The only completely preserved Swiss jacquard linen weaving mill finds its place in the world
TextileFuture presents today as second part in the series of successful niche players, the only and completely preserved Swiss linen weaving mill Schwob AG, offering high quality table and bed linen, towelling and bedding systems, mostly delivered to hotels and restaurants, clinics, kitchen/serving staff, including linen leasing and laundry services (in Switzerland). The set-up is unique, and products are fulfilling the most discerning customer’s wish for premium quality. The linens are also exported to high quality hotels and restaurants, foremost in Asia and Far East, but increasingly also around the globe
TextileFuture has been visiting the mill in Burgdorf, Switzerland, and interviewed its CEO Stephan Hirt. Burgdorf is located at the entry to the Emmental (also the origin of the Emmentaler cheese with the famous wholes), having also a centuries-long tradition of growing flax and weaving linen. Already the premises of the company is the proof of a rich history. The tower is under conservation protection. The creek that once served as a source of electricity is still visible and offers a sort of a scenic divider of the property. The historic background is the base for highest quality products manufactured on state-of-the art jacquard weaving looms. The products are then confectioned in-house. Installed are the most modern sewing machines are, also quality control takes place, and handwork is performed.
The historic background of Schwob AG
As many other Swiss textile mills, the foundation of Schwob AG dates back to 1872 – meaning over 140 years of providing the finest fabrics – as Schwob Fréres (brothers) in the Swiss capital of Berne. In 1917 the company’s name was changed to Schwob & Co., Linen weaving mill. Another milestone was 1940, when Schwob was transformed from a limited partnership to a joint-stock company and was renamed in Schwob & Co.AG. In 1980 the company acquired the linen mill Schmid & Cie in Burgdorf (today’s home of the company). In 1993 Schwob’s activities were transferred to Burgdorf. In 2008 there was a merger with three textile-care companies (Schärer AG, Olten, Eclipse AG, Arlesheim and TexAG in Niederuzwil, all in Switzerland) took place and all of them were united under Schwob AG. Additionally on July 1, 2015, the Jonenthal laundry was acquired. The laundry was founded around 30 years ago by Urs Strub and has developed in the past few years into a very successful and renowned service provider in the sector of textile care. The Jonenthal laundry is offering complete services for textile care and offers also leasing linen total care services. The latter being on the rise and with a particular focus on the cantons of Zurich, Zug, Aargau and Lucerne. Its customers are provided with similar services, better comparable ones, such as Schwob customers enjoy today. Its customer structure is based similarly to the one at Schwob, namely in the business fields of gastronomy, hotels, clinics and residential sectors. The capacity of this medium sized laundry is around four to five t/day, thus leading to an annual laundry volume of over one million kilogrammes. The nearness to large areas, such as Zurich (16 km) or Zug (21 km) permits an efficient and economical servicing of customers.
In 2008 Schwob also achieved Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification, and in 2009 followed the certification by FLO-CERT (Fairtrade/Max Havelaar), and 2010 the certification by ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004. In 2012 new Dornier/Stäubli jacquard machines were installed in the weaving shed. In 2013 the hotel and restaurant business area was expanded to clinics and residential homes. Also the product range was extended to include work wear for kitchen/serving staff and a unique bedding system. 2008 – 2015 was focussed on refitting of the laundries to reduce consumption of resources, including new ironing lines in Arlesheim and Olten, state-of-the-art dryers, towel-folding machines and finishers for garment processing. In 2014 Sanitized® hygiene protection has been provided for all Schwob customers as an exclusive repeated service.
Actually, the mill employs around 200 people, thereof 35 in each of the four laundry set-ups. Very important are also the operators of the most modern jacquard weaving machines, catering for the heart of the high value production in Burgdorf.
As described before, all entrepreneurial actions were dedicated to create a higher added value for the customers and the company itself. The activities of the company allow all out of one hand, including linen renting and laundry services. All products are individually and jointly developed with customers. Designs are performed on CAD Systems.
Also The Dolder Grand (hotel) in Zurich sourced its distinguishing linen from Schwob. Stephan Hirt is proud to show this reference from a list of a very outstanding customers. The all of one hand concept includes the pieces of linen to be individually produced (obviously having its price tag for the premium quality), the leasing, and an all-inclusive laundry service. Calculation is based on a five year lifecycle, and in laundry terms in kilos. The laundry service is well organised from pick-up service by a fleet of 15 camions to home delivery of the washed laundry. Thus, the customers benefit from a full tailored service seamlessly to their individual needs, and free of unwanted or problematic interfaces.
The company stands also for sustainability, this is why it is certified by FLO-CERT. Last year the company initiated also a revival of flax planting with interested farmers and on a planting area of 5.7 hectares. On the territory of the factory a field of flax planting was lately introduced. Schwob will make use of the yield of flax in its production, offering again a sustainable product range. Stephan Hirt explains, that when flax is planted, it needs six years before flax can be planted anew, but the initial revival planting creates the interest of farmers, not only in the Emmental region.
