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Manufacturing

Vanessa Hellwing – CFO, Chiron Group

Luckily for the Chiron Group, CFO Vanessa Hellwing isn’t afraid to make big decisions to fight back against a decline in demand and the global pandemic. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” – if this is the case, Vanessa Hellwing will emerge from the most tumultuous times in recent economic, social, and environmental history stronger than ever before.

Appointed the Chiron Group’s CFO in 2018, she didn’t have much time to settle in. Before the coronavirus even took hold, she was confronted with the stark reality that demand was in decline as early as 2019 due to the upheaval in the automotive industry and the stuttering global economy. However, her experience has proved invaluable as she works tirelessly to steady the ship. It’s all hands on deck.

 

“The tables turned very quickly after my arrival,” she says. “But I joined the company because I was attracted by the prospect of being able to make impactful decisions that fuel success in the short and long-term. I just wasn’t expecting to make so many important decisions so soon, it’s been a real test.”

Vanessa has two decades of corporate experience in the bag working for the likes of Siemens, so her mettle has already been tested at the highest level. The Chiron Group has made some far-reaching moves to secure its future of late, not only in the face of decreased demand in the automotive sector, but also the aerospace industry. Vanessa, along with senior management, wasted no time in initiating a comprehensive restructuring of the business, including the bundling of production and assembly facilities (Tuttlingen and Neuhausen), focusing specifically on the service and sales of Stama products, and the sale of Scherer Feinbau, based in Alzenau.

While the Chiron Group achieved sales of around €500 million in 2018, sales in 2019 sank to €443 million (-11%). In 2020, the situation was aggravated by the pandemic, so a further decline followed. The company is therefore bracing itself for further market volatility and anticipates a significantly reduced level of workload and unsteady sales development.

“In view of these prospects, a realignment of the Group was essential,” explains Vanessa “It wasn’t an easy decision but we needed to act to secure the future and lead the Group out of this crisis. The Supervisory Board and the owners support this course and our goal is to continue operating in the short term and create competitive advantages in the medium term to secure as many jobs as possible. We are doing this with a comprehensive package of measures. We have carefully examined all the alternatives and consider the initiated reorganisation as necessary and future-proof.”

It’s not all about damage limitation and crisis control; despite scaling back to combat the virus, the Chiron Group still managed to acquire Mecatis earlier this year. The company is a specialist for small, high-precision machining centres, which are used in the watchmaking, medical, jewellery, and micro engineering industry.

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