You know the situation – your assembly line is about to come to a grinding halt because essential parts are stuck on a truck in some obscure bit of eastern Europe and you could be facing costs of half a million pounds an hour. That’s when you need someone who can find the truck, put the parts onto a private aircraft and deliver them to the plant before catastrophe strikes.
That’s the business Brad Brennan has made his own. Brennan is managing director of Evolution Time Critical which specialises in providing emergency logistics services to the motor industry.
Brennan is a veteran of the freight forwarding business and was acting managing director of ASG UK during acquisition by Danzas AEI and then he was appointed head of Danzas AEI Express division.
He left Danzas to set up his own freight forwarding business. The USP of the business was to offer an exemplary level of service, however, within a few weeks, its principal customer had gone under, leaving Brennan with a big headache. “You just have to deal with the shock,” he says.
He recalls that salvation came at 5pm on a Thursday evening in a phone call from a company which had three pallets of components stuck on the Czech border that were needed in Birmingham at 5am the following morning.
It goes without saying that he succeeded and then word quickly got around the motor industry that the service was available.
Brennan points out that while the automotive business is a huge global industry, everyone knows each other so in many respects it operates like a small village. So one manufacturer would alert its suppliers to the service, and they in turn would tell other manufacturers. Within a few months, the emergency logistics business was born and it has grown so that today it is worth some 20 million euros a year.
Evolution Time Critical manages the full range of critical delivery modes, including aircraft charter, helicopters, onboard couriers, a 100-aircraft night freighter service covering 70 European airports, scheduled aircraft, and rapid road transport with local vehicles and drivers. Brennan points out that the freight forwarding background was valuable in knowing which carriers could meet the service requirements.
He says: “Our people react immediately as soon as supply chain problems are identified, using their experience and knowledge to ensure that assembly lines receive enough components to keep them running.”
Research by Evolution Time Critical shows that many car makers and suppliers are mitigating this risk by building in additional stock, increasing production buffers and extending delivery windows.
The result is that the reliability of supply chains from developing regions has so far been good, but at a price. The answer, says Brennan, is to analyse the supply chains, identify the points of potential failure and either resolve them or put contingency plans in place. To help achieve this, Evolution Time Critical is being increasingly called upon as a consultant to identify the challenges and provide solutions.
“The best resolution is often to prevent the problem happening, for example by switching ports or transport modes,” explains Brennan. “But if there are factors that are beyond reasonable control, a robust contingency plan will keep products flowing.”
The company has just produced its latest survey of European vehicle manufacturers and first tier suppliers which reveals that delays at the supplier’s facilities now account for almost twice as many late deliveries as failures in logistics processes. The cost of late deliveries has escalated to as much as one million euros an hour in penalties imposed by vehicle manufacturers if production lines have to be stopped.
“It’s astonishing how many of the failures are due to scheduling issues, a significant number of which arise from a change in demand for a particular vehicle or option,” says Brennan.
Making the delivery on time often involves hiring light aircraft or helicopters and using couriers but Brennan points out that it has also involved hiring a whole Boeing 747, and, for one particularly critical delivery, flying two couriers by two separate routes so that if one was delayed the other would get through.
For the future, there is the potential to extend the service into other industries. At the moment, says Brennan, the policy is to be a specialist supplier to the automotive industry, but he does not rule out expansion to other markets in the future.