The first noticeable change, however, are two new faces. Thomas Rother (CEO of Daetwyler SwissTec) and Olaf Segbert (head of marketing and sales) have joined the line-up of my customary hosts: Peter Daetwyler (owner and chairman of Daetwyler SwissTec), Hans Jörg Brudermann (divisional CEO of SwissTec), Dr Sibylle Stilz (quality manager) and Werner Hämmig (MD of Daetwyler’s South African partner).
Providing background to these additions, Hans Jörg Brudermann explains: ‘For a secure future, well-considered succession planning is essential, so that opportunities in promising markets can continue to be identified and implemented. We set great store by this principle. New ideas and innovative technologies – to mention just two aspects – are important for a company to remain forward-looking and ensure its continued existence.’
In early 2014, as evidence of this policy, the Daetwyler group underwent a series of management changes. While Peter Daetwyler retained leadership of the group, he handed management control of the Daetwyler SwissTec division to Hans Jörg Brudermann, who, in turn, relinquished overall management of Daetwyler SwissTec to Thomas Rother.
As CEO of Daetwyler SwissTec division Hans Jörg also serves on the Daetwyler group executive board. However, his day-to-day focus is firmly on SwissTec’s research and development (R&D) activities.
Picking up the story, Thomas Rother remarks, ‘Our task is to find and implement new strategies to enable continued progress. Cost awareness and cost pressures need constant revision, and customers’ expectations need smart identification and rapid reaction. With last year’s management changes, we’re well equipped to face the future.’
Asked about his impressions after his first year as CEO, Thomas Rother replies: ‘In fact, I joined the company in 2012 and during the last two years (one-year settling in as deputy CEO and the second year as CEO), I have learned that I have many fascinating challenges in this very interesting field of doctor blade technology!’
He goes on to recount a number of demanding projects: ‘We’ve started a new marketing campaign; our sales and support teams have been reinforced by employing print specialists with extensive experience; we’ve enlarged our product portfolio; and – very importantly – we’ve established a competence centre for R&D under the management of Hans Jörg Brudermann.’
Competence in R&D
It’s evident, that considerable investment is being channelled into SwissTec’s R&D activities. Questioned further about this, Hans Jörg elucidates: ‘R&D is particularly important if we’re to maintain our market-leading position. Thanks to our expertise, complemented by Daetwyler IBO Tec – our new R&D competence centre in Lübeck, Germany – we’re in a position to improve and expand our product portfolio on a continuous basis.’
This development started two years ago, when IBO Coating Technology and Daetwyler SwissTec agreed to cooperate. In the interim, IBO has been incorporated into the Daetwyler group and renamed Daetwyler IBO Tec, and relocated to new premises, with its former managing directors, Michael Reinert and Mario Freygang, continuing to manage the operation.
‘We’re proud of our R&D centre and confident that our customers will benefit from Daetwyler IBO Tec’s high-tech coating expertise, ensuring our ongoing leadership in coating technology,’ says Hans Jörg. ‘Although our primary focus is on new products for the printing and paper industries, we’ll also expand our portfolio into other industrial areas.’
Evolving doctor blade markets
This leads to the question of new product launches since my previous visit. Thomas Rother responds: ‘We’ve taken improved our well-established Longlife and Optilife blades with the launch of Longlife Plus and Optilife Plus blades, with outstanding coatings to meet increasingly sophisticated print requirements. Global demand for such blades continues to rise. This is another development that has been facilitated by Daetwyler IBO Tec.’
And moving away from printing, a fresh area of R&D has been undertaken to meet paper industry needs. Again making use of Daetwyler IBO Tec expertise, the first scraper blade for the paper industry has been introduced. The new blade is proving highly successful in field trials, even exceeding the paper industry’s high expectations.
As Hans Jörg Brudermann explains, demands on this blade are huge in the face of extremely high load capacities. Its task is to keep a paper roll 100% free of residues and deposits and it has to guarantee error-free production for at least three weeks, during which time it’s constantly subjected to maximum load.
Shaping the future
Ongoing globalisation, more competition, increasingly exacting demands on printing products, continuing price pressures, and a growing need for technical advice – these are just some of the reasons for Daetwyler SwissTec’s significant investments in shaping its future.
Comments Thomas Rother: ‘We’re making sustained investments in these areas, especially towards achieving our ambitious growth targets.’
This brings us to the reason behind the second addition to the management line-up – Olaf Segbert, now heading up marketing and sales. His appointment is further evidence of SwissTec’s strong investment in reinforcing the field technical sales team to support customers with advice and training.
Under Olaf’s leadership, 13 printing engineers (based at Bleienbach) are regularly globe-trotters. On every continent, they accompany Daetwyler’s global partners, visiting local printers to help find solutions to particular problems. In addition, large contingents of printing specialists are located in branch offices in the US, China, Russia and India. Altogether, more than 30 specialists are constantly travelling to support customers on-site, at their machines.
