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

Welcome to Europe-Japan Dynamics!
A specialist in cross-cultural management between Europe and Japan

This is our blog page.

Please click here for what we do.
Please click here for who we are.

************************************

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).

 

2000px-logo_bühler_ag.svg

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.

china_2017
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.

cubic_visualization
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)

広告

Fresh & hot from Japan, from 24 to 28 April, 2017

Welcome to Europe-Japan Dynamics!

This is our blog page.

Please click here for what we do.
Please click here for who we are.

************************************

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

24 Apr. Toshiba to branch out four major business units, such as the energy unit including the atomic energy

Toshiba announced that the company will branch out four main business units of “the social infrastructure”, “the energyincluding the atomic energy, “the information systems” and “the electronic device”. Toshiba intends to clarify management responsibilities by branching out the business units. Thus the company intends to maintain its volume of business so that the branched companies continue their own business by renewing the construction permit needed to install large scale facilities without being affected by financial troubles of the head quarters.

Comments: Would Toshiba renew itself to be a company with a good governance? The restructuring of the company looks like a host term solution only not to run to the worst.

25 Apr. Speaker for people with hearing impairment to enjoy music, awarded by the first prize at the Asian Competition

Three graduate students of Kyushu University designed the speaker that enables to enjoy music using the vibration of the sound designed. The underlying idea of the speaker, that is “to have people with hearing impairment enjoy music with the whole body”, was highly appreciated for its uniqueness at the Asian Competition for the design of industrial products, and the speaker obtained the highest award.

Comments: One may enjoy the music without hearing it.

聴覚障害者用スピーカ

26 Apr. Kansai Airport marked the largest number of passengers of 25,710,000, crowded by visitors from Korea and China

The number of users of Kansai Airport was 25,710,000 in 2016, up 7% from a year ago and updated the record number for two consecutive years. The figure was released by the Kansai Airport which operates Kansai Airport and Osaka (Itami) Airport announced.

Comments: The Japanese economy, including airports, benefits much from visitors from neighboring Korea and China.

27 Apr. Unique earphone for smart phones

Earphones and headphones equipped with Bluetooth are becoming popular, the markets being pushed by the iPhone 7 (that does not have headphones terminal) or an earphone in which the right and left ones are separated from each other. On the other hand,  unique products comes up to headphones connected by the cable. For both products, not only one can enjoy music but also may be used for the voice call of the smartphone with a built-in microphone.

Comments: They are cool!

  • 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, 3 to 7 October 2016

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

3 Oct. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, professor emeritus of Tokyo Institute of Technology, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, announced that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine of this year will be given to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi (71), a professor emeritus of Tokyo Institute of Technology. The awarding reason was “the discovery of the structure of the automatic fuzzy” (autophagy action). Dr. Ohsumi clarified mechanism in which a cell broke down own part and recycled it as a nourishment source or its own renewal. He thus resolved a mystery of an essential life phenomenon common to various creatures.

Comments: It was original that Dr. Ohsumi looked at a destroying process, rather than creating process of a cell.

4 Oct. IMF raised Japanese growth rate expectation in increase 0.5% of this year

International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced latest World Economic Outlook on 4th. The organization raised the growth forecast from the one in July, taking into account the postponement of the consumption tax increase this summer, and the economic measures proposed by the Government raised. The IMF left the growth rate worldwide unchanged, due to the decrease of the growth forecast of industrialized countries upon slowdown of the US economy and the determination of the UK to exit from the European Union (EU), while the growth prospect of newly developing countries.

Comments: Hope that the growth of Japanese economy would last.

5 Oct. Gundam from the small factory in town! Bipedalism Robo of “the world’s largest grade

The engineers engaged in manufacturing in Osaka-shi made a humanoid robot made from aluminum of 4 meters tall and 300 kg in weightOne may control it in a cockpit in the body such as “Mobile Suit Gundam“.  According to Mr. Hajime Sakamoto (49) who runs a robot production company “Hajime Institute ” (Nishiyodogawa-ku, Osaka-shi) and who is the head of the development of the robot, “The robot is one of the world’s largest” among those robots of the bipedalism.

Video: Mounting on the 4m robot.

Comments: The engineers are working to make their dream come true.

