Gebrüder Weiss Holding GmbH

Bundesstrasse 110
Lauterach, 6923
Austria
Telephone: (+43) 5574 696 0
Fax: (+43) 5 9006 2609
Web site: http://www.gw-world.com

Private Company
Founded:
1474
Incorporated: 1972
Employees: 6,724
Sales: €1.55 billion ($1.78 billion) (2017)
NAICS: 488510 Freight Transportation Arrangement; 493110 General Warehousing and Storage

Gebrüder Weiss Holding GmbH is a global provider of logistics and transport services. The company offers integrated transport services that are grouped into five primary departments: Land Transport, Air & Sea Freight, Logistics Solutions, Parcel Service, and Special Solutions. The company's services include cargo and groupage freight; part and full load systems; railway logistics; parcel delivery services through the subsidiaries Direct Parcel Distribution and Gebrüder Weiss Paketdienst GmbH; and specialized transport services for markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 2017 the company completed shipments of more than 117,000 twenty-foot equivalent units. Gebrúder Weiss also operates from a global network of 150 locations, offering a total logistics and warehouse capacity of more than 626,000 square meters. Other company operations include the logistics consultancy x/vise; tectraxx, which specializes in providing logistics services to the high-tech industry; GW Rail Cargo, which focuses on railway transport; and Dicall, a provider of call center services. Gebrüder Weiss dates its origins to the late 15th century, and remains a family-owned company controlled by the Weiss family. The family is represented by Wolfram Senger-Weiss, who is slated to take over as group CEO in January 2019.

15TH-CENTURY ORIGINS

The Weiss family's presence in what was to become the Austrian state of Vorarlberg dates back to at least the 15th century. The family rose in prominence, and by 1474 became one of the founding families behind the Milanese Courier Service. Arguably the first European courier service, the Milanese Courier provided weekly courier service between Lindau in Austria and Milan in Italy. The 330-kilometer trek crossed Austria into Liechtenstein and Switzerland, traveling through the Splügen Pass separating the Swiss and Italian Alps, then crossing Lake Como before reaching Milan. Although later more popularly known as the Milanese Courier, the service was also known as the Fussach Courier, after the Weiss family's home base, and the Lindau Courier, after the route's Austrian endpoint.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

Gebrüder Weiss is characterized by a strong corporate culture. Four core values form the pillars, which support the structure of Gebrüder Weiss beyond the country's borders, connect people within the company and at the same time represent the mission statement for daily work: Independence, Sustainability, Commitment and Service Excellence.

The Milanese Courier remained independent of the Imperial Reichspost, as the Thurn und Taxis service became known, into the early 19th century. By that point the Weiss family, led by Johann Kasimir Weiss, began offering its first warehousing and logistics services. In 1781 the family acquired a trading post in Fussach to offer temporary storage and other services, including checkpoint services, to the Milanese Courier. During this period, as Vorarlberg became one of the centers of Austria's textiles industry, the Weiss family develop special expertise in transporting these materials.

The Gebrüder Weiss name first appeared in 1823, after Josef Weiss became the owner of the Fussach trading post. Weiss brought his half-brothers, Leonhard and Johann Alois Karl Weiss, into the business, which adopted the name Spedition Gebrüder Weiss. The trading post became the main focus of the family's business in 1826, after the imperial government took control of the Milanese Courier Service.

BRANCHING OUT

Gebrüder Weiss moved to Bregenz in 1872, after the inauguration of the Austrian railroad bypassed the company's Fussach base. The company benefited from the expansion of the railway system, and especially the inauguration of the Arlberg tunnel, which provided a direct link between Vienna and Venice in 1884. Through the next decades, Gebrüder Weiss completed its own expansion, and by the outbreak of World War I it had built a network that reached most of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with branches in Lindau, Vienna, and Trieste, as well as Genoa in Italy, and Buchs, St. Margrethen, and Romanshorn in Switzerland.

Gebrüder Weiss survived the breakup of the Austrian empire after the war. Under the leadership of Ferdinand Weiss, the company managed to grow despite the difficult economic conditions of the interwar period by converting its transport fleet to motorized vehicles. In 1932 it extended into Germany, adding a branch office in Hamburg. Following the Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany, the company opened a branch office in Wels, in upper Austria. During World War II its fleet of trucks was confiscated, and by the end of the war parts of its operations had been destroyed in Allied bombing raids.

