Mr. Laska, the second year with Covid-19 now lies behind us all. How did it go from LASKA's point of view?
Maximilian Laska: In spite of difficulties in the supply chain and the worldwide pandemic, we were able to increase our machine sales by over 20%. Even in times when distance is important, we continue to focus on closeness – mostly in a figurative sense. Even though we were able to hold some real events last year under strict protective regulations, we score above all with the quality of our online channels. These channels allow us to maintain close contact with both our customers and our partners all over the world. They recognise that we don't just want to sell them a machine, but are aiming to build long-lasting partnerships on an equal footing. We want to work out the best solution together with our customers in each individual case. This good cooperation is very important and especially fruitful in the area of automated systems. Furthermore, the digitisation of our business processes represents an important success factor. It is very well received by our customers.
You mentioned the topic of automating entire systems. Can you explain this a little more specifically?
Maximilian Laska: Automation means connecting different process steps and letting machines take care of them seamlessly. This reduces personnel costs and increases material efficiency at the same time. In addition, consistent product product quality is ensured and consistently high hygiene standards are maintained. The savings are so significant that the investment in our automation lines can often pay for itself in less than a year. Our success with renowned industrial customers around the world has proven us right: When it comes to the automation of systems in our industry, LASKA definitely plays a leading role. But it is not only very large companies that gain significant competitive advantages from automation, in principle every company in the food processing industry does. Thanks to the fact that more and more customers have recognised this, we were able to record large increases in this area in 2021.
LASKA technicians are likely to be on site at the customer's premises in order to set up such a production line. How does assembly unfold in times of restricted freedom of travel?
Maximilian Laska: That's a good question, because last year - virtually at the same time as the pandemic broke out - we were commissioned with the largest project in our company's history, namely 60 interlinked machines. The production line for a Chinese customer was both planned and completed by us in Traun and then delivered this year. But there was no chance of us assembling the line. This meant that the installation and commissioning had to be done remotely. This of course requires a competent local partner, and we have one. Our employees in Traun and the fitters in China did a great job. The cooperation was an absolute success and the customer is already running production. So we can see: Things can be done, even if you can't travel as usual.
The industry fair took place in Moscow despite restrictions. The first time also with OOO LASKA, the Russian representative for Laska machines. Your conclusion?
Maximilian Laska: Correct, OOO LASKA was founded in 2021. The Russian sales subsidiary is a fantastic addition to our very strong team of existing dealers in the region and their start was very successful. Our presence at the Agroprodmash in Moscow, which is perhaps the most important trade fair for the enormously large Russian market, certainly played a major role in this. Our stand was well attended and customer interest in our products was high. We already had a good order intake at the fair and already numerous follow-up business.
We have spoken a lot about routes to customers and sales regions. What about expansion on the product side? There's a lot happening in the food market. Keyword: Meat substitutes.
Maximilian Laska: This is clearly a future market with a lot of potential. Sales of meat substitutes and foods with a high proportion of alternative or plant-based proteins have multiplied within a very short time, and this trend is continuing. We have been able to share in the success of our customers in this segment, especially in Europe. We have managed to develop customised solutions with our customers and also to apply our 140 years of experience in the meat industry to new applications. Yet we were also able to expand our technological expertise beyond meat substitutes, for example in the production of classic vegetarian products such as fruit and vegetables or cheese, and to establish further important references. LASKA has therefore become an even more important partner in a wide range of food processing industries in 2021 – in keeping with our motto "Food Processing in Perfection".
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