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.
Of 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 (see picture), 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
Swissfillon plans to go into two-shift operation. 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. This is also appreciated by candidates who sometimes even have a doctorate and are looking for a new professional home in Visp at Swissfillon.
Visp is also a good choice from the point of view of personnel recruiting. Swissfillon is a good opportunity for young ambitious people in Valais to develop their careers successfully and in the long term. Ultimately, this also creates a high level of loyalty to the company and limits fluctuation. Of course, this idea is not entirely altruistic. After all, Swissfillon is building up a high level of know-how with and through its employees, which of course should also remain with the company.
The geographical location of Visp is certainly a further advantage. From here you can quickly reach Bern, Milan or France. And the three major international airports of Milan, Geneva and Zurich are only two hours away. This makes Visp almost a European hotspot. Incidentally, this should also be of interest to clients from other European countries. Swissfillon has a clear international orientation. From the service portfolio to highly qualified employees to the location.
A sense of home meets quality standards
If you take a closer look at the logo of Swissfillon AG, you will not only see the typical Swiss colours in red and white. The striking Swiss cross has been developed into a stylistic F, which stands for Fill & Finisher.
With this logo, the young company is not only associated with a high degree of closeness to its homeland. It also presents a high quality standard that is reflected in the term Swissness.
Switzerland is probably one of the most expensive locations in the world. The logo very deliberately shows the Swiss identity, which on the one hand is always associated with high costs, but on the other also with precision, quality and reliability.
Potential customers are already asking why they should work with Swissfillon. After all, this is not a low-cost supplier in the market segment. The answer to such questions is relatively clear: Yes, we are the most expensive in the world, but we are also the best in the world.
If you have high and top-quality demands, you're not going to a low-cost supplier. Top performance and a top service are expected. And Swissfillon can not only offer, but also guarantee both in its special segment. Customers who want this are also prepared to pay the correspondingly higher price.
After all, Swissfillon's promise of quality also offers an advantage for companies in the pharmaceutical industry. The highly precise filling of sterile and highly potent pharmaceutical liquids is not least about the lives of the patients who are injected with such medicines. After all, these are products that are injected directly into the human body in precisely filled quantities, for example with syringes. And the name on the syringe or ampoule is not Swissfillon, but the brand name of the manufacturing company.
The locational advantages of Visp, Valais and Switzerland in general also include fac- tors such as political stability and security, a well-regulated labour market and an en- vironment that is relatively safe from industrial disputes. These are also variables that ultimately affect the quality and reliability of Swissfillon's production.
Of value and valence
Swissfillon sees itself in a special position in the pharmaceutical industry. At the interface between manufacturer and consumer of pharmaceutical liquids, the focus here is partly on high values, but always on the value of performance.
There are customers who place their trust in the company for filling highly potent products, which can possibly be worth several million francs per litre. Here, of course, the customer wants to see the exact equivalent of perfectly filled products again. However, the true value can be seen in the application to the patient. If the filling here is not precise and sterile and clean, this is to the detriment of the health or even the life of the patients as end consumers.
This is where Swissfillon sees the real value of its work. For Swissfillon, safety, reliability, stability and Swissness are not arbitrarily interchangeable variables, but indispensable and elementary basic values. As the last link in the value chain of pharmaceutical products, Swissfillon's specialists owe these values to their customers. After us, there is only the doctor who administers the medicine to the patient. No one can afford to make mistakes. Not even small ones. There are no compromises here. The promise of quality is also reflected in the certification by the highest Swiss drug authority.
Young companies have plans too
Even if a lot has already been achieved, Swissfillon is far from finished. The company with the high-tech bottling plant as it is now located in Visp is only the first step. The ambition is to always be a few steps ahead of the competition in further development. Already today, people are thinking about the next phases of expansion. One goal is to establish a second pharmaceutical company in the region. The neighbouring company Lonza could serve as a model for this.
The founders themselves are the inspiration for the further development of the company. What was once the idea of Daniel Kehl and a business partner will contin- ue to develop. What was launched with an investment sum of half a million Swiss francs is worth developing. Here you also see yourself as responsible towards your customers.
This is another reason why the company's Board of Directors, consisting of five people, sees itself not simply as a leading instrument, but rather as an accumulation of personnel with enormous know-how that is always geared to further development.
Why should pharmaceutical companies turn to Swissfillon in particular
The answer is clear: Swissfillon offers its customers unique solutions that far exceed the known standards. Unique solutions worldwide are implemented here, which speak for precise quality combined with maximum flexibility and security. Technological processes are constantly being refined and the company's employees are real experts in their field.
Potential customers often come to the Valais-based company with the highest expectations, knowing that only Swissfillon can implement the right solution. It is precisely such perceptions that show how Swissfillon AG has succeeded in turning an idea into a highly specialised company in the pharmaceutical industry. A story that can certainly inspire. Also because Swissfillon now has a number of ideas on how one can and wants to turn to humanitarian projects in addition to the actual profession.