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Cool heads prevailing in Uphusen

The German plant Uphusen is preparing the details of its "exit strategy" so that it can shift into higher gear once the corona-caused circumstances come to a close.

The situation is unusual, but business and production have been fairly normal for Hydro’s aluminium manufacturing plant in Uphusen.

“We are creating a list of actions on how to get everyone back to work in May,” says managing director at the plant, Ralf Liedtke.

“Social distancing will probably last all year. Moving office furniture and equipment is part of this. We have to define how people will return to the company. Home office? Weekly rotations?"

“We may offer masks to employees if we can’t keep a minimum distance. We are still waiting on masks from China though, so this is still a challenge. Disinfectant? We got the World Health Organization’s recipe and asked a pharmacist here in Uphusen to mix some for us. He produced 30 liters. So we have that,” Ralf says.

Read more on Hydro's actions to contain the spread of the Coronavirus

Producing in normal mode

Compared to large parts of the Extrusion Europe business unit, and Extruded Solutions as a whole, the last month has been fairly normal for the Uphusen plant.

“We reduced our shift hours by 30 minutes, so people can avoid coming in contact with the other shifts. But aside from that, we are more or less busy with normal operations. Packing is the same, processes are the same,” says Ralf.

Hydro's Uphusen extrusion plant
Ralf Liedtke (middle) and his colleagues adhere to prevention guidelines by keeping distance in Uphusen.


“We have 14 people working from home offices – administration and desk sales – and 12 of them had never worked from home before. We had our IT experts work out the technical aspects and they had to do it fast. They did a great job so that these people could use the network at home just like in the office. But if you aren’t used to it, it takes a little time."

“I decided I had to be here. It is very important to do that, to be visible. So nothing really changed for me.”

He says order intake is lower, but not catastrophically low.

“Some customers moved orders into the future because they were a bit afraid we wouldn’t be able to deliver,” says Ralf. “We met our targets in the first quarter, but April and May will be difficult. I hope things change later in May, so we can get back on track.”

Standards and stability

Liedtke took over as managing director of the extrusion company last year, just prior to the cyberattack. He has worked at the plant for 22 years, however, and this knowledge and understanding is serving him well during these peculiar period.

Uphusen is near Bremen in northern Germany. “We haven’t been hit hard at all by the virus. It is not comparable to the southern part of the country,” says Ralf. “We have waited for the wave from the south, but it hasn’t gotten here.”

Nonetheless, the company has been keeping its 250 employees as safe as possible to prevent a wave from occurring in the workplace. Stability and rules and common sense comprise the recipe.

  • Keep working in a standard way
  • Remain focused on HSE
  • When shifts end, do not gather at the door
  • Remain calm and keep your head

“Another factor behind the implementation of the necessary actions we had to take, and why the acceptance of these actions by the workforce was high, was the close collaboration with the works council in Uphusen,” he says. “The dialogue was open and direct, and this helped a lot.

“You really see the culture of your company in these situations. On the shop floor, everything is stable. They respect the rules. They are calm, defined, structured. The home workers are managing well and they are seeing ways in which we can work better when we return to the offices. I’m very proud of my people.”

Read more on Hydro's actions to contain the spread of the Coronavirus

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