On the front line with Stadler

Success Story

Humbel Products 8223 Rgb Schienenfahrzeuge

Cog railways are not known for being fast, but they can reliably scale any mountain. Humbel’s climb to the top as a supplier in the rail vehicle sector fittingly began with an order for a cog railway for Stadler.

When Humbel completed its first order in the rail vehicle sector in 2000, it could not have predicted that this delivery for a niche product – a cog railway – would become an important sales pillar for the Humbel Group. Over the ensuing years, Humbel established itself in the sector and now serves all the notable gearbox manufacturers. Production is almost exclusively carried out at Czech-based Novogear, home to Humbel’s rail vehicle specialists.

Reliable partners facing tough competition

The company established itself in a sector which in recent years has been shaped by severe consolidation pressure and is also facing major challenges. While high-speed trains have driven innovation over the past few years, urbanisation is expected to crank up demand in future. We need to adapt to this trend. What is more, market players are confronted with the challenges of digitisation, the trend towards self-driving vehicles and the demand for economical and low-emission vehicles. It is therefore all the more important for a gear manufacturer to have efficient partners on whom they can rely entirely in terms of expertise, reliability and quality when faced with increasingly fierce competition. Partners just like Humbel.

Engineering expertise and flexibility as the keys to success

Humbel had its finger on the pulse early on and adapted to the times. Previously, suppliers would produce parts based on drawings and then send them to the customer to fit at a later date. Nowadays, Humbel supplies parts in complete sets that are ready to install while keeping to deadlines and delivery schedules. This means that parts can be fitted just in time during assembly. It is also important to support clients with engineering services and the sharing of expertise – something Humbel customers have been counting on for a long time already. By considering production and costs as early on as the development phase and incorporating these findings into the wider process, Humbel has been able to establish itself as a highly valued development partner – and all this despite increasing requirements for flexibility and speed due to shorter development and production times for rail units.

Joint growth at Stadler and Humbel

Even though Humbel is an established partner of every manufacturer in the industry today, its success story in the rail vehicle sector is closely tied to the rise of Stadler. Founded in 1942, the Swiss company is now a global leader in the manufacture of rail vehicles and has more than 7,000 employees. In 1989, when the company was acquired by its owner Peter Spuhler, it had just 18. Stadler underwent a major development drive when Peter Spuhler decided to build his own adhesion gear and fit regional multiple units with his own gears. That’s when Humbel really began to gain momentum – with double-decker trains, regional services and, the final key milestone, the high-speed SMILE train, the Giruno, which will travel through the world’s longest rail tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, to Milan from late 2019.

"The fact that the overwhelming majority of Stadler trains built in the last 15 years run on Humbel parts isn’t just because the companies are close neighbours, a mere quarter of an hour apart. The two Swiss enterprises share the same genes and pursue similar goals. It was only these conditions that allowed Humbel to keep pace with Stadler’s development – and no mean feat either, possible only with the very greatest innovation and flexibility. Humbel and Stadler – two companies on a whirlwind adventure that will hopefully continue for many years to come."

- René Frischknecht, Head of the Procurement Division and member of the Executive Board of Stadler Bussnang AG