Of course, Schwob has also to face the high flighing of the CHF, but the premium quality and the additional characteristics of the offering, including life cycle service, make the company more resistant, however with the increasing export volume and competition from the EU (France and Italy) it is necessary to keep the competitive edge at all times.
The weaving mill and the additional top services
Sourcing the raw material, for instance cotton from Greece and Italy, the decreased value of the EUR against the CHF has been helpful. Only the best material is apt to be applied in the demanding production in 2.60 weaving width. There is also a necessity to keep a needed stock of yarns in top quality and various colours, a fact that is capital binding.
Schwob AG is one of the leading national and international suppliers of high quality textiles for hotels, restaurants and healthcare institutions and residential homes. The high-tech linen weaving mill is one of the most productive and efficient in Europe with 11 electronic jacquard machines. These coordinate a total of 62192 individually controlled threads. This comprehensive and extremely sophisticated single-thread operation means that customers can let their imagination run wild. Schwob is able to produce individual designs, unusual effects, personalised logos and more, as well in relatively small volumes. Weavers in China tend to laugh at customers who only want 200 metres of particular fabric. The response in Burgdorf is favourable to such customers: “our pleasure, when would you like us to deliver?” However, the above-average standing of technology in the weaving mill is not enough on its own to manufacture individual products down to the last detail. This is why its specialised employees in the finishing department sew, cut and finalise such textiles painstakingly by hand.
Qualified advisors, administrators, designers, and production experts in the weaving mill, finishers, quality controllers and shippers ensure that the high quality standards demanded by Schwob AG are met. The team performs every step of the work process with professionalism and dedication, form material procurement, design, production, and processing to delivery, with a package of services optimised for all aspects of table, bed, kitchen and bath linen.
Moreover, at Schwob it is easy to replace damaged textiles with new ones. Once a product has been woven, it can simply be manufactured again in the future. This ensures that textiles and their care are sustainable. A very large number of major names throughout Switzerland are impressed by both the service they receive and the financial advantage of this approach. However, it has to be noted that in the laundry sector there is a lot of competition, but Schwob offers a one stop business along the value chain, and this is the noble factor that makes customer repeatedly decide for Schwob.
The range is all a question of individual style
In Table Linen Schwob collections pick-up the latest trends in the restaurant and hotel business and incorporate them creatively, open to customers’ individual needs, in terms of design, functionality, colour or textile properties. The company produces table linen with a touch of exclusivity and generates true added value. The ranges include classic, traditional, modern or extravagant, might it be table cloths, place mats, runners, serviettes, chair covers, table skirts and drying cloths.
Schwob creates Bed Linen from fabrics that make dreams come true. The comprehensive collection leaves no wish unfulfilled in terms of material, colour, dimensions, design and finishing, including the weaving of individual motifs into linen for that personal extra touch.
Schwob Towelling range helps to create a relaxed atmosphere. Designs, colours, sizes and textile characteristics are chosen to perfectly complement both purpose and ambiance. Towelling items can be individualised with embroidered or woven logos or emblems, making them a seamless fit with the character of the establishment. Towelling items, such as hand towels, bath and shower sheets, dressing gowns and face cloths, as well as kitchen textiles such as drying cloths and aprons are the offering for this range.
The company’s Bedding Systems supplies a complete bedding system that can be cleaned hygienically. Various bed frames, slatted frames, mattresses, pillows and other accessories can be combined to produce hotel beds to meet individual requirements. Mattresses are cleaned once a year in the laundry to ensure high standards of hygiene.
Work wear for kitchen and serving staff is provided under the brand “Le Nouveau Chef”. The name says it all, “The Nouveau Chef” from Schwob AG is an extremely popular and widely known range of workwear that more than meets the needs of kitchen and serving staff. The smart garments are made from long-lasting and high quality fabrics, with a clear focus on outstanding functionality and value for money.
The Residents’ laundry is a particularly curated area of Schwob, recognising that affectionate and individual care are key, when looking after patients and senior citizens in a residential setting. High quality, pleasant linen often makes a substantial, yet frequently underestimated contribution to the well-being of those living under one roof. Schwob AG is aware of this, and therefore offers both high quality products and a range of services designed to optimise everyday routine, including the work processes involved. Schwob offers a comprehensive range of services for handling residents’ garments. Its laundry also has the infrastructure and logistical capability to handle such linen care requirements smoothly: Each resident’s laundry is placed in a separate laundry bag, provided by Schwob. All the washing is picked-up and cared for in the Schwob laundries. Then the clean garments are returned, sorted by resident. This is an established process that has proven to be efficient and it will save time for the customer: The pre-sorting of clean laundry reliefs the institution of doing it.
Schwob in Burgdorf is based on tradition, but it has met modernity, and will continue to do so. Its ranges are perfectly matching today’s and future customer’s needs and offers all the services a customer wishes, and all from one hand. It is a win-win situation for both the customer and Schwob. Schwob is another example for a successful niche player, conquering markets, and with a profitable perfect business model, therefore it has an exceptional market position, not only in Switzerland, but growingly worldwide.