During unprecedented chaos we kept supply chains from China running: here’s how

air-cargo

Scenario

As Covid-19 began to take hold across the globe, maintaining a continuous supply of critical materials for a major European OEM from China during a global pandemic proved a significant challenge.

risk

Increased transit time, delayed or even incomplete projects.

Solution

As an Emergency Logistics specialist, operating for over 20 years, Evolution Time Critical has guided our clients through strikes, natural disasters and recessions. Covid-19 was still the biggest challenge we have faced, by far. 

In order to meet our client’s requirements, we carried out a constant review of flight schedules, available capacity and customer demand in both Europe and China, using the latest in online collaborative tools. This led to JIT deliveries from across the world, despite capacity challenges.

With much of the world still in disarray from the impact of Covid-19, we have found that sometimes the challenges our customers are facing are not the ones they had predicted. Covid-19 has impacted every touch point, including the traditional solutions to the ‘normal’ challenges faced by a lean automotive supply chain, creating problems within a problem.

Common issues include:

  • Measures to contain the spread of the virus are increasing transit time
  • A shortage of airport cargo handling staff
  • Significant reduction in passenger aircraft 
  • Flight schedules are changing constantly as airlines react to unprecedented fluctuations in demand.

Evolution Time Critical recently completed a project for a European OEM who, after experiencing Covid-19-related delays, and under pressure to manufacture on time to meet a new-model deadline, found that they needed parts manufactured in China to be in the UK three days after leaving the factory. 

The reduction in flights operating on a route creates an acute shortage of available capacity, and on this occasion the OEM had been presented with a series of costly air charters as the only workable solution by their standard logistics provider.

How our solution works

  • Our 24/7 control centre worked alongside our team on the ground in China, communicating in real time, around the clock. 
  • We used Microsoft Teams for planning calls and WeChat to constantly align OEM and supplier schedules with confirmed space on flights into the UK, Netherlands and Germany.  
  • Components were moved efficiently through the network we created, with trucks standing by to complete the final leg of the transit to the OEM. 
  • The result was a truly agile, robust solution that consistently delivered to schedule at a fraction of the costs that would have been incurred in trans-continental dedicated air charters.
  • This enabled the OEM to maintain production and meet their deadlines. 

Looking to the future

With much of the focus of the logistical impact of Covid-19 on reduced human resources, the issue (now that production is picking up) is the availability and suitability of air freight capacity to move items that are either backlogged or critical for production lines.

In addition, the launch of high-volume, high-demand consumer products – such as the next generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and new smartphone models – adds further stress to the system.

There is a constant balance to strike, which is becoming ever more difficult to achieve, including: 

  • Urgency
  • Capacity
  • Risk
  • Cost

Once again, communication is the key. We are working with our customers to understand the production schedules to assess the right method of transport for each individual case. 

Our 24/7 global control centre means that we don’t face issues working across time zones, and have the ability to react decisively in real time, should conditions change at short notice.

Conclusion

A supply chain that runs through China comes with its own challenges that existed before the Covid-19 disruption. Having operated there for many years, we have found that local knowledge and an open mind is critical to meeting deadlines without resorting to unnecessarily expensive solutions.

 Communication, a wide network and a confidence to think laterally are the keys to finding the balance of capacity, risk and cost. While this has always been true in China, in a world where capacity is reduced and uncertainty is at an all-time high, premium logistics is seen now, more than ever, as a critical part of the regular supply chain, as well as a reliable solution for extreme circumstances.

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