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