Q&A/ Schaublin The Swiss franc shock: What are the after-effects expected for 2016?

Editor: Barbara Schulz

Although it is now more than a year since the removal of the EUR/CHF exchange rate floor, export-oriented industrial sectors in particular, such as the mechanical engineering, electronics, and metals industry (MEM), are likely to suffer this year from the strength of the Swiss franc. SMM Publisher Matthias Böhm talked to Schaublin-CEO Rolf Muster.

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Rolf Muster, CEO and co-owner of Schaubline Machines SA: “Politics and our national bank are looking away. It seems as if the government and cantons do not care about the future of the MEM industry.”
Rolf Muster, CEO and co-owner of Schaubline Machines SA: “Politics and our national bank are looking away. It seems as if the government and cantons do not care about the future of the MEM industry.”
( Thomas Entzeroth_Schaublin Machines)

How did the new currency situation affect the MEM industry?

From the point of view of our company, Schaublin Machines SA, and from the point of view of many businessmen I know, the release of the exchange rate caused an earthquake in the MEM industry. For some, the strength of the earthquake was perhaps 2, for others, it was 8. It was in the upper range in our case. The machine tool industry in particular has been substantially affected. Since 15 January 2015, we have lost two-thirds of orders received as compared to the same period in the previous year. In June/July 2015, the situation eased a bit due to the improved currency situation in China, the US and Russia.

Why is the situation currently so difficult?

We must cope with the strong franc, which has gone from €1.60 to €1.05 in four years. That is a very short time to adjust to the situation as an export-oriented company. I find it disturbing that the federation and cantons do not at all take care of our industry. We are talking about over 500,000 people who are employed in the industry. There are 330,000 employees with Swissmem member companies alone. The industry is the greatest employer in Switzerland. But, if this continues, we will lose thousands of jobs.

Which MEM industries are currently performing well?

The watch industry and the medical industry, but they also have margin problems. For the machine tool industry I do not see 100 percent darkness, but it is very difficult for us. I see it less critically for tool manufacturers.

How many machines do you produce?

In a good year, 500; in a bad one, 250. Currently, we are away from this target. I must have dismissed 10 employees up to now, have also had to introduce short-time work and I may possibly have to dismiss more, depending on the situation.

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