«We anticipate trends early and address them. This is what fascinates us.»
— Calvin Grieder, Chairman
CEO Stefan Scheiber and Chairman Calvin Grieder are leading the company together.
They explain how they will ensure that Bühler is embracing the opportunities arising from the industrial transformation triggered by bits and bytes.
Mr. Scheiber, you have been the CEO of Bühler since July 1, 2016. How does it feel?
Scheiber: It’s definitely a new dimension to head the whole Group and be its representative on behalf of the Board of Directors to our customers and the public. I feel it’s an honor and a privilege to embark upon this important mission. I was really pleased with the wave of support that I experienced from all sides – from the workforce and the Bühler family to the Board of Directors, my colleagues on the Executive Board, customers, and friends outside the organization. This feeling of support continues to this day.
Was this what you imagined the first few months would be like?
Scheiber: I tried to prepare myself as best as possible. Looking back, my 25 years with Bühler were an essential part of this preparation. I have always worked with our customers in mind and was employed in almost every cor- porate function, 15 years of which outside of Switzerland. Until mid-2016, I was fully absorbed in leading the business of Grains & Food, so I bring quite some operational experience with me. Of course, the full dimensions of the new role become clear only when you actually begin.
What was the most marked change for you?
Scheiber: I am now leading colleagues who were once on the same hierar- chical level, and I now coordinate my moves with the Board of Directors. Another very important point is the public visibility of the role. While Calvin Grieder was outwardly representing the company, my colleagues and I were able to work in his slipstream. This responsibility now falls to me.
Grieder: I’m pleased this responsibility is now in your hands.
Mr. Grieder, was it hard for you to let go?
Grieder: Yes and no. Yes, because I invested a lot of passion in my task and have very strong emotional ties with the company and with many of my colleagues. I enjoyed coming to work every day. It was a dream job. With this in mind, you don’t just clear up your desk as if you were spring-cleaning when you leave. And no, because we had planned this transfer of leadership on a long-term basis and I therefore, after my 15 years at the helm, could look forward to focusing on some other duties. Also no, because I have full confidence in Stefan and his team. I believe that Bühler has never had such a good management team.
«We anticipate trends early and address them. This is what fascinates us.»
— Calvin Grieder, Chairman
How do you share your tasks?
Grieder: Just like any other well-managed company: on the basis of clear governance principles. The CEO and his team are in charge of the opera- tions and the development of the company along the trends of the business. They also develop proposals for the strategic further development of the Group. The Board of Directors, which I chair, supervises corporate develop- ment and decides the next strategic steps together with the Executive Board.
Scheiber: It’s a true advantage for me to be able to rely on Calvin’s in-depth knowledge of the business, our customers, and the organization and also that we have a bond of trust developed over the decades we have known one another. His close ties with the industry certainly provide additional benefits. Consequently, it takes only a short time to find convincing solutions and new ideas together.
What does the new CEO Stefan Scheiber stand for besides executing his day-to-day business?
Scheiber: I stand for full continuity and at the same time for accelerated change. We want to create innovations for a better world and also grow our business sustainably.
This sounds a bit like a contradiction in terms; what exactly do you mean?
Scheiber: Under Calvin Grieder’s leadership over the past 15 years, Bühler managed to make it into the top league of global industrial providers of pro- cess technologies and solutions. Many important trends – for example the services business, digitalization, the energy issue, and the topics of food safety or mobility – were addressed at an early stage. Over the past few years, we have together worked out a five-year strategy – Bühler2020. I intend to continue it seamlessly.
Everything seems to be in order, so why modernize?
Scheiber: We are living in a dynamic world that is changing at a breathtaking pace. As recently as ten years ago, there were no iPhones, and in five years’ time self-driving vehicles will be part of our everyday lives. For an industrial company, such as Bühler, this is opening up entirely new business opportu- nities – just think of predictive maintenance, which is already being well esta- blished in the aircraft industry today. If we want to seize these opportunities, Bühler must become more agile. We have launched the necessary projects, but have by far not yet arrived in the digital era.
Mr. Grieder, don’t you perceive this as hidden criticism?
