Bossard Fasteners (A): Fighting B2B Commoditization
As the market leader in fastening technology Bossard maintained a global network of more than 1,800 employees in 50 countries from its headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. The company focused on the supply of fasteners, a process that included sales, technical and engineering support and inventory management. Its business model also spanned three strategic areas: product solutions, application engineering and logistics. Bossard enjoyed a very strong value proposition if its account managers could only access engineers, quality managers, heads of operations, research and development (R&D) departments and business owners who understood the total cost of ownership (TCO) concept. If it had to submit a quote in response to an RFP (request for proposal) and bid for a given list of parts, the customer's procurement department might simply compare prices, and Bossard typically was not the cheapest provider. Competitors also had copied Bossard's logistic system and claimed that they could offer similar solutions for lower prices. Anecdotal evidence suggested that most competitors' solutions were less reliable and accurate than SmartBins and that their data integration workflows did not work as well. In a manufacturing world where global competition, commoditization and strategic procurement puts suppliers under constant margin pressure, how was it possible that a Swiss-based fastening supplier could grow profitably with an EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin of 12.3%, significantly above industry benchmarks?