Mirko Lehmann – CEO, IST AG

Making sensors is a complex, scientific business that requires state-of-the-art technology and serious expertise. Switzerland-based Innovative Sensor Technology IST AG has both, which is why it’s leading the way in developing and producing cutting-edge physical, chemical, and biological sensors.

Mirko Lehmann has weathered some storms over the last couple of decades as the CEO of Innovative Sensor Technology IST AG, so he’s ready for whatever chaos the coronavirus has in store.

“I’ve witnessed many ups and downs at the helm of IST AG, which is why I tell people who want to go into management to always prepare for external crises,” he says. “You might not be able to predict crises, but you can react to them. This is the third big crisis that I’ve been forced to navigate as CEO together with my team. First there was the 2008 financial crisis, then the Swiss National Bank unpegged the franc in 2015, and now this! As a result, we’re well versed in crisis management.”

Innovation, innovation, innovation

After studying physics and completing a PhD in biophysics, Mirko co-founded a biotech company and later worked for semiconductor company TDK-Micronas, which equipped him with technical and marketing skills in the huge field of physical, chemical, and biological sensors.

So, what’s his secret to overcoming unpredictable catastrophes like world-stopping viruses? The secret lies in his company’s name – innovation.

A quarter of a century ago, IST AG – headquartered in Switzerland’s Ebnat-Kappel municipality in the idyllic mountainous region of Toggenburg – created its first nickel temperature sensor. Every year the company now develops 200 new products and manufactures a few million sensors, designed for industries including aerospace, heating and ventilation, medical, and biotech. These highly specialised sensors measure temperature, flow, humidity, conductivity, and biological data to help people and companies “sensorise” their products and equipment. These senores are made for things like satellites, white goods, and medical equipment – ­in fact, IST AG sensors are found in nearly every industry around the world.

In 2005, measurement instrumentation powerhouse Endress+Hauser acquired IST AG, which now has around 400 employees – half of whom are located in Switzerland. Another big production location is in Roznov, Czech Republic. The company expanded in 2012 and moved its headquarters from Wattwil to Ebnat-Kappel – IST AG has also built a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, which is equipped with a large production area with clean rooms and machinery to create a variety of sensors adapted to the needs of its customers. This flexible production facility means the company can produce high volume through to small batches of customised sensors. The headquarters are also home to its R&D, sales, and administration departments.

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