking system with around 1,500 pallet bays, a separate storage and order picking area, a new electrical workshop and an assembly area for vertical and large machines. Construction commenced in May, with completion planned in the fourth quarter of 2022.