Wednesday, December 15, 2010
“We have built up a lot of know-how during the crisis“
Essemtec AG overcomes the industry crises strengthened and with new products
Essemtec has pursued a countercyclical strategy during the past years. Costs were reduced but research and development (R&D) was not slowed. Therefore, Essemtec now can offer the most modern range of electronics production machines for a growing market. Adrian Schärli spoke with CEO Martin Ziehbrunner and Sales and Marketing Manager Florian Schildein about past experiences and future prospects.
Essemtec, the Swiss manufacturer of production machines, has well overcome the industry crises. CEO Martin Ziehbrunner had been forward-looking. He remembers: “We began implementing cost-reducing measures earlier than others.”Some of these measures were minimizing and optimizing material stock as well as using the possibilities of short-time working, a speciality of Switzerland. Thanks to these measures, Essemtec has not lost know-how during the crisis, but actually gained it. The company was always ready to return to full power whenever needed. The Swiss social infrastructure has demonstrated its strength.
New products ready for growth
R&D has continued at full power throughout the past months because Ziehbrunner always has believed in the market's recovery. His countercyclical strategy is the reason that Essemtec has introduced four completely new machines and overhauled four others in only one year. Today, Essemtec can offer the most modern machines for a market that is growing rapidly and is hungry for new solutions.
Florian Schildein, Essemtec's Sales and Marketing Manager, highlights the positive market development of Paraquda and Cobra, the two SMD pick-and-place machines that recently have been introduced. In the second half of 2010, the sales figures soared. Both machines feature ePlace, the new user interface software developed by Essemtec that makes machine operation “a real pleasure.” ePlace also reduces the time that operators spend training and programming because it avoids input errors.
A further highlight of the past months is Tucano. This automatic stencil printer is a new development implementing many concepts, experiences and features gained in high-precision solar cell printing. Thus, Tucano turned into a best seller in just a few months’ time.
Turnover higher than expected
In 2010, revenues were significantly higher than expected. According to Schildein, the budget had been made very carefully. By August 2010, Essemtec had announced record sales and the following months developed far beyond expectations. Since summer, the production department has been working in two to three shifts and sometimes even over the weekends.
“Our new products had a great impact,” said Schildein. “Another key factor for the success is our improved sales structures. In several countries, Essemtec replaced external representatives with its own subsidiary companies, which lead to a better market presence and market identification. Subsidiaries are expensive and increase risk in the beginning.” But the risk pays off, says Schildein, because the end customers profit from a closer contact to the manufacturer, improved know-how transfer and clear responsibilities.
Investing in new markets
Ziehbrunner calls the 2010 acquisition of Vermes, the dispensing valve manufacturer, “a move with great potential.” Together with a second partner, Essemtec now has direct access and influence to this key technology. Vermes dispensing valves are used in electronics production as well as numerous other industries. They are known for their precision, speed and flexibility.
Also in 2010, Essemtec has invested into the development of new market regions such as Brazil as well as in new industries such as solar technology, LED lamp manufacturing and 3-D SMD assembly. In these markets, Essemtec expects an increased growth rate in 2011.
20 Years Jubilee
Although 2010 developed so positively, Martin Ziehbrunner sees no reason to relax. In 2011 Essemtec will continue to introduce new products and to improve existing ones. Another important task, however, will be analyzing and optimizing the internally grown structures and production processes. Ziehbrunner says, “For me, machine manufacturing time is still too long.”
Also, Schildein announces structural changes in the sales organization. Beginning in 2011, France and Germany will be reorganized. Essemtec France will replace the current distributor Prodelectronic. Essemtec Germany will move from Zorneding to Starnberg and will promote Sandra Paggen as its new business manager.
And the 20 Year Essemtec jubilee? “Yes, of course we are happy about that,” said Ziehbrunner. A celebration event is planned for mid-2011. But of more importance, says Ziehbrunner, is to understand why after 20 years and several crises, Essemtec is in the leading position and to continue working on it. Ziehbrunner proves once more that he is worthy of being awarded the “Entrepreneur of the Year 2009”: He is an entrepreneur and his thoughts are always far into the future.