Employees who never stop learning are our source of innovation, Bühler Group, Switzerland

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I have learned from a friend of mine familiar with Swiss industries that there is a company that sends young apprentices of 15 to 16 years old to China for six months. (Note for Japanese readers: “Apprentices” is a part of professional training system unique to Switzerland. They are not employees of a company but students of professional schools. They work in a company, which provides on the job training for 3-4 days a week. They thus obtain professional skills on the shop floor through work.)

This company sends apprentices to overseas for as long as six months, though they are not its employees. What company is it?

Those personnel who carry on international business are indispensable for the Swiss industries as they largely address the markets worldwide. It is also true that the industries owe much on personnel for innovation, for which Swiss companies incessantly strive to stay competitive in the international markets.

That said, why does this company invest that much to grow its personnel? What is the management philosophy behind?

With these questions in mind, I interviewed Mr. Dipak Mane (Photo), Director of Global Human Resources of the company, Bühler Group (https://www.buhlergroup.com/global/en/home.htm).

 

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mr.dipak mane

What company is Bühler?

Founded in 1860, Bühler continued developing over more than 150 years as a family-owned company.

Based on the original strength of iron casting and roller mills based on the iron, the company developed to become the first-class company in the world markets for the its excellent technologies. During the course of development, Bühler steadily enlarged its business areas to include those areas related to its core competence of iron casting and roller mills.

“The company presently provide machines and solutions indispensable for food industries, ranging from raw materials such as grains, rice, cacao and coffee to medium- to end-products, and livestock feed (Source: https://premium.ipros.jp/buhlergroup/). Bühler further extends its business edge to support sustainable mobility and the total solutions to ensure production of the healthy food.

What are policies of the HR department to ensure competitiveness in international markets?

Two things are most important. One is the sense of purpose, i.e. to be always conscious with the purpose of technologies. The sense of purpose has been the spirit of our company since its birth. To serve this purpose, we have been investing 4 to 5 per cent of turnover in R&D.

The second important thing is the profit.

We must hold these two things together.

The family-management enables to maintain these two essential points. Top managers may manage the company in line with their own management philosophy and make decision swiftly without interference by external stakeholders.

The HR policy is to put the management philosophy into practice. The purpose of Bühler’s HR policy is to maintain employees motivation high. Those are people who always improve their skills and knowledge and who are interested in doing better job all the time. Such employees continue self-improvement all the time by participating in training opportunities. In this sense, our company is a training company, such as a university.

We invest much in trainings. One per cent of Bühler’s personnel costs is spent in training and we plan to raise it to two per cent by the year 2020. In Swiss Francs, the investment is about 6 – 9 billion Swiss Francs per year.

One employee takes 1,85 days of training per year. We plan to increate this number to be 2 in the year 2020.

As for apprentices (those young women and men of 15 and 16 years old) who just stepped in the professional lives, Bühler has a history of 100 years of their trainings. The total number of the apprentices we trained adds up to 7,700.

We started an overseas training program about ten years ago. About 600 apprentices who come to work in Bühler every year are sent to various countries as a part of the training program. One half of them stays in Switzerland and the other half go abroad, such as Austria, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

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Bühler’s young apprentices in China

What are reasons of such a HR policy? What do you think of a risk that those employees who obtained higher skills and competence may leave the company for better salary?

Our CEO thinks that we would have to keep a number of employees with low skills and competence who may not leave the company, if we do not provide them with training opportunities.

In fact we see positive results. An employee retention rate of Bühler is as high as over 73 per cent. One thousand apprentices out of those who came to the company for training join Bühler as formal employees.

We witness significant results in the young people who leave their hometowns to meet the new people in other countries with different cultures.

In general terms, many people wish to stay in the company that provide trainings, as they may improve their competence and obtain new skills such as management. Young apprentices watch during their training period how long-lasting employees develop themselves, and project their own future over the elder workers. This makes the young to wish to continue working in Bühler.

What does the company obtain from this unique training?

We obtain the diversity and inclusion (D&I), which are indispensable for innovation. Bühler has a built-in system for people with a wide variety of background to work together.

Though it is surely a large investment to send apprentices to overseas locations for several months, the return is huge. The young learn through their day-to-day work cultures, languages and the market needs.

We not only send apprentices to overseas. We also provide an online program for them to stay in touch with the Swiss Headquarters during the overseas training period. It is a remote sit-down training based via video conferencing (ClassUnlimited). The program is available starting from Switzerland and China to become available in other countries.

