Bossard Group is a company steeped in history and has established itself as a global leader within fastening technology. Here we speak to CEO Daniel Bossard about how the business is able to work with its customers to provide the optimal fastening solutions and services.
Bossard is known for its ability to work in partnership with its customers – providing bespoke answers to meet specialised requirements. Why has Bossard decided to take this solution-orientated approach and how does it work in practice?
“Our aim is to reduce the total cost of ownership for our customers. To do this, our engineers work with customers’ R&D departments to design the optimal products and assortments. In addition, our Smart Factory Logistics system enables us to partner with customers to set-up the most optimal, predominately automatic, C-parts management systems. By combining all of this into one service we can typically save customers between 30% and 40% of their total assembly costs.
At Bossard we do not look to stock commodity fasteners and provide standard services. Instead, we supply customised solutions and offer savings through our engineering and logistics capabilities. By doing this, we create stronger relationships with customers, we add more value and we help them reduce total costs.
A prime example is one of our key customers in the railway industry, for whom we are a strategic development partner and have set-up numerous Smart Factory Logistics systems in their global plants. Recently, we were even invited to be part of the set-up for a new plant in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were able to support them in planning the layout for C-parts management flow throughout the factory, which again helped them save considerable total costs, as well as optimise the entire production process.
This is just one example of how we can collaborate with customers, not just by providing products but supporting them on selecting the correct products and the most enhanced logistics set-up. To do this, rather than speaking to a buyer, who is going to rightly be focused on getting the lowest price possible, we talk to managers, logistics, production, and engineering, and focus on the holistic point of view, by concentrating on total costs and finding the best solution to meet the requirements – whether it is an innovative or smart product. By doing this more and more, we can create longer lasting partnerships and add real value to customers. Our experience and knowledge in this type of service enables us to stand out from competitors and truly add value and step away from the low cost commodity product side of the business.”
What is Bossard’s current business strategy? What targets has the Group set for itself? How do you see the geographic and industry specific markets growing in the future?
“We have set a target for 2031, which is when Bossard will turn 200 years old, to bring proven productivity and sustainability to every assembly operation in the world. Now that sounds a bit bold, but it’s what we are aiming to do. In numbers, this means growing sales organically 5% year-on-year, at an EBIT margin of 12% – 15% in the medium term – following a phase of increased investments.
To do this, we have four fields of strategic initiatives that will help us to achieve our targets. The first is a cultural transformation, which in essence means less hierarchy and more empowerment and coaching. Plus, the notion of how we attract new talent and retain these people, as well as how we apply more modern management technology.
The next initiative is sales transformation, where we want to move towards more digital lead generation instead of traditional outside sales pitches. This will involve looking more at digital content management and marketing. We will also look to align global sales roles within the sales verticals, which will allow us to have more leads and a higher pipe line conversion.
The third aspect is operational excellence, for instance we are introducing a new ERP system right now, Microsoft Dynamics 365, which will make us more efficient at every site across the globe. Finally, sustainability is the last initiative, where we will work on carbon neutrality on the environmental side. These are the four major fields of strategic initiatives we will be following. Of course, there are sub-initiatives as well that we will carry out to achieve the overall target by 2031.
During this period, we know there will be ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ within markets up to 2031, but this is our ambition, and we shall stick to the targets we have set. For instance, we had a decent first half of 2023 with a slight global sales growth, but we have already started to see economic weakening looking at the current PMIs. However, even in these potentially challenging times, there are always opportunities – especially in what we call the ‘sunrise industries’, such as the EV segment, renewable energy, healthcare, automation and robotics, as well as aerospace – which continues to be a growing segment.
Geographically, we still see a huge potential in the US market. Our market share in the USA is currently single digits and we see opportunities, particularly in the EV market, but also in electronics, and aerospace, to grow this even further. Within Europe, it is predominately eastern Europe where we see opportunities, such as Poland, which we believe is a great potential market for us to grow. In Asia, it is India that is benefitting a lot from the ‘China Plus One’ policy that many of our customers apply. We see numerous companies moving out of China into India. There is also a lot of railway business in India, as well as infrastructure and energy opportunities. Personally, I also think the Chinese market will also come back strongly. We still have a low market share in China, but we have just invested into a new warehouse in Tianjin and we believe ‘China for China’ will be important in the future.
