Bosch Power Tools: Planning reliability despite long lead times

Long transport routes from Europe to North America: How Track and Trace, the digital tracking solution from Bosch, enables more flexible inventory and production planning.

Problem

The Bosch plant in Lincolnton, North Carolina, receives material deliveries from all over the world. Overseas deliveries from Europe in particular are a challenge, as they involve long transport routes and lead times. A lack of transparency regarding the whereabouts of deliveries in transit has previously hampered inventory and production planning – the plant has only been able to react ad hoc to shifts in the delivery date by the freight forwarder.

Solution

Bosch Power Tools turned to Bosch's digital tracking solution Track and Trace to gain greater transparency in the supply chain between suppliers in Europe and the plant in the USA. To do this, the company equips transport containers with tracking devices that send location information to the cloud at regular intervals. Planners at the plant access this information via a web interface.

Benefit

As a result, the plant in Lincolnton is better informed about where deliveries are on the transport route. The planners react flexibly to postponements of the delivery date and identify optimization potential in the logistics processes. For example, layover times at ports have been reduced and customs processes optimized. The plant is already planning to use the Track and Trace solution for other supplier tracking applications with trucks in the USA.

"It was important to us that the implementation and training effort for a digital tracking solution be as low as possible. This is exactly the case with Track and Trace: We were able to start directly and quickly use the solution productively."
Michael Altmann Manager Plant Logistics (in 2020, responsibility for implementation of the system) at Bosch Power Tools

Material supplies from all over the world

As a leading supplier of power tools, Bosch Power Tools produces and sells its products all over the world. This is accompanied by complex supply chains, some of which extend across several continents. Michael Altmann is very familiar with this, as he has been responsible for logistics at the site in Lincolnton, North Carolina, when the Track and Trace solution has been implemented. “With North America, we serve the world’s largest sales market for accessories,” he explains.

Whether raw drill bits, saw blades or sanding paper discs – large material deliveries reach the plant from all over the world. Overseas suppliers in Europe play an important role here, which in turn are distributed across the continent; from Germany and Switzerland to Poland and Slovenia.

Long transport routes, long lead times

With these deliveries, the plant faces long transportation routes and lead times. “We have a multimodal supply chain,” Altmann says. “Usually, the material is transported from the supplier by truck to a hub. From there, it goes by truck and freight train to the next port and then by sea to Charleston or Savannah. Then it’s transported to our plant; again by truck.”

In order to make the processes as efficient as possible, the plant relies on accurate inventory and production planning. Although the forwarders transmit the estimated time of arrival of a delivery (ETA), this information is often not sufficient: “Until now, we no longer knew where the goods were once they left the supplier. In the event of a late delivery, we could only react ad hoc.”

Transparency all along the supply chain

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Insights into the transport route with track and trace

For Bosch Power Tools, this raised the question of how to increase transparency along the transport route. The answer was provided by Track and Trace – the digital tracking solution from Bosch.IO. Bosch Power Tools now equips transport containers with tracking devices that transmit information about their position at regular intervals.

“For us, it was important that the implementation effort of a digital tracking solution be as low as possible,” says Altmann. That’s exactly what Track and Trace excels at: The tracking devices are magnetically attached to the containers and send data to the cloud without much configuration effort. The information can then be viewed via a web interface. “We didn’t have to worry about implementing it in our existing IT infrastructure, and the training required for our employees is also minimal. So we were able to start right away and quickly use the solution productively.”

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Basis for flexible planning

Planners in the plant benefit from the use of the Track and Trace solution. They are no longer solely dependent on the ETA of the forwarders, but also keep an eye on the containers in transit. This enables them to reschedule at an early stage if a postponement of the delivery date is foreseeable.

“Thanks to Track and Trace, we know why there are variations in transport time,” says Altmann. For example, it makes a difference whether container ships sail through the English Channel on their way to America or take the longer route past Scotland.

The company also recognizes potential for optimization in logistics processes, as Altmann explains: “We noticed, for example, that the containers spent a long time in ports in Europe and the USA. Customs clearance was one reason for this.” Together with the freight forwarder, Bosch Power Tools then found a solution to enable pre-customs clearance and reduce the containers’ layover time.

More use cases planned

The plant plans to use the Track and Trace solution for other use cases in the future. “We are also supplied with goods by suppliers around Lincolnton. This involves the use of reusable load carriers,” says Altmann. In the future, the company also wants to track these to ensure that no load carriers are lost along the way.

Monitoring the condition of the cargo is also an issue: “It happens, for example, that painted metal parts blister on their journey to the U.S., which indicates corrosion.” In the future, sensors could be used to monitor humidity during transport in order to get to the bottom of this problem.

For Altmann, it is this focus on concrete use cases and problems that distinguishes the collaboration with Bosch.IO: “Digital tracking solutions offer a wide range of opportunities to generate added value. But these first have to be worked out. With Bosch.IO, we always have very goal-oriented discussions in this regard. “