The “Craftsmen in Freight Forwarding”

Reading time: approx. 4 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: AMÖ, BPW

Anyone who buys new furniture online or is planning to move relies on experts for transport. Andreas Eichinger, Managing Director of the German Association of Furniture Forwarding and Logistics (AMÖ), and entrepreneur Jürgen Zantis report on the challenges of the business – and how e-trucks can find their way.

Mr Zantis, your company handles removals. What challenges do you face in this?
Zantis: Furniture is not a commodity like any other – especially because it is also often dismantled and reassembled by us. A move or even a delivery without a specialist for furniture, kitchens and removal services or a carpenter is therefore virtually no longer feasible. And IT services are also part of the job when we disconnect, connect and partially reinstall technical systems. You could call us the craftsmen in the forwarding business, who are confronted with the challenges typical of the profession: the drill holes in new furniture are not always right. And for kitchens made in Germany, the body is usually already assembled, but the fronts still have to be fitted. The effort depends on how well the measurement was carried out in advance. This is done by special measuring teams and we always hope that they have considered all the little details and have not overlooked anything.

»”A move or even a delivery without a specialist in furniture, kitchens and removal services or a carpenter is virtually no longer feasible.«

Jürgen Zantis, Managing Partner of Möbelspedition Maassen & Becker GmbH

The transport is probably just as diverse?

Zantis: Yes, new furniture is usually packed well and in a compact way. With built-up pieces, however, we have to look at what can be dismantled or what we have to move as a whole and protect accordingly. However, goods to be moved can also be classic freight forwarding goods: for example, we recently organised a move to southern Spain together with the general cargo forwarder Ziegler. That was about 100 boxes that we palletised to be able to move them more cheaply. In addition, there were only a few chests of drawers, armchairs, pictures and mirrors.

Eichinger: The logisticians who move furniture have very different specialisations. One forwarding company focuses on local transport moves, another mainly handles moves for senior citizens, the next looks after libraries, moves medical equipment or art. There are many sectors that outsiders often do not even perceive as part of a moving company. Many companies are now logistics specialists who are always called upon to solve difficult problems. Another challenge is that many of the AMÖ companys’ business areas are seasonal. During the corona pandemic, for example, the need for transport services for new furnitures was very high because many people were renovating their homes. Such peaks have to be buffered just as much as the times when less new furniture is bought.

The AMÖ represents the interests of entrepreneurs vis-à-vis politicians and the public. What are the most pressing issues at the moment?

Zantis: The increasing costs, among others for packaging materials and fuel, are of course a big problem for us. And while private households should be supported, politicians lose sight of the fact that forwarding companies that run on diesel can hardly operate economically any more. If you do not calculate the transport costs accordingly, this quickly leads to an imbalance. The association can provide support and, of course, engage in dialogue with politicians. In addition, there is the increased minimum wage, which often means that all wages have to be adjusted. If I now have to pay 12 euros to a simple untrained helper who maybe just rolls boxes from A to B, I can of course not fob off a driver with 16.50 standard wages.

Eichinger: There is a shortage of workers in our sector, as is the case in many others. In my opinion, the reason is that the industry is perceived as not very attractive. Many people probably think that you have to lug heavy pieces of furniture up to the fifth floor of an old building every day – and never know when you’re off work. But as Mr Zantis described it: Craftsmen who can contribute their individual skills are in demand here, and that makes it exciting! You have to be made for it to some extent, but then you are rewarded with a very versatile profession. Every day is different.

»”There are smaller steps to increase the ecological footprint of removals, like re-using moving boxes. And larger ones, like using vehicles with alternative drives or photovoltaic panels on the roof of a warehouse building.«

Andreas Eichinger, Managing Director of the German Association of Furniture Forwarding and Logistics (AMÖ)

What about digitalisation – how important is it for the transport of furniture?

Eichinger: Traditional removal companies are still quite at the initial stage when it comes to digitalisation. Handheld devices are used there, for example, which save paper and provide flexibility. There is great potential for viewings in advance: more and more companies are carrying them out on video and using software to calculate the volume of the furniture to be packed. There is also potential in acquisition and in the preparation of offers, right up to the use of software for scheduling. There is a lot of backlog demand in the relocation sector. The situation is different in new furniture logistics, where a lot more is digitally recorded and automatically processed in order to be more efficient and sustainable.

