Thierry Wolter (Ceratizit): Towards a sustainable Luxembourg industry
In 2021, the Austrian Plansee Group became majority stakeholder in Ceratizit. The Wolter family remains a shareholder in this company, which has more than 8,000 employees and is still based in Luxembourg more than 90 years after the creation of Cerametal. Interview.
Can you present Ceratizit in a few words?
In Luxembourg, the adventure began in 1931, when Cerametal began manufacturing filaments for light bulbs. In 1948, the company specialised in tungsten carbide, which remains its core business today. We produce highly specialised cutting tools, indexable inserts, rods made from hard materials, and wear parts that are used in the automotive, energy and aerospace industries, for example. In 1975, we established our research centre in Mamer, which enabled us to strengthen our leadership and to start international expansion, starting in England and the USA. Today we employ more than 8,000 people in over 30 locations, including a large joint venture in China. 1,300 people work in the Grand Duchy and we have accumulated over 1,200 patents. This year we have just exceeded 1.5 billion euros in turnover.
"Local industry is the solution to sustainable development."
How can Luxembourg remain relevant for industry?
I think the country has four main levers. First, people. It is becoming so difficult to find qualified employees everywhere in Europe that this is becoming a limiting factor for growth. Here, we have multilingual and qualified people: engineers, marketing, finance, research experts. This explains our advertising campaign at the airport: we want to attract a wide range of talent.
Secondly, energy: we have decided to use green energy in all our factories starting this year. Luxembourg had some of the lowest energy prices in Europe. As users of high-temperature furnaces, we hope that this will continue despite the crisis in Ukraine and that the country will follow the example of the Americans, who subsidise green energy instead of overtaxing and overregulating other types of energy. The third important point is research. Our entire product range is renewed every 10 years or so. The state must continue to support basic research but also the development of simulation systems, the use of artificial intelligence, and the extraction of value from data. These topics are the reason why we are hiring data scientists. Finally, I think that politicians should defend local industry by showing that it is the solution to sustainable development. For a country like Luxembourg, local industry is much better than being dependent on other countries. It creates jobs and taxes and promotes domestic consumption on many levels.
How do you improve your carbon footprint?
Our footprint is divided equally between the three scopes: scope one, direct emissions from production; scope two, energy purchases; and scope three, linked to raw materials and transport. For example, we have already increased our recycling rate to more than 80%, which avoids sourcing from mines located at the end of the world. We will use only green energy from 2023 and are funding various projects to offset our emissions. We aim to be carbon neutral by 2025 and have set ourselves the goal of becoming the most sustainable carbide producer in the world. In this context we have recently launched the world's first "green" tungsten carbide.