… followed by the acquisition of our second logistics centre in Härkingen that we took over from Unliver …
The outsourcing trend began to take off around the year 1993 when the European Single Market was established on 1 January 1993. This created a unified European economic area that made many international trade restrictions and customs agreements in force until then obsolete. This enabled large companies to do more business internationally and they had to reorient themselves to do so. Bruno Planzer sensed further opportunities in the warehouse logistics sector and decided to build a large logistics centre of his own. After a long search for a potential site, he finally found what he was looking for in Villmergen. With a clever plan in place and after various negotiations and numerous construction stages, we move into our first logistics centre in Villmergen in 1992. The opening was celebrated with a big party including a Ferris wheel and guided tours of the plant. Incidentally: with 18,000 pallet spaces, the logistics centre in Villmergen was the largest and most modern infrastructure in 1992 and the second in Switzerland after the Jacobs-Suchard logistics centre.
In 1994, we won the distribution contract from EPA – a Swiss discount department store – and started building its central warehouse in Villmergen. With this customer, we had the opportunity to build a warehouse logistics system that met their requirements and the standards of the time and facilitated the development opportunities of retail trade.
This was the birth our warehouse logistics software – PLS (Planzer Logistics System) – that we developed under our own steam and is still in use today. Through the experience gained from this collaboration, we were able to create further essential foundations for the current structures of the IT system.
Unilever also wanted to profit from outsourcing and sell its warehouse in Härkingen in order to outsource the logistics it contained for the detergents and personal care products sectors, including personnel. After long negotiations we were ultimately able to take over our second logistics centre in Härkingen incl. 25 employees from Unilever on 1 January 1995. This step was also extremely courageous on the part of Bruno Planzer due to the high investment costs. But success would prove him right, as the growth in sales and number of employees demonstrated: after eight years, the number of employees had risen from 25 to 168. The logistics sector was booming in the 1990s in general, and further smaller logistics centres would soon follow in Geneva, Ticino, Kaiseraugst, Lyss and Basel.
The third major logistics centre is located in Basel, or more precisely in Pratteln. We first came to the region with our location in Münchenstein in 1979. Birsfelden was added later with an office building and a transshipment point. By that time, we had multiple smaller locations in the Basel region, which made it difficult to achieve efficient transshipment and distribution of goods. So we were on the lookout for a new location to consolidate all the other locations in one place and thus unify and make our logistics more efficient as a means of staying competitive on the market.
After viewing various sites, Bruno Planzer decided to buy land in Pratteln. Here again, he undertook a major risk as this land was among the most expensive plots in the region. But with Basel’s industries, and in particular the pharmaceutical industry, in full bloom, Bruno Planzer ultimately decided to buy the land. He built our third large logistics centre in Pratteln, which would go into operation in 2006. Meanwhile, two expansions have taken place in order to be able to handle significantly higher volumes. The location in Pratteln also stands out architecturally. Another special feature of the infrastructure is the ability to load and unload the trucks on two levels depending on the product specifications.
At this location, we mainly serve pharmaceutical customers with very high quality standards, which results in the need for high-level and sophisticated quality management. For example, we are certified by Swissmedic in order to store, pick and transport goods in an appropriate and professional manner.
Today, the breadth of our logistics services is exceptionally wide. It ranges from the simple handling of uncomplicated goods to the complex sampling of chemical substances in cleanrooms with subsequent delivery to the pharmaceutical customer’s production facility. Networking with our customers plays a very important role: today, it has reached such an extent that a supply disruption on our part can result in a production standstill for the customer as we deliver the required goods ‘just in time’.
With the fully automatic small parts warehouse (ASPW), we pick the production components for coffee machines, for example.
The internet has made everything faster-paced today. We saw this in our own operations in 2010 with the procurement of a semi-automatic picking system (a GTP system – goods-to-person system) in Villmergen, with which we were able to pick a customer’s entire food assortment on a daily basis and thus boost efficiency by 40% overall.
In 2014, we commissioned our first fully automated small parts warehouse (ASPW) – also a goods-to-man system – that we then expanded two years later and is now well utilised. We use it primarily for picking conventional small parts such as production parts for Franke coffee machines.