Such a training lies in the centre of the company. Apprentices obtain skills and leadership in order to brush up the sense of purpose.

We do not expect a return on investment (ROI) in the short terms, because it is our belief that the smart employees are the core resource of a company.

We always seek ways to improve competence of employees. Means to do so is not limited to trainings.

We are aware that training is a long-term investment and continue increasing the variation of the training.

It should also be noted that those who enjoy benefits of trainings are not limited to a small number of employees who are expected to take senior management positions in the future. It is Bühler’s management philosophy that we address all the employees for trainings.

In what ways would HR department contribute to the innovation?

The birth of innovation requires a certain ecosystem, or a chain of various factors. The HR department is an integral part of the eco system of innovation. For example, the HR provides the office environment that enables employees to communicate better with each other, encouragement of collaboration with Universities, and sponsor some research programs in Universities.

In Bühler, we organise an innovation competition participated by 2,000 employees worldwide. This means 15 per cent of all the employees participate in the competition.

We must find those needs which market has not yet found. Our Chief Technology Officer (CTO) always tells us that 99 per cent of knowledge is outside the company. We must continue looking for good ideas all the time. For this purpose, we will continue working with those outside the company, including start-up companies.

What kind of company would Bühler want to be in the future?

We want to see Bühler for which employees want to work most in the world. Young employees know well what such as a company is all about. They wish to work for a company that has social purposes. They want their company contribute to something that help people, such as to alleviate adversarial consequences of the climate change, etc. Social contribution is Bühler’s tradition. We wish to continue investment in R&D. Going beyond Industry 4.0 is only a part of the company’s future.

We want to see Bühler running the top of the industry worldwide.

One example of our contribution is a new innovation centre, Cubic innovation centre (Photo), to be open in February 2019. We invested CHF 65 million in Cubic. Cubic is a contribution to the industry. We have been organising an event called, “the Networking day”. The event is to open factories to people from outside. We will be able to invite the public all the time after the opening of Cubic.

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Cubic innovation centre

Notes by the author

We know that people are essential resources of a company but rarely see the one like Bühler that provides opportunities for the young apprentices to experience the world and for all the employees life-time training programs. This would surely create employees with eyes wide open and who may produce products, systems and services with the sense of purpose.

It is said that Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is essential for the innovation. Bühler proves this is true. The company’s success in the innovation owes highly motivated people with diversified knowledge and background, and an environment that enables them to work together.

  • The article is originally prepared in Japanese for News Letter published by Swiss Business Hub Japan, Tokyo, Japan, December 2018

(Photos provided by Bühler Group)

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Japan as I see after 30 years in Europe — Old and new

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So many European people said to me, “The most striking thing in Japan is that the country holds the old and new together”

My reaction to such remark was rather cold. I thought their observation rather superficial. “Europe has many old and new things together. Why do they particularly puck up Japan?”

Back to Japan after 30 sears of living in Europe, I was struck here and there by its landscape that hosts the old habits over the modern landscape!

I concur my dear European friends. You are right!

Enjoy the photos below!

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Audio, Why are cross cultural skills crucial for international business with Japan?

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【My business life started improving dramatically
after a cross-cultural training of Japan】

Please enjoy an interview of Ms R, an executive of a major Japanese company in Mexico, who enthusiastically talked about the reasons why the cross-cultural training is a major key to success in international business with Japan.
(By the way, this is my first interview in the audio file!)

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  • Interested in our cross-cultural trainings, coaching and consulting to move forward business with Japan? Please talk to us.

 

Welcome to Europe-Japan Dynamics!

This is our blog page.

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Pick of the week from Japan, 4 – 8 September

5 Sep. Falling short of night entertainments in Japan? A number of shows being offered to overseas visitors

An increasing number of night entertainment is being offered in Japan in response to demand of overseas visitors who miss enjoyable night life, amid saturating volume of expense by the visitors. A variety of ideas are being put in place, organising drama that integrate traditional arts, or those with simultaneous interpretation. The Government starts pushing forward the creation of tourist attractions, too.

I see it as an import of international habits in Japan. Habit of international visitors motivated Japanese entertainment industries to create variety of night entertainments.

Films, concerts, theaters and other various night entertainment exist and form an industry of substantial volume in Japan. A major problem for international visitors is that almost all are available in Japanese language only and not taken into account the international audience. Although there are some traditional arts that provide comments and interpretation in English, such as Kabuki performances, these are rather exceptions.

