With Aebi Schmidt (ASH) to pass clearance at St. Gotthard

Andermatt/Switzerland. At the end of April 2010, about 500 customers, partners and employees of ASH Aebi Schmidt were present in Andermatt/Canton Uri, when the company presented its current products in the field of municipal and special machines within the scope of a large pass clearing customer event at Gotthard. The company organised this event itself for the first time in nearly 20 years. “The Gotthard is one of the most important passes in the Alps, a hub in Europe”, the CCO of Aebi Schmidt, Walter Schmitz, said to welcome the guests. Which location would be more suitable for demonstrating the strengths of the company in the fields of road de-icing, mowing and snow clearing?

The team around the Aebi Schmidt marketing manager, Carmen Heising, put pleasure before the business of working in the cold: after the check-in in the hotels of Andermatt already very calm at this time of the year (even Goethe relished the food here!), the guest were taken up by the cable car to the nearly 3000 m high Gemsstock for an aperitif and to the enjoyable view over the snow-covered tops of the Swiss Alps. At the intermediate station of the cable car located 800 m below, the guests had been welcomed by three traditional alpenhorn players before they were invited to a typical Swiss dinner: they had a lot of conversation about markets, products and the mountains, much of it in English, as the guests from a wide range of different European countries from Latvia to Italy had a lot to share with each other. By the way, the alpenhorn players revealed that the horns can be taken to three pieces, which also explained how these huge instruments made of spruce wood can be transported! In previous centuries, the horns were used to exchange messages. Each canton had its own melodies; nowadays the traditional melodies are usually elaborated to three-part compositions.

In the following three days on the way up to and on the Gotthard pass itself, it was about methods, machines and devices in the winter service. Halfway the busses with the guests stopped at “Mätteli”, where clearing, spreading and mowing machines of Aebi, Schmidt and Mulag could be seen. Arjan Ruiterkamp and Andreas Fritzsche of Schmidt among other showed machines of the Stratos, Soliq and Straliq series, which, as “multi-purpose spreaders”, can be used with a great variety of de-icing agents from salt mixture up to dust-binding liquid spray. “The trend is towards less salt consumption and more “public private partnership”; the contract partners demand more flexible vehicles and attachments than the municipalities used to: we have successfully met this demand”, Ruiterkamp said. As evidence, he presented for example the new Soliq machines, which are capable of spreading solid and liquid gritting material from chippings to salt solution and are available with a wide range of customised attachments. “Meanwhile such “roll on – roll of” systems have become very popular among our customers”, confirmed Walter Schmitz at the end of the presentation.

At the top of the Gotthard pass at a height of about 2200 m, still about 2.5 m of snow was lying on the mountain pass at this time. Aebi sales expert Andreas Tschanz: “The pass is cleared every winter; at Whitsun at the latest it is usually passable, although there is usually more snow in April than this year.” Nevertheless, Tschanz could make a quick summary after his presentation of Aebi products, such as the all-wheel model Viatrac VT450 with 98 HP and best off-road properties: “Everything worked out well; we were able to demonstrate our machines under optimum service conditions”. The snow clearing experts of Schmidt, Emil Wasmer, Matthias Baumann, Charles Boné and Stephan Kaiser made the same experience during their presentations on the Gotthard pass. For example, Emil Wasmer was able to clearly demonstrate the international audience how flexible Schmidt machines can be used either on the Unimog or also on tractors, depending on the snow situation and the available vehicle pool. “With this degree of flexibility, also in details such as the rotatable snow blower for example in the FS snow cutters, we offer solutions for a great variety of demands in snow!” The presentation of the products and the moderation for the Swiss customers were taken over by Matthias Baumann (Sales Manager Switzerland); the customers from Germany and Austria were guided through the demonstration by Charles Boné (Sales Manager Germany) and Stephan Kaiser (Regional Sales Manager Germany).

Walter Schmitz saw himself confirmed by the product shows in the snow:  “This is an entirely different event than a trade fair presence or a road show, during which we are only able to perform dry runs.” At the end of the week, Schmitz expected 3 to 5 direct sales as a result of the presentation and a brisk increase in demand in Aebi and Schmidt vehicles and machines following the customer event at Gotthard. “Above all the presentation of our SUPRAS was really impressing!” The two presented SUPRAS, each with a clearing capacity of about 4000 tons of snow per hour, were well-received by the audience. Serban Hasnas, authorised dealer of Schmidt from Romania, was impressed: „We have been the cooperation partner of Schmidt since 1991; the devices have an excellent reputation and it is nice to see them here in heavy operation”, Hasnas said. “We made a lot of film material so that we can show it to our customers at home in Romania. It was an excellent presentation!”

One main focus of the presentation was on the technical solutions, resulting from the many years of cooperation of Schmidt and Unimog. Snow cutters closely attached to the Unimog, such as the SF3 with a capacity of up to 1200 tons of snow per hour, capable of cutting through snow walls and simultaneously spreading up to 2.5 m3 of gritting material fulfil any requirements in everyday operations. Dieter Sellnau, General Manager Sales & Marketing of Special Truck Division at Daimler Chrysler: “Schmidt and Unimog have been cooperating for six decades; in this respect, it is nice to take new paths of marketing as well.” The presentation at Gotthard had been impressing and he had received much positive feedback in dialogues with customers, summarised Sellnau after two days in the Alps. From the Mulag mower up to the Schmidt snow cutter, Unimog had been the ideal partner for special municipal vehicles for several decades.

Finally, the special lecture of Rainer Hess from the Durth Roos Consulting in Bonn on the topic “Salt or brine - new insights for de-icing” received a good response as well. Mobility and supply require efficient infrastructures, is his creed. Therefore, iced-over roads were a challenge for traffic safety and service security. It had been known for several decades that brine provided the most sustainable thawing results and had ecological advantages over dry substances; dry thawing salt in turn exhibited greater thawing capacity. Flexible spreaders, such as the Schmidt Straliq and Soliq series, offer solutions for the optimisation of everyday operations in this respect and allow for a salt saving of up to 50 percent per operation!

As a result, it had become evident after less than four days that this customer event of ASH was a great success: “In our sector, where everyone knows everyone, price is not the only decisive factor for purchasing a product”, Walter Schmitz said. “It is also about longstanding customer relations and of course the proof of our efficiency.” The event had fulfilled this ambition to full extent and it had certainly had a good influence on ASH’s near future, since it had also been an impressive testimonial for the merger of two companies under a new roof!


By Ralf Deckert