Dr. Bernhard van Bonn has been occupied with distribution planning for almost 30 years. As a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) and as a member of the management board and consultant at the logistics consultancy VCE Verkehrslogistik Consulting & Engineering GmbH, he combines the academic and the practice-oriented perspective. We interviewed him about groupage.
Dr. van Bonn, let’s start at the very basics: What distinguishes groupage transports from other transports?
An essential feature of groupage is that they are by definition designed to generate the best possible transport capacity utilisation. They are, so to speak, a cooperative model from the ground up. This means that the supply and disposal of shippers and recipients is carried out jointly.
When is groupage useful?
Whenever the shipment quantities are below the partial load and use a standardised load carrier. So as soon as something is transported on pallets, in skeleton containers and so on. It is ideal for vehicle utilisation and handling if only load carriers of the same type are used per truck. Long and bulky goods are rather unsuitable. The aim must be to bundle smaller transports on one vehicle. It is therefore also important that the forwarder is allowed to summarize reasonable relations.
How do groupage transports develop compared to other transport sectors?
There has been a long-standing trend towards smaller shipments in higher frequencies. At the same time, our infrastructure resources and the available drivers and vehicles are finite. The Corona crisis clearly shows how quickly we reach our limits in times of peak load. Therefore, any approach of bundling transports and carrying out transports together on the available means is probably future-oriented. This concerns also or especially groupage transport.
Is this mode of transport economically more or less lucrative than others?
There is no real answer to that. In principle, groupage transports have the potential for higher profit margins. However, the forwarder must also be able and allowed to control or manage them as required.
What are the obstacles?
The biggest problem is the exclusive thinking of the clients. Many shippers have a problem with their goods being on the same truck as those of other shippers. In some tenders, branding of the truck tarpaulins is even required. This way of thinking is counterproductive and also costs the customer money, as it offers the forwarder fewer opportunities for bundling. At the same time, however, the individual volumes of transport orders are constantly decreasing. Ultimately, shippers can be persuaded to use groupage transports if the information supply is right. Digital delivery notification, order procurement, tracking & tracing increase the reliability of the transports. However, digitisation is not yet sufficiently advanced for this. Once it is, the forwarder can also use smart IT tools to support and dynamically plan groupage transports.
What possibilities are there to avoid tours?
Clearly: dynamic disposition. There are two stages: The first one is to move away from static (frame) tours, where the same areas are driven to every day. This has to be replaced by daily tours that are tailored to your needs and with the appropriate route guidance. This can save around ten percent of tours.
In the second step, dynamic tour and route guidance is conceivable while the vehicle is already on the road. Reactions to current traffic situations or the addition of new pick-up orders that have just come in become possible.
Link to the Fraunhofer IML: www.iml.fraunhofer.de/en
About Dr. Bernhard van Bonn
Dr. Bernhard van Bonn is deputy head of the Transport Logistics Department at the Dortmund Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) and member of the management board of the logistics consultancy VCE Verkehrslogistik Consulting & Engineering GmbH. He studied computer science at the TU Dortmund University and received his doctorate in mechanical engineering with a focus on distribution planning. The numerous projects with partners from industry, trade and services, which he has been carrying out at the IML since 1992, are also based on this topic. This subject area is complemented by his research and consulting activities concerning the digitalization of logistics processes.