Daimler has once again awarded its top performing vehicle logistics carriers in Europe during an annual ceremony and strategy meeting with providers held this past week at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt, Germany. Three road carriers were presented with prizes, while Daimler’s logistics management also pointed to an overall improvement this year in its carrier performance index, reversing a declining trend in delivery and quality metrics over the past two years.

The winner in the passenger car transport category was Akkermann Transport. Winning for the second year in a row for commercial vehicles was Spedition Braase. Finally, the most innovative supplier award – a new category – went to Vega International.

The passenger and commercial vehicle transport awards are given to the top ranking carriers in Daimler’s key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring system, which includes categories such as meeting the carmaker’s specified pickup windows, maintaining fleet and equipment standards and low damage rates. The KPI scores also form the basis for Daimler’s performance related pay scheme, which gives providers bonuses above a certain threshold while applying penalties if performance is too low.

Dr Holger Scherr, head of global transport logistics for cars, trucks, vans and buses at Daimler, praised the European carrier community for an overall improvement in their quality indicators after several years when the average metrics had fallen precipitously. “The European carriers have launched a positive trend this past year, which I had been hoping for,” he said.

Dr Georg Hohlweg, responsible for outbound logistics performance, revealed that the improvements had been notable in areas including quality control, better loading factors and a big gain in meeting pickup times. Part of the latter improvement was the result of Daimler widening the time windows, which Hohlweg said had helped a number of carriers to meet 100% of the pickup windows for a three month period or longer.

Scherr said that this change in the pickup requirement had been made following close consultation with carriers. “Making the time window bigger was not just generosity on the part of Daimler but showed a willingness to learn,” he said.

But while Daimler managers praised the carriers’ improvements, there were still poor results in some areas, with many of the problems coming from the subcontracted drivers and trucks from other carriers that some of Daimler’s primary providers have used. “The performance of carriers’ subcontractors is unsatisfactory,” said Scherr.

Hohlweg pointed to cases where subcontractors had damaged a car’s tyres as a result of non-standard lashing, incorrectly loaded vehicles and used older trucks. “Despite a relatively small amount of subcontractors used among our providers, we find that up to 40% of the problems caused in distribution come from subcontractors,” said Hohlweg.

Much of the previous declines in carrier performance in 2010 and 2011 had also been attributed to subcontractors. The financial difficulties faced by many European carriers had led many to delay investments in their fleets or to cut transport capacity in the face of declining volumes. With Daimler one of the few brands whose production has increased in Europe, some carriers had evidently struggled to cope with the increases, or else had to hire subcontractors.

Scherr also made a familiar complaint that the company would like to see more of its products being hauled with Daimler trucks. “Our top management always asks us about that,” said Scherr, whose boss is the board member responsible for commercial vehicles. “We don’t like carriers transporting our products with other brand-named trucks.”

Despite some of these issues, and considering that the economic situation in Europe has been worse in 2012 than last year, the logistics team acknowledged that carriers had shown considerable adaptability to difficult business conditions. However, with Daimler recently unveiling an ambitious growth offensive that will see ten new models launched by 2015, and the goal of nearly doubling vehicle volumes from their 2012 volume by 2020, managers for vehicle logistics expressed the need for logistics providers to improve performance further and to become even more flexible.

“Our product offensive is still in its infancy and we will add many new fascinating new vehicles to our product range in the coming years,” said Scherr, pointing to the recently launched A-Class at Rastatt as well as the new Antos delivery truck. “By pulling together, we can overcome this challenge and continue to deliver vehicles to our customers undamaged and on time.”

Egon Christ, head of global vehicle transport, urged providers to extend their global and regional reach as the carmaker increases its production footprint in Europe as well as other parts of the globe. “Carriers shouldn’t wait for Daimler to invite them to find a logistics solution in a new market like Russia or India. This is their core business, not ours,” he said. “The providers should adapt more of a ‘push’ rather than ‘pull’ approach to developing new services.”

Daimler managers also detailed network, operational and organisational changes that will impact its outbound vehicle logistics over the coming years, including combined tenders between passenger and commercial vehicles and the introduction of new multimodal hubs. An extensive report on these changes will be published in the January-March 2013 issue of Finished Vehicle Logistics.

The winners
This year marked the 13th time that Daimler presented the European Carrier Award for passenger cars. Akkerman Transport, based in Moormerland, Germany, received the award thanks to regular loading checks in plants, a minimal damage rate and an advanced trucking fleet, according to Daimler.

Spedition Braase, from Fokbeck, Germany, won the commercial vehicle award thanks in particular to its reliability in picking up vehicles at the plant and by its punctuality in delivering to dealerships.

Austrian-based Vega, which won the inaugural innovation award, was credited with have developed an in-depth employee training film about axle shipments, as well as having created new protection measures during transport. For example, the company used a special kind of bubble wrap for trucks moving long distances in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.