10 Years of the Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group, as recounted by Eduard Merz, Head of Construction for Western Switzerland, responsible for Western Switzerland; with the company since September 2013.
I have known Sersa for more than 30 years. Before I became part of the company in 2013, I had had regular contact with Sersa for many years, or with companies that today form part of the Sersa Group AG (Switzerland). Koni Schnyder has always communicated openly and transparently that he wants to ensure the long-term future of Sersa and that he would embark on his succession arrangements when he turned 55. We were all very curious about what direction that would take.
As a railway engineering company, Rhomberg was not a familiar name to me at the time - but I have to add that Vorarlberg is a long way from Western Switzerland. The Rhomberg family business was introduced to us and we noticed that an innovative spirit reigned there as well. After the merger, from 2014, we in Western Switzerland were also able to develop our project business. In the beginning, my team and I had great respect for the implementation of the projects. But the mood was increasingly shaped by the attitude: “Yes, we can do that and we will do it!”
First joint large project in Geneva
Then came a first joint large project in Geneva, the new CEVA line from Geneva to Annemasse in France. The track was to be laid as a slab track. We were not familiar with the technology; we had never built a slab track before. Rhomberg, however, was able to provide various references in the construction of slab tracks, and it was therefore quickly decided that Rhomberg Bahntechnik would be involved in the implementation and that its expertise would flow into the project. That, of course, also strengthened our self-confidence. I got to know Christian Schreiber during the awarding process and in the course of the construction phase we saw that these were specialists who were coming on board.
Surge of innovation x 2
Due to digitisation, our work has changed a lot over the past ten years. The Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group is well advanced in this area. We occupy a privileged position in Western Switzerland. No other rail construction company has invested in digitisation to the extent that RSRG has. We can benefit from this in the region and we have a clear advantage. We use new technologies from Building Information Modelling (BIM) in our projects. That's the best place to feel the surge of innovation that is happening. If I had to focus on just one small detail: In the past, the photos needed for documenting the construction site were taken with a camera, which was of course time-consuming. And, of course, the photo that you really needed was always missing. After receiving training from colleagues in Zurich, we now fly over the construction site with a drone and make comprehensive recordings. With these recordings, we can measure the objects captured in the images or check distances in the office. We currently have tools at our disposal that one didn’t even dare dream of years ago. The Sersa company with Koni Schnyder has also always been very innovative. It seems to me that the coming together of the Schnyder and Rhomberg families has boosted this will to innovate even further. With several people around the table, the question comes up more quickly: “What else should we be able to do?”
We are appreciative and affable
In my opinion, the mutual appreciation that you get and express adds liveliness and strength to the group. We are around 50 French-speaking employees in RSRG, we are responsible for our own budget and can carry out the day-to-day operations independently. Our management style and business dealings have changed; the Rhomberg spirit has spread to Switzerland as well: Less shirt and tie, more rolling up of the sleeves, sitting together, collaborating.
Different activities on the construction site in 2032
Looking at the year 2032, I still see lots of employees on the construction site, despite continuous automation. Their duties are different from the ones they have today. The spirit of innovation, and the will to innovate, continues to flow. This is ensured by the owners and clever people as well as by the support of the entire team to create the necessary acceptance. For 2032, however, I also envisage that I will already be enjoying my retirement (laughs).
A large, functional family
Trudy Schnyder, spouse of Konrad Schnyder and co-creator: “Today the Rhomberg Sersa Group is one large family that works.”
Successful because we have mastered complexity
Walter-Heinz Rhomberg, owner, Deputy Chairman of the Group Advisory Board: “The foundation for everything that is to succeed is mutual trust.”