Just-in-time delivery specialist 15 Feb 2018

Roland Herr, International Freelancing Journalist
"We are specialist suppliers in the civil engineering sector, covering all possible fields of construction from drill and blast, to TBMs, microtunnelling, special civil engineering, ground freezing, geothermal projects and all the resulting associated areas", said Guido Emanuel and Christian Wieczorek, co-founders and owners of A.S.T. Bochum in Germany. Just-in-time delivery of materials and products has long been an everyday requirement in many fields of business, and the owners of A.S.T. Bochum explain what that means for the working process of a tunnelling project and the logistics and preparations involved to achieve the goal.

Everything started in 2005 as a dealer and supplier of tunnel technology goods and equipment. Since then the company has developed into a technical dealer with a full range of services including special tunnelling products. The A.S.T. team has many years of experience in all fields of tunnelling. This competence is supplemented by the specialist knowledge of the employees, which is especially helpful when offering advice, for example, when complicated welding tasks have to be undertaken.

Founding owners Guido Emanuel (left) and Christian Wieczorek (right)
Founding owners Guido Emanuel (left) and Christian Wieczorek (right)

Christian Wieczorek and Guido Emanuel emphasis that their success is based above all on the team they work with. Twelve employees are working permanently in Bochum but when a peak workload is appearing, additional trained personnel can be taken on, mainly to prepare or put together orders.

"Our areas of expertise are services for the concrete, water and compressed air sectors,” explained Wieczorek. “The range specialist hoses, valves and fittings for example starts from a diameter of ¼in and continues up to DN500. There are now more than 10,000 articles in stock for worldwide dispatch from Bochum. We are also an original equipment manufacturer and an agent supplier of all types of machines and equipment in all fields of underground construction. Worldwide delivery, including all documentation, is meanwhile standard practice for us." The programme is continuously added to and extended.

Hose and fittings assembly in the A.S.T. workshop
Hose and fittings assembly in the A.S.T. workshop

If an order arrives, delivery from the central warehouse in Bochum only takes the time needed for transport, although A.S.T. Bochum also develops store concepts for construction sites in order to shorten transport times, for example to Chile. A container with material from Bochum still needs several weeks to reach Chile by land and sea. In emergencies, air freight can be arranged.

Projects portfolio

"Our team visits job sites and projects and well as machine producers and branch offices at regular intervals. This takes place several times a year,” said Emanuel. “The state of the project determines the substance of the visit and the necessary topics that are dealt with. We do the same with the companies producing for us and in this way we have up-to-date information from all sides." Wieczorek added that this procedure is very important for the trust and above all the quality of the products and services, without which no-one could be successful in tunnelling in the long term.

The demand for special parts is ever increasing. "Our partners have widely spread areas of business and with our programme, we are part of it. With more than 10,000 articles in our range, we regularly need to discuss different options. This can be quite complex from case to case. In many areas, we have articles made for us. Currently about 40-50% of our product list is specially produced for us. We specify how the articles have to be made. Tunnelling is very demanding regarding the quality level. We also have some fields on the other hand, where standard products can be delivered."

Container loading at the Bochum workshop
Container loading at the Bochum workshop

A.S.T. Bochum is involved as a specialist supplier to projects the world over. There are currently projects throughout Europe and Scandinavia, in Africa, the Near East, in Asia and South America. Particular projects include the Follo Line project, Norway; Stuttgart 21, Germany; Grand Paris, France; Koralm rail tunnel, Austria; Suez Canal crossings, Egypt; the Doha Metro, Qatar; and the Alto Majpo hydro project in Chile. These sites are supplied continuously and have required hoses, pipes, fittings and other specialist supplies.

Time is money

Wieczorek describes how the job site staff of a project on the other side of the world experience and receive their order. "Our procedure can be very nicely described on the Doha Metro project in Qatar. First of course we hear or read about the project in discussions with our partners. We undertake immediate research and search for a suitable local business partner. At the same time, we get in touch with contact partners on the project and ask about the first technical details. After that, we try to build our own opinion by visiting the job site to find out about the situation on site. We built up the stores from the start in collaboration with our partners and look after the project. After winning the delivery for the construction contract, we put the puzzle together piece by piece and prepare a quotation and a supply concept for the specific customer."

Air freight packaged for Doha delivery
Air freight packaged for Doha delivery

The time factor is especially a very critical factor for every job site. In particular the basic supply of material or spare parts is very important. Emanuel explains the problem on the Qatar contract: "The construction value for the section of the Doha Metro that we are concerned with is about €1.5 billion across a construction period of three years. That equates to continuous, non-stop expenditure of about €1.4 million per day. An average of €60,000 is built or processed each day. You can work out very quickly how expensive any stoppages can be and particularly painful if inadequate quality causes construction stop, or something is not there. We know this from experience and know that in such cases express dispatch is sometimes more expensive than the price of the material. In relation to stoppage costs, however, this is a lower cost factor and thus justified. Breakdowns or emergencies such as a water inrush cannot be planned for but are nonetheless very cost-intensive."

Just-in-time means “immediately”

Regarding such figures, the answer to the question - what does A.S.T. Bochum understand by "just-in-time" - is quite easy for both Emanuel and Wieczorek. "Just-in-time naturally means immediately! Regarding this, we have a very flexible structure. Our requirements for working quality and for our products are very high and working to DIN ISO would be fatal for our flexibility. Goods are dispatched from stock. Emergencies are normally picked up immediately by a courier and delivered. For our partners, we can be reached 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. We cannot expect our partners to wait for office hours in the Central European Time zone or to consider our public holidays. Luckily technology comes to our assistance here and with a mobile phone, the office is always at hand. In this way we can almost always make a direct decision and jump into action."

The job site in Doha still needs some more material from Bochum
The job site in Doha still needs some more material from Bochum
Just-in-time truck delivery in Doha
Just-in-time truck delivery in Doha


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