The office is coming.
Transport Magazine

The office is coming.

PALMBERG’s high‑quality office furniture is made to order before being delivered by a fleet of Actros trucks co‑ordinated by the company’s Head of Logistics Christian Zwiebelmann.

PALMBERG has been making furniture for 100 years. The focal point of their products: office furniture. Thanks to the Actros, they can be sure to reach their destinations all over Europe on‑time.

Inside PALMBERG’s logistics centre in Schönberg, there is huge screen with a map of Europe. It displays all of the vehicles currently on the road for PALMBERG. A green marker means that the truck is on‑schedule while a red one means it is running late. Currently, all of the vehicles are showing in green and so everyone currently has a cool head. “I’m looking forward to the office” is the office furniture manufacturer’s rather fitting slogan.

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The furniture has been produced for around 100 years on the Palmberg hill in Schönberg (Mecklenburg‑Western Pomerania) – hence the company’s name. The production facility spans an area of around 25,000 square metres and employs a staff of 575 which operate in a two‑shift system.

Despite its manageable size, the spotless premises are home to one of Germany’s strongest office furniture manufacturers in terms of annual turnover. The company’s story began in 1922 with veneered lounge furniture which, in the days of East Germany, was a major source of foreign income. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the company’s works council elected the long‑standing engineer Uwe Blaumann as the Managing Director, who subsequently managed to steer the company and its staff into a stable future.

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Around 25 vehicles leave the grounds on an average working day.

At the time of Germany’s reunification, Christian Zwiebelmann was still just a child. Now 41, the Head of Logistics is responsible for PALMBERG’s route planning as well as the company’s entire fleet. Mr Zwiebelmann has a calm approach to his stressful job: “Logistics is a cocktail of pressure to meet deadlines, organisation and improvisation – no two days are ever the same. And that’s exactly my cup of tea.”

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In the production hall, robots saw desk and cupboard panels with millimetre precision thanks to their so‑called laser eye. Machines also equip doors with their hinges and mill the desk panels to right size. Dust and shavings are vacuumed up immediately and there’s a sense of clinical hygiene about the place. Employees insert the materials, then control and monitor the production processes which run like clockwork.

Among the staff of around 600 employees, 95 are currently drivers. The company only produces in this region. In Schönberg and 15 kilometres away in Rehna, eight different workplace systems, three cupboard ranges and a number of exclusive special products are manufactured. The firm’s output is particularly impressive: producing only to order, a run of 700 desks, 800 office cupboards, 300 office drawer units, three reception desks and around 500 other elements leave the halls on a daily basis.

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Only consumables are stored. Finished products are delivered immediately.

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2300

pieces of furniture and elements can be produced daily.

“Just like in vehicle manufacturing, we also call this a ‘marriage’.”

Christian Zwiebelmann, Head of Logistics at PALMBERG

Desk frames are only affixed to the finished desk panels shortly before loading. “Just like in vehicle manufacturing, we also call this a ‘marriage’,” Mr Zwiebelmann says, explaining the procedure.

In the assembly hall, cupboard walls, desks and drawer units are all assembled. The finishing section here features three production lines. Once completely assembled and commissioned, the products are then moved into the load compartment of one of the green and white Actros trucks. Everything is transported directly to the customer and installed on‑site by the PALMBERG employees. There is almost no packaging on the products: almost everything is protected by furniture blankets. These are then taken back to Palmberg’s base where they are immediately ready for use on the next route. With around 5,500 routes and 23,000 deliveries last year, besides this being an environmentally important aspect, it also has an impact on costs.

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Christian Zwiebelmann takes us near to the assembly hall. “The fact that there are so many green dots travelling around the screen is also partly down to the Actros,” he says and then points at a small number of vehicles which are not yet on the road: “Those trucks are currently being prepared for the night shift’s routes. Theoretically speaking, with our 25 trucks, we cover the equivalent of 150 journeys around the Earth, so it goes without saying that we need a top‑quality fleet.” As final assembly is also part of our service offering, the drivers always work in pairs. “We deliver all over Germany, as well as to Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux countries. That’s also the reason why the Actros 1842 GigaSpace is our vehicle of choice. The large cab of the Actros has plenty of space for two drivers.”

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An important criteria for PALMBERG when procuring the Actros was its safety equipment. Zwiebelmann goes on to explain: “As we mostly deliver to companies and official entities, we have to manoeuvre and drive regularly in towns and cities, so we’re glad of the help which the Mercedes‑Benz assistance systems offer.” Christian Zwiebelmann has also personally experienced the Active Brake Assist 5 emergency braking system in operation during a test drive: “It’s absolutely amazing how it managed to bring the Actros from 80 km/h down to a standstill!”

150

journeys around the Earth – this is how many kilometres the PALMBERG fleet covers annually.

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Impressed by his job and his vehicle: David Mintzlaff.

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Photos: Sebastian Vollmert
Video: Martin Schneider‑Lau