Modularity as a success factor: pick-and-place-expert Aatec

Standard or tailor-made? For machine manufacturer AATEC SA, the two are not mutually exclusive. The company, which specialises in pick-and-place systems, cleverly combines both of these approaches and is constantly surprising the markets with its innovations.

With just a dozen employees, AATEC SA, a small but excellent engineering company, produces fast and precise pick-and-place systems that are popular with leading manufacturers worldwide. The Swiss machine manufacturer’s machines are particularly in demand in the semiconductor and electronics industries. They have also proven effective in the watch industry and are used in medical technology and the automotive sector.

Innovation in their DNA

In the global assembly technology markets, there are many powerful suppliers who are competing for orders from the industry. How does a small company like AATEC manage to hold its own? On the one hand, the company pursues a clear industry focus and has developed specific know-how in these markets. On the other, the automation specialist concentrates on systems for small to mid-sized volumes and stays away from the mass production segment. The third and most important reason for their market success, however, is the innovative power that lies within the company. «We are permanently driving technical development forward,» says Managing Director Jean-Claude Rohrer, «which means we regularly put innovative ideas into practice to make our customers more efficient and more competitive.»

Basic machine plus customised application module

Innovation does not necessarily mean constantly reinventing the wheel. AATEC works with standardised basic machines that are upgraded with customised modules for the specific applications of individual customers. Depending on the customer’s production line, feeder and packaging technologies such as tape & reel, tube, tray or bowl can be used. The basic principles are always the same. The implementation, however, is precisely geared to the customer’s requirements.

A dialogue of equals with Bachofen

AATEC works mainly with Swiss suppliers. The designers get in touch with Bachofen three to four times a year. There is particular demand for the creativity and technical input of Bachofen’s consultants when there are new machines in the pipeline. This regular dialogue is dominated by topical issues such as Industry 4.0, remote maintenance and plant safety – all fields of expertise in which Bachofen can make a valuable contribution.

Bachofen is part of AATEC’s small circle of trusted suppliers. For example, the company has been purchasing Banner indicator and machine lights from Bachofen for years, which it uses on the basic machines. Jean-Claude Rohrer: «Bachofen is always available, reliable and responsive. I remember once when there was a defective gripper module on one of our machines in running production at one of our customers, a taxi soon appeared outside with a replacement and we were able to restart the machine on the same day. That’s what I call top service.»