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Keeping cool. --

The logistics center of Roche Diagnostics in Mannheim supplies the world with diagnostic solutions designed to detect diseases. The products are temperature-sensitive and subject to strict regulations. The shipper therefore only trusts selected airlines.

The shelf storage and retrieval vehicle zooms up from down below. The nimble robot grabs a pallet from the seventh floor and disappears with its load as quickly as it has arrived. Hundreds of different diagnostic products are stored here. The tireless helper in charge of this warehouse always knows exactly which product is waiting where, and what goes where.

The two fully automated high-bay warehouses of Roche Diagnostics in Mannheim, the third-largest location of the Swiss Roche Group in the world, provides space for 65,000 pallets and 48,000 small containers. The warehouses are divided into 21 aisles, each separated from the next by a solid concrete wall. This allows for accurate temperature control in each individual section. The walls also have a fire protection function.

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Unconditional ability to deliver.

“No matter what the circumstances, we must always be able to deliver,” explains Nourddin Odris. “To minimize risk, each product is distributed across several aisles, so that if there was a fire in one aisle, we would still have every product in stock and would be able to deliver.” Nourddin Odris is Head of Transport Management Global Supply Chain at Roche Diagnostics. He is responsible for ensuring that the global distribution runs smoothly.

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Today more and more people in the world have access to medical care. Roche Diagnostics supplies customers in 170 countries. The most important markets are the USA and China, but the major emerging and developing countries also need diagnostic products. The extent of the business is therefore enormous – and it is more than a business, Nourddin Odris points out: “We sell reagents and other diagnostic products that are indispensable in an effort to detect and treat diseases.”

As well as the improvements in medical care worldwide, it is also population growth and the fact that people, especially in the western world, are living longer lives that have resulted in steady growth for the business of Roche Diagnostics. The company delivers thousands of tons of diagnostic products across the globe. About a third of this is sent by airfreight. On average this amounts to about one fully loaded Boeing 777 freighter per day. “Airfreight is indispensable in our business,” says Odris. “This is due to its speed of delivery and the option of keeping the temperature constant over the entire transport route, but also because certain markets can only be supplied by air.” Shipments from Mannheim are carried by Lufthansa Cargo from the Frankfurt hub.

Roche Diagnostics banks on quality: “We do rely on professional expertise on the part of the forwarders and airlines,” says Odris. “Lufthansa Cargo has this expertise, and that is why we have been working closely with them for 20 years now. Because only if the competent handling of our products can be guaranteed throughout the entire transportation process will our temperature-sensitive products reach their destination in optimum quality.”

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Over 95 percent “Cool-Passive”.

More than 95 percent of the shipments dispatched by Roche Diagnostics that are distributed by Lufthansa Cargo through its worldwide network use the “Cool-Passive” product. Only for raw materials and precursors does the Mannheim-based company occasionally also use the “Cool-Active” product. “On the one hand, this comes down to the cost issue,” Odris explains. “On the other, ‘Cool-Active’ is not available at all stations, for both infrastructural and regulatory reasons.” This is why teams of experts with experience in effective packaging and the precise dosing of dry ice have been formed at Roche Diagnostics. “These days a shipment can be kept at a constant temperature for more than five days with dry ice,” according to Odris.

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The regulatory requirements for healthcare companies such as Roche are extremely strict: data loggers accompany every shipment, and the logs are checked after every trip. If a temperature fluctuation beyond the acceptable range (which sometimes may only be a few degrees Celsius) is detected, the goods must be destroyed. This ensures that only products of impeccable quality are used for patients.

The complete and seamless documentation process starts at Roche Diagnostics in-house: every step of every single parcel or box – from the high-bay warehouse to order picking to goods dispatch – is scanned using barcodes. Yet there comes a point when Roche’s logistics specialists have to hand over their shipment to forwarders and airlines.

“It’s important to us that we work with partners who are able to carefully transport our consignments around the world in the required quality, on time and in full,” says Odris. He therefore welcomes the fact that the airline association IATA and its Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) has defined a global standard for the transportation and storage of pharmaceutical products. Lufthansa Cargo has been one of the first carriers to meet the strict CEIV regulations since as far back as 2016. Independent experts have audited the airline’s processes used in the products “Cool-Active” and “Cool-Passive”.

In a separate move, the 8,000-square meter Lufthansa Cargo Cool Center in Frankfurt successfully passed the certification procedure. “We’re interested in a long-term partnership, and the CEIV certificate tells me that we can rely on Lufthansa Cargo,” Odris explains. “We welcome the fact that a growing number of stations in Lufthansa Cargo’s network now meet the strict requirements of the pharmaceuticals industry.”

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For Roche Diagnostics, airfreight is important not only for the transportation of reagents and test strips for detecting diseases: to use them, hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and laboratories additionally need the analytic equipment that is also distributed by the company. These can be small, compact hand-held units or units the size of several washing machines that can fill entire halls. Only once the equipment has been installed on site can the actual work of carrying out the diagnostic testings begin, with chemically coated test strips and sensitive reagents from Roche Diagnostics being used to detect diseases in human blood, urine or tissue.

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A sugar cube in Lake Zurich.

Among other goods, products in the company’s Elecsys system are shipped from Mannheim all over the world. These analytical systems are an immense success story for Roche. Well over a 100 different test parameters available within the Elecsys family are used to detect HIV, hepatitis or the Zika virus, for example.

Elecsys can also be used to diagnose thyroid disorders. The technology is extremely sensitive: it can easily detect a sugar cube dissolved in more than three cubic kilometers of water, roughly the volume of water contained in Lake Zurich. Statistics show that one in four people will do this kind of test once a year – and the trend is rising. There is no danger of Odris and his team running out of work anytime soon.

Partner for temperature-sensitive freight.

Partner for temperature-sensitive freight.

The pharmaceutical industry’s requirements for airfreight are growing – in terms of volume, new regulatory requirements and longer and more complex transport chains. “The Cool Master Plan is our response to these requirements,” says Christian Fleischhauer, project manager for the Cool Master Plan at Lufthansa Cargo. “The plan covers the expansion of our network of CEIV Pharma-certified stations, improved temperature control across the entire transport chain, and transparency for the customer thanks to digitalization,” adds his colleague Chris Dehio, Senior Product and Quality Manager Cool.

