Business performance

Innovations for a better world

Business performance

Innovations for a better world

2019 marked a milestone in the history of Bühler. With the opening of the CUBIC innovation campus, the Bühler Networking Days in Uzwil, and the new partnerships formed, the company has expanded its innovation ecosystem, while the operative business proved its robustness under difficult conditions.


The development of sustainable technologies and process solutions in close collaboration with customers, industry partners, scientific institutions, and start-ups was taken to a new level in the 2019 business year. As a driving force behind this innovation ecosystem, Bühler resolved to elevate its sustainability targets – striving to reduce energy, water consumption, and waste by up to 50% in the value chains of its customers by 2025. Recognizing the increased urgency presented by global climate and environmental challenges, Bühler is committed to transforming them into profitable, quickly growing businesses. Bühler’s position and market differentiation have been further expanded and strengthened with these initiatives.

Operationally, Bühler’s strategic positioning as a provider of industrial solutions with three segments proved its worth in 2019: In an increasingly challenging and volatile environment, the good performance of Grains & Food (GF) and Consumer Foods (CF) was largely able to balance out the declines in Advanced Materials (AM). On the Group level, the incoming orders and turnover remained stable, while profitability was further increased. A noteworthy highlight is the successful and ahead-of-schedule integration of the Austrian Haas Group following its acquisition in 2018, and the formation of the new Consumer Foods business in January 2019. In 2020, Bühler plans for a stable and positive business development.



Increased profitability with stable volumes

The course of the business development in the segments varied widely. While order intake for GF continued to grow at CHF 1.8 billion (+5.2%), for CF it declined slightly to CHF 775 million (-1.7%), and AM had to absorb a decline of 32.2% in order intake to CHF 488 million, largely due to the automotive industry. Overall, order intake for the Group amounted to CHF 3.1 billion (-4.6%). The same picture emerges with regard to turnover. On the Group level, Bühler’s turnover was CHF 3.3 billion (-0.5%). With turnover of CHF 1.8 billion (+0.9%), GF demonstrated robustness. Getting high levels of orders into turnover in a timely manner remains a key focus. CF turnover was CHF 774 million (+2.5%). At CHF 649 million, the turnover of AM dropped by 8.0%. The order backlog on the reporting date was CHF 1.8 billion (previous year: CHF 1.9 billion).

Along with this divergent course of business, there was also a shift in regional development. While Asia and Europe drove growth in the past year, in 2019 North America and Middle East & Africa took over this role. For the first time in years, Bühler recorded a standstill in China due to market saturation and tariff conflicts. Regardless, its geographic bandwidth remains balanced. With regard to turnover, Europe makes up 30%, Asia 31%, North America 16%, Middle East & Africa 14%, South America 6%, and South Asia 3%.

Structurally, Bühler was able to further improve the breadth of its portfolio in 2019. Customer Service (CS) turnover grew by 2.9% to CHF 694 million, and the Single Machine Business (SMB) turnover decreased by 4.0% to CHF 285 million. Together CS and SMB generated total turnover of CHF 979 million, representing a 30% share of total Group turnover (previous year: 30%). The e-commerce platform myBühler made a substantial contribution to the CS business. In 2019, the number of active customers increased from 4,000 to 5,500, the orders through the system from 8,400 to 13,000, and the revenue from CHF 25 million to CHF 41.5 million. Strategic investments in our infrastructure and research and development (R&D) remained at a high level. The expenses for R&D were increased to CHF 149 million, that is an increase relative to Group turnover of 4.6% (previous year: 4.4%). This is in line with Bühler’s strategy to be an innovation leader in its industries.


Financially sound

By consistently managing resources and costs, Bühler succeeded in increasing profitability while maintaining the same volume. EBIT rose by 7.5% in absolute terms to CHF 248 million, corresponding to an EBIT margin of 7.6% (previous year: 7.1%). The leap in profitability in CF, with an improvement in EBIT of over 50%, is particularly noteworthy.

With a tax rate of 19.5% (previous year: 20.1%) and a financial result of CHF 2.4 million (previous year: CHF 4.6 million), net profit grew by 7.2% to CHF 202 million (previous year: CHF 188 million).

From a healthy basis, Bühler’s financial position remains solid and strong. Investments in infrastructure were reduced to CHF 113 million (-4.5%). Operating cash flow declined by 18% to CHF 166 million. Net liquidity remained high at CHF 449 million (+0.3%). The equity ratio grew slightly to 42.8% (previous year: 42.2%).

Operational activities

Grains & Food (GF) continued on its successful course in 2019, with growth in all four business units and notable profit from numerous large projects. Order intake grew by 5.2 % to CHF 1.8 billion, and turnover increased by 0.9 % to CHF 1.8 billion. With the introduction of numerous innovations, GF further expanded its position of technological leadership. To develop highly efficient packaging solutions, GF initiated a strategic partnership with the Canadian company PremierTech.


In 2019, Milling Solutions was able to win large global projects, including Ardent Mills (US), Barilla (Italy), Fahem (Yemen) and City Group (Bangladesh) – and thereby further expand its already strong market position. The first order for the new, revolutionary generation of mills – the Mill E3 − made by British customer Whitworth Brothers Ltd., was a milestone. With a more compact, modular design, new components and full digitalization, the Mill E3 saves about 10 % in energy and significantly reduces construction costs and installation time. The start of production for the first Mill E3 is planned for mid-2020. The digital services launched at the Networking Days 2019, held in August in Uzwil, Switzerland, met with a positive response, especially the Yield Management Service (YMS) and its associated interactive dashboard. For one German customer of YMS, yield was increased by up to 2 % with the help of this digital solution.

