- Additive Manufacturing
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The OECHSLER Group, a leading polymer technology group with a global presence and headquarters in Ansbach/Middle Franconia, has satisfactorily concluded the 2021 financial year, which was strongly impacted by the ongoing Covid19-pandemic and by rapidly rising raw material prices. The Franconian medium-sized company made further significant progress in expanding additive manufacturing as a second production technology alongside precision polymer injection molding. With Specialized, among others, OECHSLER gained further renowned customers in the growing product segment in addition to the existing partnership with a leading sporting goods manufacturer. Group sales fell slightly by 2.4 percent to 369 (2020: 378) million euros due to the pandemic-related, eight-week lockdown in Southeast Asia resulting in a decline in the Sporting Goods business.
Despite a market environment that is characterized by supra-regional crises, the management again sees significant growth opportunities for OECHSLER as a market-driven developer and manufacturer of technologically complex assemblies in addition to the development of new product and customer segments. Due to the growing importance of market segments such as autonomous driving and the acquisition of new projects, the company expects increasing sales in 2022 and achieving two-figure growth rates again as early as 2023. In the field of autonomous driving, OECHSLER recently received a development order for the actuator technology of retractable passenger car steering wheels, which are to be used for Level 4.
Automotive sales show double-digit growth despite global crises
The Group operates in the Automotive, Sporting Goods, and Innovative Solutions divisions at three German and seven production sites worldwide. In the past year, its largest segment Automotive developed best with a sales increase of 10 percent to 257 million euros. Here, OECHSLER primarily produces electronic parking brakes (EPB) and assistance systems for autonomous driving. The double-digit growth is the result of a dynamic sales increase in the first half of the year. Positive growth impetus was also provided by a new major order from a leading automotive supplier for the series production of components using metal injection molding. To implement metal injection molding, OECHSLER is thus expanding its material portfolio beyond polymers and ceramics. The second half of the year did not unfold as successful as expected due to the downturn in demand in the automotive industry. In particular, the shortage of semiconductors and raw materials provided major challenges for the industry in generally and thus also for OECHSLER.
OECHSLER also achieved growth in the Innovative Solutions business unit. The division's sales increased by 14 percent to 41 million euros. The increasing demand for components used in solar systems is driving this positive development. Sales for innovative solutions no longer include revenues from the Sporting Goods business. These have been reported separately since 2021.
Lockdown in Southeast Asia impacts Sporting Goods business unit
Sales of the Sporting Goods business unit declined by 35 percent to 71 million euros compared to 2020. The most significant reason for the decrease was the Covid-related lockdown in Southeast Asia in the third quarter, as a result of which OECHSLER had to close its production site in Long An (Vietnam) for two months. New and successful product partnerships in 3D printing, for instance the development and series production of backpads for a new backpack model with a leading outdoor specialist and the development and series production of a new premium saddle with the bicycle manufacturer Specialized, were not able to compensate the consequences of the temporary plant closure in the reporting year.
OECHSLER invests massively in the expansion of additive manufacturing
Overall, the importance of additive manufacturing within the OECHSLER Group has steadily increased in recent years. The share of the product portfolio in group sales continues to be over 10 percent. OECHSLER is also investing massively in the expansion of the associated production capacities: The Ansbach-Brodswinden and Taicang (China) sites will be expanded over the course of the year with eight-figure investments.
For 2022, OECHSLER is planning total investments of around 55 million euros, of which the company has already invested 20 million euros in the first quarter- more than in the entire reporting year 2021 already. Despite overlapping global political and macroeconomic crises, the company is thus significantly expanding its investment activities compared to the previous year. With a very solid equity ratio of 60 percent, the total investment volume in 2021 amounted to just under 20 (2020: 16) million euros, of which 13 (2020: 11) million euros were invested in Germany.
OECHSLER invests in projects to reduce its CO2 emissions
One major aspect of the investments made were projects to reduce the company's CO2 emissions. As far as possible, OECHSLER now only purchases electricity from renewable sources at all sites. Whereever this is not possible - as at the sites in China, Vietnam, and Mexico - the company has invested in the construction of photovoltaic systems. The pioneer in OECHSLER's sustainability initiative (in Germany) is the Weißenburg site. There, the medium-sized company will invest approximately one and a half million euros in its solar plant.
The construction is a result of a pilot project carried out in collaboration with Bosch Climate Solutions (BCS). In 2022, global Scope 3 emissions will be recorded in this context: In addition to the company's own emissions (Scope 1), they also include CO2 emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2) and emissions in the supply chain.
Dr. Claudius M. Kozlik, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OECHSLER AG, emphasized at the presentation of the annual results: "The level of CO2 emissions has become a key performance indicator for OECHSLER. The emissions per manufactured component play an increasingly decisive role in the competition for large orders. In addition to our social responsibility, the reduction of greenhouse gases is thus becoming increasingly important for OECHSLER's business success. We are satisfied with the course of our financial year 2021 in view of the numerous global crises. Thanks to our diversified customer portfolio as well as our broad geographic presence in Europe, Asia and the North American Free Trade Area USMCA, our sales remained stable in 2021. As early as 2022, we expect Group sales to rise again and see considerable growth opportunities in the medium term - especially due to promising new projects in 3D printing."
OECHSLER sees relevant growth opportunities in the healthcare market in the future. In addition to building up specialized staff, the company has decided to expand its healthcare capacities at the Ansbach site in 2021. In Ansbach, new clean room capacities of 2,500 m² of ISO classes 7 and 8 will be built in the coming years, enabling OECHSLER to meet the highest requirements in the development and production of medical products in the future.
Rising energy and raw material costs cause strain
The sharp rise in energy and raw material costs put a strain on OECHSLER in thefinancial year 2021, and this trend is still continuing: the injection molding specialist required 21 gigawatt hours of electricity for domestic production in 2021. The increase in electricity prices has a corresponding negative impact on OECHSLER's profitability.
Michael Meyer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of OECHSLER AG, said: "OECHSLER is currently facing major challenges in its global markets. Raw material and energy costs have exploded recentlyin the context of the Ukraine war as well as the Covid-pandemic. At the same time, global automotive production decreased significantly since 2019 and is undergoing a technological change. In view of these challenging conditions, it is essential to constantly optimize our own cost base while at the same time living up to our social and corporate responsibilities. This in mind, our headcount declined moderately last year. We deliberately relied exclusively on natural fluctuation and amicable solutions and will continue to do so in the future as part of a transformation process. By transformation, we mean that we are also looking for employees in many areas or prefer to train them internally - for example in development, sales and purchasing."
With OECHSLER AG, the OECHSLER Group is one of the 15 largest employers in the manufacturing industry in Middle Franconia. On an annual average, 2,965 people were employed at OECHSLER, which is 35 less than in the previous year. Of these, around 1,360, including more than 70 trainees (previous year: 80), were employed at the OECHSLER sites in Ansbach, Weißenburg (OECHSLER AG) and Ansbach-Brodswinden (OECHSLER Motion GmbH).
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