Profiles Smart Shipping
Abbott Partners with TNT to Improve Efficiency
In Abbott’s facility in Heerlen, Netherlands, green shipping experts TNT and Abbott work together to find the most efficient and timely ways of getting Abbott supplies from the warehouse to the hospital where they will be used. Three TNT employees work on-site at the Abbott plant, ensuring green solutions for complex shipping challenges.
Employees of TNT work closely with Abbott staff to make sure that cartons of Abbott products are packed and shipped using the most environmentally-friendly methods possible.
A visitor to the Abbott Vascular warehouse in the southeastern Dutch city of Heerlen might notice several workers wearing the iconic orange-and-black colors of delivery services company TNT Express.
Since 2008, several TNT personnel have been embedded at the Heerlen facility, partnering with Abbott staff to ensure that cartons of vascular stents, balloons and accessories are packed and labeled properly for worldwide shipment. The TNT employees help make sure that the cartons are not damaged and that all the shipment data is accurate. They thoroughly check the product before it leaves the warehouse, and they help to load the boxes into outgoing vans or trailers. At any given time, there may be two or three TNT employees on duty in the Heerlen warehouse, but TNT ensures that several additional workers have the necessary training in Abbott processes to step up as circumstances require.
"Having our employees on-site at Abbott helps us build a stronger partnership," says Wilfried van Herpen, Contract Manager at TNT Express. "The TNT employees come to feel like part of the Abbott team, which maximizes cooperation."
Ralph van Stokkum, Operations Manager at the Heerlen facility, does all he can to make the TNT people feel at home at Abbott. "The TNT personnel have their own uniforms and they are obviously not on our payrolls, but we still treat them the same as our regular employees," he says. "They follow the same procedures, receive the same code-of-conduct training and eat in the same canteen as everyone else. I would characterize our relationship with TNT as being a peer relationship – and a very good one."
Maximizing Communication, Minimizing Emissions
According to van Herpen, the Abbott-TNT partnership is built on a strong foundation of mutual respect and good communication. The two companies also share a commitment to continuous improvement, whether in reducing costs, improving quality or finding more efficient ways to get products to customers with minimal environmental impact.
TNT's commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen has been recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which named TNT as the number-one company in its sector (Industrial Goods and Services) from 2007 to 2010. Abbott is proud to have a partner that takes corporate citizenship so seriously. For instance, over the past 10 years, TNT has used its supply chain management expertise to help the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) optimize the efficiency of its distribution system. In humanitarian crisis situations, TNT helps WFP with the logistical/transportation capabilities it needs to quickly and effectively distribute food where it is desperately needed.
On a day-to-day basis, TNT is working toward its goal of becoming the world's first zero-emission transport company. Like Abbott, TNT has a concrete goal of reducing its carbon footprint. By 2020, TNT Express is aiming to improve its CO2 efficiency index by 40 percent (versus the 2007 baseline year output). To help reach this goal, TNT has begun deploying a fleet of electric vehicles, and today the company has dozens of these electric vehicles on the road.
Meanwhile, TNT makes sure that the trucks that transport Abbott Vascular's products are modern and efficient. Most TNT vehicles are less than three years old, with the largest trucks five years old at the most. Since older trucks tend to emit more carbon dioxide, having a young fleet ensures less pollution. In urban environments, TNT also tries to use zero-emissions modes of transport, such as bicycles or electric motorcycles, to get products to their final destination.
When it comes to deliveries of Abbott Vascular's products, TNT always tries to find the most efficient and timely way of getting supplies from the warehouse to the hospital or medical center where they will be utilized. For destinations within 1,500 kilometers – including countries such as France, Germany and the U.K. – TNT relies on road transport to keep a lid on CO2 emissions. Of course, for more distant destinations where next-day delivery is imperative, TNT must use air transport methods.
No matter what method is used to get Abbott Vascular items from the warehouse to the customer, TNT makes sure that waste is minimized along the way. When products come into the Heerlen warehouse from the Temecula, California, manufacturing facility, for instance, TNT repackages, consolidates and ultimately tries to reuse as much packaging material as possible, helping Abbott virtually eliminate its packaging waste.
In other cases, reducing waste is simply a matter of combining flexibility and logic. Although perishable products must be shipped with ice packs and Styrofoam insulation in hot weather or when the delivery time frame exceeds 24 hours, the in-house TNT shippers at Heerlen can minimize packaging in cases where it is not warranted. When temperatures are below 25 degrees Celsius along the entire shipping route, TNT can reduce the amount of packing material it uses by more than 50 percent.
"There are three pillars to the TNT-Abbott partnership," says van Herpen. "We respect each other very much. We are very good at listening to each other, and we accept each other. These three pillars not only lead to good performance, they also help us to understand each other's goals, so we can work together to mutually agree on the best path to get Abbott's products to their destination safely, efficiently, dependably and sustainably."
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.