EMDT’s interviews offer personal perspectives on the diverse industries that serve the medtech sector. Here, we talk to Jürg Haefeli of Lamineries Matthey.
|Jürg Haefeli of Lamineries Matthey|
Q If I were not talking to you now, what would you be doing?
A My day is quite varied. I might be in my office corresponding with major customers or key suppliers, inspecting something in the plant or travelling. Most of my time is dedicated to moving our many projects forward. We coordinate our team’s activities at a weekly management meeting that I chair.
Q How did you get into the industry?
A In the most unremarkable way imaginable. An ad in the paper caught my eye. The owner and managing director of a company was retiring after 30 years and seeking a successor. It was exactly what I was looking for. That was 11 years ago and I have never regretted my decision to move to the beautiful Neuchâtel area of Switzerland and to join this industry leader.
Q What is the best thing about your work?
A Besides being able to run my own show, the extreme variety of applications. Strip, rod, wire and profiles are semifinished products, and, therefore, are rather far down the chain of supply. However, being such a specialist in our field, we need to fully understand the applications and end user requirements. Besides medical devices, we serve sectors as far afield as electronics, watchmaking, aerospace, automotive and general engineering.
Q What is the biggest misconception people have about your work?
A Many customers underestimate the difficulty involved in cold rolling metal and meeting the required specifications. It takes many complex operations that have to be closely monitored to achieve the repeatability in the mechanical properties of our products that customers expect.
Q What do you think is the most important medical device invention ever?
A There are so many! For me, the most valuable inventions are those that have changed the lives of millions and that we take for granted. Hearing aids and pacemakers are examples of technologies drawn from other areas that have been successfully applied to medical devices and brought relief to so many people.
Q What should people give more attention to?
A Supply chain management. We are frequently amazed by how much large companies invest in sophisticated IT systems and how often their planning goes awry. On the supply side, lead times can change very quickly and on the demand side, visibility is becoming ever narrower. As a result, we are forced into a position where we have to compensate with unreasonably large material inventory to absorb the bumps in the road.
Q What do you see as the most exciting development on the horizon?
A We get very excited whenever a new project requiring miniaturisation begins. Located in the middle of Switzerland’s precision industry cluster, which is home to many world leaders in microprecision, mechatronics and nanotechnology, it is only natural that we believe small is beautiful. Many of our investments in machinery are geared to making our products smaller and thinner.
Q What do you want from your suppliers?
A We build long-term relationships with our material suppliers. With more than 80 metals and alloys in our product line, we work with about 20 key suppliers, some of which we have been with for 30 or more years. So it’s not just product quality and price—service, flexibility and innovation keep us loyal to a supplier. The relationship has to be honest and equitable. We have to be able to rely on our suppliers in good times and in bad.
Q What is the biggest challenge supplying special alloys to the medtech industry?
A One of the biggest challenges is understanding customer requirements and anticipating future developments. Rather than just making a product to a certain specification, we strive to be involved early in the development process and use our experience to help select the alloy and define specifications that are feasible and meet performance criteria. For this purpose, our staff of 65 includes PhDs in metallurgy and physics, a materials engineer and two mechanical engineers. That’s a strong investment in competency, which will surely continue to increase as the complexity of the market grows.