As Regional Manager, Western Europe, Hermann Riedlsperger is responsible for the ALPLA Group's highest-grossing region. In an interview, he looks back at recent months and reports on the current projects and future challenges.
The way that the year 2020 has panned out so far is unparalleled due to COVID-19. How is ALPLA faring in Western Europe during the coronavirus crisis?
So far, we have coped relatively well with the crisis. This has only been possible because the employees have handled the situation very responsibly and have respected the rules and measures imposed by the company. We also responded with great foresight and, above all, quickly as a company. In many cases, we took action before the authorities did. We remained on the ball and we communicated a great deal and continuously. Maintaining our production operations was sometimes a challenge, for example because we had to contend with high employee absenteeism rates in countries such as France. We nonetheless offered our customers the best possible support at all times.
What impact did the situation have on the company’s economic development?
On the Sales side, we had a very high number of enquiries, especially in the area of cleaning agents and disinfectants. As such, the crisis has also presented us with opportunities, which we have seized. In this exceptional situation, many areas of our business have proved to be resistant to crises and stable as many everyday products are packaged in plastic and demand for these has remained steady. But at the same time, we have been hit by the decline in the events and tourism sectors, for example in terms of sales of preforms for the small beverage bottles that are common in these sectors.
Can you tell us a bit about the region’s current projects?
My first business trip after the travel restrictions were relaxed again was to the Netherlands in the summer. The development of a new plant there in Zwolle is proceeding entirely according to schedule. The team there is doing great work and is rising to the organisational challenges of a start-up as well as the technical problems by working closely with sister plants and other project supporters. We also recently acquired an existing plant in Les Franqueses, Spain, thereby expanding our portfolio in the market segments of cosmetics and personal and household care.
What would you say was the key to efficiently managing a large and heterogeneous region comprising ten countries?
There are 50 plants in Western Europe, making it the region within the ALPLA Group with the most plants. Managing this region takes clear organisation. The focus here has been and continues to be the establishment of national organisations. One of the challenges is using internal and external recruitment processes to appoint the right people to the perfect positions for them while taking fluctuations caused by, for example, retirements into account in the process.
What are the challenges for the future?
The topic of recycling is a key issue. As recently as in July, the EU resolved to introduce a so-called plastic tax in the amount of 800 euros/tonne as of 2021. This will be levied on plastic packaging which cannot be recycled. The EU member states will reclaim the costs from the industry. This will obviously incentivise the industry to further expand its recycling activities. ALPLA recognised this trend early on and is pursuing clearly defined goals in this area, including in relation to the recyclability of its products. With our acquisitions and partnerships in recent years, we are already in a strong position in the recycling sector, and more projects are sure to follow.
More information on ALPLA’s activities in Western Europe is available on the company website: https://www.alpla.com/en/western-europe.
- The Western Europe region comprises ten countries: Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal
- There are approximately 3,800 employees working at more than 50 plants
- The region accounted for 37 per cent of the ALPLA Group’s total revenue in 2019 (EUR 1.4 billion)
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