How green can removals be today?

Eichinger: There are smaller steps to increase the economical footprint, such as re-using moving boxes. And larger ones, such as the use of vehicles with alternative drives or photovoltaic panels on the roof of a warehouse building. For vehicles, the question remains open as to which technology will prevail. In the field of electrically driven 3.5 tonne trucks, the selection is already good. In the field of 7.5 tonne trucks, Pionier BAX is BPW an option. This E-Truck is of interest to us and we are discussing it intensively with BPW. It is currently important for our member companies to firstly be aware of their route portfolio and whether an e-vehicle fits in. A particular challenge with private moves is that there are usually no charging stations along the way – unlike classic road haulage, where I drive from ramp to ramp, which in turn could be equipped with charging stations. With a range of up to 200 kilometers, short charging time and a high payload for a 7.5-ton truck, the BAX is promising. However, there is still a lot to be done, particularly in terms of range – even in the “last mile” sector.

Zantis: Die öffentliche Ladeinfrastruktur muss sich auf jeden Fall verbessern, ebenso die in Gewerbegebieten. Viele Versorger auf kommunaler Ebene scheinen das Thema noch nicht wichtig genug zu nehmen. Darüber hinaus sollte das Thema Parken in den Innenstädten mehr Aufmerksamkeit bekommen. Das Beantragen und Aufstellen von Halteverbotszonen für einen Umzugstag ist aufwändiger und teurer geworden. Verwaltung und Kommunalpolitik haben offenbar nur grüne Innenstädte im Kopf und priorisieren Radwege und Parks. Das ist wichtig und schön, keine Frage, aber die Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner müssen eben auch versorgt werden oder ziehen mal um. Wenn in Aachen in Parktaschen mit jeweils drei Stellplätzen mittendrin ein Baum gepflanzt wird, sodass da kein Lkw mehr parken kann, dann  fühlen wir uns als Logistiker und Versorger der Städte nicht ausreichend berücksichtigt.

What else do you wish for?

Eichinger: With regard to city centres, unhindered access for delivery transport is important. As a logistics sector, we want to supply the cities, and this includes relocations or companies that bring a CT machine to the radiology practice in the city. And yes, there are many service providers who experiment with bicycles or micro depots, but a piano or the office furniture will not be transported on a cargo bike, nor are pallets for the supermarket. That would not be efficient either.

Zantis: The space in cities must be divided fairly and according to needs.

The Bundesverband Möbelspedition und Logistik (AMÖ) represents just under 800 owner-managed, medium-sized companies, all of which originally handled private removals. May of them continue to do so to this day, but many have also evolved to manage, among other things, relocations of entire organisations, including plant relocations where production lines are dismantled and reassembled. They use special vehicles such as crane trucks or heavy-duty transporters. As a rule, they offer individual solutions and master special challenges, for example when machines weighing several tonnes have to be installed with millimetre precision, valuable paintings have to be transported temperature-controlled or the wing has to be brought down safely from the fourth floor of a building without a lift.

Andreas Eichinger has been Managing Director of the AMÖ since 2021. He comes from the transport industry, studied economics and was involved in transport framework planning for the Bremen/Lower Saxony transport association. This was followed by positions at universities and institutes in Germany and abroad, before Eichinger was entrusted with strategic tasks and association and committee work at Fraport AG before becoming Vice President of Operational Planning.

Jürgen Zantis is the Managing Partner of the furniture forwarding company Maassen & Becker GmbH. Since 1990, he has been the fourth generation of his family to work in the company, which was founded around 120 years ago. Maassen & Becker has undergone several structural changes in its history: it has evolved from a removal company into a new furniture logistics company and service provider for furniture stores in distribution transport. In addition, around 25 years ago, there were moves for the German Armed Forces and the Federal Foreign Office, which are still a focal point today. Zantis is a member of the AMÖ Presidium and Chairman of the division in North Rhine-Westphalia Regional Association.

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