Good morning, Riyadh! It’s day number 3 of our study trip and the very last day in the capital city of Saudi Arabia before we are heading to our second stop – the city of Jeddah. Today’s program is all about manufacturing and experiencing the way of how the Saudi Arabians do business. In order to fully grasp the way of “doing business in the Middle East”, three companies have been visited.
The first company visit was at the Swiss SIG Combibloc Group, which is one of the leading manufacturers in packaging. The visit started with a warm welcome from the factory manager and an insightful presentation about SIG and its 550 employees located here in Riyadh. The presentation did not only reveal that Coca Cola and Danone count to SIG’s most known customers, but also that the company invests heavily in sustainability. In addition to that, we learned that the consumer trends in food & beverage packaging are changing rapidly, so the company has to adapt to it constantly. Currently, environmental packaging with no aluminum as well as packages suitable for the microwave are playing an important role in the industry. After the presentation, we were able to get to the field! We have been equipped with earphones and enjoyed a tour through the factory. The guides have shared their insights with us from the start of the production to the very end of it – from producing the packaging material over to processing it and printing it as customized as its clients wish it to be.
After having a wonderful insight into a Swiss company operating in the KSA, we then moved on to a company with Japanese roots. Hitachi is a well known conglomerate operating in many sectors such as IT, business and most of it all infrastructure. We were very warmly greeted with many eateries and traditional sweets as well as coffee. Afterwards, the security advisor of the facility gave us safety instructions in case of an emergency. We were then welcomed by our main tour guide. He explained in a very detailed manner what they were doing at the facility and all the KPI‘s and quality control mechanisms they had implemented. He also showed us a map of the entire plant including the process in each section. The company operates in the infrastructure sector in the Middle Eastern region. They build power control towers to manage power supply over the whole city. This is a very complex job and requires precision and quality. All Hitachi employees were showing that quality comes first and then the specific demands of the customer. Furthermore, they quickly showed us their telecom infrastructure rigs, which basically did the same thing as the power supply control towers except for telecom services. After having this very insightful tour into this rather complex product we concluded our tour with a group picture.
Initially, we would have had the chance to visit Shorooq which is one of the largest foam producers in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this meeting had to be cancelled, so we were not able to visit the foam factory. However, thanks to Mr. Larbi Elattari (our contact from Swiss Global Enterprise) whose network in Saudi Arabia is very extensive, we had the opportunity to stop by a Swiss family-owned company named Reichle & De-Massari (R&M). The company operates in the information and communication technology sector. R&M’s cabling solutions provide networks for telecommunications and internet, which means that a large number of households depend on their fiber to the home (FTTH) service. In the world we live in today, high-quality communication networks play an important role. From their presentation we have learned that the required components needed for the production of their fiber optic network distributors are shipped from Switzerland to Saudi Arabia and are then assembled locally. To ensure that their technicians gain on-hand experience, all of them must undergo a specialized training on site. For us students it was very interesting to see the perspective of a joint venture between a Swiss and Saudi family.
But for now, we are ready for take-off – Jeddah here we come!