Pistor – from solidarity ideal to national purchasing association

In 1916, a group of farsighted Swiss bakers and pastry chefs founded the Pistor trading association with the aim of benefitting from the advantages of joint, concentrated procurement.

What began with a small warehouse in Lucerne’s old town has developed over the past 100 years into a company with around 500 employees and an annual turnover of 617 million Swiss francs. In 2016, over 150,000 tons of goods were supplied.

The aim and purpose of the purchasing company haven’t changed since that time. Since 2002 Pistor has been a cooperative holding company based in Rothenburg in Lucerne Canton.

The fact that the bakers had a keen sense for marketing – founding their purchasing association even a hundred years ago – is also evident from their chosen name “Pistor”, which means “baker” in Latin.


The business activity of the Pistor corporate group

Pistor is a trading and service business for food-handling industries, and with its third subsidiary Pistor AG is able to offer customers and interested parties competent support in almost all areas of the baking and confectionery trade as well as gastronomy.

Pistor AG operates on a level with the two other subsidiaries, Proback AG and Fairtrade SA. All three companies are 100-percent owned by the Pistor Holding Cooperative. The cooperative form of organization represents the ideal basis for future growth and offers the subsidiaries protection from external interference.


Pistor AG

Pistor supplies raw materials and finished and semi-finished goods to processing businesses in the bakery, patisserie and confectionery industries as well as in gastronomy all over Switzerland. The range of goods comprises more than 15,000 items in the food and non-food segments, including chilled, non-chilled and deep-frozen items, and incorporating branded products and an own-brand range. Joint, concentrated purchasing is one of the key ideas of the organization’s founders.
This business idea still applies today. The experience of the last few years has brought the principles of partnership, trust, reliability and dynamism to the fore for the future of Pistor. What’s more, over the years Pistor has expanded its portfolio of services so that its customers are relieved of their administrative processes and are able to focus on their core competences in the kitchen or the bakery.


Proback AG

Proback AG is a consultancy and a 100-percent subsidiary of the Pistor Holding Cooperative. For over 30 years, Proback has been committed to supporting commercial bakers and patisserie businesses. As a non-profit organization, Proback cultivates the market presence of the bakery, patisserie and confectionery trade and sees its role as supporting them.

It offers customers and interested parties services such as business mediation, support for young entrepreneurs with their start-ups, organization of business handovers, consultancy meetings and coaching sessions. ”Proback – your competent discussion partner whatever the situation” is the company’s motto, and rightly so, since the consultants at Proback have many years of experience in the world of bakery, patisserie and confectionery businesses.


Fairtrade SA

Fairtrade is a raw materials trading company and is also a 100-percent subsidiary of the Pistor Holding Cooperative. Raw materials such as hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, apricots or sultanas are what define the business activities of Fairtrade. These ingredients are used by chocolate and biscuit factories, producers of semi-finished products, trading companies and drinks manufacturers. Fairtrade’s business model isn’t limited to purchasing raw materials, however. The service offering spans the processing of contracts, organization of goods transportation, dealing with customs formalities and even quality control of the products purchased. Fairtrade’s responsibilities also include permanent monitoring of the raw materials markets, as well as seeking out new products and suppliers.


Bound by sustainability

Pistor wouldn’t be Swiss if it had nothing to say on this matter. Sustainability is one of Pistor’s guiding principles. It’s not surprising, therefore, that for several years now, a working group has been proactively tackling the area of sustainable ideas and measures. One such idea was the installation of a photovoltaic system, which was realized for the first time in 2010. It was built on the roof of the newly constructed goods handling center in Rothenburg. Since then, over an area of 6,000 square meters, almost 890,000 kWh of electricity have been produced every year. This concept was further expanded over the years so that today, over an area totaling 9,000 square meters, electricity is produced for around 300 homes. You would need around 220,000 liters of heating oil to produce an equivalent volume of power.

Another project Pistor is involved in is called United Against Waste. The aim of this project is to develop measures and strategies to reduce the vast amount of food wastage. According to estimates, up to 50 percent of all food produced worldwide is destroyed before it even reaches the consumer’s table. What’s more, a quarter of the world’s water consumption is used up on cultivating the foods that then end up in the rubbish.