 

Certification:

with the “CEIV Pharma” certificate, the airline association IATA has set a worldwide industry standard for transportation of pharmaceuticals by air. As long ago as October 2016, Lufthansa Cargo was awarded this seal both for their Cool Center in Frankfurt and for their worldwide processes. In order to acquire additional certification, Lufthansa Cargo is investing in upgrades to their temperature control infrastructure. “Under the Cool Master Plan, this investment will grow into the double-digit millions,” says Christian Fleischhauer. The plan also covers the Cool Center at the Munich hub, planning for which takes account of the requirements for CEIV pharmaceutical certification. Cooling infrastructure is also being upgraded at stations in Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Mexico.

Temperature control:

to avoid temperature fluctuations, Lufthansa Cargo puts great store into smooth interaction between handling, warehousing and transportation. These processes are continually upgraded in accordance with CEIV Pharma directives. As temperatures out on the apron can reach extremes, the processes at Lufthansa Cargo are designed to minimize the time spent there. Additional protection is provided by a reflective foil used for all “CoolPassive” consignments, and also with high-performance packaging solutions such as the va-Q-tainers, which can be booked via Lufthansa Cargo. Temperature-sensitive hazardous goods can also be transported in strict compliance with the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. Even more efficient is the “Cool-Active” product, which employs heating and cooling containers to keep the internal temperature constant regardless of the outside temperature – from the point of origin through all stages of air transportation to the destination.

Digitalization:

Lufthansa Cargo banks on transparency through digitalization. The IDB database provides detailed information about all Lufthansa Cargo stations even before a booking is made. The IT tool SPoT (Special Product operation Tool) is used to monitor processes, especially those for “Cool” products. DGD.online also contributes toward greater transparency in connection with temperature-sensitive hazardous goods.

 

www.roche.de

Photos: Alex Kraus, Roche

planet 01/2019

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Support from the cloud.

Greater flexibility, less effort: DGD.online enables documents for all hazardous goods shipments to be processed online at any time and from anywhere. A new tool from Lufthansa Cargo that is likely to be good news not just for Siemens Healthineers.

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Everybody is talking about digitalization, but how is it to be tackled when it comes to hazardous goods? Processes in this segment have not really changed in something like 40 years. Many logisticians still prepare so-called Dangerous Goods Declarations (DGDs) manually, using word-processing software. The result ends up being a considerable stack of paper accompanying each shipment – yet it does not necessarily follow that the required information will be available at every link in the transport chain. “Moreover, DGDs cannot be altered once a shipment is under way, because only the shipper is permitted to do that,” says Arastoo Badri, who works in product development at Lufthansa Cargo. “We have found that in 70 to 75 percent of cases where a shipment is held up, the reason turns out to be a deficiency with a DGD.”

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With the advent of DGD.online, it has become possible to process or edit a document wherever and whenever one chooses. Together with Markus Dess, a logistics process planner with Siemens Healthineers, Badri has introduced this new, user-friendly cloud application that is set to reduce the workload in a number of segments of the industry. The impetus for the development came from a discussion about digitalization that was held as part of the Airfreight Innovation Forum. DGD.online also lets dangerous goods shippers create the appropriate transport documents and shipping labels for air, road and sea transport. “And that is every shipper’s dream come true,” says Markus Dess.

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As a cooperation partner of Lufthansa Cargo, Siemens Healthineers has now completed the two-year test phase for the tool. The Siemens Healthineers customer service manages the distribution of spare parts for medical equipment. Example: if the electrically powered bed on an MRI scanner in Stockholm needs a new battery, the logisticians ensure that the part arrives the next day.

Health care providers all over the world depend on an efficient logistics network, something which the Erlangen-based company can provide. Says Dess: “In about 98 percent of all cases, we will deliver spare parts that are held in stock within 24 hours, either to our national subsidiaries or directly to the clinics.” Several thousand consignments leave the three warehouses in Frankfurt, Memphis and Singapore every day. Dess offers three examples that are happening right now around the world: a lamp has to go from Frankfurt to the drop-off point in Düsseldorf, a computer from the warehouse in Memphis is destined for the CT department of a hospital in New England, a compressor is to travel from Singapore to Taipei.

Its openness to innovation and the efficient logistics infrastructure it maintains made the company the ideal partner for the test phase. Siemens Healthineers recorded 1,744 hazardous goods shipments during the 2017/2018 financial year. It is the type of freight that is subject to strict safety regulations. For this reason alone the company invests in smooth and efficient transport processes. “We are always open to innovations – especially when we can see that they have potential. Which we did in the case of hazardous goods. And should any problems occur, we can react immediately,” says Markus Dess.

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From the airline, for the shipper.

Not only shippers, but also their logistics partners can keep an eye on the workflow using this tool, and only qualified users are permitted to make changes to it – for example, to assign the AWB number. In addition, DGD.online also provides support through various validation functions. At the same time, using the tool is easy and quick. DGD.online turned out to be helpful even during the test phase. “We noted significant gains in productivity,” says Dess. He adds that in the past, the preparation of dangerous goods documentation had always cost logisticians a lot of time and personnel. “It’s a labor-intensive process,” according to Dess. Shippers’ dangerous goods declarations and corresponding shipping labels had to be prepared manually, on the basis of master data and safety data sheets. “The fact that this also allowed the occasional mistake to creep in was almost unavoidable.” The result was that shipments sometimes had to be returned. “Things like that don’t only take up time; they also cost money,” says Dess.

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DGD.online allows print-ready, electronically signed declarations to be generated in PDF format and to be sent automatically by e-mail along with other attachments, such as safety data sheets.

This makes Lufthansa Cargo the first airline to market a “software-as-a-service” solution. Arastoo Badri: “Our objective here is to provide support to the shippers. The service is primarily aimed directly at companies in industries that usually have to prepare these declarations.” The product developer is convinced of the merits of this cloud application. Not least because forwarders will also benefit from this tool. “Mistakes can be avoided, and the processes along the entire transport chain will be more transparent and more stable,” says Badri.

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Check-in for freight.

Checking in yourself to save precious time: what has long since become routine for passengers is now also available for airfreight, with Lufthansa Cargo. Here is how test customers DB Schenker and Kuehne + Nagel are using the new self-service terminals at the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC).

Cargo City South, Building 529. The monitor facing Winfried Neu has some good news. Via Lufthansa Cargo’s ePortal, he is told that the shipment from Hong Kong is ready to be picked up. The import broker from DB Schenker points at the screen: green ticks indicate that the freight has been checked in at the Lufthansa Cargo Center (LCC), and customs clearance has been given.

