In Kolmi-Hopen, masks made in France are no longer successful

“We need to produce more on our soil. The strategic nature of this production involves having European sovereignty and reducing our dependence. Fortunately, we have kept the experience and I congratulate the Kolmi company that has been able to maintain this ability in France against all odds. » This tirade by Emmanuel Macron, no one has forgotten in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou. On March 31, 2020, when France was experiencing its first confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic, the President of the Republic visited this company in Maine-et-Loire, a subsidiary of the Canadian group Medicom, one of the last to manufacture medical masks in France. For three months, from March 11 to May 31, the French state had requisitioned all the production and positioned alpine hunters around it to guarantee the security of this place that had become highly strategic.

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In the face of this dazzling demand, Kolmi-Hopen had not spared, doubling the fleet of machines and tripling the workforce (from 107 to 320 employees), moving production from daily to 24/7 operation. . In July 2020, a second production site was even opened a few kilometers away to relieve the parent factory of producing charlottes, shoe covers and other combinations. From 350,000 masks produced daily before the crisis, the company had boldly grown to more than 3.5 million pieces every day. A considerable jump, while for three years the results at half-staff made fear the worst for the very survival of the company. To deal with this unexpected increase in activity, Kolmi-Hopen has invested 12 million euros, hoping to triple turnover (30 million in 2019).

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Two years later, however, the soufflé receded faster than expected. Production has returned to its pre-crisis level and employees are once again concerned. The management has decided to close the second production unit and decides to store the mask machines in wooden boxes. “We are overwhelmed by economic reality. The market is saturated and the Covid has receded”, acknowledges Gérald Heuliez, managing director of the Kolmi-Hopen group and president of Medicom Europe. The public order, which should guarantee a sustainable activity for the company, is not really there. According to him, hospital stocks are full and certain institutions, such as the army, have preferred to order Chinese… masks from French importers.

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