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Optimisation in Naantali from morning till night

Ahola Transport’s oldest and largest load optimisation centre is located in Naantali, Finland. Every day, as many as 60 vehicles are reloaded with hundreds of tonnes of goods, but this is just a fraction of what happens at the centre.

Ahola Transport’s load optimisation centre has more than one nickname. In addition to ‘reloading centre’, Ahola’s Naantali unit is also known as ‘hub’ or ‘link’. The centre in Naantali is the beating heart and key link in the logistics chain that Ahola puts together on a daily basis in the Nordic countries.

“I couldn’t imagine Ahola Transport without this unit. This is where it all happens and in terms of our clients, goods flows and vicinity to the harbour in Naantali, the location is ideal,” says Åke Nyblom, Site Manager for the Naantali unit.

The unit’s operations run seven days a week in three shifts. Four shift managers and ten forklift drivers work to steer the operations in the 6,000-square-metre reloading warehouse.

“We work hard to get the goods and trucks as close to one another as possible, even before reloading starts. A forklift may drive as much as 15 kilometres inside the warehouse in an evening,” says Nyblom.

Working 6 am–11 pm

Reloading in Naantali is all about optimisation. The loads in the vehicles are optimised in terms of weight, size, destination and timetables. The goal is for the loads and vehicles to travel as few kilometres as possible to and from the customers.

The centre’s success rate is 99.5 per cent. This means that just 0.5 per cent of the work fails to reach the aim. Making this all the more impressive is that, in one year, 135,000 tonnes of cargo and 32,000 deli­veries are registered at the centre.

“In reality, the handled cargo may be even double that because we often move the entire cargo to ensure that everything is placed optimally,” says Nyblom.

An ordinary day at the centre starts at seven in the morning. That is when the first forklift drivers arrive to reload the first stream of trucks on their way to and from the ferries from Sweden. A hectic day starts as early as six am. Work continues until eleven o’clock at night. Mid-way through the week is the most hectic period because that is when most clients want deliveries to be made to shops and factories.

More than just a warehouse

Reloading and optimising the cargo loads is obviously the most visible part of Ahola Transport’s Naantali operations, but a lot happens at the office too. Fifteen people work in sales, customs clearance, vehicle maintenance and quality assurance.

“I think it’s important that everything is located under one roof. This is where all the functions intersect and where the vehicles start off from,” says Nyblom.

Quality, which is a top priority for Ahola Transport, is assessed in a very concrete manner in Naantali. Almost 300 trucks are inspected annually. The condition of the trucks, their equipment, cargo securing and documentation, as well as the drivers’ workwear and awareness of Ahola’s Driver’s Guide and the ‘Ahola Way’ policy, with a focus on safety, efficiency and environmental friendliness, is checked thoroughly.

Maintaining the fleet

Each month, around 500 customs matters are also taken care of in Naantali. The customs services are required for deliveries made to and from countries outside the EU. Naantali is also where the administration and maintenance services for Ahola Transport’s vehicle fleet are carried out. Including the various subcontractors, around 1,000 trucks and vehicle combinations on 6,000 wheels carry Ahola Transport’s cargo every year.

Responsibility for getting the new combination vehicles rolling and their maintenance, inspection, registration and insurance also lies in Naantali. The unit also offers contractors assistance in administration and financing.

Heart of logistics

As the heart of Ahola Transport’s logistics, the Naantali load optimisation centre has grown in time with the company. The current hub’s predecessor started up in Uusikaupunki in the 1990s but moved to Naantali three years later.

Even there, operations were on a small scale to begin with and reloading took place outside while the personnel were housed in barracks. In 2004, the current warehouse was built and 13 years later it plays a fundamental role in Ahola Transport’s logistics.

The hectic nature of operations at the load optimisation centre in Naantali is the result of a number of factors. It obviously stems from Ahola Transport’s niche and its concept of dynamic logistics.

The cargo never lies around waiting at the client’s warehouse or at some terminal; at Ahola Transport the various retail chains’ and industries’ warehouses roll on wheels, namely Ahola Transport’s wheels. This means that the loads must move as quickly as possible from point A to point B and with as few stops along the way as possible.

Swift changes

In order to deliver loads from perhaps ten different customers to a single location, as efficiently and cost-efficiently as possible, they are reloaded onto a single truck in Naantali. Reloading is efficient. In just 10–15 minutes, the forklifts can load Ahola Trans­port’s trucks as optimally as possible, tak­ing into account the latest information on schedules, load sizes, ferry capacities and customers’ wishes.

“There’s a lot going on all the time. No two days at the hub are alike,” says Åke Nyblom.