Swiss transport industry inspires Chinese managers


Transport specialists from the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang visited Switzerland as part of a leadership programme at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW. They gained insight into leading Swiss logistics and mobility companies.

„If God came to earth, he would work in China and go on holiday in Switzerland,“ said Dong Lingsan, a Chinese logistics entrepreneur, laughing heartily. He travelled through Switzerland for three weeks as part of a delegation of Chinese business people and visited state-of-the-art logistics companies. The Chinese participants work in the logistics sector and were very interested in exchanging ideas with their Swiss colleagues. At the same time, China is at least 232 times larger than Switzerland and transport routes have a different meaning there.

In terms of product quality, Chinese manufacturers cannot keep pace with Switzerland. However, Swiss business people could learn a thing or two from Chinese working culture. While his hosts are very hospitable and courteous, he feels that they are a touch more conservative and much more cautious than his domestic partners. Although fewer mistakes are made in Switzerland, it also takes longer to bring new products to market.

Testing electric scooters

On a visit to Mobility, the Swiss car-sharing provider, the Chinese guests were welcomed by Christoph Zeier, Head of Business Development. He gave a lecture on the corporate concept and the future prospects of the cooperative. The logisticians’ interest focused mainly on topics related to futuristic technology. A new carpooling project was presented – the topic seemed familiar to the guests. After the lecture, they were invited to test the new Mobility electric scooters outside.

A journey towards the future

As the highlight of the day, the group drove to the grounds of the public transport company in the town of Zug, where Mobility is currently testing its first autonomous vehicle. The small, almost cube-shaped bus made its way silently and easily round the corner.

Foto: Simon von Gunten.

The project started about two years ago and is being run in cooperation between Mobility and the transport companies in Canton Zug. The round trip started – six people were allowed to ride along at a time.

Although the vehicle could drive autonomously, at the moment it still has to be accompanied by a trained person. The managers rode across the parking lot at a comfortable speed of 7 km/h. 20 km/h would also be permitted, although the small bus could drive at a maximum speed of 40 km/h.

The logisticians listened to the explanations with great interest and also provided fascinating examples from their home country, showing videos of self-driving city trains. There are currently many projects in China involving autonomous vehicles for use in smart cities as a long-term goal. In the new port of Shanghai, for example, logistics is already largely autonomous. The Chinese government strongly promotes innovation in this area – here the business people saw a common interest of Switzerland and China. However, China is much more flexible than Switzerland in the implementation of such projects, as the bureaucratic hurdles are lower and the structures more agile.

Innovative spirit in the blood

Although innovation is also promoted in China, Dong Lingsan comments that he noticed the innovative spirit of Swiss entrepreneurs in every company he visited. Innovation obviously has a long tradition in Switzerland. He himself makes every effort to be innovative in his company. At present, logistics in China still uses many traditional trade routes, but this is constantly changing, due to digitalization. As a logistics service provider, he operates a digital container-sharing platform to track the journey of his freight online in real time using GPS. In addition to the innovative spirit of the Swiss, he was also positively impressed by the importance of education across all employee levels. In China, employees are only trained from middle management upwards, if at all.

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