Over 1,000 loads of Tata Steel products are delivered by road each day in the UK and Ireland. Previously, each local business unit managed its own haulage needs. Lack of coordination led to trucks travelling empty on return journeys, resulting in huge losses and minimal control over load movements. The system delivered minimal transport efficiencies in terms of both cost and carbon. It was critical for the company to find an alternative to this wasteful option.
The merits of working as one company to resolve logistics issues were brought home to Tata Steel in the UK and Ireland when the company began working with transport and logistics company TDG in 2006. Tying up with TDG — since acquired by Norbert Dentressangle — for steel distribution services across the UK until 2013 enabled Tata Steel to manage its transport and haulage needs as a whole, thereby saving money and improving transport efficiencies.
"The alliance proved fruitful, helping the company reduce the incidence of empty miles and resulting in safety and service improvements," says Edna Swann, manager, Distribution and UK Shipping – Long Products Transport and Shipping at Tata Steel. "The company realised that there were huge financial and environmental benefits that would accrue from leveraging the transport on a larger scale."
As part of the joint project, Tata Steel worked with Concept Trailers, a leading manufacturer based in Ireland, to develop a new multipurpose trailer capable of safely transporting different product types, from pipes to sections to coils. The two companies studied the road routes across Tata Steel operations upon which these trailers could be deployed most effectively. An 18-month trial run, using three multipurpose trailers, yielded a total mileage of 233,000 miles. Of this, only 12,100 miles (5.2 percent) was empty mileage — a saving of 41,000 miles against the current industry average. The company now plans to introduce a fleet of the new trailers so as to eliminate 1,000,000 wasted miles each year on steel distribution, saving around 500,000 litres of diesel and reducing CO2 emissions by 1,325 tonnes.
With 33,000 employees, 8,300 vehicles and 6.5 million square metres of warehousing space, Norbert Dentressangle, has the expertise required to handle transport, logistic and freight forwarding responsibilities, and the scale required to pull off an operation of this kind.
Paul Hayes, director, 4PL Transport, Norbert Dentressangle, says, "We work according to the compliance standards of the haulier that we work with, then raise the standards to best practice. In addition, we have a very complex IT system, which we have customised in order to deliver solutions to Tata Steel. Also, we operate on 4PL, a platform that manages the entire logistics operations. We manage all the assets, including people, expertise and technology."
Norbert Dentressangle manages the interface between truck companies (numbering about 120 hauliers) and Tata Steel. The entire operation is managed on the 4PL platform. The various mills around the country put their orders on the platform. This information is then sent to the hauliers, who confirm that they can carry the loads. When the hauliers pick up the shipment from the sites, the system is intimated. Norbert Dentressangle takes care of bookings, managing timely delivery, execution, paying the haulier, invoicing Tata Steel and looking after health and safety aspects. It also brings in more resources when there is a peak in the demand; the company is now working towards being able to track loads in real time.
For its part, Tata Steel has shown, by working in partnership, that it is determined to achieve its targets of safety, service and savings.