31 July 2017 08:54 Edited
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A high level of vehicle utilisation is one of the core components of the RoadEfficiency concept of Mercedes-Benz Trucks. And that is something that is paying off for Liedhegener. Mercedes-Benz Uptime, one component of the Mercedes-Benz Complete service agreement, ensures that the transport company’s trucks spend as much time as possible on the road, rather than in the workshop.
Anyone wanting to succeed in the transport sector in the long term cannot afford to give away even a smidgeon of time. And anyone wanting to find out how this truism can be brought to life in earnest should have a chat with David Liedhegener: “My first official working day was in August 2008. But in reality I have always been in and around the company, even as a child,” recalls the 25-year-old. “It meant that I was able to learn from the ground up right from the start, and this helped me during my training in forwarding agency management. While David Liedhegener could still pass as a youngster, he has already been running the parental business for five years, together with his father Berthold. Wasting time by putting generational change off a little longer? That is not how things are done at Liedhegener Logistik GmbH!
It is a situation the company’s dispatchers are only too familiar with: around lunchtime a customer phones through an order that needs to be fulfilled by the next morning. “Somewhere in Germany at 8 o’clock in the morning, an installation crew will be ready to get going,” says David Liedhegener, whose desk is next to the dispatchers’ workstations – short lines of communication are something they value around here. The trucks from the Sauerland region are on the road six days a week. “We go by the motto that ‘flexibility makes us reliable’. So we cannot simply close shop on a Saturday,” confirms Berthold Liedhegener, the man who founded the company in 1984.
No wonder then that their trucks clock up an average of 120 000 kilometres per year. With 28 vehicles – 24 of them from Mercedes-Benz – the fleet is by no means excessive, given the company’s order books. This means dependability and high vehicle utilisation are top priorities. To improve these aspects even further, the Liedhegeners were one of the first transport companies in Germany to sign up for Mercedes-Benz Uptime, which has been available as an integral part of the RoadEfficiency concept of Mercedes-Benz Trucks since 1 March of this year.
How does the product work? Mercedes-Benz Uptime continually and remotely checks the status of the vehicle systems in real time. The method used is called “telematics”: the vehicle’s built-in Truck Data Centre collects all the required data and transmits it to Mercedes-Benz. Here the data is interpreted in a matter of seconds, and if a critical or potentially critical condition is detected, the Customer Assistance Centre (CAC) immediately provides the customer with specific recommendations for action they should take.
“We hope that with Mercedes-Benz Uptime we will be able to minimise the already very low level of downtime of our vehicles even further”.
David Liedhegener, Managing Director Liedhegener Logistik GmbH & Co. KG, Sundern
Just how useful this system can be in real life is something Liedhegener found out shortly after commissioning the first Actros 1845 equipped with telematics: “One of our drivers was on the road to Stuttgart with a load of building materials,” recalls David Liedhegener. About two hours before he was scheduled to reach his destination, the Truck Data Centre registered a potentially critical case of creeping air loss in one of the tyres on the truck’s front axle. Mercedes-Benz Uptime alerted the dispatchers in Sundern via the online customer portal and by email from the CAC. “He pulled in at the next service station, topped up the tyre pressure and went on to deliver his load on time.”
Mercedes-Benz Uptime also comes to the fore if there is a potential defect that the driver cannot fix himself. In that event, the company is immediately notified by phone. And, most importantly, the CAC books the truck into a workshop at a Mercedes-Benz Service Partner on or near the truck’s scheduled route. Ideally, the driver will be able to get to the workshop around the time a mandatory rest period is due, and can then continue on his delivery run without losing any time.
The company places great emphasis on working with first-rate drivers who are then provided with additional training. “The drivers also take the initiative and report any problems with their trucks. We encourage them to do that. But it is still good to know that any problems will also be reported automatically,” says Berthold Liedhegener.
It allows the drivers to focus that much more on traffic. Also helping the drivers do their job well is the range of assist and safety systems on board – including the new Active Brake Assist 4 with pedestrian detection capability in the latest Actros. A driver receiving that much support also has more time to focus on saving fuel. The Fleetboard Performance Analysis shows the management who has been using how much fuel – and there are bonuses for drivers achieving the most economical performance.
Berthold Liedhegener is convinced that all these factors contribute towards his team doing a good job and maintaining good relationships with the customers. “Our customers would most likely show some understanding if something like a blown tyre were to result in a significant delay. Yet if things like that were to happen more frequently, they certainly would question our relationship.”