Value Nutrition also saw strong growth in most application areas, particularly in pet food, cereals, and pasta. Its solutions for manufacturing plant-based meat alternatives gained significance. With the market introduction of a single-screw extruder, Value Nutrition was able to supplement its product portfolio and is now in a position to offer the entire range of processing technologies.

Based on its leading innovations, Digital Technologies recorded high growth for optical sorting machines, especially for nuts, frozen fruits, and vegetables, as well as for plastic recycling. The business unit was honored with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for the seventh time since its first win in 1968. The United Kingdom’s most prestigious innovation award was received in recognition of the development of a unique camera technology used in sorting machines capable of recognizing the subtlest color and shading contrasts in materials and foods, thereby significantly increasing detection rates for foreign materials or contaminated foods. Digital Technologies also introduced Laatu, a new technology for microbial reduction in dry foods that does not introduce heat, water, chemicals, or radioactive sources, to make foods safe. It also reduces waste, energy, and other natural resources.

Grain Quality saw positive growth in all areas in 2019, including malting, brewing, rice, and storage. Many large malting projects went to Bühler, confirming its global market leadership. With new process solutions to increase yield, it was possible to reinvigorate the brewery business. In the rice business, Bühler saw strong growth primarily in Southeast Asia and secured a foothold in China with important key contracts. The business unit recorded its first orders for silos and conveyor belts related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a mega-project for infrastructure. Grain Quality also benefited greatly from joint projects with other business units.


Order intake 1.8 billion CHF +5.2%
Turnover 1.8 billion CHF +0.9%

The Consumer Foods (CF) segment was established at the beginning of 2019 from the acquired Haas Group and the associated business areas at Bühler and was operational in 2019 as the third strategic pillar. In a positive environment, the strengths of the new market presence were demonstrated in just the first year of its existence. The CF segment decreased in order intake by 1.7% to CHF 775 million, and turnover increased by 2.5% to CHF 774 million. The segment was able to significantly improve profitability.


In 2019, the Haas business units were rebranded and integrated with the corresponding Bühler businesses into the Bühler Consumer Foods business segment. The goal was to offer complete process solutions under the Bühler brand for the manufacturing of items such as wafers, cookies, and bars. The integration was concluded ahead of schedule. The consumer foods market and its customers responded extremely positively to the merger. The Egyptian customer NSPO ordered four complete wafer and cookie lines in January, not least thanks to Bühler’s ability to provide fullyintegrated solutions. The close collaboration between the GF and CF business segments led to more orders from this customer. Over the course of the year, NSPO ordered a mill, a pasta line, and a chocolate line, and the extension of one wafer and one biscuit line each with a chocolate coating line.

Similar success was achieved with the Italian customer Ferrero, which put an integrated wafer bar line into operation in October. Bühler’s complete competence in the areas of wafer, creme, chocolate, bar, and coating technology were fully deployed for this customer. The 2019 business year was also characterized by the introduction of numerous innovations most of which were aimed at increasing sustainability through energy efficiency, reducing waste, and raising productivity. The new SWAKT-ECO oven saves up to 25% of energy in waffle manufacturing and reduces emissions by up to 90%. A newly developed process for producing edible to-go coffee cups made from waffle dough was developed to reduce the use of singleuse plastic.


Order intake 775 million CHF -1.7%
Turnover 774 million CHF +2.5%

After five years of uninterrupted growth, Advanced Materials (AM) had to accept a decline in order intake and in turnover due to the global slowdown and saturation in its key markets − automotive and precision optics. Order intake fell by 32.2% to CHF 488 million, and turnover dropped by 8.0% to CHF 649 million. Due to the order backlog in the previous year and timely, consistent cost management, the segment remained satisfactorily profitable. AM used the generally tense market situation to assert its position as the market and technology leader by introducing several forward-thinking innovations.

Die Casting was heavily affected by the weakness in the global automotive industry, most notably from the decline in China. About 80% of the business for the unit stems from this industry. It was therefore decided to maintain market and technology leadership with innovations and improve the range of services.

Die Casting introduced its new modular machine platform Fusion in Düsseldorf, Germany at the GIFA trade show, making a resounding argument with 1,400 tons of clamping force. At the center is the digital die-casting cell, consisting of the machine itself, supplemented with the integrated cell control system Smart CMS and additional digital services such as downtime analysis and maintenance forecasting. In Brescia, Italy, the business area opened a new service center for retrofitting machines. In addition, Die Casting succeeded in anchoring itself in new, non-automotive end markets, for example with orders in regard to 5G mobile communications.

Leybold Optics was also affected by the decline. In precision optics for mobile devices, there was a delay in investment due to the effects of international trade conflicts. In the area of coating systems for architectural glass, a slowdown occured due to saturation after several strong years. In the case of coating systems for front and rear lights, the slowdown in the automotive sector was noticeable. The ophthalmics business with coating systems for lenses held its ground. Innovation highlights included the introduction of the Helios 1200 precision optical filter for coating 12-inch semiconductor wafers, and Leybold Optics’ market entry into ion beam sputtering technology for applications in high-power lasers and optical telecommunications.

In Grinding & Dispersing, sales of single machines remained solid in 2019. For paint production systems, the United States punitive tariffs on key chemicals from China led to a significant slowdown. Good progress was made in building up the business of systems for electric battery manufacturers. Bühler has installed over 20 production lines with a mixing capacity of half a gigafactory (16 GWh).


Order intake  488 million CHF -32.2%
Turnover 649 million CHF -8.0%