Having watched the e-commerce boom over the past several years and being an online shopping fanatic, I can only imagine what heights e-commerce sales can reach. In my home country of Germany, fashion retailer Zalando is one of the most successful e-commerce platforms with daily deliveries of shoes and clothing to countries including Italy, Sweden, Austria and Spain. In 2016, 69.2 million orders were placed on the European websites alone. In America, the e-commerce boom has seen similar, if not more widespread success. On Cyber Monday in 2016, sellers on online giant Amazon received orders for more than 28 million items worldwide.
As an automotive logistics professional, I can imagine the complex planning involved to enable these fast logistics processes and ensure timely delivery to such a high number of online customers. However, I am always amazed at how different these logistics processes can be depending on the product being delivered. When comparing a parcel containing a pair of shoes or clothes to the shipment of a vehicle, you are able to see the vast differences and complexities that accompany vehicle deliveries, even though the amount of units shipped is not as high. With many vehicles having special characteristics, the logistical processes and their planning can get very complicated. Three challenges include:
While regular parcels in e-commerce are normally directly sent from local or national logistics centers to the customers´ home, cars make multiple stops on their way to a customer. With global delivery routes, cars often make stops at different yards with huge terminals and thousands of parking slots. At least once or several times on their way, the cars have to be unloaded and parked there until they can move on to their final destination. These yards are located close to production sites or at central points along the automotive supply chain, and usually serve various modes of transportation, which must be considered in order to find the optimal route before sending the car on its way.
Special means of transportation
On their way from production sites to the final destination, the finished vehicles often change their mean of transportation, travelling by ship, rail, and/or truck. While parcels of course can also be delivered via the same transportation means, in automotive logistics, specialized equipment has to be built for the purpose of delivering cars. This equipment, for example, includes special trailers, roll-on/roll-off ships, and unique rail cars for vehicle distribution, whereas for parcels just a regular truck can be utilized.
The parcels in e-commerce are packed and then sent immediately to the customers. Automotive logistics, on the other hand, often includes additional services before the actual delivery takes place. There are even assembly centers at some yards where the vehicles are modified to the customers´ needs or are serviced in some other manner. For example, some vehicles are washed during their journey. The pre-delivery inspection is the final check to ensure everything with the car is in order, and in some instances, ends in the car being wrapped for a safe and secure final delivery stretch.
The same, but different
Though there are many differences in the logistics processes of a parcel and a vehicle, there are also some similarities. For example, both processes are influenced by digitalization. The digital change fulfills the customer´s wish of a faster delivery as well as new methods allowing them to follow a delivery´s status. Vehicle tracking is quickly becoming comparable to the status tracking for the delivery of a parcel. Parcel logistics are however ahead of vehicle logistics in some areas, and though there is currently no way to send a car by drone or offer same-day delivery, new technologies are becoming increasingly important in automotive logistics.
Digitalization offers new options for more efficiency in automotive logistics. Optimal load building, automated communication, real-time information and consideration of the individual restrictions of the vehicles´ transportation can bring new chances for planning and optimizing processes.
In conclusion, in automotive as well as in parcel logistics, intelligent planning is needed to deliver a high number of items at the right time to the right place. Digitalization helps in both areas to smoothen and simplify processes. However, the unique characteristics of automotive logistics specified above require special attention in both the planning and controlling of the vehicles´ transport. As long as all processes are transparent, optimized and standardized, an efficient on-time delivery is possible, which takes into account all of the steps in the vehicle delivery process.
How do you handle the special logistics processes of a particular product?
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