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Setting benchmarks as a pioneer of multi-opening technology

In October last year, Hans-Joachim Bender was awarded a German Enterprise Medal (“Wirtschaftsmedaille”) in recognition of his corporate merits and achievements as the managing partner of Robert Bürkle GmbH. The Black Forest plant manufacturer is bucking the recent economic trend by introducing new products and innovations and has aggressively opened up the photovoltaic market as a new business sector.

PES: Welcome back to PES, for the benefit of our readers who might not be familiar with your company, can you explain how you serve the solar industry?
Hans-Joachim Bender: It is good to be back again. The success story began in 2005. That was then year we built the first coating lines for the photovoltaic industry, and two years later we presented the first multi-opening laminator Ypsator for solar modules on the occasion of the EUPVSEC in Valencia.

Since then, we have delivered more than 20 lines. However, we were not content with that and have been extending our product portfolio successively since then. For example, with the single-opening laminator e.a.sy-Lam, back ends for thin film modules, handling lines and foil cutting lines.

PES: We hear that 2010 is set to be a watershed year for the growth of the company; can you outline your plans?
HJB: The economic crisis has not left Bürkle untouched. In 2009 we had to accept losses in turnover of more than a third. However, we have left this year behind and look to the future from a position of strength. We have used the time to work over machine concepts (e.g. to reduce the quantity of the incoming materials and the staff requirement). And this year we are planning an increase of approximately 30 percent and a broad focus on the PV sector.

PES: How much of your overall business is dedicated to the PV sector and is this sector growing?
HJB: The turnover which we achieved with lines for the PV industry in 2008 was approximately 40 per cent at first go. In 2009 it decreased by a third. However, we are planning to grow by this value again. 2009 had been a weak year for the PV industry in general, but we hope that we will benefit from the growth of the PV market in 2010 again. 

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