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    Steel on the Move: DB Schenker transports Ovako’s steel products all over the world

    DB Schenker transports Ovako’s high-tech steel solutions throughout European roads and across the seas. Transporting sensitive material requires caution, high professionalism, and seamless cooperation.

    Having eight locations for production in Europe – five in Sweden and one in Finland, France, and Italy – and the markets worldwide, efficient logistics and transportation has a key role to Ovako's success.

    For over two decades, DB Schenker has ensured the flawless distribution of Ovako's premium steel throughout every corner of Europe. In addition to domestic truck transportation within Sweden, intermodal solutions are vital in export logistics for European customers.

    “It’s an advantage, that DB Schenker covers not just domestic traffic, but also international and container traffic. When we need to combine these products, we have one partner to speak with, that can handle all transporting”, says Ted Lundström, Ovako’s Head of Global Logistics.

    For the last ten years, DB Schenker has also transported Ovako’s products across the seas.

    Annually, approximately 1000 TEU’s of steel is exported as sea freight. The products are shipped to harbours worldwide, and from there, transported to customers via land and rail transports.

    Andreas Eriksson, DB Schenker’s Key Account Manager responsible for partnership with Ovako, describes that the wide network and full scope of transports meet Ovako's requirements well.

    “Excluding air freight, we’re doing all modes of transport together. This ensures that our comprehensive logistics services effectively support Ovako’s business and objectives.”

    Premium products need extra carefulness

    “Steel is a special product to transport. It can’t be handled and shipped as easily as pallets”, Lundström highlights.

    Transporting steel is indeed a logistical masterpiece. Carefully planned operations are a must when dealing with large and heavy products.

    Due to their weight and size, the handling of steel bars, rings and tubes also demands specialized equipment.

    “As bars and tubes are long, trailers must be loaded and unloaded from the top. Especially in international transport, our trailers and fleet suit for this well”, Eriksson says.

    In addition to handling, the process of securing the load is pivotal, ensuring that the surface of steel remains unscratched. Excessive force in tying steel tubes, rings and bars can ruin the entire product.

    Understanding the nature of these high-end products is essential. Moreover, DB Schenker's drivers and other professionals receive commendations from Lundström.

    “Steel can require as careful handling as medicines. For example, some of our products can’t be touched without gloves, they must be lifted in a special way, or they must be handled in a controlled environment. DB Schenker and their experts understand this very well.”

    Eriksson reminds, that there have been no claims in years.

    “That’s what I’m personally very happy about.”

    Dry port as a key port

    In 2019, DB Schenker and Ovako collaborated to establish dry port operations in Sweden. In Falköping, Ovako’s export shipments are loaded into sea containers, which then continue by rail to Gothenburg harbour. From there, steel products are shipped worldwide.

    The process of loading large tubes into containers is not as simple than it initially may seem.

    “Handling such goods in a terminal requires specialized equipment, including forklifts with extended forks as long as 12 meters”, Eriksson says.

    The site implementation involved numerous training sessions where employees from both DB Schenker and Ovako shared experiences in handling long steel tubes and pipes.

    “We really started with a blank paper. We had a 6–9-month long learning curve, during which we went through all scenarios from responsible product handling to safety”, Lundström explains and continues:

    “What I appreciate the most is that we discussed, learned, and did things together. When questions arose, they were not answered by phone. We really were there to see how to handle these products safely – and we really respected to invest resources on the implementation.”

    No transport is too difficult to handle

    Occasionally the shipments need special and oversized freight arrangements. Deep collaboration is beneficial not just in day-to-day operations, but also in handling the transportation for unusual projects and products.

    In 2022 and 2023, DB Schenker and Ovako joined forces on their most significant project to date. During these years, DB Schenker successfully transported several big, oversized cargo shipments for example from Germany, Hungary, and Italy to Ovako's site in Hofors.

    These objects are substantial both in weight and size. Electrolyser, comprising a cell stack, separator tanks, coolers, and flanges, could weigh more than 50 tons.

    “For example, the shipments from Italy had to be transported by ship to Gävle, from where it was transported to Hofors by road”, Eriksson mentions.

