Logistical masterpiece: Millimeters count in the transport of large-diameter slewing bearings
With an outer diameter of over six meters, transporting large-diameter bearings is an enormous challenge. But how do large-diameter bearings get to their destination?
Mr. Saager, what are the special challenges involved in transporting large-diameter slewing bearings? What makes transport a logistical masterstroke?
Very good question! The exciting thing about transporting a slewing bearing is the dimensions in which we produce bearings as thyssenkrupp rothe erde. With an outer diameter of usually over six meters, every transport is a challenge due to countless infrastructure measures. The service consists of finding solutions to deliver the slewing bearing to the customer or port on the scheduled date.
From completion to delivery – what stages does a slewing bearing have to pass through during transport?
In the case of series requirements and projects with large outside diameters, our initial contact with the project takes place with the sales department at the quotation stage. There, we give initial thought to how we can organize transport to the desired delivery location. Here we decide how, at what cost and for what duration we can organize the transport and prepare a calculation on this basis. Basically, however, our operation starts immediately after completion of the product. Due to numerous framework agreements with strategic suppliers in the transport and packaging sector, we are able to get large-diameter bearings up to five meters on their way to the customer within the shortest possible time and at agreed prices.
In the case of large-diameter bearings with an outer diameter of more than five meters, my team is busy with transport planning for about three months, and in some cases for six to eight months, prior to delivery. Once the final package data has been determined, transport tenders are issued for the relevant modes of transport.
How is a large-diameter slewing bearing transported? Is there anything that absolutely has to be taken into account?
First of all, depending on the destination country of the shipment, sophisticated packaging is used. This ranges from a pure foil wrapping, to the use of wooden pallets, to crate packaging, which is basically used for overseas transports and high-quality large-diameter bearings. Whenever it makes sense for ecological and economic reasons, we use reusable packaging. This is the case, for example, for all rotor bearing deliveries within Europe. Large-diameter bearings are often transported by special trucks that transport large-diameter bearings diagonally, minimizing the transport width.
However, multimodal transport – truck – barge – truck – is often required for domestic shipments as well. For overseas shipments, we are investigating various options such as the use of conventional cargo ships, container ships, car carriers, etc. There are also projects where the maximum feasible dimensions of charter aircraft, such as the Antonov, are exhausted to the last millimeter.
What expertise/specialists are needed when transporting large-diameter bearings? How is your team set up to accompany and carry out the transport from start to finish?
As far as training is concerned, we have different qualifications and characters in our team: employees who have completed or are still studying logistics or economics, employees with technical training, and shipping and industrial clerks. In principle, I have a very heterogeneous team, so we complement and help each other.
In 2009, due to the increasing dimensions and importance of the wind energy sector and in the course of the construction of a new logistics center, we rebuilt our teams. As a result, we have qualified a group that mainly deals with steadily growing wind energy products, respectively with large-diameter bearings that can no longer be transported by a standard truck or container. This team, which used to organize transports with average dimensions of three to four meters, has now become a team specialized and experienced in large-volume transports, organizing numerous transports of four to six meters, regularly up to eight meters, to many regions worldwide on a daily basis.
In parallel, we have further developed the team for smaller components up to just under two meters, which supplies many customers worldwide. The focus here is primarily on market and customs knowledge in order to implement the fast and smooth delivery of smaller bearings to the remotest corners of the world. In addition to the delivery of slewing bearings, this team is becoming increasingly important in the import processing of raw materials etc. due to global sourcing.
Big components, big emotions? What is the most exciting thing about transporting large-diameter bearings for you personally?
Ultimately, it’s not so much the products themselves that impress me, but much more the dimensions. That’s also a big part of the challenge we face every day in our job. You come into the office and you don’t know how the day is going to go. You can plan as well as you want, but you don’t know when the next challenging task, especially with large shipments, will wreck the previous plan.
We grow with our challenges every day. When I started at thyssenkrupp rothe erde, there were some large bearings that were regularly transported by road or ship. Now we have thousands of oversize shipments, for our ever-larger series products. On the one hand, it’s exciting to organize these transports, and on the other hand, it’s very exciting to continue developing vehicle technology with our partners, so that we can transport our bearings safely, cost-effectively and sustainably not only now, but also in the future.