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To remain successful as a world market leader and outfitter of international financial trading centres, also in times of the strong Swiss Franc, banking crises and export doldrums, the two company owners, Mario Okle and Armin Klingler, have to make the right decisions consistently - early in the game and with foresight.
The idea behind the strategy which has since resulted in WEY’s second mainstay of business was born in the train to Milan. After an extended period of business growth, the two managing directors asked themselves the crucial question: “Quo Vadis with our company?”
The WEY Group had already become the world market leader in the outfitting of trading floors with customised hardware and software solutions. It had developed the technology to facilitate real-time electronic trading and was a financial sound company. “Still, we were warned,” says Armin Klingler today. “We faced a real crisis in 2002 and 2003, and we were determined to learn from it.”
In 2007 then, in the train to Milan, Armin Klingler, the business economist and Mario Okle, the younger by only a few weeks ETH engineer, decided to steer the WEY Group in a new direction – and they had a spark of inspiration. The bundling, control and visualisation of real-time data, often in complex and unpredictable environments, was also an on-going challenge in control rooms – whether for air traffic control, traffic management, power plant monitoring, water works or emergency services.
Business model turned upside down
Today it is a success story which consistently accounts for 4-5% annual growth, also in hard times. But the road was a rocky one. “We had the financial markets in our blood” says Mario Okle. “For us it was as if the shoemaker suddenly had to work as a tailor.”
Mario Okle and Armin Klingler recruited external know-how and turned the business model upside down. Not only were the technical requirements for control rooms very different from those for managing the relatively simple work processes on trading floors, but there were a host of other new challenges. Especially interacting with new kinds of clients, usually from the public sector, and managing complex public tender processes broke new ground.
Debriefing after every loss
“We got some scrapes and bruises,” recalls Armin Klingler. “How in heaven’s name were we supposed to name five reference projects worth more than a million Francs when we were only just getting started in the market?” But Armin Klingler and Mario Okle learned quickly. “After each loss we sat down with the prospective customer and listened carefully to why we were not chosen,” notes Okle.
WEY did not win a single control room order in the first three years. “It was a blessing that we decided to diversify during the years of plenty,” says Klingler. “We could afford the losing streak and the learning curve.” Then WEY began to partner with powerful companies like Siemens and Bosch in order to penetrate the market. “2011 was the breakthrough year” said Mario Okle with pride. “We participated in eight tenders in Switzerland and won the deal all eight times.”
Full production in Switzerland
Production and the customisation of devices and printed circuit boards takes place in Unterengstringen near Zurich. "Outsourcing is not an Option" says Armin Klingler, "we want to deliver Swiss quality. And operating our own state-of-the-art production facilities gives us the flexibility to directly respond to and satisfy our customers’ needs.”
Because the management and display of real-time data is sometimes highly complex, and control rooms always need to be prepared for crises management, which requires the planning of unique workflows and competencies, the close proximity to the production department in Switzerland was a distinct advantage for WEY. “Research and development go hand in hand with customer requirements and manufacturing capabilities” says Mario Okle. This is the strength of the company – providing customer-oriented solutions with unique selling propositions.
Partnerships for Peak Performance
With this philosophy, WEY not only fulfils the requirements and requests of the clients, but also collaborates with a carefully selected group of business partners. Why is this partner network so important? IP Solutions now prevail in trading floor and control room technology, which, although modelled on classic KVMA switching techniques, are now completely network-based (only signals from the Keyboard, Video, Mouse and Audio are switched). There are other suppliers and manufacturers who offer partial solutions. Important, though, for sustainable success on the market is an overall concept which consolidates the growing demands of users, IT and management. Such concepts are only possible within the framework of an intense, concerted partnership structure, whereby products are fully integrated and product development is coordinated. Technical integration is a quality criterion which provides customers with the flexibility and adaptability they need every day.
The realignment of the company’s strategy is now paying off. Armin Klingler notes an “almost explosive growth rate” in the control room market. Often, modern systems with large video walls are also effective marketing instruments for companies. “They impress visitors, and demonstrate that companies are at the leading edge.” In Germany, for example, WEY Technology GmbH has ‘taken off like a rocket’. The company has delivered control room solutions for monitoring nuclear power plants, the Hamburger Hochbahn (regional trains, subways and buses), multiple police departments in North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as the new state-of-the-art command centre for the Hamburg Port Authority.
The WEY Group is active in 45 countries and has deployed more than 35,000 workplaces for 500 major clients around the world.