The success story of Migros started on the transport side with the legendary Ford Model T, a vehicle that was ingeniously simple to use and rugged for its day. But very soon it was found to be too small for the fast-growing demand and had to be replaced by larger, 2.5 tonne vehicles.
During the Second World War not only were goods scarce, but also transport capacity. So Migros decided to stock up on its own fleet of vehicles, and in 1940 it acquired 50 new trucks in the United States. However, the war made it impossible to import them into Switzerland, so the trucks were sold off again a year later. Migros chose the same tactics for shipping by sea: In 1941 it purchased the ocean steamer "Generoso", which journeyed back and forth between Lisbon, Marseilles and Genoa. In 1942 the two steamers "Zürich" and "Ergo" were added. But the seafaring adventures of Migros, too, ended quite soon: The ships were sold in 1943 without any indication of reasons.
In the 1960s transportation was increasingly shifted from the roads to the railways. Even then, Migros concentrated fully on combining the different modes of transport, and made extensive agreements with the Swiss Federal Railways. Since then, for example, the Aproz brand of mineral water is almost entirely transported by train from Valais to the Operations Centers of the Migros Cooperatives. This involved such ambitious projects as building a new bridge over the Rhône, as you can see in an entertaining film.
In 1966 the Camion distribution center of Migros started operations. In its early days it deployed about ninety vehicles of its own. What is more, for the first time refrigerated trucks were used to provide a smooth-running fresh produce chain, thus contributing significantly to the improvement in quality of meat and sausage products. In the same year, Migros sent off the first large 20-tonne container from New York to Switzerland via Rotterdam. Thus began the immense worldwide success of this universal cargo container.
In the 1980 two mega-trends that still shape our lives became apparent for the first time: standardization and sustainability. Against this backdrop, Migros invested 5.9 million Swiss francs in reusable containers. By 1991 there were already 5.8 million units of reusable equipment in circulation. This greatly simplifies procedures right through to the Point of Arrival on store shelves, and saves on some 60,000 metric tonnes of cardboard each year. At the same time, Migros has also shifted more and more of its shipments to rail, so that for the first time in its history it passed the key figure of 1 million tonnes of goods per year in 1989. This also included frozen products – until now the domain of road transport – which were transported by two refrigerated containers specially designed for the purpose.
Rapid growth in the 1990s was accompanied by an increasing decentralization of the production sites, and a move to just-in-time production, where the goods are not delivered for stocking as reserves, but only at the precise time they are needed. This gave an extraordinary impetus to the flow of goods. In the service area – not including delivery to the stores – around three-fifths of the goods were transported by rail. What is more, almost all the major Operations Centers had a direct connection to the rail network.
For the first time there emerged the idea of using road and rail combined. The idea was that the "Combi-rail" driver could "transform" the semi-trailer on his towing vehicle into a railway freight car within minutes – without needing to use a crane, loading ramp or goods elevator. Although this first promising system did not manage to prevail, the concept of Combined Transport (CT) was born, and it is now being increasingly used to great effect by Migros, thus saving on resources.
Since the turn of the millennium, Migros has continually upgraded its logistics services in terms of sustainability and environmental impact (see also "Sustainable journeys" on this page). This is by no means limited to an increase in the use of combined transport. New approaches are also being taken in road transport. For example, today all the drivers get their transfer orders transmitted directly to the driver's cab via the Camion scheduling and information system (CADIS). This has led to significant improvement in vehicle utilization and an enormous increase in efficiency. At the same time FMC Logistics Transport constantly optimizes its routes using intelligent software that is based on the behavior of ants, saving a great deal of time, cost and CO2 emissions. The story goes on. FMC Logistics Transport is staying on the ball.
Of interest not only to history enthusiasts, but also a part of Swiss popular (economic) culture: The history of Migros and its legendary founder Gottlieb "Dutti" Duttweiler.