CHEP Automotive and Reusable Packaging: Interview with Evi Schulz

Evi new (1)In this edition of Up Close and Reusable, Packaging Revolution has the pleasure of interviewing Evi Schulz, Manager Managed Services at CHEP Automotive US.

1. Hi, Evi. Thanks so much for doing this interview. How did you come to end up working in the automotive pooling field? 

I have been with CHEP for eighteen years now, previously working for an Automotive Tier 1 supplier in Europe. My first role with CHEP was as an Account Manager, which gave me the opportunity to learn the business from the ground up in a really hands-on manner. After eighteen years, I must say that it is still a lot of fun and I am very passionate about what I do.

2. Tell us a bit about your history with CHEP in Europe, and how or if that prepared you for what you have encountered in the U.S.

I had several different positions while in Europe, the last of which was as the Key Account Manager for the business with General Motors Europe (Opel/Vauxhall). That business requires a unique combination of the CHEP Trip Rental program, with which CHEP owns the containers, and the CHEP Container Management program, with which the customer has container ownership. I relocated after the Automotive Team approached me to help develop similar programs in the United States.  

We have done business with GM in Europe for over twenty-two years now, recently celebrating another anniversary of the successful partnership.  

It has also been great for me to be part of the CHEP Automotive journey – transitioning from a company selling pooling solutions in regional markets to a global approach, partnering strategically with our customers to find complete supply chain solutions and solve their packaging problems.

3. After moving to the U.S., what were your first impressions. Were you surprised at all, or had you done enough prior due diligence that you knew exactly what you had to deal with here?

There are definitely some cultural differences between the two places, especially when it comes to business etiquette and sales approach. Of course, while there are many common difficulties in the management of automotive packaging, we also recognize that each customer has its own culture, strategy, and processes, and one of our strengths is managing this diversity.

Our container management customer portfolio is very broad, ranging from major OEMs to smaller tier one suppliers in a variety of industries. We tailor our outsourcing proposal to the customers’ need so we can provide smarter solutions. There will always be that personalization.

The perception of a country is completely different as a resident rather than a tourist, and after almost three years I must say that I really enjoy living here in the United States

4. The obvious question it seems would be for you to compare automotive reusable packaging management in Europe versus North America. My simplistic understanding is that there is more standardization and pooling among OEMs in Europe, while this has been more challenging in the U.S. with OEMs generally “doing their own thing” in terms of preferences for reusable packaging systems. How far off base is that observation?

Your observation is correct. A few things in Europe’s automotive industry are simpler due to the utilization of a VDA standard open pool with unbranded containers. This allows suppliers to have flexibility in regards to batch production and their own efficiency.

There is a laundry list of common problems in the global automotive industry, including high use of expendable substitution, not having the right quantity containers in the right place when needed, and incurring increased premium freight costs because of this. Without complete supply chain tracking and visibility, last minute container moves are required to keep production running. Loss and damage are also systemic problems throughout the industry.

We have found that our customers’ pain points tend to remain largely the same across industries and cultures, the solution is just a bit different to fit each company’s specific needs. Our experience in the Automotive Industry spans decades and we understand that the biggest challenge for our customers is to find the balance between risk mitigation, inventory reduction and freed up working capital. By outsourcing reusable packaging management to CHEP, our customers can find this balance quickly. Peace of mind in having enough packaging when they need it, wherever they need it and only paying for that usage is what differentiates us from the competition.  

We make sure to leverage global process and systems best practices that have been developed over decades of successful partnerships with OEMs and their suppliers around the world.

On the second page of this interview, Evi discusses CHEP’s relationship with GM in Europe and North America, challenges of the complex global automotive supply chain, and how software alone cannot eliminate asset loss without effective people and processes in place. Click here to read Page 2.