Transport companies are already and increasingly being assessed based on quantifiable performance indicators, according to David Liedhegener. A growing number of customers are now requesting detailed information for things like delivery times achieved – to then use these figures to rate the performance of a service provider. “Given these circumstances, we hope that with Mercedes-Benz Uptime we will be able to minimise the already very low level of downtime of our vehicles even further.”
There is a lot to see on a visit to the company’s headquarters in Sundern. From the workplaces of the junior boss and the dispatchers, the windows look straight into a 3 000 square metre transhipment hall, big enough to make it easy for the trucks to move around. When we conducted our “Transport” interview, there were stainless steel profiles for a customer in France in the hall, and beds destined for an old people’s home in Berlin. These are mostly goods that are expected to be delivered at a specific point in time.
Next to the hall, there is a high-rack warehouse, mostly filled with 10 000 sacks of plastic granulate at the time of our visit. “The material is used for manufacturing closing caps for beverage containers, for example,” explains Berthold Liedhegener. “We commissioned the warehouse in 2016 to serve a customer who operates a production facility nearby. We hold the plastic granulate in intermediate storage here and make deliveries as needed.”
This order is a good example to show how the Liedhegeners’ business is changing rapidly: away from pure transportation and evolving into an all-round logistics operation. “Offering our customers the complete package is the right step for us to take,” says the senior boss. “That’s why we’re in the process of expanding yet again, to create even more space for storage.”
It is the third construction project since they moved into these headquarters in the year 2008. Again, rule number one is: do not waste time nor money! Keeping costs down is also a priority in the logistics sector, where competition is fierce. Here, again, a high vehicle utilisation rate ultimately contributes to constancy, reliability and good customer relations.
One thing this family-owned and operated company does not have is a mechanical workshop. Maintaining a fleet of vehicles costs time, money and energy – resources that the Liedhegeners would rather spend on delivering their services and on growing their business further. Which is why all their trucks bearing the star are covered by the Mercedes-Benz Complete service. Regardless of whether a need for maintenance or repair work has been identified or whether a routine job is due: the all-round care-free package covers all workshop activities, including wearing parts, as well as coordinating workshop bookings and invoice verification. And at fixed monthly rates. “All we need to think about now is filling up,“ says Berthold Liedhegener with a wink. “We can calculate the cost of the complete service package precisely, which makes it easier to plan.” Both the senior and the junior boss appreciate the fact that Mercedes-Benz Complete provides cover throughout Europe. “Planned maintenance work is handled by our Mercedes-Benz Service Partner Rosier in Arnsberg. But if a serious problem occurs on the road, help is also quickly at hand in France or in Switzerland. After all, Mercedes-Benz is present almost everywhere.”
And here we can see once more just how spot-on the Liedhegeners are with their strategy of not wasting any time – in this case in relation to the generational change in their company: for a long time Berthold Liedhegener had pursued a strategy of having repairs carried out whenever they were needed, recalls the senior boss. “But in the year 2010, I realised that we should take a longer view on this and take out service agreements.” What persuaded him at the time, says Berthold Liedhegener, was not only the scope of services covered by the relevant product, but also, and primarily, his son David.
The complete package for a term of up to eight years and a mileage of up to 1 000 000 kilometres. Covers all repairs, including wearing parts in the chassis, and all vehicle components and engine replacement due to wear and tear – as well as all maintenance work on the Mercedes-Benz chassis, plus any breakdown assistance and towing costs that may be required in the event of technical faults.
The service offering for Actros, Arocs and Antos, available as an optional component in all service agreements or as a stand-alone service agreement.
In addition, the following service agreements are available on a country-specific basis:
• Mercedes-Benz Select and Mercedes-Benz SelectPlus in various combinations of guarantee extension and maintenance packages
• Mercedes-Benz BestBasic as a national maintenance package
• Mercedes-Benz Extend, a guarantee extension for the drive train, and Mercedes-Benz ExtendPlus, a guarantee extension for the entire vehicle
The service agreements are available for booking throughout Europe – subject to country-specific exceptions and adjustments.
RoadEfficiency bundles together an entire package of innovations in one great concept. All advantages for the driver and the haulage company, as well as all other information can be found in the overview on the Mercedes-Benz RoadEfficiency platform.
Photos: Matthias Aletsee
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau