“We are ready for any kind of diversification”

Reading time: approx. 6 minutes
Text: Till Homrighausen
Photos: Silvia Steinbach

Insights into a troubled industry: How badly have the recession and Corona crisis hit automotive logistics? And what gives hope for an upturn? Bernd Janssen, Managing Director of Brucherseifer Transport + Logistik, explains how to take new paths with flexibility and thus give companies and employees new dynamic.

It’s July, the sun is shining, and the summer holidays have just begun in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate when Bernd Janssen thinks back to the year 2019 in an interview with motionist.com. He talks calmly and objectively about one of the more difficult years of his career. As an automotive logistics specialist, he has “shed many feathers”. This is probably something he has in common with the majority of his competitors in this field, as the driving force of the German economy, the automotive industry, has been subject to considerable fluctuations. At the turn of the year, the managing director of Brucherseifer Transport + Logistik GmbH probably would not have dreamed that 2020 would bring an even more comprehensive crisis.

Emergency braking

When Corona struck hard in spring, the automotive industry put on the brakes. The logistics service provider Brucherseifer, based in Wissen in the Westerwald region of Germany since 1949, hit the brakes rudely. “When the general recession was compounded by the Corona crisis, it was really no fun,” recalls Janssen, who has been managing the fortunes of the medium-sized company for 21 years together with his wife and father-in-law. The company made up to 75 percent of its turnover with transport and services for the automotive industry. After many good years in the 2010s, what had been a hard road in the past has now led to a wall. Everything came to a stop. Bernd Janssen and his 160 employees felt the same way as so many others: short-time work for parts of the workforce, deregistering or selling vehicles – and licking wounds.

The company also has storage space in its portfolio. In Wissen it is 20,000 square metres, 90 percent of which is normally occupied by automotive parts. Now there is a partly ghostly emptiness. “In June, things picked up slightly, but right now there are weeks of factory holidays of our major customers in some cases,” says Janssen. Forecasts are difficult in these times, but the 54-year-old looks ahead: “I am hopeful. We are grateful for the government assistance, but we will get back on our feet ourselves.”

»We’ll get back on our own feet.«

Bernd Janssen, Managing Director of Brucherseifer Transport + Logistik GmbH

This hope does not come out of nowhere: Brucherseifer has shown itself to be flexible not only since the crisis. The company with the prominent blue-yellow vehicles makes the second largest turnover portion in the building industry. The Westerwald business has made a name for itself in the field of transport for prefabricated houses. Bernd Janssen is particularly pleased about the further developments in the field of statics: “Prefabricated houses now have more than two storeys. Multi-family houses or offices, the construction of prefabricated houses is increasing more and more. For each property, up to 15 vehicles deliver the individual parts. For the most part, special transports are required for this. “The prefabricated house manufacturers produce as much and as large as possible in the factory. Walls with a length of 11.50 metres or 13-metre roof beams are standard,” says Janssen. Since the parts are not only very long, but also wide and high, you to take care when transporting them – and you need the right fleet. A normal lorry and trailer combination would have a hard time on the construction sites. Telescopic low loaders with forced steering, crane vehicles, turntable trailers, even an articulated lorry with a 3.60 metre long platform body – showman’s measurements, as Bernd Janssen aptly describes them – are all part of the fleet.

One of the most recent projects was a transport with enormous width. “At first, the component was to be transported diagonally. We already wanted to rent a diagonal loader from STL Logistik AG. But their board member Jörg Reichmann recommended in a very cooperative telephone call that we drive the 4.70-metre part lying down with our new forced-steered Meusburger plateau trailer ourselves,” explains Janssen. With an excess width of more than two metres, Brucherseifer was able to successfully negotiate winding stretches. Janssen likes new challenges: “The components are getting bigger and bigger, we are now preparing for this.”

