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Logistics on a grand scale

When an entire production facility is moved from one continent to another, experts are needed along with their wide-ranging experience. And sometimes even nerves of steel.
The cargo included items measuring over 16 feet tall and 11 feet wide as well as massive components weighing up to 25 metric tons.

Transporting a disassembled factory of the company GELITA AG from the Chinese county of Cangnan to Sioux City in the U.S. on a 11,800 mile journey was a special challenge even for the seasoned project logistics experts at DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics.

The cargo included items measuring over 16 feet tall and 11 feet wide as well as massive components weighing up to 25 metric tons. “A move like that is impossible without professional planning and preparation. Relocating an entire production facility is unusual even for us, but we possess both the expertise and the experience to manage this kind of challenge,” says Hans-Ulrich Brüggemann, manager of sea freight projects for Air & Sea Logistics at DACHSER in Cologne.

Down the road sideways

The most difficult part of the job was the initial leg from Cangnan to Wenzhou Harbor, 45 miles away. A road survey, which is a standardized test conducted to review possible routes down to the smallest detail, uncovered a possible dead end for the project. There was no reasonable way to reach the harbor that would allow for a clearance of over 16 feet. “That’s why we sat down with our customer GELITA early on in the planning phase to explain that the biggest machine parts had to be placed on their side for road transport in China,” reports Stefan Dahnken, Route Development Manager India/Bangladesh Air & Sea Logistics at DACHSER.

Doing so reduced the maximum height needed to transport the units by a crucial 4 feet. Once officials had approved the planned route, the road to Wenzhou Harbor was clear. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, roadwork suddenly blocked the way during the very first night of the scheduled three-night trip. “News of the roadwork site caught us completely by surprise,” admits Brüggemann. But not for long. No matter how carefully you plan and prepare, he says, you can never entirely prevent surprises with major projects like that. In this case, the relevant authorities failed to communicate with each other. Although they had officially approved the route, it was, in fact, not open at all.

From Wenzhou Harbor by coastal vessel to Shanghai, from there by sea freight across the Pacific, the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean, and then on to New Orleans.

Bulldozer to the rescue

The answer was to quickly and calmly find a workable solution. “We coordinated with officials to simply bulldoze over the site,” says the experienced project manager. They then continued on their way with the oversized cargo as scheduled: from Wenzhou Harbor by coastal vessel 190 miles to Shanghai, from there by sea freight over more than 10,000 nautical miles (equivalent to more than 11,500 miles) across the Pacific, the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean, and then on to New Orleans, where the journey continued 745 miles through the inland waterway network of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and finally to Sioux City.

The last 5 miles or so on the road to the GELITA factory also went off without a hitch. And why was that? Well, everything was perfectly planned. “We’re extremely satisfied that we found DACHSER, a highly competent partner for such a challenging project. We’re grateful that everything went so smoothly,” says Wolfgang Maurer, Global Category Manager Procurement Logistics at GELITA AG.

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Anita Whiteside
Public Relations USA