“Our driver on site now does not have to wait for anything anymore,” says Neu. With just a few mouse clicks, he prepares the pick-up order for the driver, Pawel Nowicki. While he is at it, Neu quickly combines several consignments that are ready for pick-up into a “Quick pick-up group.” He selects the “Quick pick-up” service, along with the relevant airfreight consignment notes.

He then enters the details for the driver and the vehicle into the input mask. Instead of a whole wad of paper, the DB Schenker drivers are now only given a code for their con-signment list to send them on their way. As is the case with Pawel Nowicki.

The DB Schenker branch at Cargo City South is participating in the test phase for a new digital freight acceptance and delivery system at Lufthansa Cargo. This includes the use of the applications in the airline’s ePortal, and especially the self-service terminals where the drivers are assigned straight to the ramp where they receive their shipments.

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No more waiting at the ramp – a milestone for forwarders.

The trip from Cargo City South to the LCC usually takes Pawel Nowicki and his truck just a few minutes. A DB Schenker truck constantly shuttles between the two warehouses located north and south of Frankfurt Airport. “In terms of imports, Lufthansa Cargo is our biggest carrier. We receive 80 to 90 consignments a day from them,” says Nouri Boulahrouz, the manager of the import hub at the DB Schenker office. He is impressed with the system that he and his team have been testing since last year: “For us forwarders, it represents a milestone. Now we can be certain that there won’t be any obstacles to the acceptance of a shipment when we send the driver to go pick it up,” says the 43-year-old. He points towards the monitor that is still displaying the details of the shipment. “The drivers no longer have to wait around for anything, and when they get there they are just told where exactly within the LCC they can pick up the goods.” He adds: “It is clearly a plus for us: it means we can be on our way again sooner, and the more trips our trucks can manage, the more efficient we operate.”

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The driver Pawel Nowicki has meanwhile arrived at the LCC. He uses a barcode to check in at one of the self-service terminals in the import section. He selects the option “Pick-up” and confirms the data displayed in response. Within a very short time, the terminal indicates the ramp he should drive to.

Once he takes on the consignment, Pawel Nowicki signs on the scanner presented by the warehouse employee. At the DB Schenker branch south of Frankfurt Airport, Winfried Neu is kept informed in real time: he can see the timestamps for the truck’s arrival and departure in the ePortal. Nouri Boulahrouz: “This saves us having to spend lengthy periods on site. The drivers do no longer have to report to offices in order get information about shipments.”

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At 16:20 hours, a Boeing 777F is scheduled to take off from Frankfurt en route to Atlanta. At Kuehne + Nagel in Cargo City South, three airfreight pallets are ready for shipping. The forwarding company is testing the digital freight acceptance system for the export segment. “The e-freight quota between Lufthansa Cargo and Kuehne + Nagel is high. We are able to make a profit on all our shipments,” says project manager Markus Staab. A major benefit from the point of view of Kuehne + Nagel is the socalled PreCheck, where consignment data is checked for completeness in advance. The objective: having arrived at the LCC, all the driver needs to be told is the correct unloading station. This is intended to eliminate delays due to waiting times. The dispatcher at Kuehne + Nagel compiles the shipments via the ePortal and sends the digital AWB to Lufthansa Cargo. A fully automated AutoContentCheck reviews the information.

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If the data is incomplete, the dispatcher is informed immediately.

Once the data has been transmitted, a trained employee of Lufthansa Cargo also checks the available information. If missing data about a consignment still needs to be submitted, this employee alerts the dispatcher at Kuehne + Nagel. Staab: “Thanks to the upstream PreCheck, errors in the data set are spotted in advance, allowing the data to be corrected without causing delays in deliveries.”

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In the eService section of the Lufthansa Cargo website, the dispatcher already enters the driver and vehicle details. He is then issued a code which he forwards to the smartphone of driver Heiko Anthes-Hoffmann by SMS or email. The 49-year-old actually works as a dispatcher for Kuehne + Nagel. Today he wants to get a taste of the PreCheck and “Quick drop-off” at the self-service terminal from the drivers’ point of view. “Time is of the essence for us. If we have to wait a long time before we can proceed to the ramp, that creates a problem for us.” He is now on his way to the LCC with the consignments destined for the United States. “It can happen that a driver’s permitted daily driving time runs out. When that happens, I am not allowed to continue on my trip. These are the types of situations we need to avoid at all costs.”

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The truck has reached its destination north of the airport. Next to the ramps are the self-service terminals for the Quick drop-off. It only takes Anthes-Hoffmann a few moments to complete the check-in. Critical data is checked again at the terminal, and then the machine spits out a slip of paper showing which ramp to go to. Reporting at the counter is thus a thing of the past. “This is of great benefit to us,” says Heiko Anthes-Hoffmann.

At the acceptance, the parcels are registered using a scanner. Via SmartGate, their weights and volumes are now compared with the consignment data transmitted earlier. On the other side of the airport, the dispatcher sits at a computer. He is tracking the shipment online, he can see what time the goods went into intermediate storage, and what time it departed. On board the B777F, the three pallets take off right on time. The dispatcher also keeps an eye on the permitted driving time for the driver Anthes-Hoffmann: at the Kuehne + Nagel warehouse at the Cargo City South, there is still a consignment ready for transportation to the LCC. A big advantage: as the waiting times are shorter now, Anthes-Hoffmann has enough time left to complete another trip.

Photos: Alex Kraus

Planet 1/2019

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Contrasts.

After Paris, the next stop for the photo exhibition “Tokyo Curiosity” by the Tokyo-GA group is Berlin. With their images, the members of the group aim to set a counterweight against those from the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The Tokyo-GA photographer Günter Zorn reports for “planet”, showing how Lufthansa Cargo provides assistance during the exhibition’s European tour.

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Spring 2011: a sad flood of images from Japan reaches the outside world. They are records of a triple disaster: on March 11, an earthquake rocked the country, and not long after, a tsunami absolutely flattened towns and villages. The damage sustained causes the cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear power station to fail, which leads to a core meltdown.

In the summer of 2011, more images from Japan go out into the world. They are pictures taken of small street-side restaurants where women dressed in kimonos laugh and joke with the bartender. Photos of colorful neon signs in busy town squares, and of children walking hand in hand under a yellow umbrella. These are snapshots of everyday life in Japan – life as it continues even after the disaster. The images were taken by photographers belonging to the group of artists called Tokyo-GA (東京画 – or Tokyo Images). The international curator Naoko Ohta initiated the project soon after the disaster occurred – as a means of offsetting the sorrowful images that went around the world in 2011. Tokyo-GA still continues collecting new daily images to date. 

