Interview with Oliver Zund

Oliver Zund
Oliver Zund
Zund Systemtechnik AG
Zund Systemtechnik AG

Sustainability as a concept extends over our entire value chain
Zund Systemtechnik AG, a family-owned business with operations worldwide, specialises in developing and manufacturing digital cutting systems.  Based in Altstätten, Switzerland, the company has been manufacturing and marketing modular cutting systems since 1984. CEO Oliver Zünd emphasises on sustainability and discusses challenges within the cutting systems in the textile niche.

How did Zünd come about? Tell us about the family that runs it.

The company's history began in 1984, when my father Karl Zünd founded the company. It has been a remarkable success story ever since. In 1988, Zünd became a corporation, and the first Zünd plotter was developed and then introduced the following year. Today Zünd Systemtechnik AG remains family-owned but has expanded with more than 300 employees and operations all over the world. As a specialist in developing and manufacturing digital cutting systems, Zünd is globally recognized as a market leader. 
Our customer base consists of manufacturers and suppliers in a gamut of industries, including graphics, packaging, garment and leather, technical textiles and composites. Its Altstätten headquarters hosts its R&D, marketing and production facilities. In addition to Zünd's own sales and service organisations in Bangkok, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Zünd relies on a worldwide network of long-standing, independent distribution and service partners. Since the 1990s, the textile industry has been one of the most important markets for our highly modular and high-performing single-ply cutting systems.

Which is the most productive cutting solution in textiles, composites and technical textiles at present?

The flexible Zünd D3 cutter has set new standards in productivity and is the perfect production solution for mass customisation. Its extraordinary performance is primarily due to its dual-beam construction equipped with up to three different modules, processing textiles simultaneously. Depending on the task specifics, this results in up to twice the throughput. The precision of the cutting system's direct drive, combined with the latest software and controllers ensure a highly efficient workflow from start to finish. The D3 series, just like the S3, L3, and G3, excels in precision across the entire cutting surface and offer maximum modularity and user-friendly interface and control software.

What are the recent software innovations in digital cutters?

Efficient and cost-effective operations warrant high-performance computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. Zünd Cut Center (ZCC) enables the cutter to perform at its best. For example, the comprehensive materials database included in the software greatly facilitates the operator's task by providing predefined cutting parameters. Intelligent coding can be used for automatic part placement, which minimises processing time and maximizes yield.

Which are the challenges that the makers of digital cutting system face? How do you overcome it?

For individual production phases, the textile industry has devised various innovative digital processes, which include design, data processing and file preparation, digital textile printing, digital cutting and sewing. Mass production will continue to play an important role even in the future. Moreover, as consumer behaviour is dynamic, the demand for more personalised products keeps growing. This trend can be seen not just in the clothing industry but in many other sectors as well and presents a typical challenge to the textile industry. Demand is extremely volatile as fashion trends keep changing rapidly.

Which geographies perform the best for Zünd?

We have sold and installed cutting systems in over 100 countries. Our single highest-performing country is the United States and the single best region is Europe in terms of units sold.

What sustainable practices have you adopted in your business? How are your solutions promoting the concept of sustainability?

Sustainability is deeply rooted in our company DNA and we take our social and environmental obligations seriously. Sustainability as a directive has been extended over our entire value chain - from suppliers to resellers, as well as in our own operations. 

Sustainability assumes special importance in the supply chain. That is a reason the vast majority of our suppliers, who supply about 75 per cent of the components used in our cutting systems, are located within a 20-km radius of our production facilities. The proximity of key suppliers has another benefit: we can more closely monitor quality and obtain some components just in time. Over the last three years, we have delivered all cutters precisely on the date promised. We encourage all our customers overseas to select sea freight instead of air as that helps reduce carbon dioxide as well.

Another particularly important issue for us and our customers is the reduction of waste, which we approach from a couple of different angles. Our software solutions and high-precision hardware are state-of-the-art and designed to promote the careful use of resources, which is critical in markets that use expensive raw materials. In addition, highly advanced coding optimises material usage and further helps reduce waste.

What are the peculiarities of Zünd cutters?

Today's single-ply cutters must be very easy to integrate in a digital workflow. Only a complete, end-to-end production process gives users the flexibility and efficiency they need. Another important consideration is the ability to automate individual production steps.

Zünd cutters are used in many diverse applications, for example in packaging and graphics, where many production processes have become digital and automated. We have gained a great deal of insight into process integration through experience.

As flexibility and maximum individuality are a must for any production equipment in this market, we strive to continually adapt and upgrade our interface and workflow software, Zünd Cut Center ZCC, to meet the requirements. At the same time, Zünd cutters can easily be integrated into existing software environments.

Textile production is extremely heterogeneous, relying on a multitude of software environments, computer-aided design (CAD) programs and workflow solutions. We also generate relevant production data and export to existing systems for post-production analysis.

How did you perform in the financial year 2016-17? What are the plans for the year ahead?

As a family-owned business, we do not disclose our sales figures. But our market research strongly indicates that we are the world leader in the sale of and revenue generated from cutting systems.

What is new in the pipeline?

To address the demands of simple handling, automated processes, high-quality results and flexibility in an advanced roll-handling system, we have recently added a cradle feeder to our wide assortment of automated material-handling devices. The roll-feed system prevents tension and distortion while advancing stretch fabrics and other textiles. Integrated edge control ensures precise and reliable positioning of the material on the cutting surface.

With new materials coming in, how strong is the R&D team at Zünd?

We always work on innovations that will help our customers produce more efficiently and cost-effectively. At our headquarters, we have a strong R&D department with 45 employees, roughly a quarter of the total staff there. The key is not to concentrate on a single field of technology, but to focus on a regular dialogue with customers. Through these discussions, we gain an understanding of the kind of technology that will benefit them most. (HO)
Published on: 01/09/2017

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