First opened in 1931, anyone crossing the old Dreirosenbrücke bridge in Basel today is unlikely to associate the steel beam construction with Buss AG Pratteln. However, the family business, founded in 1884 and now successful in mechanical engineering, began its success story as a steel constructor – of bridges and viaducts, of weirs, pressure pipelines and cable cars – and was a leader in hydraulic steel construction until the 1960s. The customers of the former Albert Buss & Cie also included the chemical and gas industry, for whom large tanks were welded among other things; these tanks are still visible from afar in some places today. After the end of the Second World War a new branch of industry was added: with kneading machines for the food industry and the first plant for plastics processing, Buss became a machine manufacturer. Since the 1970s, the Pratteln-based company has been focusing on the manufacture of mixing and kneading systems – known as compounding systems – for the plastics industry. As one of the world's leading providers, they are highly successful in this regard.
“To produce plastic granules, various components such as polymers, dyes and plasticizers are melted and homogeneously mixed in our plants,” explains Marco Senoner, Head of Business Development at Buss AG. What sounds simple is actually a sophisticated process in a complicated, high-precision system; a system that, according to Senoner, “guarantees the high quality of the semi-finished plastic products”. The granulate is later pressed to shape in injection moulding machines, for example into mechanical components, housings, profiles and much more. Or it is further processed into cable sheaths or foils.
Around 100 people are employed at Buss in Pratteln. Other employees generate revenue via subsidiaries in the USA, Japan and China, such as the nearly 30 agencies that are spread around the globe. “98 percent of our turnover comes from exports,” Senoner says: “That's why we're a member of Switzerland Global Enterprise.” Among other things, this membership allows them to use the Swiss Pavilion platform at plastics fairs worldwide, as well as to benefit from the extensive S-GE network when searching for contract partners.
On the road with S-GE in Poland
“To successfully market our products worldwide, we need good agents,” stresses Marco Senoner. “But it's not always easy to find them.” He is talking about agents who work on a commission basis for Buss – as well as for other companies. For the Prattel-based company, it is important to find partners who know their way around the local plastics industry and are therefore well networked. This is usually not a simple undertaking and involves a lengthy process with an unknown outcome. “This is why Switzerland Global Enterprise has an important role to play in the search for distribution partners, since S-GE is able to prepare the search in a qualified manner thanks to its excellent network.” Senoner is referring to a successfully signed contract with a new Polish partner after the contract with the previous agent was not renewed.
From longlist to selected candidates
In Poland, Buss AG could count on the support of a partner from S-GE who is familiar with the plastics industry. And who soon presented it with a list of possible companies that corresponded to the requirement profile: they were the right size, had related products in their portfolio, met the language requirements and so on. “This cooperation allowed us to gain an overview of the current market situation in Poland within a very short time,” says Senoner. The company scrutinized the longlist compiled by S-GE, before sounding out the 10 candidates on the shortlist and holding meetings with several favorites in Pratteln. “Once again we could count on the valuable support of S-GE, whose representatives not only prepared the visits, but also accompanied us.”
A good six months after the first inquiry to S-GE, the company signed a contract with a suitable partner. Marco Senoner is very satisfied with the result of the cooperation with S-GE and is impressed with the new agent: “With these highly skilled and committed people, we have the opportunity to further improve our sales network and play an important role in the Polish plastics market in the future.”