What have been the most important achievements up to this point, especially in the last year?
The product portfolio is naturally one of the most central issues for a one-stop shop. The focus was therefore on expanding our range of prime and recycled materials, as well as the tools, machinery and equipment to go with them, and supplementary services. We were able to build up new sources of suppliers. One milestone that is very important to me personally, for example, is the cooperation agreement concluded with the MOL Group in 2020. With our combined know-how, we want to advance the development of polyolefin recompounds and market them together with MOL. We are selling more and more high-quality regranulates and recompounds for many different fields of application. In this way, we offer our customers alternatives to prime polymers. In many industries, especially in packaging, this is becoming increasingly important and there is no alternative. The sustainable, sensible use of plastics is one of the top future trends, which we will continue to pursue with great commitment in the future. These are important steps toward a truly functioning circular economy.
Another focus was on the development of digital solutions. What were your "digital" highlights in the last Meraxis year?
Our young digital unit "Meraxis Elevator" has really hit the ground running in the last twelve months. One highlight was definitely the go-live of our digital customer portal. It is an enormous relief for our customers that they can find orders, contracts, market information and more there centrally at a glance. The customer portal is basically the basis for all the other digital services we will be offering in the future. We are expanding it step by step: Just recently there was the first upgrade, with which we integrated billing data. There are also plans for a digitalized vendor managed inventory solution and the integration of delivery data in the sense of a track and trace solution. All of this is increasingly bringing up our one-stop shop approach and the associated benefits for customers.
But we are also digitally designing the interfaces to our suppliers. For example, we are developing a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) solution to further optimize our supply chains. The last few months have shown once again that we are on the right track with this project. Particularly with the pandemic and the global shortage of raw materials, everyone knows how important it is to have a close exchange with suppliers as well as transparency and flexibility in the supply chain.
You just mentioned it: There was no lack of challenges last year. Corona was the dominant topic. How did you experience the last year with Meraxis?
It was a unique situation and unprecedented experience. In addition to the professional burden of difficult markets, each of us individually had to deal with challenges in our personal lives. Nevertheless, everyone gave their best. I personally and the entire Board of Management are extremely grateful and proud that we can count on such a motivated team with integrity and that we can rely on them 100%. It is impressive how smoothly the switch to working from home has gone, and that while working short hours in the summer of 2020. I very much hope that we will soon be able to move closer to each other again and live our team spirit of "OneMeraxis".
In any case, the pandemic has demanded a lot of flexibility and tolerance from everyone - we as employers have also learned a lot, and that is probably the positive aspect. For example, how we can make working time models even more flexible. The fact that HR management, with our new board member Katrin Volery, will in future be at board level underlines the enormous importance that our employees have for Meraxis. She will continue to develop topics such as agile working methods, the further development of each individual, and the design of a modern corporate culture, and she has a lot planned. In order to optimally align our processes and systems for the future, we were also able to recruit the new CFO Ulrich Litterscheid as of July 1 and look forward to working together.
What were the challenges in the market?
The market was also affected by Covid, of course. However, the international markets have recovered from the restrictions faster than expected. Then, on top of all that, there was the Texas Freeze in February, the Suez Canal Blockade in April, and now just new Covid cases in Chinese ports. As a result, the industry has been struggling with raw material and transportation bottlenecks and, consequently, rising polymer prices. Many companies have noticed that their supply chain is falling apart. We, too, have had to adjust to all these situations again and again, but have been able to make very good use of the "opportunities in the crisis" and fortunately find creative solutions at any time thanks to our dedicated team and global trading network.
How has Meraxis experienced this market situation? What solutions have you been able to find for yourselves and for customers?
Right at the start of the pandemic, we saw a sharp increase in demand in some areas: the medical and packaging industries in particular experienced a real boom, we were able to meet and take advantage of. At the same time, other sectors, such as automotive, virtually came to a standstill from one day to the next, which meant an enormous effort in logistics. Overall, however, we used the time effectively to focus and continued to work on our fundamental strategy and its implementation.
In the extremely volatile market situation of recent months, our global network of reliable partners has also been a real trump in every respect. We are not dependent on a single supplier, but have mobilized our raw material sources around the world. That's why we were able to act flexibly and quickly, with competitive terms and conditions. In the end, despite the difficult circumstances, we not only achieved our goals, we even exceeded them, and that makes us proud. Both in terms of business development and our profit, as well as our strategic positioning targets.
What's next? What are your plans for Meraxis?
In any case, we naturally want to consistently continue on our growth path and our forward strategy. First and foremost, we will continue to expand our one-stop shop approach. Specifically, we are currently working on expanding our portfolio of investment goods; especially with injection molds and load carriers, for example in China. We also want to offer finished plastic parts. We are also adding to our Performance Materials portfolio. You''ll be able to hear more about this very soon. And of course we will continue to expand our prime and recycling portfolio. The complete package will enable us to provide even better procurement support to our customers in the plastics processing industry in the future - and all from a single source.
In addition, we are currently expanding our international presence in order to be even closer to our partners in the future.. And clearly, we will also be pushing ahead with our focus topics: The digitalization of the polymer industry and the recycling offering as a contribution to a sustainable, functioning circular economy.