“All key sectors and regions that are relevant for the Plansee Group helped achieve the positive sales trend” said members of the Plansee Group’s Executive Board Bernhard Schretter and Karlheinz Wex during the annual results press conference in Reutte, Austria. Important drivers included the European export industry in the automotive, mechanical engineering and aircraft construction sectors, the oil and gas industry in the USA, as well as medical technology and consumer electronics. Broken down by region, 52 percent of sales were achieved in Europe and 24 percent in both America and Asia.
The Plansee Group held its ground well in the global market environment, generating record sales volumes and gaining market share. “Competition has grown fiercer, primarily from China. Additionally, raw materials prices have risen, and there is growing pressure on sales prices. Nonetheless, we successfully maintained or expanded our position as a preferred partner for our customers through smart utilization of our global manufacturing network,” Bernhard Schretter explained.
Global expansion continued
In the past fiscal year, the Plansee Group invested 300 million euros in safeguarding future success. Highlights included the acquisition of German tool manufacturer Komet and the establishment of the materials platform Matmatch. Production was expanded in Balzheim and Lechbruck (Germany), Jyväskylä (Finland), Mysore (India) and Reutte (Austria). In Towanda, Pennsylvania (USA), GTP invested heavily in the production of tungsten. The Group also acquired additional shareholdings in Chilean firm Molymet as well as in Ceratizit’s subsidiaries. In Kempten, Germany, Ceratizit acquired 50,000 square meters (540,000 square feet) of real property for the construction of a new logistics center. Karlheinz Wex emphasized that, with a strong 57-percent equity ratio, the Plansee Group was excellently positioned for additional organic and strategic development steps.
New product share of 30 percent
As in previous years, the Plansee Group in the past fiscal year again invested 5 percent of sales (66 million euros) in the development of new products and process improvements. New products (products less than 5 years old) account for 30 percent of sales. “In new product and process development, the Plansee Group is able to fully capitalize on its strengths in terms of flexibility and experience,” said Bernhard Schretter. This includes development projects with a multi-year time horizon for the semiconductor industry as much as it does new products for the consumer electronics and tool industries that took only a few months to launch.
Systematic use of digitization tools
With numerous initiatives and projects, the Plansee Group last year set the course for the systematic use of digitization tools to make processes and procedures simpler, faster and better. “We consider digitization a tremendous opportunity to become even more customer-focused and expand our edge over the competition,” Karlheinz Wex commented. In September 2017, for example, the materials platform Matmatch came online. Matmatch assists materials experts worldwide with locating, rating and procuring the materials best suited for their project. Wex indicated that the company would pursue additional activities and investments of this sort.
Skilled labor shortage
In view of the lack of skilled labor at many sites of the Group, Schretter sees decisive success factors in investing even more in the training of existing employees and further automating labor-intensive manufacturing steps and processes. In Breitenwang / Reutte, Plansee has increased apprenticeships from 35 to 42 positions annually.
The industry portfolio
The industry portfolio of the Plansee Group developed positively over the last year. The Group companies reported sales of 2.4 billion euros in the 2017/18 fiscal year. Production revenue in Breitenwang/Reutte was 630 million euros.
Worldwide, the Group companies had 12,617 employees on the reporting date of 2/28/2018. Austria employed a staff of 2,369 in the past fiscal year – 94 more than in the year before, and the highest number ever. In the Außerfern/Allgäu region, the Plansee Group’s 3,500 employees make the company by far one of the largest employers in the area.
The Plansee Group started the new fiscal year on a favorable note. Demand in the first quarter slightly surpassed previous year’s figures. Schretter and Wex expect the business environment to remain stable for the current fiscal year, subject to general economic and political conditions, which of course are difficult to predict. While the trade barriers and restrictions on imports imposed by the USA have not yet directly impacted the business of the Plansee Group, indirect consequences remain a possibility in the medium term. The Executive Board also sees signs of overheating in some sectors. The supply of ore concentrates from Western tungsten mines remains critical due to capacity bottlenecks. One of the challenges Karlheinz Wex described is how to incorporate recent increases of raw materials prices for molybdenum and tungsten in the company’s product pricing structure, given the competitive environment especially from China.
Investments totaling 190 million euros are planned for the current fiscal year, including the new Ceratizit manufacturing plant in Breitenwang, the construction of the new logistics center in Kempten, and the expansion of the Plansee plant in Shanghai.
About the Plansee Group
With its divisions Plansee and Global Tungsten & Powders (both 100 percent ownership), the joint venture Ceratizit (50 percent) and its holding in Molymet (20.9 percent), the Plansee Group is one of the world’s leading industrial groups. The Plansee Group specializes in molybdenum and tungsten materials, covering the entire value-added chain – from the ore concentrate to customized components. The Plansee Group’s portfolio includes more than 50,000 different products and tools, which are used in the production of everyday high-tech devices such as smartphones or LEDs as well as sustainable and efficient solutions related to mobility, energy supply and industrial manufacturing. In 2017/18 fiscal year, the Plansee Group, with its 7,611 employees, achieved consolidated sales of 1.3 billion euros. The fiscal year closes on the last day of February.