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150th Buhler Anniversary
Celebrating with Customers
A festive event was held in Uzwil on February 12 for customers from all corners of the world and other guests to mark the start of the Anniversary Year 2010. Beside customers, other activities will be mainly dedicated to employees. Buhler’s intention is not to celebrate its 150-year anniversary by looking back on its success story. Rather, the anniversary will be taken as an occasion to take stock and to look forward to the future.
CEO Calvin Grieder addressed the numerous guests by
presenting them a strategic outlook into the future.
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Thanks to customers
With its anniversary celebration on February 12, the Uzwil-based company’s main intention was to thank its customers – without whom Buhler’s success would not have been possible. The host welcomed some 200 key customers from all over the world as well as other personalities from the business community and from federal and cantonal politics to Uzwil. Following a review and an outlook by the Board Chairman Urs Bühler, Federal Councilor Hans-Rudolf Merz conveyed the Swiss federal government’s congratulations. CEO Calvin Grieder addressed the numerous guests by presenting them a strategic outlook into the future. In the course of the evening event, which the well-known Swiss moderator Cécile Bähler directed with much charm and competence, various cultural presentations were offered. Fully in line with Buhler’s global orientation, the program extended from Switzerland and Africa to Asia and Latin America, with surprising correlations being made from time to time between the different cultures. Finally, the guests received a book in commemoration of the anniversary. It invites its readers to get to know Buhler as an organization on the basis of personal reports by some 60 employees from numerous countries.
This core customer event will be supplemented in the course of the year around the globe with local customer celebrations at selected locations. Finally, on May 7, an anniversary celebration will be held for employees in Uzwil as well as worldwide at all Buhler sites. Moreover, an in-house electronic platform named “We are Buhler” has been specifically created to allow Buhler staff to exchange images and ideas and thus to further foster the intercultural understanding between employees across continental boundaries.
Buhler has also taken its special anniversary as an occasion to completely renew its website. Governed by the philosophy of customer orientation and user-friendliness, visitors can now – among other things – also benefit from perceptibly improved search functions.
Review and outlook by the Board Chairman Urs Bühler
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"Innovations for a better world"
In order to lead Buhler successfully into the future, a new innovation initiative has been launched in the anniversary year in the form of a competition headed “Innovations for a better world” in which Buhler urged all its employees worldwide to take part. In self-formed teams, staff were encouraged to develop a global product or service featuring a high degree of innovation while also offering a large market potential, which ruled out projects for pure amusement. Despite this rigorous restriction, expectations were by far exceeded, with 140 ideas being entered. Of the many project ideas submitted, a central jury picked four finalist teams in a multi-step procedure, who were finally asked to create and present an extensive business plan by the end of January.
The competition prize for the two teams ranking first is the attendance of an intensive training week at the Harvard Business School in Boston. In addition, the winning team will be awarded the “Innovations for a better World 2009” trophy. The four finalists will also present their ideas to an in-house investment committee which will decide in which project to invest. The goal is to launch and build two or three new business fields in 2010. This initiative is to be repeated annually and is designed to enhance the innovative power of Buhler.
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From the local iron foundry to the global corporation: the unifying thread of success
When Adolf Bühler set up an iron foundry in Uzwil in 1860 with two employees, he is unlikely to have imagined in his wildest dreams that his venture would ultimately produce a global corporation with 7500 employees in more than 140 countries who generate annual revenue of about 1.8 billion Swiss francs. But looking back on the numerous development steps over the past 150 years, it is fairly easy to identify a unifying thread running through the entire history of Buhler.
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Focus on solutions
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Another aspect must be added to these market-driven key factors which has always left its imprint on the corporate culture and continue to do so to this day. Buhler has at all times understood its role also as being a circumspect and social employer, which is borne out by the fact that the company was often the first to introduce related accomplishments in the course of its history. Thus, for instance, it set up its own health insurance company as far back as 1875, which was followed in 1918 by the establishment of Switzerland’s first factory canteen. The five-day week was introduced as early as 1969, and in 1971 a Buhler employee was the first woman to graduate as an engineer from the Engineering School in Winterthur. Buhler was also one of the pioneers which introduced flexible working hours in 1980.
150 Year Buhler
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…and the story continues
“Looking back to the past is only meaningful if this also implies looking forward to the future so that a company’s experience can bring forth visions and ideas for the future,” said Urs Bühler. Therefore, the 150-year anniversary is not only understood to primarily be an occasion to write history, but also to review the present and to look ahead into the future. The world is facing enormous challenges. The expected growth in global population in conjunction with increasing urbanization and the related changes in dietary habits are steadily raising demand for grain to cover the needs for meat and dairy products. This trend concerns primarily Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On the other hand, the key focus in the developed markets is on food safety, healthy nutrition, and convenience. At the same time, crop growing areas are limited or are even tending to decrease due to the change in climate and the utilization of valuable crop acreage for other purposes.
In this environment, Buhler can make an important contribution in the areas of food, raw materials, energy, and the environment and will indeed assume this responsibility. This will also secure the organization’s business future – in the sense of controlled organic and acquisition-based growth and the carefully nurtured corporate culture which is so decisive for its success. The foundations were laid to this end in the past year by enabling Buhler to continue to develop as a family-owned company. The Bühler family will remain the owners, leaving executive leadership to a management team and thus blending sustainability and dynamism.
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