‘We also offer our sales partners a growing number of training opportunities to keep them up-to-date on technical developments and progress,’ adds Hans Jörg Brudermann. ‘In addition, we’ve expanded our distribution network and have new partners for Nigeria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The expansion of these new partnerships involves a lot of travelling.
‘We’re also opening up new markets,’ adds Thomas Rother. ‘For example, we’re moving into areas such as corrugated and printed electronics. More intensive cooperation with our partners requires more technical sales people; and for this reason, many new employees have joined the Daetwyler SwissTec team in marketing, sales and field service in Southeast Asia, Russia, Africa and Central America. We hope to add the Indian and Australian markets to this list in the near future.’
Expanding in sales and the associated increase in enquiries and deliveries have naturally been felt by the staff involved in production, quality control and administration but thee teams have also been reinforced.
Towards the end of 2013 a new 4 500m2 production facility was commissioned – not only providing space for new equipment to optimise production processes but also creating a bright, pleasant workplaces for employees.
‘Our efficiency has also been boosted through the efforts of our experienced and reliable staff, many of whom have been with us for a long time. We’re proud of our dedicated teams and their commitment,’ comments Hans Jörg Brudermann.
The South African connection
When printers in South Africa take delivery of their doctor blades, precision packed in custom-designed stackable and recyclable polypropylene containers, one wonders how much thought they give to the process by which these blades are produced.
‘Our philosophy is to maintain our leading position in the doctor blade market by continuously developing new technologies and providing outstanding customer service,’ asserts Daetwyler SwissTec’s CEO, Hans Jörg Brudermann.
‘We’re innovative and dynamic and focus on our customers’ needs. Our vision is to expand our leading position globally while continuing to develop new doctor blade coatings.’
Given this vision, it’s not surprising to learn that SwissTec products enjoy top place in South African doctor blade market.
It’s more than a quarter of century since Werner Haemmig came to South Africa to establish Daetwyler’s local subsidiary (in 1989), heralding the start of a new era for the company’s African operations.
Today Werner confidently asserts that his company enjoys a major share of the available market for gravure cylinder processing equipment and, having started with a minuscule share 26 years ago, today enjoys the lion’s share of the South African doctor blade market.
Werner attributes this success to the top-quality and high precision of the products that emanate from Swiss headquarters, the ‘Rolls Royce’ engineering service levels, and the technical back-up the company offers its customers.
He also highlights Daetwyler’s strong customer focus, particularly the regular visits by experts from Bleienbach who provide local customers with hands-on training and help them improve workflow and production throughput, reducing downtime and minimising wasted materials.
Fresh marketing campaign
Very obvious in the global print media is a new marketing campaign – with the motto ‘The Original’.
On this topic, Hans Jörg remarks: ‘We want to stay true to our proven traditions and long-standing values. Our brand MDC (originally standing for Max Daetwyler Corporation) goes back to 1972 when Max Daetwyler founded the company and started production of his unique lamella doctor blade. That blade soon became the watchword for quality and reliability and for this reason we marketed our MDC doctor blades as “The Original”.’
Adds Thomas Rother, ‘But we’ve also adapted our campaign to get in emotional touch with our target customer. We want to signal that, even though we’re proud of and uphold our traditions, we’re a modern, future-orientated company.’
Clearly, Daetwyler SwissTec is intent on remaining the market leader for doctor blades and is doing everything possible to maintain this position.
The Daetwyler connections
The Daetwyler group enjoys a long and proud history, serving gravure and flexographic printers around the globe. Indeed, the name Daetwyler has long been synonymous with high-tech cylinder engraving, plating and finishing technology, automatic cylinder handling and storage systems, and, arguably, the most comprehensive range of doctor blades under the sun!
Daetwyler SwissTec, concerned exclusively with doctor blade production, located within Daetwyler’s headquarters in Bleienbach, Switzerland, was formed in 2007 as an independent sister company of MDC Max Daetwyler, and is owned by the Daetwyler family, headed by Peter Daetwyler (son of the group’s founder, the late Max Daetwyler).
What’s today known as Daetwyler Graphics is the ‘classic Daetwyler’ with its continuing focus on gravure cylinder making. This division is a result of a restructure in 2009 when Peter Daetwyler (owner of MDC Max Daetwyler) and Max Rid (owner of Hell Gravure Systems, Kasper Walter and Bauer Logistik – now incorporated into Heliograph Holding) joined forces to develop and manufacture gravure cylinder-making equipment. In broad terms, these activities continue at Daetwyler Graphics in Bleienbach and at Kasper Walter in Munich, Germany.
A third leg to the group, Daetwyler Industries, produces parts, assemblies and complete machines – from single elements to the entire value chain – for a number of diverse industries.
In January 2014, Daetwyler Graphics became a 100% subsidiary of Heliograph Holding, Germany. However, cooperation with the rest of the Daetwyler group remains strong, with both companies maximising their synergies.
Daetwyler Industries and Daetwyler SwissTec remain 100% family-owned companies, administered by Peter Daetwyler and his son, Ralph.