Quick action required before a holiday

A long-term OEM client approached us on a Friday evening, needing to move 150 pallets of engines from China to Europe to maintain production of a highly popular vehicle. The initial challenges were: first collection was required in less than 12 hours on Saturday morning during a Chinese holiday period; and there was no available air freight capacity on the more established routes.

Huge financial risk

The client quoted the cost of stopping production of this vehicle at €8,000 per minute – or to put it another way, half a million euros per hour. The challenge was intensified because the engines were classified as Dangerous Goods, due to oil content.


Overcoming challenges to find a cost-effective solution

When the phone rang on Friday afternoon, our client explained that the engines were critical to the build for their most popular car and needed moving from China to Europe urgently.

Each pallet carried three engines and each engine contained oil; this meant it was classified as Dangerous Goods with paperwork limiting flights from Beijing. Collection had to be made on Saturday morning, effectively in under 12 hours’ time.

The success of this critical project demanded exacting resources and skillsets, such as:

  • Overnight availability of local teams in China, during a holiday period
  • Mobilisation of transport at short notice to collect the engines on a Saturday morning
  • Informed, lateral thinking to develop a cost-effective solution to meet the deadline
  • Dangerous Goods expertise
  • Agility to meet the challenges thrown up by schedule changes mid-project
  • Real-time communication to provide constant visibility to all stakeholders.

One of the Supply Chain Managers, at Automotive OEM said:

Evolution were able to communicate key data about the shipment before our own teams could get information to us.

The challenges faced by the shipper and our OEM client covered physical and cost constraints including:

  • Approval only existed for the Dangerous Goods to be flown out of Beijing, from where there was no capacity to meet the deadline.
  • To get approval to move Dangerous Goods out of an alternative airport normally takes 7-10 days.
  • With low cargo aircraft availability, dedicated air charter was not possible due to the tight deadline, amount of cargo and the need for permit approvals.

A hybrid solution to meet the tight deadlines

It was essential in this case to create the opportunity to move the engines out of an airport with the necessary connections to meet the schedule. This meant fresh approval for Dangerous Goods that can take 7-10 days, but we were able to fast-track this in order to make the solution viable.

Our plan was to create a hybrid solution which harnessed the immediate speed of air charter alongside the economy of available air cargo capacity.

We worked with our team on the ground in China to quickly develop a solution involving part air charter with standing permits and scheduled airfreight, using our local relationships to obtain fast Dangerous Goods approval for an alternative airport.

Managing factors outside of our control

Despite the creative plan and immediate implementation, this shipment hadn’t quite finished throwing up challenges:

  • The charter aircraft developed a technical issue and required a replacement
  • The departure time for the scheduled aircraft carrying the balance of the shipment was brought forward by four hours

Working with the airline, an immediate replacement aircraft was secured at short notice, allowing us to turn our attention to the scheduled airfreight side of the plan. Our two vehicles carrying this part of the shipment were on time for the original aircraft schedule, but the earlier departure time resulted in our trucks arrival being an hour after the latest acceptance time.

We were able to leverage our local connections at the airport to get the pallets loaded on the cargo flight, despite the change in cut-off time, highlighting the absolute importance of our experienced and well-connected team on the ground.

Dangerous goods

A fast-track solution

Low cargo aircraft availability

A hybrid solution

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Exceeding expectations

Feedback from the customer was that production was unaffected, and given the tight timescales, intense pressure and numerous challenges, the communication and on-time delivery exceeded what they thought was possible.
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