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Interview with Tobias Keller: "Habits were inevitably broken"
17 December 2020
IN THIS interview, Tobias Keller, CEO of leading manufacturer of pressure transducers and transmitters, Keller, looks back on the challenges of 2020.
How was your company affected by the Covid-19 pandemic overall and how did your company react?
Tobias Keller: We deliver prominently to the aircraft, vehicle and oil and gas industries. In other words, industries that suffered substantial slumps, not least due to the coronavirus crisis, which severely throttled demand for our pressure measurement products. Until now, KELLER has fortunately been able to avoid dismissals for economic reasons; government assisted shortened working hours have not yet been applied for either. Through cross-departmental assignments, a selective surplus of personnel resources could be avoided.
What is the economic impact of the current situation on your company? Can you provide information on the development of sales volume and incoming orders compared to the previous year?
T.K: As of the end of September 2020, we have a 15 percent decline in sales and around 20 percent decline in orders compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, there is hope of ending the 2020 financial year in the black.
What measures have you implemented within your company to protect the health of your employees?
T.K: According to the requirements of the Governmental Health Department, BAG, from mid-March 2020 we had to ensure that employees within the risk group no longer came to work. This affected around 400 people in our company. In most cases working form home was possible and we could provide work from home for people from production.
Various information letters were sent to all our employees on how we should behave in order to protect ourselves and to counteract the spread of the virus. Meetings and business trips were temporarily stopped, customer and supplier visits were reduced to a minimum. Cleaning of workplaces, door handles, lift buttons and handrails was increased. Disinfectant dispensers were placed at all entrances and in toilets, plexiglass panes were erected in critical areas. In addition, new break rooms have been created in which social distancing can be guaranteed.
Working from home is possible in part. Practically not in production. What measures have you implemented in production?
T.K: The distances between the individual workstations were checked and, if necessary, adjusted according to the recommended guidelines of the BAG. As far as the space allowed, we moved workstations/jobs. We organised a home delivery service for the risk group from production, delivering the work to the respective employees and picking it up again on completion. On request, we also handed out protective masks.
How have your employees reacted to the measures?
T.K: Overall, our measures have been met with great understanding. During this time, we perceived our employees as being very calm, relaxed and reflective.
From your company's point of view, what is necessary in order to survive the pandemic as well as possible?
T.K: In order to prevent staff shortages as a result of the pandemic, we are doing everything we can to minimise the risk of infection in the company. We are ensuring that the processes in our company continue running smoothly and are using the time to question and optimise the internal and external processes. We are single-mindedly driving forward cross-company digitisation. We deliberately keep marketing activities high and are even expanding them. Despite the seemingly adverse circumstances, we are maintaining a positive and confident attitude in order to make the most of this situation.
The Covid-19 situation is an exceptional situation. What positive insights did you draw from the situation?
T.K: Habits were inevitably broken; we were all thrown back on ourselves. This created space to become more deeply aware of what is important to us, what our fundamental values are, what is worth getting up for in the morning and what we really want to stand up for.
What are your expectations of politics and society in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic?
T.K: That we all keep a clear head, that we are aware of the proportionality and the longer-term consequences of the measures put in place for the entire population. That we not only protect those who could potentially become seriously ill, but also support those deprived of their livelihood; not least in order to counteract rising social tensions. That no media dictatorship is taking place by banishing reflected, scientifically based non-mainstream views, that the freedom of opinion and speech is maintained. That we learn to respect and pay attention to different views and perspectives, so that we can all emerge from this crisis stronger and with new insights. Ultimately, we are all in the same boat.