The competitive advantage of the future: Digital reorganization at Biella

The inventor of the Bundesordner® ring binder is breaking new ground with an innovative business model, becoming one of the most efficient European providers of document management and office supplies. In an interview with S-GE, CEO Marco Arrigoni talks about SimplyFind, the export strategy of the Biella Group and his passion for innovation.

Production at Biella
Production at Biella

With Biella SimplyFind, you are breaking completely new ground and have launched an innovative business model. How does it work?

In the course of digitization, customer attitudes to document management have changed considerably in recent years. More and more information is stored digitally, but countless documents are still being archived in physical form. The administration of these archives is seen as a necessary evil in many companies, and few are aware of the legal responsibility associated with physical and digital archiving. This is where Biella SimplyFind comes into play. Our’s is the only product on the market to include both physical and digital archiving. We therefore offer solutions tailored to customer needs, whether purely physical archiving, the digitization of physical documents, or the high-security digital archiving of the data. It goes without saying that as a Swiss company, we provide all services in Switzerland. In addition, the digital data are managed on data memories that are exclusively located in Switzerland and meet the highest security standards.

Do you still meet the same customer needs as with your classic business model?

With Biella SimplyFind, we are expanding our range of products to meet the needs of our customers even more comprehensively than before - at the same time, we are closing an ecological circuit: With our high-quality portfolio, such as the Bundesordner® ring binders or hanging and folder systems, we have been distributing selling storage systems for more than 115 years. If the documents are no longer required by the users in daily operations, we archive the documents in our Biella SimplyFind archive in order to digitize them, if desired, and make them available to our customers on a highly secure data platform. Once the retention periods have expired, we discard both physical and digital data. The physical documents are disposed of as waste paper or scrap metal. These can be used to produce new raw materials such as cardboard and mechanisms used to produce our Bundesordner® ring binders, after which the whole cycle begins from the beginning…

Which global trends most influence you in the alignment of your business model?

Digitization influences our traditional core business the most. But the mobility of people and the resulting workplace requirements of the future (home office, co-working, etc.) have a great influence, too. In order to follow these developments, new innovative office products are required, which take account of increasing mobility. And then there’s the trend towards more and more individuality, which will also influence our business models.

We have recognized these megatrends and subsequently adapted the vision and strategy of Biella. Examples include our new web-to-print online shop, where customizable products can be ordered quickly and easily, or the already-mentioned new business model Biella SimplyFind, with which we contribute to more simplicity in the increasingly complex world of physical and digital archiving.

In addition, we have intensified communication with the users of our products, especially via social media, and are thus reaching more and more consumers directly.

Switzerland has yet again been nominated as the most innovative country in the world. How do you promote innovation?

Innovation is our passion; it is an existential matter. For this reason, we established a complex and structured innovation process quite some time ago, which gives us access to various “pots”. This starts with our own “Biella Brain” employee platform, where every employee can contribute his or her ideas, and continues with so-called crowd surveys, external specialists and methodically structured workshops with focus groups on specific topics and prototyping. Our innovation basket is currently well filled with ideas for new products and new business models - and new ones are constantly being added. Recently launched products like “Skandal” or the innovative magnetic spring binder “Attraction” caused quite a stir and earned us awards and additional sales.

What role do exports play in your strategy in general and for your new business model, now and in the future?

Of course, we also export from Switzerland. However, the strong Swiss franc and the high logistics costs greatly limit us. As a folder is very voluminous, it makes a lot of sense, from an ecological and logistical perspective and in terms of flexibility, to produce as close to the market as possible. For this reason, the Biella Group embarked upon a course of internationalization early on. With the acquisition of the Danube Group in the year 2000, the strategic course was set in this direction and, over the years, a Europe-wide production network set up through further acquisitions. Our production facilities in Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Romania enable us to establish logistically optimal supply chains with our suppliers and customers according to the just-in-time philosophy.

The new offers from Biella SimplyFind are currently only available to Swiss customers. Internationalization is planned, but there is currently no timetable for this.

In your opinion, what are the success factors for the further development of a business model for internationally active companies?

For us as a manufacturer, a highly efficient sales, production and logistics network is and will continue to be crucial. In this way, we are able to quickly and flexibly anticipate local market requirements in order to develop and introduce innovative solutions - services as well as products - in the markets.

About the Biella Group

The Biella Group supports organizations of all sizes and individuals with the efficient management and simple location of documents of all kinds. As one of the leading and most productive European providers of office supplies and inventor of the Bundesordner® ring binder, Biella is an expert in the archiving of physical documents. Innovative solutions create order in the digital information and document universe. Hybrid products join the physical and digital document cycle. Biella’s solutions make managing and finding documents easy, quick and efficient. The Biella Group has around 750 employees, 200 of whom work at the Swiss distribution and production site in Brügg near Biel. At the same time, this is the headquarters of Biella-Neher Holding AG.

About Marco Arrigoni

He has been working at Biella since 2004; initially as COO and since 2007 as CEO. Prior to this, he worked in various senior positions in industry and as a senior consultant.

Tips, discussion material and events about new business models in the export industry

In 2017, Switzerland Global Enterprise is focusing on the topic of “Rethinking business models: the international competitive advantage of the future” in order to support, inform and connect Swiss SMEs so that they can meet current challenges in international business. Check out our dossier for regular updates including new articles, videos and studies on this topic. Sign up for a monthly update in our Export Newsletter and save May 18, 2017, for the Forum for Swiss Foreign Trade “Rethinking business models: the international competitive advantage of the future.


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