05.06.22 | 4 min

In conversation with Martin Becker, CEO KNF Group

KNF is a global leader in the development, design, production and distribution of diaphragm pumps for handling gases and liquids. The company employs around 850 people at 17 locations worldwide. The headquarters of the KNF Group is located in Sursee.

Mr. Becker, KNF ranked among the 130 largest employers in Central Switzerland for the first time in 2021. What does KNF's success depend on?
One key word is diversification: we have thousands of very different customers, are active in numerous industries and markets, and KNF is also very broadly positioned in terms of applications. This means that we focus on risk diversification. Our growth depends on the development of the customer business, but also on our product centers: on how well they respond to customer needs and how innovatively new products are developed. KNF Flodos AG in Sursee and KNF Micro AG in Reiden are very successful. The good infrastructure, the central location with its proximity to the airport and the great quality of life in the canton of Lucerne play a key role here.

What does innovation mean to you?
As a mechanical engineer, innovation has always fascinated me. The topic has to do with curiosity and imagination, but also with the courage to say goodbye to the old and break new ground. Because of my passion for innovation, I am on the board of Technopark Lucerne. I am fascinated by the agility of newly founded, small companies. I also find the early networking of startups with larger companies very important for both sides. 

What are the secret ingredients to being a world leader in your field?
The fact that success in a niche area is directly related to proximity to customers was recognized early on at KNF. That's why my father founded the first subsidiary abroad in St. Louis, France, back in 1968. The second essential ingredient is continuous innovation. Our developers are closely networked with the sales department. For the transfer of knowledge, KNF also cultivates cooperation with colleges and universities. The permanent exchange is central for creative ideas. Tenacity, perseverance and an open mind are also essential.

Which topics have particularly preoccupied KNF 2021?
One of the most significant issues was procurement. The pandemic, but also the tendency toward protectionism, have intensified the challenges in this regard. Supply chains will continue to occupy us for some time. The shortage of skilled workers is also more topical than ever, even if we are still able to fill our positions well at the moment. With targeted further training and the training of apprentices, we are doing our utmost in this area. Of course, digitization was and is also a major topic.

Speaking of digitization, what opportunities and challenges does this topic bring?
Digitalization also offers an incredible number of opportunities for what were originally purely mechanical industries - not only in terms of processes, but also in terms of products. This requires completely new competencies on our part. Innovative technologies on the market are constantly creating exciting opportunities for our business. Today, we only manufacture the pumps - the customer then builds them, together with many other components, into his product. The buzzword of the future is "smart pumps," in which additional functionalities are integrated directly into the pumps. The whole thing will also become more energy-efficient, more robust and therefore more sustainable.