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Core Competency Contract Logistics

There is a lot more at stake in the warehouse than simply storing a pallet. The processes are complex and precisely attuned to one another. In this way, the Nagel-Group is able to organise the flows of goods in the warehousing efficiently.

Olcay Turan’s shift starts at 2 pm. Nevertheless, the team leader at the warehouse site in Raalte, Holland, gets there half an hour early every day. He has a cup of coffee with his colleagues from the early shift who are taking their break. “It’s an important moment for me. During the coffee break I get information, find out how the day has gone and what sort of mood my colleagues are in,” he says.

A tried and tested working routine

Then it’s all systems go! First the 44-year old helps to unload the trucks. Then the loading lists are sorted. Everyone in his team is given a task, then they all get on with unloading and loading the semi-trailers according to the plan. Incoming goods are warehoused, outgoing goods made ready for onward transport. A tried and tested working routine. The team gets to work.

Olcay Turan keeps an eye on everything. He monitors shipments, checks loading lists, sends shipping notes and ensures that the trailers arrive at the correct gates. Every employee knows exactly what needs to be done - so everyone contributes to getting the goods loaded onto the trucks at the right time.

Organising flows of goods efficiently

For some experts, contract logistics is the supreme logistics discipline. In the warehouse, there’s a lot more at stake than simply storing a pallet. “We don’t just do warehousing. We optimise the supply chain,” says Björn Schniederkötter, Chief Operating Officer (COO). It’s about organizing the flows of goods as efficiently as possible, day in, day out. The processes are complex, and precisely attuned to one another. The processes are constantly reevaluated and improved. Despite the high degree of standardisation, most of the warehouse concepts are precisely tailored to customers and their specific needs. Fresh and cooked meats have very different requirements to chocolate. In the processes themselves speed and accuracy are crucial. Contract logistics is multi-layered as the warehouse is the hub and pivot for various different systems. It is part of the customer’s supply chain, requiring intensive communication and continuous exchange of data. At the same time, it has an important function within the Nagel-Group’s pan-European network. Delivery and collection will only run smoothly if processes are working correctly in the warehouse. So warehouse staff are also in contact with the transport department and drivers.

Interface to transport

It is precisely this interface function which is part of the attraction of contract logistics for Project Manager Gabriele Schier. Staff work closely with various different departments, and thus contribute to the success of major projects in conjunction with commercial staff, transport and contacts on the customer’s side. “It’s never boring, every day is different,” reports the 48-year old. As an experienced Project Manager, Gabriele Schier specialises in unusual challenges. She had a significant role to play in summer 2018 when an entire warehouse moved to a new site within a few weeks. 45,000 pallets moved from Grolsheim to Trebur, about 50 kilometres away, whilst operations continued. This also affected the 5,000 metre square co-packing zone. One Thursday evening, all racks, packing tables, roller conveyors and strapping systems were loaded up, transported to Trebur and assembled there. By Monday, everything was up and running on the new site.

It starts with trust

“It was very intensive, and good communication with all departments was crucial,” remembers Gabriele Schier. Such a major project also makes it clear that one thing is essential in contract logistics: mutual trust. “Contract logistics is always about trust. Ultimately, customers place important stages of their supply chain in our hands,” explains Björn Schniederkötter. The Nagel-Group relies on open and honest dialogue with customers to ensure this trust. This is a key requirement enabling both companies to work together on optimising the supply chain. At such times, the traditional customer/service-provider model breaks down somewhat. “A partnership of equals arises, which makes a real win-win situation possible,” says Schniederkötter.

The Nagel-Group provides many varied services to support its customers in improving supply chain efficiency. “To start with, we identify the best process. Only then do we look at how to organise our services to create a bespoke warehouse concept,” says Norbert Slink, Head of Corporate Contract Logistics.

A growing willingness to outsource

As well as the basic processes of receiving and warehousing goods, order- picking and shipment, numerous value-added services are available to customers. These ensure that the recipient receives the food specifically tailored to their needs - in the right quantity, appropriately sorted, already presented in a promotional display and with suitable labelling.

“Customers are increasingly willing to entrust all logistics services in the supply chain to a specialist,” explains Slink. This has many positive benefits for customers: they can avoid using resources for tasks which are not part of their core competency and can instead focus on their original business.

More and more processes are being automated

To ensure that warehouse processes become increasingly efficient, the Nagel-Group is committed to automation and digitisation. For instance, ultra-modern warehouse technology includes high-reach forklift trucks. There are already vehicles in use which drive automatically to the right place in the bay. Staff only need to pick the goods from the right height.

“The degree of automation will continue to rise,” says Norbert Slink with confidence. The Nagel-Group is also trying out a driverless transport system (DTS). The vehicles navigate autonomously through the rows of racks and swerve or stop if they detect any obstacles. “We want to implement a driverless transport system as part of a pilot project to collect concrete evidence about these systems,” explains Slink. Automation is also a response to the increasing shortage of specialist staff available.

Customers’ IT systems integrated

Software is also a decisive factor in the warehouse. The Nagel-Group relies on the company’s own warehouse management software, CALwms. “Having our own software is a massive advantage,” emphasises Slink. “Although we can represent many processes in standardised form, customer interfaces are generally configured or programmed individually.” This allows customers’ individual IT systems to be directly connected to the Nagel-Group software. Customers find out exactly which orders have been fulfilled and how many goods are still in the warehouse. A software team are on-call round the clock to ensure that processes in the warehouse always function perfectly.

Good staff for lean processes

But the Nagel-Group does not rely solely on modern technology, most of all it relies on its staff. Throughout contract logistics committed, well-trained specialist staff are essential for carrying out these demanding processes. Regular training sessions on warehouse management software ensure that existing knowledge is expanded and deepened. “These training sessions are important to ensure that our know-how is always up-to-date,” explains Stephanie Wienke, who as Project Manager for Corporate Contract Logistics also arranges the WMS training.

The software ensures that everyone involved can work together efficiently - and therefore also forms the cornerstone for the work Dutch colleague Olcay Turan and his team carry out every day. Everyone is aware of their own role and how they contribute to success on the site. “We can only do it together”. Turan himself only goes home when all trucks have left the site - and the next day he is ready to start again, cup of coffee in hand, surrounded by his colleagues.

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