When everything was locked down during March 2020 because of the corona-pandemic, svismold also prepared for hard months. However, a shortly before developed production process, an automated process and short supply chains throughout Switzerland were factors for success after all. The new product – a high-tech surf fin – completely absorbed the decline in orders. The Swiss surf squad also tested the fin for the 2021 Olympic qualification.
March 2020, everything was perfectly prepared: The brand new high-tech surf fins had been delivered to the Australian surfing outfitter FCS, the surfing season was just around the corner and the planned Olympics in Japan had introduced surfing as a discipline for the first time. A perfect advertising opportunity for the market launch of the latest product from Svismold – a brand for particularly high-quality products from the plastics factory in Buchs.
But then came the pandemic. Trade fairs were cancelled, customers suspended their orders, the Olympics were cancelled, borders were closed, supply chains around the world were suddenly cut off. “Just when our latest product was launched things looked very bleak,” recalls Svismold Managing Director Martin Rudolph. Since 2017, the Institute for Materials Engineering and Plastics Processing of the OST has been working together with Svismold to produce carbon fiber reinforced surf fins fully automatically in Switzerland and thus bring the production of the fins, which were previously made by hand in Asia, to Switzerland – with success.
Robust supply chain and high demand
More than a year after the start of the pandemic, it is evident that the timely innovation for new products and the partnership with Swiss suppliers of plastic raw products and machines have paid off: “Our customer FCS bought around 40 percent more surf fins than planned and we were even able to develop and produce a set of smaller surf fins for special applications at high speeds in the middle of the pandemic in September 2020,” says Rudolph. This made it possible to compensate for the corona-related drop in orders in other areas. “Thanks to the success of the surf fin on the global market, FCS went from new customer to largest single customer in less than a year – commercially this was a very welcome success for both sides.”
This continuous development is also possible because Svismold, despite its strong international orientation, relies on the shortest possible supply chains and Swiss suppliers. This enabled the company to maintain high production utilization even when others were struggling with replenishment problems due to disrupted supply chains around the world.
Instead of short-time work and fear of what the future might hold, Svismold is currently going one step further and is already working on the next products with the researchers at the OST, investing money and time in new projects co-funded by the Swiss innovation agency Innosuisse. “The process that we were able to develop with the OST for the production of surf fins also offers possibilities for other lightweight applications, for example in aviation, shipbuilding or in the sanitary sector,” says Rudolph. He definitely wants to continue the successful cooperation with the Institute IWK.
One year after its market launch, the surf fin still gives reason to be happy: the Swiss Olympic squad tested the fin when qualifying for the Olympics. Perhaps in future the athletes will be chasing the waves and medals on surf fins “Made in Switzerland.”