Swiss coffee machine maker is Starbucks’ ‘secret weapon’

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A wonderful gift gesture by June Beh from Berjaya Starbucks to Robert Chaen, her coach for Diamond Leader. Starbucks has appointed BorneoHunter as their executive search firm.

I tried Starbucks medium instant microground coffee, “Columbia” and it tastes much better than normal instant coffees. It had a strong distinctive taste.  I highly recommend this superior microground instant Starbucks coffee.

 

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June Beh, senior partner resources manager. Voted as “The Best Leader” by her team in the latest Diamond Leader MasterClass in Kuala Lumpur. Her team members came from Oracle, Honda, Triasat, Eastin Hotel, and YTL (from right)

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Swiss coffee machine maker is Starbucks’ ‘secret weapon’

 US chain’s ‘secret weapon’ is the automatic models made by Swiss firm Thermoplan as it intensifies its charge on China and Asia-Pacific
Bloomberg in Weggis, Switzerland
 As Starbucks Corp intensifies its charge on China, one of its little-known weapons is a family-owned company in a sleepy Swiss village.

Thermoplan, based among cow pastures in Weggis, a town of 4,400 inhabitants near Lucerne, makes the automatic machines for espressos and cappuccinos in each of Starbucks’ almost 21,000 shops around the world.

“Fully automatic machines are something very German and Swiss,” said chief executive Adrian Steiner, an electrical engineer who has worked for Thermoplan for 17 years.

“It’s a product that matches the technology of those countries. It’s like the watch industry, where you have everything from education to the people, the quality, value, to reliability.”

With 230 employees, Thermoplan, which exports 98 per cent of its wares, is emblematic of Switzerland’s globally oriented small and medium-sized enterprises that bank on craftsmanship to drive their business.

A free-trade accord between Switzerland and China and the rising popularity of creamy coffee drinks in the Asian giant, with China set to become Starbucks’ biggest market outside the United States, have given Steiner cause for optimism.

While Switzerland is home to big listed companies such as Nestle and UBS, 99 per cent of its businesses are SMEs, generating two-thirds of employment.

Thermoplan joins companies from watchmakers such as Swatch Group and producers of precision tools like Mikron Holding setting their sights on more business from Beijing and Shanghai.

Starbucks said last month that it planned to add 800 new stores in China and Asia-Pacific in the 2015 financial year.

Thermoplan’s foray into the world of coffee can be traced back three decades when it made whipped cream machines.

Then, in 1999, with just 20 employees, its fortunes soared on an exclusive global contract for Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee-shop chain had decided to replace traditional espresso machines, which require baristas to prepare grounds and steam milk, with automatic models.

With the contract, Thermoplan’s machines have become ubiquitous at Starbucks outlets from New York and Paris to Beijing.

A basic Thermoplan model starts at 7,000 Swiss francs (HK$59,700), with bigger self-cleaning ones going for as much as 17,000 francs. The Mastrena, which Thermoplan produces just for Starbucks, was introduced in 2008.

Thermoplan’s contract with Starbucks is up for renewal next year. Both companies declined to comment on the possibility. Steiner said his company’s ability to work swiftly and innovatively was what clinched the deal, calling it “the power of the big and the flexibility of the small”.

Assembling a machine, primarily by hand, takes six to eight hours. At one point, Thermoplan was delivering 84 machines a day to the world’s largest coffee-shop operator. Today, the Seattle-based giant accounts for a third of Thermoplan’s sales. Other clients include Nestle, Google and Costa Coffee.

Before a machine heads out the door, it must successfully brew 100 cups of coffee. A trained technician from one of Thermoplan’s service partners is on site within four hours to fix a problem wherever a machine breaks down. Modular components kept maintenance simple, Steiner said.

For now, the company plans to ride the gains from the spreading social phenomenon that coffee drinking has become.

“Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan – they’re just discovering cappuccino,” Steiner said, sitting in a room overlooking a soccer pitch that Brazil’s national team used as a training ground for the 2006 World Cup. “It’s fascinating how a drink like a cappuccino is changing the world.”

Published by

Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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