How do Swiss companies keep their production efficient despite the rapid changes to the commercial environment? Here you will find an overview of the success strategies of Swiss technological leaders.
«Do something that is demanding, not something that anyone can do», was the simple statement in an introductory speech by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans Gut, Managing Director of MAN Energy Solutions Switzerland, at the SMM Congress 2019, about the secret of the success of the Zurich-based company. This statement might appear simple, but in fact it is not. It is thanks to major and focused innovation, investment in highly-qualified personnel and their further training, and concentration on technically demanding growth markets that MAN has reached its present position, at the top. Gut also provided a few examples of such top innovations. The most impressive was surely the MAN Subsea-Hofim Compressor, the only compressor in the world that can be operated under water, and for a long time without any maintenance. But what is it good for? Thanks to its location directly on the sea floor, the compressor system can be installed directly at a gas deposit. This results in greater efficiency, higher capacity and, all in all, better energy efficiency – and all thanks to top technology from Zurich.
Success thanks to new fields of business
The Gerster hardening plant faces quite different issues to those of MAN, as Managing Director Martina Gerster revealed in her speech. More and more customers want their heat treatment done locally. Is that a danger to the traditional enterprise that will soon mark its 70th anniversary, or is it an opportunity? The hardening plant chose the latter course and formed Gerster Support Services – the solution for trouble-free heat treatment locally. But what does this solution contain? «We offer advice and support on the spot, to ensure that our competence can be improved in proximity to customers», says Martina Gerster. Otherwise, the Egerkingen-based firm offers measurement and testing technology to monitor the heat treatment process and ensure that production adheres to standards. Last but not least, resource support is also offered, whereby these «resources» are service personnel to help customers if their machine operator is unavailable. For the hardening plant, this change from a mere finisher to service provider was a complete success. Improved capacity utilization, reduced dependence on economic trends and a greater use of the knowledge and experience of employees, resulting in increased incentive, were just some of the many positive aspects of this change.
Success thanks to more complex manufacturing solutions
«We sell no manufactuiring solutions. We develop these together with our customers», that is the secret of the success of GF Machining Solutions, described by Managing Director Thomas Wengi in his report. Therefore it is just as important to have clean project management, engage the right partners and be able to say no when no optimal solution can be found. GF has attained success, as the following figure confirms: Over 80 percent of all customers who possess a GF production solution buy a further GF solution in later years. That GF machines are some of the best on the market was explained by Wengi by means of a conspicuous example. Thanks to GF solutions, it has been possible for the first time to produce a die-cast part in such a way that this visible component can be fitted to a top-class vehicle – a genuine innovation.
A quite special conclusion
After further exciting reports, including by Marc Blaser about the history of liquid tools, or by Michael Hauser, who reported on the demise and rebirth of the Tornos group, there were appearances by two special guests, Klaus Endress and Dieter Meier. The former, president of the Board of Administration of the family-run business Endress+Hauser, discussed the fragile world we live in and that in order to survive, one should pay attention to nature much more closely. «Nature is anti-fragile, we can learn very much from it and treat every living thing with respect and decency», said Endress.
Regarding nature, this term also suits musician and artist Dieter Meier. Whether on his cattle farm, among his grapevines or, lately, as chocolate manufacturer, the Yello musician repeatedly demonstrates his golden touch when it comes to new fields of business. In particular, his new chocolate manufacturing process, developed together with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, has the potential to be a game changer. In so-called «cold extraction» the individual ingredients of the cocoa bean are separately derived: Cocoa butter, cocoa powder, the polyphenoles (bitter substances) and the pure aroma molecules. These can then be mixed into the desired couverture in unlimited combinations. For the first time, dark chocolate can be produced with a high proportion of cocoa at various degrees of bitterness, as a result of which, given the natural aroma content of the cocoa bean, the chocolate contains less sugar than ordinary chocolate.