At our recent Automotive Logistics & Supply Chain Europe 2024 conference in Bonn, Germany we heard from some of the biggest OEMs, logistics partners and tier suppliers in the continent, who discussed how to deliver a competitive edge through logistics. While the event may be over, Automotive Logistics will continue to bring some of the most important and insightful highlights from the conference.

Among the overarching threads across many sessions and discussions was how to better scale and leverage relations across manufacturers and logistics providers, including for long-term investment and win-win partnerships. Speakers discussed how to strengthen partnerships between OEMs, tier suppliers and logistics providers and work collaboratively together to achieve common goals as an industry.

Rebuilding resilience and stability for a more sustainable supply chain

ALSC Europe 2024 Oliver Bronder, VW

Oliver Bronder, VW Group Logistics

In the opening session of the conference, we heard from Oliver Bronder, managing director of vehicle logistics at VW Group Logistics about achieving greater sustainability in transport. He told delegates that an important lesson learned from the disruption in the supply chain over the last four years is how to face future turmoil with a calm and precise problem-solving mindset, focused on finding the resilience to work through it.

VW Group Logistics developed a taskforce approach, combining information across the group’s divisions and regions into one information set that teams can use to tackle the problem in hand.

As part of the panel discussion, Bronder discussed ensuring capacity, through OEMs and logistics firms having their own assets rather than using third party assets such as vessels. “We now have a different view of the situation,” Bronder said. “We prefer that you’re driving your [logistics] business with your own assets, as you are much more reliable than companies using outside assets.”

Read more from VW’s Oliver Bronder here

Andreas Enger, CEO, Höegh Autoliners agreed, adding: “We had the benefit of having a big fleet. While the situation is going to normalise over the next couple years, the challenge we have now is to collectively not push this into another destructive cycle.”

The power of digitalised, automated and sustainable automotive supply chains

The topic of investing in partnerships to improve digitalisation for increased competitiveness, and the business cases needed for that, was brought up by Torsten Müller, senior director, Supply Chain International, Audi. He said a clear strategy is needed to convince shareholders in order to implement it with any success. Audi, part of VW Group, is currently developing this strategy, starting with understanding the costs and being transparent about them.

ALSC Europe 2024 Gabriel Werner, Global Field CTO, Blue Yonder

Gabriel Werner, Blue Yonder

The panel also discussed the importance of understanding data across the board before being able to realise the potential benefits of digital tools like artificial intelligence.

“We believe AI is a highly transformative technology akin to going from steam engines to electricity,” said Gabriel Werner, vice-president of manufacturing at Blue Yonder. “But when steam engines were replaced by electric engines, nothing happened in terms of productivity. It only started to change when we realised that the factory layouts no longer needed to follow the power source and transformed them to follow the material flow.

“In the same way, we need to transform predictive AI to flow around demand forecasting. If all you do is replace a single variant with multi-variant procedures, then you are not actually digital; you are moving from steam to electricity, but that’s all. However, if you were to use all the manpower that you are using in your consensus process to curate the data you are using to feed your ML prediction engine in the first place, then you bring about a shift in how you operate and reap the benefits. That’s when you actually make progress.”

Read more on digitalising the supply chain here

Essential intelligence: European and global sales and production outlook

Henner Lehne, vice-president, Global Vehicle Forecasting, Automotive, S&P Global Mobility took to the stage to give expert analysis and insight on the market drivers, disruptors, economic and geo-political factors shaping the forecasts for European and global vehicle production, and the key trends impacting the supply chain.

Look out for further coverage of this by Automotive Logistics soon…

Empowering excellence: Women in the supply chain forum

ALSC Europe 2024 Iza Kalinska, JLR, Sabine Isenbort, Ford Europe, Sonia Santos, Bosch

(L to R) Iza Kalinska, JLR, Sabine Isenbort, Ford Europe, and Sonia Santos, Bosch

Sabine Isenbort, manager of inbound logistics operations at Ford Europe, Isa Kalinska, lead of logistics and distribution at JLR, and Sonia Santors, vice-president of worldwide manufacturing at Bosch spoke about how to support each other in the automotive industry as women, what OEMs and logistics companies can do to help, and how to expand networks and reach to further a career in the sector.

During their panel session, Isenbort told the audience that the key is to have a positive mindset and to put yourself forward. ”The learning curve is never over. You have to think you can do it. Be there, be ready for the next step, don’t be shy,” she said. ”Be up to speed with networking internally and externally.”

