THE ever-increasing issue of workers standing around waiting for containers to arrive is becoming a serious problem in the logistics industry.
Many companies are reliant on external carriers to load and unload containers and the waiting time for shipments is blowing out by the day.
Trucks are late, workers are standing around and the effect is exorbitant labour costs and wasted man hours.
For Kiwibond Limited, a 100% independent New Zealand Sea-Freight handling company, the waiting-game was becoming a serious issue that they could no longer ignore.
With heavy competition from bigger players, it was essential for Kiwibond to provide equal service and turnaround for their clients and the first thing they decided to do was manage their own supply chain destiny.
With 9000 square metres of yard and four loading areas, Kiwibond is strategically placed at Auckland International Airport to ensure easy access and huge storage and freight handling facilities.
Kiwibond offers International Freight Forwarding, shipping, independent importing and exporting and sea-freight handling services.
According to Alex Bemelman, Kiwibond, turnaround is integral to the success of their business and yet they were continually being let down by external carriers.
"We were faced with the same problems that everyone has; trucks idling in long-queues, traffic congestion, wasted time on wharfs, staff waiting around and then having to do double shifts just to turn the stock around in time," Mr Bemelman said.
"Having man power standing around waiting for containers to arrive, to be moved around the site and be unloaded is a problem that many companies face on a daily basis.
“Too many companies are controlled by external carriers and don't realise that they can in fact do something about it," he said.
In addition, many sites like Kiwibond have issues such as physically fitting containers on their site and do not have the flexibility to move their containers from their unloading areas to their warehouses without serious damage to their yards.
Due to weather conditions in New Zealand, a majority of sites are constrained to canopies over their loading areas and warehouses. This causes great difficulty moving containers around with large forklifts as they are too high and cannot drive directly under the canopies.
"Kiwibond has a 5.75 metre height restriction under our warehouse and distribution centre and we need to ensure that goods are not loaded and unloaded out in the weather,” Mr Bemelman said.
“This becomes a problem when we simply can't 'fit' the forklifts under the canopies to drop the containers down."
Managing these same containers with large forklifts can also be detrimental to the unloading areas and cause irreparable damage to foundations and concrete yards.
Problems at Kiwibond
In the past Kiwibond was restricted to what heavy equipment they could use on their site due to the axle loadings of the machinery. Mr Bemelman was also acutely aware of the damage that a heavier forklift can do to a yard and did not want to incur on-going expenditure in repairing and maintaining the concrete yard.
Another problem that Kiwibond encountered was the high labour costs associated with container handling in their yard.
"We had extremely high downtime when staff waited for the trucks to arrive and to move the containers around our site,” Mr Bemelman said.
“Relying on outside carriers with swing lifts was a significant investment and the labour costs associated with the downtime were through the roof.
“Export cut-offs had to be well planned to coincide with external carriers, which meant we had no flexibility for late cargo receival."
Kiwibond identified that staff standing around waiting for a container on the ground was extremely time-consuming, costly and inefficient. They decided that they wanted to manage and control their own container handling and went in search of a solution.
"We thought that there had to be a forklift or container handler somewhere in the world that was designed with lighter axle loadings and could actually drive underneath canopies,” Mr Bemelman said.
“Every conventional forklift on the market was unable to meet our needs; they were all hampered by either mast height, axle loadings, turning circles, cost or high-running maintenance costs."
According to Mr Bemelman, after much research and enquiries, a Mobicon was recommended as it has the lightest axle loading of any container handler in the world and was designed to lift containers at no higher than a height of 1.8 metres above the ground.
It was apparent to Mr Bemelman that the Mobicon could meet all of Kiwibond's requirements. These included:
* Low height
* Low axle loadings
* Low purchase cost
* Extremely low R&M costs based on the simplicity of the hydrostatic drive components and design.
The Mobicon is a unique, flexible, container handler with the lowest axle loading in the world. It can drive directly under canopies and awnings and inside a warehouse door, turns in tighter spaces, is more maneuverable and has the ability to handle any size container.
The 33t capacity Mobicon is designed to handle any length container, from 16 foot through to 52 foot. It lifts the load from the bottom container castings, which allows the machine to handle flat racks, Gen and Hi Cube, tank containers and curtain sided containers.
The overall height of the Mobicon at 1.8 metres allows it to drive under canopies and directly through roller doors inside warehouse facilities.
"Once loaded, it is extremely safe due to its low centre of gravity and is impossible to tip over," Mr Bemelman said.
Kiwibond completed a cost exercise before purchasing the container handler and determined that the money saved in carrier costs alone would pay for the initial investment in the Mobicon.
"Forklifts are double the price of a Mobicon and rip up our yards and simply don't fit underneath our canopies. Top lift forklifts are a serious problem under canopies and make the job difficult so we were very pleased to find a unique container handling solution available in Australia," Mr Bemelman said.
Previously Kiwibond had 40t rated machinery moving their containers which once fully laden, produced axle loadings in excess of 110t.
Due to the design of the Mobicon, the load is spread over 8 independent wheels reducing the load to 6.5t per wheel, which virtually guarantees no yard damages.
Kiwibond changed their loading and unloading operations literally overnight with the Mobicon and even decided to start managing their own supply chain.
"Not only did we invest in a Mobicon container handler but we also decided to invest in our own trucks and eliminate swing lifts entirely from our operations,” Mr Bemelman said.
“This exercise all started because we decided to do a feasibility study on the cost-savings of the Mobicon investment."
Kiwibond Limited is now saving in external carrier costs by managing their own containers with the Mobicon. These cost savings do not include the additional savings achieved by not paying for the use of swing lifts for every container movement.
Kiwibond also replaced all of their contractors with skel trailers and tractor units and invested in their own trucks. This ensures total control and flexibility over their container movements.
In addition, Kiwibond are now able to offer their clients a faster and more efficient turn-around of import cargo. Their export department can extend cut-off times for the receival of LCL cargo as their dependency on external carriers is now almost non-existent.
"The Mobicon has produced direct savings from day one and we under-estimated the savings that it could offer our business,” Mr Bemelman said.
“We calculated a 'Worst Case Scenario' approach when we undertook the feasibility study and the Mobicon have definitely surprised me as it comes no where near our 'Worst Case' figures calculated."