Selected works by the collective are currently on an exhibition tour. “Tokyo Curiosity” also includes photographs taken by Günter Zorn. The former country manager for DHL today works in Tokyo as a professional photographer. He is the only German living in Japan to be granted membership of Tokyo-GA. Last fall, he accompanied the transport of the exhibits by Lufthansa Cargo. This is the story, in his own words.

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FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A PHOTOGRAPHER – AND THE PERSPECTIVE OF HIS CAMERA.

It is October 2018, and I am standing in the cargo section of Tokyo Narita Airport. Dangling from my neck are my Leica, and various special ID tags that give me direct access to the tarmac. In front of me, a stack of cardboard boxes on a pallet, twice the height of a man. It is thickly wrapped in foil, and then secured with a cargo net. On the outside, in big letters: “Tokyo Curiosity.” I take a few pictures. And I stop for a moment. Until now, I have never given much thought to international air freight. It is, and always was, a matter of routine for me. Happens every day, and everywhere. And generally it works without a hitch. But this time, everything is a little different.

I know that inside these boxes are 200 works of art from our group Tokyo-GA that are about to be flown to Paris. What makes it even more precious to me: some of the works are my own.

Lufthansa Cargo is sponsoring our exhibition. When I was asked to accompany the artworks on their trip and take photographs, I was immediately hooked on the idea. Unfortunately I was also very busy at that time. My Tokyo-GA colleague Hiroki Ikesue was kind enough to take care of the Paris leg for me. But I was not going to miss out on the loading of the artworks at the airport in Tokyo.

My photos were to be published in the magazine “planet”, I already knew that. The editor in charge had asked me to provide photographs in black-and-white. His intention was for the feature to have a unique look, one that makes it visually distinct from the other articles in the magazine. His wish was my command. Black-and-white is my favorite color. It brings out what is essential. And so, on the big day, I am standing – with my Leica Monochrome 246, the queen among digital cameras for black-and-white photography – at Tokyo Narita Airport. I am in the company of Naoko Ohta. We had already spent several hours at a framing company in Tokyo, where our artworks were placed in airworthy packaging.

Now – in the cargo section at the airport – we get talking to several of the cargo workers. They appear friendly and cooperative. What puts our minds at rest is that we get the impression that these people really love their work, and that they take great care in handling the freight – especially when that cargo consists of works of art. Naoko told me later: “I absolutely adore working with the team from Lufthansa Cargo. They have a feel for omotenashi, and I really appreciate that.” Omotenashi – the word stands for a complex and many-layered concept of hospitality and customer service in Japan.

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But back out on the tarmac, where daylight has already faded. The Boeing 777F looms like a gigantic monster. Its cargo door like a greedy mouth, ready to swallow containers and pallets with all sorts of goods for the world. Including our ­photographs. I have always enjoyed watching airplanes in the sky. But to see these giants up close, to walk under their belly and along their endless wings, that is something else entirely. I feel overwhelmed.

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And I am even allowed to enter the still empty cargo hold. The space opens up in front of me like a huge high-tech cathedral. I am totally focused on taking pictures. Everything seems surreal. Suddenly a huge machine – much like that one of the monsters in a Transformer movie – raises our pallet and pushes it into the cavernous cargo hold. Now everything must get done very quickly. We wave our good-byes and take a group photo of the cargo team. And then it’s all over. The plane takes off right on time and is on its way to France. And Naoko and I drive back to the inner city of Tokyo. In the car, we talk about our impressions of the day. And we feel relaxed as we look ahead to the coming weeks. Lufthansa Cargo will also take care of the remaining legs of the journey of our artworks. We feel certain that they will be in good hands the entire time.

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Günter Zorn – A GERMAN PHOTOGRAPHER IN TOKYO.

Günter Zorn, born in Bonn in 1953, used to work for the Japanese branch of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen and as country manager for DHL. When he moved to Tokyo to take up his job as manager in 1991, his first impression was predominantly one of giant concrete stilts, skyscrapers and an endless sea of houses. Yet this image soon changed. Zorn discovered Tokyo in his very own way: for him the city reveals itself as a metropolis of a thousand villages. The trained media and photography engineer settles in one of these villages: Kagurazaka. Zorn describes the quarter with its mix of Japanese culture, quiet alleys, a patina and its almost European flair as a place that reminds him a little of his homeland. To this day he still lives with his wife in Tokyo and documents life on the streets with his camera. He regularly exhibits his pictures in Japan, France and Germany. He is a member of the board of the Tokyo-GA group.

http://guenterzorn.com

Photos: Günter Zorn, Hiroki Ikesue

Planet 1/2019

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Hyper agility.

MR. DIREKTOR: WILL WARR HYPERLOOP SOON BE BUILDING A TUBE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN AND TAKE THE TRANSATLANTIC BUSINESS AWAY FROM THE FREIGHT AIRLINES?
Paul Direktor: Perhaps next year. However, on a more serious note Hyperloop is not competing with airfreight. Moreover, in the future it could supplement it, for example as an express or supply solution to render airfreight hubs even more efficient.

Dorothea von Boxberg: Hyperloop could, in particular, replace transport operations on the road in particularly heavily congested transport areas. Short and medium-range routes are the field in which Hyperloop solutions could prove successful. One shouldn’t forget that Elon Musk’s longest tube is currently only a little more than one kilometer.

Paul Direktor: In Switzerland, a university team at ETH Zurich is already working on implementing a package transport system using vacuum pipe technology. It is called Swissloop and the Swiss are, of course, renowned for tunnel building.

Dorothea von Boxberg: Hyperloop is not a technology set to be commercialized on the market in the near future. However, the number of ideas that have been developed in that respect in the past few years is impressive. Hyperloop taking on the “last leg” from an airport to a major city could, for example, considerably speed up e-commerce consignments.

WHAT DO YOU FIND FASCINATING ABOUT THE “SPACEX HYPERLOOP POD COMPETITION”?
Paul Direktor: It gives us the opportunity to build something completely new. We are, so to speak, spearheading technical innovation. Following the initial successes, industry started to take an interest in and support us. Practical experience like that is not taught at university. Simply fantastic.

Dorothea von Boxberg: It is fascinating to see how these selforganized student teams have developed their ideas with such success, above all if I compare that with the typical project periods in major groups.