Watch now: Women in the supply chain Red Sofa Interview

Kalinska said: ”If you are being pushed out of your comfort zone you grow. As a leader its very important to create that psychological space and enable it, provide a platform for the person to show what they are capable of and that comes with empowerment.” 

Meanwhile, Santos highlighted the importance of supporting other women coming into the industry. ”What I’m doing personally is approaching a woman in the organisation and offering a mentoring networking platform one-to-one about the potential I see in her and it’s an offer from my side,” she said. “If she takes it or not, it’s her decision and something I can contribute.”

Battling the bottlenecks in European vehicle distribution

Carmakers have been chartering their own trucks and vessels to ensure capacity in finished vehicle logistics, but while this may immediate some immediate stress, it doesn’t guarantee speed to market given problems with port congestion and has an impact on network efficiency.

Martina Glaser_Ford

Martina Graser, Ford Europe

Martina Graser, director, MP&L at Ford Europe said the carmaker had faced major capacity constraints in the past year across all transport modes, but the main focus is now on ports and compounds.

“Shipping was one of our major concerns right from the beginning,” said Graser. “It is no secret, we were one of the first OEMs to charter vessels to secure the capacity where we required it. It was to be more reactive [to the market] and support the capacity we need.” Graser was quick to add that Ford had not intention of replacing existing services with its own chartered fleet. 

Read more: Chartering capacity versus network efficiency

“We are fine with the contractors we have on board and appreciate the service we get, and benefit from knowledge they have… in to make it more efficient,” said Graser. “But we lacked capacity and the way out was to become the master of our destiny to some extent and support the contracts we had out there.”

Forging a win-win advantage in the supply chain

ALSC Europe 2024 Levent Yuksel JLR

Levent Yuksel, JLR

Building directly from discussion in Bonn in 2023, this session explored how manufactures, suppliers and logistics partners are finding new ways to work together, share information and transport operations to help all meet efficiency and sustainability targets.

Levent Yuksel, freight operations director, JLR said that following last year’s ALSC Europe event, he brought all stakeholders together to identify gaps in partnerships and opportunities and how to collaborate to work better together.

“We have identified good avenues so that we can work together as a collaborative team to improve our effectiveness for example in packaging and more efficient transport operations which would then have a positive impact on our sustainability,” Yuksel said.


He added: “We as OEMs and tier-1s have more of a responsibility to bring the big picture together. Out of these conversations we identified that some tier 2 suppliers have some limitations. The intentionca is there for tier-n, but they don’t have the scalability.”

Digital tools that deliver optimised and sustainable networks

Four leading providers of digital technology explained some of their most recent developments that can improve management of complexity, provider greater visibility and drive sustainable change. 

FreightVerify’s Christine Krathwohl, vice-president of global business development, highlighted how its data-driven ETAs provide visibility for the movement of inbound parts and outbound vehicles across all modes of transport and use machine learning to predict disruption. The company, which is expanding in Europe, is also now providing track and trace services to the aftermarket.

Read more: How digital tools are delivering sustainability

“We provide real-time visibility, whether it be a component or VIN, at all times with the location of that material or VIN, and with an ETA,” said Krathwohl. “Our innovation is a real-time intelligent ETA that continues to update along the journey.”

Planning a resilient supply chain: Seeing the big picture

ALSC Europe 2024 Jean-Marc Carlicchi, Renault Group

Jean-Marc Carlicchi, Renault Group

Wrapping up a jam-packed day one of ALSC Europe 2024, delegates heard from Jean-Marc Carlicchi, vice-president, Supply Chain Engineering, Renault Group.

He said that to plan for a resilient, cost-effective supply chain there needs to be an end-to-end ecosystem approach, both within organisations and across OEMs, tier-1s, LSPs and digital technology providers.

Watch: Renault’s Carlicchi on the Red Sofa

“For us it’s a promotion for the supply chain, its proven it has played a major role in arbitration in all the central decisions. We got credibility that we did not have before, so internally we became a kind of referee that speaks with data,” he said. “We discovered ourselves as a real end-to-end function. Also, we can provide better solutions for our customers, see and plan things in advance and provide more stability, so it’s a big change.”

alsc europe 2024

ALSC Europe 2024 took place 19-21 March in Kameha Grand Bonn, Germany. For more interesting discussions, key points and takeaways from the event, as well as Red Sofa video interviews, visit our highlights page.

To find out more about ALSC Europe and register for next year, click here.