At the biannual Transport Logistic exhibition and conference taking place in Munich, Germany this week, discussions about supply chain optimization focussed on communicating lead times as essential in an environment for ocean forwarding characterized by fluctuating capacity and rising fuel costs.
“To optimize the supply chain for my customers, I need to know my lead time well in advance. This way we can take the best environmental advantage of slow steaming, or increase pace to match demand,” said Alfred Manke, management board member at logistics provider Kühne+Nagel. “I need clarity to help plan–communication is essential.”
Manke said that slow steaming had been a strategy adopted too quickly in the face of the economic crisis that began in 2008 and had ‘shaken up’ the shipowners.
“Slow steaming was a quick decision and was not communicated to everyone in the chain enough in advance,” he added.
Asked what communication channels were in place at Volkswagen to help LSPs plan for required capacities, the general manager of outbound logistics, Andrea Eck, said the company had a capacity management programme in place to improve visibility, which it was about to extend.
“We introduced Capacity Management, a programme to help our LSPs which is updated on a monthly basis. This has run for the last three years. The ‘spread’ of the information is up to 12 months at present–we aim to extend this to three years very soon,” she said.
In a separate debate, which took place as part of the 6th mariLOG 2011 forum held during the exhibition, slow steaming was being seen as less of an issue as trade recovered.
Michael Korn, vice-chairman of the management board at Schenker, pointed out that with the increase in business there would be “no more slow steaming on many routes”. Instead he envisaged a return to research on fuel saving for ships and intelligent cross-docking as ways of gaining efficiency. Korn also saw “absolutely full containers and vessels – both ways of a journey”.
The mariLOG forum also looked more widely at the impact of rising energy costs, stricter environmental laws and changing demographics on the supply chain globally. Panel members discussed how future markets might be anticipated, the possibility of a reversal of the globalization pattern, environmental factors and multimodal products among other subjects.
Detlef Kerber, president of the Europe region at container transport provider, APL, responded to the question of whether increasingly strong trading nations like China would overtake Western logisticians in influencing supply chains in support of their national players. “From the joint venture legacy of vehicle making in regions like China, we are very much working in harmony. We look forward to expert logisticians coming from these regions into the universe of global logistics. We have nothing to fear from this, and very much to gain.”
Another positive sign of the economic recovery evident at this week’s Transport Logistics event was the number of commercial vehicle makers exhibiting. At the previous show 2009 they had dropped to almost zero, but almost all have returned this year.
As well as nearly 1,900 companies from 59 countries promoting their services, a comprehensive programme of conferences, forums, workshops and ‘country specials’ is taking place in multiple locations adjacent to the exhibition halls. Transport Logistics continues until Friday this week.