1940: Steelworks bending department in the year of the association’s foundation.
1940: Steelworks bending department in the year of the association’s foundation.
Photo: 12

The Swiss Textile Machinery Association has reached its 80th anniversary. Over the years, there were numerous periods of difficulty for the industry, including world wars, global economic slumps and other crises of varying degrees of seriousness followed one after another.

Looking back over the history in 1940, a year after the start of World War II, events far away from the battlefields began to impact on the local machinery industry in Switzerland. One problem was a lack of skilled workers – through military service call-ups – and another was a shortage of raw material, much of which was diverted to weapons production.

Leaders of the textile machinery industry were increasingly concerned about their operations, especially the need for non-ferrous metals and high-quality steel. The situation became serious and some companies in the textile industry wanted to request the Swiss Government to secure the required raw material needed to maintain production.

The established principle of ‘united we are strong’ led representatives from 22 companies to join forces in forming the first textile machinery group. This was the origin of what has grown into the Swiss Textile Machinery Association.

Machinery manufacturing as a self-help solution

The members of the new Swiss Association of Textile Machinery Manufacturers – including well-known brands such as Rüti, Sulzer, Rieter and Saurer – were not actually manufacturing machines from the start.

It was because making textiles was a good business for many companies in Switzerland before 1806. That was the year when the continental blockade imposed by Napoleon created major problems. Machines from Great Britain – the highly industrialized home of machinery development pioneers – were in high demand by Swiss textile manufacturing companies. But suddenly they were no longer available nor were the vital spare parts.

Many Swiss textile companies responded by starting to produce the urgently needed machines and components for themselves. And it became that the production and export of machines was far more lucrative than their previous textile manufacturing activities. The Swiss textile machinery industry was then born.

Emerging stronger from COVID-19 crisis

This year, the Swiss Textile Machinery Association’s 80th anniversary, the industry sees another biggest challenge of recent history - the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

“This crisis has hit the textile industry hard, and in my opinion the full impact will only become apparent towards the end of this year,” says Ernesto Maurer, President of the Swiss Textile Machinery Association. The required skills for the present situation are the same as previously: adaptability and flexibility. “I rely on innovative solutions and the confidence that Swiss Textile Machinery members will emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.”