Swiss logistics leader, Welti-Furrer, is still number one after 185 years

Over the last 185 years, Welti-Furrer has grown from a single horse-drawn carriage in the center of Zurich to Switzerland’s most reliable partner for transportation services across a number of sectors. These include residential and business removals, fine-art shipping and transport, and heavy-duty and construction logistics. In 1993, the company became a member of the Knecht Group, and it has continued to grow through a number of acquisitions of its own. Transportation and Logistics International caught up with Fabian Meier, Chief Executive Officer, to learn more about what keeps Welti-Furrer trucking on.

“Today, we are the leader in heavy load logistics in Switzerland,” Fabian states, “and we have around 100 vehicles on the road that cater to our three areas of expertise. Despite offering international services, one of the core elements to Welti-Furrer’s success is that we have always been locally anchored. We currently have ten locations across Switzerland, even though it’s pretty small, which means we’re never far from where our customers need us.

“We also like to apply this local mindset to the way we conduct business and treat our clients, we are always looking for feedback on how we can improve or adapt our services. These factors, combined with our knowledge and long-term experience, are ultimately what have kept us ahead of our competitors for so many years. In terms of growth strategy, we prefer to acquire companies, over buying additional equipment, as it’s a more efficient way to increase capacity without increasing overall supply.”

Flexibility and agility

Fabian comes from a mechanical engineering background, with considerable experience working in the construction industry. Although these skills help with particular elements of his day-to-day, he cites his Master of Business Administration from IMD as being his most valuable asset as CEO. “It was not so much what I learned as an engineer, but really my MBA that helped me in developing the business and adapting our services to meet the constantly changing needs of our market. I actually joined Welti-Furrer as a result of an M&A project I ran on behalf of the Knecht Group.

“Going forwards, I’m happy with our leading position in Switzerland, but from now it’s a case of maintaining it. There are daily changes to which we are required to adapt, meaning we have to remain flexible in our operations, ready for the latest demands of our customers. Our team comprises 130 people meanwhile, so we would like to internally harmonize a lot of our processes to make things easier to handle. Given the specialized nature of the majority of our work in the heavy-duty logistics sector, this is a great challenge.”

Under this particular segment, Welti-Furrer offers an extensive range of services, which includes: mobile cranes, specialist transportation up to 400 tons, industrial removals, heavy-lift storage, exceptional transport escorts, and a variety of deployment planning such as transport studies and lifting plans. Besides the company’s vast experience in the field and state-of-the-art technologies, it is also certified to ISO 9001 and 45001 accreditations. A vast amount of the work the business conducts in this market caters to sustainable infrastructures, a personal passion of Fabian’s.

Renewable energy expertise

“We are always talking about efficiencies in the transportation sector, but often it only extends to moving something from one place to another faster. My background, as a mechanical engineer, was centered around renewable energy, so it’s something that is still very close to my heart,” he explains. “I’m proud to say that a large number of our heavy-duty Renewablelogistics contracts focus on installing wind turbines, hydro-power plants and transformers for the electricity network. In the field of wind energy in particular, Switzerland unfortunately still has some catching up to do. Besides electric cars, we have some hybrid cranes, which can be plugged into electrical outputs once they have been set in position, but there is not yet a lot of applicable technology currently available in our industry. It’s also part of the reason we have so many locations around the country, as we’re only ever up to one hour away from our customers and can reduce our emissions through shorter journeys.

“On behalf of the Swiss government, we have recently been employed in the construction of a 250MW emergency power plant. It was ordered at the end of September 2022 with the aim of being up and running within five months. This was a shorter deadline than we’d ever seen, due in part to the risks of winter power shortages, but also on account of our expertise in the field. We were able to provide the necessary heavy-duty transport of the components from the UK, complete with an escort, as well as crane works and storage.

“Welti-Furrer is a Swiss company, and we want to stay and grow here in Switzerland. That’s very important to us,” Fabian concludes. “Although we offer our services across a number of borders, the contracts are always to or from Switzerland. We don’t intend to get into internationally transporting goods from one country to another. There are many exciting developments in the pipeline locally, such as the Gotthard Tunnel, which I am optimistic we can get involved in. As we operate in an incredibly fast-paced environment, our customers will sometimes call in the afternoon, requesting our services the following day. This can make those five-year plans a little tricky to nail down, other than when it comes to our larger projects, which we’ve already got in place well into next year.”