As the global automotive industry faces its biggest crisis for decades, one Midlands-based company says it is resisting the downturn by providing a vital service to vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

Output may be down, but parts still need to be delivered to assembly lines exactly when required so that expensive unplanned stoppages can be avoided.

When the supply chain breaks down, automotive companies are increasingly turning to the unique expertise provided by emergency logistics firm Evolution Time Critical.

Operating from its control centre at East Midlands Airport, the company specialises in “doing whatever it takes” to get critical parts to the production line on time – whether that involves helicopters, aircraft charters, onbboard couriers, special night freighters or rapid road transport.

Managing director Brad Brennan said: “We work with vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers in almost every part of the world.

“When a shipment is delayed or transportation breaks down, our people use their experience and knowledge to ensure that assembly lines receive enough components to keep them running.”

The company was set up in 2001, when Mr Brennan and three colleagues set out to provide a more reliable logistics service for the automotive industry, which at that time was rapidly becoming more global in the way it worked.

They quickly discovered, however, that the real need was for a new type of service which they termed “emergency logistics”.

“The automotive industry now operates in far-flung regions of Asia and Eastern Europe,” said Mr Brennan. “To keep factories lean and minimise costs, stock at the plants may be just enough to run lines for as little as two hours, making them heavily dependent on regular deliveries. With stoppages costing up to £1 million an hour, we are seeing strong demand for our services.”

As knowledge of the company’s services spreads across the automotive industry, it is seeing strong growth outside the United Kingdom. Now, over 50 per cent of the company’s £12 million turnover comes from manufacturers and suppliers in continental Europe.

A recent example has seen it help keep production going at a car plant in Poland, despite problems at a components supplier 5,000 miles away in Korea.

The solution involved a carefully planned series of journeys by 12 on-board couriers via four different airports, combined with a number of express airfreight shipments. The ten-day operation ensured that not a single unit of production was lost.

With both manufacturers and suppliers learning the value of emergency logistics, they are increasingly planning it into their supply-chain strategy. Evolution Time Critical is therefore increasingly being called upon as a consultancy, identifying the points of potential supply-chain failure and either resolving them or putting contingency plans in place.

“The best solution is often to prevent the problem, for example by switching ports or transport modes,” said Mr Brennan. “But if that is not possible, a robust contingency plan will keep products flowing. This allows further stock and transport resources to be taken out of the supply chain, providing significant savings for manufacturers without compromising the reliability of deliveries.”

For the best and most efficient automotive companies, a close relationship with an emergency logistics specialist is rapidly becoming part of good practice.

Evolution Time Critical is now considering opportunities to provide similar services in other industries. “The automotive industry is exceptionally good at lean logistics. Other industries may be surprised at how much they can save by embracing some of these techniques,” added Mr Brennan.