Today Essemtec AG stands at the final stage of a company restructure that began in 2013 with a change of ownership. An intense time with many changes lies behind the company’s current team. We meet Mr. André Müller and Mr. Franz-Xaver Strüby for an interview, and check with them what has happened in the past and what is to be expected of this medium-sized machine manufacturer in the future. Mr. Müller is both a member of the board of Essemtec AG and is also responsible for the Technology and Product Development division, while Mr. Strüby became the new CEO of Essemtec AG in January of this year.
Mr. Müller, what was the reason for your investment in Essemtec AG?
For over 25 years, Essemtec has appeared in the electronic production business as an innovative company with many young, intelligent employees. I invest exclusively in small and medium-sized high tech companies that can show flexibly and react fast to changes in the market. With my long-term experience in precision machine manufacturing for the semiconductor and electronics industry I felt even more motivated as an investor where Essemtec was concerned.
Mr. Strüby, previously as COO you were responsible for the supply chain, finances and administration of Essemtec. Today you are in the position of the CEO. What do you think the biggest challenges for Essemtec AG are?
In the future, every area of life will become more and more complex. The same happens in electronic production; this is clear to us. It is equally clear to us that we want to be part of this future. That’s why we continuously question our actions; as well as always having an ear towards market developments we also review our internal processes at periodical intervals. You don’t have to pounce on every trend – but when required one should be ready to react in a swift and responsive manner. For instance, we continue to produce in the “high-wage country” of Switzerland and also develop our sophisticated software exclusively “in house” at our production site too. Here in the heart of Europe we find highly qualified employees and are close to our customers and their requirements. Therefore the customer profits because we provide the complete machine development from one source. That’s why, for example, we can often react faster and in a more holistic way than our competitors and integrate one or more new requirements into the basic version of the machine.
Mr. Müller, in the past the company invested a lot of time and money in the development of a new machine platform. Why? Barely one of the direct competitors has done this in recent years.
During the takeover negotiations with the investors in 2013 it was clear that we want to renew our product portfolio. We approached the subject with innovative methods and redeveloped our machines from scratch at record speed with, for example, the latest propulsion systems and instruction platforms. That’s how Essemtec traditionally secures its market lead over its competitors.
Mr. Strüby, what are the core markets for Essemtec?
Our target group is as diverse as our product portfolio. Strategically we focus on the pick and place business in Europe and North America. This is because traditionally there are many innovative small batch producers active, as well as a multitude of companies and universities who operate diligent development departments and research laboratories; here also there is big demand for high mix/low volume. This market, where the requirements change extremely fast, is directly overseen by Essemtec. We also support the Asian market, but mainly over our strategic partners and our global key accounts. Here in particular our high-speed dispenser and our intelligent material management system are in demand. The big advantage of our focusing on two very different markets is: We expose ourselves to the requirements of “varied worlds”. That’s how we can collect, evaluate and integrate diverse customer demands into the continuous development of our machines.
Mr. Müller, what is needed to successfully continue into the future?
The electronic industry continually looks for the most innovative methods to provide the best price/performance ratio and highest quality, optimised within new products. Thanks to our many contacts within development institutes, leading electronic producers and assembly houses we can analyse and optimise the processes as a manufacturer of production machines for the assembly market. That’s how we recognized very early that accurate dispensing and assembling, ideally on the same platform, offers great advantages. For the cost and time improvement of the customer’s internal logistics we have, for several years now, offered an integrated material storage system linked to the pick-and-place machine. I think that the combination of substantial know-how and exploratory spirit is important to consistently stay at the front. We make a big point of always being curious and creative, as well as questioning the processes and requirements of our customers from different, and sometimes non-standard, perspectives.
Mr. Strüby, tell us the way Essemtec AG wants to define itself against its competitors, or rather, what makes Essemtec AG the best choice for the customers of today and tomorrow?
Essemtec offers a perfect machine portfolio for electronic production. Thanks to our intensive research and development work, and the know-how of our employees, we can comply with the requirements of our customers with products tailored to suit the market need. In addition, with our sophisticated software we create a level of operator convenience and freedom of scope in the PCB assembly design which is unique to the market. At a time when competitors are investing little in the development of new machines, and some of them are still selling ten years old platforms, we decided to create a complete new machine generation. We are committed to continuing our development work into the future too.
Just one more question to finish: What was the wisest advice you ever received?
Mr. Müller’s response: «Say what you do and do what you said…». That’s what my parents instilled in me through their own lives.
Mr. Strüby’s answer: I can’t improve on Mr.Müller’s reply. For me the meaning of this statement is: The basis of our partnership is appreciation towards our customers and a self-evident daily commitment to live up to the confidence they put in us.