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 means having European sovereignty and reducing our dependence. Fortunately, we have kept the expertise and I congratulate the Kolmi company which has been able to maintain this skill in France against all odds. » This tirade by Emmanuel Macron, no one has forgotten it in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou. On March 31, 2020, when France experienced 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 sanitary 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 site which had become highly strategic.

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Faced with this dazzling demand, Kolmi-Hopen had not skimped, doubling the fleet of machines and tripling the workforce (from 107 to 320 employees), production going from daily operation to non-stop, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. In July 2020, a second production site had even been opened a few kilometers away to relieve the parent factory of the production of charlottes, overshoes and other combinations. From 350,000 masks produced daily before the crisis, the company had valiantly grown to more than 3.5 million pieces every day. A considerable leap forward, while for three years, the results at half mast raised fears of the worst for the very survival of the company. To cope with this unexpected increase in activity, Kolmi-Hopen has invested 12 million euros, expecting a tripling of turnover (30 million in 2019).

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

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