Shaping the Future Together: Specific Solutions for Rubber Applications

Interview with Heike Berchtold, Managing Director of Plastigum AG

Heike Berchtold, Managing Director of Plastigum AG
Heike Berchtold, Managing Director of Plastigum AG

True to its new motto 'Shaping together', the Swiss company Plastigum AG is currently undergoing an intensive cultural transformation to be able to act more flexibly and agilely in the market with participatory structures. Furthermore, in an interview with Wirtschaftsforum, Managing Director Heike Berchtold discussed the impulses the specialist for rubber molded parts pursues at the technological level as well as on key sustainability issues.

Wirtschaftsforum: Ms. Berchtold, originally Plastigum AG was founded in 1957 as a manufacturer of shoe soles - in the meantime, however, your range of services has fundamentally changed.

Heike Berchtold: With the departure of the shoe industry from Switzerland several decades ago, our company also had to look for new business fields, which fortunately has been very successful. Today, we primarily act as manufacturers of rubber molded articles and elastomers, which are used in a wide range of applications - we support high-tech markets such as the chemical, pharmaceutical, and food industries, the transport industry, and plant engineering. Our components for vibration, dampening, and sealing, as well as conveying and control technology, are crucial for functionality in many applications. Thanks to our own mixing plant and our mold making, we can impress not only with a high production depth and variety, but also with comprehensive know-how, which we like to bring in as early as possible in the development process of our customers, when they are just launching a new innovation.

Plastigum Mixing Preparation
The future of the company is under the motto 'Shaping together

Wirtschaftsforum: How exactly does this cooperation work?

Heike Berchtold: Typically, our customers confront us with a specific question about how the respective rubber component can best be integrated into the intended construction. The challenges that arise are diverse, as the individual composition and the layout of the final workpiece must precisely match the customer-specific requirements: Depending on whether the component is to be used in high or low temperature environments, against which chemical agents it must be resistant, and what durability is desired, these factors can differ significantly. In this regard, we can provide our customers with detailed advice and produce a purposive sample part in tool making very quickly, before possibly proceeding to the mass production of the respective component. We offer both custom-made items and smaller series of up to 300,000 pieces.

Plastigum Production and Processing of a Bellows
In the production and processing of a bellows
Plastigum individual coloring
Each mixture can be individually colored

Wirtschaftsforum: What role does sustainability play in this context?

Heike Berchtold: In this context, we are pursuing a variety of different approaches, including consistent waste prevention – because raw material that is not used in the first place does not have to be laboriously recycled or even disposed of later. At the same time, we are constantly working on optimizations to further increase the recyclability based on the material properties of the rubber. The strict requirements of regulatory authorities such as the FDA for Food Grade components are also a relentless driving force for corresponding improvements, even if this sometimes requires very lengthy test cycles. Our focus on increasing the durability of parts also helps to consume fewer resources. Last but not least, as an energy-intensive manufacturing company, we are also aware of our responsibility as one of the largest electricity consumers in the canton – in this context, we invested about a million CHF in new presses last year to consistently reduce our energy consumption, and we are currently planning the installation of our own photovoltaic system.

Plastigum Own Tooling
The in-house tooling allows for a maximum degree of flexibility
Plastigum Rubber-Metal Composite Parts
Rubber-metal composite parts are part of the standard repertoire of Plastigum AG

Wirtschaftsforum: You joined the company five years ago – what motivated you to take this step and how has Plastigum AG changed since then?

Heike Berchtold: I came to Plastigum in 2019 in a different role and immediately saw the potential to make a difference in this company with passion and commitment. When the opportunity later arose to fill the position of CEO, I accepted without hesitation. The current management team of four people has, in its previous career, experienced a corporate culture that is heavily focused on participation, which we want to bring to Plastigum AG as part of a cultural change. The goal is to have ideas emerge more strongly from the teams themselves, so as to make full use of the expertise present within the company at all levels. Already, initial accessible offerings such as German courses for our employees from abroad have been important steps and have been very well received. We now want to consistently continue on this path, true to our motto ‘Shaping together’ to actively shape the future of our own company and our industry.