German automotive suppliers criticise pandemic communication breakdown

Steel fabricators supplying the automotive industry are not happy about the breakdown in communication with their customers that occurred when Covid-19 lockdowns forced them to alter production.

“At times we learn on the day we deliver that the production plant does not take in material, not now and not for the coming weeks,” says Hubert Schmidt of automotive supplier company Hubert Stünken. “What’s worse, we don’t learn so from the customer, but from the transportation company in between.”

Schmidt is president of German steel and metals working federation WSM. “Our production has been like a quilt, in which some patches are totally quiet, while others keep operating in several shifts,” Schmidt says.

“For three or four weeks, it was like driving in the fog,” says a manager of fasteners maker company Wilhelm Schumacher. The company built up stocks that customers would not buy, and cut its output dramatically, Kallanish notes. Now that production along the chain could resume, he is concerned it could happen at a time when many mills have summer closures. “If automotive customers ramp up production now, they may even face supply shortages,” he says.