Mr. Morel, your telemetry solutions help to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. What is the secret to your success?
Our continuous focus on innovation, with an ultimate goal: to create the perfect product at the best cost, but also to automate (digitize) our internal processes, doing better with less. More than 50% of the company’s workforce are engineers; it is quite simply our passion.
How would you describe your business model in a few words?
Our solutions consist of a managed device installed on the tank and a subscription to our cloud solution to interpret the data. We sell or lease the equipment to our customers, who are either oil producers or distributors, and we charge a subscription per tank connected to our cloud.
Will this business model change?
The concept of subscription was quite innovative 15 years ago. Today it can be found everywhere. What will change is that, due to lower equipment costs, customers will no longer have to buy it: The subscription will include the rental of the equipment.
Sensile Technologies delivers its products worldwide. Your customers include heavyweights in the gas and oil industry that use your devices on a daily basis. What role does export play in your current and future strategy?
Export is crucial because, from the outset, we realized that the Swiss market was too small for us to reach a critical size. Today, over 80% of our turnover is from exports, and I would say that in the future this will increase to over 95%. Despite the willingness of some countries to reduce their dependence on hydrocarbons, and the decline in consumption due to better insulation of oil-heated homes and the better performance of gasoline engines, the total number of tanks has not changed that much. So a lot of tanks still need our equipment.
What is your export strategy? And for a Swiss SME, what is the golden rule to remain competitive internationally?
There is always a risk associated with exports. Selling to another culture is in itself a problem. Our golden rule is the following: No more than one challenge at a time. If we can sell our current solution without modifying it, we can do that in any country. If we have to adapt our product, this is an additional challenge that we will first validate in local markets.
Switzerland still holds a strong position in innovation rankings. Is there a really key innovation that you are currently working on?
Yes, we are working on battery-powered data transmission in explosive environments, which requires a combination of rare and unusual skills that are increasingly sought after because customers want safe and secure devices. As regards technological breakthroughs, the Internet of Things is the hottest news at the moment. Today, specific low-consumption networks are being set up that will enable data to be transmitted with a very low amount of data at a much lower energy cost. So today we can reduce system costs, while increasing battery life. In the future, people will be able to use their smartphones to facilitate their fuel oil purchases.
Swiss SMEs are very preoccupied with Industry 4.0 and digitization. Do Swiss SMEs need to adapt their business models? And if so, how?
As I see it, there are two types of businesses. Those that are actively exporting and those that are not. For me, exporting companies have been forced to optimize their processes to remain competitive due to the strength of the Swiss franc in recent years. Solutions like Industry 4.0 and digitization have provided solutions for these companies. Companies that operate only locally have not had this need and are lagging behind. However, the retirement of baby boomers over the next decade will force them to automate and digitize increasingly in order to achieve more with fewer resources.
Outside the company, which partners can you count on?
Sensile Technologies would not have been so successful without the support of our reliable partners over the years. We have always sought to keep the team as small as possible and to outsource certain operations, such as the production and installation of our solutions. Our first customers and distributors are also the key to our success.
What is the secret to a good partnership?
In the end, it all comes down to personal relationships. If there is trust and respect, the rest can be overcome. We have a very low employee turnover, which makes it easier to maintain this level of relationship with our partners.
In which direction will you lead the company? What is your vision for the future?
We will continue to expand internationally; there are many countries where we do not have a presence. We will also continue to improve our solutions while lowering their costs so that we can eventually equip 100% of tanks. In parallel, we will continue to adapt our solutions to other applications besides oil and gas.
Events dedicated to new export business models
In 2017, Switzerland Global Enterprise is focusing on the theme “Rethinking business models: The international competitive advantage of the future” in order to help Swiss SMEs meet the current challenges in their international business, to provide them with information, and to establish a network. You will regularly find new articles, videos, and studies on this subject in our dossier. Make your reservation today for the event Exporter Demain 2017 on September 28, 2017: “Rethinking business models: the international competitive advantage of the future.”
The right business model for export
Is your business model tailored to your target markets? Find out by participating in the country interviews of Switzerland Global Enterprise. Our specialists will put their technical knowledge and global network at your disposal. To find out more about this subject, read our dossier: Rethinking business models.
Cédric Morel has been the director of Sensile Technologies since 2004.
He has a Master’s degree in materials science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EFPL) and an MBA from the University of Lausanne.
Prior to joining Sensile Technologies as project manager in 2001, he worked for three years in Japan. He speaks French, English, German and a little Japanese. His passions, in addition to technology, are trail running, mountaineering and tchoukball, in which he won the world championships with the Swiss team in 2004.
Sensile Technologies, in Morges, was created at the EPFL in 1999 by Sigfrid Strässler and Peter Ryser. The company is currently managed by Cédric Morel and Jean-Marc Uehlinger. Sensile Technologies is a pioneer in the Internet of Things (IoT) market. It is currently one of the leading providers of remote tank level measurement solutions for the oil and gas industry. Its solutions optimize the logistics and purchase of fuels, gasoline, LPG and lubricants while improving the quality of customer service. They are used all over the world, especially in Western Europe, the United States, Brazil and New Zealand. www.sensile.com
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