"From A to B was yesterday. Today, the whole alphabet is involved."
In order for products from Mannesmann Line Pipe to contribute to mobility, they must be set in motion themselves. A sometimes very complex topic, according to Thomas Bardzik in Siegen.
What transport and logistics services does Mannesmann Line Pipe provide for its customers?
Thomas Bardzik: We calculate, organize and carry out a wide variety of transports for our customers. Sometimes to customer specifications, sometimes we develop the optimal transport solution ourselves to destinations all over the world. From a single pipe up to a maximum weight of 25,000 tons, which fit on an ocean-going vessel. All this, of course, in coordination with production, further processing, such as internal or external coating, and intermediate storage.
Which means of transport are used?
We transport by truck and rail as well as by ocean-going vessel, both conventionally and in containers. Our plants each have their own sidings, which is particularly advantageous in the case of large quantities. Frequently, however, combined transports are also involved.
What role does logistics performance play in the context of order placement by customers?
The supply and logistics chain is increasingly gaining importance in the overall package of project management. Experience and reliability play the central role and are our decisive edge when it comes to differentiating ourselves from our competitors. On the one hand, there is enormous cost savings potential; on the other hand, we can minimize the risk of transport damage by choosing experienced partners or working out the best possible transport and storage conditions. In the case of large orders, this leads to extensive consulting services. The quality of logistics services can ultimately determine the success or failure of a project for the client.
The quality of logistics services can ultimately determine the success or failure of a project for the client.Thomas Bardzik
How have customer requirements changed in recent years and how has Mannesmann Line Pipe adapted to the changes?
Fewer and fewer customers have their own logistics department and warehousing. We were able to compensate for this bit by bit. Over time we have formed a whole team of logistics specialists. Experienced people who have dealt with the requirements of different markets and customers and have very detailed knowledge. Just getting a delivery from A to B was yesterday, today the whole alphabet is involved.
What does that mean exactly?
For example, to reconcile the most diverse customer wishes with the numerous regulations to be considered both nationally and internationally. From checking that forwarders meet our requirement profile, the provision of unloading cranes in storage areas, verification of compliance with load securing requirements according to our Dekra certification, consideration of environmental management requirements through to customs clearance. In addition, there are always country-specific peculiarities, e.g. concerning truck drivers or freight forwarders.
The right partners play an important role. What does the cooperation look like in concrete terms?
If, for example, we supply pipes for a pipeline to the south of France, it must be planned in advance and examined whether the storage areas are large enough and suitable as such according to our specifications. What do the access roads look like, how and at what times can the pipes be delivered and unloaded to our specifications as well as properly stored. Or when it comes to the supervision of overseas deliveries, you need partners you can rely on one hundred percent. Over time, we have set up a reliable network for our customers. Of course, we mutually benefit from our many years of experience, some of which we have gained together. However, we still accompany our transports ourselves or are on site to receive deliveries.
What else needs to be considered?
Quite frequently, we are dealing with combined transports. For example from Hamm or Siegen by truck or train to Bremen or Antwerp, and from there by ship to the overseas destination. Of course, everything has to be planned precisely and meticulously - when the goods arrive where, who receives them where and how they are temporarily stored, who documents that nothing has been damaged during loading or unloading. Who oversees the customs procedures, what is the unloading situation on site at the port of destination, and what are the next steps from there to the construction site? All this has to be sorted out before the pipes leave our plants.
That probably doesn‘t always go smoothly, does it?
By and large, it does. However, the supply chain is sometimes so long that we just cannot rule out that something untoward happens to our freight. Above all, handling operations, such as unloading from the train and loading aboard a ship, or stacking in narrow storage areas always involve a certain risk of damage to our pipes or the coating. We are of course prepared for this and, in case of emergency, we can provide specially trained staff at short notice to carry out repairs in line with our quality standards.
Where do you see the greatest challenges for the future?
One aspect is certainly the shortage of personnel and skilled staff - from truck and locomotive drivers to port employees and surveyors. The recording and calculation of CO2 balances in relation to environmental compatibility is a very topical issue. Of course, we are dealing with the digitalization of production and logistic processes, and another focus will certainly be the preservation of the ability to react quickly in case of increasing weather extremes. Securing freight flows in the event of hurricanes, such as those in the USA, regional heavy rain phenomena or, most recently, the extremely low water level of the Rhine in 2018, gives rise to completely new challenges.