Despite the worsening economic situation, the Schunk Group continued to grow last year and further expanded its financial stability.
"In 2019, the Schunk Group faced plenty of headwinds in its important automotive and semiconductor markets, as both shrank significantly," notes Dr. Arno Roth, CEO of the Schunk Group. Other markets, however, developed well, such as the railway industry. Here, the advantage of Schunk's strategy of being broadly positioned and present in many different markets becomes apparent, Dr. Roth continues. "Overall, we were able to achieve a growth in sales to 1.35 billion euros." This corresponds to an increase of 5.8 percent, which is mainly due to the acquisitions of OptoTech in autumn 2018 and of Cincinnati Sub Zero at the beginning of 2019. Both acquisitions have developed well. The number of employees has increased to over 9,100 worldwide.
"Despite the cooling of the economy, we have been able to generate a very satisfactory result," Dr. Roth continued. The Schunk Group's equity ratio has thus once again increased slightly to its current level of approximately 68 percent. "We have thus further increased Schunk's financial stability and independence under these challenging conditions and have once again improved our resistance to crises, which also benefits us in view of the current corona crisis".
Record Investments of over 100 Million Euros
The high financial stability of Schunk also pays off for the long-term development of the company. "We have invested the record sum of 103 million Euros to enable future growth and to prepare ourselves for the future," says Dr. Roth.
Among the largest investments were new buildings at the locations Wettenberg, Heuchelheim, Reiskirchen, Bordeaux and Salzburg - which now functions as a worldwide competence center for pantographs - as well as land purchases for the perspective expansion of the locations Willich and Balingen. Substantial investments were also made in machinery, for example in Bad Goisern, and in the digitalization of products.
One platform for all tests
For example, Weiss Technik now offers a digital platform that creates completely new possibilities for the documentation and evaluation of complex environmental simulation tests. Test engineers can now complete all steps of the test in a cloud-based software - from the description of the test and the test object to graphical evaluations and the automatic generation of the test report. All test devices are networked and store their measured values in the same cloud database. Worldwide access to the securely archived test data, measurement results and evaluations is just as possible as checking the current test status. And if further test steps or devices become necessary in the future, they can be integrated quickly and easily into the cloud platform. In addition, the platform enables significant efficiency gains of up to 50 percent in test planning and documentation. And the cloud solution offers another advantage for customers: The automatic analysis of the device data in the cloud system paves the way for predictive maintenance, because the test facility automatically registers a necessary calibration or maintenance with Weiss Technik Service.
"Success by Innovation"
The topic of innovation is even more important at Schunk than it has been up to now. "As a technology company, permanent innovation is in our DNA - it is one of the decisive factors for long-term success," emphasizes Dr. Roth. This is why the Schunk Group has proclaimed the internal motto "Success by Innovation". One component of this initiative is the construction of two innovation centers, which provide the appropriate technical equipment and thus ideal working conditions for development. At the Heuchelheim location, a state-of-the-art research center is currently being built for the development of new materials and new production processes in materials technology. The Innovation Center of Weiss Technik is currently being built in Reiskirchen: This is where the next generations of environmental simulation systems and sophisticated climate and clean room technology will be created. Together, the two research facilities represent an investment volume of 25 million euros and are scheduled for completion by the end of 2020.
Furthermore, the Schunk Group has set up a special fund of initially 10 million euros to promote Horizon 3 innovations. Two initial long-term projects from the Business Units Technical Ceramics and Microelectronics are already being supported, and others from other business units are to follow. "Develop new solutions, replace existing technologies, open up new markets: This is what drives Schunk, because this is where we can demonstrate all our engineering competence", says Dr. Roth.