The entertainment industry involves various professions and services, such as music, literature, theater management, etc. These will have to be performed taking into account international customers. This will be a substantial change for a homogeneous country such as Japan. The internationalisation of the entertainment business will inevitably spill over to a large number of various services involved in the business. Such kind of grass roots demand for the development of international orientation in domestic business may eventually make the Japanese more outward-looking than now.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Fresh & hot from Japan, from 13 to 17 February, 2017

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13 Feb. Fourth-quarter GDP, positive growth continued for four quarters in a row

According to the primary breaking news of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the fourth-quarter 2016 (October to December 2016) announced by the  Cabinet Office, a real growth rate except the influence of the change of commodity prices increased by 0.2% as compared to the third quarter (July to September 2016). This growth is equivalent to the growth of 0.1 % when convert it into an annual growth. This figure resulted in the consecutive positive growth for four quarters or one year.

Comments: The growth owns to trade surplus in 2016. Reducing growth of consumer consumption is still worrisome for the health of national economy.

14 Feb. Transformers installed in town, used for electronic signboards and battery chargers, developed by Panasonic and TEPCO

Panasonic and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plan to push forward a project to utilize a transformer in a box shape installed in cities  to attach equipment of advertisement or information board. Using the space on the transformer, the companies plan to enable charging of an electronic signboard and vehicles. Panasonic showed a trial product in Tokyo on 13th. The service is planned to start in 2018.

Comments: It is a part of IoT project promoted by Panasonic and TEPCO.

15 Feb. Toshiba, a possible sell off the semiconductor stock to avoid liabilities exceeding the assets at the end of FY 2016 or March

Toshiba reported a loss of  712,500 million yen over the atomic energy business in the U.S. from the settlement of accounts (American accounting standards) for the period of April to December 2016, and announced the deficit prospect of USD 4.4 million as a net profit or loss (a deficit of the same period a year ago was USD 4.2 million). The company felt into exceeding liability at the end of December 2016. Toshiba will consider to raise a ratio of stocks to sell the new company of semiconductor business to be branched out from less than 20% to over 50% to avoid liabilities exceeding the assets at the end of FY 2016 or March.

Comments: What to see in Toshiba’s saga is that what’s happening in the company is a consequence of lack of appropriate governance and mechanism to fix it that lasted for years till now.

16 Feb. Debate heated at the Diet over the proposed regulations on passive smoking

The debate on the cigarette is in fire in Nagatacho (the Japanese Diet). The regular smokers across the ruling and opposition parties resist against the proposed bill which is to introduce stronger measures against the passive smoking that the government is preparing taking into account the coming Tokyo Olympic Games and the Paralympics in 2020. The Japanese smoking habit is criticized as “the worst in the world”.

Comments: It is a shame that members of the Diet put their ego forward while the public interests behind.

17 Feb. Automatic running of row of trucks on highway, the Japanese Government to experiment from 2018

“Future investment meeting” (chairperson, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) , a mission of which is to formulate a growth strategy of the Government pulled together an implementation plan to partially realize the automatic driving of cars that does to require  drivers in 2020.  Recognizing that competition over the development of automatic driving becomes fierce in international markets, the Government intends to hold a superior position in the world by hurrying a proof experiment.

Comments: The field experiment is a large step forward, even though many changes of road transportation are envisaged, such as driving regulation, highway structure, etc.

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Photo by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)
  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Fresh & hot from Japan, from 6 to 10 February, 2016

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Please enjoy fresh & hot news from Japan with comments by Europe-Japan Dynamics.

6 Feb. Children caught by the Internet for a long time tend to be irritated, while the confidence in studying decreasing

Those children who spend hours over the Internet via smart phones, etc. tend to be irritated all the time while their level of confidence in studying decreasing —  found by a survey by Kinki block of Association of Parents and Teachers (PTA) and researchers. A researcher involved said, “The situation is too serious to ignore. The adults must be well aware of the net-dependency of children.”

Comments: it is serious and the same may be true to the adults, including ourselves.

7 Feb. Memory is up after ten minutes’ exercise? Maybe thanks to activation of the brain function

Soon after having an exercise for ten minutes of the level of jogging, one’s short-term memory improves, according to a report of a study undertaken by a team of Tsukuba University, Japan, and the University of California, the US. The team found that results were better for those who had dome some exercise then whose who rested, in an experiment of the correctness of memory of an object seen in advance. The study team says that the function of the brain might be activated by the exercise.

Comments: Good news for joggers and those who regularly do some exercise.

