Circling the globe—it is what the
Urs Kuratle stands in front of the workshop of the racing department of
The computer game Tetris, which has become a classic, consists of colored tiles that fall from the upper edge of the screen and have to be stacked immediately without any gaps. Logistics specialists face a similar challenge: they have to pack everything rapidly and use up all of the available space. But they can’t just press “start over” if one piece doesn’t fit.
The materials needed for the races run by the two
The noise level increases and the cargo plane chartered from DHL lands at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport at a speed of 270 km/h. The plane is a Boeing 747—perhaps the only aircraft with a visage as unmistakable as that of the 911. The cloud of rubber dust disperses and the plane rolls to its park position. But speed comes right back into play. Lift platforms pull up with the containers from Weissach, and barely half an hour later the cargo hold is full. Narrow corridors are left between the cargo, and everything is securely strapped down. It all follows a set program, and every process has to meet the respective regulations.
An aircraft’s hold is not elastic. So the aim is to make maximum use of the height, breadth, and depth of the storage space, including the sloped areas. The packing process is similar to moving your household items to a new home. The boxes should have books on the bottom and clothes on top so they won’t be too heavy. The next parameter is a general principle that everyone is familiar with: whatever you need first at the destination should also be unloaded first. Boxes are marked with their content and in which room they should go, but because there is a little space left over you throw in something from another room only to rummage through the boxes later, cursing, because you can’t find the lamp fittings to turn on the lights. But somehow it all works out. Here, however, when a three-ton container is placed somewhere, then it’s there to stay. And you absolutely have to start setting up the drivers’ camp by laying the supply lines.
Moreover, there was an ever greater need for that means of transport. Kuratle was unhappy with the towers of boxes, whose packaging materials also took up quite a bit of weight. So the team introduced customized boxes and became a pioneer in saving air-freight weight. Kuratle is always thinking a step ahead.
Michael Antl and Markus Bürger make the system work. Antl is in charge of the storehouse and preparation. He ensures that all requisite automotive spare parts go onto the cargo list, including documentation of their state of development and their mileage. Therefore, it makes sense that he is also in charge of sending replacement parts back and forth between the overseas races. For example, the two-liter four-cylinder engines need to be sent back to Weissach for inspection. “We did that for the first time in the WEC in 2014,” he says. “The individual components all have specified service lives, which means you can plan ahead. But you also have to be flexible in order to deal with defects or accident damage.” You have to be able to envision future scenarios, which can also mean reserving open-jaw flights between the races. These shipments are not sent by chartered aircraft, but rather in the holds of ordinary commercial airliners.
Markus Bürger, the team member in charge of transport and logistics, is the relentless manager of the twelve pallet units. Each pallet also has a staff member assigned to load and unload it. “This way we are sure of what’s in it, and that also ensures that we work in an effective sequence,” explains Bürger. Each of the twelve units has a plate with a number unique in the world, and each component packed in it has its own QR code, so that scanners can record what is where, and when. This painstaking organization doesn’t just promote efficiency to reduce costs and labor. Customs offices, too, have a fundamental need for information. Whether we’re talking about the series numbers of the 120 radio sets or the number of chassis components, screw packets, or tape rolls, the
Hazardous materials fly separately. These include adhesives and resins, as well as spray cans and the lithium-ion batteries for the innovative hybrid drive systems of the
The team also ships some things by sea, which is considerably less expensive, but also much slower. Equipment shipped in August will return only in January. Because of the long distances and delivery times, the
Sit down and think. Have you forgotten anything? Oh! What about the race cars themselves? The two cars have been “stripped down” and strapped onto separate car racks. All of their fluids have been drained; fragile body parts like outside mirrors and front and rear wings have been packed safely elsewhere. A set of used tires serves as buffers. Their weight, too, has been calculated and planned for. The replacement chassis—a monocoque without wheel bearings or axles—has its own box.
The engines start up. Ready for takeoff. The jumbo jet accelerates, ascends, and disappears into the distance. For these logistics races, the start is the finish.
By Heike Hientzsch
Photos by Victor Jon Goico
The air and sea routes taken by the cargo sent by the