In the midst of the crisis last May, Jean-Pascal Bobst, part of the business's founding family, became chief executive and set about turning the firm around. PrintWeek MEA met up with him for an exclusive interview at the Competence 10 show to talk about what has happened and his plans to grow the business.

PW: How was the response from Ipex especially on not bringing the machines and what we can expect in Drupa?

JPB: You have to take some risks sometimes in how you do things. We had presented the 3D show which enables customers to see inside the machines. In Drupa we will be having machines on stand. The contribution from MEA region contributes to about 6 to 7% and we expect it to grow upto 10%.

PW: Speaking of costs, you've just gone through a cost-cutting programme where the aim was to reduce costs by around CHF100m a year and you've closed two plants - one in France and

one in Switzerland. How did you approach that?JPB: We had to go back to being profitable, while keeping a focus on the three industry sectors we serve - folding carton, corrugated and flexible material - but finding cost synergies. We had a vision to maintain high technology in all three businesses. We could focus on three main things: Firstly we could identify the technical synergies and merged the product lines. In this way we had successful group transformation program. Secondly for growth development in service and parts is more important. We could place the right machines for the entry level markets. Thirdly we could achieve business excellence. We could simplify the business and launched common ERP program.

PW: All machinery manufacturers have been hit by slower sales during the recession due to the lack of credit. So where do you see growth?

JPB: In recent times I don't think we have focused enough on proactive service for our customers. Service is one of the three business units we now have internally. Currently it accounts for around 22% of total sales - the objective is for that to rise to 30%. We are coming up with new manufacturing factory and we are doing it with LEAN concept.

PW: Are you looking at acquisitions and any diversification?

JPB: Yes, always. If it's in Europe or North America, you're buying technology that you don't have. In emerging markets like China and India, it's all about market share. But there's nothing concrete to talk about at the moment. We will not go outside the packaging market. We aim to get best product and technology with focus on entry and middle level. We see growth for corrugated in Asia and Middle East. For flexible industry in North America and Asia and for folding carton in Asia and Middle East as well.

PW: How do you see the market for your customers at the moment?

JPB: Most of our customers had decent to good years in 2009. Many were down 5% or 10% in turnover - pretty good, given the economic situation. So the market is ready to rebound and invest again. We invest 5 to 7% in the R&D and we did not reduce it. For commercial market we are affordable and have starting range products for reasonable volume.

PW: Why do you think there is reduction in webfed sales?

JPB: It has main two reasons; firstly tobacco line is still not recovered. Secondly the booking of flexo lines came late and not accounted in first half of the year. That is why there is reduction of 8.7% than 2009 sales.

PW: What are the initiatives from Bobst toward environmental aspects?

JPB: All our manufacturing plans will be ISO 14001 certified by next year. All our new building are environmentally friendly with standards similar to Toyota. In the equipments we aim to reduce total energy consumption. The focus is on areas like to reduce startup time and reduce energy consumption in drying process.

PW: You're the first member of the Bobst family to run the company for many years. How are you enjoying it?

JPB: What are really satisfying are the loyal and long-term relationships with our customers and staff. Bobst is a listed company but the family still owns around 45% of the shares, so we still have that family culture. I know the company quite well from the inside out. And I have peace of mind because I know I have the trust of the family, too - that's very important.