Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction

The needs of our customers determine our actions. As a market leader in high-frequency power and x-ray technology we serve a wide range of customers, from global market leaders to SMEs. Regardless of our customers’ size and business sector, we follow four basic principles in serving each one: Ask what problem really needs to be solved and why; inspire through our expertise; provide or co-create solutions with a clear benefit; and deliver what we promise, while saying early on when we cannot meet a need.

In order for us to deliver on these principles successfully, proximity and customer loyalty are crucial. Besides best-in-class products, a strong R&D organization, local presence with skilled sales and service teams in our key markets in Europe, North America and increasingly in Asia, another pillar supporting sustainable business relationships with our customers is our effective and efficient after-sales support.

SEMICON West 2021

We take every opportunity to stay in close contact with our customer base, in order to share ideas with customers and to understand and anticipate technological developments. This exchange takes place at various levels: in direct interactions between the account manager and the customer, in joint teams that solve specific problems, at trade fairs where we can present innovations from our portfolio, or at trade conferences such as SEMICON West. During SEMICON West 2021, we met once again with key customers of our PCT division, while also gaining detailed insights into the latest trends and growth opportunities.

The three divisions – PCT, IXM and IXS – are also responsible for measuring customer satisfaction. The approach to customer satisfaction surveys is not standardized at the Group level, as the customer structure differs between the divisions. The surveys are intended to help evaluate customer satisfaction by category (e.g., region), to identify possible negative influences on customer satisfaction (such as response time), and to draw conclusions about the expected influence on customer loyalty (e.g., through correlation analysis). In addition to quantitative methods such as tracking of account complaints, issue management, delivery performance, or re-order behavior and portfolio trends, qualitative methods are also used – for instance, customer interviews as part of key account management, and detailed customer surveys with selected major customers.

Product & Technology Leadership

Serving some of the most innovative customers, we manufacture products at the frontier of what is technologically feasible. With our forward-looking technologies, we strive to be the partner of choice to the most innovation-driven companies in our markets. And we work hard to defend and expand our technology and product leadership in order to remain among the leaders in our markets in the long term.

Product leadership is not defined by technology alone. Rather, achieving it is the result of implementing key strategic decisions such as gaining market leadership for selected products or a focus on standardized products (modular standardization). These strategic issues are regularly aligned with the Technology Committee of the Board of Directors.

To remain the product and technology leader in our markets, we invest between 11% and 13% of our sales in research and development each year. To ensure that these funds are used effectively and efficiently, we employ 242 people in R&D – or about 18% of our total workforce – with proven R&D specialists working at all organizational levels and in all functions.

We measure our targets in terms of market share, on which we collect and analyze data regularly based on internal and external sources. We use other key performance indicators to measure how successfully we sell newly launched products. With the exception of external market share data, these KPIs are presented to and discussed with the Executive Committee at quarterly business review meetings.

Out of the collaboration of the X-Ray Systems team in Hamburg and the recently acquired software developer Object Research Systems (ORS) in Montreal has come a potentially game-changing new offering: VoidInspect, the first x-ray inspection workflow for the semiconductor and electronics market, was developed in 2021 and successfully completed its first customer deployment.

Product Impact

Our products can impact society and the environment in many ways. For society, our technologies play an essential role in the manufacturing of semiconductor chips and sensors that are the central building blocks of the digital world. And environmentally, the impact begins with the sourcing of raw materials and continues through the product use stage to the end of the product’s life cycle.

For Comet, assessing environmental impact is becoming more and more important. This is partly because customers are increasingly looking for products that have as little impact on the environment as possible, and partly because, going forward, we will give even greater weight to this aspect in the selection of our suppliers in order to improve our own environmental footprint.

As of 2021, we did not prepare systematic life cycle assessments for our products. However, in our product development process, we take great care to develop durable products that can adapt to new requirements and thus need to be replaced less often. In the x-ray business, our products provide customers with solutions for non-destructive material testing and analysis. In the course of digitalization, this opens up numerous opportunities for us and our customers to optimize products and production processes and thus save resources.

