2017 SMM Congress Swissness and Swiss virtues

Author / Editor: Anne Richter / Lina Klass

Precision and reliability are important for a Swiss company in order to be fit for the future, but that is not all. At the SMM Congress, companies have shown other success strategies.

Visitors could obtain information at the exhibition stand about the products and services of the exhibitor.
Visitors could obtain information at the exhibition stand about the products and services of the exhibitor.
(Source: Thomas Entzeroth)

The challenges for Swiss manufacturing companies have increased during the last few years. The companies’ orientations are not only affected by the currency problem, but also by new technologies, globalisation and developing markets, connectivity and data security. All these themes were the part of the 6th SMM Congress, which took place on the 30th of November at the Lucerne fair.

Managers of well-known, mostly Swiss manufacturers of the MEM industries (Machinery, electrical and metal industry) have presented decisions and strategies for their business success and hence, also provided many proposals and incentives for the congress participants. Probably the most important conclusion of the reports is, that "Swissness” alone does not guarantee success. Depending on market conditions, product requirements and the company’s size and orientation, the firms had to make different decisions that led to success – regarding technologies, management strategies and internal processes, location decisions, product developments as well as marketing and sales strategies.


From nowhere to third place

One of the probably most spectacular contributions came from Marenco Swisshelicopter. Although the company must still proove its final success (the break-even is scheduled for 2021); however, the current result is also considerable. Marenco develops a new, single-motor turbine helicopter and thus has established a completely new branch and technology in Switzerland. The goal of the business as a new actor among the top 3 of helicopter manufacturers is to be successful worldwide. With new technologies and new materials, a new machine dimension is possible, and this is the advantage of Marenco. Their helicopters have larger cabins, higher security and the costs are also lower than the established helicopters that have been on the market for 30 years. Besides, Andreas Löwenstein, CEO of Marenco, also does away with several Swiss myths. As Switzerland’s big advantage as a location, he sees the essentially lower ancillary wage costs as compared to other countries, which strongly put the higher salaries into perspective. On the negative side, however, he sees the fact that the world-renowned educational institutions in Switzerland are hardly active in the field of aviation and therefore, there are only very few Swiss specialists in this sector. After all, the construction of helicopters requires 40 different skills at the highest level.

Totally Swiss meets in the local market

The success strategies of other companies are far more down-to-earth. Otto Hofstetter AG with Stefan Zatti, Sales Manager and Marketing Manager, is relying on a growing systems business with a Korean partner and "totally Swiss".

In a growing system business with a Korean partner and "totally Swiss" sets the Otto Hofstetter AG with sales and Marketing Manager Stefan Zatti. For Otto Hofstetter AG, "totally Swiss" does not only indicate top Swiss quality, but also personal contact of the customers with Swiss employees.

A constant focus on quality and innovation is the secret of PB Swiss Tools’ success. In her presentation CEO Eva Jaisli outlined the core skills for the company’s success, which included: Differentiation through unmistakable quality, developing core skills dynamically, expansion of innovation network for products and processes, securing investment power and risk tolerance, brand performance in the high-end market, competitiveness for international market share expansion. PB Swiss Tools has managed to increase its export share of 30% in 1981 to 70% in 2017.

An example that Swissness is not always a guarantee for success comes from the Urma AG tool factory with CEO Urs W. Berner. In order to take the local market into consideration, the company enters the Japanese market with a Japanese product.

Entire value chain in focus

GF Machining Solutions offers a single technology portfolio: in addition to the processing technologies of milling and erosion and the automation, the company has invested in new technologies, such as laser processing and additive manufacturing. The company’s goal is to integrate the new technologies in manufacturing processes so that traditional methods can be replaced with in-house solutions rather than external ones.

Stefan Dahl, manager of Business Unit New Technologies, emphasizes that the entire value chain process must be considered, because the new technologies offer the possibility of omitting entire process steps.

Customer loyalty, perseverance and market demands

The Kistler Group has developed from small sensor manufacturer to a system provider. The company achieves growth through innovation. CEO Rolf Sonderegger emphasises that with system solutions a much greater customer loyalty can be reached than only with the distribution of individual components.

Burckhardt Compression, manufacturer of piston compressors, can look back on a long company history of 173 years. The president of the board of management, Valentin Vogt, underlines the meaning of developing a unique USP (unique selling point) company culture and pursuing the company's long-term and persistent strategy.

Paul Horn GmbH was the only non-Swiss company to be represented. Managing Director Lothar Horn emphasizes the importance of designing product developments and the expansion of the product portfolio strictly according to market requirements. New products must imperatively be better than their precursor model.

Costs decrease with Lean Management

A means to sustainably decrease the cost structures is consistent Lean Management, as Julian Mundl, project manager and senior consultant at Noventa Consulting AG, emphasizes. The Formula 1 pit stop is an impressive example: in 1974, these lasted over 40 seconds, today they are only 1.94 seconds.

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