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Working together to tackle the shortage of skilled workers: SMC and ZHAW launch competence centre

How can we counter the shortage of skilled workers and in doing so enhance our innovative capacity? The ZHAW School of Engineering and SMC Schweiz AG are taking on this challenge together: the Institute of Mechatronic Systems at the ZHAW set up laboratories at the Swiss head office of SMC in Weisslingen to create a competence centre for automation and digitalisation. It was officially opened with a press conference on 21 March 2023 – a real win-win situation for all involved.

The shortage of skilled workers has become a problem for almost all industrial sectors in Switzerland. At the same time, the ongoing industrial transformation is creating an urgent need for more engineers and skilled specialists. “This is one of the reasons why research and industry need to grow closer," Swissmem President Martin Hirzel said at the press conference. "The ZHAW and SMC are moving in the right direction. The project supports two main pillars of Swissmem: investing in innovation and training skilled workers to strengthen Switzerland as an industrial hub," continued Hirzel.

"The ideal combination for our customers"

In the past few years, automation has increased rapidly in the industrial sector. In combination with digitalisation, automation facilitates innovation in different areas such as resource optimisation, continuous operations, simplified maintenance processes and energy efficiency. In short, it increases overall productivity. This transition mainly requires new and interdisciplinary skills to manage the increasing intertwining of mechanics, electronics, software and data science. Skilled workers with the relevant training and required expertise are rare and difficult to find. "That is why we have teamed up with the ZHAW to launch the competence centre for automation and digitalisation," said Daniel Langmeier, Managing Director of SMC Schweiz AG. After all, the Institute of Mechatronic Systems offers comprehensive know-how in the sectors of robotics, digital twins (the digital representation of machines), augmented reality, data sciences, artificial intelligence and Web 3.0 technologies like blockchain. Daniel Langmeier is thrilled: "This allows us to offer our customers, who range from micro-enterprises to global corporations, the ideal combination of SMC's 64 years of experience in industrial automation together with the ZHAW's expertise in the latest digitalisation technologies." 

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Expanding expertise with specific projects

The cooperation is a real win-win situation for both SMC and the ZHAW. Hans Wernher van de Venn, Head of the Institute of Mechatronic Systems (IMS), is pleased about the laboratories at the Swiss headquarters of SMC: "We can benefit from our proximity to Swiss industry by means of specific projects." Some of these projects have already been launched within the Innosuisse innovation programme, which is funded by the Swiss government. Working in cooperation with SMC, highly reputable mechanical engineers and plant operators, solutions will be developed in the domains of predictive maintenance, digital twins and energy efficiency. "This cooperation will allow us to confirm and fine-tune our theoretical approaches on the basis of real use cases and to enhance our innovative capacity," said van de Venn.

SMC, for its part, doesn't only benefit from the ZHAW's invaluable digitalisation know-how, but also has the opportunity to gradually build up expertise itself as part of joint projects, meaning it can then offer a range of digitalisation services.


Prof. Hans Wernher van de Venn, Head of the Institute for Mechatronic Systems (IMS) at the ZHAW
+41 (0) 58 934 77 89

SMC Schweiz AG

SMC is the leading global expert in pneumatic and electric solutions in the field of industrial automation. For 64 years now, SMC has been a trend-setter in the automation sector. The key to SMC's success lies in intensive research and development, customer-oriented engineering, in-house production and an unrivalled global network.

Founded in April 1959 in Tokyo, Japan, SMC Corporation today has more than 21,600 employees in excess of 80 countries worldwide. Thanks to a comprehensive portfolio comprising more than 700,000 products, SMC can meet practically any automation requirement. The main portfolio includes pneumatic actuators, devices for compressed air preparation, control valves, electric actuators, fluid control equipment, temperature controllers, vacuum equipment, sensors and ionisers.

SMC Schweiz AG is a subsidiary of SMC Corporation and serves the Swiss market with its approximately 110 employees. With its headquarters in Weisslingen (ZH), a regional sales office in Yverdon (VD) and eight premium distributors, it covers the whole of Switzerland and provides services such as engineering, training, local production and storage.