Automotive Supply Chain

Issues about supply chain logistics for the automotive industry have been in the news recently.  Discussion of these issues has been prompted by Brexit, but before you stop reading this blog, this is not about Brexit.

An example was recently cited whereby the crankshaft for the BMW Mini was forged in France, sent to Birmingham to be machined, then sent to Munich to be assembled into an engine, then the engine was sent to Oxford to be assembled into a Mini.  Not only was this crankshaft sent across borders three times, it crossed the English Channel twice.  It appears that this convoluted supply chain is not uncommon in the automotive industry

All commentary on this zig zagging across Europe of automotive parts has centred on the impact of customs clearance delays and tariffs on UK car manufacturing if the UK leaves the Customs Union.  No one, to my knowledge, has commented on the environmental issues such extended supply chains have.

Using the AA Routeplanner and assuming the crankshaft is forged in Paris gives a total journey of 3,390 km for our crankshaft.  There must of course be suitable machining facilities in France near where the crankshaft is forged.  Using a nearby facility gives a revised journey of 2,193 km, a 35% reduction.  This of course, all other things being equal, will give a 35% carbon footprint reduction and a similar reduction in shipping costs.

Forgetting about Brexit, such an extended supply chain just cannot be environmentally sustainable and I wonder how much thought goes into the environmental impact of logistics.

The author, Bob Sutcliffe, is a director of Environmental Efficiency, a consultancy dedicated to helping clients maintain environmental compliance and embrace best practice.  The views expressed are the author’s.