The Rupp Report: The Other Way Round

Usually every element in the whole production chain tries to put the responsibility and stock on the shoulders of “the next one.” For decades, and not only in the textile industry, just-in-time is the magic phrase, and nobody wants to play the bank for any customer, keeping a big stock to be ready for quick deliveries. Many so-called experts claim that only with less as much bounded money a company can survive. In the global textile industry, these are mostly the case for consumer goods, and only to certain extend for tailor-made products. But how does one define his company policy if he’s producing some consumer goods, but also tailor-made products?
The Rupp Report recently visited Kuny AG in Kuttigen, Switzerland, which is celebrating 100 years in business. This ribbon manufacturer and narrow weaver goes exactly the opposite way: Serving the customer, even for small lots; and “be ready for any request” is the credo of the company. Central points of success include its extensive range of finished products and stock availability. Particularly important, is the fact that the company is a fully integrated producer. Some 100 people are employed by Kuny, and many employees have worked for the company for 20 years or longer. Back in 1945, the enterprise built a welfare institution for the employees. But first some background …
A Bit Of History
In the summer of 1914, Hans Kuny-Thommen laid the foundation for today’s Kuny. Things began with a few looms, and the company struggled through difficulties caused by World War I. Initially, cotton tapes and ribbons for slippers were produced. In the mid-1930s, the first products were exported to Belgium and Holland. Despite World War II, the company continued to prosper. Kuny produced 140-centimeter-wide plush fabrics for linings, upholstery and seat covers. However, this division closed in 1964, and production was then focused on narrow fabrics and ribbons.
Over the following decades, the company grew specializing in high-class ribbon manufacturing. Since the mid-1960s, up to 90 percent of total sales have been exported — 55 percent in the European Economic Community countries (forerunner of the European Union), 20 percent in the European Free Trade Association States and the remaining 25 percent overseas. In 1964, the year the company celebrated its 50th anniversary. During that period in the 1960s, Kuny produced some 8 million meters of ribbons every year.
Company-Owned Dye House
Another important step to success, was adding velvet ribbon production for the fashion industry. For this purpose and for the first time in the history of the company, a separate continuous ribbon dyeing line was established in 1965. Today, more than 90 percent of all ribbons are dyed using the continuous process.
In 1978, thanks to its ongoing success, Kuny enlarged its premises with a new weaving hall and a new office building. With the increased importance of polyester, a dyehouse for polyester products was built in 1982, followed by a new warehouse in 1987. These products have formed an important cornerstone of the company’s success for many decades. Fashion demands in the 1990s, led printed ribbons to become more and more important. Seeing a new market opportunity, Kuny set up its own printing shop.
Hook-And-Loop Fasteners
In the mid-1970s, international patents for hook-and loop fasteners, commonly known by the brand name “Velcro,” had expired. At the beginning of the 1970s, Gottfried Kuny-Scherrer, the father of Hans Georg Kuny, developed the so-called “mushroom tape”, a product that became quickly a top seller for Kuny. In terms of adhesion, mushroom tapes have advantages compared to traditional hook-and-loop fasteners. In many application areas, the ribbons sold like hotcakes — which is still the case today.
A Growing Group
With the acquisition of Germany-based silk ribbon manufacturer Seidenbandweberei Säckingen GmbH in 1975, the company took an important step into the European market. Another step towards the European market was made in 1992, with the acquisition of United Kingdom-based ribbon manufacturer Berisfords Ltd. These acquisitions were followed in 2002, by the takeover of a very traditional Switzerland-based company, Bally Band AG. During those years, Kuny had an export share of more than 90 percent.
To secure a supply of quality yarns for its products, Kuny acquired Bäumlin & Ernst AG, one of the top yarn and twist producers in Switzerland. With its sister company Berisfords, the group now had a second fully integrated production facility.
The Key To Success
At a press conference prior to the jubilee event with handpicked customers and suppliers, Kuny CEO René Lenzin and Chairman of the Board Hans Georg Kuny mentioned that the company generally is working with sales representatives all over the world. Thanks to an extensive global clientele in countries from Europe to the United States to Japan and even Australia, current sales decreases in Europe were absorbed mostly by these overseas markets. The Rupp Report spoke with customers from Europe and Japan at the event and they all said that Kuny with its excellent service and quality cannot be compared to any other ribbon manufacturer in Europe, or even the world. One customer mentioned if he orders before lunchtime, the delivery is made the same day.
Kuny’s product range is characterized by a variety of articles and colors. The four main ribbon types are velvet, satin, grosgrain and printed. In satin ribbons, approximately 100 colors are available from stock in 9 different widths. At the press conference, the Rupp Report asked about minimum quantities. Lenzin said the minimum run for special products is 500 meters. “However,” he said with a smile, “we can also produce 500,000 meters.”
Fully Integrated Value Chain
The Kuny Group is well positioned for today and into the future. With its various companies, it has a fully integrated value chain, which is linked ideally in terms of technical level and market handling. In order to further improve internal logistics and to optimize production processes, the company replaced some old sheds over the past 12 months. The new building was completed just in time for the anniversary celebration. “With this new building structure on the one hand, it was possible to improve and streamline operating procedures,” said Lenzin. “And on the other hand, thanks to cutting-edge insulation, we can save as much as 28,000 liters of fuel oil per year.”
Overcoming Hard Times
The financial crisis of 2008 represented an enormous challenge, reported Hans Georg Kuny. The year 2009 was decisive for a safe future of the company: At that time, Kuny AG, with its group of companies was brought into a holding company. For the Kuny Group, continuity of the company was always a top priority. That’s why the Kuny family has realigned ownership in the same year. Current shareholders are René Lenzin, Dr. Niklaus Honauer and Hans Georg Kuny.
Bright Future
Over the past fiver years, a lot of money was invested in a modern computer science solutions. These substantial expenditures on infrastructure help to ensure smooth and problem-free order processing.
In the industry of narrow fabrics, the Kuny Group is recognized as a reliable international problem solver. And this will continue, according to company representatives Lenzin and Kuny: “We want to consolidate our top position in the market with moderate and safe growth and guarantee absolute delivery reliability. Therefore, we constantly optimize our machinery. To respond flexible to market and customer needs, throughput times and work management are permanently reduced and customer services further perfected.” And the end of the press conference, Kuny said: “Other suppliers outsourced their production by accepting a lower quality. We did the contrary — we invested in better machinery and personnel, resulting in better quality and customer reliability. That’s why we look very positive heading into the future.”

September 30, 2014