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This is the strongest year in the company's history

27.08.2020

Proma Reha, a manufacturer of hospital beds from Česká Skalice in Náchod region is experiencing a record year. Its boss, Radek Jakubský, even admits that he had to borrow workers from nearby companies that are having problems due to coronavirus.

While industry and tourism faded in the first half of the year due to coronavirus, Proma Reha, a hospital bed manufacturer from Česká Skalice in the Náchod region recorded the most orders in the company's entire history. The second highest company in the market had to reduce its range to meet demands as much as possible. Its boss Radek Jakubský even borrowed employees from area's other factories.

Radek Jakubský describes the cooperation model. "They're temporarily assigned to us for work, because their companies want to keep them and it's beneficial for us that we have more people,". He is also supported by the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the head of Proma Rehy became its vice-president a few days ago. He also runs the Chamber of Commerce in the region. This year, Jakubský is experiencing a year full of changes. At the beginning of the summer holidays, he took over the company's management from his father and founder.

You have been working in the company for 20 years, was this a big change for you?

Of course, the change is significant, but I think I'm well prepared for it. However, if you're on your own rather than a pair, you need to plan your time better and delegate more things. Therefore, it also affects my subordinates, because they have to bear most of the responsibility. They have to grow with me.

What area have you been in charge of in the company so far?

we divided it so that my father was in charge of production, development and purchasing, and I took care of the rest, i.e. marketing, Czech and foreign trade, finance, service and transport. So now I've added production, development and purchasing.

What positions have you held in the company in 20 years?

I've actually been here longer than that, because I had part-time jobs here while I was at school. I was in the workshop, I went through periods on the saw, drill, as well as assembly, installation at the customers, service and supply. I really had a go at a lot, you could say I started from scratch. I have always enjoyed computers and graphics, so at the age of 14 I was making catalogues, websites and the like.

Is it an important experience for managers to go through the whole company?

It's very important and I'm really grateful that I went through it. It has two views. Firstly, you have a significantly better idea of the work of those people and then when you think about some development, optimisation or expansion of the company, you can plan better. You can estimate better how long something should take, where you need only one person, and where you need three people, if the position is so crucial that it must always have substitutability or you can afford to leave the space empty during the holidays. I think everyone should try it.

You took over the company at a time that is relatively turbulent for entrepreneurs, did you consider moving the deadline?

Our industry is now experiencing a boom more than a downturn. However, we need to prepare for the future better, because our products are paid for with public money, mostly from taxes. If taxes fall significantly and the budget is reduced, it can be expected that it will have a significant impact on our industry. This can happen next year or even in two years. Therefore, there is no reason to postpone anything now.

What does it look like currently in your field?

I must say that for ourselves, the second quarter was the strongest in the company's history. At the same time, the first half of the year was the strongest. We feel significantly higher demand. The problem is rather in subcontractors, who were not able to increase their capacity, so we were forced to reject or shift some of the orders over time.

Did you have to reduce the model line to manage production?

Yes, we chose the four models we produced. Basically, they covered our entire product range, from simple basic beds, which we're able to do in large quantities, to more intensive beds, whereby we don't produce that many of them as they're more sophisticated, have more parts, and consequently more work. Although, we didn't allow customers to configure what a bed should look like. In short, after consulting experts, we chose the most suitable options.

Is the increase in orders directly related to the fight against the new coronavirus?

al that it must always have substitutability or you can afford to leave the space empty during the holidays. I think everyone should try it.

You took over the company at a time that is relatively turbulent for entrepreneurs, did you consider moving the deadline?

Our industry is now experiencing a boom more than a downturn. However, we need to prepare for the future better, because our products are paid for with public money, mostly from taxes. If taxes fall significantly and the budget is reduced, it can be expected that it will have a significant impact on our industry. This can happen next year or even in two years. Therefore, there is no reason to postpone anything now.

What does it look like currently in your field?

I must say that for ourselves, the second quarter was the strongest in the company's history. At the same time, the first half of the year was the strongest. We feel significantly higher demand. The problem is rather in subcontractors, who were not able to increase their capacity, so we were forced to reject or shift some of the orders over time.

Did you have to reduce the model line to manage production?

Yes, we chose the four models we produced. Basically, they covered our entire product range, from simple basic beds, which we're able to do in large quantities, to more intensive beds, whereby we don't produce that many of them as they're more sophisticated, have more parts, and consequently more work. Although, we didn't allow customers to configure what a bed should look like. In short, after consulting experts, we chose the most suitable options.

Is the increase in orders directly related to the fight against the new coronavirus?

I would say that there were two effects. The first wave of coronavirus around the world was somehow gradual, so some countries were preparing for it and increasing orders. In some countries, orders only rose after the wave began to wane. This is the so-called withheld demand. For several months, everyone focused on consumables and didn't address anything else, but the products are coming to life and need to be replaced. That's why they needed to catch up.

Aren't you worried that now that states have increased capacity, they will buy even less in the coming years?

I'm not too worried about that. The change is continuous. For example, the products for ARO or ICU have a lifespan of around five to eight years, in the standard department it is approximately 15 years, and a maximum of 20 years. So, if it speeds-up or slows-down in a few months, it doesn't have such a significant impact on the entire market.

When you're experiencing records, do you have a sufficient number of employees or do you need to increase their number?

We managed to optimise production significantly by narrowing the range. We have increased the capacity by tens of percent. We always lack good employees. We have a shortage of welders so we would like to offer them jobs, and job positions for skilled workers.

Do you hope that new people will be found due to the decline in the automotive industry?

The question is whether the automotive industry collapses or whether their market just changes. We can assume that there will be some decline. Layoffs have already taken place in some quarters. We have borrowed employees from automotive companies, they're temporarily assigned to us for work, because their companies want to keep them and it's beneficial for us in the regard that we have more people. However, automotive employees have their advantages as well as disadvantages. They're used to doing everything in large series, not like in our company where we produce to order and each order looks a little different in the current period. On the other hand, they have a great work speed. Unfortunately, they're used to a different remuneration structure in the automotive industry.

Borrowing employees between companies doesn't sound particularly common, what kind of radius do they come from?

It's from a radius of let's say within 20 kilometres. I don't know if it's common, but it's possible. Even the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic has prepared a server for this, www.komora.cz/zachranpraci/, where it's possible to change offers and demands with each other and look for partners with whom you can cover peaks or falls.

Do people stay employed at the original company?

Yes, the advantage is that they retain their employees, while passing on the wage costs to the company that temporarily borrows them.

Do they mind the risk of people staying in the new company?

The risk is always there, but I would say that mutual decency applies here. We don't try to take employees from anyone. In our case, we can borrow employees this way, and we do nothing against the original employer.

You are the chairman of the regional chamber of commerce and you have also become the vice-president of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, is this a challenge for you?

It's very rewarding for me to meet a lot of people, go on visits to different companies and I can see how they do it elsewhere, what they do better, or how I can help them. For example, with experience in foreign markets.

After being elected vice president of the chamber, you said you wanted to negotiate with the government for support after the coronavirus packages ended. What do you think should happen next?

I am of the opinion that just subsidising wages so that there is no need to lay people off isn't the right way to go. The right way is to invest. Charles IV. had a hungry wall built. The state should invest a lot and give work to Czech people. As a result, they will be able to pay taxes and spend. This path needs to be supported and stimulated by the investment appetite of companies. For example, by subsidising interest, reducing rates or by guarantees or investment subsidy programmes. It's a much better way than paying people to stay home. It leads nowhere. When people work, they also feel better when they are doing something.

Source: iDnes, August 22nd, 2020, Tomáš Hejtmánek

Link: iDnes

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