WHAT WAS THE CRUCIAL EXPERIENCE FOR YOU WHEN YOUR STUDENT INITIATIVE SUDDENLY HAD TO COLLABORATE WITH SUPPORTERS FROM INDUSTRY?

Paul Direktor: The times. Internal processing times of more than four weeks for example are completely normal for invoices at many companies. In such a four-week period just about anything can happen to us.

WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THE CURRENT HYPERLOOP CONCEPTS COMPARED TO THOSE 15 YEARS AGO SUCH AS THE CARGO CAP, WHICH WE HAVE REPORTED ON IN “PLANET” IN THE PAST?
Paul Direktor: Above all the vacuum technology, which facilitates far higher speeds, is new. In addition, the commitment of a renowned entrepreneur, i.e. in our case Elon Musk, who with lasting effect supports the implementation and attracts global attention.

CRITICS SAY MUSK IS MAKING TOO MUCH OF A SONG AND DANCE ABOUT IT
Paul Direktor: That’s something people need to decide for themselves. At any rate I am fascinated by his successes – how he manages to revolutionize the market with his electric cars, that’s great. As soon as the mass production problems are ironed out we’ll see how good he really is. SpaceX has already generated profits for a number of years too.

Dorothea von Boxberg: He is an impressive visionary. Many of his ideas are not incremental improvements, but moreover moonshot ideas. The path to a sustainable business in that respect is significantly more difficult than in the case of smaller innovations. His company Tesla has definitely seriously shaken up the automotive industry.

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A part of the team with their current pod, which in July this year won the 3rd Hyperloop Pod Competition achieving a speed of 467 km/h. In addition to the speed team, WARR Hyperloop has a levitation team, which was similarly successful and intends to make use of the Transrapid technology.

WHAT INTERESTS DO LUFTHANSA CARGO AND WARR HYPERLOOP SHARE? DO YOU INTEND TO INVEST MS. VON BOXBERG?
Dorothea von Boxberg: WARR Hyperloop is a student initiative, not a start-up. Accordingly at present we couldn’t make an investment. We are supporting the students because we are interested in exchanging ideas about technology and people who demonstrate commitment and such great skills.

Paul Direktor: Lufthansa Cargo is a global company with a good network. We are interested in exchanging know-how and developing first business cases for Germany.

SO IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT PR?
Paul Direktor: PR plays a part but isn’t everything. It must be interesting for Lufthansa Cargo and for the entire logistics sector to know what is happening in the Hyperloop industry to react accordingly in good time.

Dorothea von Boxberg: We had already established contact with the WARR Hyperloop team before the sponsored events. But if someone wants to interpret that simply as PR I won’t disabuse them of that notion.

WHAT INNOVATIVE IDEAS IN THE LOGISTICS SECTOR BEYOND HYPERLOOP DO YOU CURRENTLY FIND EXCITING?
Paul Direktor: There are lots of ideas. I believe Blockchain has great potential for validating delivery chains. That is exciting for the airfreight sector, which is strongly characterized by the division of labour and has many players who are widely spread. Amazon’s Beehive could revolutionize warehouse logistics. This also includes the swarm intelligence of drones.

 

HOWEVER, THE LOGISTICS SECTOR IS NOT EXACTLY REGARDED AS A MODEL OF INNOVATIVE PASSION 
Dorothea von Boxberg: True. Some topics really take forever. For example the roll-out of the eAir Waybill. Paul Direktor: All sectors are currently undergoing significant changes as a result of digitization. Logistics are no exception and will need to adjust accordingly.

Dorothea von Boxberg: We are doing that. I believe artificial intelligence is the technology that we will use first at Lufthansa Cargo. In that respect among other things this means self-learning algorithms can determine prices and automatically allocate freight to free capacities. Some of our services are already being rendered via API interfaces and these are used by several platforms to present an overview so that ranges can be compared. In other industries that’s nothing special. However, in airfreight it is quite innovative. My general aim consists of making our range available to our customers effectively and simply. We have quite a lot of work ahead of us. 

WHAT DID YOUR VISIT TO WARR HYPERLOOP MEAN FOR YOU IN RESPECT OF ADDRESSING THE CURRENT LUFTHANSA CARGO AGENDA? 
Dorothea von Boxberg: The spirit is great and it supplements that of the legendary cargo very well. At present we are working on making our range more digital and more easily available. The airfreight industry has, to date, been characterised by a large number of manual processes: booking, quoting prices and the information flow, which accompanies a physical consignment. As a result our customers do not receive real time information. Often transparency is lacking and mistakes are made. We hope to improve that significantly in the next few years.

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The first WARR Hyperloop pod was a success thanks to its design. At the front it has a compressor that minimizes the air resistance in a partial vacuum tube.

MS. VON BOXBERG, YOU ARE THE NEW EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER AND CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER. WHAT CAN ONE LEARN FOR THE PRODUCT FROM INITIATIVES SUCH AS WARR HYPERLOOP OR STARTUPS?
Dorothea von Boxberg: Successful products are geared towards customers’ requirements and are supplied in the promised quality. Start-ups show us that a product doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect when it is launched on the market for the first time. Valuable experience can, in fact, be gained with a quick “minimum viable product” while the product can then be further improved. In that respect customers only need to know what they are letting themselves in for.

IS AN EXCHANGE WITH A START-UP IMPORTANT TO BE OF INTEREST TO TALENTED YOUNG PROFESSIONALS?
Dorothea von Boxberg: “Employer branding” is not the principal aspect of our exchange. We attach prime importance to the actual ideas, technologies, approach, the fact that fast growth is possible and the working method. On occasion in our sector we have grown too accustomed to the fact that things require a certain time. It is very refreshing to realize that students or start-ups prove the opposite is the case. Being in the company of “digital natives” is also good training for me personally.

AT PRESENT THE NEWS IS INCREASINGLY CHARACTERIZED BY NEGATIVE ECONOMIC REPORTS SUCH AS PUNITIVE TARIFFS AND EU SCEPTICISM ETC. IS THERE ANY ROOM LEFT FOR INNOVATORS LIKE YOU MR. DIREKTOR? 
Paul Direktor: A functioning market economy should always have room for innovation and an atmosphere for change. Otherwise that would be a very bad sign. 

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN WARR HYPERLOOP TO GET RICH AT SOME POINT? 
Paul Direktor: No. I am enthusiastic about the project. At present, in addition to our university courses we work on the project in our leisure time, many of us for more than 60 hours each week – even though we are not paid for it. 

