Research - 25.08.2022 - 00:00 

Swiss Manufacturing Survey 2022

According to the newest edition of the study, Switzerland remains an attractive production location for international companies. However, SMEs lack qualified workers.

25 August 2022. The new edition of the "Swiss Manufacturing Survey" is published. The survey highlights the economic profile and various factors that contribute to Switzerland's strength as a global hub for international manufacturing. Swiss production know-how contributes to global resilience and robustness, both in their own supply chains and in those of their customers. In 2022, the struggle of SMEs for qualified workers has been particularly striking. 

Researchers from the University of St.Gallen (HSG) and ETH Zurich have published the sixth edition of the "Swiss Manufacturing Survey". The team evaluated data from more than 300 companies with over 1100 locations in 20 industries, ranging from food to mechanical engineering. The results provide information on the current state of the Swiss manufacturing sector. 

The survey is conducted annually and allows researchers to take an ongoing look at the strengths as well as weaknesses of Switzerland as a manufacturing location. After two years dominated by coronavirus, longer-term trends within the industry, as well as the development of strengths and weaknesses of manufacturing in Switzerland can now be analyzed again.

Success factors of Switzerland as a manufacturing location have remained constant since 2017 with five factors consistently contributing to its success. They are:

  • the high product quality
  • the reliability and speed of delivery
  • the strong positive image of Switzerland
  • the strong capacity for innovation
  • the access to a skilled workforce

Labour shortage: Swiss SMEs face challenges

Global competition is becoming increasingly demanding and new demands are being placed on industrial companies based in Switzerland. The days of focusing solely on price, quality and costs are over. Swiss and international customers expect versatile product and delivery performance. Sustainability and flexibility, in particular, are increasingly sought out by customers every year. This also applies to SMEs, over 200 of which took part in this year's study. According to a study by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, almost one in ten Swiss employees works in a manufacturing SME. This is more employees than in all large Swiss companies combined.

The number one challenge for Swiss manufacturing continues to be high employee costs. However, the dominance of this factor has weakened significantly over the last six years. The second biggest obstacle is the availability of skilled labour in production, research and development. Thus, the demand for qualified labour is becoming increasingly essential. This is proving to be particularly challenging for manufacturing SMEs, as less than 20 percent rate themselves as attractive employers. 

According to the survey, Swiss companies expect qualified employees to be the central lever for building up further production capacities in Switzerland in the coming years. It will be important to make the advantages of working in manufacturing SMEs more visible to the outside world. SMEs see a reduction in their manufacturing costs as another opportunity to increase manufacturing capacity in Switzerland. Compared to large companies, SMEs see significant potential here to increase their efficiency and thus reduce national cost disadvantages. It is becoming clear that SMEs are not facing easy times, but Switzerland's strengths also offer an opportunity to take on challenges and use them to gain an international competitive advantage.

Swiss industry proves resistant to crisis

Conclusion: After overcoming challenges due to the pandemic in 2021, Swiss companies are once again more confident about their economic stability and future plans. A significant increase in customer orders and an increase in the workforce at home and abroad are expected. Both large companies and SMEs have responded to the crisis and implemented resilience measures. In 2022, however, Swiss industry will also be strongly affected by the current geopolitical situation, although only a small number of companies have their own production sites or suppliers in the crisis countries. Precise forecasts for the coming years will remain difficult. A risk-based view of the entire production network will therefore become an ongoing task for companies. This is one of the reasons why a research project funded by the Swiss Confederation will be launched next year to better identify and assess external corporate risks.

The study report is public and available free of charge.

St.Gallen Production Management Conference on October 18 and 19, 2022

The St.Gallen Production Management Conference on October 18 and 19, 2022 offers the opportunity to discuss the implications of the "Swiss Manufacturing Survey" in depth with experts. The "Swiss Manufacturing Award" will also be presented at the conference. The award will be given to one of the 308 participating companies that has made a special contribution to Switzerland as a manufacturing location. Further information can be found under this link.

Image: Adobe Stock / Alexey Novikov

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