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Measurement Technology Specialist Automates the Shipment of Hazardous Goods

Shipping small quantities of hazardous goods on a daily basis

The transport of hazardous goods is subject to a wide range of regulations too complex and time consuming for manual shipment processing. At the same time, conventional IT solutions have often proven too hefty for daily use. Now, measurement technology manufacturer HBM is using a streamlined IT solution integrated into its SAP system for the shipment of hazardous goods.

“We have up to 30 hazardous materials items in our portfolio, and we usually send out small quantities of these items on a daily basis”, says Daniel Köhler, Shipping Team Director at HBM. As a global market leader in technology, HBM offers products for the entire measurement chain. Hazardous goods are by-products of processing measurement equipment and include surface cleaners, adhesives and lithium-ion batteries. These batteries, for instance, are constantly increasing in storage capacity and as such, are subject to stricter legal requirements. When limited quantities are transported by lorry, shipments are freed from some transport regulations. Air freight safety regulations, on the other hand, represent a special challenge, as such batteries may only be transported by freight aircraft and no longer shipped in passenger aircraft cargo holds.

The transport of dangerous goods by road, rail or air is regulated in a number of dangerous goods ordinances. The shipper bears full responsibility for the classification, identification, packaging, marking and labelling as well as for the correct documentation of a dangerous goods shipment.

“Up until now, every packer has had a list of individual hazardous goods and special regulations regarding appropriate packaging, labelling stickers and shipping cartons. The sheer number of different regulations always means there’s a risk of declaring something incorrectly”, says HBM Shipping Team Director Köhler about why the company had been looking for IT support.

IT solution requirements

HBM was interested in an IT solution directly linked to its SAP system. A special IT solution solely for hazardous goods was out of the question. “The standard solution from SAP was too extensive for our needs. It wouldn’t have made sense for the few hazardous items we ship”, says Gerhard Geisser, Logistics Manager at HBM, about the company’s criteria for a solution. Of particular interest to HBM was an improved system of getting information to the packaging department and replacing lists and handwritten notes. “We were looking for a solution that instantly dictated the correct packaging and labelling stickers along with shipping data from the SAP system to packagers in the simplest possible way. And preferably one that featured images displayed on the monitor screen”, says Köhler.In addition, HBM wanted its IT solution for hazardous goods to serve as a complete shipping solution featuring interfaces linked directly to regular CEP service providers. The existing software had the disadvantage that in addition to using SAP, packers were also required to familiarise themselves with an extra user interface. HBM also wanted better integration into the SAP system.

A shipping solution as an add-on for the SAP system

HBM now uses Mercoline’s M.TransportCommunicator SAP add-on for processing shipping orders. Mercoline is a certified SAP service partner specializing in processes and IT solutions along the length of the supply chain. The solution is integrated directly into the SAP system as an add-on. Now HBM’s packers receive a part number for the specific hazardous item from the SAP system, and the add-on automatically generates shipping information corresponding to applicable safety regulations. The correct hazardous goods logos and stickers are displayed to packers on monitor screens, while in the meantime, the add-on has already compiled the correct labels and documents and prepared them for printing.  
HBM’s experience with this SAP add-on has been extremely positive. Says Köhler, “Our throughput times are significantly shorter and packers have increasingly less questions for the shipping office. We’re saving time, and in addition, our shipments are now safer and more secure than ever before”. As Shipping Team Director, Köhler wanted to make sure his employees were also happy with the new solution. “The preparation and implementation went well. The Packing Department was involved right from the start. Now all of our shipping assignments are executed in the same system. This eliminates duplicate work, which is a major benefit. Direct transmission of data from the SAP customer order and the ability to scan documents using barcodes also reduces sources of error.” As an additional benefit, he also notes that exchanging hazardous goods information within the company worldwide has also improved.

Connecting to CEP service providers

In addition to the shipment of hazardous goods, HBM now uses the add-on to processes all shipping orders for courier, express and parcel services (CEPs) as well as shipping companies directly in its SAP system. The scales are connected to the shipping solution, which automatically generates shipping labels for CEPs or shipping companies. Says Köhler, “Now our packing is also conducted in a qualified manner. This means that when one shipment contains several packaging items, each individual one is separately logged by the system and can subsequently be traced.”The electronic exchange of data with CEPs and shipping companies is now conducted directly from the SAP system. An overview of orders is available for employees via monitoring. In the same way, CEPs and shipping companies can trace the shipping status via the ERP system.

Shipments tracking via Track and Trace

„Durch die integrierten Schnittstellen zu den KEP-Dienstleistern können wir alle Sendungen im SAP-System jederzeit nachverfolgen. Zum einen können wir unsere Kunden proaktiv mit einer Trackingnummer über den Versandstatus informieren. Das erspart viele Anrufe. Durch die Trackingdaten wissen wir auch, wann eine Zustellung voraussichtlich erfolgen wird oder ob eine Sendung irgendwo stockt. Die Versandabteilung kann die Daten weltweit einsehen und Rückmeldungen an den Kunden geben“, fasst Daniel Köhler zusammen.

As yet another advantage to this solution, Geisser cites the fact that the logged data can now also be used for linkage to customs authorities and the Entry Certificate. He says, “Manual processing of EU Entry Certificates takes an enormous amount of time and effort for industrial companies. The add-ons automate these processes.” The SAP add-on for foreign trade automatically conducts an inspection of the required forms and certificates for all products. The foreign trade documents are then automatically selected for the specific export country.

About Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH (HBM)

As a global market leader for technology HBM offers products for the entire measurement chain, ranging from virtual to physical tests and inspections. HBM’s product range consists of sensors, amplifiers, measurement data logging systems and testing and analysis software. HBM additionally offers worldwide resources for the design, development and production of customized sensors. The company has some 1,800 employees around the world and large production and development facilities in Darmstadt, Germany; Suzhou, China and Marlborough, Massachusetts. HBM is a subsidiary of the Spectris Group, a leading supplier of measurement instruments and controls designed to increase productivity.