Technology to help Switzerland keep competitive edge
Switzerland is one of the most innovative countries in the world, but other nations are close on its heels. To keep their leading position, Swiss companies needed to be innovative and use state-of-the-art technologies.
More than one hundred business representatives, industry decision makers and product developers met at Rapperswil University of Applied Sciences (HSR) to discuss the importance of modelling and simulation technologies.
The Swiss VPE Symposium, held for the second time, gave an insight into the latest technological developments in the field of virtual product development (VPD) and its practical applications in engineering-related fields. Product developers and industry decision makers spoke about the pros and cons of VPD tools and their experience using them. About 23 exhibitors presented their software tools and services.
"Virtual product development is essential for Switzerland, particularly in the area of engineering, as it shortens the design-to-manufacturing cycle time and enables the country's industry to stay competitive," said co-organiser Alex Simeon, chairman of the Swiss VPD organisation and professor at the HSR.
Using VPD tools helps a company reduce the time and expenses of getting products to market, as they replace prototype testing to a great extent. "The sooner flaws are detected and fixed the better," Simeon added.
VPD is particularly important in high-wage countries like Switzerland, as competitors all over the world, especially in Asia, are catching up fast. "Those countries have a host of people whose knowledge is on par with that of Swiss engineers and who can do an excellent job," Simeon said.
But introducing VPD tools in companies is often met with stiff opposition from mainly elderly and experienced engineers who are not keen on changing their ways of working. It was not always easy to convince employees of the necessity to learn new tools, Simeon said: "Don't underestimate the burden you put on the engineers' shoulders. They have to make an effort to master the tools and it's time-consuming."
Dagmar Heinrich, manager at Jet Aviation and one of the keynote speakers, said that about 30 per cent of the workforce left when the company introduced VPD tools.
Innovation was Switzerland's strong suit and the key to its successful export industry, said Hans Hess, president of Swissmem, the umbrella organisation of the Swiss engineering industries, in his keynote speech.
He added that Switzerland was one of the most innovative countries in the world, but other nations were close on its heels. To keep their leading position, Swiss companies needed to be innovative, stay on top of the latest innovation methods and use state-of-the-art technologies and tools like VPD, Concurrent Engineering or Digital Prototyping.
Hess concluded that the industry was one of the country's most important sectors, creating added value of about CHF100 billion - three times that of the banking sector - and employing about 700,000 people - about four times more than the banking sector. It was therefore vital for Swiss companies and the government to invest in research and development and knowledge transfer.
- The VPE symposium was organised by the Swiss association for virtual product development (IG Swiss VPE) in co-operation with Rapperswil University of Applied Sciences.
- The Swiss VPD association was founded in 2009 to help companies develop new products by means of computer-aided tools.
- Members comprise 25 companies offering tools and services in the field of VPD as well as four institutes and university departments.
Katalin Fekete / Expatica
Katalin Fekete is a freelance journalist based in Switzerland. She has also worked in magazine and book publishing and has co-authored three books about Switzerland and cross-cultural issues.