CEO Michael Niebuhr„Loosening lockdown should be done in responsibility way!“
Dipl.-Ing. Michael Niebuhr (30) has worked in his parents‘ company since completing his mechanical engineering studies at the University of Magdeburg. In the meantime, together with his father Maik Niebuhr, he is responsible for the management of Niebuhr Stahlglastechnik in Gardelegen.
„Given our location in an economically underdeveloped area with moderate broadband roll-out, I can‘t let employees work from home if they need to download large amounts of planning data. About 20 of our 85 employees work from home – mostly project managers and administrative staff. We have also applied for short-time work for these employees.
The rapid digitalization is one positive side-effect of the crisis; these new media would not have been so readily accepted in the construction industry before this. I used to have three to four video conferences and about 50 teleconferences a year, but now I have three to four video conferences and about two teleconferences a day. Also, some workflows, such as planning checks, are currently proceeding faster. In production, on the other hand, we need about 20 - 30 per cent more time because of the hygiene regulations.
External parties no longer have access to the company. The workplaces are partly separated with Plexiglas or other structural arrangements. We have hired a second cleaner to implement the hygiene approach; for example, our door handles are disinfected every 3 - 4 hours. We do not even have any direct contact with our own fitters. We deposit the material on pallets in the lobby for them every Friday. So that we could provide all fitters and our stationary employees with sufficient protective equipment, we purchased a sewing machine and made our own.
There are no problems with suppliers, 95% of the material is delivered and we can compensate for the rest. Since the start of the corona crisis, production has been entirely run in shifts, each of which has no contact with the other. Each production employee has approx. 30 m² production area at their disposal. Our work on the construction sites has been reduced to about 25%, with only one site being closed due to infection; all other closures were merely precautionary measures. It will be interesting to see what consequences this will have on the deadlines set and how that will work out in concrete contractual terms [...]. I‘m sure the lawsuits will pile up in court due to deadlines and issues with delays.
No orders have been cancelled yet, although we work exclusively for public sector clients where cancellations are less straightforward. There is also no noticeable decline in new orders, although the tenders for which we are currently winning contracts were all published before the corona crisis. But the awarding procedure has been on hold or more restricted for a couple of weeks, so I imagine a gap will open up in about three months and then we will receive orders at short notice, which will then have to be processed at short notice. Such a situation can have a negative impact on prices.
In theory, we are at full capacity for 2020. Whether this will be the case in practice depends on whether money and the supply of materials flow smoothly. If there are difficulties with payments and cashflow does not allow us to cover the cost of materials in advance, won‘t be of any help. Of course, we are also in discussion with the authorities as to what emergency support might be available for us.
We have not yet sorted out further training; we are taking part in webinars that offer legal advice on German Construction Contract Procedures (VOB). When it comes to product training, we always want to be able to hold the product in our hands, and we will only accept digital offers if there is really no other way.
Not much can be said about the prospects for next year; they are in the hands of politicians. For our contractors, I can say that with the way things are going now, we can keep going a little bit longer. The be-all and end-all is cash flow; we must be able to issue invoices and they must be paid reliably. Our industry will increasingly start to feel the consequences once this is over and the social problems have been solved.“
This Statement was given on 20.5. 2020.