Four in One. How to Pack a Car for Overseas Travel

Four in One. How to Pack a Car for Overseas Travel

ŠKODA World

Imagine you live in India and have your heart set on a new ŠKODA. What do you do? The same thing as people all over the world—you visit your dealer. However, before the car actually reaches you, it has to survive quite an adventure. Let’s take a closer look at that journey.

21. 11. 2019

If India were in Europe, the cars would simply be loaded on a truck or train and transported to dealers to be sold to the customer. But India is far away from Europe and has its own market protected by import duties, which are also levied on the ŠKODA RAPID, OCTAVIA, KODIAQ and SUPERB. Nevertheless, about 17,000 ŠKODA cars are sold in India annually.

If the vehicles exported to countries outside of the EU were in one piece, the tariffs would get too high and result in a costly final price. To reach a compromise, the vehicles are thus delivered in different stages of knock-down and are then reassembled on the spot. Each country has different rules that need to be followed. “Therefore the process of packing the bodywork and parts and sending them to a plant located on the other side of the planet is a job for the ŠKODA logistics department,” says Jiří Cee, Head of Logistics.

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Jiří Cee
Head of ŠKODA Logistics

“Because of different rules, we distinguish three stages of vehicle knock-down,” explains Ondřej Paclt, Head of Foreign Projects at ŠKODA Logistics at the CKD Centre in Mladá Boleslav.

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Ondřej Paclt
Head of Foreign Projects at ŠKODA Logistics

The simplest stage of knock-down is a disassembled chassis and engine. In this case, the only thing needed to reassemble the vehicle is the type of jack used in car repair shops. This way of exporting vehicles cuts the twenty per cent duty in half, definitely making it worth the effort. The middle stage of knock-down (also known as semi-knock-down) also includes the parts and components that have not yet been assembled, meaning they are sent in the same state they left the production line. In this case, they have to be assembled at the final destination, but without the complexity and costliness of a pressing, welding, and paint shop. The third stage is complete knock-down, in which even the bodywork has to be assembled from welded and pressed parts in the country of destination.

skoda-parts-logistics-transport-system

The process of packing the bodywork and parts and sending them to a plant located on the other side of the planet is a job for the ŠKODA logistics department.

The Logistics Department should be viewed as an inherent part of the production process. What it essentially boils down to is that the production line is interrupted at a certain point, enters a container and trundles or sails to a different part of the planet, and can then pick up where it left off thousands of miles away. In this way, ŠKODA is able to assemble new vehicles in China, Russia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and India. In India, there are two plants where ŠKODA models are assembled: ŠKODA AUTO Volkswagen India Pvt. Ltd. in Aurangabad and in Pune. The semi-knocked down vehicles are sent to Aurangabad and the completely knocked-down cars make their way to Pune. Let’s take a closer look at how they are packaged before departure for India.

skoda-transport-parts-wheels-logistics

If the vehicles exported to countries outside of the EU were in one piece, the tariffs would get too high and result in a costly final price. To reach a compromise, the vehicles are thus delivered in different stages of knock-down and are then reassembled on the spot.

Eco-friendly and Economical

“The question is not just what to send, but how to send it and how to make sure the transportation is both economical and eco-friendly,” says Ondřej Paclt from the Mladá Boleslav Logistics Centre, which employs 1,500 people. Lots of sharp minds are required because the process of packing components is actually quite complicated. If your head aches when wrapping Christmas presents, you might want to take a little break, because things are about to get difficult. The knocked-down ŠKODA cars are transported in containers, their parts arranged to take up the least space possible. Over time, the packaging system has gone through major developments and, thanks to many innovations, each year the containers are able to carry that little bit more.

skoda-transport-detail-signage-logistics

The knocked-down ŠKODA cars are transported in containers, their parts arranged to take up the least space possible.

In 2000, a transportation container would only have accommodated two packs holding two cars. Each of them would contain the bodywork and the components not localised (i.e. not made) in India. The first innovation and concept change was implemented in 2006 to bring down the cost of logistics and respond to the increasing share of localisation. The change affected the mix of components transported. All it took was the insertion of the bodywork into the container at a different angle and three ŠKODA cars could be fitted in instead of two. That’s how the concept of a three-in-one container was born. Further efforts to lower the cost and become more eco-friendly resulted in the creation of the current four-in-one container, which has exhausted capacity to the maximum. These days, the container is loaded with four universal packs of bodywork and components not localised in India. This sophisticated solution, created by experts from Mladá Boleslav, won the Czech Container of the Year prize in 2016 and an international World Star 2017 award. Our international colleagues from the Volkswagen Group come to the Czech Republic to see this unique solution for themselves.

No Room for Air

To fully load the shipment, the components are placed inside the bodywork so that every nook and cranny is put to good use. All of the bodywork is packed tight with small and large cardboard boxes containing components. They also include components from subcontractors, which are unpacked and re-packed prior to dispatch so that as many of them as possible can fit into a single component.

skoda-parts-transport-inside-bodywork-logistics

All of the bodywork is packed tight with small and large cardboard boxes containing components.

Bulky parts are packed on special wooden pallets called racks, which are designed to hold all of the components belonging to the bodywork being shipped. Each vehicle is knocked-down to a thousand parts, with the final result resembling an Airfix model kit, a children’s set of plastic building blocks, or furniture flat packs.

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Bulky parts are packed on special wooden pallets called racks.

The components are then bolted to or anchored down on a pallet so that they take up as little room as possible and remain fixed in place during handling, even when knocked about. All components have their own place and there is a specific order in which they are attached t  the rack. Once all components are in place, the bodywork is lowered down on to the kit and parts. These racks, now ready, are then loaded into a container and, although they are now ready to be dispatched, they still have a long road ahead.

skoda-racks-bodywork-cars-transport-logistics

The bodywork is lowered down on to the kit and parts. These racks, now ready, are then loaded into a container and are now ready to be dispatched.

On the Tracks and Across the Sea

The first step is the transportation from Mladá Boleslav to the container terminal in the Uhříněves district of Prague. Here, the containers are switched from lorries to trains, and then they continue by rail to the port in Rotterdam, where they are loaded onto a ship and embark on their long voyage around Europe and through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. The ocean conditions are extreme: the air is wet and salty and the temperature inside the containers can reach up to 70 °C. That is why the containers are designed to protect their precious cargo as much as possible. However, all of the packaging film is fully compostable in order avoid burdening the environment at the destination.

After 44 days and 11,705 kilometres, the containers finally arrive in Mumbai. Here, they are loaded onto lorries and shipped either to Pune, 180 km away, or to Aurangabad, 365 km away. The temperature, humidity and shocks inside the container are measured throughout the journey.

ŠKODA logistics

To be sure, the final stretch is shorter, but it is still very challenging because the quality of the roads is not quite the same as in Europe. There are many speed bumps in India, the lorries are getting on a bit, and the drivers can be rather impetuous and inclined to brake at the last minute. This has the same effect on the racks as if they had been dropped from a height of one metre.

“The logistics process is the result of constant innovation. I believe it is a consequence of our famous Czech inventiveness. We never settle for what we have, but are always looking for solutions that are better and more economical while still keeping to all standards. The prizes we’ve been awarded are proof of our success,” Jiří Cee, Head of Logistics, says in praise of his team.

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