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The Rupp Report: Stäubli: Best Quality By Remaining Competitive

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Here is the next round in the previews for ITMA 2011 in Barcelona, Spain, which will start September 22. This week, the Rupp Report looks at Stäubli and talked to Reinhard Furrer, head, press relations, and marketing executive. Over the decades, Stäubli Group, Pfäffikon, Switzerland, which was founded in 1892, grew to become a company with different business units such as textile machinery, connectors and robotics.

Large Portfolio
The company is mainly known for its first class-dobby and Jacquard machines. Stäubli calls itself the "synonym for reliable positive rotative dobby machines." But also, Jacquard machines have always been a cornerstone of the Stäubli business, and the Swiss are probably the worldwide leaders in manufacturing top-class Jacquard machines, as well as producing and supplying complete installations.

Another member of the Stäubli Group is Schönherr, located in Bayreuth, Germany, the home of 19th-century composer Richard Wagner. Schönherr, a producer of carpet-weaving machines, just developed a new weaving machine with a flexible rapier weft insertion to allow more combinations of fabric constructions.

Drawing-in machines are also available. Very much in the focus are the upgraded Safir automatic drawing-in machine and the Magma warp-tying machine, which is especially suitable for coarse yarns.

Last, but not least, robotics is also an important part of the group. Stäubli is a specialist in the production of small and medium-sized robotics for companies that do not need to run big robotic machines. The company develops robotic tools such as robot arms as well as controllers, software and computer-aided design (CAD) files.

Markets
According to Furrer, the company is not only producing in Switzerland, but also in Germany, France, Italy and China; and employing its own sales and service staff in all major textile markets. Stäubli exports more than 80 percent of its products, and the most important sales countries currently are China, Turkey and India.

"There is no true top seller," Furrer said. "Our product program is so large that a number of different products are sold with success. We see the current market situation as positive. However, in the longer run, we expect a slight decrease in the markets."

There is no problem with the current market situation, Furrer said "because the company's budget is careful and realistic and capacities are planned accordingly. We face short-term unpredictable market fluctuations with high flexibility. On top of that, our different business units give us certain possibilities to achieve a kind of a financial balance among the divisions."

Of course, the current volatile currencies are causing some problems. "We try to conclude our orders in Swiss francs, but this is not always possible, which can lead to higher discounts due to the strong Swiss franc," Furrer explained.

What are the major requirements of the main markets for Stäubli's products? "Well," Furrer said, "clearly, one issue is automation to further reduce labor costs; as well as flexibility to produce a great variety of articles, not to mention quick reaction times."

ITMA Barcelona
There will be 50 to 60 representatives at the Stäubli booth in Barcelona. Did the company invite its customers via direct mail? "Indirectly, yes," Furrer said, "by dispatching our customer magazine."

At ITMA, Stäubli expects to see a clear positioning of the Western textile machinery industry, a true performance show. However, Furrer is also certain that the Western dominance in this sector of the industry is declining. "We expect few visitors from China; and a strong interest from North and Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia," he added.

The Future
The target for the future is crystal clear for the Stäubli Group: "We want to keep our market leadership and probably further extend it," Furrer said. "We are committed to remaining competitive against Chinese producers; and we don't expect any big quantum leaps, but, instead, a steady growth of customer benefits with the best price/performance ratio."

Finally, a look into the crystal ball: How does Furrer see the coming years? "Well, the only unchanging thing is change. And this is especially true for the textile machinery industry."

August 30, 2011

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