Codec: High-Precision Bar-Turning Machines in Val-de-Ruz
What do a windshield wiper and a hearing aid have in common? Both can contain tiny metal parts manufactured by Codec SA in Val-de-Ruz. Its CEO Michel di Bernardo explains the company's success with two key words: responsibility and trust.
Codec SA produces micro-turned metallic parts smaller than six millimeters in size. What is it about these tiny parts that interest you?
I clearly remember the day 30 years ago when I stepped into the manufacturing workshop for the very first time: I saw all of these machines turning out these miniature parts in brass or steel, manufactured using oil. It still fascinates me today. With production figures of 1.2 billion parts per year, it is a huge challenge to adhere to tolerances and guarantee consistent quality.
What everyday products contain parts produced by Codec?
You will find our parts in hearing aids, aeronautics, household appliances like electric toothbrushes and razors, as well as in chainsaws and cars, particularly in windshield wipers and steering mechanisms.
Codec SA is celebrating 50 years in business and you have been at the company's helm for ten years. What is your view on this period?
Our company's history is outstanding, from its creation by Francis Jeanneret to today, with my partner Jean-Daniel Costantini and me leading the company for ten years. We were able to make timely shifts that proved necessary and have successfully transitioned from mechanics to electronics. Micro-precision cutting on escomatic machinery is a niche market, and today we are one of five world leaders.
What was the biggest challenge that you have had to face so far as an entrepreneur?
The acquisition of the company with Jean-Daniel Costantini. Today, we are proud to have met our objectives so successfully. To achieve this, the trust of our employees has been a decisive factor, as has been the trust of our clients and banks, Credit Suisse in particular.
What are your fundamental criteria when choosing a banking partner?
There has to be a connection, and the bank has to show a genuine interest in our business. This is true of Credit Suisse, as we have seen since the managers acquired the company. And our advisor not only knows the ins and outs of the manufacturing sector; he also understands the processes and knows what is important to us.
What have you seen him do? Can you give an example?
After the removal of the floor rate for the euro in 2015, our advisor told us about a great product to mitigate the problems posed by falling prices and hedge against currency risks. In addition, I really appreciate having one and only one banking partner for commercial and private business. This choice may seem risky, but for me, it is a huge time saving. I can manage my financial flows more easily and better assess tax and capital expenditure problems. Of course, none of this would be possible without a relationship of trust.
This isn't the first time that you've mentioned trust.
For an entrepreneur, it is critical to be able to trust your partners. With Credit Suisse, that feeling was almost immediate. It has to do first with personal relationships, and then the corporate culture, and finally the decisions made, which have proven to pay off.
Trust often goes hand-in-hand with responsibility, especially as an employer. How important is Codec SA to the region?
Codec SA has been located in Val-de-Ruz since its inception, and our employees live mainly in this region. What's more, the machines we use are also produced in the region, in the Escomatic factory in Geneveys-sur-Coffrane. So, we have a responsibility to our employees and the region's manufacturing sector. But, I think that responsibility is not just a one-way street. We can count on a great team of 125 employees, most of them working with us for many years. I regularly get the chance to see the sense of responsibility that characterizes our employees. It is the key that helps us to be competitive in production. Thanks to always keeping our eyes open, we are able to anticipate changes and understand future dynamics.
Are there currently any significant changes?
We recently made a fundamental decision about a major change. We are going to create a new industrial complex in the lower part of the village that will be a determining factor for our future. The costs were enormous for us, but we found a financing solution that combines equity and long-term support by Credit Suisse. We are embarking on a new adventure, and all our employees are very motivated to rise to the challenge.