By the Numbers
collaboration and access to time sensitive documents
reduction in time spent manually tracking shipments
of effective collaboration, allowing SIKA to focus on scaling their business
When it comes to organizing freight operations at their Rosendahl site, Sika Deutschland GmbH is guided by two coordinates: freight rates and punctuality. These two factors must be completely in sync for the company to be able to meet its customers’ requirements. And, they helped to guide the decision Sika took about two years ago to rely on Flexport for its shipments on the transatlantic trade route.
Sika is a true heavyweight in the construction chemicals sector, with subsidiaries in more than 100 countries. The bulk of its products are manufactured by its German subsidiary, Sika Deutschland GmbH, at its six locations in the country. At the Rosendahl plant, the specialty supplier and its in-house sales team develop and market a wide-ranging portfolio of industrial adhesives – from self-leveling fillers for substrate preparation on construction sites to industrial tile adhesives. However, as the majority of the products passing through the Rosendahl plant are low-price raw materials like sand, cement and gypsum, shipping these materials around the world can, at times, pose challenges for Sika.
“When it comes to our distribution operations, freight accounts for a relatively high share of our total costs because, though our products are heavy, their value is rather low. Needless to say, our operations are extremely price-sensitive as a result. We are compelled to transport our goods as cheaply as possible,” says plant manager Thomas Nürenberg, outlining Sika’s requirements for freight logistics. The second factor that comes into play when choosing new freight-forwarding service providers is on-time performance As Walter Rochol, head of Supply Chain explains, “Adhering to set delivery dates is the biggest challenge we face in the logistics chain, whether delivering direct to construction sites or distributing to traders. If we are unable to meet delivery dates, it creates turmoil and results in additional costs.” Consequently, Sika Deutschland monitors freight market developments very closely and, in light of this, saw Flexport as an innovative service provider. “Prices in the freight business fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter,” adds Rochol. “We therefore have an obligation to our customers to keep a constant eye on new developments in the market. Flexport’s approach caught our attention straight away, so we explored the possibilities further.”
Discussions between Sika and Flexport started as part of their ongoing search for a freight-forwarding partner for the US market—one that also truly understood the regional requirements. In fact, fielding queries from Sika’s customers on the East Coast trade route, regarding the current status of their shipments, had become part of Sika’s daily routine. Doing so via telephone, email, and fax was a time-consuming task and the benefits of working with Flexport became immediately obvious during the initial test runs. “Both from our perspective and that of our importers in the US, the transparent and direct communication over the platform was enthusiastically received,” says Rochol. “Flexport’s service offer was also quite appealing,” adds Rochol. “From the outset, we were impressed by the online platform’s innovative concept. Everything is pooled together in one central location, making it easy to access information, both for us as the sender and the recipients of our shipments. We had not come across that before with other service providers.”
With the specialist construction materials manufacturer now able to track almost everything in Flexport’s digital platform,Sika Deutschland can significantly streamline its logistics processes along the East Coast trade route. For Sika, consistent, transparent communication and central document management offer clear benefits from an administrative standpoint. “Now, we only have to handle documents once, and that’s when we upload them to the platform. After that, they are stored in a central location where everyone in the process can access and review them. The transparency and simplicity of this access to freight data is truly unique.”
According to Rochol, the platform has had a positive effect on Sika’s customer communications. “The ability to track shipments in real time with Flexport is particularly useful for our customers in the US, because our shipments typically spend four to five weeks in transit,” he says. “We can see exactly where shipments are throughout this long period and find out precisely when they arrive at their destination port.” In fact, this new form of digital communication works so well that even Sika’s general importer in the US now uses the platform to obtain shipment data.
Sika has also benefited in other ways. The platform has made it much easier to handle customs processes, while distributing goods across different time zones. “Our recipients in the US only start work as we come to the end of our day,” explains Nürenberg. “In the past, we generally had little time left to react to problems here in Rosendahl. Flexport has changed this. Everyone involved in a shipment can access all relevant information and time-sensitive documents at any time, no matter what time it is or where they are.”
Coordination with the Flexport Squad worked very well from the outset recalls Rochol. “In this regard, the team at Flexport always has a solution-oriented approach, understands our business, and knows our specific requirements—as well as our pain threshold.” For instance, during recent months, the sales specialist has repeatedly noticed that, when problems like costly storage fees due to extended stays in harbors arise, Flexport works tirelessly to resolve the issues, to keep business moving. “We have a solid working relationship and our assessment of them remains thoroughly positive,” says Rochol. The online platform sets Flexport apart from the rest.” When it comes to the east coast freight route, Sika no longer performs the time-consuming tasks of tracking shipments manually and sending multiple copies of documents. “We receive few to zero inquiries from our customers in the region,” confirms Nürenberg. “Every month, we save at least a couple of hours just on phone calls trying to coordinate delivery dates.”
When it comes to daily wrangling over prices and delivery terms, Sika believes that Flexport has proven its worth—for more than two years now. “Working with Flexport is fun. The team members are creative and down to earth; they tackle issues and demonstrate that they care,” says Rochol.
Another key aspect that Sika values in Flexport is that it constantly strives to find optimal routes and alternative options for container processing. Working with Flexport, Nürenberg feels he is in good hands. “Despite our strong growth,” he says, “we have been able to maintain consistently high quality standards in our delivery processes. Flexport has proven to be an excellent partner as we have scaled.”
Subscribe for the latest news on trade lanes, customs and tariff changes, and expert economic insight.