Together through the fire

Wanzl stories (part 11)

A phone ringing in the middle of the night rarely brings good news. When Gottfried Wanzl answered the phone on 11 February 2012, he was met with a distressed voice: “Look out of the window! Plant IV is burning down!” Was the family’s life’s work going up in flames? An enormous blaze towered above the electroplating building, cloaking the surroundings in billowing smoke. On this fateful night, Gottfried Wanzl encountered countless fire engines at the factory gate, together with gleaming headlights and hose lines that had been laid. The din of the droning fire-fighting pumps was only interrupted by the searing frequencies of radio signals and orders issued loudly by the fire brigade. Members of the Management Board, together with the fire brigade managers, hurried through the spaces that had not yet been taken by the fire, to get an overview of the situation. Thank heavens! The fire protection systems were holding. The fire brigade did outstanding work and the fire did not spread to the adjacent halls. And, much more importantly, everyone – employees and helpers alike – was luckily unharmed.

Two days later, when the final hot spots had been extinguished, the full scope of destruction was clear. The fire had caused over €40 million of damage, and had destroyed not only the buildings but also an important nerve centre in production. Would they still be able to fulfil delivery orders? And would any jobs be at risk? What happened next was truly extraordinary. The company experienced a wave of helpfulness and solidarity: suppliers offered support, as did understanding customers and even competitors. What was most impressive though was how all of the co-workers responded, helping in a huge variety of ways to get the company back on its feet. Almost all delivery deadlines were met, promised goods were fulfilled, the clean-up and reconstruction work progressed quickly and without bureaucracy, and the result was a very fast return to normal business operations. The word “Thanks” took on new significance at Wanzl on that memorable day, and, in the face of adversity, it became clear that people can literally come through anything when they work together – even fire!