"If you buy in the winter, you're always supplied!"

Interview with Franz Winter, Managing Partner of Paletten Winter GmbH

Paletten Winter Production of Wooden Pallets
High-tech and automatic: Production of wooden pallets

They are practical, environmentally friendly, and versatile: Wooden pallets are used everywhere goods are transported. They are also suitable as furniture or for other design purposes. The range of this universal product is covered by Paletten Winter GmbH. The family-run company from Hof am Leithaberge in Austria offers a variety of products and services around the versatile wooden pallet.

"If you buy in winter, you are always supplied," promises Franz Winter, founder and managing partner of Paletten Winter GmbH. And he provides the proof right away: "During the corona period, our suppliers from Eastern Europe could no longer deliver. We have used the past three years to secure our production in Austria."

A sense for what is necessary and possible characterized Franz Winter right from the company's founding. And so, in just under 25 years, the Wintergroup has grown into a group of companies under whose roof are found not only Paletten Winter but also Hackgut Winter, Pallet Logistics Winter, and Furniture Winter.

Building and repairing pallets

The newly produced pallets - both Euro and disposable pallets - are 100% PEFC certified. In addition, Winter manufactures custom-sized disposable pallets according to customer specifications. Besides the production of its own pallets, Winter Paletten also focuses on the sustainable repair of damaged pallets.

Palettes Winter Managing Director Franz Winter
Company founder, managing director, and partner: Franz Winter leads the company

Franz Winter: "We use the most modern repair lines for this purpose. Between 15,000 to 20,000 pallets are repaired here every day. In total, we handle around six million pallets annually." The pallets, certified according to EPAL and UIC, can be treated in two drying chambers according to IPPC, thus protecting them against infestation by pests. Paletten Winter's services are rounded off by the container service, which takes over the disposal of unusable pallets and other wood waste from customers and ensures their recycling.

Diverse Uses

Another line of business is served by Hackgut Winter. "We own forests and also work for forestry operations," explains Franz Winter. The resulting wood chips are offered – depending on quality – as forest or humus wood chips, as shredding material, or processed into furniture boards. And the sale of firewood is also part of Hackgut Winter's tasks.

Pallets Winter Operating Site
Large area: The operation includes 14 halls with a total size of 55,000 m2

As the largest Austrian pallet depot and service center of the pallet pooling market leader CHEP, Paletten Logistik Winter GmbH has established itself. In cooperation with CHEP, Winter focuses on the retrieval, repair, and delivery of blue rental pallets. Last but not least, Winter Möbel takes care of the manufacture, rental, and sale of revised, used pallets. Those who are skilled in crafts can also assemble them into DIY furniture themselves.

High Equity Ratio

Noticing that pallets were repeatedly missing during his secondary job as a driver at the Inzersdorfer vegetable market, the trained precision mechanic Franz Winter promptly founded his own company in 1999 and repaired pallets. Demand steadily grew, customers were satisfied, and the company expanded.

"Every other year I reinvested," the company founder reports. "Today, we have a developed area of 20 hectares and 14 halls with a total size of 55,000 m². Our own fleet consists of 36 trucks, and we have a 4-hectare site available for our recycling activities."

With its products and services, Winter now serves various industries, including beverages, building materials, plastics, cardboard, and forwarding agencies. All of Austria is the catchment area of the family business with 200 employees. Besides Franz Winter, his wife Andrea is responsible for Winter Möbel and the modernization of the operational structure. And the sons Jakob, Johannes, and Jonathan are also involved in the company's activities. Very important to the company's owner is independence from banks and other financiers: "We have a very high equity ratio."

All Personal

Marketing activities at Winter are modest and straightforward: "Everything runs personally and over the phone," explains Franz Winter. On his modern website, Winter informs about the company, its products, and services. "Before Corona, we were still at eight to ten trade fairs annually," the company head explains. "Meanwhile, we have completely given up on trade fairs."

The atmosphere in the company with 200 employees is described by Franz Winter as collegial: "We support our people in all matters and problems. We place great value on family-friendly working hours; our truck drivers come home every evening, and each has their own vehicle."

Soon to Be Energy Self-Sufficient

Digitalization is also on the agenda in the family business: "We will digitalize all our processes, use scanners, and connect all machines with computers." In terms of sustainability, Paletten Winter sets a good example. All forklifts are equipped with lithium-ion batteries and own photovoltaic systems already produce 80% of the required energy.

"In the coming months, we want to add another 600 KW of photovoltaic capacity and hope to be completely energy self-sufficient by the end of the year," the managing director clarifies. The heat used to heat the drying chambers is also sustainable, as it is also self-generated to 80 to 90%. Franz Winter is very critical of current politicians: "We live in a very uncertain world and the EU watches as the economy is driven into the wall. It's sad, but the middle class is being systematically destroyed."