Metrohm: Who We Are
Metrohm manufactures high-precision instruments for chemical analysis. We provide analytical solutions for academia as well as for a wide range of industries, e.g., food and beverage, pharma, and environmental analyses. Our portfolio includes titration, ion chromatography, voltammetry and electrochemical analysis techniques, as well as NIR and Raman spectroscopy—for both lab and process analysis.
Metrohm has grown from a small start-up with only a good dozen employees to a global organization. But it’s not your run-off-the-mill corporation. The company belongs to the charitable Metrohm Foundation, which founder Bertold Suhner initiated before retiring. He did this to secure that his values, which were extraordinary in the business world, would live on at Metrohm even after his resigning. Key among them were independence, social responsibility, as well as financial and ecological sustainability. These have shaped Metrohm’s unusual history.
Metrohm was founded in 1943 in the Swiss village of Herisau. The two founders, Bertold Suhner and his friend Willi Studer, had one plan: to develop and build electrical measuring instruments. The circumstances were against the two young entrepreneurs: With World War II raging all around Switzerland, material was hard to get by. In 1947 bankruptcy was looming over the company and the two founders disagreed on how Metrohm could be saved. Studer decided to quit and start his own company, the audio equipment manufacturer Studer-Revox. But Suhner didn’t give up. Together with a handful of people, he decided to carry on with Metrohm—against all odds.
He was firmly determined not to ask for money from banks. Suhner believed that Metrohm had to recover from within. Of course he was hoping for Metrohm to break through, but he was also fully prepared for his company to go bust. In 1968, on the occasion of Metrohm’s 25th anniversary, Suhner explained his stoic approach: «I confessed to business principles that perhaps seem conservative but that in my opinion made a decisive contribution to the latter success of Metrohm … A company must develop from within, that is with the help of capital it has acquired, even if this means that the speed of its development is slowed down somewhat. It is like a plant whose growth is forced with the help of artificial fertilizers. It has less resistance than the plant which has developed by its own natural strength on its own native soil.»
It is this principle of independence and sustainability that since then has become one of the pillars of the continuity and success of Metrohm—even during times of economic crisis.
Another principle that may have accounted less obviously for the success of Metrohm is its distinct culture of solidarity. Suhner was like a father to his employees and it is from these early, very tough years that a strong sense of community and responsibility for each other originated. It went so far that in 1975, when there were arguments between older and younger staff over their shares in the Metrohm pension fund, Suhner decided to invest his entire private assets in a fund to benefit future pensioners who would have been disproportionately disadvantaged due to the critical financial situation of Metrohm in its early years.
In its first years and even after that, the whole company was brimming with an enthusiasm that is hard to conceive for most people today. Countless hours were spent by staff after work to make the impossible possible. This went so far that management at one time had to limit the access of colleagues to the company’s workshops and laboratories after work, where they would continue experimenting and working on better solutions for existing challenges.
Breakthrough finally came for Metrohm in the early 1950s. By then, the company had focused on making instruments for chemical analysis. Year after year, Metrohm became stronger in the niche it had found, launching new instruments for pH measurement, titration, and polarography. At the time, Metrohm catered to a broad range of customers in Switzerland, Europe, and also increasingly overseas.
Metrohm always adopted the latest manufacturing technology, notably in electronics. Of course, using not yet established technologies always bears a risk. But it has always been Metrohm’s strategy to offer its customers state-of-the-art, innovative products, which means that this risk had to be taken. Investing in thick film hybrid technology for the manufacturing of printed circuit boards as early as in the late 1970s was such a step. Thanks to this, Metrohm was the first company in 1979 to launch an analyzer integrating the titrator and the buret in a design so compact that it took up a fraction of the bench space earlier titrators needed. With the launch and the success of the Titrando together with the tiamo software in 2007, Metrohm had eventually established itself as the world’s leading manufacturer of instruments for titration and ion analysis in general.
In 1987, Metrohm surprised the market and competition with a bold move and a revolutionary product: Metrohm’s first ion chromatograph. To circumvent the protected chemical suppression technology, it made use of electrical suppression to achieve precise and accurate results. With this product, Metrohm challenged the market leaders in ion chromatography—so successfully that Metrohm is the global number two today.
In 1982, Bertold Suhner retired from Metrohm. Together with vice presidents and co-owners of the company, Hans Winzeler and Lorenz Kuhn, he initiated the Metrohm Foundation and endowed it with 100% of the Metrohm shares. This move meant that Metrohm would never be sold to investors or bought and carved up by competitors. The Metrohm Foundation has made sure ever since that Metrohm can go about its business steadily and in line with the principles of its founder. At the same time, the Metrohm Foundation has become one of the major sponsors of charitable, cultural, and educational projects in the canton of Appenzell Outer Rhodes and beyond.
«Never become a subcontractor» and «Keep the complete value chain in your own hands» are two key principles that Metrohm follows to ensure the high quality of its products and services. But they’re not easy to stick to when you try to conquer the world market. For Metrohm this meant establishing one subsidiary after another, country by country, starting from scratch more often than not. In fact, this process stretched over decades, beginning in the 1970s and continuing ever since. Slowly, always staying true to its principles, Metrohm grew to become a global group with 42 subsidiaries managed from the Headquarters in Switzerland and another 40+ carefully selected exclusive distributors, together serving customers in 125 countries.
After 75 years, the Metrohm family is no longer just a handful of tech freaks from the Appenzell region. Our family has grown—in size and in diversity. Keeping our founder’s ideas alive while setting a modern course in our globalized world is a challenge—but Metrohm is up to it.