How the project cargo logistics specialists of Karl Gross organize and coordinate the transport of a Schuler press line for a consignee from the U.S. automotive industry – including a sequential delivery of the heavy lift components “Just in time” for installation at the automotive production facility
The German company Schuler is the world’s leading manufacturer for metal forming technology and the world’s biggest producer of industrial presses. Schuler’s product range includes individually constructed large scale press lines for the automotive industry. For intercontinental transportation, Schuler counts on the logistics know-how of Karl Gross.
Recently, a press line, consisting of five connected presses, had to be transported to the USA. The customer: a leading producer of electric cars.
The volume: 750-tons (1,500,000 lbs.) break bulk plus containerized cargo
Parts of the shipment were several “heavy-weights” – a 208-tons (516,000 lbs.) component as well as four elements with an additional weight of 137-tons (274,000 lbs.) each.
The specialists of our project department in Hamburg developed a comprehensive logistics concept as door-to-door transportation and local assistance was demanded. “The heavy lift components had to be delivered “just-in-time” for the installation in the production facility, to compromise the on-going production as little as possible. A central challenge was to implement a precise timing for the transportation of the heavy lift pieces throughout the entire transportation process from door-to-door”, says Christoph Strelau, supervisor of the project.
At the Schuler factory premises in Erfurt, all the heavy lift components were loaded on multi axis trailers and forwarded to the next inland port in Aken at the River Elbe. There, the 208-tons colossus and the four other heavy lift pieces were all stowed in special seaworthy transport crates and were loaded on three inland water vessels using a heavy duty crane. Then, all the pieces were transported to the international port of loading, Bremerhaven, Germany. “Road transportation from the Schuler factory to the port of Bremerhaven was impossible because of the weight of the cargo pieces”, says Christoph. “Why did we choose Bremerhaven as the port of loading? We needed an accurate and absolutely predictable timing for the ocean journey as well as short transit times for shipping of the heavy lift components. That is why we decided to use RoRo-liner service. Bremerhaven has good RoRo-liner services connections to the U.S.-American west coast”, explains Christoph.
Short transit times and an accurate and absolutely predictable timing were crucial for a transport by RoRo vessel.
At port Bremerhaven: “elephant feet” and swimming crane
Upon arrival in Bremerhaven, the shipment’s heavy lift components were positioned on “Blocks and Beams” on the pier. For discharging the 208 ton giant from the inland water vessel to the pier, a heavy lift swimming crane was necessary, as the weight of the cargo piece exceeded the capacity of the port. Cranes “elephant feet” – that’s how we call blocks and beams – have the advantage that a SPM-Trailer can roll directly under the cargo piece and 'pick it up',” says Christoph. “Once the SPM-Trailer is correctly positioned, the crate is hydraulically lifted up from underneath. Then, the SPM-Trailer, which is a remote controlled self-propelled driving unit, brings the cargo onboard the RoRo vessel via a ramp. Inside the vessel, there are also elephant feet prepositioned on which the crates can be put down.”
“What’s important for transports like this is that the cargo pieces and the construction of the transport crates are made for this very type of transport, as well as for the temporary storage on blocks and beams. Another important factor is whether it offers enough lashing points to secure the cargo on the RoRo vessel,” adds Christoph.
The heavy lift pieces were shipped to the US-west coast in three part lots. Parallel, the containerized consignment parts were shipped via container vessel.
Precision work and exception permits for the on-carriage
To move the 208-tons colossus from the port of destination to the production facilities of the automobile producer, precision work was demanded. For the on-carriage, which was only feasible via road transport due to infrastructural matters, for instance, a special heavy lift truck was necessary. “Due to the height and weight of the press parts we worked with an Alpha-Trailer. For this transport method, the trailer is 'built around the crate'. That means that the two-part Alpha-Trailer is driven up to both front sides of the crate and connected in the middle. Then the crate is hydraulically lifted”, Christoph explains.
The transit time from the destination port to the unloading site at the factory was three days. “These kinds of transports need special permissions”, says our project cargo specialist. “And we had to cover the full distance with a heavy lift escort vehicle and with police escort.”
Requirements were similar for the road transport of the four “smaller” heavy lift crates. One special challenge in organizing the road transport for the five heavy lift pieces and in meeting the strict delivery schedule mandated by Schuler was to obtain a transport permission which deviated from the US standard in terms of transport frequency.
Logistics support at the destination
Upon arrival at the automobile producer’s production facility, the consignment parts were brought into a so called “Buffering Zone” on the factory premises. “We had arranged with the consignee that there was space provided on his factory premises, on which the break bulk crates could be unloaded. It was important that each of the shipment’s lots were positioned at the previously defined spot in the buffering zone, to make sure that it can be properly unpacked and fetched so to say “just-in-time”, explains Christoph. This whole process was coordinated and controlled by Karl Gross.
Keeping everyone up to date
For this kind of a project, close communication and coordination with all the parties involved is essential. “Our regular status reports ensured that everyone was constantly up to date, for example regarding where each cargo piece is at what time. This made the precise pre-planning possible which was necessary, especially when organizing special equipment or obtaining transport permissions for instance for the heavy lift pieces”, explains Christoph. “And it is especially important that our customer and also their customer are always up to date. For us, such close communication is an important part of a successful partnership.”