A systematic bustle in the hub

Peak traffic at the Nuremberg hub of DB Schenker. A good 100 of the 139 loading gates around the huge hall are occupied. About 40 pallet-charged electric vehicles move with high speed. On a large part of the area there are goods, in between are the traffic routes of the trucks. The inexperienced visitor feels as if standing on the plateau of a bumper car, scurrying forklifts and ants around him. “Full commitment is mandatory,” says Julian Heinrich, Head of Regional Hub South / Platform. This is about speed and that every shipment can find its place on the right truck in just a few hours. But, please, in compliance with safety regulations.

What is going on here?

In Nuremberg, logistics service provider DB Schenker maintains the most heavily frequented facility in its European network. The players are transporting around 2,600 tons through the hall in a three-shift operation. Every day. This is about general cargo. The principle was invented by company founder Gottfried Schenker in 1872. In doing so, he laid the foundations for what is today one of the world’s leading logistics service providers and, thereby, earning a place in the Logistics Hall of Fame.

The general cargo principle

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Schenker’s idea: If the forwarder does not get enough goods for a full truck (or railcar at that time) from one customer (“shipper”), then he collects the shipments of several customers. He waits until it is worthwhile driving the desired route. This is why we also speak of collective traffic and, more recently, of Collection Delivery. 140 years ago, this system worked on only a few routes (“relations”). But the more goods are on the way, the more destinations you can include.

The truck as a pallet mailbox

Back in Nuremberg. Here, the same happens as in 41 other DB Schenker offices: starting early in the morning, the vehicles of local transport pick up everything that customers want to send and that is within a radius of around 75 kilometers. Beyond this 75-kilometer line begins the area of the next DB Schenker office. The destinations of the goods are somewhere in Bavaria, Germany or Europe. Pallets full of all kinds of goods. Sometimes it is 100 kilograms, sometimes 5-times as much. Sometimes only individual packages weighing somewhere around 30 kilograms. From the customer’s point of view, such a truck functions like a gigantic mailbox: the one picking up the goods will know what to do next. And he does!

Julian Heinrich, Head of Regional Hub South / Platform

“When the German traffic has left the hub, we switch to the Europe mode.”

Big cans on thin legs

First, everything comes to the transshipment hall in Bremer Straße. The public transport has finished its tours by 4.30 pm and the trucks are unloaded. What is special of Nuremberg? That it serves as a regional hub! Offices in southern Germany, which do not have enough cargo for the northern cities, bring their goods to the Franconian metropolis. In the course of the afternoon, a total of 650 tons will arrive and get stored on an area of 8,000 square meters. A soccer field according to FIFA standard measures 7,140 square meters. But nobody thinks of soccer here, although the local soccer club has recently made its way back to the top league. The distribution to long-distance logistics has long been running. More specifically, to swap bodies. These are container-like cans on thin legs. They look like a truck bed which lost its tractor. The swap bodies dock at the loading gates in Nuremberg. Each has its own place: At gate 65 there is one for Dresden, at gate 62 there is one for Frankfurt and at 75 one to Lindau. By 12.30 am, all are on the road and at 6 clock at the latest they arrive in Munich, Saarbrücken, Hamburg, Berlin and several other cities. All of Germany is networked.

In the transshipment halls, the newly arrived cargoes for the so-called last mile are distributed to the public transport vehicles in the early morning. They swarm out to the recipients. The drivers deliver the goods and take new ones with them for the next shipment. We’ve come full circle.

“Let’s take a look at the Nuremberg #Hub of DB #Schenker. It handles around 2,600 tons of general cargo per day.“

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Hub and Spoke

The system is called “Hub and Spoke”. In the hub, everything comes together, while the spokes go in all directions. DB Schenker talks about hub traffic as long as the transports are moving within Germany. The same principle is realized by the logistics service provider internationally. For example, in Nuremberg.

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“When the German traffic has left the hub, we switch to the Europe mode,” explains Julian Heinrich. The production principle of the logistics provider remains the same. But it is no longer called a hub, but a platform. Hub is Germany, platform is Europe. Swap trucks swap again – with loads from 39 cities in 21 European countries. They arrived during the day. On average, 400 tons of groupage freight from Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and other areas. Again, it means unloading and sorting. By 12.30 am the goods will have left the warehouse. Then, more than 60 vehicles are on their way for cross-border commissions travelling to Stockholm, Prague, Paris, Milan and so on. At the same time, the next trucks arrive at DB Schenker in Nuremberg. The procedure starts all over again. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.