Mirjam Matti Gähwiler — 19.04.2018

Digitisation and automation have long since become part of daily life in the textiles industry. Consumers’ buying behaviour has fundamentally altered. Changes are taking place throughout the industry.

Carl Illi, when you took over as President of Swiss Textiles last summer, you emphasised how important the training of young professionals is to you. What is the situation in the industry today?

Carl Illi
I am certain that our members are able to provide an excellent plat-form for young professionals – the companies are dynamic and have flat hierarchies, they promote team spirit and have an international orientation. Our industry is driven by an innovative spirit and therefore offers attractive jobs. In small and medium-sized companies, individual employees are able to make a difference more easily and effectively than they can in a large corporation.

Carl Illi, Präsident Swiss Textiles

Our industry is driven by an innovative spirit and therefore offers attractive jobs.

Skilled employees are highly sought-after everywhere. Is the textiles industry able to successfully compete with other sectors?

Peter Flückiger
Certainly. Many of our members operate at the interface between creativity and technology. This is unique and offers a broad spectrum of opportunities. It also gives rise to high-quality products in both aesthetic and functional terms – products that correspond to the spirit of our times and are tangible. But we need to take care to ensure that the industry is able to keep its skilled personnel and offer them attractive prospects.

Carl Illi
Being involved in a creative process builds emotional bonds and a strong identity.

What is the industry doing in order to make people aware of these prospects?

Carl Illi
I have to admit that in the past few years we have done too little to show our young professionals how attractive our industry is. I am referring to young people with management potential: business economists, materials scientists, engineers, etc.

Peter Flückiger
The textiles industry has changed enormously. What is being developed, produced and marketed in Switzerland no longer corresponds to the products many people still associate with it. We need to rectify this image and show how dynamic and future-oriented the textiles industry is today.

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Peter Flückiger, Direktor Swiss Textiles

Swiss Textiles has to lead the way and address issues that could shape the future.

Where does Swiss Textiles provide support?

Carl Illi
We strongly support sector specific education platforms in order to offer attractive and needs-based training and further education. However, it is above all the responsibility of the companies themselves to offer their young employees attractive career opportunities. We have to have confidence in our young professionals.

Peter Flückiger
The way in which the work environment is changing is a matter of concern for us. People are becoming less and less likely to stay with a company for 40 years or more. Today’s generation of employees are constantly searching for meaning in their work, for change. Here, companies have to adjust to this trend and anticipate the employment models that will be needed in the future. Hierarchies are growing flatter, teams are becoming more interdisciplinary and more open, working hours and workplaces are becoming increasingly flexible. This is an issue that will be on the agenda of the next summit in June. Swiss Textiles has to lead the way and address issues that could shape the future.

Carl Illi
Exchanges and cooperation between companies and beyond the bounds of the sector need to be intensified. Through various events and research projects, we offer a platform for professional exchanges with materials scientists, biologists, medical professionals, mechanical engineers, etc., as well as with graphic artists and industrial and interior designers. Our aim is to communicate inspiration for the use of textiles, not only for fashion, but also in fields such as medical technology, vehicle manufacturing and architecture.

Carl Illi Präsident, Swiss Textiles

Those who keep a close eye on the markets and have done their homework in the past few years are in a strong position now.

As you have already pointed out, the industry is changing. How do you think it will look in the future?

Peter Flückiger
Digitisation has, of course, been in use in our industry for quite some time. Production is becoming smarter and more networked, as are the products themselves through the increasing use of electronics for integrated sensors, etc. But the biggest changes concern interaction with clients at both the B2B and B2C levels. Communication is becoming faster and more direct, and the degree of transparency is increasing. The entire industry, from production to marketing, is increasingly coming under pressure to innovate.

Carl Illi
All the involved players will have to close ranks, i.e. greater interaction will be required between research and development companies, industrial manufacturers (which account for around 40 percent of our members) and distributors. Innovation is es-sential at all levels and this can only be achieved through cooperation.

Peter Flückiger, Direktor Swiss Textiles

Interdisci­plinary cooperation will be key in the future.

What is your assessment of the economic situation?

Carl Illi
The economic outlook is more positive than it has been for many years. Our most important markets are growing and the currency situation has eased somewhat, even though the Swiss franc is still overvalued. Our members must make good use of this opportunity. Those who keep a close eye on the markets and have done their homework in the past few years are in a strong position now.

Peter Flückiger
But a positive outlook does not automatically mean growth. Growth is something that you have to work hard for. It requires top quality and distinctive products. It is pleasing to note that, in the past few years, exports of technical textiles have increased by an average of three percent. Although the industry will continue to be confronted with high costs, opportunities can be created by intensifying research and development and offering more attractive services.

What action would you like to see at the political level?

Peter Flückiger
Unfortunately, an increasing trend towards protectionism and populism is becoming apparent. This represents a major threat to the textiles industry, which is so open and highly networked. Free trade is essential, both for exports and imports. I am especially pleased that, after lengthy campaigning on the front line, we have succeeded in persuading the Federal Council to abolish tariffs on industrial goods. We are now calling on Parliament to back up this decision – and we will, of course, actively participate in the debate.

Carl Illi
As attractive employers, we need a liberal labour market. Increasing regulation – for example, through implementation of the mass immigration initiative and introduction of the verification of wage equality – is a concern of mine. We have to be able to readily recruit personnel both in Switzerland and abroad. Small and medium-sized companies have to be able act simply and flexibly.

Peter Flückiger
Sustainability is a major topic that is increasingly appearing on the political radar. It needs to be made clear that sustainability is an international issue, especially in the global textiles industry, and that international cooperation is essential. Our members are well positioned in this regard and can use sustainability as an opportunity. In the area of public procurement, we are campaigning for the criteria relating to more sustainable procurement to be incorporated into the relevant legislation.

Will the upheavals in the industry also give rise to changes in the activities of Swiss Textiles?

Carl Illi
Definitely. It is our duty to lead the way. This is a good time for reviewing our existing structures and activities and determining which services our members will need from us in the future. In the spring, we intend to initiate a comprehensive strategy process.

Peter Flückiger
We have to focus more intensively on innovation in both the fashion and technical segments, since this is important for all our members. Our organisation cannot directly implement innovations in our member companies, but we can network with our members both within the industry and beyond. Interdisciplinary cooperation will be key in the future.

Your contact at Swiss Textiles

Mirjam Matti Gähwiler

Mirjam Matti Gähwiler

Head of Communications and PR
T: +41 44 289 79 24
M: +41 76 527 46 08
mirjam.matti@swisstextiles.ch

Peter Flückiger

Peter Flückiger

Director
T: +41 44 289 79 79
peter.flueckiger@swisstextiles.ch

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