EBT continued in 2017 to develop its business and was able to increase sales by 75% to CHF 29.5 million (prior year: CHF 16.9 million). The segment, as planned, stepped up investment in the development of promising new applications. However, as the expected earnings contribution from the systems business did not materialize, the EBITDA deficit rose to CHF 16.2 million (prior year: deficit of CHF 9.1 million).
The sales growth of the ebeam Technologies segment was attributable both to the modules business (ebeam “engines”) and especially to a high backlog of orders from the prior year in the systems business that were now filled. There was also a strong rise in sales of EB-Labs – attesting to the market's growing interest in the ebeam technology. In the systems business, competition grew more intense. High investments in the professionalization of processes and in the product portfolio also weighed on the year's result in this area. By a combination of cost reduction measures, a consistent refocusing of the product portfolio on standardized systems, and concentration on the food and digital printing sectors, EBT did key groundwork for improving the profitability of the systems business.
Success with ebeam engines and EB-Labs
Compelling progress was made in the EB-Labs business. Building on several years of groundwork in Asia and Europe, the sales teams were able to arouse customers’ interest in using ebeam as a tool for product development, and sales thus increased. Sales of ebeam engines also rose strongly. The rollout with Tetra Pak in the area of beverage packaging sterilization developed in line with expectations. However, Tetra Pak will adjust the further rollout to fit its updated strategy and intends to integrate ebeam directly in the new product generation, based on a new technology platform. This will lead to a delay in sales revenue for EBT from 2018 on, and requires the development of an adapted ebeam solution. EBT began to attract positive attention by its regional expansion and the creation and enlarging of teams in China and Japan.
Investments in infrastructure and in development projects
EBT systematically continued its strategy of developing the business through new applications. In 2017 the segment invested in its demonstration centers in the USA (San José), Japan, China and Switzerland, which make it easy for customers to familiarize themselves with the ebeam technology. Further investments were made in the joint development projects with Bühler, Uteco, Bell Food Group, and Tetra Pak. Together with these respective partners, the segment invested in the development of commercial equipment and in creating demonstrators to show the industrial scalability of the applications.