"I have no conflict of priorities within me."

Materials Services CEO Martin Stillger talks about central and local measures in the corona pandemic, the sad gravity of the situation, as well as employee well-being and business interests.


Felicia Mutterer: Welcome to the thyssenkrupp audiogram. Anyone who googled the company's name in the last few days, for example, could read the latest news on the key figures and see how troubled thyssenkrupp is. Even before Corona, the reorganization was a major challenge - now, thanks to Corona, it's a colossal one.

Time for first-hand information. My name is Felicia Mutterer and I welcome you to this issue with Martin Stillger, Executive Board Spokesman of thyssenkrupp Materials Services. Hello Mr. Stillger, nice to have you with us.

Martin Stillger: Hello Ms. Mutterer, good morning.

Felicia Mutterer: Mr. Stillger, in your Linkedin profile you have added the slogan that one is not only responsible for what one does, but also for what one does not do. Why is this saying so important to you?

Martin Stillger: Because I think it's incredibly important that you do things that you might not have in your immediate sight or directly on the agenda, but which are important. In principle, omitting them then is a gap that opens up. And the open gap can lead to problems. So you also have to take responsibility for things that you deliberately do not do.

Felicia Mutterer: You have taken on a lot of responsibility. In December 2019 you took up your new role as Executive Board Spokesman of thyssenkrupp Materials Services. This is the materials trading and services division. What did you think back then would be your biggest challenge?

Martin Stillger: The biggest challenge in our business is of course that we operate at 480 locations in 40 countries around the world. It is a division that deliberately combines everything to do with materials and services for customers, yet it is certainly very broad. You have to be able to manage a broad portfolio, and I think that is a great challenge.

Felicia Mutterer: It would actually be big enough, but then came the corona pandemic. How are the employees doing?

Martin Stillger: Unfortunately, I have to say that we have had one death. Corona is a very serious issue. And it has just become clear how serious it can be, because we lost an employee who worked for our company in the US. She died from the consequences of the corona disease, and that affects me very much.

Felicia Mutterer: Although you tried everything to prevent this with a crisis management team...

Martin Stillger: Yes, we set up our crisis team in February at BA level. That was right at the beginning of the crisis. The crisis team combines various functions, for example, in addition to management, the human resources department, the occupational health and safety department, communications and the works council. So that we have different stakeholders in the team with different aspects and can act in the best possible way. In addition, of course, there is also the legislator, of course, who determines things in the respective country through official regulations. Of course, we also comply with those regulations, but in principle we always act very early and very sharply, because we want to offer our employees the best possible.

One example of this is that we spoke about risk groups in the crisis team at a very early stage and very consistently explained to our companies that we want risk groups to stay at home. Even though pregnant employees are not affected and are not directly a risk group, we decided early on and said that we wanted pregnant women to stay at home. Because we absolutely want someone who is pregnant not to work under the stress and distress that they might catch something for themselves or for the unborn child. That is why we have said that we do not want someone who is pregnant to have stress, and we want her to stay at home.

Felicia Mutterer: What has the crisis team already achieved in concrete terms, positively?

Martin Stillger: For example, the crisis management team has had the effect that in countries where masks were not available locally, we could steer 10, 20, 30, 40,000 masks from other countries, with other connections that we have, into these countries and thus help the people on the scene. They probably would not have been able to do that alone, because they were at their wits’ end locally. But we, with our international possibilities, could steer and help. And this is a good example of how a crisis management team which operates centrally, can also help on the ground locally.

Felicia Mutterer: And then you made it into the Italian press, thyssenkrupp. With exemplary work.

Martin Stillger: Yes, our colleagues in Italy are of course in a country that has been badly hit and had to perform particularly well there. And our colleagues at AST and Terninox really did an exemplary job. They were very, very quick in the measures they initiated, and they were usually on the move before any official action was taken. They also went further than the official measures required. And they showed very great personal commitment. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that our managing director at Terninox in Milan, for example, stood at the factory gate at 5:30 in the morning and informed the employees coming to work. We immediately took comprehensive measures there for hygiene and protection, we informed them about the virus, we informed them about the danger. This was not just done in one morning, but is an ongoing process. The employees have told others about it, and trade unions heard about it, too. That is why we made it into the Italian press, which reported on how exemplary we have been in this area.

Felicia Mutterer: Now, apart from this sad news of the fatality, we have a more relaxed situation overall, at least that is how it is in Germany. Even in view of the relaxed measures and at the same time the tense situation of the thyssenkrupp Group, is there no dilemma for you to decide which priorities you want to set?

Martin Stillger: No. No, I don't have a conflict of priorities in me at all. The well-being of our employees is the highest good. That comes before any business activities. That's the way we have decided, and that's how we manage every day.

Felicia Mutterer: Thank you, Martin Stillger, Executive Board Spokesman of thyssenkrupp Materials Services, today on Audiogram Number 8.

Martin Stillger: Thank you also for the interview.

Felicia Mutterer: Thank you for tuning in, stay healthy and see you next time.