The Erft normally flows past the plant of the sugar manufacturer Pfeifer & Langen in Euskirchen.

For the past week it has sloshed through the middle of the factory.

When the dam of rubble and trees that had been dammed up broke on Thursday night, the plant was a good five feet under water.

Jonas Jansen

Business correspondent in Düsseldorf.

  • Follow I follow

“Because it happened during the night, there was no tension on the machines.

Otherwise it would have been an absolute total loss, ”says Michael Schaupp, one of two managing directors at Pfeifer & Langen.

The family company from Cologne is one of the largest sugar producers in Europe, with around 1,500 employees it achieved a turnover of over 860 million euros last year.

It is one of many companies that were affected by the flood in North Rhine-Westphalia or Rhineland-Palatinate.

In Stolberg near Aachen, a plant of the copper manufacturer Aurubis was flooded, in the Eifel a die-casting plant of the construction equipment manufacturer Stihl.

Dozens of medium-sized companies, especially from the mechanical engineering sector, which have their plants near small rivers, are also badly affected by the flood.

There was already a crisis team because of Corona

For Pfeifer & Langen - well known with its logo, which is modeled on the two cathedral spiers - many employees are also affected at the other locations in the Rhineland, whether it was in Jülich, Elsdorf or Cologne. The company used the crisis team, which is coordinating every two days anyway due to the corona pandemic. At the same time, the family company has set up a committee made up of employee and employer representatives.

"We can very slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together to evaluate how we can help," says Schaupp, who has been running the company for five years.

Based on the workforce, 2000 overtime hours have already been donated to make it easier for affected employees to take time off, and employees from the five factories in the country also give up vacation days and flextime.

In addition, some employees want to donate part of their salary.

The willingness to help is huge

At the same time, the construction work in the Euskirchen plant is ongoing. Other locations have sent locksmiths and electricians. The factory should be ready for production again in the coming week. "For me it is still a very depressing feeling to see the flooded areas," says Schaupp. “But the situation also shows an incredible closeness and identification with the company. The willingness to help in the workforce and beyond is enormous. "

The plant in Euskirchen is strategically important; many sugar beets are grown in the region, which Pfeifer & Langen needs for its production. “If a plant fails, it is a huge administrative effort. Not all sugar is the same, it has to be allocated so that it fits the customer's requirements, ”says Schaupp. However, the deliveries could be intercepted via other plants.