IS A CULTURAL CHANGE POSSIBLE IN A TRADITIONAL COMPANY SUCH AS LUFTHANSA CARGO? 
Dorothea von Boxberg: We have changed a great deal in the last few years: the organization, our processes, we collaborate with start-ups in a more targeted manner and in the case of projects we are increasingly moving from a waterfall approach to agile development. And the change will continue – we are in the middle of it. 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!

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That also impressed Elon Musk: WARR Hyperloop’s third pod was faster than the pusher pod of SpaceX and Tesla.

Photos: WARR Hyperloop, Matthias Aletsee

Planet 2/2018

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Konnichiwa „Bojo“!

It is a drop like no other, because it is the first of every vintage to be served up: the French Beaujolais Nouveau. Also known as Beaujolais Primeur, or “Bojo” for short, this red wine has traditionally come on the market on the third Thursday in November ever since 1985. “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé” is the message that then spreads through wine shops around the world. The idea originated with the winegrowers in Beaujolais, which under French “wine law” is part of Burgundy. In the 1950s, they successfully fought for an exemption from the strict French wine law. They became the first to be permitted to sell their wine already in the year it was made. There was a time when British high society folk flew their private planes to Burgundy to get the very first new wine from France for themselves and their friends. Today the “Bojo” goes to more than 110 countries around the world by airfreight. About 13 million bottles are filled each year.

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More than half goes to Japan. This year Lufthansa Cargo will again ship about 600 tons of this sought-after drop to the Land of the Rising Sun. The “Bojo” from Beaujolais arrives at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) on the Road Feeder Service. The challenge: to have this entire volume of freight shipped to Osaka (KIX) and Tokyo (NRT) within a period of three weeks, so that it will be on the shelves of Japanese wine merchants and ready for sale in mid-November. Lufthansa Cargo therefore sends about 50 tons of “Bojo” each day, both on board its own aircraft and in the cargo holds of Lufthansa passenger aircraft heading for Asia. In the belly of a LH740, for example, a Boeing 747-400 that is bound for Osaka. After a journey of just under twelve hours, the young wine lands in Japan. Cooperation partner All Nippon Airways supplements the services offered by Lufthansa Cargo with a further 1,200 tons of freight capacity.

Photos: iStock

Planet 2/2018

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Stars from Uganda.

Flowers are a positive symbol of life. People who want to honor someone or express their affection can do so anywhere in the world by presenting them with flowers. Sometimes the gift means “I love you”, sometimes it says “Forgive me”, and sometimes the message is, “Time to celebrate!” “It could be an anniversary, a sporting success, or it could be marking an important holiday – flowers speak a language that everyone understands,” says Wilson Keter. “They bring people joy!“ This is what he likes so much about his job as Production Manager for Selecta One at the Wagagai Farm in Uganda, about an hour’s drive west of the capital, Kampala. Selecta One is one of six German and Dutch horticulture businesses that have joined forces in the “Stars for Europe” initiative with the aim of promoting poinsettias. The plant with the bright red, and in some varieties also white or beige leaves, is part of the western tradition of celebrating Christmas time, just like the Advent wreath and the Christmas tree. In the days leading up to Christmas, millions of families like to decorate their living room with this spectacular and symbolic flower. However, this has only become possible because a horticultural and logistical masterpiece has been achieved in Africa and Europe in the lead-up to Christmas.

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The poinsettia business relies on an intensive division of labor that involves the shared handling of volume, cost and quality requirements, an effort that calls for a top performance from all parties involved, year after year. The plant’s cuttings are produced in Africa – in addition to the Wagagai Farm in Uganda, the members of the “Stars for Europe” initiative also operate farms in Kenya and in Ethiopia. Once they arrive in Europe, the poinsettias are grown to full size and maturity, until their colorful crown comes to full bloom.

Once, when Wilson Keter attended a meeting at Selecta One’s headquarters in Stuttgart, he went to a nearby flower shop. The horticulturalist from Africa was astonished when he saw the finished product with its large, splendid red leaves. “I can understand why people are happy to spend their money on these flowers. But it is a little strange for me, because we only ever get to see the green leaves of the mother plants. And of those we only take the shoots, which we cut off and then send as cuttings in the fastest way possible.” Which is by airfreight, exclusively. “Without airfreight, our farm would not exist,” says Wilson Keter. During peak season, Selecta One ships poinsettia cuttings from the Wagagai Farm to Europe six days a week, around 55 million pieces each season. The shoots are smaller than a thumb and look more like a sprig of mint than the pot plant they will grow into. Even so Selecta One in Uganda generates 31 tons of airfreight every year in this way. Right after the harvest and still in the greenhouses, the workers pack the shoots in specially insulated cardboard boxes. After a short period of intermediate storage in the cool rooms at Wagagai Farm, the sensitive plants are transported by truck to

Entebbe airport, only 20 kilometers away, on the same day. There they are loaded into the cargo holds of an aircraft with destination Europe and kept at a temperature of between eight and twelve degrees Celsius.

IMPORTANT CARRIER: BRUSSELS AIRLINES

An important carrier for Selecta One in Uganda is Brussels Airlines. Lufthansa Cargo’s cooperation partner flies to the former Ugandan capital almost daily with Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Starting in September this year, Lufthansa Cargo is taking over the marketing of the cargo capacities of the Belgian airline (see p. 42), whose numerous scheduled connections from Brussels to Central and West Africa also enhance the network of Lufthansa Cargo. “Brussels is a very convenient hub for us, because it is close to the horticultural operations in Germany, France and the Netherlands,” says Wilson Keter. Upon arrival, the cuttings are replanted by his European colleagues, and once they reach maturity they are delivered to the shops in time for Christmas.

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Extreme care and numerous work steps are required until the cuttings can finally be harvested. An important recipe for success: the highest standards of hygiene. At Wagagai the mother plants are cultivated inside a specially secured greenhouse with optimal ventilation. Only after carefully washing their hands and putting on a gown, gloves and special shoes may visitors enter the area, but they are still not permitted to touch the plants. Even in the “normal” greenhouses, strict hygiene must be observed in order to keep viruses, bacteria and harmful organisms out. “There are hundreds of diseases that could potentially infect our plants,” says Wilson Keter. But at Wagagai such problems almost never occur, because here the workers are extensively trained, and everyone observes the required standards of hygiene. Moreover, several specialists are constantly on the move in each of the greenhouses to ensure that the standards are complied with. “Diligent observation of the standards of hygiene means we can largely eliminate the use of toxic pesticides,” says Wilson Keter.

