Olaf Lies visits Gruse Maschinenbau in Groß Berkel

Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony’s Minister of Economics  is confronted with the difficulties of a successful medium-sized company when visiting Gruse

Groß Berkel, 5 October 2023 Lower Saxony’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Olaf Lies, took an hour today to tour the factory halls of the internationally active mechanical engineering company Gruse in Groß Berkel. The specialist for lifting and conveying systems with 120 highly motivated and long-standing employees counts BMW and Airbus among its customers.

Managing Director Ludger Helmig and company owner Ferdinand Kraft did not mince their words: “We are noticing that the economy is slowing down now and orders are declining”. At the same time, the company has been successful for years in special machine construction, which is an international trend. Gruse’s managing director Helmig speaks in no uncertain terms about the difficulties that are also being imposed on the metal industry.

In addition, there are new bureaucratic hurdles that are far removed from practice, for example in “supplier assurance”. The company had so far reliably received orders from the VW Group and had always served them to their satisfaction. Now, an important contract has failed due to the sudden regulatory requirement for proof of “Scope3 emissions”. From Helmig’s point of view, this is a purely bureaucratic requirement, but one that endangers jobs because it cannot be easily fulfilled by companies like Gruse. Helmig: “150 years of experience in mechanical engineering should no longer count?”

Another bureaucratic hurdle: Hiring foreign workers is proving to be a stumbling block, even though they can demonstrate that they meet all the qualifications. The employment of an Albanian who considered his chance at Gruse as a hydraulics specialist had been delayed for several months. He was in danger of being rejected because he was not an EU worker, even though he had lived in Italy. This also jeopardises orders in a sector that is desperately seeking suitable skilled workers and is forced to look beyond the country’s borders. A colleague of the Albanian, who also wanted to start at Gruse, did not want to take part in this marathon with the authorities and decided to give up.

Location problems also arise with the connection to the digital network. “There has been a fibre optic cable right outside our front door for almost half a year. It was moved without notice and the access to the company premises was blocked. But up to today Gruse is still not connected”.

At his desk, he follows the development of electricity prices within a day in real time. Fluctuations of 1.9 cents to 13 cents per kilowatt hour worry him. “At 20 cents/kWh I have to stop production because the electricity is no longer affordable”. As the contracts with the EON group expired last year, it is not only Gruse who is exposed to the randomness of the spot market price. The risks of the energy turnaround are being passed on to small and medium-sized companies competing internationally, while the energy giants are among the winners.


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