Synthes-Stratec, Inc.


Cycling 20 miles southeast of Basel through several picturesque valleys brings me to the isolated village of Oberdorf, home to Synthes-Stratec. I guess it's not THAT isolated since a train spur line runs through these parts however, it dead-ends in Oberdorf. With revenues of $1 billion and 3,400 employees, Synthes-Stratec manufactures instruments, implants and power tools for the orthopedic trauma market. In 1999, Synthes in the US merged with Stratec Medical in Switzerland. The company sports dual headquarters, here and in the US.

There's only one road going through Oberdorf and it's near the edge of town on a side street that I find the two buildings comprising headquarters. Not knowing in which country CEO Hansjoerg Wyss hung his hat I mailed my letter of introduction to Oberdorf figuring I had a 50-50 chance of being right. Checking in with receptionists Pia Lanz and Daniela Vogel I learn to my dismay that Wyss works out of the USA. I take a seat while the helpful receptionists try to find someone to meet with me.

I count over 20 glass display cases scattered about the reception/lobby area. Inside many of the displays are skeleton bones along with various company instruments and implants showing solutions to problems that arise with bones. In the far end of the reception area there's a breakroom area which looks more like a fancy bar.

I luck out as the charming Clivia Plett, Assistant to Roland Broennimann, who's CEO of Stratec Medical, agrees to answers questions and show me around. This three-story off-white building with blue trim windows was built in 1998 and directly across the street stands a four-story structure built in the 1950's. About 350 employees work in the two buildings. There're no recreational facilities, no formal dress code, smoking isn't allowed in offices and there's plenty of free parking. It's 35 minutes to Basel, 20 minutes to the nearest freeway and 50 minutes to Zurich Airport.

CEO Broennimann occupies a top floor office with a view of the valley. I note the computer. A painting hangs on a wall and I ask Broennimann if there's any significance to it. Done by a local artist, it shows an old steam locomotive chugging through this valley.