Jacques Lanners (CERATIZIT): A Luxembourg giant

Its turnover now exceeds a billion euros, but CERATIZIT continues to move forward. This tungsten carbide giant combines international expansion and 4.0 services. Interview with Jacques Lanners, Chairman of the Executive Board of CERATIZIT and grandson of the founder of this jewel in Luxembourg’s crown.

 

Can you briefly describe CERATIZIT?

 

The adventure began in 1931, when Céramétal manufactured filaments for light bulbs. 1948 marked a turning point: the company began to specialise in tungsten carbide which remains our core business today. We manufacture high-performance cutting tools, inserts and rods made of hard materials. Our carbide products are used by clients in the automotive, energy and aeronautics industries. We also produce ceramics for ball bearing specialists. We adopted a new approach in 1975 by creating our own research unit in Mamer, strengthening our leadership. Understandably, international expansion in England and the United States followed. All of this explains why, in 2018, we have 34 production sites, more than 9,000 employees worldwide and 1,000 active patents, which are a byword for our expertise and sense of innovation. The merger with Plansee Tizit in 2002, meanwhile, enabled us to explore new challenges. We made the right choice in ensuring that shareholders remained family based. Céramétal then became CERATIZIT.

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“A sign of our strength and a source of pride: in 1997, CERATIZIT became the first Luxembourg company to manufacture in China.”

Jacques Lanners

 
What is the key to international success?

 

Our status has changed: we’ve developed an expertise in solutions and services, in addition to our expertise in materials. Working closely with our clients helps us to expand our offering in terms of products and services. We create partnerships, our researchers join their teams and contribute to the development of their products. There’s no need to adapt retrospectively: our teams have worked with Hilti in Lichtenstein, a leading specialist in concrete drills, for over 20 years! I would also mention partnerships with universities and centres like LIST. With 200 engineers working on basic research and 200 others working on application in production, CERATIZIT has the resources to move forward. The rest is strategy. With a presence in Europe, the United States and Asia, we know that a cyclical downturn affecting one continent or one product can be offset elsewhere.


How do you see CERATIZIT developing over the next 5 years?

 

We are very strongly focused on Europe, which represents more than 60% of our business, but we have to diversify and increase our market share in Asia and the United States. Because manufacturing everything in Europe is difficult. We still need to find a balance: owning production units in Eastern Europe, China and India, where costs are lower, and growing in Europe in terms of research and development and products with high added value. Another focus: digitisation. In addition to our machines, some of which are smart machines, we have a data collection cell of 25 people. With industry 4.0, we’re developing systems which are sold simultaneously to clients who buy our products.