Flexo Raumsysteme reduces logistics costs by 50 percent with its own fleet
Economics & Logistics
Flexo builds made-to-measure room systems. One of the Münsterland-based company's specialist products is sliding glass doors for use in cupboards or as room dividers. Transporting these products is a complex business, which is why the company undertakes the task itself – with the help of the Actros.
As Wolfgang Hille lifts the large glass panel measuring several square metres by crane, manoeuvres it to the cutting table and gently lays it down, all in the space of little more than a minute, there's no indication at all that the material he's handling is fragile. But looks are deceiving. The skilled stained glass craftsman is simply well practised. He has to be, because glass plays a very important role in the business of his employer, Flexo Raumsysteme GmbH. Amongst the company's top-selling products are sliding glass doors, many of which undergo further decorative treatment in the paintshop or under the laser.
"Around half of our products are made predominantly or partly of glass, including partition walls for gardens," says Wilhelm Mümken. He founded the family firm in Vreden in Münsterland back in 2002. Another major product is tailor-made wooden shelving systems – many of which are then concealed behind a sliding glass door. Flexo products are sold in major DIY stores and through a specialist bedroom furniture supplier.
For some years, Flexo has been delivering its products to retailers itself. A small fleet of five heavy-duty trucks – including three Actros – and two 12-tonne vehicles are at work covering fixed rounds each week.
"Thanks to our vehicles, we've definitely lowered our transport costs by 50 percent", states Wilhelm Mümken. This is because freight containing a lot of glass has to be transported vertically. "And haulage companies can usually only manage this by using A or L-shaped supports – which take up a lot of space. And that means high transport costs." What's more, having to hand over the products to drivers who are, understandably, not specialised in handling glass has resulted in the occasional breakage. "Since our own drivers took over that hardly ever happens, even though we transport the goods loose." It's been made possible thanks to truck bodies which have curtain tarpaulin on one side and a solid wall on the other, against which the goods are leaned. A special securing system is also used.
"Thanks to our vehicles, we've definitely lowered our transport costs by 50 percent."
– Wilhelm Mümken, founder of Flexo Raumsysteme GmbH
Braking system was factor in the switch.
According to Mümken, the decision to buy the first Actros just under two years ago was made because of the braking system the vehicle had at that time, namely Active Brake Assist 3 – and in view of the sensitive cargo, it's easy to see why. And there was no question that the two newer trucks would come with Active Brake Assist 4.
For maximum availability, the Mercedes-Benz Uptime service provision was also added to the order for the newest Actros. The businessman was also won over straight away by the fuel-efficient engines. To cut diesel consumption even further, all three Actros in the Flexo fleet are equipped with the Predictive Powertrain Control anticipatory cruise control system. "We don't analyse fuel consumption specifically like a conventional logistics company. So the system is very convenient for us, because naturally we still set great store by maximum cost-effectiveness when it comes to transport."
The same applies in all other areas – and is particularly evident in Wilhelm Mümken's decision not just to develop the products themselves but to manufacture them predominantly in-house too. "It requires huge investments in equipment. But the bottom line is that it's actually more cost-effective for us to do this than to import parts from Asia." And so that's why Wolfgang Hille and a few colleagues are busy manoeuvring the glass before it goes to the next hall for painting, printing or laser treatment. Across the yard, the screech of the circular saws can be heard coming from the woodworking department. Even aluminium profiles are machined on the company's premises in this small town on the Dutch border.
Such production depth is impressive, not least because the company employs a lean team of just 40 people – which even includes software developers. Their task: to develop and maintain the configurator, a program that consumers access from the websites of retailers who stock Flexo products, so that they are able to plan their room systems to suit their individual requirements. So whilst the manufacturer is not active in the end customer market, it does have a direct line to the users of its products.
Photos: Ralf Kreuels