Everything for the automotive industry: How logistics company Elflein from Bamberg masters the high demands on itself as a supplier with software solutions
The foundation of every successful company is a high level of specific competence. Without it, nothing works. Prosperous development also requires quality and efficiency. Elflein Transport Europe GmbH knows this only too well. The Bamberg-based family business generates the majority of its turnover in automotive logistics, with just-in-time and just-in-sequence deliveries – in some cases directly to the assembly line. Fault tolerance is traditionally low in this highly technical industry. Service providers who do not permanently and fully meet the high demands of manufacturers and suppliers are quickly replaced. In order to make the internal workflows and processes both reliable and efficient, Elflein has been relying on the WinSped transport management system (TMS) from LIS since 2012. With the recent changeover to the new graphical planning system from LIS, the Bavarian logistics specialist has further optimised its route planning and ensured more flexibility while at the same time making it easier to use. After six months of preparation, all of Elflein’s 60 dispatch workstations were converted to the new tool in a concerted action lasting a good six hour.
Elflein was founded in 1932 as branch of a mill business and has been headquartered in Bamberg since 1998. The city of 78,000 inhabitants has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993 because of its historic city centre. Situated on seven hills at the mouth of the Regnitz and Main rivers, Bamberg is also one of the most important economic centres in Upper Franconia, Bavaria. The inland harbour and the nearby motorways A70 and A73 offer significant advantages, especially for logistics.
Elflein has always known how to use this. The family business has grown continuously in recent years and developed into a logistics specialist that today has a turnover of around 120 million euros a year with 1,300 employees at 13 transport and nine logistics locations. The company, managed by Rüdiger Elflein, has specialised particularly in automotive logistics and today works for numerous well-known manufacturers such as BMW, Porsche, Daimler and Tesla, but also directly for suppliers such as Magna or Faurecia. 65 per cent of all transports are in this area. The second largest business segment, with a 20 per cent share of transports, is the food division.
950 transports daily with more than 3,700 load carriers
“We have also gained considerable market share in paper logistics. Today, every tenth transport can be attributed to this segment,” says Elflein authorised signatory Matthias Dürrbeck. The average of 950 transports per day are mostly handled by the company itself. For this purpose, the logistics company maintains a fleet of 450 tractor-trailer units and schedules an additional 100 permanent subcontractors. Dürrbeck: “We dispatch more than 3,700 load carriers a day, with our vehicles covering a total of 385,000 kilometres a day. With numbers like that, even small improvements in route planning have a noticeable effect.”
In order to increase this potential and better coordinate the processes and procedures, the Upper Franconian logistics company purchased the LIS-TMS WinSped back in 2012. “At that time, it was for ten users,” recalls Dürrbeck, who played a key role in supervising the project. The changeover to the Graphische Disposition (GD) now took place at 60 workstations and again Matthias Dürrbeck was responsible: “It was not the same contact persons as ten years ago, but the good communication and coordination with the LIS service team also helped this time that everything went smoothly and as planned.”
Full overview thanks to visualisation
The Grapichal Planning module offers a detailed map display, via which all planned tours are visualised together with the respective orders and vehicles. Without having to change the system, the dispatcher can thus get a complete overview of both the transports and the deployment plan. The new tool also offers a variety of convenient options for clearly displaying only the information that is important for the current planning progress. An attention control system based on the traffic light principle also helps to identify problems at an early stage so that they can be prevented in the best case. In addition, routines, templates and copy templates can be created, which drastically reduce the time needed to handle recurring processes and procedures. “This alone results in a considerable gain in efficiency,” says Dürrbeck. “Apart from that, we quickly noticed that all processes in scheduling run faster and more stable.”
One reason for the smooth transition is the excellent preparation. Beforehand, the forwarding agency had tested the Graphical Planning for half a year in a one-to-one environment, adapted its server structure at the site to the new requirements and trained employees. The new system then went online during ongoing operations, but wisely on a very quiet day, namely 1 May. Within six hours, the LIS specialists, with the support of a three-man Elflein team, had set up the Graphical Planning at all 60 dispatching workstations and even installed a major WinSped update. “It went like clockwork,” Dürrbeck recalls.
Another reason why the integration of the new tool went off smoothly is the structure of WinSped. The Greven-based software developer has designed its programme in a modular way, making the integration of additional tools, for example for claims and damage management, hall handling or document management, extremely easy. At the same time, users can easily configure a powerful transport management system that is precisely tailored to their needs on the basis of the numerous modules.
Many advantages through a wide range of interfaces
“Another decisive factor for our decision in favour of WinSped was the wide range of interfaces offered by the TMS,” Dürrbeck reports. This makes the connection to customer systems child’s play. “As far as the flow of information is concerned, the demands of our clients have increased considerably in recent years. Manufacturing companies in particular want to know at all times where their goods are, what condition they are in and when they will arrive at their destination,” Dürrbeck explains. This requires two things: a powerful TMS and a smooth data exchange. WinSped offers both. And with the new GD even to a greater extent than before. “The system can be operated intuitively and the disposition of freight, vehicle and route is much faster and easier thanks to the visualisation. In addition, document and workflow templates can be created with just a few clicks, which can be used to speed up many recurring processes considerably,” says Dürrbeck. “As a result, we have already noticed considerable efficiency gains shortly after the migration.”
More efficiency through automated route planning
However, Elflein does not want to leave it at that. On the contrary. In order for the scheduling department to be able to devote more time to the customers and the driving personnel, significantly more processes related to the transports and their planning are to be automated in the future. “With a view to competition as well as sustainability, we are always striving to improve the utilisation of our fleet as well as the quality of our services. This is hardly possible without innovative software solutions,” Dürrbeck explains. That is why he has already set his sights on purchasing WebSped, which can be used as a web application via any browser. The integration into WinSped as a forwarding software is also possible here without any problems via a prepared interface. But one thing at a time. After all, a project like this needs to be well prepared.
Elflein in figures
Transport locations: 13
Logistics locations: 9
Storage area: 135,000 sqm
Turnover/year: 120 million euros
Fleet: 450 towing units + 100 permanent subcontractors
Load carriers shipped/day: 3,700
Name: Elflein Holding GmbH
Legal form: GmbH
Registered office: Regnitzstrasse 18 b; 96052 Bamberg
Year of foundation: 1932
Managing director: Rüdiger Elflein (shareholder)
Employees: approx. 1,300
Core competence: Transport and warehouse logistics services
Customers: Companies from the automotive, food and paper industries
LIS customer since: 2012