In a logistics company like Pistor, which operates a huge warehouse divided into three different temperature zones and owns a large fleet of trucks and transporters, it’s logical to set standards of sustainability in logistics. Hence Pistor now uses only trucks that conform to the Euro 5 standard or higher. For the cooling, most of the trucks and transporters use an environmentally-friendly hybrid cooling system that does not produce any noise or CO2 emissions.
Furthermore, Pistor is already successfully using one electric truck, with more soon to follow. The delivery of goods is supported with cutting-edge route-planning software, so the number of kilometers covered can be reduced to a minimum.

The railway connection is also well used for goods distribution to the distribution headquarters in western Switzerland, with the aim of shifting as many goods movements as possible from road to rail.

For Pistor, sustainability without social components would be incomplete. A good working environment and high level of employee satisfaction are likewise guiding principles for Pistor. The aim here is to strengthen employees’ identification with the company.


High-performance IT infrastructure for more than 15,000 products

A company like Pistor, which supplies its customers, the bakery, patisserie and confectionery trade as well as gastronomy businesses, with more than 15,000 products and delivers all over Switzerland using its own fleet of vehicles, places particularly high demands on IT, since many processes are very time-critical. To accommodate this, the IT infrastructure is divided between two computing centers, which are set up to be redundant. In use here are server systems from HP, storage systems from Netapp and switches and network components from Extreme Networks. The company software (ERP system) is based on Pistor’s own in-house development.

With a warehouse as complex as that of Pistor, boasting enormous product diversity and various different chilled zones, logistics is a particularly challenging area. Pistor uses bespoke warehouse management systems to deal with this.


Keeping critical processes in focus

What are the really critical processes? The answer is simple: all the processes relating to the goods. Be it receiving orders, delivery, goods logistics or dispatch, any error and system failure means a reputational loss for Pistor. Expectations are high and the senior management expects failure-safe, 24-hour operation. “So that the IT infrastructure can meet the high demands, redundancy is important and reflectivity of data and processes essential. Two computing centers ensure that security is writ large. Of course there are also emergency plans in place which, fortunately, we haven’t ever had to use,” says Werner Tschanz, IT Manager at Pistor, explaining the company’s security provisions. Naturally, these also include an interruption-free emergency power supply as a back-up.


Pistor’s IT orchestra

A total of 17 experts coordinate this IT infrastructure. The team divides the tasks into two groups. Six employees are responsible for the software development and its adaptation. The second group is responsible for the IT systems and for support. The IT team at Pistor ensures that the systems can run failure-free at all times and that customers get the goods they have ordered when they want them. Since training of newcomers is given particular attention at Pistor, the IT team is currently reinforced by a trainee.


Why the service provided by Technogroup suits Pistor

What was the unique selling point that led to Pistor choosing Technogroup? First and foremost, it was the prime cost-benefit ratio. Moreover, the decision was down to the fact that the Technogroup team suited the requirements of Pistor and was able to meet its expectations. “The SLA agreement with Technogroup sets out a 7/24/4 commitment, i.e. a service with an arrival time of four hours. For us, one of the important elements here is that a reaction time of 15 minutes following a fault alarm has been established. This gives all of us in the IT team a good feeling, because it means we’ll quickly have an experienced partner by our sides,” summarizes Alexander Wiget, a member of staff in Pistor’s system group. The other tasks covered by the Technogroup services include dealing with all warranty cases with manufacturers in the area of IT.


“The cost-benefit ratio has to match up these days. It’s not the case that the best price gets the business, but rather the provider with the best cost-benefit. Offering all the services from one source is one argument that will continue to grow in significance in future. As far as availability is concerned, IT systems are ubiquitous and are fail-proof per se, but that’s only part of the story. If there is then a problem and a service is required, the whole process has to work well. If there is a blip in the process, then it can cause real problems. Today’s using customer is weary and often doesn’t have the competence or the resources to communicate with and coordinate the individual partners involved in the process, meaning there are often delays or even stoppages. To ensure this doesn’t happen, we take responsibility here,” explains Charles Gubler, Managing Director of the Technogroup AG/Switzerland.