Mr. von Rickenbach, you have lived in Chile for several years where you work in a leading role for the Swiss firm Geobrugg. What do you find fascinating about this country?
The evident contrasts in Chile are what fascinate me the most. For instance, traveling to La Parva Ski on a winter’s morning and then strolling along the beach in Viña del Mar in the afternoon. But it isn’t just the east-west axis that is fascinating; the north-south axis also offers contrasts by the meter: from the hostile desert with some of the largest open-pit mines in the world to wine-growing estates, fruit plantations, grazing land for cattle, the salmon industry and down to the land of eternal ice – the contrast couldn’t be greater. This contrast, which is extremely interesting from a landscape perspective, is also evident in society. Thanks to our commitment and my direct involvement in Rancagua during the construction of the Geobrugg Mining Technology Center, I come into contact with all levels of society, which has opened my eyes to social differences.
Where do you see business potential for Geobrugg?
I think that the greatest unexploited potential for our systems lies in roadbuilding, private road concessions and motorsport applications. In these areas, we at Geobrugg AG and Geobrugg Andina SpA can contribute to reducing the total cost of ownership – whether through our ultra-secure steel nets or through solutions for monitoring unstable slopes using radar systems. Moreover, thanks to our GUARD for rockfall barriers, we are now able to determine impact from the comfort of our sofas. This is a very important step toward the Internet of Things (IoT) and so a new business field of predictive maintenance.
We must be where our customers are, in other words in mines, on fish farms or in offices where decisions are made.
What strategy are you following to make full use of these attractive business opportunities?
We must be where our customers are, in other words in mines, on fish farms or in offices where decisions are made. For that reason, we set great store by well-trained employees, whom we train in internal academies in Rancagua (Chile) and Romanshorn (Switzerland), thereby equipping them optimally for the challenges of customers. Thanks to our very flat structures and the tireless work of our staff, we act as a partner rather than a mere seller and solve problems unconventionally and quickly.
How has S-GE supported you in this over recent years?
S-GE always offers us a helping hand when it comes to organizing events, establishing new contacts or organizing technical trips with selected customers. We greatly appreciate our collaboration with S-GE. As Geobrugg Andina has a very lean setup, S-GE helps us to strengthen our presence in some areas.
Many Swiss companies use Chile as a regional hub. How do you view Chile’s role in this regard?
General conditions have changed in the last two years, with the social unrest having led to some investments being scaled back in the short term. Nevertheless, the region of Chile remains the first choice for Swiss companies when opening a regional hub. In Chile, a lot depends on the copper price, so at Geobrugg we are very optimistic that the country will be among the winners in the coming years thanks to the boom in electric vehicles.
About Gabriel von Rickenbach and Geobrugg
As General Manager Americas based in Chile, Gabriel von Rickenbach is responsible for the three Geobrugg companies in the region: Geobrugg North America in Algodondes, New Mexico, Brugg México in Querétaro and Geobrugg Andina in Santiago de Chile. The two production hubs in America, one in the U.S. and one in Chile, give Geobrugg a competitive edge – through just in time delivery and an agile setup to meet customer wishes. In addition to the production centers, the company also operates the Geobrugg Mining Technology Center in Rancagua, which offers the opportunity to test new ideas, collaborate with universities and continue to develop the range of products and services for mining customers.
Alongside its subsidiaries in the U.S., Mexico and Chile, Geobrugg has staff in Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Argentina, with a total of 75 employees in the region. Its major activities in markets from Alaska to Ushuaia range from motorsport, fish-farming, mining and infrastructure protection measures to special projects for individual applications.