Established in 1982 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Dynafer SA started out as a specialist in machines for suppliers to the watch industry. “We supplied machines for stone-setting or to measure clearance, for example,” recalls Denis Villard, founder of the firm which now employs 24 staff. “We expanded successfully until 2003, at which point we realised that to continue growing in this field, future developments would have to lead to orders for small series production, which wasn’t happening. So instead, we started diversifying from specialised machines to tools, mainly for the medical sector, consumer goods or machine-tools for production subsets.” The result is that Dynafer today has expertise in a dozen fields ranging from machining to assembly and measuring.
Strings to a bow
The company now runs its own R&D department. It can respond to a precise requirement or work from the ground up to conceive, develop and build a prototype and elaborate a new product, tool, even a machine or a complete workbench for a watchmaker. In this respect, Dynafer operates in exactly the same way as a watch manufacture which has the capacity to produce the entire watch head, including external parts, in-house. Indeed, Dynafer now makes half its revenues in the watchmaking sector.
“Diversification has meant a steady flow of orders, thanks to which we maintained output and staff numbers throughout the latest crisis to hit the industry,” Denis Villard declares. “We didn’t need to introduce flexitime, for example. Having said that, no-one is denying that this downturn had an impact on everyone in contracting at some point or other. So even though the watch segment is back on track and still a priority for the firm – we’re working two eight-hour shifts again – we remain cautious. We never lose sight of the need to be solidly grounded in every one of our fields of expertise.”
Dynafer draws on its diverse expertise, which ranges from manufacturing very large parts for locomotives to the tiniest components in a watch movement, to propose original solutions to customers’ requirements. Working from machining diagrams or simply an idea, the company drafts precise and detailed 3D specifications. The R&D division then produces all the 2D detail drawings needed to manufacture the parts that will make up the tool. Processes for milling and turning are defined using AlphaCam 2D and 3D software, following which the physical operations can begin that will transform raw material into a tool, matrix or other instrument. Dynafer is also skilled in wire electro-erosion and CNC turning. Lastly, a laser engraver can inscribe the customer’s name, logo and other text directly in the mass.
“Dynafer’s specificity means we don’t face too much competition in tooling, although machining is a different story altogether,” Denis Villard concludes. “This is what drives us to further diversify and find new customers. It’s what healthy business management is about. You need to go on asking the right questions to move ahead and never give anything less than 100%. In this line of business, there’s no other way.”