Carrying out international projects on several continents – why is it so important to choose the right partner?
The design work and supervision of the implementation was the main reason for our presence in Woodstock, Alabama – this is where we were carrying out the project of equipping the warehouse with logistic systems for Daimler, owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand. The project was not only a great test of the knowledge and competence of the entire team, but also of interpersonal skills and effective communication at all levels of the organisation.
130 000 square metres
The new Global Spare Parts warehouse for Daimler is a project that we completed in mid-2020. It is one of the company’s main warehouses in the southern part of the United States – it was built to consolidate four smaller facilities. Our task was to develop a concept for the warehouse system – in line with the production profile and planning horizon until 2025. We started our work by collecting a catalogue of requirements, preferences and expected development according to the Client’s data. The analysis of the production structure as well as the size and quantity of spare parts allows us to build a comprehensive database – necessary to prepare reliable output data. From the moment the work began until its completion, i.e. in the period 2017-2020, over 900 new indexes were added to the spare parts catalogue, which also had to be included in the ongoing project. We started the process of laborious collection of preliminary data on the existing condition at the first workshop meetings in the USA, where we carried out dimensioning and weighing of individual products with appropriate cataloguing or place and method of storage of e.g. oversized elements larger than a single pallet space. For small details: gaskets, screws, plugs, etc., a separate mezzanine was developed – interestingly, higher than normal pallet spaces and with its own lifts.
After collecting complete data, the design stage followed, which included, among others, precise calculations of flows, demand and rotation dynamics of individual SKUs (stock holding units). With a few thousand individual stockholding units, the task required great attention and a broader look at the problem in terms of space and time – keeping in mind the development of the Customer’s enterprise and the sales trend. The resulting warehouse logistics project took into account the initial data, calculated flows and many other variables, creating a comprehensive concept for the entire warehouse. The dynamics of the process itself and the subsequent versions allowed for a flexible approach of our project team to the Client’s requirements, providing a tailor-made design.
Another part of our scope of work was to prepare tender documentation for all types of equipment, then conduct three rounds of tender negotiations (in the USA, Germany and online) and support in the final contract negotiations.
In the last phase of the project – the implementation – we supervised the installation of logistic systems and carried out final acceptance, which is a demanding and responsible task for 50,000 m2 of racking systems alone. The purpose of the acceptance was not only to verify compliance with the project documentation, but also the quality of the completed installation and aspects which may significantly affect the durability of the installation at a later stage of use.
German client, Polish project, American implementation
Working on an international project in a multicultural team seems to be quite a challenge. We designed the system in the offices in Wrocław and Warsaw, reported directly to the client in Germany, while the project leaders and the target user were located in the USA in Alabama – in addition, the logistics solutions provider was from Florida. It soon turned out that it is absolutely necessary to introduce a global Project Manager who will take care of communication and deadlines in 5 project groups. In such projects PM has to face the “English” problem – of course, each side of the project knows it, but from the very first meeting, the differences in accents came out, which directly translated into effective communication, e.g. the head of the installers from Texas with his team consisting mainly of Mexicans. Regular online meetings with the client (very forgiving in terms of meeting hours and time shifts) and members of project groups, who were in different situations (e.g. while driving on an interstate motorway or construction works just outside the window) are also a heavy nut to crack. Fortunately, according to American “speak up” (if you have not spoken up, you have no comments on the subject) and the regular follow-up notes we’ve managed to carry out all stages of the installation and acceptance process.
Houston, we have a problem! – how to report problems
Even the best-running project encounters problems that need to be solved quickly and efficiently. The client has given us complete freedom in terms of templates of internal documents for briefing or reporting. We proposed such templates, as well as distribution lists and channels of further communication on various communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams, OneDrive. An extremely important stage was to check individual documents from the technical and stylistic point of view, which in the case of work on two continents and three countries is a big test. In order to speed up the work on site and report any problems that arose, we proposed our client to switch to electronic documentation created on-the-fly in the cloud. Thanks to the digitization of the paper documentation, each team responsible for receiving was provided with tablets and telephones on which individual team members reported problems by sending a description and photo to the cloud in real time. Thanks to this, people participating in the project could immediately know what is going on despite being in different time zones. The proposed solution was very well received by all parties and significantly accelerated the installation and reception.
No helmet and safety test? You won’t get in
Health and safety at work in the USA is at a very high level, which was also confirmed during the implementation for Daimler. Great attention is paid to every person entering the site so that they and others around them are safe. Absolutely no person could enter the site without proper clothing (helmet, shoes, waistcoat, glasses and gloves) and, what is more, proper training in general health and safety rules… confirmed by a short test! Only after passing the test successfully could you enter the building site. These rules applied to everyone without exception – even the Client’s representatives. Such care for safety and proactive prevention of accidents is admirable, as it allows for more efficient work of all parties involved in the implementation and allows for minimizing the risk during work, which in the worst case scenario can effectively slow down the work schedule.
Playing to the common goal, that is the success of our Client
Despite cultural, linguistic and time-zone differences, the whole team and project groups have played to the same goal from the very beginning, i.e. successful completion for the client – on time, within budget and of the highest possible quality. The whole project, communication, discussions and meetings were conducted in an atmosphere of respect and appreciation of the role of all participants regardless of their status and origin – similarly, we conducted a project for Hengst in Kunshan, China. This realization was almost “mirrored” – Polish project for a German client, carried out in a Chinese city. As a Metroplan, we greatly appreciate the attention and needs of our customers. By combining them with our knowledge and experience, we are able to design solutions that meet all business objectives and specific needs regardless of the industry. Thanks to our customer orientation and respect for customer wishes in order to create a tailor-made solution, the implementation of projects on several continents at the same time is never a problem for us.
Last Updated on February 16, 2021 by Karolina Ampulska