Félisaz SAS is sharpening its strategy!
This cam manufacturer also designs and manufactures innovative mountaineering ski bindings under the Plum brand.
HQed in Thyez, Félisaz SAS has specialized over 50 years in the manufacturing of cams for automatic lathes designed for the screw cutting companies of the Arve valley. In order to always be at the forefront, the company regularly invests in its production tools, spending between 10% and 20% of its turnover. “We were the first to purchase a CNC-controlled milling machine. We gained markets because our equipment was better than our competitors’” remembers Albert Félisaz. Albert and his brother Jean-Michel took over the family owned company in 1994. Soon after, they decided to diversify in precision mechanical manufacturing and started to design parts for GP motorcycles and swiss watch makers. Félisaz is one of the last two cam manufacturers in France - with Provincial which is its only competitor. “Today, that activity tends to disappear and is replaced by CNC machines.
100% made in Haute-Savoie!
In 2005, Albert Félisaz, who is a keen skier, designed his first binding toe piece so as to answer a local ski club request. He then improved it regularly: it was the beginning of a diversification of the company. 3 years later, the economic recession hit the company and its 16 employees real hard. In August 2009, the turn-over plummeted and lay-offs were announced. Near bankruptcy, it opted for a 360° turn and launched the production of mountaineering ski bindings. A design office was set up and 2 engineers were recruited. The 7075 aluminum bindings were designed to be tooled in 80mm bars on the very same machines the company used. Tooled out of a single piece of metal, they are then deburred, tribo-finished, anodized, laser marked and assembled. That very process which is the company’s DNA today!
At each step of the production process, manual controls guarantee zero defects whereas “major players in the industry produce large series that are manufactured in Taiwan and assembled in Europe” notes Albert Félisaz. In 2014, the Plum brand could be found on splitboards and so covered all mountaineering skiing segments. “We design and produce about 10 000 pairs a year in Thyez. Only certain steps of the production process are outsourced in the valley” as highlighted by the General Manager. The turn over in 2018 was 3.5 million euros; 20% of the production is exported. The brand is distributed in 27 countries, mainly in European Alpine countries. Cams only represent 25% of the global activity.
Currently, 3 young engineers and 1 design technician (the average age is below 30) work within the Design Office to design, improve and invent the bindings of tomorrow.
Why are Plum bindings better? They are ultra-light § Their weight is between 10% and 30% less than their competitors. The company is renowned for its expertise and works as a subcontractor for French ski and telemark manufacturers, while it employs 30 people – 26 in the ski dept. only.
In 2018, Félisaz filed 3 patents and it has announced 4 innovations in skis and bindings for this winter.
That should be enough to keep abreast of the competition and reinforce its position on the French market.
Improve the margin
In order to keep its clientele made up of snow professionals and aficionados, Albert Félisaz opened a sale and rental outlet in Thyez as well as an after-sale workshop for the 500 sports stores that sell the brand.
In the future, the company plans to make the production of cams sustainable, to develop its sub contracted activity in mechanics while the binding dept. grows by 15% and 20% every year and its products – bindings, skis, splitboards – are perceived as premium and professional. “Controlling all the production process is key” explains the GM; Félisaz has just bought for 1.3M€ worth of machines to double its production facility and opened a 3rd site in Thyez. The family owned enterprise also launched the Mont Blanc Excellence Industries third cycle to optimize its organization and set up concrete actions to improve its margin. “That label guarantees excellence and know-how; it corresponds to Plum strategy” says Albert Félisaz.
Patricia Rey, Journalist
Légende : Binding ©PLUM
Légende : Base plate ©GuillaumeDesmurs