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“We run an exemplary operation here and have earned the highest international environmental certificates in accordance with the MPS ECAS standard.” Poinsettias are grown at Selecta One in Uganda from May to August, inside massive greenhouses covering a total area of 20 hectares. During peak season the farm employs 1,000 workers to look after the plants, harvest the cuttings and carry out all the associated tasks. “Poinsettias are delicate plants. It is fiddly work that calls for great patience – and especially a great many experienced and careful hands,” says Wilson Keter. The low labor costs by international standards are one reason why poinsettia cuttings are produced in Africa. A second important reason is the climate: the poinsettia is a tropical plant that originally came from Mexico. Uganda offers optimal conditions for the mother plants from which the cuttings are taken. The country lies on a plateau which straddles the Equator, and it borders on the gigantic Lake Victoria, some 1,135 meters above sea level. Wagagai Farm, where poinsettias have been cultivated since 2006, is located on the shores of Lake Victoria. Conditions here are neither too hot nor too cold, and there is no shortage of fresh water for the continuous drip irrigation the plants require.

GOOD CAREER OPPORTUNITIES.

GOOD CAREER OPPORTUNITIES.

“Cultivating these cuttings in Africa also makes sense from an ecological point of view,” says Wilson Keter. “The CO₂ emissions that would be generated by heated greenhouses in Europe far exceed the CO₂ footprint we are currently producing by transporting the cuttings by plane.” Wilson Keter glows with pride when he talks about his work. Born and trained in Kenya, the agricultural engineer lives at Wagagai Farm together with his wife. Every morning he jogs around the farm in order to stay in shape. Wilson is good with plants, they say at the farm. And with the workers. “Not only the plants thrive here at Wagagai, the people do too!” says Wilson Keter. Uganda, with its civil war past, is considered one of the poorest countries in the world. Not only that, the farm is also located in a very rural area where there is a great deal of poverty and low levels of education.

“The people from this area generally can’t compete with those living in the cities,” explains Wilson Keter. “It is therefore great to see how people start to develop and grow once they start work with us. They grow in stature within their families because they provide for their livelihood and for their children to be able to go to school. They gradually take on more responsibility and start to take their lives into their own hands. There are numerous examples here at Wagagai of people starting out as harvest helpers and today they work as foremen, or even in management.” The laborious enterprise is well worth it, however, not least because the resulting product is also worthwhile, concludes Wilson Keter. “At Christmas, many people give each other things in which they lose interest after just a short time. I like the fact that with the poinsettia we produce something that is alive, and that only has a single purpose: to bring joy!”

 

Photos: Allan Gichigi, Andrew Kartende

Planet 2/2018

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Flying horses.

All of a sudden the Arabian mare shows a flash of temperament. Huffing and snorting, the animal raises its head high. As her body jerks forward, her stamping hooves make the trailer floor vibrate. “Easy!” commands Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere – and takes charge right away. Keeping a short leash just under the head, she leads the mare further into the trailer, as if nothing had happened. “I grew up with Arabians, and I am especially partial to them,” says the 30-year-old after she has shut and bolted the trailer door. “But really, I love all horses, especially for their personality and their intelligence.” Living and working with Arabians, thoroughbreds and quarterhorses is something that runs in the blood of Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere’s family. Her grandparents successfully bred horses – in France initially, and in the United States since the late 1970s. Her parents run the “Centurion Stud” farm in Como, in the northeast of Texas. The stud farm holds way over 100 horses at any time, most of them from their own breeding stock. There are also mares that have been entrusted to the couple by their owners for the purpose of giving birth to foals and rearing them.

„After two to three years the young horses go back to their owners,” explains Moreau-Sipiere while on a tour of the extensive grounds of the stud farm. Many of the animals make the journey under the care of this young lady. After all, she turned the management of horse transportation into her principal vocation in 2016, when she established the company Centurion World Logistics. Most of these animals go to recipients in the Middle East and Europe, where they are used as race or show horses. Not all of the transport runs start out from her parents’ stud farm: “The horses come from all over the United States, but many of the stud farms are located here in Texas,” says Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere. Her clientele mostly are horse breeders and buyers as well as agents. The preferred means of transportation for intercontinental carriage is the aircraft. “I totally rely on airfreight,” explains the logistics specialist. Firstly, it only takes twelve hours to fly from the airport in Houston (which she mainly uses) to Frankfurt, for example, whereas transportation by sea would take many times as long. Secondly, traveling by sea would simply be too onerous for the horses. Ever since the Texan became her own boss, she has used the services of Lufthansa Cargo.

“I realized during our first meeting that they operate a very dense network, and how much this would benefit me.” Around 50 percent of her horses travel on board Lufthansa Cargo. Last year this involved 120 horses, and this year there were 75 horses in the first six months alone. Many of the flights go to Frankfurt, with other key destinations being Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait City. That is what is meant by “Enabling Global Business” – the very motto of Lufthansa Cargo. During stopovers at Frankfurt, the horses are looked after in the Frankfurt Animal Lounge. “The team there is first rate, they know exactly how to make the horses comfortable,” says Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere. “When we come to pick them up for their onward journey, the horses are well rested and have been given plenty of hay and water.” On board, the horses travel in special containers. Up to 18 animals are loaded onto the main cargo deck of the MD-11F, the aircraft mainly used on the relevant connections. Two staff members accompany all animal transport runs. Their seats are located behind the cockpit.

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NO UNACCOMPANIED TRANSPORT RUNS.

Because whenever horses are being transported, the presence of grooms is indispensable. This applies at the airport, where the animals are checked by a veterinarian from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and even more so in the air: “During the flight, grooms are allowed to go to the horses in order to water them, and to keep them calm,” says Moreau-Sipiere, who usually does this job herself. “The first time I accompanied a flight I was 20 years old, and I have been doing it regularly ever since.” Back then her father managed many transport runs himself, and his daughter acted as a groom. At that time forwarding companies were commissioned to handle the assignments. “I enjoyed it, so that is why at some point I decided to take over logistics com pletely. I took several courses through IATA where I obtained the relevant certifications as well as my TSA Indirect Air Carrier credentials.” It all led to the foundation of Centurion World Logistics.

