A challenging year for the European economy lies behind us. It is high time for KSG Group to take stock of the developments of the past twelve months and to look ahead. That’s exactly what CEO Margret Gleiniger and CTO Swen Klöden did in the year-end interview.
Interview: Margret Gleiniger - CEO
Margret Gleiniger’s career at KSG began as early as 1984 as assistant to the Director of Production. Since November 2018, she has held the position of CEO of KSG Group with locations in Gornsdorf and Gars. For years, she has been involved in regional and national associations, where she campaigns for key issues such as training and climate protection.
Energy costs have increased immensely in 2022 and will continue to rise. How has this affected KSG Group so far, and which divisions have been particularly affected?
M. Gleiniger: Just like many industrial companies in Germany, we are also clearly feeling the price increase. Our Gornsdorf site is particularly affected by this, where we have seen a seven-figure increase in energy costs and expect further increases in 2023. For us, in turn, this means continuing to initiate measures to save energy, as we already did last year.
What measures has KSG Group taken in view of the high energy prices?
: As a short-term cost-cutting measure, for example, we shut down our administrative building in Gornsdorf. This means that we have increasingly allowed our employees to work from home offices wherever possible. At the same time, spatial capacities were created in our production buildings to accommodate our colleagues from administration. Since September, this has enabled us to save 7% of electricity consumption and 20% of gas consumption compared with the same months last year – without having to scale back our production. In addition, this year we developed a comprehensive transformation concept that shows how we can save electricity and gas in the medium and long term.
M. Gleiniger: The concept gives us an optimal overview of which adjusting screws need to be turned and which measures need to be implemented in concrete terms in the coming years. We have set ourselves ambitious goals: We want to become independent of gas by the end of 2024 and reduce our CO2 emissions by 40 percent within ten years. For our plant in Gars, Austria, we already no longer need gas thanks to woodchip heating and the targeted use of waste heat from production, and we want to achieve the same for the Gornsdorf site.
The situation on the commodity markets was also explosive this year. How has KSG Group fared in this respect?
M. Gleiniger: In fact, we did quite well in the area of raw materials and supply chains in 2022. Only in the case of basic chemicals was there a tense situation in the fall, but this has eased again to date and fortunately did not result in a production stop. A change of course in purchasing has therefore not been necessary so far, but we have made greater use than usual of second and third-party suppliers and increased our inventories at certain points.
S. Klöden: We are basically very well positioned here as KSG Group and always have a backup up our sleeve if the worst comes to the worst. Apart from this, however, as in the energy sector, we are also affected by a significant cost increase in the high seven-digit range for raw materials, which will keep us busy beyond 2022. Unfortunately, the electricity price brake does not bring any savings compared to 2022, but leads to a further increase in energy costs.
In your experience, what role do technological innovations play in overcoming crises?
S. Klöden: As not only the energy crisis last year but already the Corona pandemic in the past two years has shown, technologies and innovations play a very important role here. The big buzzword is digitization. Because – as we have experienced ourselves – it goes hand in hand with numerous opportunities for communication and interaction. For example, when there were travel restrictions, that didn’t stop us from buying a machine from the Asia region. Although the machine builder could not be here on site, we networked with him via video conference and ultimately successfully commissioned the plant using the remote maintenance options.
Interview: Swen Klöden - CTO
Swen Klöden started in 2018 as plant manager for the Gornsdorf site and has held the position of CTO since January 2020. His main tasks include technical product development and the evaluation of new technologies. Beyond the borders of KSG, he is involved in the Industry and Innovation Committee of the Chemnitz Chamber of Commerce and Industry and as a board member of the ZVEI regional group Saxony, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt.
M. Gleiniger: Within the KSG Group, too, we have made great strides in digitization, both in the administrative area and in production and sales. We see great potential here – not only in managing potential crises, but above all in ensuring efficient, smooth and sustainable processes, which will be used not only internally, but above all in cooperation with our customers.
In fact, crises are often seen as an opportunity to change something or even to let something positive grow out of it. Can you confirm this?
S. Klöden: Indeed, we can. For example, the pandemic has helped to increase the readiness for digitization within our company. In the process, it’s nice to see the ideas that have developed. And new impulses continue to come in about what else could be done. Before Corona, who would have thought how quickly and easily digital meetings and solutions would take hold across the board? In addition, there has been a lot of movement in the workforce. We attribute this, among other things, to the spatial restructuring in the course of the energy-saving measures. As a result of the fact that we are now sitting “mixed”, so to speak, due to the temporary closure of the administration building, barriers have been broken down and we have grown together a bit more.
M. Gleiniger: Last but not least, of course, the current tense situation on the energy and raw materials markets makes us aware of how important measures in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainability are. As one of the few PCB manufacturers to produce exclusively in Europe, we have found that we have already done our homework properly in many areas – be it in recycling management or in the use of production waste heat at the Gars site. Now we want to take the further steps that are still necessary in Gornsdorf as well and see ourselves very well positioned for the future.
Do you have questions about digitalization and energy efficiency at KSG Group? Then feel free to leave a comment! We look forward to your feedback.