6 Oct. CEATEC  Japan, exhibitors compete over wireless communication and sensors towards IoT 

Electronic parts vendors compete over wireless communication technologies and the sensor, which are indispensable for the IoT (the Internet of the things). Enormous volumes of sensors will be required for the IoT, and a large demand increase is expected. http://www.ceatec.com/ja

Comments: Fierce competition is an origin of innovation.

7 Oct. “Xperia ear”, a device on the ear to operate a smartphone by voice

Sony mobile communications will release “the Xperia ear” on November 18, which will connect a smartphone of the android operating system (the OS) with the wireless communications network.  The device attached to the ear will allow phone calls and message exchanges without holding a smartphone by hand.

http://www.sonymobile.co.jp/product/smartproducts/

 

Comments: Sounds like an SF.

sonx-xperia_equipment sony-xperia

 

 

 

 

  • 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.

Keys to success in cross-cultural marketing — Nestlé in Asia, Oceania and Africa

I had an opportunity to interview with Mr. Anthony LOW, VP, Asia, Oceania and Africa Region of Nestlé.

Nestle_logo-2

I was particularly interested in discovering the keys to success in marketing in the regions that have diversified consumer markets, including Japan. Japan is known to be a unique market for its consumer taste and preferences in the food business.

I found there was no miracle. Keys to success were but the very basics of marketing, i.e. the trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests.

So what’s new?

Yes, there is the reason why Nestlé excels and that lead the company to a remarkable success, the thoroughness. The company’s “Can do” attitude, supported by the thoroughness led to breakthrough in its marketing.

I was happy to be assured that one may succeed in challenging markets by pursuing without compromise to the basic values of marketing, i.e. trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests. It is not a coincidence that these values are common to the underlying principles of the corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Here is my note:

Keys to success

Customer first, “Can do” attitude = Never say, “No”.

  • To meet customer requirements in Japan, Nescafé, we changed the product. Changed its recipe from “Instant coffee” to “Regular coffee”.
  • Barista Ambassador – To facilitate access to Nescafé in offices (where tea and coffee is served less and less, due to limited budget, economic recession, etc.), offered Barista machine free of charge, including service. The customers buy the coffee products or refill from Nestlé.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Shrinking population how do you grow business where the population is shrinking? Aging Elder people’s market.
    • Visited and listened to the elderly people. Found that loneliness is their major problem. Created “Nestlé wellness club”. With a small membership fee, send a doctor and dietitian to home.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Trust, quality and market insights
  • To find a new market in a country where you are for more than 100 years. Creativity. Never say, “No”.

Build the trust with consumers

  •  Marketing strategy is different in each country in the AOA Region. cf. Europe – one common market
  •  There are 115 countries in the AOA Region.
  •  There are over 450 different Nescafé’s worldwide.

Long-term strategy

E.g. In India, Nestlé supports WHO to promote the breast feeding. It is not for an immediate benefit. If some mothers could not continue breast feeding, they buy Nestlé’s milk product. Nestlé infant formulae is close to mother’s milk.

“Romance the product”. Nestlé’s marketing strategy

  • Market test — Nestlé requires 60:40 preferences of Nestlé products over competition

“Then, we ‘romance’ the product to the truth.”
i.e. to make the truth to come to the life.

  • To find an answer to the question, “Why is this product perceived to be better than competition?”
  • If consumers says “this chocolate tastes fresh”, to find why is “fresh” important?

Re. Japanese market

There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,
There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,
  • MUST know how to do business in the local market
    • Perceived value is the key, e.g. Nescafé vs. Starbucks
    • MUST build the perception on quality. No failure is allowed. Must constantly work on the quality.
  • Nestlé’s response to the local market, Special-T. A system for the Japanese tea lovers to enjoy good tea without following a procedure to prepare a good tea.
    • An example of adapting to the taste of local market.
    • Originally tried with black tea but failed. Found that The Japanese wanted to take the green tea that match individual taste.
  • You can’t do cheap business in Japan. Currency rate is not in our favour while price of imported materials are rising (e.g. Cacao).
    • We can’t compete over the price. We create premium values.
    •  Japanese consumers pay for the premium.
    •  E.g. Kitkat – Those that use local materials cost less than others that use much Cacao.
  • Appeals to the emotion
    • Pepper – a robot that reads 80% of your emotion. It selects the best coffee for you. Technology invented in France, produced in Taiwan and the license bought by Softbank (one of the leading mobile phone operators known to be vanguard market strategy in Japan.

Nestlé
10:30 – 13:00, Vevey, 18 March 2015