Nonetheless, the Marshall Plan provided Gebrüder Weiss with a new business outlet, as the company took charge of organizing the transport of relief goods to the Austrian population during the immediate postwar period. By 1950 the company had rebuilt its Austrian operations and had added branch offices in Graz, Innsbruck, and Linz. It also began serving the European overland market by shipping goods throughout Western Europe.

EASTERN DRIVE

Gebrüder Weiss's growth into one of Europe's leading transport and logistics companies took place under the leadership of the next generation of the Weiss family, represented by Heidegunde and Paul Senger-Weiss, who took over as heads of the company in 1968. In 1972 the company, which had been operating as a partnership, was incorporated as a limited liability company. Gebrüder Weiss also restructured its operations in response to the difficult trading conditions amid the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. With gas prices rising sharply, the company began instituting a new subsidiary-based organization for its different branches and took direct control of a number of branches that had operated as franchises since the end of World War II. In 1980 the company completed its restructuring with the creation of the holding company Gebrüder Weiss Holding GmbH. Five years later, it moved to new headquarters in Lauterach.

KEY DATES
1474:
The Weiss family joins in the creation of the Milanese Courier Service.
1823:
The company becomes known as Spedition Gebrüder Weiss.
1980:
The company is reorganized under the holding company Gebrüder Weiss Holding GmbH.
2000:
The company forms the joint-venture WeissRöhlig.
2018:
The company announces new CEO Wolfram Senger-Weiss.

The company took advantage of its location in central Europe to move quickly into the other central and east European markets as they shrugged off decades of Soviet domination during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It established branch offices in a number of markets, including Bratislava, Brno, Budapest, Ljubljana, and Maribor. Meanwhile, it set out to tap the newly opening Chinese market, establishing its first branch office there in Shanghai in 1992. This was followed by a branch office in Qingdao.

Gebrüder Weiss's eastward expansion came as it adapted to the effects of Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995. The elimination of trade barriers spelled the end of the company's domestic customs trade, which resulted in the loss of one-third of its revenues at the time. To regain its footing, it underwent a major restructuring and brought in new managers, including Wolfgang Niessner, who joined the group in 1999. The company also implemented a major technology investment, setting up a web-based shipment and inventory tracking system in 1998. The following year Gebrüder Weiss established its own logistics software developer, inet-logistics. In 2000 it created another offshoot, x/vise, to provide logistics consulting services. These were joined in 2002 by another subsidiary, tectraxx, which specialized in providing logistics services to the high-tech industry.

JOINT STOCK COMPANY

Gebrüder Weiss stepped up its Asian expansion with the creation of a joint venture with Germany's Röhlig & Co. in 2000. The new company, Weiss-Röhlig, opened offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, and quickly grew into a major logistics and transport operator that linked Europe and Asia. In 2003 it entered the North American market by establishing five branches in the United States. The following year the joint venture opened an office in Dubai. Weiss-Röhlig continued developing its international operations over the next decade, entering Japan in 2008, India and Thailand in 2009, and Vietnam in 2013. Weiss and Röhlig agreed to end the partnership in 2016.

In the meantime, Gebrüder Weiss pushed ahead with its own expansion, creating a new subsidiary in Croatia, which opened branches in Zagreb and two other cities in 2000. The company also added to its operations in the Czech Republic with new branches in Budweis, Ostrava, and Pilsen. Its Chinese operations expanded as well, with offices in Beijing, Nanjing, and Ningbo, and in Tianjin and Dalian in 2001, as well as in Changchun, the center of the country's automotive industry, and in Chengdu and Chongqing, gaining access to those markets' high-tech industries.

Most of Gebrüder Weiss's expansion came through its own organic growth and investments. An exception to this strategy came in 2001, when the company acquired Cargolog, which operated in Bulgaria and Romania. As a result, the company filled a major gap in its geographic reach, and now boasted covering the entire Alps and Danube regions. Back home, it launched a new express forwarding service under the brand Orange on Time.

As Heidegunde and Paul Senger-Weiss prepared for their retirement, Gebrüder Weiss was reincorporated as a joint stock company, Gebrüder Weiss Holding AG, in 2002. The Senger-Weisses retired to seats on the company's board of directors in 2005, joined by sons Wolfram and Heinz Senger-Weiss, and appointed Niessner as the company's CEO in their stead. Under the Senger-Weisses' leadership, Gebrüder Weiss's network had topped 100 locations, generating total revenues of €700 million.

