“WE TAKE OUR RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUSLY”
Why CEO Stefan Scheiber is optimistic, what fills him with gratitude, how digitalization is an opportunity not to be missed, and what today’s soccer has to do with cohesion and culture.
Mr. Scheiber, Bühler’s solutions around the globe are currently providing food for approximately 2 billion people each year. And 1 billion travel and commute in vehicles made with Bühler technologies. What does this mean for you?
We are conscious of the responsibility that we carry and take it very seriously. Playing such a relevant role in both nutrition and mobility offers us the opportunity to address – together with our customers – some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Consider the children suffering from malnutrition and the people who only have access to contaminated foods. And let’s not forget the effects of climate change and what that will mean for food security for our growing population. We are now in a phase that will be decisive for the planet. It is time to address the problems triggered by humankind. Our generation is now defining how the world will be passed on to our children, and whether they will have the same life opportunities and possibilities for development that we have had. We should all be working to bring about the sustainable turnaround that we so urgently need. Bühler can make a significant contribution here – but not alone. Hence our philosophy to collaborate with a broad spectrum of companies and individuals to create “innovations for a better world.”
What specifically is Bühler doing?
As a result of the first Networking Days event in 2016, we have defined our sustainability objective: 30% less energy and 30% less waste to be achieved by our process solutions. We have pursued this goal with determination with all new product innovations. We are measuring the results and have already recorded achievements. In this way, our process solutions are not only becoming more sustainable. We also differentiate ourselves from our competitors and provide our customers with measurable added value. We intend to take this challenge to the next level with the opening of the new CUBIC innovation center. This center will embody our innovation spirit and culture and provide us with new opportunities for cooperation with customers, businesses, academia, start-ups, and more. Furthermore, this investment is a clear intergenerational acknowledgment of Switzerland as a location for innovation.
The CUBIC will officially open in spring 2019, and in August we will invite our customers to join us there for the first time. Together, we look for solutions and opportunities that will make sustainability commercially successful, and will also leave a healthier planet for future generations.
Bühler’s aspiration alone does not make for a successful company. How do you translate the power of determination into profitable growth?
With a value-based corporate culture, and passionate staff working for customers every day on every continent. Our aim is to transform the global challenges into sustainable technologies and business models. But in the end it is always about convincing customers with the genuine added value provided by our solutions. We must also strive to remain ahead of our competitors with our innovations, and our customer service needs to be the best.
How will you achieve this?
By covering entire value-creation chains with our product portfolio and therefore presenting ourselves as full solution providers – from grain to bread, from the cocoa bean to chocolate, or from molten aluminum to the finished engine block. Today, this is all strongly supported by digital technologies. Add to this our commitment to supplying service and transferring and sharing knowledge. This positioning enables Bühler to generate additional value for customers that no other competitor can offer.
Second, we strive to become the technology and market leader in all of our business segments. We made significant progress in 2018. An example of this strategy is the acquisition of Haas, a milestone that changes Bühler’s structure, in particular because in this way we can offer our customers a complete product portfolio in the consumer foods sector. We introduced a new generation of mills, the Mill E3, at the 2018 Ipack-Ima in Milan, Italy.
After 30 years of continuous development in milling, the Mill E3 marks a real transformation. It will reduce building investment by 30%, can be installed 30% faster, and will save at least 10% in energy use. The market launch is planned in 2020. We are also planning to unveil a revolutionary new die-casting platform in June 2019 at the GIFA trade fair in Düsseldorf, Germany. Our teams began developing this solution in 2016, and prototypes were successfully tested throughout 2018 – so keep your eyes open for this.
“We look for solutions that will make sustainability commercially successful, and will also leave a healthier planet for future generations.”
Getting back to the Haas acquisition, how did the integration progress in 2018?
Remarkably well. We are very satisfied with the results in the first year. After an initial moment of surprise for staff and customers, a unique positive momentum has arisen. The acquisition has put us in a position to offer our customers integrated product solutions from one source, for wafers, cakes, cookies, chocolate confectionery, and bakery products. All parties involved quickly realized what additional value we can generate with this combination, and their enthusiasm is unmistakable.
The transition has been so smooth and successful that Bühler will base itself on three strategic pillars, rather than on the previous two of Grains & Food and Advanced Materials. The third pillar is Consumer Foods. With this step we are the clear No. 1 in this global growth market, and have great potential for the future. The move is effective in 2019, but the building blocks were put in place in 2018.
In this regard, is it helpful to still be a family business?
Generally, family businesses can plan more independently, and they can have a more long-term orientation than companies listed on the stock exchange. We are very proud to be able to work for the Bühler family because we are not only sharing common values but really living them. The investments in Haas or in the CUBIC would not be possible without alignment between the family, the Board of Directors, and management. In this way, we have the ideal conditions to take Bühler into the future.
Let’s look further ahead: What are the major themes that move you?
Digitalization and inclusive diversity stand out as points of focus alongside many others. Networking, artificial intelligence, and robotics make it possible to combine the physical and virtual worlds to generate new value in a more efficient way. The transformations that may unfold as a result of digitalization are fascinating, enticing, and also disquieting in equal measure. As a company we cannot afford to miss out on the opportunities it will present. Therefore, we are actively moving this transformation forward on all levels, for efficient production in the factory, in our machinery with networked technologies, and with completely new digital services and business models.
In April 2018, we partnered with Microsoft to further our efforts to enhance food safety and traceability along the value chain, and also to evaluate blockchain applications.
What is the reason for the increased emphasis on inclusive diversity?
First, inclusion is a human right. It is my firm belief that each and every employee at Bühler should feel welcomed and comfortable at work. Second, every strategy is only as good as the people who implement it. People always operate in a cultural framework. To put it in a nutshell: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If we want to maintain the lead in ourcompetitive markets, we have to work continuously on our culture. I like to use soccer as an analogy.
Diversity brings different perspectives into the arena, and an atmosphere of teamwork, trust, and belonging is what creates a winning team. In the past, possession of the ball lasted an average of three seconds. Today, it is just one second. To play at this speed, you have to activate and include all the talent on the playing field. The players must trust each other, so that when they get the ball they intuitively know where to move it and know that other players are working with them to move it forward.
At Bühler, we are working on establishing a more open culture that will attract a diversity of talent: people who are willing and empowered to contribute their perspectives irrespective of their age, origin, beliefs, or gender. In a first step, I made a public pledge on International Women’s Day 2018 in support of gender equality in our company.
This commitment, which is fully backed by our Board of Directors and management, also includes the commitment to increase the share of women we employ by 1% year-over-year and accelerating. This enrichment in terms of knowledge and abilities is a decisive factor for us to win the game.
How do you believe your markets will develop – and what do you expect in the longterm?
I am generally positive because the world economy is continuing to grow, albeit no longer as dynamically. Risks in the currency markets have increased, and the new trade barriers and tariffs are not making business any easier. However, new opportunities are always arising. In general, we are operating in interesting markets for which we are developing sustainable solutions. We have strong market positions. We have a committed workforce with outstanding skills. And we have relationships with thousands of fantastic customers around the world who are investing in the future. I find all of this encouraging and motivating.
Are you proud of what Bühler and you have achieved over your last two years as CEO?
I am proud of what has been achieved. I am also fully aware that what has been accomplished is only possible thanks to our customers, a great management team, a great workforce at all our locations, and the great support of our shareholder family. Let’s not forget that this is also combined with a certain degree of good fortune. We cannot influence everything. I am aware of my own limitations, and I am grateful to be supported by everyone at Bühler who is striving to make it stronger.