Swissmechanic – "We must not lose confidence"

Roland Goethe, President of Swissmechanic: "Despite all the uncertainty, I have confidence in the MEM industry."

The coronavirus crisis has plunged the Swiss economy into recession. ToolNews editors were able to interview Mr Roland Goethe, President of Swissmechanic, on this subject.

What are MEM companies doing at the moment?
Roland Goethe: Due to the global slump in demand, orders have fallen sharply. As a result, the utilisation of production capacity in the MEM industry has fallen to an average of 72 percent. There is still great uncertainty as to how the pandemic will continue to develop and what the consequences will be for the Swiss economy. At the moment, companies are doing everything they can to maintain production. In particular, this includes complying with the important hygiene rules.

What are the challenges facing companies?
For many businesses, it's about survival. A second lockdown situation would be toxic and must be prevented by all means. This calls on society as a whole. This may sound a bit trite, but it's true. Unfortunately, it's also a fact that valuable jobs are seriously at risk. The number of apprenticeships could also be reduced. This would be particularly regrettable, because as soon as the economy picks up again, the industry will again be dependent on well-trained specialists.


The backbone of SMEs for more than 80 years

Swissmechanic is an association for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering/electronics professional groups as well as industry and specialist organisations from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The employers' association, founded in 1939, pursues a policy based on the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, whether they are suppliers or manufacturers of their own products. Swissmechanic is purposefully involved in the politics, business and education sectors, on behalf of its member companies. In total, the association represents 1400 MEM companies with around 70,000 employees, including about 6000 apprentices. The umbrella organisation comprises 15 independent sections, a national organisation (Swissmechanic Switzerland in Weinfelden, TG) and other associated organisations. Information:

Interview with the president

Roland Goethe, born in 1959, is a trained toolmaker and managing director of Goethe AG in Glarus. He represents the FDP in the Glarus cantonal parliament and has been president of Swissmechanic since October 2014.

Roland Goethe shortly before presenting graduates with their certificates.

How has the crisis changed Swissmechanic's role with regard to its members?
Due to the great uncertainty, our member companies have had and have a huge need for information. From March to May, we were overrun with inquiries and requests for information. We responded with a communication offensive and also refocused our services.

In which areas do you represent the interests of your members with regard to politics?
As the voice of SMEs, we ensure that our companies' arguments are heard. On the one hand, we do this through personal contacts with parliamentarians and officials, and, on the other hand, through consultations, motions and active media work. Ultimately, it is a matter of clearly demonstrating the situation and concerns of our industry.

Have the right political decisions been made for the MEM industry so far?
In the first phase, the crisis was managed well politically. Emergency aid to the economy was quickly launched; it was generous, efficient and comprehensive. This has helped many companies enormously. Unfortunately, the crisis is far from over. Therefore, there is still a need for good, pro-business policies that know Swiss industry and take its needs seriously.

The mood in company purchasing departments is said to have recovered slightly…
… In October it was generally positive, but now it’s darkened again. Everything now hinges on how the situation develops in the coming months. The positive scenario anticipates strong catch-up effects for 2021 and 2022.

What are your hopes for next year?
That we remain healthy and do not lose our confidence.

What has the MEM industry leant from the coronavirus crisis?
With the exception of Ticino, our industry has been able to maintain production despite the lockdown. This was only possible because the companies were diligent in applying the rules on social distancing and hygiene. We can certainly be a bit proud of this and of the solidarity and cohesion within the industry.

... organises events such as the graduation ceremony for the final apprenticeship examination ...
At the heart of the MEM industry: SWISSMECHANIC is committed to the needs of Swiss SMEs ...
... and supports candidates for the professional championships of SwissSkills and WorldSkills.