The social and economic hiatus caused by the coronavirus epidemic can turn out to be a classic case of a crisis that generates new opportunities, according to steel distribution group Klöckner & Co.
The German-based group is referring to the progress of digitalisation and to transferring its business to online platforms, which it has been pushing for the past four to five years. “Now that there is a crisis, we can implement some of the measures faster,” Klöckner ceo Gisbert Rühl said during a conference call attended by Kallanish. The company’s share of online sales recently rose faster in comparison than it did in early 2019.
He gives the example of France, where the group had to temporarily close sites in March, and where several smaller sites will soon be abandoned altogether, but business has continued online. “Customers there will be forced to follow that conversion,” Rühl said. He notes that the company is undergoing more than digitalisation, but a digital transformation, and employees will be made to follow the conversion. Many jobs will no longer be the classic warehousing roles, but “… the orchestration of processes,” instead. He estimates that some 1,000 employees will be excluded from the transformation, and will be allowed to leave by the company.
Apart from the sales business on its own platform, Klöckner is also pushing Xom, a platform for materials purchasing that is open to third parties, and which has 70 suppliers. Due to enhanced recent activity, the company has just decided to invest another €3 million ($3.3m) this year in Xom.