Over the past years Bucher Industries has steadily increased its annual turnover, now the current global recession also affects your company. How does the company protect itself against vast losses and the financial challenges in 2009?
Essential is to react quickly and take action. As a first step, which was quite easily achievable, our employees used up past hours of overtime, flexible working time, holidays and we reduced temporary employment. Unfortunately, we had to take some measures which included lay-offs in certain divisions. With the sharp decline of business transactions, it is very important to work according to scenarios, since it is very hard to predict how even the near future looks like.. Concretely, this means we made contingency plans of measures with milestones, simply formulated as "what we do when...", for all our divisions and major manufacturing companies worldwide. These contingency plans also comprise criteria which clearly state what steps to take when the turnover has decreased by a specific amount. By this we are able to adjust to new situations. After all we don't know whether we've reached the bottom of the valley yet or not.Kuhn Group, a major division of Bucher Industries, is a leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery. What do you see as the greatest agro-economic challenges of our century?
Sufficient food and its fair distribution to the growing world population is one of the greatest challenges we face. Another point is to be able to keep up with the changing eating habits of the world's population, for instance the growing demand for meat and dairy products in Asia, and to be able to offer these goods at reasonable prices. We are also facing the challenge of limited agricultural land; we cannot keep expanding and clearing forests for this purpose. That means we will have to increase the productivity per hectare in order to reach the goal of providing sufficient food for the world population. However, at the same time this process will have to be sustainable, that means we have to consider and control soil impact, the use of fertilizers and pesticides and optimize machinery use. Another equally important matter is water supply. Agriculture needs huge amounts of water and thus, it is necessary to come up with plant varieties which require as little water as possible, which are more resistant to pests, which need minimal amounts of fertilizers and are capable of absorbing the natural nutrients in the ground.Green light for GMOs?
I would say genetically improved, not genetically modified. I think there's a small, however very meaningful difference there. The production potential of certain crops can be increased potentially and this is unavoidable if we aim to cover the demands of the growing population. Varieties which will require less water will help us solve the problem of increasing water scarcity.As you just mentioned, agriculture is the biggest water consumer and through the machineries and the production process huge amounts of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. Is Bucher Industries concerned about these problems? If yes, what measures does the company take then regarding this matter?
Of course, these are matters of concern for us because only sustainable production will enable us to reach our agricultural supply goals. As we do not manufacture tractors our specific contribution to the decrease of CO2-emissions is making our implements, that are ploughs, seeders, mowers, tedders, balers, sprayers, fertilizers, feed mixers, etc. more energy efficient and more precise in their functioning. Additionally, we try to combine machines of different functions into one, for instance a tractor propelled machine which conditions the soil, sows the seeds and distributes fertilizer all at the same time, instead of having to drive three times separately over the field.Life Cycle Assessment of products and services has increasingly gained significance over the past years; in the automobile industry "well-to-wheel" is the commonly used term for this. Have you noticed this trend as well in the manufacturing sector of machineries?
Yes, particularly in three areas of our activities. First in the field of agricultural machinery, where economy and ecology do not oppose each other - that means, when a machine uses less diesel, less fertilizers and less pesticides, this will make it ecologically friendlier and at the same time more economical. Second in the area of municipal vehicles, our aim is to decrease CO2 and toxic emissions. We just recently built a prototype compact sweeper with fuel cells drive and hydrogen as fuel instead of a diesel engine. With this innovation we address three concerns simultaneously: reduction of air pollution, noise and fuel consumption. And last in the area of hydraulic drive solutions for mobile applications such as tractors and other agricultural machinery, construction machinery etc. we contribute to increase energy-efficiency and to reduce size and weight.The global community is confronted with the phenomenon of climate change and the increasing scarcity of natural resources. Where does Bucher Industries stand in matters of sustainability? How does the company plan to position itself eco-politically in the future?
In general ecology and economy go hand-in-hand in our company's strategy; we do not exclude one from the other. For our machines, the main concern is energy efficiency, the reduction of material use and the long lifetime which are an essential contribution to the conservation of our resources. Another important point is the fact that our new production buildings are voluntarily built according to the Minergie-P standard. Thus, we see no contradiction in our company goals: on one hand, we generate sales with our high quality machines - they might be a bit more expensive than those of other suppliers - but they obviously offer more, otherwise our customers would not buy them.Would you consider making the switch to alternative energies in a few years?
Yes, provided that ecology, economy and reliability of supplies are equally assured. Alternative energies are the logical next step. For example transforming machinery based on fossil fuels to run on biofuel should be quite easy. Another possibility is to run municipal vehicles on natural gas or even hydrogen. However, we of course will have to look at the entire picture and consider the life cycle assessment. For example, with municipal vehicles running on hydrogen, they may have zero emissions in the city but we have to consider how and where the hydrogen is produced. And surely, electro engines will come in the future as well. That's where "well-to-wheel" sets in again. The electricity we use to power these engines will have to come from a certain source, which needs to be sustainable, economical and reliable as well or else the entire idea will not truly serve its purpose.Bucher Industries is a global technology group, manufacturing state-of-the-art machinery and vehicles in production facilities located around the world. The Bucher Group is headquartered in Switzerland and listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange.