Greater cooperation and collaboration between German mold manufacturers was advocated on November 12, during the webinar promoted by ISTMA Europe and organized jointly by the two industry associations in Germany - VDMA and VDWF. The session, part of the ISTMA Europe Meeting program, was attended by more than sixty professionals in the sector, from different parts of the globe (Portugal, Italy, England, Czech Republic, Turkey, Swiss Estonia, Finland, France , but also Japan and South Africa), intended to reflect the current situation of the mold industry in Germany.

'Concern', was the dominant focus of the speakers who, in addition to greater cooperation between all, also defended the need to create more protective legislation, especially regarding the payment conditions of large companies (especially in the automotive, which everyone admitted to be highly dependent on) which, say German manufacturers, create huge inequalities and are even calling into question the continuity of smaller producers.

Moderated by Richard Pergler, the webinar featured three representatives from VDMA: Marco Schülken (Schülken Form), Wolfgang Boos (WBA Werkzeugbau Academie) and Stefan Zecha (Zecha Artmetall Werkzeugfabrikation); and three others from VDWF: Axel Wittig (WEBO), Anna Tschacha (Deckerform) and Jens Buchert (Walter Formen und Kokillenbau).

Expressing some "pessimism about the future", the first speaker, Marco Schülken, started by framing the current situation of the mold industry, remembering that the difficulties had been felt since the second half of 2019, mainly due to the impasse of the automotive industry in defining the 'car of the future' model. The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation to such an extent that, he stressed, there have already been companies that "reduced staff numbers" and that "look to the future with pessimism".

He defended the need to work together and to create a set of rules that allow all manufacturers to operate "more fairly, generating more success, ensuring more innovation, as well as protection and safety". In his opinion, this action consists of "removing the unequal conditions to increase confidence". And with this, "all partners win", he stressed.

Wolfgang Boos, highlighted the importance of digitalization as a competitive factor for companies in the sector, not only German, but all European companies. In his opinion, manufacturers "have to change their portfolio of conditions that they offer, aiming at sustainability and, therefore, competitiveness and the future".

Stefan Zecha noted, in his intervention, the decrease in metalworking activity, which, with the pandemic, practically fell back to 2016 levels.

Focus on the solution
The same tone of concern was left by representatives of the VDWF. Axel Wittig highlighted the need for companies to bet on a logic of guaranteeing the 'complete solution' to the customer, betting on research and technological development. "We need to be specialized and give customers more than just the manufacture of the mold", he stressed.

The speaker who followed, Anna Tschacha, agreed and argued that it is necessary to bet on measures that allow, for example, small manufacturers to reduce the gap in relation to their customers. However this alone is not enough, calling for greater cooperation between manufacturers, in order to create a collaborative network capable of generating value.

His words led the moderator, Richard Pergler, to underline that this synergy between competitors is something "very strange and rare" in Germany, but that it happens successfully in other countries, exemplifying with the case of Portugal.

The last speaker, Jens Buchert, expressed great apprehension concerning the situation that the sector is going through, counting on being in a position in which he seeks to "survive" and, at the same time, maintain some optimism regarding the future.

In the end, the speakers were unanimous in concluding that cooperation is key, but that it must be accompanied by measures to protect the activity, such as, for example, European regulations for the payment conditions of the molds.

Markus Heseding, of the VDMA and member of the ISTMA Board, expressed that he is not very convinced that this issue should be resolved in a political way, urging the producers to come together and to defend, in a clear way, their convictions. "We, the manufacturers, have to produce this change", he concluded.