Author: Véronique Tièche
Published: July 17, 2012
CES Creative Electronic Systems

Electronic Circuit Boards for Industry Giants

CES Creative Electronic Systems is one of the leading global suppliers to the aeronautical industry. The company's complex, high-performance circuit boards are stamped "Swiss made," making CES one of the few European players in the niche market of electronic technologies for civil and military aviation.

The roots of CES SA are based in physics, to be more specific, in the Geneva region at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. There, in 1981, three physics researchers developed electronic circuit boards for data transmission for their experiments. Over the years, CES won clients outside of CERN in the field of telecommunications, before it was acquired 20 years later by a US company named MRV, primarily involved in optical communications. The early 2000's marked the start of a new diversification strategy for CES. The company – now a subsidiary – focused on the military and civilian aeronautics markets, building on its expertise in circuit boards and the technologies it already mastered. Extensive PR work and a significant investment in time were necessary to pass the EN9100 quality audits for aerospace companies and to land the first contracts.

The New Strategy Proved Successful

With the success of this new strategy, CES gradually moved away from the core activities of its parent company, which agreed to sell the subsidiary in 2011. The sale of CES's capital was completed in 2012 to three Swiss financial investors: Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital Ltd., Vinci Capital Switzerland SA, and Capital Transmission SA. Today, CES SA offers two major product lines. First, its standard circuit boards are exceptionally high-performing components. The company handles the design, manufacture and assembly of processor, interface, network, and graphics boards. Second, these boards can also be assembled to create complete systems. CES offers different types of systems, including flight computers, which must pass the highest level of security and reliability for flight data controls, and mission computers, which are connected to sensors handling a specific role, such as collecting photos or video. These various technologies are installed on board of both civil and military aircrafts. As for the signal-processing subsystems produced by CES, they are primarily used to equip airports or borders with surveillance radar.

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A Host of Engineers 

In order to recruit the qualified employees essential to its development, the company maintains close relationships with universities and specialty schools of higher education throughout the region. Three-quarters of the close to one hundred employees have a higher technical engineering education background, including many with doctorates. In addition, the company takes five to six interns on board each year for extensive engineering and technical training. However, maintaining the research and development team in Switzerland has a considerable cost. Yet, the proximity of the schools, the Swiss quality image, the historic links with CERN, and Switzerland's political neutrality and stability all speak in favor of the company's headquarters in the Geneva region. With employees of close to 20 different nationalities, the company offers an extremely multicultural environment. CES-technology is what drives employees to expand the company's market share in the face of US competitors that are often ten times the size of the company from Lancy.

Economic Challenges and Political Risks

CES exports 100 percent of its products, and was recently negatively impacted by the difficult economic conditions that led to a decline in its clients' activities. The company is in contact with Armasuisse, the authority mandated by the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports with the procurement and replacement of the F-5 Tiger. However, the political situation in Switzerland represents an additional element of uncertainty for such large projects, restricting this unique opportunity for Swiss industry. For all that, the global market is huge and CES has the potential for market share growth. Strong growth is expected in certain aeronautics sectors, like ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance). Beyond these challenges, CES is still confident in its know-how and its 100 percent Swiss solutions, thus ensuring that its name will always be associated with reputable clients and projects. 

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