75 years of Swiss Textile Machinery a view of the past and the future
In a time of crisis, on December 9, 1940 the section of VSM (today Swissmem) – it is now the oldest section of the Association – was founded by 25 Swiss Textile Machinery manufacturers, some of the companies are still alive and were celebrating its anniversary in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland. At the same time, and in presence of the international trade press, the section presented an ITMA 2015 preview of their novelties. Also a panel discussion took place on the future of the important industrial sector. TextileFuture was present and brings to you some important findings. The ITMA preview will be reported separately
Today’s Swiss Textile Machinery section President, Ernesto Maurer, gave a short breakdown of the 75 years of history. Many of the companies of the section were originally founded in the 19th century. And a significant number of these experienced at least one difficult phase, in some cases, several member companies disappeared or where taken over by others. The often ruthless processes of evolution, defined by Darwin left its traces within the association.
Maurer states in his foreword to a commemorative brochure “Today, we not only celebrate 75 successful years. We celebrate also a firm foundation from which we are able to look forward with confidence in a successful future. Over the coming decades, the secret of our success will continue to lie in the key factors of innovation, flexibility and perseverance. These are the typical entrepreneurial traits of our founding enterprises. There is no nobler thing than to foster these values, and to take on the next 75 years with our heads held high!”
The future assumptions
The art sketches and accompanying text are highlighting the 75 years of existence and put also for each of these years a focus on a textile highlight of the time driving textile machinery manufacturers to relentless innovations as answers to the customers new requirements. The brochure offers also a vision into the future up to 2020 and beyond. In this look into the crystal ball the brochure cites the Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr who once declared: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” But there are some developments which seem quite likely from today’s standpoint. Globalisation will continue, as the introduction of free markets is discussed in many regions of the world. China will continue to be extremely important – not only as a market for textile machines, but also as a machine manufacturer and a competitor for the Swiss textile machinery industry.
Technical developments in textile machinery will continue to focus on quality, productivity, efficiency, and energy savings. Historically, there have been some very important changes in industrial production. The invention of the steam engine and the first spinning and weaving machines during the second half of the 19th century (first industrial revolution); the introduction of mass production and the use of electrical energy in the beginning of the 20th century (second industrial revolution) and the use of electronics and microprocessors for automation, starting in the 1960s and 1970s (third industrial revolution) are important milestones, continues the brochure, and adds “Today, we can talk about a fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). Here the virtual and physical worlds interact and form so called cyber physical systems. Information and data become crucial resources within the whole production process. Communication between machines (the internet of things) will be of even greater importance in the future.
Up to 2020 wearable electronics will become a bigger trend. The demand for innovative functional fibres is increasing. Liberalisation of markets contuse, promoting further globalisation. The “Information Society” just keeps on expanding. Asian countries, especially China, retain their importance as strong growth countries.
The short time future
The panel discussion on September 20, 2015 with the Swiss moderator Reto Lipp from Swiss TV had the following participants: Ernesto Maurer, President of the Swiss Textile Machinery Association and CEO of SSM, Schärer Schweiter Mettler AG, Sonja Amport, Head of Swiss Textile Technical College, Martin Folini, CEO of Saurer AG and Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen, Executive Partner at IMP Consulting AG, the Innovative Management Partner company.
Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen underlined the importance of an innovation platform that new ideas will find a room and that the industrial sector should develop new applications and products going beyond the textile sector. He mentioned that a Harvard University report found that CEO’s spend only around 3 % of their time to think about the future of the company they are heading. He advocated also collaborative R&D and an image campaign of the sector to attract youngsters to enter a career with a textile machinery company.
Ernesto Maurer was defending the competence, competitiveness and ingenuity of the sector and the special niches filled by the sector. He compared the innovative future with a frog sitting in pond filled with water, but that the water is decreasing in volume and that the frog has either to stay in the pond and see how his vital element is going to diminish, or to look out for a new pond with plenty water, and this on a continuous basis. Questioned, where he would erect the next manufacturing site outside of Switzerland, he was precise: in Europe, where manufacturing, assembly and the mounting of the machine would take place, but the machine competences would remain exclusively in Switzerland. Other manufacturing sites envisioned are Cambodia and Vietnam. The company’s headquarter and R&D and other core activities will stay also in the future in Switzerland. He added that manufacturing costs are a decisive factor, demanding to evaluate the best conditions to set up production or at least to source in different places.
Sonja Amport claimed that actually 25 textile engineers are graduating from the college every year and that she hopes that in the future there will be many more. Since assuming her responsibilities she has already created an innovation platform where young professionals can deposit their ideas and find out if these could become reality in regarding projects.
The discussion revealed that the imminent future is marked by political influence, uncertainty in view to economic development, foreign exchange and central banks decisions, stated Martin Folini CEO of Saurer, he is convinced that 2016 will be a tough year for textile machinery manufacturers.
His colleague Maurer stated that actually in China the production capacity load is very low, and since the Chinese government wants to relocate the textile industry from the East Coast to western China, the textile industry is reluctant to invest. He calculates that it will take one to two years to a recovery of investments in textile machinery. Folini’s hope are the markets of India and Indonesia to make up for the slowing down market in China. He added that in view to perspectives over a decade, R&D, engineering and manufacturing issues will be the main entrepreneurial tasks the management has to take care of.
At the end of the day, the CEO’s did not allow to peek deeply into their cards of the future, but all are certain that the Swiss textile machinery sector remains innovative and will defend its raison d’être, but with manufacturing sites where ever needed to safeguard the competitive edge, whereas the core competences of the companies will remain in Switzerland. The two CEO’s will also allow more time to reflect on the future. Folini declared that his Chairman is Chinese with a very long and broad vision. He, and Maurer underlined the fact that a President or a Chairman has to harmonise on these aspects with the CEO, because the latter is the one being constantly in contact with the actual and future requirements of the customer, the market development and gives the impetus to innovations, thus he is best fitted to bring the company profitably ahead.