”Vi Bygger” Skandinavien…

Building materials and prefabricated structures in the first place are on top of the export list to Scandinavia. As a result, there are a number of logistic operators on the market offering their services in this respect. What shall we pay attention to when deciding which haulier to choose so that our precious building contract will be safe with?

All economic indicators show that the construction industry faces a cosmetic but stable development. According to the General Inspector of Building Control last year saw stabilization in the industry, but it should bounce back in 2015 providing that there is no crisis in the world's finances. EU funds for the period of 2014 - 2020 should be a considerable impulse to keep the construction industry moving.

Export is yet another factor influencing development of construction industry manufacturers in particular. Building materials are one of the Polish export hits, and Scandinavia is among the most popular export destinations. Steel structures, windows and doors, scaffoldings, and materials for residential buildings and road infrastructure such as foundations, pillars, slabs, roofs or walls are most popular in northern Europe.

It is no wonder that there are more and more logistics operators on the market offering their services to the construction services in Scandinavian destinations. Many of them claim to provide top quality service or compete for customers with the lowest possible price. How to choose a haulier our often precious cargo will be safe with and delivered on time?

 

Experience in Scandinavia

First of all, one should make sure if their haulier has any experience whatsoever operating on Scandinavian routes. They should be familiar not only with difficult geographic conditions and bitter and harsh climate - especially northern Sweden and Norway in wintertime, but also with different social, legal and cultural factors. It is especially important now in the face of Russian embargo, and German or Norwegian minimum wage act. Many FTL companies terrified of the spectre of bankruptcy search for new customers in the markets they have little experience at.

It is worthwhile testing a carrier's alleged experience at Scandinavian destinations during an interview. This can be done by checking their internal procedures in case of a truck stuck in a snowbank or when it spins off in northern Sweden.

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Construction business awareness

A logistics operator cannot afford to be simply an expert in their field. They need to be familiar with principles and regulations governing the business they provide services to. Such knowledge may prove invaluable when securing construction elements such as pillars, reinforced or prestressed concrete ceilings, or when positioning the vehicle for unloading at a construction site, or even establishing pivoting points for transportation (for example prestressed concrete elements are extremely sensitive to incorrect pivoting points). Besides, one may check whether a carrier has at their disposal specially designed stands or racks for prefabricated elements.

How to earn a living out of transport?

A multipurpose fleet enables to complete various orders and optimal suitability to the specificity of the cargo. In this way a haulier may provide a client with a complex service taking care of different loads - including oversize cargo. In case of a large shipment which needs to be delivered at a small construction site where road access is hindered and a standard combination truck is difficult to maneuver, it may be ideal to use a unit of 38 pallet holding positions, but with very good maneuverability, including detachment of a trailer and covering the final destination as a 'solo' vehicle. All this combined with excellent skills of the drivers experienced in driving combination trucks as described above will guarantee a shipment to be delivered even to the most difficult place.

Another challenge a logistics operator should face is an order from an individual client; a client who orders a few windows or doors to be delivered in a very short time to a small housing estate with tonnage limitation. The only solution in this case may be a small truck of up to 12 ton of GVM, fitted with a self unloading lift thanks to which the cargo may be unloaded just at any place as no special ramp is necessary. What is more, trucks like this may operate even during seasonal tonnage limitations and bans for heavy traffic so orders may be completed in a very short time and despite the ban for vehicles of more than 12 tons

Fleet versatility is important, but it also should be specialized and innovative. A rare OpenBOX type trailer is one of the examples with the possibility to slide back the entire curtain side of the trailers including the rear doors, as a result of which a standard trailer turns into a platform (flat trailer). Trailers like this will carry loads of various types - these suitable for standard curtain side trailers as well as more untypical. Another asset of the OpenBOX trailer is the fact that loading and unloading is facilitated. By contrast with the standard trailer there are no side and roof guide bars once the trailer is opened; so unloading of steel structures, welded wire fabrics, concrete elements, etc. is much easier.