At Bossard we can take advantage of any geographic opportunities that arise thanks to the global structure of the business, which is organised by regions – America, Asia-Pacific and two European regions – with each offering the full range of products and service portfolio. For key verticals like electric vehicles, railway, healthcare, robotics, and aerospace, we have also installed global focus groups. This means we have global leaders for each vertical and they coordinate the activities within this sector around the globe, including regular meetings to discuss trends and developments, etc. In total, Bossard is represented in 32 countries and in 82 locations.”
What investments has the company made in recent years and what are the advantages to the business and to customers?
“Our key investments have been opening new facilities in target markets, so we can continue to grow our market share around the world. For instance, roughly three years ago, with China in the ‘booming’ phase, we said it was important to be present in that market, so we could grow. We therefore invested in China – including the new warehouse in Tianjin, which I have already mentioned.
We have also invested in Taiwan, where we just opened a new facility in June, as we could see there was a lot of growth potential within ‘sunrise’ (growth) industries, as well. Our business in Taiwan has already grown double digits over the last couple of years, which is unusual as Taiwan is so well known for its fastener manufacturers, but business has been booming and with the new facility it will hopefully continue to grow.
We have also invested in a new facility in France, just one year ago, again because we want to grow in Europe and we see the potential in the market – with an estimated addressable market share in France of currently only 8%. In fact, the only big market shares we have are Switzerland, at about 34%, and Denmark at 20%. The others are all single digit market shares, so wherever we see growth potential, we will look at the practicalities of investing in new facilities and people.
If we are to reach our strategic target for 2031 then we need to continue to invest in infrastructure, as well as continue our acquisition strategy – with a third of our growth ambition proposed to come through acquisitions. It is important to note that our acquisition strategy is to become better not just bigger, which is why we typically look to acquire companies with a good profitability, as well as what new technologies and values they can add to Bossard Group.
We are also always looking at what is next and how we can help customers to become more efficient, which is why we have been investing in our Smart Factory Assembly system – the next step in the logistics chain that ensures optimal process control in manual assembly.
Through the Smart Factory Assembly system, we help customers through electronic work instructions that guide them step by step through each part of the process in question – what to do; what tool to use; the tightening torque required; which operator is installing the product, etc. If at any point something is done incorrectly, the system will alert the user. This helps create standardised workflows and creates maximum transparency and traceability of production processes. It also underlines to the customer that at Bossard it is not just about providing the right products, in the right qualities, and right place, it is about making sure the entire process, including the assembly and logistics, is completed to the highest standards and requirements.”
Sustainability continues to grow in importance within markets. What steps has Bossard taken on this topic and how do you see the area developing?
“There are different aspects when it comes to sustainability, firstly there is the environmental aspect, where we have already collected our global CO2 footprint for each location, which we carried out in 2022. This covers Scope 1 and Scope 2, which is about our own internal usage – heating, cars, electricity, etc. We did this and now we have visibility on where and how we are using energy.
Currently, we are in the final stages of defining what our carbon zero target will be for the next 10 years and the key milestones on that path. We are also working on fulfilling all the governance criteria, which involves a lot of different aspects, such as CBAM, as well as various other standards. In fact, we have recently appointed two additional staff members who will be responsible for collating and inputting all the data required when it comes to the governance of sustainability.
Besides governance criteria, we are also looking to be a preferred supplier with our customers when it comes to sustainability. We are therefore looking at things such as sustainable products and how we can help customers become more sustainable. For instance, if there’s a product or service we could provide that would help them with the disassembly of products for recycling.
The other aspect of sustainability is social. Whilst most companies tend to just look at the environmental aspect, the social side also has value. That is why we have defined inclusion and diversity targets to remain and become even more attractive to employees. These topics get talked a lot about by companies, and sometimes it is just talk, but at Bossard we believe it is a fundamental part of the business. We have been around for 190 years and have always looked after our employees and we will continue to do so in the future.
We are committed to sustainability in all forms and have produced a sustainability report where we show both employees and customers what we are doing from both an environmental and social point of view. Last year we also received an EcoVadis bronze medal for the work we have done so far, and we are working towards achieving a silver medal to show we are on the right path going forward.”
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 15 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.