Pioneer in digital support for everyday transport

The entrepreneur has 70 tractors and 140 towed trailers in his fleet. Flexibility and efficiency go hand in hand when managing the vehicles – after all, you have to be able to perform to the point for your customers, says the Brucherseifer CEO. “To achieve this I depend on good partners,” explains Janssen. “The product alone is not the most important thing, the service and the people behind it must convince me.” This includes his contact with BPW Bergische Achsen and he is pleased that he can obtain almost everything from a single source there: “We look for reliable brands for our fleet. I can’t afford to have to wait days for a spare part somewhere in Europe – if something breaks down on the trailer, I know that the nearest spare parts dealer can help me, Europe-wide. Whether axle, fastener or lighting.”

For his trailers Janssen specifies almost all components from the BPW Group. Ralf Merkelbach, Head of Key Account Management at BPW, is happy to confirm the good connections between the two companies. “We have a great cooperation, there are always two sides to it. We have already carried out many exciting projects together,” he describes the relationship. Janssen adds: “At BPW, a promise is a promise. I can always rely on that.”

Bernd Janssen (left) relies on reliable brands for his vehicle fleet: Whether axle, fastener or lighting – all products come from the BPW Group. Ralf Merkelbach, Head of Key Account Management at BPW, is pleased about the good cooperation between the two companies.
The staff at Brucherseifer always enjoy testing new and innovative products. Ermax LED lighting is extremely popular, assures Bernd Janssen: “Drivers not only find them stylish, Ermax also keeps the promises in terms of impact resistance.”

The latest project is a test with the intelligent load securing iGurt. “Load securing is such an important factor,” warns Janssen, “you can’t afford any mistakes. When we drive steel pipes, they have to be re-tensioned after 15 and after 30 kilometres. With the iGurt, the driver can now see when the pretensioning force of the belts is reduced via the Bluetooth connection to the driver’s cab and is warned by an app.”

He is generally interested in digital supporters in everyday transport – and likes to be a pioneer: “When we installed telematics in our trailers, I still received some questioning looks from the industry. We sometimes pull 150 trailer loads a day back and forth for our customers in factory transport. So the customer needs absolute transparency about which load is where and when. “In addition, a tractor unit is rarely lost on its own, a trailer is more likely to get lost. In case of doubt, telematics in the truck helps me myself. Telematics in the trailer is an absolute help for my customers!” Every morning Janssen’s first look at his PC now goes to the Cargofleet 3 portal of the BPW subsidiary idem telematics to check all trailer locations.

“Telematics in the truck helps me myself, telematics in the trailer helps the customer”, says Bernd Janssen in an interview with motionist.com.

Lived flexibility: from the warehouse behind the wheel

Bernd Janssen has recently discovered his vehicles in Oelde near Rheda-Wiedenbrück: another flexible masterpiece enabled Brucherseifer to help build an Amazon warehouse. With visible pride in his team, Managing Director Janssen reports: “One Friday evening at 10.11 pm I received an enquiry as to whether we could bring ten trailers to Oelde the following day for a system supplier – there was no more information available. The next morning at 6 a.m. I welcomed our drivers from the night shift at the factory and asked them to take another daytime rest period instead of their weekend. With the help of employees from the dispatch department, the warehouse and our drivers, all the trailers they wanted were on site on Saturday.” The luck of the brave brought the company further orders from the Amazon environment: As a follow-up order, some drivers were allowed to bring trailers from Oelde to Italy – a highlight for his employees. “Who knows”, says Bernd Janssen with a grin, “maybe we’ll soon be driving parcels for Amazon. No problem for us, we are ready for any kind of diversification.”

He almost always finds a solution anyway – for the benefit of the company and its employees. When it became clear that the warehouses could no longer be used to capacity due to the kink in the automotive industry, the entrepreneur sat down at his desk. He has now negotiated a deal with the employment agency: Warehouse employees can obtain their truck driver’s licence, sponsored by the agency. “We took a flexible approach here as well,” explains Janssen. “In perspective, the shortage of drivers will not get any smaller. In the warehouse it will be difficult to fill all positions for the time being. So this is a win-win situation.” With flexibility out of the crisis – this strategy seems to be working out well in case of Brucherseifer.

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