Bossard Group

You know the saying about doing only one thing but doing it better than anyone else? That explains the Bossard Group. It doesn't manufacture anything but distributes products made by other companies. In this case, fastening products. It's been in business since 1831 and CEO Heinrich Bossard is the 6th generation Bossard to run the company. Revenues in 2003 were 433 million Swiss Francs ($338 million) with over 1,350 employees.

Headquarters is in an industrial park on the outskirts of Zug. Large mature trees surrounding the property makes it difficult to judge the size of the four-story structure as you can see from the picture accompanying this story. Out front a low slung sign with the company's name on it lets people know they're at the right place.

The friendly receptionist says to take a seat while she calls CEO Heinrich Bossard's office. Hey, guess what? On display next to the waiting area in the lobby is a bicycle rickshaw--you know the kind where someone pedals in the front while passengers sit in the rear. Seems it was a gift from a customer. I was thinking about taking it for a quick spin around the waiting area but luckily my better judgement prevailed.

My contact person Julius Brun, Chief of Staff, does a great job especially when you consider he has no advance knowledge of what I do and was kind of corralled into meeting with me. About 300 people work here. Employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking in the workplace is optional, and hot food is served in the company cafeteria. There's an on-site gym with showers, covered parking for cyclists, it's a five-minute drive to downtown Zug, three minutes to the nearest freeway and an hour to Zurich's airport. Any employee perks? The company will pay for bus fare for those commuting to work.

The smell of cigarettes is very strong as I check out CEO Bossard's corner office. I count three plants (real) and note the computer, television and family pictures.

Across the street from the head office is a distribution center and Brun asks if I'd like to have a tour. I agree though I'm somewhat reluctant as I've seen hundreds. Wow, it turns out to be quite the facility. From the outsides it's deceiving and doesn't look so big but is easily larger than a football field. I get a tour of the whole shebang–from when an order is received to seeing it packed and ready to be picked up by courier. Here's how it works: A company such as Nokia needs fasteners to put their phones together. Rather than keeping a large inventory of these little fasteners on-hand Nokia places an order with Bossard and gets them delivered "just in time". What's fascinating is the use of robotic equipment in Bossard's distribution center to retrieve the fasteners. A dozen or so long aisles are stacked 40 feet high with thousands of identical size boxes each containing different types, sizes and styles of fasteners. These robots, who look like they're from a science fiction movie, zip up and down the aisle retrieving boxes and placing them on conveyor belts.

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