Variety as a business model

Five things that make the Graubünden-based company Gritec different

Grüsch in Graubünden is characterised by tranquillity, tradition and a leisurely pace, but it’s also home to a hotspot called Gritec, where no two days are the same. Their motto? Innovative thinking is driven by variety. Find out more about the strategies these system engineers are using to attract tech talents, team players and discoverers.

Rigid job descriptions? Not here!

In actual fact, these 85 creative minds only jump in if others are too slow. As technology partners, the team doesn’t define itself through its own product, but rather through its promise to swiftly find a high-tech solution for any problem – whether that’s for medical technology, the electronics sector or a consumer product. The variety of customers and needs means that “employees have a relaxed approach to their job description,” says the computational and construction engineer Florian Bärtsch. “Even though I’m a mechanical engineer, I programme robots or lead creative brainstorming sessions.”

New project, new team

Freed from traditional structures, new teams are created for each project. Older and younger employees, software engineers and learners “work together on an equal footing”, as electrical designer Reto Gubser puts it. Differences are celebrated and strengths combined so that the customer is at the centre of every project. Lone wolves? You won’t tend to come across them at Gritec. “You’re slower on your own,” concludes the 21-year-old designer Robin Graf after his first year. He’s also no longer the “newcomer” in the “engineering office”. “Right from the start, I was able to use my CAD expertise to design a prototype. If we have the skills within the company, they’re put to good use.”

Not afraid of questions and decisions

You might need a software application for a complete industrial system one day, and it seems like you receive an integrated solution the very next day. How is that possible? Short chains of command. Only one person separates the electrical designer Reto Gubser from the company management, and he says he is “at the bottom of the food chain”. The 55-year-old previously spent 30 years working for the same company. But at the point where others would be winding down, Reto Gubser was just getting warmed up again. “Here I have exactly what I was looking for. Adventure, freedom and most importantly, a fast pace.” The rapid rate at which these makers push forward their ideas is remarkable. If engineer Florian Bärtsch can’t get his robot to start up, a specialist will spare 10 minutes to explain the problem to the developer. “That helps me to get to the right altitude as quickly as possible, so that I can carry on flying on my own.”

A desire to learn new things and share employees

The “technology scouts” have to be on the ball so they can communicate with their specialised customers on equal terms. To do so, they use webinars and workshops to quickly learn how to use a wide range of digital tools. Alternatively, like Jann Egli, Head of Product & Process Development, they might also take half a day to read the latest research publications. The system engineer notes that the insatiable thirst for knowledge is one of the characteristics that brings Gritec employees together. “People from the most different departments are always passionately discussing the latest technology trends, even at after-work drinks.”

The employees have another rule: sharing is caring. The tech insiders make their engineering services available to other companies for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. Design engineer Robin Graf was able to support an external customer after just a few months. For six weeks he shared his expertise with a mechanical engineering company. “These secondments don’t just benefit the customer. They also inspire me to learn a few new tricks from them and integrate them into my own work.”

Premises can adapt to all the technical requirements

As you might expect, there are no fixed workstations. Instead, the workshop and the electronics and software lab are pretty much next to each other. “It’s quite impressive,” says Florian Bärtsch. “Previously, I was used to the technical facilities being separate.” Standing downstairs in the enormous assembly hall, everything might seem chaotic at first, but the huge space is what enables Gritec’s distinctive flexibility. “We even have a shipping container outside, it’s our mini assembly hall, if we want to outsource systems. We keep our laboratory set-ups in there and all the things we need for a specific project.” In the blink of an eye, the container disappears once the project is completed. But that’s not enough. To continue shaping the tech future with grand ideas, the premises (including the assembly hall and offices) are currently being extended and enlarged.

From down below in the assembly hall to the very top of the “innovation pavilion”, the energy that flows through the building and into the projects is palpable. You may well come across a developer in the corridor, wearing a futuristic HoloLens and gesticulating wildly. While he takes a stroll, he probably just happens to be explaining a future technology to the world. All in a day’s work at Gritec.

Learn more about Gritec

I spy with my little eye …

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