How Hapag-Lloyd is realigning itself for the auto industry

For automotive customers, Hapag-Lloyd is all about providing first-class service – dependably and unfailingly.

The vehicles of the future will silently buzz by without generating any emissions. E-mobility is the biggest trend in the automotive business – and it will completely transform the entire industry. For example, by 2030, an estimated 1.8 million new registrations of electric cars per year are expected in the United States alone, 6.5 million in the European Union (40 percent of all new registrations), around 3 million in India, and at least 775,000 in Australia and New Zealand combined.  

This will have serious consequences for transport and logistics: Experts anticipate that, by 2030, it will be possible to manufacture 25 percent of the battery cells for e-automobiles in the immediate vicinity of their factories. But the remaining 75 percent will have to be shipped from the Far East, where most of these kinds of batteries are produced today. Forecasts predict that transporting these batteries will involve annual shipments of up to 150,000 standard containers to the EU, 42,000 to the United States, 92,000 to India, and 24,000 to Australia and New Zealand – and this will be only one of the impacts of ongoing developments in the rapidly changing automotive industry.

Hapag-Lloyd has been closely monitoring changes in the flow of goods and has positioned itself well for them thanks to its in-house Global BCO programme. In addition to those in the automotive industry, the department also looks after leading customers in the retail and chemical sectors worldwide. In the automotive sector, Hapag-Lloyd currently has 11 globally active customers: three premium-segment manufacturers from Germany and one from Japan; two carmakers and two industrial vehicle manufacturers from the United States, and three leading tyre manufacturers. In order to be able to competently serve these customers, Hapag-Lloyd relies on being close to them. “The core of our relationship with the customer is and will continue to be the Global Account Manager, supported by his colleagues around the world,” explains Mario Walther, head of the Global Industry Management (GIM) team at Hapag-Lloyd. “Global Account Managers are usually based where the client’s headquarters are located,” Walther continues. “To make work easier for the account managers and to support them with regional know-how, we now also receive support from our new regional GIM team in Asia, and another team is currently being formed in North America. Our goal is to have automotive experts in every major region and in every country.”

In addition to global relationship management, innovation and digitalisation are also important to Hapag-Lloyd. The shipping company is currently testing the use of container trackers with a German manufacturer from the premium segment. “Today, if a customer wants to track a container, he can only do so by finding out the position of the entire ship,” Walther explains. “Our new system shows the exact location of each container.” But that’s not all the new sensors can do, as they provide the customer with a wealth of additional information. “Let’s take, for example, the route from a plant in Germany to a processing plant in the United States. Thanks to the trackers, on top of being able to record a container’s exact location and all its physical movements, we call also record every intervention. We can see if the container was driven over a pothole during land transport, when it was exposed to vibrations, and – importantly – when it was opened.” Given these capabilities, Walther continues, the system could also be use in prosecuting theft and potential tampering. “But we’re mainly using it to figure out where we can improve the supply chain.” This offers customers a lot of advantages. “With better location tracking, we enable our customers to make the flow of goods to the closely interlinked production stages more transparent. This eliminates the need for big, expensive storage facilities for individual parts.”

Just-in-time delivery and maximum transparency are among the key requirements that customers are currently placing on logistics providers. Another mega-trend in the automotive industry is autonomous driving. Today’s cars already feature many assistance functions to help drivers steer, park, accelerate and brake their vehicle. Among the top developers in this field are Daimler (Distronic Plus), Tesla (Autopilot) and General Motors (Super Cruise). But what is used in today’s cutting-edge vehicles to support drivers is merely the beginning. Experts predict that autonomous driving will be more or less mature by 2040, and that 90 percent of all driving will be autonomous by then. They also expect that autonomous systems will feature significant improvements that will make driving much safer.

For the transport and logistics industry, this future trend will mean that we can expect fewer accidents as well as a resulting decline in demand for spare parts. However, Marek Zienkiewicz, Hapag-Lloyd’s Director of Global Industry Management, says that it is difficult to predict just how big these drops will be because these systems are not widely in use today. “The only certain thing is that safer driving and fewer accidents will also impact demand for spare parts,” he says.

Given these circumstances, using continuous data synchronisation to develop new solutions becomes even more important. “The biggest challenge ahead will be implementing new systems and a new way of working,” Zienkiewicz continues. “We are in constant dialogue with our customers and learn together from the data we collect so that we can pool all our findings.” It will be crucial, he adds, to forge partnership alliances in which Hapag-Lloyd can link its systems with those of its customers so that both parties can exchange large amounts of information. “Analysing these data will then lead to a comparison of customer forecasts with our capacity-management data. This will enable us to adapt even better to our customers’ flows of goods.” And it will also be important to come up with promising pilot projects, he says, adding: “We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the supply chain so as to give the customer even greater monitoring capabilities.”


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