Only with customers: growing sustainability at HARTMANN's logistics

Building a climate-friendly supply chain.

Our business, like so many, relies on an excellent supply chain to be successful. However, logistics negatively impacts our carbon footprint. So achieving a sustainable supply chain is driving much of today’s decision-making in management. To get a better sense of the way forward on the road to sustainability, we spoke with Achim Sinn, global head of HARTMANN's Supply Chain, and our colleague Florian Schweikert, an expert in sustainable logistics. In this first article on the topic, we will learn why the best solutions are often forged with the customer. A follow-up article will delve deeper into concrete measures and the results they are achieving.

Driving a greener future

Supply Chain Management oversees our global supply of finished goods and material flows, which includes freight and logistics, planning and order fulfillments. Building greater sustainability into the supply chain is no small task, but as Achim Sinn says, “We’re on it! And while we are not at our goal yet, we are paving the way to a greener supply chain.”

The possibilities are many – for example, through cutting the number of pallet steps to the customer, reducing the use of restocking warehouses, by streamlining packaging, or by optimizing the use of transport round trips to avoid empty runs. Achim Sinn emphasizes, “The company is permanently working on an efficient and environmentally friendly logistics system. We are implementing changes on an ongoing basis.”

One of the most effective ways to bring about fast results is to look closely into the supply chain – together with the customer – and find individual solutions based on the customer’s needs.

Know your customer

Supply chain management is ideally situated to work closely with customers because it oversees the entire handling. Achim Sinn explains, “We accompany the customer from the initial contract confirmation to the final delivery of products – so for the entire transport stream we cover everything from optimizing freight volumes to frequency of deliveries and finalizing transport routes.”

This opens the door to sitting down with a customer to pinpoint and address specifically what needs there are – and differentiate them from what the market conditions may suggest. Florian Schweikert explains, “A good example is the promise to deliver in 24 hours. Does a customer really need this? We found that whether they are a direct customer or a large supplier, the answer was usually no. What really counts for customers is reliability.”
Using resources for conditions that don’t even address the customer’s needs is obviously wasteful. These conversations are leading to even more specific optimizations that are making a big difference. Achim Sinn gave an example, “One of our largest customers, in the Northwestern part of Germany, receives 3-4 fully loaded trucks a week – around 140 pallets. Until now, although over 70% of the wares came from Herbrechtingen/ Southern Germany, they went to Brück near Berlin/ Potsdam first. For service reasons the materials were reloaded onto new trucks and then sent to the customer. Now we truck directly from Herbrechtingen, and the wares that can only come from Brück are ordered and shipped separately. There is no loss in reliability or convenience. This was possible through an open exchange with the customer. So now we are cutting the use of resources and costs for both us and the customer!”
Understanding for example what days and times are preferred, what volumes are necessary, and figuring out what the most direct transport routes has quickly proven to go a long way to reducing emissions and the use of resources. Achim Sinn stresses, “We need to have more of these conversations and to dig in early as possible to make the optimizations needed to deliver results as quickly as possible and reach a new level of sustainability.”

Win-win sustainability

And the results are worth it. As Florian Schweikert says, “The benefits are economic and ecological.” These tailored solutions, including more direct delivery routes, less stock relocations, and fewer internal processes, cut costs and cut CO2 emissions. With each solution, more value is created for HARTMANN and for our customers – and without any loss in service or reliability. Stay tuned for our second article on the topic that will look more closely at the many measures already being implemented and the outlook for the future.