Strategic realignment at Wirthwein

Pictured here is the production cell at the Creglingen plant for window frame paneling, which is supplied to a German car manufacturer. The large-volume components made by Wirthwein are installed in high-quality vehicles, which were presented to the public at the end of April. The business sedan has been on sale in Europe since summer 2023. The project is emblematic of where Wirthwein wants to develop strategically: technologically sophisticated, large-volume components that are manufactured at locations close to customers in innovative, global markets.

One of Europe's largest plastic injection molders is looking for new colleagues and is campaigning against the general prejudice against plastic.

Creglingen. Wirthwein is currently making some major adjustments: in addition to the strategic realignment in terms of focus and consolidation, the company is also working on its employer brand. Wirthwein is Europe's fourth largest plastic injection molding company and one of the top employers in the industrial supplier sector. At the same time, the company is registering a certain aversion to the plastics industry among young adults and the general public, which is why the company now wants to position itself by communicating that plastics are a blessing if used and recycled appropriately.


For some time now, the plastics industry has been exposed to continuously increasing price pressure. " On top of this, we have been confronted with enormous challenges in the last three years due to several crises - the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, disrupted supply chains - and the resulting explosion in energy costs, rising global inflation, consumer restraint, but also the shift towards e-mobility and sustainable business practices," explains Marcus Wirthwein: "This led to a significant loss of earnings at Group level in the 2022 fiscal year.

This economic slowdown will continue in 2023. An economic survey recently published by the industry magazine "K-Profi" amongst the plastics processing industry underlines this: 61% of the 500 participating companies stated that their business had deteriorated in the first half of 2023 compared to the second half of 2022. Most manufacturers do not expect the situation to improve until the course of 2024 at the earliest. The current situation is also challenging for Wirthwein, but the company is currently setting the course to emerge stronger from the weak economic phase in the short, medium and long term: "With short-term measures to improve earnings, some of which are very painful, we will return to profitability in the current year," explains CFO Dr. Ralf Zander.


Strategy 2.0 “We Focus“

In order to sustainably improve competitiveness and future viability, the strategy defined in 2019 was significantly intensified and is currently being implemented. Wirthwein's "We Focus" strategy is based on four pillars - customers, technologies, products and regions - in which Wirthwein will set clearer priorities in the future. A globally balanced and regionally clearly defined customer and product mix will be the basis to avoid global dependencies and will enable profitable and financially viable growth. The focus on seven cross-divisional applications - thermal management, cable ducting, structure and function, exterior, interior, powertrain, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics - and the product groups derived from these are the guidelines for the future product mix and sales activities. "Innovations for processes and products with a focus on Wirthwein's core competence, injection molding, will make us even more of a leading solution provider for high-volume, technical plastic solutions worldwide," explains Chief Technology Officer Holm Riepenhausen. Chief Sales Officer Thomas Kraus underlines the strategic direction: "We will use our resources more holistically in future and further expand our expertise, particularly in the APAC (Asia-Pacific economic area) and Americas regions, where we will also increasingly focus on the potential with local customers, with the keywords being greater market penetration, increased competitiveness and speed." In order to follow the global market changes, the focus in the newly designated and now also internationally oriented six business areas is also changing to some extent: Mobility, Rail Infrastructure, Home Appliance, New Energy, Medical, and Interior Design.


Strengthening the employer brand

The strategic focus, the development of new markets and the expansion of expertise and capacities across the entire plastics processing value chain also provide numerous new opportunities and possibilities for the approximately 3,500 employees, as well as for potential applicants. The company's agility creates varied challenges with plenty of future potential. Wirthwein offers interesting positions across the entire range of qualifications and entry levels. We are looking for people who enjoy implementing ideas and working with a wide variety of people, products and processes. Thanks to the holistic and international orientation, new and exciting perspectives and challenges emerge every day. "Doers wanted": Anyone who is enthusiastic about digitalization, lean management and innovative technologies in a productive, familiar working atmosphere can grow into new areas and projects at Wirthwein and take on responsibility, particularly as Wirthwein is not a small market player within the plastics processing industry, but has now worked its way up to become Europe's fourth largest injection molding company. Accordingly, the group of companies also wants to raise its voice more strongly in future in order to improve the general public image of plastics.


Plastics are a blessing - if used properly

Today, "plastic" is largely frowned upon and the images of littered beaches or dead animals have - quite rightly - alarmed us all. Yet plastic is not waste, but a valuable raw material that needs to be reused many times over to conserve resources. The solution is "recycling", which requires globally functioning waste management, a conscious use of plastic raw materials and technological openness for the use of regranulates within the manufacturing process. Later recyclability must be taken into account as early as the product design stage, as composite materials are often difficult to separate and can only be thermally recycled.

The promotion of durable products is another important component for conserving resources and actively protecting the climate. Put simply: Anything that doesn't break doesn't have to be re-produced, transported and eventually disposed of twice or three times over.
The focus is on education and awareness training - and this is precisely where Wirthwein wants to become more involved in the future. After all, the energy transition can only succeed with plastics: Rotor blades for wind turbines, housings and insulation for PV systems, the transportation of district heating and hydrogen, as well as energy storage systems can only be realized with plastics. The mobility transition to e-vehicles is only possible with lightweight plastics; in addition, it requires current- and temperature-conducting as well as media-resistant compounds. Plastics are also indispensable in construction: Insulation, windows, pipes, cable sheathing, floor structures and the entire technical equipment. And finally, plastic also saves lives: In medical technology, syringes, ampoules, respirators, packaging, implants, prostheses and much more are made of plastic. The educational work of the plastics processing industry, for which Wirthwein plays an important role, is intended to raise awareness for a more sustainable use of plastics, but also to improve its reputation and ensure that it is perceived fairly by the public.

Founded in 1991, Wirthwein Brandenburg GmbH & Co. KG was the first subsidiary and thus formed the basis for the Wirthwein Group, which today produces at 22 locations worldwide. Part of the team of seventy employees has positioned itself in production to symbolize the focus on the core business of "plastic injection molding". Plastic components have been manufactured in Brandenburg for over 32 years, with a focus on the Rail Infrastructure business segment.

"Plastics save lives" - with this in mind, the approximately 330 employees of Wirthwein Medical GmbH & Co. KG in Mühltal near Darmstadt go about their work every day. Plastic components and systems that are applied in the fields of diagnostics, medical technology and pharmaceuticals are manufactured in ISO class 7 clean rooms at state-of-the-art standards.

Wirthwein Medical is now launching the prefillable syringe "WIM ject®" on the market itself. Short supply chains also take account of the principle of sustainability, as emissions for unnecessary transportation or additional packaging material are avoided.