Machinery, electrical engineering and metals industry

The machinery, electrical engineering and metals industry is Switzerland's largest industrial employer and one of its leading exporters. It sells around three quarters of its products abroad, mainly within the EU. Switzerland is among the world's top exporters of machinery.

Mechanical engineer working on a machine part.
The machinery, electrical engineering and metals sector is one of Switzerland's leading exporters. © Swissmem

The machinery, electrical engineering and metals (MEM) industry employs over 300,000 people, or 8% of Switzerland's total workforce. The sector also employs over 500,000 people internationally. Most of Switzerland's 10,000 MEM businesses are SMEs employing fewer than 250 workers. The MEM sector is Switzerland's second largest exporter, worth around CHF 70 billion and accounting for a quarter of total exports. Over 50% of MEM industry exports go to the EU, mainly to Germany. Switzerland's MEM sector generates roughly 5% of annual GDP and 50% of its manufacturing value added.

Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering is the MEM industry's frontrunner. It originally emerged from textile manufacturing in the 19th century. When Swiss companies began mechanising production, they developed their own machines so as not to have to rely on their competitors in England to supply them with the equipment they needed. 

Today, Swiss machine tool, textile and printing machinery manufacturers are some of the most competitive in the world, mainly because they have invested substantially in R&D and continuously improved their products, technologies and processes. Switzerland is among the world's largest exporters of machinery and is one of the top-performing countries for per capita machinery exports. Switzerland has a total of 1,900 companies operating in the machinery sector. The major players are ABB, Liebherr and Schindler, followed by Georg Fischer, Bucher, Sulzer and Bühler.