Michael Süss

Prof. Dr Michael Süss has been chairman of the board of directors of Oerlikon since 2015 and executive chairman as well as chairman of the executive commitee since 2022. After studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Munich, he completed his doctorate at the University of Kassel and was awarded the title of Honorary Professor at the Technical University of Munich in 2015. After holding various positions at BMW, IDRA Presse S.p.A and Porsche AG, he was appointed to the managing board of Mössner AG in 1999. Following its takeover by Georg Fischer, he became chairman of the managing board of GF Mössner GmbH. From 2001 to 2006, he was COO at MTU Aero Engines AG and played a key role in its initial public offering. From 2007 to 2011 he worked at Siemens, most recently as CEO of the Energy Sector and member of the executive board of Siemens AG, and afterwards he was CEO of the German Georgsmarienhütte Holding.

«With our products we contribute to better sustainability worldwide»

What are the main topics that currently concern you in your activities as supervisory board member?
Currently, this is mainly geopolitics. It is about the questions of supply chains, sales markets, political reliability, and regionally different interests since we produce and deliver globally.

How have the demands on the work of the supervisory board changed in view of the increasingly rapid economic changes worldwide and the increasing cadence of extreme events?
We have a wide range of products, customers, and markets at Oerlikon. The supervisory board must think in a much more complex and consciously entrepreneurial or almost political way when it comes to developing the mid- and long-term strategy of the company, but also the positioning of the company.

With this in mind, which expertise is becoming increasingly important on the supervisory board?
On the supervisory board we try to represent the country specifics and the different industries in which Oerlikon operates. Our 8 members of the supervisory board collectively have the necessary breadth of business understanding, are close to the business in the regions and understand the needs of the markets both technologically and commercially. In the last 6 to 8 years, the holistic view has become more important in order to be able to assess topics in the mid- and long-term growth perspective. The focus lies on the resilience of supply chains, the consequences of global suspension of markets and a new type of local value creation that increasingly challenges the export model.

The ecological footprint of Swiss companies is large. How important is sustainability at OC Oerlikon, and how did ecological considerations change the focus of the supervisory boards’ agenda?
At Oerlikon, we want to be CO2 neutral in terms of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2030. What is more interesting is how we can contribute to better sustainability worldwide with our products. With our coatings in aircraft engines, the aviation industry saves 25 million tonnes of CO2 every year. With our applications, we have the very big leverage. We have to offer modern products that our customers worldwide can afford and see the added value of.

56% of the new executive board members and 44% of the new supervisory board members do not hold Swiss citizenship – both absolute records in the last 18 years. Where do you see the reason for this?
The world has become much more geopolitical and multipolar, and this is reflected in the management bodies. As a global company, one depends on the global talent pool. It needs the know-how from the local markets at the top. Additionally, Switzerland is an attractive destination for foreign managers due to the high level of stability and social security that we need to perform at our maximum.

Due to demographic developments, soon more managers and skilled professionals will retire than succeed them. How do you deal with the increasing shortage of skilled professionals at OC Oerlikon? What strategic measures have you introduced to counter this?
We do a lot of training ourselves and work with university partnerships. In doing so, we orientate ourselves very strongly along the regionally specific conditions. We recruit globally and experience a very good demand due to the attractiveness of our technologies.

In a few years, the majority of employees will belong to Generation Z. How does your company attract this target group and what do you expect from this target group for the further development of your company?
This generation values sustainability and we are working intensively to make our products more sustainable. There are opportunities for flexible working with us. We also maintain a digital hub in Munich so that we can keep up with the latest developments and be attractive for Gen Z. For this generation, purpose is crucial, so we show real opportunities to shape the company.

From your perspective, how has the corporate culture changed since 2019, and what impact has this had on your collaboration as chairman with the CEO?
Since 2019, we have placed a strong focus on mutual respect, curiosity, collaboration, and goal orientation. Through company-wide town halls held three times a year, we ensure exchange between our employees and company management. It is a journey on which we feel comfortable and aim to continue moving forward.