The origin stories of airports, reactors, factories, and large industrial construction all share a common element: project logistics. Andrey Abramov, AsstrA Industrial Project Logistics Specialist shares how to map a project solution to a client’s specific needs and what goes into planning a successful shipment:
Andrey, what is project logistics? How is it different from logistics?
The difference is in purpose. The aim of logistics is to transport cargo from point A to point B. The purpose of project logistics is to ensure that all the details in between are handled properly. Transportation itself is only a small and relatively simple task alongside other aspects such as dismantling, packaging, consolidation, customs clearance, securing, and surveying.
Successful project logistics is based on several parameters, the first of which is a clear timeframe with a corresponding set of milestones. Everything must suit the plans for the cargo’s end use, which may be related to a construction cycle or installation, for example. The project’s start date is set in advance – sometimes years in advance – and often its completion date as well. A delay of even one day can lead to huge losses for a client.
The second parameter involves the geographical points of origin and destination. Goods may be shipped from several locations, but the place of delivery is always the same. For example, building materials, components, and equipment from around the world should arrive at the site of a factory renovation by a certain date.
The third parameter is the budget. At the project development stage, the total budget for construction, transportation, and management is determined. Under no circumstances should this budget be exceeded.
Based on these three parameters, the purpose of project logistics is to develop a detailed transportation worfklow in which the dismantling, transportation, and installation of cargo are all planned out in detail down to the hour.
If we were to draw an analogy from everyday life, consider the project management involved at a railway station. Trains from all over the world converge on one point, and in order for a passenger to plan the time of a trip and be sure that the train will arrive on time, the tracks must be clear according to an exact schedule. If at any stages there is a delay or an error is detected, then the whole schedule collapses and it is necessary to look urgently for some alternative options.
What types of cargo does the AsstrA Industrial Project Logistics Department transport?
As our name suggests, we are engaged in industrial projects. At the same time, that is not the whole story.
Suppose some oversized equipment needs to be shipped. Shipping it will likely require many services in addition to transportation itself, such as project development, control tower, or track and trace. But if the client does require these additional services from us, then we treat it as standard transportation. If the client does require additional services from us, then we treat it as project logistics. For example, we once organized the transport of large quantities of refractory brick for the reconstruction of a metallurgical plant. Bricks can hardly be called an industrial product, but the client requested development of the entire shipping project. 30 days prior to arrival, AsstrA specialists provided drivers with the necessary papework indicating the exact date for submitting cars for loading. After transporting the bricks for this plant, the AsstrA team first delivered the standard-sized equipment followed by the large equipment. The fourth and final stage of the project involved the delivery of fittings, pipes, and electrical transformers. After all these steps, the project was completed.
Thus, the same type of cargo may or may not be part of an AsstrA project. Typically, certain types of clients request assistance with project details while other types handle these details themselves. As a rule, engineering offices and companies work directly with manufacturers, develop projects for transportation, and look to logistics specialists to provide third party logistics (3PL) services. In such cases, the engineers typically draw up comprehensive plans and estimates for a project, e.g. a plant renovation, and announce a tender for 3PL services.
Andrey, what should you know to be successful in project logistics?
Our work is “all or nothing.” We cannot tell clients that we can handle only one segment of a supply chain, and they need to look for help elsewhere for the rest of it. It is important to understand that when a 3PL provider accepts a project, it means accepting responsibility for every step of the project, including securing the cargo, ensuring customs clearance, providing the transportation, tracking, and so on.
Each project, from the cargo’s first loading to its final unloading every step in between, is led by one project manager with a mandate unrestricted by geography, modality, or specialization. This structure speeds up the process of transmitting information and eliminates its loss or distortion, which would likely be encountered if the project were led by several specialists at once. The project manager keeps the client up to date and takes a holistic and flexible approach to getting the job done. Of course, we have a portfolio of tried and tested solutions for ports, lines, rolling stock, and HSE, but these are just starting points. Every project requires individualized attention, and the wider and more flexible your perspective, the faster you can complete it successfully.