LIEBHERR MACHINES BULLE
“DIRECT, STRAIGHTFORWARD AND EFFECTIVE”
Thomas Kunze is head of the R&D department of Liebherr Machines Bulle, a world leader in the manufacture of combustion engines and hydraulic applications.
Established in 1979, Liebherr Machines Bulle Ltd (LMB) has become one of the canton’s iconic companies. With a 1,350-strong workforce, LMB specialises in the development and manufacture of diesel and gas engines, fuel injection systems, hydraulic components and splitter boxes. Joint interview with Claude Ambrosini and Dr. Thomas Kunze, members of the management board.
Why Switzerland, and more specifically Fribourg?
Claude Ambrosini. Dr. Hans Liebherr (ed.: who founded the eponymous group in 1949) love the Gruyère region and regularly stayed here. The arrival of the motorway between the late 1970s and 1980s meant that the idea of building a factory in Bulle was no longer impractical. Of course, there were the favourable tax conditions too, but that was not the deal breaker: Mr. Liebherr enjoyed a genuine relationship of trust with Gaston Dupasquier, the then mayor of Bulle. The handshake between the two men to seal the deal was long and heartfelt. Dr. Liebherr realised that he had just set up a company in a region whose people reminded him so much of his fellow Swabians. Switzerland’s great economic and political stability was also a decisive factor, as was the magnificent view that the site enjoys over the Fribourg Prealps! I could well imagine that Mr. Liebherr’s children marvelled at the stunning landscape which greeted them every morning when they opened their shutters!
Mr. Kunze, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Dr. Thomas Kunze. I was born in Saxony, in East Germany. At the time of German reunification, in 1989, I was studying in Dresden. I remember it as an extremely tense and emotionally charged period. For close to 20 years, I held a number of senior-level posts with an international company specialising in the manufacture of hydraulic components. In 2014, I had the opportunity of joining LMB, a company whose long-term vision when it comes to technology, quality and customer satisfaction greatly appeals to me.
After four years living and working here, what do you think about the region?
Dr. T. K. My wife and I really enjoy living here. We got to know our neighbours very quickly, and we have made friends here. There is a lot of kindness and goodwill about.
Learning a language from scratch was a pretty exciting challenge, though I have to admit that my wife, who is originally from Kenya, has fared much better than I in that regard! She is extremely well integrated. For example, she is a member of a local choir, where she even sings in patois (ed.: local dialect)! Besides the fantastic welcome we’ve received, we also really love the region’s stunning nature: it is perfect for a spot of jogging in the woods or hiking in the mountains. When our adult children came to visit us from Germany, we climbed the Moléson at dawn to watch the sun rise, and in the afternoon, we went for a swim in Lake La Gruyère. The region’s natural diversity is simply wonderful!
In 2014, LMB announced a CHF 200 million investment plan for 2014-2020. Is this down to your successful working relationship with the local authorities?
C. A. We enjoy an excellent working relationship with both the communal and cantonal authorities. Collaboration is direct, straightforward and effective. Members of the Liebherr family have often praised the Fribourg authorities’ ready ear and the special relationship they enjoy with them.
How do you see the future of LMB?
Dr T. K. We have fully implemented the investment plan announced back in 2014. During the coming year, Liebherr will invest heavily in the upgrade of its production and assembly facilities. The Group is committed to securing the long-term survival and success of LMB and wants to transform the company into a global centre of expertise on combustion engines and hydraulic components.
C.A. As regards developing the company, the entire LMB board enjoys the tremendous trust of the Liebherr family. We have set ourselves ambitious targets, but thanks to the openness of the Fribourg authorities and excellent business conditions, the Liebherr family firmly believes that Bulle is the ideal place to develop the company’s products.