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Exporting horses requires a great deal of administrative effort. “The exact amount of paperwork depends on the country of destination,” says the logistics specialist. In addition, the horses must go through quarantine before the trip. This is another service the entrepreneur can offer – thanks to the quarantine station her parents established at their stud farm over ten years ago. Starting this fall, the Texan can also handle transport runs from abroad and into the United States, thanks to her recently acquired “customs broker” certificate. “But it will just be an add-on to the export business,” says Vanessa Moreau-Sipiere. Of even greater importance to her is another project she wants to bring to fruition: to establish an animal station – a kind of Frankfurt Animal Lounge – at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport, a mere hour and a half by road from the Centurion Stud farm. “This would be for use by myself as well as other forwarders engaged in exports.” One of the factors in her reckoning here – by no means the least important one – is this: Lufthansa Cargo also operates regular freight connections from DFW.

Photos: Edward Carreon

Planet 2/2018

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Cats traveling.

Anyone planning to relocate domestic animals should be well-prepared. And if the distance is over 4,000 kilometers, then it’s time to call the professionals. This is how far 30 cats and one pigeon had to travel as part of a private relocation from Tuscany to Senegal – on board Lufthansa planes. Marco Colombo handled the organization on behalf of his customer from the first to the last yard. His company Home Boarding Shipping Pets has been specialized in the transportation of animals for six years now. “It’s very important that the cats have enough space and always get enough fresh air,” he says. The size and weight of the animals determine which transport boxes are needed, and how much space they will take up in the cargo hold. Colombo also cooperated closely with the animal lover with regard to all the other preparations. The journey began in a transport van traveling from Pisa in Italy to Aeroporto di Venezia “Marco Polo” (VCE). The handling and preparation of the Air Waybills in Venice was the responsibility of A.Elle Cargo. This forwarding company is registered with Lufthansa Cargo as an animal forwarding agency – a prerequisite for making bookings for the “Live” product, which is specially tailored to suit each individual animal. From Venice, the animals then flew on board an Airbus A320 to their first stop at Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

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At the Frankfurt Animal Lounge, Lufthansa Cargo combines handling, animal coordination and veterinary services on a floor space of around 4,000 square meters. The 50 employees and trained animal keepers ensure individual round-the-clock care. In the transit area, the four-legged passengers can recover from their journey, shielded from view and noise. There are three separate rest areas set aside especially for cats. Lowering stress levels: the animals are brought to the plane in Frankfurt just before it is ready to take off. After the three-hour stopover, the cats (and the pigeon!) continued their journey to Dakar – in an MD-11F, the aircraft which Lufthansa Cargo flies from Frankfurt to the West African metropolis three times a week. Six hours and 15 minutes later, the good news for the owner: the pigeon and the cats have all landed at the Aéroport International Blaise Diagne (DSS). “The seamless monitoring throughout the journey and the route network of Lufthansa Cargo give our customers reassurance,” says Marco Colombo, who has already transported over 500 animals to date, “and anyone entrusting their pets to somebody else needs to have that feeling of trust and confidence.”

Photos: Picture Alliance, iStock

Planet 2/2018

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Blood, sweat and tears.

The explosives specialist is making his way forward, sniffing parcels and crates to the left and right – routine work for the German shepherd at CargoCity Süd at Frankfurt Airport. Among the shipments that go through a final security check here at UPS Global Freight Forwarding before they are made ready for transport is a wooden box containing guitars that were made just a few miles from the airport: at the production facility of Nik Huber Guitars in Rodgau. Here an eight-member team builds around 240 instruments a year – putting a great many hours of manual labor into each of the guitars. It is an effort that is much appreciated by musicians from around the world – including rock stars in bands like Die Toten Hosen and the Foo Fighters. “We get many orders from Asia and from the United States,” says Nik Huber. Today’s shipment will be going to Chicago.

As it happens, the eponymous founder of the company, now 49 years old, came to working with wood as a result of finding himself in a dilemma: when his plan to study architecture didn’t work out right away and he ended up on a waiting list, he decided to bridge the time by doing a carpentry apprenticeship. At some point his father, who at the time was a Lufthansa pilot, came back from a vacation and talked excitedly about a guitar-making course. Young Nik figured he might want to try his hand at that, too, and he was hooked from the very first minute.

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ENABLING GLOBAL BUSINESS DUE TO AIRFREIGHT.

It was thanks to an encounter more than 20 years ago that Huber decided to turn his hobby into a vocation: at a concert in Frankfurt he showed the first guitar he had made himself to the legendary guitar maker Paul Reed Smith – who promptly became his mentor and guided him on his new career path. “He kept at me, drove me and was never, ever satisfied – thank God!” To this very day Huber still tries to build “the best guitar ever”. His catalog includes three body shapes, nine models and a long list of optional extras. Many of his customers have him create their own individual works of art. Airfreight is vital for Nik Huber, not only on a day like today when he ships finished guitars, but also when it comes to procuring supplies. This is why he participated in “Hessen goes global”, the corporate contest initiated by Lufthansa Cargo at the beginning of 2018. He finished up as one of the two winners, and he is sponsored by Lufthansa Cargo and UPS Global Freight Forwarding for one year.

The two companies receive free airfreight capacity of up to one container per month, as well as free ground transportation (door-to-door), and all customs clearance processes are handled for them. “For one thing, to me this means financial relief,” explains Huber. “For another, I’m also delighted that I can hand over the shipping side of things to professionals.” The logistics involving in making high-end guitars are challenging. It starts off with the wood, which this professional usually imports from California. “It needs to consist of long fibers and be dense, so that it can produce a good sound.” The preferred materials for Nik Huber, who once aspired to a career as a rock guitarist himself, are mahogany, ebony and rosewood. Rio rosewood, for example, is used for fingerboards.

“The documentation required to import and export these timbers is extensive.” Safety plays a vital role in the transportation of these instruments: “Aside from the precious wood itself, our guitars are adorned with exclusive materials,” explains Huber. “Mother-of-pearl is commonly used, but I have also had customers who asked for gold and diamonds instead.” This calls for high standards – which Lufthansa Cargo meets with its special “Safe 2” product. “During shipment, I always know where my guitars are. We spend eight to twelve weeks working on each instrument. That’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears – the possibility that even just one of them might not make it to the destination doesn’t bear thinking about!”

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And sometimes things simply have to happen quickly: when a guitar has to arrive without fail before a musician goes on tour, when an exhibition copy is needed for a trade fair – or when the appropriate packaging is still missing: “For particularly high-end guitars, I have the cases hand made in California,” says Nik Huber. Just recently he had some of these delivered by “td.Flash,” Lufthansa Cargo’s product for very urgent shipments. “Airfreight has already saved my bacon quite a few times.”

Photos: Kap Curious GmbH

Planet 2/2018