Trucking with shared goals
Making cement is one thing, while making sure it reaches the customer is quite another. Cements are manufactured at various locations and are shipped in either bulk or bagged form to the distribution centres and end-markets. A logistics supplier must meet the requirements of the cement producer. European logistics provider Vos Logistics regards the transport of cement as a critical aspect of its business process. Building on that principle, HeidelbergCement has maintained a partnership with Vos Logistics in the Benelux for many years through the Cetra joint venture. By Frank Bartholomé, Cetra BV/TransCBR SA, The Netherlands.
After 1945, most cement in Europe was bagged for transport just like in many emerging nations today. However, a bulk transport system developed at a steady pace in Europe and proved to be the most effective way of bringing cement to market. As a result, the cement industry became a modern professional sector, which could grow together with the developing regional infrastructure. Today, 95 per cent of HeidelbergCement’s cement in the Benelux is transported in bulk. An improved infrastructure of roads, waterways, silos and information flows helped its Cetra joint venture optimise its bulk transport operations.
Joint venture formed
Nederlands Cement Transport Cetra BV, founded in 1966, is a joint venture between HeidelbergCement Benelux (ENCI BV) and Vos Logistics. The two international companies have combined their strengths in a successful partnership. Cetra provides a responsive service that meets the customer’s transportation needs in the cement market (transport of cement, fly ashes and cement kiln products). The partnership is based on an integrated approach. Optimisation does not simply start and end with the customer but rather is embedded at process level as a focus on quality and safety, administration, innovation and IT.
Delivery has changed
Of course traffic in the Benelux is far busier today than in 1945. Even 20 years ago, a driver who had to transport cement 200km would leave his location in the morning and was not expected to carry out more than this single trip in that day.
In the early years of Cetra, the loading process at the plants still needed many operators. Several staff were required for the loading facilities and some more for the counter to handle the paperwork.
However, by the 1980s Heidelberg Benelux had already begun automating its processes. First there were innovations at the cement plants, trailers, trucks and compressors that helped Cetra to optimise the logistics side of operations. In the past decade, the optimised information flow further enhanced the group’s logistics capabilities and has helped a process of replenishment in HeidelbergCement’s various supply chains.
Today, Cetra transports fly ash and kiln dust as part of optimising backhauling with the objective to reduce costs. Depending on the shipped material, there are sets of externally-certified rules to ensure that any risk of contamination is avoided.
Cetra’s core activity is cement transport in The Netherlands (85 per cent), Belgium and Germany's Ruhr area (10 per cent). The rest is part of a flexible shell, which performs cement-related (lime, fly ashes) and other transport. Cement transport is mostly in dedicated and certified flat silo vehicles, which limits the option of transporting any great variety of materials without contamination.
Cetra drivers will have their journey time planned to accommodate breaks and deliveries. A driver receives his load for tomorrow automatically on his onboard computer and loading card. He then loads his trailer himself and, before he arrives at the customer destination, he knows what to do next – the whole process is optimised.
The average distance to customers by road is about 100km. Cetra trucks in The Netherlands, for example, make an average of two trips per day, with loads of 36t of cement per trip, depending on the region. As the European cement industry is very seasonal, capacity is constantly fine-tuned in response to transport demand. The day-to-day variation of trips can be significant.
Today’s truck management
Currently, Cetra manages a fleet of 68 trucks and 79 trailers in Benelux. The fleet benefits from decentralised locations (from six HeidelbergCement plants), but is managed centrally for both Belgium and The Netherlands.
Fleet management involves the organisation of people, planning (which driver, which truck, etc) and using the technology to its maximum potential. Cetra and TransCBR (HeidelbergCement’s transport company) have integrated their management and understand each other's capacity. Cetra provides the drivers for its trucks daily, while after processing by the central optimiser, ENCI's planning schedules devise the most efficient way of carrying out the required journeys. The planning, technical aspects and the maintenance of the material is realised by Cetra.
Trucks and trailers are brought in for inspection twice a year. Together with Cetra’s truck suppliers the company has developed the “one-stop-shop”. Cetra’s truck supplier knows how to install and/or repair the trucks, trailers, compressors, onboard computers, telephones and GPS. This arrangement is based on a long-term relationship, because one needs to build up stock, knowledge and flexibility to handle all this in a professional way. Moreover, the air-valves of the trailers and compressors are inspected every year for safety reasons.
Only by informing each other sufficiently and in time can all processes and activities be optimised. Both partners have to be convinced that information sharing is the way to be successful.
“For Vos Logistics, this joint venture with HeidelbergCement is a strategic business model,” says Frank Verhoeven, CEO of Vos Logistics. “This model commits both parties to a process of continuous improvement in a changing market. As the vision is long term and benefits are shared, it allows for investments in assets, IT and people.
“The model has proved to be robust over the years and suits modern times in which there is an increasing sound that collaboration generates better companies,” he adds.
Vos Logistics serves European network
|Vos Logistics, established in 1944, is an independent European logistics service provider, delivering a wide range of transport and customer-specific logistics services. With just under 1900 FTEs, the company operates a modern fleet of some 1200 Euro 4, 5 and 6 vehicles, 3000 loading units and 170,000m2 of storage space. The company operates a highly-developed European network with advanced transport management systems (eg Lovos) and a sharp focus on quality and service. With its international organisation, based on the flexible and efficient operation of both its own vehicle fleet and external capacity, the company can respond effectively to the dynamics of the international transport market in terms of both volume and destinations.|
Vos Logistics is always committed to improving its operations and for Cetra drivers this means working on reducing gate-to-gate time, round trips, night time deliveries and efficient scheduling. The joint venture operates joined, integrated KPIs for truck utilisation that are reported on a daily basis, while improvements are ongoing.
The unique set-up offers added value for both parties. Like HeidelbergCement, Cetra works to reduce CO2 and endeavours to work to the highest safety standards, with two onboard cameras for reversing and experienced drivers operating with the utmost care at all times.
The future of Cetra looks to be in safe hands as well as both HeidelbergCement and Vos Logistics value service at the heart of their partnership.
Article first published in International Cement Review, March 2014.