Tuesday, 29. March 2022

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Art Logistics Goes Digital: Picasso Now Travels with OPHEO

International art logistics service provider hasenkamp took its transport and handling processes digital. For this purpose, the transport management and dispatching system OPHEO was adapted to suit the extraordinary requirements.

Special transport demands require special solutions. This is particularly true for the Fine Art division of the long-established logistics service provider hasenkamp, headquartered in Frechen, Germany. The owner-managed family business, now in its 5th generation, offers wide-ranging transport and services for high-value art objects, making it one of the market leaders worldwide. hasenkamp’s clientele includes museums, dioceses, art galleries and private collectors wishing to display or store their unique art and cultural treasures in a wide variety of locations.


Typically, a customer’s order involves not only transportation, but also packing and unpacking, placing, installing and hanging the precious objects. “The drivers of our 70 air-conditioned and air-suspended special vehicles have highly versatile qualifications and are always traveling in teams of two,” authorized officer Mareck Löhmer explains, who is responsible for the entire dispatching operations at hasenkamp. When entire exhibitions tour from one museum to the next, preparations already start several months before the actual transport takes place.

Before the first truck pulls out, project coordinators organize loan agreements, clarify customs conditions, take out insurance and determine packaging types and sizes for the artworks. The company’s own carpentry workshop will manufacture customized transport crates before hasenkamp’s so-called art packers then carefully pack the exhibits into these special crates on site. Additional particularities of hasenkamp’s daily forwarding business include its international tours across Europe, which usually last several days. “Our profile makes us an exotic among logistics companies,” Löhmer notes, who had already made the digitization of dispatching his mission in 2017.

A Complex and Cross-Locational Task

Back then, the 15 dispatchers at the eight international locations still worked with large magnetic boards on which the transport and packing orders on their routes through Europe and the world were planned exclusively using analog methods. A system that had proven its worth for 40 years. “Many employees, including myself, had learned dispatching using the magnetic board system,” Löhmer recalls. Dispatching at hasenkamp is indeed a „very complex and cross-locational“ task.

With this in mind, Löhmer and his team started searching for the right IT partner, although custom software had not been an option due to time and budget constraints. It became clear very quickly, though, that only one standard solution would meet almost every one of hasenkamp’s requirements. “OPHEO matched our expectations very closely from the start, which was partly owed to the clear presentation of the planned tours”, Löhmer recalls. In addition, Opheo Solutions immediately announced that the software would be adapted to meet hasenkamp’s needs.

Mutual Trust

One of the challenges was taking into account the second driver when calculating the available driving and rest times and swapping trailers parked along the way. Löhmer, who has already been working for hasenkamp for more than 30 years, reports: “Our contact persons at Opheo Solutions kept all promises and were eager to enter new territory together with us. Our entire project was characterized by mutual trust,”.

The critical phase of the launch coincided with the Covid-19 related crisis, when museums had to close down and art events had to be canceled. “All of a sudden, a large part of our orders had been canceled. However, this gave our dispatchers enough time to get to grips with the new solution,” Löhmer states. Letting go of the magnetic boards they were accustomed to was not easy at first, but even during the three months of parallel operation between January and March 2021, everyone started to feel the benefits of digitization. “One of the greatest advantages is the transparency gained, as now all eight locations in Germany, Austria, Holland and Belgium have access to the same level of information at the same time“, Löhmer emphasizes.

Enhanced Capacity Utilization

In the past, we had to regularly check and reconcile the analogue magnetic boards in Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Vienna, Amsterdam and Brussels by telephone. Now, every dispatcher can see the current state of affairs on his or her monitor. New orders and bookings can be simply assigned to one of the locations from the central dispatching department in Cologne by using drag & drop. “We can now see at a glance on which truck there are capacities left and when ongoing tours will be completed”, Löhmer states. This would make it possible to ensure follow-up orders in a far more efficient manner and increase capacity utilization. Besides, OPHEO also enables dispatching from home, which was particularly helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phone calls to the drivers also have become much less frequent. They now automatically receive information about the following day’s orders via SMS. “Meanwhile, it has become much quieter in our offices and the dispatchers are far more relaxed,” Löhmer confirms. He has already been able to save 1.5 positions through digitization and redeploy them in other areas—with the added effect of a significantly lower workload for employees in the dispatching department without having to make any compromises in terms of performance.

OPHEO Sounds Alarm

The enormous time savings not only result from accelerated communication, but also from OPHEO’s built-in control mechanisms. These are based on the data stored in the software, such as the exact external and internal dimensions of the vehicles. If the crates to be loaded are too large for the planned truck, OPHEO’s tour planning sounds the alarm. The same applies to payload limits, impending driving time violations or delays. As soon as a tour is off schedule, the responsible dispatcher will be informed immediately. The necessary position and tachograph data come from telematics system Webfleet Solutions which is connected to OPHEO via an interface.

The large amount of data collected not only helps on an operational level, but also on a strategic level. “OPHEO provides me with various reports that I can use, for example, for future fleet investments. The data shows me which trucks are needed most and where there is room for optimization“, Löhmer explains. Moreover, OPHEO calculates the actual cost per tour, providing a solid basis for internal accounting with the sales department.

Upcoming Project Steps

Verdict: by digitizing the highly complex dispatching operations in the Fine Art business unit, hasenkamp was able to tap new optimization potential. The transparency about ongoing transport processes, costs and utilization levels forms the basis for operational and strategic decisions. The efficiency gained resulted in major cost and time savings, so that the investment will have paid for itself in approximately two years. It is no surprise that the art logistics specialist has already started thinking about its next project steps with OPHEO: in the future, the company plans to fully automate tour planning and expense reporting as well.

Background: hasenkamp

Founded in 1903, the logistics company hasenkamp specializes in transporting and warehousing particularly valuable and sensitive goods. The company’s activities span four business units: Fine Art, Relocation, Archive Storage, and Final Mile Services. In addition to the company’s headquarters in Frechen on the outskirts of Cologne, the family-owned company has 40 locations worldwide, 11 of which are used for planning and dispatching art logistics activities.

hasenkamp has 600 employees in Germany alone and another 400 abroad. The long-established service provider is now managed by the 5th generation of its owners, Hans Ewald Schneider and Dr. Thomas Georg Schneider, as well as Ralf Ritscher. Today, both tradition and innovation at hasenkamp are based on a regularly audited DIN and ISO certified quality, environmental and energy management process.

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