    Special projects require more than just special fleet. Projects consist of detailed route planning, transport permission procedures in different countries and possible roadblocks. When dealing with cargo this heavy, complete expertise in logistics becomes particularly prominent.

    “With DB Schenker, we could discuss about all possible solutions from road to rail and sea. With the help of their specialists, we were able to find the best fit for us”, Lundström says.

    Eriksson emphasizes that logistics projects of this size are always unique – yet simultaneously remarkable for both companies.

    “These kind of projects with tight schedules are never easy. At the same time, they are a great possibility for both companies to learn.”

    Sustainable steel from Sweden

    Transporting the equipment for the Hydrogen plant had a role in a bigger play. 

    In September 2023, Ovako opened the world's first plant to use fossil-free hydrogen for heating steel prior to rolling. Instead of using substantial amounts of fossil fuels, the plant produces fossil-free hydrogen itself to fuel the steel heating furnaces.

    The plant in Hofors nearly eliminates emissions at the first stage of steel production. The excess heat is converted into district heating.

    “Transitioning away from fossil energy in our production has been challenging. Until 2019, finding a workable alternative seemed impossible from an industry perspective. However, through diligent testing and strategic implementation, we have successfully addressed this challenge”, Lundström observes.

    The solution aims to halve emissions in Hofors, building upon Ovako’s already industry-leading low levels of CO2 emissions.

    “From 2015, we have already cut our CO2 footprint already by 58 %. It becomes more and more difficult to cut the last kilos, and we need more solutions like this”, Lundström sums.

    In addition to significant emission reductions during the steel heating process, the hydrogen produced also serves Ovako's partners, including DB Schenker. This fossil-free hydrogen holds the potential for refuelling cell-powered trucks.

    “In case we have more production capacity that Ovako needs, we can produce hydrogen for others as well – for example to transport industry. Once we will have hydrogen trucks in a bigger extent, we surely have possibility to produce hydrogen for their use”, Lundström notes.

    Using fossil-free hydrogen for transportation is a remarkable step of sustainable actions. Lundström reminds that new innovations are always worth exploring.

    “Hydrogen trucks for heavy steel products and long distance don’t really exist yet – but they will. Having a partner, such as DB Schenker, that tests new kinds of technologies, builds knowledge, and shares the results, is important for us. That way we can implement new technologies for our logistics chain as soon as they are available.”

    Deep cooperation guarantees the success

    After all, people make the transports happen. A comprehensive range of logistics solutions is nothing without a broad spectrum of professionalism.

    DB Schenker has the latest insights of what’s happening in the world of logistics. Through collaboration and knowledge exchange, Ovako can promptly react to changing market situations.

    “For example, when Swedish regulations concerning the use of long trucks changed, we examined the potential benefits for our international transports. We quickly identified a solution aligning Ovako’s current intermodal transport setup”, Eriksson says.

    Open discussion is the key to run logistics as efficiently and sustainable as possible. For Ovako, a logistics partner is not just someone moving products from point A to B. It’s a key partner, that ensures their products are available on the market.

    “When the shipment should be loaded, it should be loaded – and when the shipment needs to arrive, it needs to arrive. And when the shipment arrives, there should be no reasons for claims. If there is anything to claim, the goods are not available anymore,” Lundström concludes, and sums up:

    “We have been working for some time now with DB Schenker, and we understand each other. That makes us a good fit.”

    High quality steel solutions

    High-quality, customized – and above all, sustainable steel solutions – have made Ovako one of the largest steel producing companies in Europe. The wide range of steel products in different forms enables Ovako’s customers to tailor products matching their exact needs.

    Instead of producing lots in tonnage, Ovako is experienced in industrial premium products.

    “Rather than bulk offerings, our focus is on high-end products”, says Lundström.

    The uniqueness of Ovako’s steel products also stems from their origin. All products are manufactured from recycled steel scrap, such as old bicycles. At Ovako’s locations, this re-melted scrap gets a new life as world-leading steel.

    “97–98 % of all our input is scrap-based. That makes us the biggest recycler in the Nordics”, Lundström notes.

    The benefits of cooperation for Ovako:

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