We made considerable investments for the future in 2017, including the Haas acquisition, the development of new digital technologies and process solutions, the modernization and expansion of our production network, and breaking ground for our innovation campus.
Haas joins the Bühler Group
A high point of 2017 was the announcement of the takeover of the Austrian Haas Group. The transaction closed in January 2018. The Haas family decided to put the company under the Bühler Group umbrella after long-term strategic considerations. Haas is a highly regarded manufacturer of plants for wafers, biscuits, and confectionery and a clear market leader. None of the machines or solutions of either company overlap, and they complement each other superbly. It also became clear that many customers use products from both Bühler and Haas at the same time.
This step has opened great perspectives for Bühler and Haas to jointly take a leading position in the consumer food market and also to offer customers integrated solutions along the entire value chain from a single source. For the time being, Haas will be managed as an independent unit. Because of similar corporate cultures as family companies, and identical customer orientation and quality standards, the conditions for a successful integration are optimal.
Expansion of digital services
Bühler achieved a milestone in its digital transformation and development of new, service-oriented business models. Digitalization creates new possibilities to control the quality of processes, enhance transparency along the value chain, and improve efficiency of machines and systems worldwide, thereby achieving Bühler's sustainability goals. Bühler developed a new global platform for digitalservices in collaboration with Microsoft, and also created a new business area, Digital Technologies, as part of the Grains & Food business refocus. The first digital services have already been launched, for example, TotalSense. For the first time, Bühler sold not only hardware, but also an app that is installed on a smartphone. TotalSense enables rice producers to determine quality online. Until now, especially with smaller processors, the rice was controlled manually. This approach is slow and prone to error.
The user takes an photo of the rice sample using an Android smartphone, uploads it to the Bühler cloud, and within a few minutes it has been analyzed according to the parameters the user has set. This low-cost solution gives rice processors peace of mind with consistent, reliable feed-back on the quality of their rice. Currently, there are about 50 such new digital services under development, and about 10 of them will be put on the market in early 2018. Bühler is investigating how to further expand its growing portfolio of digital services.
Modernization of the global production network
With regard to investments in Bühler's global production network, two projects stand out: the opening of the new factory in Changzhou, China, as well as the modernization of the Swiss sites. The new plant in Changzhou was put into operation in September and now serves as a global center for the manufacturing, research, and development of feed machines and plants. The focus is on process solutions and complete systems for the processing of feed for farm animals, fish, and pets. In terms of production capacity, Changzhou is one of Bühler's largest three production sites. In terms of up-to-date production methods, manufacturing standards, and quality, the new plant sets a new standard within the Bühler Group.
Work on the modernization of the Swiss sites is on schedule. The goal of the five-year project in Uzwil is to develop it into one of the world's leading production sites using Industry 4.0 technologies. In this way, the competitiveness of Switzerland as a location should remain strong. The first phase was to refurbish production and logistics for mass-produced parts, which is largely completed.
Construction of innovation campus begins
Bühler broke ground for its new innovation campus in Uzwil (CUBIC) in 2017. The CUBIC comprises two elements: the modernized applications development lab and the new innovation building. The building is slated for completion in the first quarter of 2019. The considerable investment of about CHF 50 million over a period of three years is a symbol of Bühler's dedication to innovation, technology, and Switzerland as its headquarters. It will strengthen the company's innovative power and market leadership, and it contributes to the goal of innovating to improve the world in collaboration with partners from industry, science, NGOs, and start-ups.