We want to set standards. Here in Einsiedeln and worldwide. Heinz Leuthold, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Leuthold Mechanik AG, winner of a Prix SVC Zurich Economic Area award
A global leader in precision work: Leuthold Mechanik AG
Good was never good enough for Heinz Leuthold. He always wanted to be better than anyone else. More precise. More innovative. Faster. And he still wants to be these things today – although he can afford to sit back and relax now. After all, the head of Leuthold Mechanik AG has set new standards worldwide with his machines for manufacturing coffee capsules and other aluminum containers.
The production facility in Einsiedeln, in the Canton of Schwyz, is roaring away. The huge press goes up and down, punching 1,000 coffee capsules per minute out of a sheet of aluminum. The powerful machine must produce the small capsules with a high degree of precision, working on a scale of a hundredth of a millimeter. Precision is mandatory.
Global market leader
Every single day, Leuthold Mechanik AG demonstrates that it is capable of the utmost precision. The company, which has some 90 employees, manufactures machines for the aluminum packaging industry – and is a global market leader in this field. Almost all existing aluminum coffee capsules are produced using Leuthold Mechanik AG machines. The same is true of pet food containers, capsules for individual jam portions, and aluminum bowls for the medical sector.
30 million capsules per week
Here's what's special: Leuthold Mechanik AG not only manufactures the machines, but also largely produces the aluminum containers itself. The coffee capsules alone amount to some 30 million per week. Heinz Leuthold, the company's owner and CEO explains: "The fact that we not only manufacture the machines and tools, but also produce the aluminum products ourselves is very popular with our customers, as they can have everything from a single source. What's more, we can immediately identify weak points in the machines through our own production lines, and can implement improvements and test innovations."
Tinkering around in his parents' cellar
Everything started off very small in the mid-1970s. In Burghalde, a district in the municipality of Richterswil, on Lake Zurich. Heinz Leuthold, who was then training as a toolmaker, was given a small lathe by his father. The young, ambitious inventor took this tool and started making special parts for companies in the region from his parents' cellar. A little later, he set up business in an old garage in Samstagern and continuously expanded it. "I already realized back then that I would get ahead if I made something that other people couldn't," reminisced Leuthold. "And that I should keep my eyes and ears open to see where new solutions were in demand."
Vision: An in-house technology park
Heinz Leuthold places great importance upon innovations, even today – as the 64-year-old entrepreneur demonstrates with a project that is currently being planned. In addition to the company's current buildings in Einsiedeln, Leuthold would like to build a technology park for start-ups, where people with differing areas of knowledge can meet up for brainstorming sessions. "We want to become a hub for new ideas and technologies," commented Leuthold. "One person on their own is never as innovative as a group of people."
Making the most of a crisis
To hear Heinz Leuthold talk, you would have no doubt that he will also implement this project successfully. Just like all the other projects before this. In more than 40 years of company history, HLM has never suffered a major setback. Not even the euro crisis created any real difficulties for the business. "Of course, we had to think about how we could keep the company at our Swiss location. However, we were fortunate that our specialties were in demand abroad even during this difficult time," said the CEO. And if the company's employees weren't working flat out on occasions, they used their free time to gear themselves up for the future. A result of this is that more and more machines are being equipped with robot technology.
Firm focus on the future
In 2013, the company made it through to the final round of the competition for the coveted Swiss Venture Club (SVC) award. And an end to the company's success is not in sight – even though aluminum has for a long time not exactly been considered environmentally friendly. Leuthold is keen to emphasize that a change of attitude has since taken place, however. This is because aluminum can be fully recycled at little effort or expense. Nevertheless, he is aware that his firm must be prepared for the eventuality that the metal suddenly ceases to be in demand. "That's why we are already thinking today about what may be on the horizon in 15 or 20 years." For Leuthold, resting on his laurels is simply out of the question: "As the market leader, we want to and have to keep on getting better."
Credit Suisse as a committed partner
In 20 years, Heinz Leuthold will no longer be holding the reins of the company himself. In the medium term, he is handing HLM over to his son and his nephew, and the succession planning is in full swing. "I am grateful to have a partner like Credit Suisse at my side providing me with skilled and committed support as I take this step." And this is not the first time in his career that he's called upon this support: "My very first Credit Suisse client advisor was like a father to me. This humanity, this genuine interest in me personally, my business and my goals is something I've always appreciated in Credit Suisse."
Finding solutions together
Leuthold felt able to contact the bank with any concern – even if it wasn't a money issue. "Credit Suisse always found the right person to help me. Someone who was able to give me comprehensive advice and help me find solutions, whatever the situation – even for international matters." This was incredibly important to a person for whom precision and reliability were top professional priorities. "I demand precision and the highest levels of quality not only from myself and my employees, but also from my business partners."
Taking care of his employees
At the same time, a pleasant working atmosphere is extremely important to Leuthold. This quickly becomes clear during a tour of the plant. Leuthold greets his employees by their first names, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Rather than a manager, he sees himself as a patriarch who looks after his employees as if they were family members. "One thing has been clear to me since I founded the company," Leuthold remarks, "which is that: you are never successful on your own. And I never was. We all are successful together!"
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