Buhler defines new business strategy, outlines cutbacks

by Emily Wilson
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Buhler AG on Oct. 1 announced a newly defined corporate strategy that reduces the number of its business operations from 16 to 10, and could result in employee layoffs.

The new corporate strategy will focus attention on the growing markets of extrusion engineering, micro-particle and sub-micron particle technology and die casting technology, while strengthening activities in food processing and chemical process engineering, according to Calvin Grieder, chief executive officer.

Buhler will eliminate its vegetable oil production systems, malting, fresh pasta and tortilla plant businesses, and conveying systems. The brewing business unit, previously operated jointly with malting, will be integrated into the company’s grain processing activities.

"Buhler as a technology group must gain additional earnings power, since this is the only way to successfully meet the challenges of technological change on a long-term business," Grieder said. "[Developing] innovations offering measurable added value to target customers is of major significance.

"We are prepared to implement the initiated steps quickly and systematically," he added.

Buhler also is evaluating the option of making individual production areas autonomous and incorporated into a network of partners to increase job security at these facilities in the wake of "increasing emergence of regional and global manufacturing specialists," the company said.

Organizational and personnel-related issues will be defined in the coming weeks. Grieder said it was likely that staffing levels will have to be reduced.

"We are making every effort to implement the imminent change process with as few layoffs as possible," said Urs Buhler, chairman of the board. "The emphasis is not on reductions and disinvestments, but on the systematic expansion of our successful, strong business units and the selective creation of new capabilities."

The company plans to use all information systems available to facilitate new corporate communication. For instance, Grieder will personally answer employees’ questions through online "chats" via the Internet. This is an effort to support the workforce adjustment to this new strategy and to give the c.e.o. direct feedback from all employees.

Buhler employs 6,600 people and generates annual sales of U.S.$8 million.

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