4flow: Sustainable and Efficient Logistics

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Dr. Stefan Wolff, CEO & Co-Founder, 4flowDr. Stefan Wolff, CEO & Co-Founder How many trucks would a manufacturer need to transport thousands of goods every day? And, how could it be ensured that these trucks and trailers arrive at or depart from manufacturing facilities without causing any severe traffic disruptions, supply bottlenecks, or even production standstills? Digitization of supply chain and logistics is definitely the answer. Real-time analysis of supply chain data, coupled with the automation of various processes involved, can drastically improve the decision-making of manufacturers with regard to the overall transportation management and make them more agile and flexible. Not only is a digitized, data-driven supply chain more transparent and efficient but it also results in substantial cost savings as well as improved service. Berlin-based 4flow helps businesses digitally transform their supply chains to effectively adapt to changing business scenarios with its IT proficiency and extensive supply chain knowledge.

4flow optimizes organizations’ logistics operations by providing supply chain consulting, software, and fourth-party logistics (4PL) services. The company’s consulting supports businesses all the way from developing a supply chain and logistics strategy to its implementation stages, thus ensuring an overall sustainable solution. For organizations to benefit from the maximum potential of a connected, digitized supply chain, 4flow takes a comprehensive approach to supply chain management, transportation, networks, and intralogistics.

How 4flow’s supply chain consulting enhances the overall efficiencies of businesses can be illustrated by the company’s project for Munich-based BSH Home Appliances. The global manufacturer of quality home appliances, with more than 53,000 employees and 42 production plants in 13 countries, was looking to provide Chinese consumers with products tailored to their needs. As this would lead to a significant increase in its current production capacity, BSH wanted to ensure that the movement of raw materials was optimally aligned with that of finished goods. The home appliance manufacturer selected 4flow for the job, given the company’s excellent understanding of the Chinese market, coupled with its global presence and comprehensive supply chain know-how.

Future-proof, Scalable Traffic Concept

To develop an optimally aligned, scalable traffic concept for BSH, 4flow first collected and analyzed an extensive amount of data required to predict everything from order quantities and dimensions of materials to delivery cycles and intervals. The company also devised methods to separate just-in-time shipments from packaging consignments along with categorizing inbound and outbound shipments to plants as well as distribution centers. Taking into account several other factors including peak times, total unloading times, traffic between plants, the number of trucks designated for waste disposal, 4flow identified possible traffic congestions and potential bottlenecks. With the optimization of loading processes and the use of time slot systems to prevent traffic jams as well as minimize the waiting time at loading bays, the company eliminated all possible weaknesses from the BSH’s process.

4flow has bagged Deloitte’s Sustained Excellence Award for long-term growth, innovativeness, entrepreneurship, and sustainable leadership for the second time

4flow’s holistic approach to consulting, powered by its professional competence, industry expertise, and vast experience in supply chain management enabled the company to deliver a sustainable concept that accounts for BSH’s projected traffic volume growth until 2025. In addition to ensuring shorter waiting times for trucks and more efficient use of parking spaces, 4flow identified the cost-saving potential in loading and unloading processes as well as the selection of equipment. The company promises to reduce the overall supply chain costs by offering ‘4flow vista,’ the integrated standard software for supply chain design and transportation planning.

Supply Chain Cost-saving through ‘4flow vista’

4flow vista can be deployed for multiple purposes, including network and operational transportation optimization, strategic and tactical transportation planning as well as integrated transportation management systems (iTMS). The software displays all relevant modes of transportation for global supply chains and multimodal shipments in addition to allowing organizations to plan and manage the inbound and outpoint networks as well as transportation between manufacturing plants. Whether as a stand-alone installation, client-server architecture, or software as a service (SaaS), 4flow vista can be deployed in any industry to significantly and sustainably reduce supply chain and transportation costs. Also, using iTMS allows service providers, shippers, and recipients to work hand in hand, which in turn, improves the supply chain transparency right from processing to settlement. For its ability to sustainably lower supply chain expenditure, 4flow vista has received several accolades including the Green Supply Chain Award. The software solution has also earned 4flow spots among the Supply and Demand Chain Executive 100 as well as the list of Cool Vendors in Supply Chain Management from Gartner.

In addition to lowering supply chain costs, 4flow—as a 4PL service provider—increases network performance with value and process-oriented managed services.

The company helps clients flexibly adapt to changing business conditions and improve sustainably through constant development of processes and systems. 4flow provided these services to AGCO, the American agricultural equipment manufacturer, and notably, the effectiveness of this collaboration won both these companies the German Award for Supply Chain Management 2016 from BVL International. 4flow was praised for successfully implementing their innovative concept of digitizing the inbound supply chain for manufacturing of tractors and agricultural equipment.

Before approaching 4flow, AGCO faced the problem of a highly complex inbound supply chain owing to a growing range of acquired brands and products, coupled with multiple production units, suppliers, logistics service providers. AGCO and 4flow successfully partnered to digitize the inbound supply chain in 18 months, thus streamlining and designing logistics with sustainable efficiency. As a 4PL service provider, 4fow uses a standardized, cloud-based iTMS to continuously plan, manage, and optimize the AGCO network that includes 1,500 suppliers and 70 logistics service providers. It was strategically important for the agricultural equipment manufacturer to work with an entirely independent, and the non-asset based, fully management-owned 4flow was a perfect fit. With its expertise in transportation management, 4flow helped AGCO reduce 25 percent cost across the inbound supply chain while increasing the on-time delivery performance by 10 percent. The collaboration also resulted in a 24 percent reduction in days of supply, a 14 percent cut in carbon emissions, and a 15 percent increase in process compliance. AGCO and 4flow were also presented with the “European Logistics Association (ELA) Award—Project of the Year 2017” for this initiative.

Long-term Growth and Innovativeness

There is no end to the list of honors bestowed on 4flow, as the company has bagged Deloitte’s Sustained Excellence Award for long-term growth, innovativeness, entrepreneurship, and sustainable leadership for the second time. 4flow’s solid, constant growth over the years since its inception in 2000 was the prime deciding factor for Deloitte’s award. More than 500 team members at 15 locations across four continents regularly contribute to the annual increase of sales all of 4flow’s business areas. The company’s goal is to provide exceptional service to clients while adhering to a sustainable approach in development, and it is proud to be recognized with this award. 4flow has recently opened a new office in Vienna, Austria along with expanding its offices in Budapest, Hungary as well as Hamburg and Munich in Germany.

"4flow’s consulting supports businesses all the way from developing a supply chain and logistics strategy to its implementation, thus ensuring a sustainable solution"

4flow has been delivering its services in Austria for over 15 years now, supported by various long-standing successful partnerships across the country. As the Austrian market continues to be of critical importance to the company, it has established an office in Vienna to attract and collaborate with new businesses. 4flow’s entire team thinks, makes decisions, and takes action with both the present and future in mind while strongly and constantly believing in organic, sustainable growth.

- Mithil Vartak
    February 27, 2019