Topics of Logistics
German carmakers are building new production plants in all their relevant markets, above all in the Nafta area and in China. Local sourcing is an important component for establishing the supply process for reasons of costs and to manage the logistics processes. On the other hand, the efficient method of “best-cost country sourcing” often entails long delivery chains. Hardly any factory in the world can produce all the required makes and models of a vehicle manufacturer, the range of models is simply too great. Consequently, the past few years have also witnessed a growth in the global transport chains and logistics processes for distributing finished vehicles, and they need to be coordinated and controlled.
Time-tested concepts of logistics organization in Europe and North America cannot always be used without adjustment in other regions. The requirements of logistics processes are wideranging: It is not always the case that high-quality, standardized packaging is available to ensure reliable protection of components in all transport and production processes on a cost-efficient basis. In markets such as China, there are also no standardized load-space dimensions. Or there is a lack of interfaces and standards for global communication and for the exchange of information between the partners in the supply chain and its logistics processes.
Processes and exchange of information
Transparency and control of logistics processes in current conditions demands a growing, global exchange of information between suppliers, manufacturers and service providers. The VDA recommendations developed in the past and widely used in Germany for data transmission only meet these requirements to a limited extent. For this reason, the work on the development of new, globally applicable messages for the exchange of information has been continued and intensified. Recommendations for the global exchange of inventory data, call order data, delivery advices and invoice data are now available.
In addition, a new version of the recommendation for the form and content of transport papers in logistics processes accompanying goods has been produced. This means that globally applicable formats are now available, some of which have already been implemented and are in use. The members of the relevant working party provided information about the implementation process at a roadshow event, which was attended by 750 people and resulted in a lively amount of feedback.
One of the main topics is the use and management of reusable packaging, particularly small load carriers (SLC). In the past, recommendations have been prepared for such containers by CoC Packaging in the VDA. About 100 million containers have been introduced into circulation so far. In 2014, for the first time tools from a manufacturer in China were certified. More are sure to follow. This will be an important step toward supplying the Chinese market and replacing disposable packaging within China.
The management of such a large number of packaging units is a massive challenge. In the industry there are various concepts to provide suppliers with empty containers in logistics processes. The management tools also differ widely and are a bureaucratic obstacle that causes unnecessary costs. A project group formed in 2014 is studying these processes and preparing recommendations for the possible standardization of information and control processes.
The subject of Industry 4.0 is driving forward the digitization of the added value chain. The competitiveness of Germany as an industrial location is to be secured by linking machines, tools and systems, on the one hand, and IT systems, on the other. Many of the concepts are already in use in vehicle production (for example in just-in-time and just-in-sequence production) but to date the subject has not been addressed in its entirety.
The aspect of smart logistics is of particular interest to logistics specialists. In this case, the use of these principles results in a high level of transparency in the logistics processes, and reactions to faults are also improved. Intelligent containers are one of the main requirements for these systems. Consequently, experts in the two working groups of “CoC Packaging” and “Auto-ID” have worked out a requirement profile for the next generation of VDA small load carriers equipped with RFID technology, and that permit a further process automation. The concept has been approved by the logistics committee and the development of this generation of containers, which also gives due consideration to sustainability aspects such as material use, improved transport volume and protecting the environment, has now been started.
In addition to the increasing penetration of digital services into logistics processes, the logistics working groups are also looking into the digital development of components and vehicles. The “Auto-ID” working group is also continuing to pursue the topic of the “glass prototype.” The aim of these activities is to continue to expand the digital development of vehicles and components and thus to reduce the number of physical development stages up to the start of production. These activities are supplemented by the digital design and simulation of production and internal logistics processes by the “Digital Factory” working group. Using these innovative techniques, it is possible to validate and optimize the design of production plants in virtual form during the planning phase. This allows all the main factory processes and resources related to the product to be viewed and improved as a whole.