EPF Annual General Meeting 2018 at Lucern

EPF Annual General Meeting 2018 at Lucern

Dr Fantoni opened the meeting at 9 a.m. and welcomed all the participants. He warned all attendees that it has been an inspiring decision to entitle this day: “The future of industry”. 

Also Mr. Fantoni said: “Listening to unique and special speakers will show a vision on the economic and technological challenges that our businesses will face in the future. As members of EPF, we are called to increase our capacity to form a common voice. Our members are not just following national and continental strategies, but increasingly intercontinental strategies are now required. The achievements of the last 60 years with EU integration and the internal market are now being challenged by increasing nationalism and misuse of the precautionary principle for health. This is putting the free movement of goods at risk, possibly leading to increasing costs for testing and certification and hampering the further building of European businesses”. Later on, the CEO of Swiss Krono Group, Mr. Brettenthaler, had a short speech, were he explained the history of Swiss Krono Group. The company was founded by Mr Ernst Kaindl in 1966 who handed over his business to his daughter 5 years ago. In 2015, a very important strategic change took place with the creation of the “We are one” vision to create more co-operation and synergies between the plants. Meanwhile, Swiss Krono Group operates 15 plants with number 16 under construction in the USA. Partnership is of great importance to solve issues and to confront challenges with partners. Swiss Krono Group is the largest producer of laminate flooring in the world producing 145 million m² annually, potentially covering 44 football fields per day, and employing 5000 employees.

The Digital Economy in Switzerland, Dr Christian Wenger, Lawyer, Wenger & Vieli

Dr. Wenger started his speech, by explaining that he used to be in the wood-based panels industry for many years until exiting by selling his company. His is now a lawyer in the digital space, which he sees as essential for all businesses. Dr Wenger recalls Moore’s law (Gordon Moore was the founder of Intel) which states that the number of transistors in a circuit board will double every 18 months (with no increase in cost). This inevitably leads to exponential growth. 5G is an example of that. It will fundamentally change the way we will communicate via the mobile telephone, which will have massive consequences. The challenge in the future will be when technology exceeds our human intellectual capacity? This tipping point will create a great challenge. Already we see more and more that policy makers have problems in developing policies for new technologies and that the policies are outdated by the time they are ready. 65% of modern children will perform jobs that do not exist today, and 50% of today ’s revenue will be at risk from shifts in consumer spending. These are challenging times.

To be on the crest of the wave, 4 big factors for today’s business leaders are:

• Horizontal innovation – no business is safe from new entrants

• Technological literacy – leaders need training to be fully digital literate

• Digital skill gap – teams need to be able to manage this digital transformation

• Digital Leadership – decisions tomorrow will be driven by big data, not by grand visions

Switzerland is a fast growing digital hub. It has risen to number one on a World Economic Forum global competitiveness report, to number 1 on a business schools report for global innovation and to number 2 on a global entrepreneurship index. Switzerland is on a high horse, but not yet a thriving horse. In the future, every industry will have a digital backbone. Modern legislation and an agile legislation process is needed. Blockchain is expected to be a breakthrough technology for business and policy makers in the future. It must be embraced by all to confront the technical progress being made by the Chinese, Indians, Russians and Americans. Dr Wenger recommends everyone to buy a book to read and learn about blockchain and to follow it in the newspapers. Huge opportunities lie in the involvement of start-ups in the R&D of big corporations. Digital Switzerland now wants to learn from Digital Sweden to become stronger and prepare the formation of Digital Europe.

About the EPF Economic Update 2017/2018, Mr Clive Pinnington, EPF Managing Director, gave also a short speech!

Mr Pinnington presented the industry results from the European Panel Federation’s newly released Annual Report 2017/2018. The headline figure is an overall production volume growth of 3% in 2017 (compared to +1.9% in 2016). The three largest panel types by production volume in 2017 were particleboard (31.2 million m³), MDF (12.3 million m³) and OSB (5.6 million m³). the three fastest growing panel types in 2017 (v 2016) were plywood (+7.8%), softboard (+6.9%) and OSB (+3.3%). As pleasing as this accelerated growth is, Mr Pinnington highlighted that reports to the EPF Economic Working Group the previous day, plus Mr Brettenthaler ’s comments, remind that markets for wood-based panels are likely to become harder in the near future. Mr Pinnington updated on EPF advocacy, announcing that all 10 of EPF’s priority areas are currently graded with a green upwards arrow, or an orange oblique upwards one. No project has a red downwards marker. Even though this is a subjective assessment, it is still very pleasing.