8 Feb. Heart rate measurable just by wearing it, the experiment start a Tank-top model 

Fujita Health University, Toray, NTT, NTT DOCOMO announced that they will start a demonstration experiment of “hitoe”, the cloth by  which one could measure a heart rate merely by wearing it like the underwear. The cloth will be used to monitor a heart rate and various activities of a patient in a hospital. It is intended to allow efficient rehabilitation exercise to enable the early recovery, and also to utilize the cloth in the remote monitoring service after leaving the hospital. An expected timing of market release is after three years.

Comments: Innovation take place where formerly completely different sectors and technologies meet. Thus another proof that diversity gives rise to innovation.

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9 Feb. Where is an empty toilet room? You find it over the net, no need to hurry in vain

Arriving at the office in the morning to find all the toilet rooms occupied! Dash to another floor to food them occupied again — To resolve such a problem development of the systems  which allows us to check  toilet rooms by  PCs is making progress. A by-product of such system is that the collected data may be used for health check. This may signal the arrival of “The IoT (Internet of Toilet)”.

Comments: Use of the data collected from the usage status of toilets is potentially interesting, though if and how much a company may collect employee’s health data is debatable.

10 Feb. Over ten thousand applications for the refugee status in Japan in 2016, while only 28 were admitted

The number of applications for the recognition of refugee status in Japan was 10,901 in 2016 (3,315 increase compared to the previous year) , exceeding  10,000  for the first time, according to the preliminary figure released by the Ministry of Justice. On the other hand, only 28 people were recognized as refugees  (one increase as compared to the number in 2015). In addition, the Ministry admitted the resident status to 97 people  (increase by 18 year-on-year) because of “humanitarian consideration”. The government continues a severe attitude for recognition of refugee status.

Comments: Severeness of the Japanese Government to the allocations of the refugee status has been one of the areas where Japan is behind the rich countries.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

Fresh & Hot from Japan, 16 to 20 January 2017

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16 Jan. JAXA failed to launch a small size rocket, causes to be investigated

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on the 15th that it had failed launching of the small rocket which is the world’s smallest of the class created upon improvement of the rocket for atmospheric observation. JAXA said that it had canceled the ignition of the second rocket planned 180 seconds later of the launch, because JAXA couldn’t receive the data from the rocket after the launch from the Uchinoura outer space observatory locates in Kimotsuki-cho, Kagoshima-ken. The cause of the failure is not known at present and the agency will investigate it in detail.

Comments: Failure is always a means of leaning.

17 Jan. Slight increase of rate of women general managers to be 4.1% of government officials

The Cabinet Office announced the ratio of woman administrator of public and private sectors. Regarding the national government officials,  23.9% of the section manager of the Ministries, 9.4% of the assistant manager of the Ministries and general manager of local organizations, 4.1% of  department managers of the Ministries and 3.5% of those higher than deliberation official grade were women. <these figures were lower by 1.5-6.1 points compared to the aimed figure of 2020.

Comments: Japan is still behind of the world in utilizing resources of women workforce.

18 Jan. Relaying on robots for the care of the aged?, due to a serious labour shortage in the aged persons’ home

What kind of town is good if I spend the old age? The nature is rich, and convenient for shopping and above all a good medical and care services must be available — It was Kitakyushu-shi that shined in the first place in “the ranking of local cities where people  wanted to live after 50 years old”, according to a magazine for the senior published in summer last year.

Comments: Care requires emotional energy. Could robot replace human beings for that?

19 Jan. Supporting IT talented people, a foundation of Masayoshi Son started recruiting

“The Masayoshi Son endowment foundation” which President Masayoshi Son of the SOFTBANK group established by his own fund started recruitment of people whom the foundtati9on will support as the leaders of the next generation. Those eligible must be under  25 years old, may  in studying or returning benefits as a corporate manager. The foundation would support max. 100 people for their research, and study abroad and interchanging of each other.

Comments: Supporting one hundred people? wWhat a big idea it is!

20 Jan. Kirin to withdraw from Brazil, planning to sell its local subsidiary

A Japanese beer major Kirin Holdings Co., Ltdexamining the sale of the Brazilian subsidiary. An anticipated buyer is a Netherlands’ beer major Heineken. Kirin acquired a local major beer company six years agobut a deficit continues due to intensifying competition in local markets. Kirin is a withdrawing from Brazil.

Comments: Kirin will focus on Asia.

  • All the news items are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and summarized and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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