Franke Holding AG
Riding up to Franke Holding's headquarters I know little about
this privately held company other than they've done over 5,000
kitchen installations for McDonald's in Europe. Corporate offices
are found in Aarburg, a village of 500 inhabitants, about 30
miles west of Zurich. Not to be confused with the nearby town
of Aarau, which I almost did.
It's not hard finding headquarters thanks to the company's name
(white lettering on an orange backdrop) in big letters atop several
of the buildings. The reception area is in what looks to be a
brand new spiffy-looking three-story stainless steel and glass
building. The modernistic building could pass for a museum.
Two receptionists man the reception desk and on a wall behind
them there's a large map of the world with red dots signifying
Franke facilities. Jeez, they're lots of red dots. After a short
wait Natascha Widmer, Head of Corporate Communications, and Patricia
Boerner, an American also in Corporate Communications; give me
a warm welcome. Thanks to these two ladies it ends up being an
We head upstairs in the reception building to a huge showroom
displaying Franke's wide range of products. Wow, on display are
row after row of kitchen systems, then washroom and sanitary
equipment. You know those stainless steel containers for dispensing
beer (kegs) and soft drinks? Franke makes them. Franke is also
involved in tooling manufacturing, coffee machines, food service
equipment and metal construction. Hey, that explains the buildings
here being stainless steel.
I'm given a fact sheet on the company and am amazed to learn
Franke had revenues last year of $912 million with over 5,200
employees. Before leaving the showroom we stop by a break area
for a coffee or a soda. I pass on the coffee but ask to have
a look at the coffee machine. Yep, it's a Franke machine.
Was or is there a Mr. Franke? Hermann Franke founded the company
back in 1911 in the northeastern Switzerland town of Rorschach.
In 1935 the business was moved to Aarburg. In 1939 Walter Franke
took over after the death of his father. In 1975 Willi Piepper,
a friend of Walter Franke, took over the group of companies.
Since 1989 Michael Piepper has run it.
Corporate offices are in a four-story building built in 1998.
It's next door to the reception/showroom building. About 50 people
work here. About 500 employees work in the adjacent factory.
Employee parking is free and plentiful, everyone eats in the
company cafeteria, smoking in offices is allowed but discouraged
and the company's art collection is modern and international
It's 40 minutes to downtown Zurich and ditto for Zurich Airport,
five minutes to the nearest freeway, there's no formal dress
code, there's covered parking for commuting cyclists and on-site
recreational facilities include two tennis courts. Any employee
perks? Free coffee.
The boardroom contains an elongated table that seats 22 and the
walls are lined with pictures of company facilities around the
CEO Michael Piepper occupies a top floor corner office with a
view of trains passing along the building and, he can see ruins
of the castle that sits up on a hill in Aarburg's village center.
I don't see a computer or real plants but maps of the world and
Europe hang on a wall. The most unusual item in Piepper's office
is the framed drawing of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I'm
told he worked in Philadelphia for a while and must have done
something right as he was given a key to the city.