Products from the agrochemical sector are used on a large scale in modern agriculture. The goals involve increasing harvest yields, promoting plant growth and protecting the plants from pests. As a result, trade in these products is booming. One example involves the export of seeds: according to the BLE Report (the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food), almost 330 million kg of seeds were exported from Germany to EU and third countries during the period 2019 – 2020.
Logistics is very important as a competitive factor in an environment that is dominated by extremely high cost pressure and low margins. Seasonal fluctuations in demand and increasing delivery frequencies and sometimes the perishable nature of the goods are just some of the challenges in this sector. It is also necessary to pay attention to the requirements for specific products when transporting and storing them. This becomes clear from the following examples: pesticides and etched seeds are hazardous goods. It is therefore necessary to have a permit to transport these hazardous items – and have a special zone and equipment at the warehouse. Fertilisers may also be hazardous goods. A separate storage area is often necessary because of their unpleasant smell. However, it is also possible that not every freight forwarder or every warehouse is prepared to transport or store fertilisers.
Given the strong seasonal nature of farming and the agriculture sector, it is necessary to organise not only the material but also transport operations and personnel in a flexible manner. The route to final customers becomes even more costly and labour-intensive, particularly for fairly small and medium-sized companies, which tend to trade comparatively small rather than large quantities. Experienced logistics partners are needed in order to meet these requirements efficiently. These partners not only take on responsibility for the complete supply chain from the warehouse to the transport logistics, but also all the important individual stages for farming companies and the agriculture industry.
A logistics specialist with flexible capacities is particularly desirable here, a partner that is able to combine both warehouse and transport logistics. Transport-related warehousing (TRW) smoothly dovetails road transport operations with the handling of goods and interim storage. It involves transport sites that tend to be on the small side in terms of the area available and pallet spaces and that have a high degree of process standardisation. One example of this is the collection of several partial consignments from one customer over a certain period of time and transportation of the consolidated goods at a later date. This solution offers customers the benefit of not having to worry about coordinating shipments from various sites or the delivery process. Instead, they can focus on continuing to develop their business and production.
An experienced logistics specialist has all the important certificates and standards for storing and transshipping agricultural products. These include ISO 9001 for quality management and GMP+ (good manufacturing practice). The employees responsible for the transport and warehouse operations always gear their work to customers’ requirements and the nature of the goods.
In addition to offering the proper product storage and handling, TRW service providers also organise the pick-up and final delivery runs for agrochemicals. These are subject to the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). Freight forwarders have to comply with special regulations with regard to packaging, securing loads and markings for hazardous goods. The basic mandatory ADR equipment consists of protective overalls and respiratory masks as well as dust-proof and splash-proof protective goggles, among other things.
Customers also often demand that the freight forwarder and the warehouse have an SQAS (Safety & Quality Assessment for Sustainability) certificate. The standard set by the European chemical industry is used to assess quality, safety and environmental compatibility at the premises of logistics services providers. The safety concept also includes compliance with all the regulations for transporting and storing ADR goods. In addition, the ADR permit for the warehouse workers has to be updated on a regular basis.
Professional warehousing in suitable buildings or silo facilities is particularly relevant for agricultural products. In addition to automated small parts stores, block and high-shelf warehouses and paternoster lifts ensure a rapid throughput of goods. If necessary, hazardous goods warehouses can be used for fertilisers or pesticides. The warehouse must meet all the requirements for storing agrochemicals; it must, for example, have a ventilation and venting system and a system for detecting gas, smoke and steam. Chemically resistant and anti-static floors, separate water and electricity supplies as well as automatic fire-extinguishing systems are all important elements in the infrastructure, too. Having continuous temperature and moisture levels in the buildings ensures that the quality of the goods remains constant, even over long periods of storage.
Transport-related warehousing, however, not only caters for the interim storage of pallets. The solution also offers potential for various value-added services. These typically range from attaching plastic sheeting to labelling or even repackaging goods. Consolidating items into sets, what is known as kitting, and handling customs formalities may form part of the services, too. But numerous other services are also possible in connection with the interim storage of agrochemical products as a result of their specific requirements. Such include temperature controls in the warehouse, protection from sunlight and the drying of goods. With regard to the handling of seeds, there is also a risk of insect infestation. If this is the case, fumigation is necessary – either inside the warehouse or in a separate container. It may be necessary to provide special disposal services for containers that have been used for pesticides. These are just some of the examples of how logistics creates genuine added value along the supply chain – particularly for agrochemical products such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.
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