MILAN—One of the world's largest hose companies actually had to deal first with the coronavirus elsewhere rather than its home base in Italy because it has such a large footprint in China.
Milan-based Manuli Rubber Industries has the bulk of its manufacturing in Poland and China, according to CEO Dardano Manuli. In addition, he said that Melbourne, Australia-based Ryco Hydraulics Pty. Ltd.—which merged early this year to form a hydraulic hose and fitting company with about $550 million in annual sales—has its production in Malaysia and China.
"To put things into perspective, after the Ryco acquisition, less than 4 percent of our global work force is based in Italy, mainly the global headquarters and the Innovation Centre," Manuli said in response to emailed questions.
The combined business employs more than 4,500 worldwide, with 3,700 of those from MRI and 800 from Ryco.
Manuli said Chinese operations were suspended for about month, with half of that being planned for holiday shutdown.
"In Italy we have, so far, been able to maintain the operations running with no disruption as they are considered a strategic production for the oil and gas industry," Manuli said. "Perhaps surprisingly, we are experiencing more disruption in countries like India, South Africa, or even the U.S., where in some states, the shutdown was imposed abruptly and unexpectedly without time to prepare."
Manuli said the units supplying OEM accounts have had to either completely stop or severely scale back operations, with the exception of China and South Korea. He added that the company hasn't retrofitted its operations to make other types of goods because the machinery isn't suited to making different products on short notice.
That's not to say that Manuli Rubber's staff in Italy hasn't been impacted in a number of ways. The rules implemented by the Italian government have forced all white collar employees to work from home starting March 9, which Manuli said isn't the most productive way to run operations.
"Now, travel restrictions have been imposed on an almost worldwide basis, so we are all learning to deal with this situation from a work standpoint," the MRI CEO said.