Panalpina World Transport (Holding) Ltd.


Say you're Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart Germany, are having a big dealer meeting in Hawaii and want to ship some of your new car models along with some very valuable antique cars to the shindig. Who you gonna call? Well, Panalpina World Transport might come to mind. This airfreight, seafreight, logistics company has over 280 offices in 62 countries around the world. With almost 10,000 employees and over 5 billion in revenues (Swiss Francs) it can play with the big boys.

Speaking of logistics, it took some on my part to find their head office. The address I had led me to a ritzy residential area of Basel only to find the two-story building and beautiful villa across the street from it vacant. Workman are in the three-story villa fixing it up but not a one speaks English. I walk around the lush grounds but no luck. Hmm, since they're in the freight forwarding business you'd think if they moved they'd leave a forwarding note on the door. I wander over next door neighbor's house where an older man (in his 70's) is trimming his roses. He gives me the lowdown. According to him the company moved away about four months ago because they outgrew it. The property is on the market and the villa on the hill will fetch a pretty penny.

I corral a local into looking up the new address in the phone book and it's off I go to a five-story, bright white new-looking building about a block from the Swiss railway station. I meet with Gabrielle Kraft, secretary to CEO Bruno Sidler, who serves as my tour guide and answerer of questions.

The company did indeed move from their old place because they outgrew it but, it was over a year ago. Hmm, I mailed my introductory letter to the CEO at the old address and though they hadn't been there in a year-it was forwarded to them at the new address. Yet, if you recall my visit a few days earlier to Coop and Coop Bank they said neither letter was received. Experience has taught me it's usually the result of sloppy in-house mail. How do I know? I used to check back with companies several weeks after my visit to see if the letter was received. Guess what? It was usually there but had been "misplaced". Then again, I've caught companies in lies where they say they never received my letter-only to find out in the course of an ensuing conversation that they had. Why would they do that? By saying they hadn't received my letter sent in advance it gives them an excuse not to meet with me by saying, "we had no advance notice of your arrival". I chuckle at this. How come I never get these letters returned back to me from the post office marked "undeliverable?".

Sorry for that digression. Getting back to Panalpina. About 60 people worked at the villa. Now, they've been able to consolidate employees from other parts of the city into one building and so about 250 employees work on three floors. Most of the left side of the building is occupied by Panalpina and most of the right side by Siemens.
I noticed when riding the elevator up to the reception area there're buttons marked for four floors of car parking and one which reads "velo", which is French for bicycle. Conference rooms are names after continents, there's no cafeterias but, each floor has a breakroom-which should be called smokeroom because that's what they do in there. Any employee perks? Occasional travel discounts.

What's different at these offices and was pointed out to me is the open office concept. In Switzerland every employee seems to have their own office. Sharing space in a large open work area (which is more the norm in the USA) is virtually unheard of in these parts.