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A carrier with trailers of increased loading height (by 10 cm) or three-axle trucks of increased capacity may consolidate a planned volume of loads thus saving for the project investor even 15 percent of nominal logistics budget. On a whole investment contract level, this may be a decisive factor in winning a tender.

Building site in Scandinavia, or …

If a client expects a manufacturer to deliver prefabricated elements at a construction site in Stockholm downtown on the agreed day at 19.00 hrs because this is exactly when they can close the road so that the truck with a trailer can arrive for unloading, a logistics operator must do all their best to meet the precise deadline. Even though sometimes a distance of about 1500 km needs to be covered in weather conditions beyond their control. In this case experience and operational efficiency including a sea route will be of utmost importance. What it takes to have the job done in this case is experience and perfect operational organization with the sea crossing taken into account. Contracts for an indefinite time with ferry operators which will provide a fixed place on a ferry regardless of the tourist or seasonal occupancy are very helpful, too. Besides, they help react to factors beyond the operator's control like a storm on the Baltic Sea which prevents a ferry from leaving a harbor of Gdynia. An experienced operator will be able to switch from Gdynia to for example Swinoujście, where ship owners have at their disposal bigger vessels which can safely leave the port despite the storm. This will allow a prompt and timely delivery of goods which is always a priority in construction business.

Also knowledge of regulations and social norms applicable in Scandinavia is invaluable in many cases. An experience logistics operator providing service to the building industry for many years should already be familiar with terms and rules imposed by large Scandinavian construction companies. They should not be surprised by the requirements concerning a full health and safety uniform at work including the color of the helmet each driver should carry, or else they will not be allowed into the building site.

Another aspect of a carrier's considerable experience is their knowledge that many Scandinavian city centers will not allow trucks with less than EURO 5 norm engines.

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It is very often that carriers pay little attention to their drivers' good command of English. How are they supposed to safely unload the cargo in a place where no one speaks Polish? This when telephone conversations start with a middleman interpreting the simplest instructions. For this reason when you start to cooperate with a carrier, one should make certain if the drivers know English or any other language to be used instead even remotely.

Another key element of cooperation with logistics carriers is whether they provide 'Just in time' service at all. Completion of 'Just in time' services will help lower stock level and thus reduce inventory carrying costs. Other benefits for both business partners include quality improvement, increased productivity, or greater operational stabilization. So, it is a good idea to check a logistics operator's portfolio of their clients and businesses they served. If a carrier has completed for example a transport of automotive subassemblies onto production lines, this means they can handle the 'just in time' precision model of service very well. And similarly, if they have a portfolio of individual clients, this means they are familiar with 'door to door' service.

 

Security of transport – Security of contract.

For every client ordering a transportation service, security of their shipment is their top priority. Therefore it is worthwhile checking a haulier and paying special attention to risk minimizing solutions they offer. These should include information on experienced drivers, modern equipment, or experience in given destinations, but one of the key factors is a number of complete and successful deliveries over a specific period of time. Just about any logistics operator is able to provide such information based on the internal data. It should provide a good look on the quality of services provided.

It is also important if a logistics operator has drawn up and implemented various scenarios in case of potential emergencies. Each transport is subject to a number of external factors over which even the best haulier has no control. That is why it is essential to have a precise scenario which will provide all contact procedures. Not only does it improve communication, but also helps avoid unnecessary chaos and sort problems out more quickly.

Cargo insurance, which should be offered by a carrier, is another element aimed at further securing the shipment. It is a form of additional insurance which guarantees full financial compensation of the cargo (regardless of its weight) in case of loss or damage in both local and international transport. The cargo is covered by the insurance all along the way of transport, and if need be - also during transshipments and temporary storage.

Still, the most fundamental is securing the cargo on a trailer. A carrier must know how to secure the cargo with chains and straps - including establishment of pivoting points. They will differ depending on whether the goods transported contain concrete walls, Filigran floor slabs, reinforced or prestressed concrete elements.

Author:

Patryk Szymański

Vice President of Scandinavian Express

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