RESURRECTING THE SILK ROAD

Acquisitions played an increasingly prominent role in Gebrüder Weiss's growth into the end of the decade. In 2008 the company boosted its Air & Sea Freight operations with the purchase of Switzerland's AERSPED AG. The following year it acquired the Czech Republic's land transport and logistics operations of Hellmann Worldwide, and a majority stake in Serbia's Eurocargo. In 2010 Gebrüder Weiss acquired a minority stake in the German freight forwarder Diehl, and in 2012 it formed a joint venture with Tegeta Motors Ltd, based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

This investment formed part of Gebrüder Weiss's expansion along the legendary Silk Road trading route. As part of this effort, the company also expanded into the southern Chinese markets, particularly the Pearl River Delta region. In 2013 it acquired Far Freight, based in Tbilisi, gaining access to its reach into the Central Asian markets. The company added other operations along this route, including opening a branch office in Urumqi, China. It also filled in other areas in its geographic coverage, including Montenegro in 2012, Turkey in 2014, Moscow in 2015, and Kazakhstan in 2016.

NEW LEADER

Following the breakup of the Weiss-Röhlig joint venture in 2016, Gebrüder Weiss made its own direct entry into the United States, taking over the joint venture's former locations in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles, and opening offices in Chicago and New York in 2017. In Europe, the company completed a major acquisition: the Nuremberg-based Deutsche Transport Compagnie, which had originally been founded in Berlin in 1946.

Gebrüder Weiss began preparations for the next generation of Weiss family leadership in 2018. In May of that year the company announced Niessner's plan to retire to the company's board of directors in January 2019, with Wolfram Senger-Weiss slated to take the CEO spot at that time. Under Niessner's leadership, Gebrüder Weiss had more than doubled its revenues, to €1.6 billion, while extending its international network to 150 locations.

The company showed no signs of slowing down its expansion at the end of the decade. In June 2018 it completed construction of a new 4,500-square-meter logistics terminal in Sibiu, Romania. It also added new locations in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Zhangjiang, and Guangzhou, China. It then announced plans to carry out a significant expansion of its Chinese operations into 2023.

Gebrüder Weiss filled in a new gap in its Silk Road strategy with the opening of an office in Yerevan, Armenia, in 2018. It also added an office in Abu Dhabi. Back home, the company extended its range of services with the launch of the GW pro.line home delivery service. Launched in Austria in 2017, the service was extended to the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia in 2018.

By that point Gebrüder Weiss not only claimed the title as the world's oldest transport and logistics business but it had also become one of the leaders in the industry in Europe. With a global network of more than 626,000 square meters of warehouse space, Gebrüder Weiss was also becoming a fast-growing challenger as a globally operating transports and logistics group in the early 21st century.

M. L. Cohen

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Dicall; Deutsche Transport-Compagnie Erich Bogdan GmbH & Co. KG; DPD Austria; Fashionet Austraia; Gebrüder Weiss Paketdienst; GW Rail Cargo Ges.m.b. H.; Tectraxx; x/vise.

PRINCIPAL DIVISIONS

Logistics Solutions; Air & Sea Freight; Special Solutions; Parcel Service; Land Transport.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Archbold Logistic; DSV A/S; Kuehne + Nagel International AG; M. Preymesser GmbH & Co. KG; Redur SA.

FURTHER READING

“25-Year Anniversary: Gebruder Weiss Accelerates China Expansion.” China Business News, December 5, 2017.

“Freight Forwarding and Logistics Group Receives a Most Unusual Honour.” Handy Shipping Guide, September 26, 2014.

“Gebrüder Weiss Expands Its Logistics Services in Asia.” Supply Chain Asia, November 5, 2015.

“Gebruder Weiss Rolls out Specialized Warehouse Solutions in China.” PRNAsia, June 21, 2018.

“Gebrüder Weiss übernimmt Deutsche Transport Compagnie.” Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung, March 21, 2017.

“Gebrüder Weiss: Expansion in Rumänien.” Transport Online, June 21, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018. https://www.transport-online.de/Transport-News/Wirtschaft-Politik/18574/Gebrueder-Weiss-Expansion-Rumaenien .

Muir, James. “Gebruder Weiss USA Starts Operations in Five Locations.” Air Cargo Week, July 3, 2017.

“Reshuffle at Gebrüder Weiss in 2019.” Transport Journal, May 5, 2018.

“Röhlig and Gebrüder Weiss to Go Their Own Way.” Air Cargo News, December 15, 2016.

“Silk Road Expert Gebruder Weiss Bridges Asia and Europe.” China Weekly News, January 30, 2018, 93.