Expert interview Switzerland an attractive location also in the future
Bystronic is a world leader in offering comprehensive solutions for sheet metal processing, with development, processing and distribution sites all over the world. We spoke to Dr. Christoph Rüttimann, CTO Bystronic Group, about the optimal strategy and future opportunities.
SMM: Mr. Rüttimann, how do you assess the current development of investment products such as the high-quality processing solutions of Bystronic?
Christoph Rüttimann: Many enterprises are cautious right now because of world political and economic developments that are difficult to foresee. They are waiting, and are investing only hesitantly or not at all.
How is Bystronic placed to also tackle volatile economic developments?
C. Rüttimann: For one thing, we have invested in various technology enterprises and included their portfolios in our offer. For a few years we have also been developing and selling solutions in the medium price segment. In Asia we also support clients in the start-up segment with cutting and bending systems. In the meantime, our product p[portfolio also includes further technologies, for example 3D cutting of pipes and profiles and the comprehensive automation of cutting and bending processes. Thus, we are ready in every economic situation to offer our customers and best manufacturing solutions.
How is Bystronic represented internationally?
C. Rüttimann: We have regional sales and service companies on every continent. In Europe, America and Asia we have development and production sites. In this way we can support and supply important markets directly. At all our locations we benefit from employees who live in the same region. They know the mentality of our customers. In this way we can exploit special requirements and preferences for our further development and use them to our advantage. For example, Chinese production companies have preferred the fiber laser for a long time. That has encouraged us to develop this technology further and apply it to other markets as well.
Does that mean that Bystronic will no longer be a Swiss firm in the foreseeable future?
C. Rüttimann: Not at all! We are steadfastly and sustainably bound to Switzerland. As an enterprise, Bystronic is driven by innovation, and in future too innovation will be generated in Switzerland. We are sure of that. However, our competence in the sphere of automation and laser cutting of pipes and profiles is shared between two further locations in Italy. In Germany we develop biotechnology, and in China we have development and production sites in Tianjin and Shenzhen. Western engineers want to make something as well as possible, and to make it even better tomorrow. On the other hand, Chinese engineers develop machines with a different kind of efficiency, so that they work and fulfill their purpose. Both work methods have their justification, and mutual exchange produces convincing results.
What makes you so certain that Swiss technology will continue to lead in the future?
C. Rüttimann: Swiss products continue to have an excellent reputation for their quality and reliability. This must be preserved and extended in future. We have the best conditions for this, mentality on the one hand and an excellent education system and general standard of education on the other. We maintain best contacts with schools and colleges. That brings significant impulses for innovation. It also makes it easier to find specialists and allows young people a smooth transfer to the working world. For these reasons, Switzerland is a particularly attractive location. If we continue this way, we will remain world leaders in innovation and technology.
In what direction will innovation go?
C. Rüttimann: After many years of continued development of mechanics and processes, software and automation will play an ever-increasing role. In future, one will remain above the competition primarily by means terms of software. We have realized this and are guiding our actions accordingly. For instance, we have considerably increased our cooperation with software specialists. Apart from individual machines, we want to offer our customers completely interlinked production systems. We also incorporate machines and facilities that were not produced by us. That sets us apart from a few competitors.
The objective is completely interlinked and automated sheet metal production. Even for individual pieces there should be a completely automated process. This development is driven mainly by the realization that even our customers have fewer and fewer specialists at their disposal. Therefore, the path leads away from a mere machine manufacturer to an enterprise guided by software. Where do you get suitable specialists from?
C. Rüttimann: We are an attractive employer and our expending our potential. We are altering our working environment at several locations. The work time model is also changing. We are allowing not just software specialists to work at the locations they want at least partly. We also train our own future employees. We currently employ about 120 apprentices at various locations and various professional fields. We also adapt the training curricula to future requirements. When our specialists are already engaged in daily operations, we give them the opportunity to undergo further training. In this respect, too, we are working on being an attractive employer in future as well.