This article includes testimonies of directors of German companies with factories based in France: Elizabeth Ducottet (Thuasne CEO), Christelle Garier-Reboul (B Braun France CEO), Boris Lombard (KSB France CEO), during BIG 2020 event, organized by Bpifrance on the 1st of October 2020.
The unprecedented crisis that we are living encourages industrials to innovate in order to save their activities. The great issues of our times, digitalization, and ecological transition, that are the two main axes of the European economic recovery plan, transcends all of their activities.
How are industries that constitute our socioeconomical environment facing those challenges and finding the source of their resilience and agility?
Supply Chain and Production means agility
Critical raw materials, coming from China or India for example, were causes of supply chain interruption for certain companies who were too dependent on them. On the contrary, Elizabeth Ducottet ensures that her company Thuasne has been able to continue to produce medical devices thanks to the European origin of their source material.
The absolute necessity to relocate essential supplies appears has a key factor to ensure not only the survival of production chains but also France industrial independency. It is paramount to consider relocation of production with the purpose of complete value creation. The production cost of a component might not be as competitive as elsewhere in the world, but the flexibility of production means in France can allow a personalization of products that is highly valuable for consumers.
Beyond this observation, pre-existing the crisis, but reinforced by it, companies have come to realize with enthusiasm the agility they are capable of regarding their production process. Thuasne has created a face mask production process, made from the material used to make support stockings, in only six weeks. Where it would have needed months in a normal situation. The business is obviously sustainable: the company has filed a patent on its creation and will continue its production.
Adaptability is a human capacity that every citizen has proven to be capable of during those last months. What we will remember of this crisis, is that what seems impossible has been realized. The massive teleworking has proven its efficiency and productivity has been ensured despite all difficulties.
Air Liquide has benefited from the technical contributions of PSA, Valeo and Schneider to allow the production of ten thousand ventilators in only fifty days. Technical workers of the different companies have been volunteering. The production line at Air Liquide has been adapted to support the new volumes of production and the supply of critical material has been accelerated thanks to the intervention of French state and adjacent countries. What can be retained of this experience is the easiness with which those industrials have been collaborating efficiently, in a record time, when the production of useful objects is at stake. It is a meaningful learning for those companies.
Companies directors agree on the fact that industry would benefit from a more transversal agility of competences. The specific technical competences that are present in certain industries in crisis might benefit to other industries, that are willing to attract talents. B.Braun president affirms her willingness to bring in engineers from aeronautical world into the health sector.
That is why, more than ever, the “raison d’être” of a company should be reasserted with strength. It is the driving force for the engagement of collaborators and the cement that builds the group. Initiatives have been brought by collaborators, transformed into real intrapreneurs, at all levels of their companies.
The role of the managers is to continue to foster this state of mind, by accompanying their employees and by applying a bottom-up approach of management.
In this period of uncertainty, the adaptability of production means, supply chain and the transversality of competences are the leverages for industrial agility.