Saurer AG

Arbon, Switzerland, a quiet little town, lies about 20 miles from the Austrian border and 10 miles from the German border. The address I have for Saurer, the world's largest manufacturer of textile machines, is Schlossgasse 2. I'm excited about this because "Schloss" in German means castle and this biker like visiting castles.
I find the castle in the center of town and behind its rear walls I find Saurer. Then again I'm not sure this is the place. The dumpy-looking five-story structure was definitely built in the 1950's and sort of looks closed down. The name Saurer AG is stamped on the front door but when you enter it's dimly lit and no reception area. I take this stairs up to the third floor and come upon what appears to be a down and out locker room with hundreds of lockers lining the walls. I see a door and walk in. Greeting you when you enter is a copier machine and track lighting overhead. Still no receptionist or signs saying anything. I start walking down the hall looking in the various office until I make eye contact with a woman. "Is this the corporate offices for Saurer", I ask. "Yes it is", she answers.

I explain who I am and that I sent an introductory letter a month ago to CEO Heinrich Fischer. Seems no one has seen it but, not to worry as Carole Ackermann, Head of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, ends up giving me a warm welcome.

A long time ago this was one of the company's manufacturing plants and since they still own it they might as well still use it. They've leased part of the place out but it sure likes like a tear down waiting to happen. Though the company had revenues in 1998 of 1.7 billion Swiss Francs and over 8,000 employees, it has a head office staff of only 15. No cafeteria, no art collection and no recreational facilities here. "But what about all those lockers, aren't there showers here? I ask. Ackermann, a runner who joined the company a few months ago, was disappointed herself when you found out there were zilch.

From some of the offices you can see the nearby lake. I tell Ackermann, "I bet your CEO has a lake view". Boy am I wrong. CEO Fischer's small humdrum middle office is sparsely furnished (one lonely looking plant) and has a view of an adjacent building. Matter of fact, Ackermann says she switched offices with her boss (Fischer) and has a view of the castle next door. One thing is for sure here; shareholders don't have to worry about management wasting money on expensive offices and furnishings.

Upon riding off I stop and look at a statue of a man near the castle wall. It's Adolph Saurer (1806-1882), company founder.