Ermewa: ‘we see 2020-2021 as an interim period to what we really want’

Ermewa is in the midst of a large modernisation scheme, upgrading more than twenty thousand wagons. These wagons are outdated, often fifty years old, and the company wants to keep up with time. Did the year of corona and a weakened economy affect these plans? We spoke with director Marjus van Dee, responsible for Northern Europe.

How did you experience 2021?

“The uncertainty has impacted on us. Wagons came to a standstill. Then suddenly there was a huge push to rail, because trucks came to a standstill. Rail transportation proved its value. These were varying experiences and tensions.

“Now that we are in the second wave, things are going reasonably well. We have suffered some loss of turnover, but also have declining costs. Financially we should not complain at the end of the day.”

How did you deal with these uncertainties?

“We have prioritised many automation projects. For example, we have started digitising our systems, introducing safer wagon types and kickstarted digital automatic coupling, which we are very much in favor of. This should really improve efficiency in the supply chain.”

What else do you do in terms of optimisation?

“We are working with large forwarders or producers to see how we can get pallets off the road. This is possible with pocket wagons, an efficient way to transport trailers without a driver. But we also look at how we can efficiently load the wagons with pallets.

“When you transport a trailer, you also transport a lot of air. This does not make the price per ton optimal. There are also other ways to get pallets on the train, à la airplane, sequenced and automated. This really delivers an efficiency boost in the long term.”

What can we see next year?

“Deliveries and concepts of new wagons. These are becoming more modular, we want to be able to adapt more quickly to the wishes of the customer. The structure of wagons will become more flexible.

“But it is a long-term project. We will not make any major investments next year. Our goal is to deliver 1500-2000 wagons per year, which will continue next year. We see this year and next year as an interim period to what we have in mind for the long term. Hopefully we will be back at a pre-corona level by 2023-24.”

Who in the sector would you like to meet next year?

“With people from companies such as Ikea or Heineken; larger shippers that do not prefer rail. I would like to discuss with them how we can adapt to better serve their needs.”

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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