Behind the scenes of GS: there’s only one way to go

At CERN, all of the Laboratory’s imports and exports are routed in the same way: through the Logistics Service. This GS-IS Group service is responsible for receiving, inspecting and distributing all goods sent to the Organization.


Whether products for the CERN Stores, components for the experiments, tools, machinery and materials for the workshops or equipment for users and members of the personnel, nothing escapes the attention of CERN’s Logistics Service, which every year processes nearly 70,000 incoming deliveries, 7,500 shipments and 160,000 distributed items.

“The vast majority of our imports come from CERN Member States,” says imports and customs procedures manager Laurence Planque, “but we are receiving more and more goods for collaborators working at CERN from non-Member States such as China, India and Pakistan. All these imports are entitled to diplomatic exemption, so every day we have to manage the customs clearance procedures with the French and Swiss customs.” On arrival, the goods are visually inspected, recorded and then distributed internally by the Logistics Service. “Sometimes the address on the delivery note does not give any name apart from ‘CERN’,” explains Meyrin export manager Stéphanie Krattinger. “Then we have to play Sherlock Holmes and go back along the logistics chain to find the recipient to ensure that users receive their deliveries as quickly as possible.” “Sometimes that means opening packages to find the invoicing slip with the exact address,” adds Loredana Zeni-Toberer, the import-export manager in Prévessin.

Members of the CERN Logistics Service at the goods reception hall in Meyrin (Building 194).

As far as mail is concerned, the Logistics Service receives tens of thousands of letters and small packages every year (260,000 in 2013!), 40,000 of which had to be opened last year so that they too could be forwarded to the right person.

When it comes to exports – equipment for loan, donation, repair, sale, etc. – the task is a little more onerous because everything from packaging to transport is CERN’s responsibility. “We have to find the best solution for thousands of different kinds of goods,” stresses chemicals import-export manager Claudia Bruggmann. “Gas bottles, chemicals, small components and equipment weighing several tonnes or even several tens of tonnes or measuring several metres across… Each shipment requires individual preparation.”

And to ensure everything runs smoothly, the Logistics Service leaves nothing to chance: packaging, protection, labelling and official declarations, mode of transport, carrier, route taken, etc.: every stage of the shipment is tailored to the goods being shipped. “The most complicated export we’ve had to organise was the shipment of a magnet weighing nearly 1,000 tonnes to Japan in 2008 for the T2K (Tokai to Kamiokande) collaboration,” says Logistics Service manager Patrick Muffat. “Five containers loaded with 150 spare parts were sent without incident by road and sea to the city of Tokai north of Tokyo.” Proof if it were needed that CERN’s Logistics Service is equal to any challenge.

We remind CERN personnel that it is not permitted to use CERN’s import/export services to send goods, packages or letters for personal purposes.

by Anaïs Schaeffer