ValueTalk — Oliver Zünd: “Forward thinking is our forte.“
It’s a truly impressive success story. Zünd Systemtechnik AG, a family-owned business with operations worldwide, specializes in developing and manufacturing digital cutting systems. The Zünd name represents Swiss Quality and is synonymous with precision, performance, and reliability.
The company description states: “Since 1984 Zünd has been developing, manufacturing, and marketing modular cutting systems and is globally recognized as market leader. The Zünd customer base consists of manufacturers and suppliers in many different industries, including graphics, packaging, garment and leather, as well as technical textile and composites. Zünd maintains headquarters in Altstätten, Switzerland, where the company’s R&D, marketing, and production facilities are located. Besides Zünd’s own sales and service organizations in Hong Kong (China), India, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States, Zünd relies on a worldwide network of long-standing, independent distribution & service partners.”
In a recent Value CEO Interview, Andreas Weber asked Oliver Zünd to explain some of the reasons for his company’s success.
Why has the history of Zünd Systemtechnik AG become such a success story?
Oliver Zünd: What really distinguishes us — our true forte — is “thinking forward”, that is, focusing on long-term strategies rather than short-term, quarterly goals. This gives us a great deal more flexibility and is something we, as a family business established in 1984, are in a position to do. Of great importance to us are the close relationships we have established with our customers and our many regional ties. 80 percent of all Zünd machine components originate within a 30-kilometer radius of our factory. We are also very focused. We know exactly what our strengths are and have specialized in developing a solid, modular cutting platform that serves vertical and highly specialized markets. The advantages are twofold: 1. Better risk management on our part. 2. Customers benefit in their ability to upgrade and expand their systems as needed.
What are your sources of inspiration for further company expansion and product development?
Oliver Zünd: We rely on a very well-educated workforce and have an R&D staff of more than 40 employees. For a company of our size, this represents an unusually high ratio. Our strategy is to stay in close contact to our markets so we can react as nimbly as possible to any changes. This means that our business has to involve direct customer contact wherever possible, which is why we serve the D-A-CH (Germany-Austria-Switzerland) region directly from our headquarters in Altstätten, Switzerland. This allows us to remain very close to end-users. Our steady involvement in numerous industry tradeshows also helps us stay on top of different markets and developing trends.
Can you cite an example?
Oliver Zünd: A good example is Fespa , which took place in May 2015 in Cologne, Germany. We were able to present to an international audience a variety of brand-new automation solutions. We introduced a state-of-the-art picking robot, which will be available in Q4. In addition, we showed the new Automatic Router Bit Changer – ARC. This feature automatically selects the correct router bit based on the material at hand, which significantly decreases setup time and reduces the potential for operator error. Our main focus at these tradeshows is the direct contact and dialog with our end-users.
How do you gauge the relevance of your products and solutions, particularly in terms of innovation and customer/market value?
Oliver Zünd: When it comes to new product developments, we try to work wherever possible with beta customers in close proximity. This is how we test features, such as the picking robot, and optimize them as necessary for real-life production environments. For customers at greater distances – by now more than 6,000 in 113 countries — we make sure they have continuous support throughout the product life-cycle. We continually gather and evaluate customer feedback, so that in principal, we are able to capture and implement relevant suggestions in max. 12 months.
What is your take on the general state of printing in the digital age, as it pertains to your customers?
Oliver Zünd: In our view, digital printing continues to have a great deal of potential; however, competition among production houses will no doubt continue to rise as printing volumes get redistributed. Because of the continued trend towards digital, the structure of print jobs changes, especially in terms of volume per job, which is steadily decreasing as orders become more customized. This benefits us as well as our customers, of course, since it fuels the need for digital cutting, particularly in conjunction with increased print customization. From our standpoint, the best PSPs know how to find new customers for digital printing and can thereby establish new markets, especially through the use of new materials. They manage to distinguish themselves from the crowd through new applications and the use of our high-performance cutting systems.
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in digital cutting?
Oliver Zünd: Something completely different, most likely related to some kind of sport that would take me around the world. I’m very happy with the way things are though, since no sport allows you to grow old.
This interview was conducted by Andreas Weber via Skype on June 10, 2015. Our gratitude to Daniel Bischof, Zünd Systemtechnik AG, for his assistance.
SOME IMPRESSIONS VIA FESPA 2015
Oliver Zünd (39) became head of sales and marketing at his father’s company after completing his studies in economics at the Hochschule Chur. In 2004 he transferred to the United States where he oversaw the establishment and initial development of Zünd America in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2006 Oliver Zünd returned to Zünd Systemtechnik AG management in Altstätten, Switzerland, and became COO in 2011. He is currently pursuing an Executive MBA in business engineering at the University of St. Gallen.
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