Swissfillon AG – How an idea turns into a specialised company
Swissfillon AG from Valais is a young startup, but it hardly corresponds to the typical image of such a company. No fixed idea from the tinkering in a garage like the American Silicon Valley, no quick start with just as fast sinking into the depths of the digital economy and no shirt-sleeved student types determine the image of the company with its location in Visp, which is now starting to conquer a special market. Rather, it is decades of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, top engineering achievements, a startup phase lasting several years and professional employees that determine Swissfillon’s style. Good reasons why the young company was successfully tested and approved by Swissmedic, the regulatory authority for pharmaceutical products, in the first half of February 2018.
From doers and ideas
At the beginning of every successful business venture there are people who are real doers and can implement exactly those ideas that are the right start for a special market segment. Swissfillon AG deals with the sterile filling of highly potent pharmaceutical liquids, as is well known to the layman, for example, from tips or ampoules for the application of syringes. Surely this is not a groundbreaking new idea. Such small quantities as well as larger quantities have been available for decades, but rarely in Switzerland in particular, and even less with the precision and reliability that Swissfillon can achieve with the greatest possible flexibility. And especially when it comes to the production of really small quantities, many other companies in the industry are really overwhelmed.
The head behind Swissfillon AG is Daniel Kehl, the CEO of a company that is special in many respects. Daniel Kehl, one of the generation of the late sixties who learned their trade from scratch, has his professional background. As a trained process engineer, he does not only know how things are built and function. He also knows the technological difficulties, opportunities and possibilities behind many a project. The eloquent maker started his professional career at Lonza AG as a project engineer. Twelve years ago, Daniel Kehl already knew that he not only wanted to make, but also to design. This was the beginning of his path into self-employment, which began with the foundation of a pharmaceutical engineering company. This experience led to the idea of setting up a small pharmaceutical production company. This project is now known as Swissfillon AG. The small company has been around for over four years now. With Swissmedic’s approval for sterile filling of highly potent pharmaceutical liquids, the young company has now been ennobled and is now able to operate in the strictly controlled Swiss pharmaceutical market.
Quality is essential in the pharmaceutical sector
The official approval of Swissmedic is an important milestone in the company’s young history. The highest Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products does not issue such approvals without prior approval. It is inspected, controlled and only after a long process can such an approval be granted.
This was undoubtedly a great challenge for the still young Swissfillon, which was passed with flying colors. Without the appropriate authorisation, such a company cannot offer and sell its products on the Swiss or European market. And such an approval process does not happen overnight. Contact with Swissmedic was first established three years ago. The plans for Swissfillon were presented and discussed. This is also because we are not talking about simple standards, but rather very special and correspondingly precise procedures. This is another reason why it was important to the makers of Swissfillon to contact the regulatory authority at an early stage of the company’s development. Only in this way was it possible to achieve an understanding of the complex interrelationships from the outset, which is not least a prerequisite for obtaining approval.
All beginnings are difficult
When it comes to the development of Swissfillon AG into a successful company, Daniel Kehl can report quite a lot. Initially, companies were ridiculed by the competition in the pharmaceutical industry. How could an engineer with a few hand-picked co-founders successfully launch such a company? Perhaps such visionaries may know how to plan and build such a company. However, the way it is conducted is probably beyond the abilities of such people. Thought so.
How much the smiles of that time were mistaken is proven by a jewellery company that underlines its competence down to the last detail. And the operation of such a pharmaceutical plant works. Despite all the prophecies of doom from the doubters and know-it-all. Thus, the people around Daniel Kehl have proven that with visions, a competent and passionately dedicated work, much more is possible than expected.
The employees make the company successful
A total of ten people are currently working at Swissfillon AG. This number of employees is defined as a minimum for the start of production. But people are already looking to the future with anticipation. Swissfillon plans to go into two-shift operation this year. Once this step has been successfully completed, the three-shift operation continues, so that sterile filling and finishing can finally be carried out over 24 hours on five days a week. This will probably require a total of around 30 employees. So there are already not only plans but also clear growth potential for the company.
Valais is a beautiful place to work
It may sound a little absurd if a future pan-European company moves its headquarters to Visp in the Valais. But this decision is not that far-fetched when you take a second look behind the scenes.
Visp is not only a small village in the Upper Valais, but also an ideal location for Swissfillon. Daniel Kehl sees many locational advantages that only Visp can offer. A pharmaceutical hotspot such as Basel, for example, cannot offer such special advantages.
For the creators of Swissfillon, for example, it is a clear insight that highly specialised work is being carried out here, which also requires highly specialised staff. And you would like to train, qualify and tie them to the company. For a company such as Swissfillon AG, there is no point in training its own employees at great expense in order to lose them to competing companies after just a few years. In Visp, Swissfillon has a unique position that significantly restricts the migration of well-trained specialists.
In addition, Visp is located in a very pleasant natural and touristic environment, which has a very positive effect on the people who work here. You live and work practically where other people spend their holidays and you can also feel at home here from this point of view. The high recreational value of the Valais, including a way of life and culture that are very pleasant, is the reason for this. Good conditions also for employees with family or those who want to start a family here. Away from the impersonal hectic pace of a big city, Visp offers a living environment that makes working and living attractive and interesting. Unlike large industrial sites, which often do not even have enough affordable housing. Candidates with doctoral degrees and a new job at Swissfillon in Visp will appreciate this, too.