Wenger S.A.

Founded in 1893, Swiss army knife maker Wenger has its head office/factory a five-minute walk from Delemont's city center. From this town of 12,000 people, Wenger's factory spits out 140,000 metallic parts and over 40,000 thermoplastic parts DAILY for use in the company's wide range of products. Pocketknives make up 75% and cook's and butcher knives 20% of the business. The watch business is contracted out.

Last year I visited Wenger's archrival Victorinox. Like Wenger, Victorinox has only one factory and like Wenger, its products are sold all over the world-with Wenger's being sold in over 153 countries. The Swiss government had a hand in helping the two companies succeed. The government needed knives for its military and so it split the contract between the two. Why? Politics. Victorinox is located in the northern GERMAN-speaking part of Switzerland while Wenger is located in the FRENCH-speaking part.

Located on a main street going into town, on one side of a street there's a factory and directly on the other side is another part of the factory with the administrative offices at one end. There's no underground or bridge connection between the two. The exterior of both is painted white with blue trim and look to have been built in the 1960's or early 1970's. It's a mixed-use area with residential housing and apartment buildings in the vicinity.

The receptionist sits behind a sliding glass counter (like in a doctor's office). A call is made to Managing Director Maurice Cachot's secretary. Cachot received my letter of introduction and was planning to meet with me but unfortunately I show up the day Cachot is in Germany on business so, Hugo Baeriswyl, International Sales Manager, is corralled into meeting with me.

My questions are answered as we sit in Wenger's product showroom. Jeez, there's something like 800 models filling the glass display cases. From 140-280 people work in the factory and three-story head office. It's hard to be more specific as many are seasonal employees. A fire destroyed the building we're in back in 1983.
Smoking is allowed in the work place, there're no onsite recreational facilities, no formal dress code and it's a 45-minute drive to the nearest airport (Basel). There's no cafeteria but a break room with vending machines. Employees receive a substantial discount on purchasing company products. I can't see Managing Director Cachot's second floor middle office with a view of the factory because "he's not in". Baeriswyl does extend an invitation for a tour of the factory where he'll be giving a tour in an hour to clients. Though interested I decline, since it'll be in German.