Necessity is the mother of invention – or the inspiration for finding new answers for old challenges. On the southern tip of Africa, the automotive industry has developed logistics systems which have effectively brought the world closer.
One of the biggest challenges facing the South African auto industry is its distance from the other major manufacturing centres in the world. Components made in Europe, the Americas or the East have to be transported over many thousands of kilometres before they can be delivered to the South African production line. Likewise, components made in South Africa need to be delivered on time to plants around the world.
South African logistics and transport companies such as Imperial Logistics have risen to the challenge. Imperial’s strategy has been to take control of as much of the supply chain as possible. As a result, they are able to deliver from the floor of component manufacturers in Europe and Japan just-in-time to OEM production lines in South Africa – and vice-versa, according to Cyril Laubscher, director of business development, Imperial Cargo.
The group has the ability to set up similar systems between plants in the US, the East, South America, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa, according to Gordon Pascoe, managing director of Bachmann-Megafreight. Both Imperial Logistics and Bachmann-Megafreight, which is an international freight forwarder, are owned by Imperial Holdings. The network is strengthened by Panopa, Haniel Reederei, Brouwer and Neska, all of which form part of Imperial Logistics International.
“We will handle all the logistics from the time the OEM in South Africa places an order in Europe or elsewhere to the delivery of the component to the production line, in sequence and on time,” says Laubscher. Imperial’s computer software and systems collectively allow the components to be tracked seamlessly across the continents and between different modes of transport. Imperial aims to control as much of the logistics chain as possible. “We own the assets of between 60 and 65% to service a supply chain, with the remainder being outsourced to trusted partners,” says Laubscher .
Information technology is seen as another core strength of the group. Bachmann-Megafreight has been using its own customised system, megaTrac©, since 1988. “The computer systems allow us to trace every part from quayside to OEM,” says Pascoe . Full inventories are taken of every container before it is dispatched. Where Imperial is responsible for the consolidation of the container as well, parts or part boxes are all scanned in as they are packed. Once the container or product is landed in South Africa, it is controlled through solutions provided by Dallas-based supply chain optimisation company, i2. The software utilises process methodology to help companies deal with the variability that comes from gaps in managing supply and demand. This methodology combines integrated planning and execution to allow customers to integrate disparate planning systems with workflow management systems to optimise their businesses performance in real time. Using these systems, Imperial is able to meet its customers’ needs in five core areas – revenue and profit optimisation, spend optimisation, production optimisation, fulfilment optimisation and logistics optimisation.
This high level of support is vital to OEMs and component suppliers, which often need to sequence deliveries, according to Laubscher. Imperial’s systems also make it possible for the company to identify the location of any component in containers being stored in bonded or unbonded warehouses or in transit. “If necessary, we will decant a container, unpack a part or group of parts, repack it and seal it again,” says Pascoe.
Another advantage of Imperial’s in-house IT skills is that it is able to create and customise track and trace systems to meet the needs of individual OEMs. These systems can be web-based if necessary. “We could interface with any system anywhere in the world – if the costs can be justified. Our approach is to involve the OEM and the software vendors with our own in-house developers in order to come up with a solution,” says Laubscher.
Imperial also provides value-added warehousing through Panopa. “In Europe, Panopa pre-assembles components such as dashboards and floor pans, and also fits tyres to rims before supplying them in-sequence to the manufacturing line,” says Laubscher. The group is capable of providing similar services in South Africa, according to Pascoe. “Our objective is to assist OEMs in keeping the cost of motor vehicles as low as possible by providing a seamless service,” he says.
With total assets of US$3-billion and annual revenue of US$4.8-billion and 26 900 people employed in 26 countries, Imperial is one of South Africa’s largest industrial companies. Imperial is a powerful force in the wider transportation and mobility markets in Southern Africa, Europe and the United Kingdom, with a growing presence in the East. Its origins go back to 1948 when founder Percy Abelkop opened a service station and motor business in Johannesburg. The company was listed on the South African JSE Securities Exchange early in 1987.
Logistics and Transport
Imperial Logistics is the largest division in the Imperial Group, operating more than 5 000 heavy vehicles and over 450 000 square metres of warehousing space across Southern Africa. The operations on the sub-continent include local and long-distance transport, refrigerated and tanker transport, warehousing, and related value-added services. In Europe, the business offering covers global logistics solutions; inland waterway shipping; ownership and warehouse management; air, ocean, road and rail transport; as well as terminal operations and storage facilities, including container, bulk and landside service provision (bulk, breakbulk and containers). International clearing and forwarding services are provided through partner company Bachmann-Megafreight.
One of Imperial Logistics’ companies, Imperial Cargo, operates some 568 vehicles, covering 70 million kilometres per year. The company owns and manages warehousing space of about 119 000 square meters nationally. Services include, amongst others, line-haul, feeder services, consolidation/cross docking, distribution and landside service provision.
Bachmann-Megafreight offers a comprehensive range of air and ocean options for the import and export of goods primarily from the Unites States, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Africa. As part of Bremen-based JH Bachmann, its network extends across the globe. JH Bachmann is an international provider of freight forwarding and logistic services for air and ocean cargo. Services include handling shipments of both full container loads and consolidated cargoes, modern warehousing and distribution.