2020 was an extraordinary year for everyone, including GF. The global pandemic led to major changes and required a high degree of flexibility. This extraordinary situation also gave rise to extraordinary highlights for GF.
At the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in April 2020, shareholders elected Yves Serra as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Hubert Achermann as the new Vice Chairman. Hubert Achermann also serves as Independent Lead Director. Yves Serra took over the position from Andreas Koopmann, who after a decade in office, did not stand for re-election. Yves Serra was CEO of GF from 2008 until 2019, and became Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2019. Peter Hackel, CFO and a member of the Group Executive Management Board of Straumann AG, was nominated as a new member of the Board of Directors to replace Roman Boutellier, who had reached retirement age. The Executive Committee also underwent a change: effective 1 July 2020, Ivan Filisetti (in the photo on the right) succeeded Pascal Boillat (in the photo on the left) as the new President of GF Machining Solutions and as a member of GF’s Executive Committee.
COVID-19 sets new benchmarks
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic at the start of the year brought major changes to various areas. The introduction and implementation of new digital processes accelerated significantly, with tools such as online meetings, digital workshops, webinars, and e-learning being used much more frequently and becoming standard at GF in a matter of days. At the same time, working from home also became the norm. Thanks to the significant efforts of GF employees at all management levels and in all production areas worldwide, sometimes under very difficult conditions, GF navigated the crisis well considering the virus’s global impact.
Focusing on sustainability
GF published its Sustainability Report in July. Several sustainability goals for 2020 had already been met or exceeded. The importance of ESG (environmental, social, governance) for GF was also reflected in the creation of a new sustainability committee as part of the Nomination Committee. ESG topics are therefore addressed at the highest level of the company. GF’s strong focus on sustainability in all aspects was also recognized outside the company: in October 2020, the Wall Street Journal ranked GF as the most sustainably managed Swiss company and one of the ten best companies in this area worldwide. Additionally, the independent rating agency CDP recognized GF for its efforts to reduce energy consumption.
Important international awards
Research and development is a top priority at GF. Product and system solutions are continuously developed and frequently win international awards. In 2020, GF Piping Systems won the bautec.INNOVATION AWARD for its Hycleen Innovation System and received the International Design Award for its newly reissued classic, the 546 Pro Ball Valve. GF Casting Solutions was given the Volvo Cars Quality Excellence (VQE) Award in October (photo). In addition, GF Linamar received the Silver Certificate of Safety Achievement from the state of North Carolina (USA) for its health and safety at work program.
Taking advantage of synergies
In Agrate Brianza (Italy), GF invested a total of EUR 10.5 million in new, state-of-the-art office buildings for around 120 employees across all three GF divisions. Spanning 4’000 square meters, the site comprises a center of competence, office space, a conference room, showroom, and training center. It is jointly managed by GF Piping Systems and GF Machining Solutions to harness synergies in the development of systems and complete solutions.
Strengthening presence in growth markets
Expanding its presence in high-growth markets was one of the key pillars of the GF Strategy 2020. A number of new sites also became operational in 2020: GF Piping Systems started in Yangzhou (China) with the construction of a new production facility, which is to serve as a model for GF production facilities in China (photo). GF Signet, a GF Piping Systems brand, began construction of the new process automation center in Irwindale, California (USA). In Ratnagiri (India), GF Piping Systems also opened a further production facility and moved into a new site in Apodaca (Mexico) in March together with GF Machining Solutions. GF Casting Solutions is investing in a new light metal die casting plant in Shenyang (China). Production will start in 2023. In Canada, GF Machining Solutions’ employees moved to a new site with a showroom that will be shared with GF Piping Systems. The Changzhou plant of GF Machining Solutions in China also reached a major milestone in 2020: The delivery of the 3’000th milling machine. They also achieved a record number of order intakes, despite the pandemic.
The 20th anniversary of the joint venture between GF and Chinaust was celebrated in 2020. Chinaust is a leading manufacturer in the field of high-performance technology for the utility and automotive industry.
An innovative partner
In March 2020, GF signed a partnership agreement with the up-and-coming UK-based startup Oxford Flow Ltd. Oxford Flow operates in the field of water supply infrastructure. Its innovative pressure regulation valves make a significant contribution to reducing water loss in utility companies’ distribution networks. Oxford Flow thereby supports its customers’ efforts in the sustainable and sparing use of this key resource.
United against the virus
GF Piping Systems supported the non-profit organization Water Mission in its water treatment efforts at a hospital in Kasulu (Tanzania). Thanks to strong teamwork, its employees also ensured that the construction of a hospital in Indonesia planned for the COVID-19 pandemic could continue without interruption. The HDPE pipes required for construction were delivered within a record time of 24 hours required by the customer. GF Machining Solutions also demonstrated its commitment to service delivery: 24/7 availability was in place so that its more than 100 customers in medical technology could meet the surge in demand related to the pandemic. Customers who were making an important contribution to combating coronavirus were given preferential treatment.
Long-term funding secured
In August, GF raised CHF 200 million on the Swiss capital market with a new bond with a term of 9.5 years. By issuing this bond, the company took advantage of the significant improvement in capital market conditions that had begun in April 2020. The transaction increases GF’s financial flexibility: It can be used to implement long-term strategic goals and to potentially repay existing bank loans.
Fundraising for clean drinking water
Thanks to the exceptional efforts of GF employees, the CHF 500’000 raised through Walk for Water were donated to the GF Clean Water Foundation. In 2020, it was therefore possible to implement four drinking water projects via the non-profit organization Water Mission. As a result, clean water was ensured for many people in Indonesia (photo), Malawi, Peru, and Uganda through the creation of water distribution and supply points, safe water tanks, infrastructure, sanitary systems, and hygiene solutions.
GF expands its presence in South America
GF Piping Systems announces the acquisition of FGS Brasil Indústria e Comércio Ltda., the leading manufacturer of polyethylene piping systems in Brazil, and in doing so, expanded its global presence in the world’s fifth most populous country. The company serves the local water and gas distribution market as well as other industrial segments. FGS and GF previously worked together on a large water loss improvement program by sustainably replacing the São Paulo region’s piping network. The acquisition provides GF Piping Systems with a unique platform for further growth in Brazil and South America.
GF Casting Solutions and ZF agree on long-term technology partnership
GF Casting Solutions has been a supplier of transmission components to the global technology corporation ZF for decades. In 2020, the two partners agreed on a technical cooperation in the area of manufacturing and further development in aluminum die casting. Best practices are to be exchanged and joint further development is being sought in areas such as production processes, quality, supply chain, and digitalization. GF Casting Solutions supplies ZF with transmission housings for hybrid vehicles, the number of which has increased in recent years and will continue to do so in the future.