How non-destructive testing enables the development and reliability of electromobility

The market penetration of electric vehicles is increasing rapidly worldwide. As an example, the share of electric cars in the total vehicle fleet in Western Europe is expected to rise from around 1% in 2020 to about 20% in 2030. As the market expands, so do expectations for performance and reliability, in particular for batteries. The inspection of components using x-ray methods is of great importance in the production process. It allows failure detection much earlier in development and production cycles, reducing downstream cost implications.

The x-ray systems from the IXS division and the x-ray modules from IXM are used for inspection in a wide variety of areas, such as cast parts, tires, battery packs, and the whole range of electronic components, including sensors.

  • Large battery packs needed for the latest technology of EVs are examined with Comet x-ray systems to assure their reliability and long life. This dependability heightens the attractiveness of electric vehicles as a replacement for vehicles with combustion engines, which is accompanied by a reduction in CO2 emissions. Another important application is the quality inspection of electronic components (e.g., sensors). Such components enable the safe operation of features and functionalities in the latest EV technology. All this minimizes additional development cycles, expensive recalls, and the opportunity cost of lost resources in ruined batteries and electronic components from destructive battery testing.
  • Design and process optimizations are pursued with the help of x-ray systems in R&D applications to achieve optimum designs and process parameters and, as a consequence, maximum energy efficiency and performance in electric-motor components such as rotors and stators. For example, computed tomography allows the detection of porosities within conducting parts that impact their electrical behavior. Their design and manufacturing process can thus be optimized for peak performance. Once in production, the process is continuously monitored and improved based on the same data derived from CT inspection of the parts.
  • Light alloy cast parts are also inspected early in the production process to find critical casting defects such as blowholes and porosities before the polishing and painting processes. This means less energy consumption because the later process steps can be omitted – also resulting in less use of chemicals in the recycling of defective parts, as well as a better raw material yield thanks to 100% re-use in the production process.

Product Quality & Compliance

The quality of our products and their conformity with all product-related regulations and directives are a fundamental element of our corporate culture and the basis for our business success. Our quality principles are an important argument for our customers. We are committed to providing our customers with high-quality products and services. Our products are competitive, defect-free, safe and environmentally compatible in their application and thus make a decisive contribution to the success of our customers. Therefore, we strive to avoid any risk that could compromise quality. In addition, we are committed to continuous improvement that starts with the planning of new products, activities and processes. Our management sets division- and site-specific quality objectives, provides the appropriate resources and structures and regularly reviews achievement. Internal audits, customer and certification audits, benchmarks and best practice applications help to continuously develop the quality management system.

The process responsibilities are mapped in the management system of the Comet Group. Essentially, product quality and conformity are defined by the divisions, with responsibility assumed by the division country general manager and the accountability lying with the respective country general managers.

Operational Excellence

The Comet Group wants to become more efficient, more flexible, and faster. Our goal is to grow into a highly profitable company with CHF 1 billion in sales and clear market leadership in each of the markets we serve. A key lever in achieving this is the pooling of resources and strengthening of the organization. To this end, Comet launched an improvement program in 2019 involving all employees. Focused on global collaboration, we will continue to improve business and operational excellence.

Operational Excellence is a process set out in the management system, which provides the framework for making Comet a sustainable, high-performing organization. The Group function Quality & Excellence is responsible for the management system, including the process framework and architecture. Within this framework, the following tasks, among others, fall into this area of responsibility:

Target achievement is monitored on the basis of defined KPIs such as the number of successfully implemented improvement projects, automated availability of the selected KPIs, and the certification of all Comet sites to ISO 9001.

The Quality & Excellence Board acts as a committee for the person in charge of the Quality & Excellence group function. The Q&E Board supports the VP Global Operational Excellence in implementing projects and initiatives in the divisions and corporate functions.

Scrap reduction program in the PCT division

Together with the PCT department, the Global Operations Excellence function is working on a project to reduce non-conformance costs by increasing yields in the production of vacuum capacitors. The project has an immediate positive impact on profitability and customer satisfaction.

In 2021, non-conformance costs were brought down incrementally, and measures driving expected further reductions are to continue throughout 2022.

Line-detector array optimization at X-Ray Systems

In the X-ray Systems division (IXS), a growing market for large-scale computed tomography systems, such as the FF85 and the new UX50, requires more line-detector arrays (LDA).

The IXS team has prioritized LDA optimization as an operational excellence initiative in 2022. Results are expected to improve quality, meet customer needs and enhance business resilience.