Grieder: Quite the opposite! This is exactly what I expect. I can only encou- rage the Executive Board to systematically and wholeheartedly tackle the required changes. I am quite unsentimental in this respect. And, of course, being able to focus on only one single office at Bühler is disencumbering. It is good to know that one of us can trigger important developments from a dis- tance or have a calming effect while the other is standing in the midst of the day-to-day battle. Having two functions is, after all, no coincidence and I am glad we have now filled it again in a highly beneficial way.
What exactly are the cornerstones of your modernization program, Mr. Scheiber?
Scheiber: My program is made up of four key elements: First, the renewal of our product portfolio with a focus on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and the goal of gaining market share. This includes the development of new business models which are service related and based on data. Second, the modernization of our global manufacturing network – and therefore the mo- dernization of our production site in Uzwil. Third, the continuing expansion of our services, especially new applications centers. And fourth, the attractive- ness of our organization for its employees – in particular generations Y and
Z – including important aspects such as diversity and strong international management. All of this must ultimately lead to further growth.
Does the Chairman of the Board have anything to add to that?
Grieder: Strategically speaking, no. This is, after all, at the heart of every- thing we have agreed upon in our Bühler2020 strategy. On the executive side, I will continue to urge that growth and profitability be further improved. Occasionally we get in the way of setting new ambitions. In this respect, I think we have yet to realize our full potential. On the other hand, we won’t change anything as far as our setup as a family-owned company without bank liabilities is concerned. This implies that we must finance our investments out of the cash flow we generate. As a family business we can be agile and manage the necessary changes fast. We therefore have an excellent chance to succeed.
Scheiber: I totally agree, and we are busy working on the matter. Here, too, speed is a key aspect. Therefore, we will reduce project execution times, delivery times, and development cycles – without, however, compromising on quality.
«Going forward, we want to multiply our successes, particularly in feed and batteries.»
— Stefan Scheiber, Chief Executive Officer
Where do you see further potential for growth?
Scheiber: The key words in this respect are feed and battery solutions. Mea- sured against our technologies and solutions, we are still globally underre- presented as suppliers of feed production plants, though we have already managed to increase market share in China. We plan to multiply this success. In the field of battery production, we have developed a new process over the past few years. Now that we have received the first orders, it has undergone its baptism of fire in the marketplace. This technology has enabled us to launch a unique solution that boosts battery performance at an opportune time to join the boom in electromobility.
Grieder: We often anticipate trends years ahead of the game and develop solutions to address them. This is part of the fascination of our organization. Our credo is to transform challenges in the fields of food and mobility into sustainable business opportunities. This is why we research and develop industrial-scale methods for processing insects, for instance. We know today that, as the global population continues to grow, proteins will become scarce – and with their high protein content, insects will be part of the solution. In this area, we are determined to be players at the very forefront.
Are acquisitions also part of the growth strategy?
Scheiber: Yes, they are. In our business Advanced Materials, highly innova- tive technologies are involved. For example, in the area of electromobility, where we build plants for manufacturing batteries, die casting light-alloy car components, or producing coatings. Such markets display an immense dynamism and therefore offer great potential. Also, Grains & Food has vast potential to grow. If we look at the worldwide potentials, we are still underre- presented in certain regions. Digitalization will change how we engineer our
solutions. Here, measurement and control technology are becoming increas- ingly important. As yet, we lack certain related capabilities, and building them would take too long. This is where acquisitions might prove helpful.
What kind of leadership style can we expect of you as the CEO?
Scheiber: I lead people through trust and transparency and will make every effort to communicate well. Content, quality, and sustainability are not merely buzzwords. The world has become so fast-moving and complex that we as leaders must be predictable. We agree on goals with our employees and then support them in achieving or even exceeding them. Transparency and measurability are extremely important to me, and we are establishing an up-to-the-minute and meaningful monitoring system to this end. Communication and collaboration must be added to this: listen, put forward ideas, constructively exchange information on a global scale, and seek solutions.
As a leader, I create an environment where my employees are empowered to assume their responsibilities. In this way, I intend to initiate a paradigm shift from “push” to “pull.” If we manage to generate a need and demand from the market (pull), this will be more successful than foisting something upon the market or the organization (push). I am working on the assumption that everyone in a given area of activity shall accept the responsibility for what they are doing. It is important to me to mobilize the creativity of everyone – while at the same time demanding the accountability that goes with it. Furthermore, we also want to have fun and take pleasure in our task of leading this superb company into the future. What could be better? I am looking forward to it! Engineering customer success with innovations for a better world.