In a country like Switzerland where precision and the spirit of invention have always been at home augmenting obvious competition stiffer, with what strategy do you manage to defeat it?
Switzerland is a great country to run a medium-sized enterprise like Santex.
It offers a fine network of highly qualified suppliers, superb infrastructures, the greatest flexibility in Europe and reasonable taxation.
Switzerland also enjoys what is possibly the lowest unemployment rate in Europe (~2%) and any company there is challenged to groom and win the loyalty of its human resources.
In that effort, Santex has the advantage of being small. The company was always managed with a direct, open style. Ultimately companies are made of people who face hundreds of problems. In my opinion, a great company is a place where people trust each other to do their utmost to solve these problems every day and share a feeling of responsibility towards the customer.
We try every day to make Santex a little more that way.
When China has become largest consumer market of textile machinery, how has Santex positioned to exploit the situation for handsome business?
Having realized that there was no alternative to the textile market movement eastwards, Santex decided to follow the natural flow of things and opened its sales & manufacturing facility in Shanghai in 2005.The driving concepts of that move were few:
1. keep the investment to a reasonably small size: we focused on all and only those activities that were needed to ensure quality. No luxuries, no bragging – we stuck to the core. In our facility in China we do our own painting, assembling and testing – but we rely on suppliers for the manufacture of parts. We still ensure quality by working on the vendor development side and by using our service department to complete the job and feed the information back to the unit, for continuous improvement.
2. make it a Santex machine. Only machines up to the name of Santex come out of our factories, wherever these may be.
3. 100% direct investment. Although they can help starting up, local partners may make it more difficult to stick to our principles.
4. trust the people. Aside of the necessary visits to transfer know-how and monitor processes, no expatriates work in our Shanghai unit. Expats are expensive and need to be replaced often. If one decides to make an investment in a foreign country, he’d better start trusting the local people and build the company with them.
The result of all this is a company which is recognized to be Santex – save for the facts that its products are once again affordable and that its people can speak Chinese in China!
Besides China, which all countries do you look upon as emerging or potential markets?
The map of textile investment changes fairly quickly over the years, but certainly some countries can be expected to have always a great potential. These are, besides China: Turkey, the last large textile producer in Europe; India, rich in good quality cotton and in know-how; and Indonesia. Besides exporting, all these countries have a growing captive textile consumption.
Your product portfolio includes machineries for Technical textiles as well. As an assay on its current rendition and future potential, what are your findings?
Were it not for our technical textile division, Santex would not be in such a good health today. Fortunately for us, the collapse of investment in the traditional textile world has been counterbalanced by a boom in the composite industry.
Cavitec is the established market leader in machines for processing composites, used in hi-tech sectors such as wind energy and aerospace, and these projects have allowed us to sail through very troubled business waters lately.
A very effective tool to keep customer abreast is to offer a broad range of products and good after sales services. R&D division therefore makes the mainstay. Isn’t it?
Sure it does. However, it is very hard for any company nowadays to be truly innovative. True R&D requires long term investments and has usually a low success ratio. You need to embark on many projects before ending up with a successful product.
Most companies, even among big names, cannot afford such expenses these times. So we witness curious phenomena, such as old (or even crazy) ideas recycled and re-packaged to be sold as “innovation”.
We at Santex are blessed to benefit of the good momentum of technical textiles, which allows us to carry out real R&D projects.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.