IXS, positioned in high-growth markets and present in more than 50 countries, further expanded its market position in the two most important sectors, automotive and electronics, and grew its sales on a broad base, by 13% to CHF 137.3 million. Higher-than-average expenses for product portfolio renewal and for strengthening the presence in some countries led to an EBITDA margin of 6.1% (prior year: 9.4%).
X-Ray Systems recorded pronounced sales growth in its core market segments in 2017.
Booming business in solutions for the automotive market
The highest growth for IXS was achieved in large computed tomography (CT) systems in two core markets: the automotive industry, and the refocused “science & new materials” market segment (formerly “labs/R&D”). One of the key upside influences in the automotive business was the Asian tire market, which rallied after several weaker years and thus allowed IXS as the market leader to make further gains. Another driver was the foundries business (castings). Here the emphasis on electromobility – which entails less complex powertrains with fewer cast parts – in conjunction with greater competitive pressure led to higher customer investment in productivity improvement.
In the market segment of science & new materials, IXS successfully focused more squarely on the needs of R&D departments and on applications in additive manufacturing, in medicine and in metrology. Thus the first pure metrology systems were delivered to customers, after being launched in May at Control, the international trade show for quality assurance. To address the growing customer demand for high-precision measurement, IXS also began to equip other systems with metrology capability. The number of such systems sold partly for metrology use more than doubled from the year before.
IXS had attained a leading market position in the electronics segment in the prior year. In 2017, the trend in sales of inspection systems for this market was slightly less dynamic. The continuing strong position testifies to the good performance and high professionalism of the sales network. The widespread international sales and service presence and the innovative solutions from IXS played a significant part in the segment's success and are increasingly proving important selling points.
Vigorous business in Asia
While the Europe business remained steady, IXS registered a volume reduction in the USA as a result of the aerospace sector's low investment. By contrast, with a sales increase of almost 30%, IXS did very well in its traditionally strong Asia business. Besides enlarging its market position in China, IXS successfully expanded both in the Japanese and Southeast Asian market.
Aiming for future profitable growth as a solution provider for
IXS focused its strategy in 2017. With a strengthened management team, the segment engaged in a sweeping program to renew its product portfolio, reduce complexity and thus create important conditions for future profitable growth.
Specifically, partnerships were formed to accelerate the pace of the development and introduction of new solutions for smart factories. At the same time, IXS implemented measures to improve operational excellence in management, production and sales. The segment adjusted its organization in the US business and, with the demonstration center at Lab One, reinforced its presence on the West Coast and its proximity to the electronics market. In Beijing, IXS set up a demonstration center for large systems. With both these centers, the segment already garnered significantly greater interest from new prospective customers. The disproportionate rise in development expenditures and investment meant that, despite the sales growth, EBITDA operating earnings eased to CHF 8.3 million (prior year: CHF 11.5 million).