Geographically, the European landscape today looks much the same as it did 10 years ago. But from a logistics standpoint, everything has changed.
The European Union has come together as a single market. The euro is poised to take hold as the common currency for a market of more than 320 million consumers. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have splintered into a collection of ethnic enclaves. And companies are frantically reengineering their supply chains to adjust.
The trend in Europe is toward fewer distribution points serving larger territories. Some divisions are geographically obvious, such as Kodak's establishment of a separate supply chain for the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. Others are based on the ability of a logistics provider to cross multiple borders and essentially make them disappear. In all cases, shippers are looking to serve the European market with the least number of warehouses and smallest possible inventories.
That's not always possible. For most companies, the notion of a single distribution point for all of Europe is but a dream. No logistics provider can cover the continent, let alone the world, with uniformly excellent service. Numerous infrastructure obstacles, in particular the fractured nature of Europe's railroads, still exist.
But partnerships are helping to fill in those gaps. The result, companies hope, will be a seamless supply chain throughout Europe. And for many, that dream already has become a reality.
Case Corporation Goes Against the Grain
Case Corp. is accustomed to breaking the rules of third-party logistics. In 1995, it chose three different vendors to manage its domestic and international supply chain - without naming any as lead logistics provider. So it should come as no surprise that Case, when it needed someone to coordinate trucking and materials flow in Europe, hired an American company with no prior experience in that area.
The anointed party was Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider Logistics Inc., an offshoot of Schneider National Inc., the nation's largest truckload carrier. Schneider Logistics was already one of the triumvirate of companies chosen to oversee the U.S. supply chain of Case, a producer of agricultural and construction equipment with headquarters in Racine, Wis. Case had named Schneider to manage domestic trucking; GATX Logistics domestic warehousing, and Fritz Companies Inc. international freight forwarding.
|"The earlier we can get visibility into the supply chain, the better we can manage the freight."|
- Tom Wosepka of Schneider Logistics
|A logistics steering committee, consisting|
of representatives of both Menlo and Nike, oversees the entire operation.
|IMI altered its basic software to reflect Kodak's unique situation, rather than offering a generic version and forcing costly add-ons with every upgrade.|
|Any supply-chain relationship requires mutual understanding. "You can never communicate enough."|
- Dan Rabideau of
General Electric Medical Systems
|DHL promises to resolve any logistical problem within two to four hours. "There is zero tolerance for shipping errors."|
- Patty Hannigan of DHL
|Case Corp.'s point was that no single 3PL, no matter how grandiose its claims, could manage everything on a global basis.|
|It is recommended that companies bring their software partners into reengineering programs early, and hire strong consultants to support them.|
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