Around a dozen times a year, Daniel Röder from DB Cargo Sales travels from Mainz to Burghausen, a town in Bavaria's "Chemicals Triangle". The Burghausen refinery plays a key role as the centrepiece of OMV's German operations. DB Cargo is responsible for all shunting and loading activities at the site. For DB Cargo employees, working here also involves handling dangerous goods. To manage this hazardous cargo, professional experts are essential. "It's a challenge", says Daniel Röder, and "an exciting task".
As a senior account manager, Röder has been responsible for the refinery for two years. His counterpart on the customer's side is Helmut Knebl, head of logistics for OMV's Burghausen refinery. Knebl has decades of experience and knows the processes inside out. The company has been working with DB for 20 years, says Knebl. "This partnership has always remained strong, through all the ups and downs." Business has grown steadily in recent years: the refinery's use of rail transport has quadrupled in the space of two decades.
Impressive transhipment volumes
DB Cargo's employees have to transport and tranship a formidable 1.9 million tonnes of freight for Burghausen and OMV's tank farm in Feldkirchen. The staff have the right training and know exactly what they are doing when it comes to handling tank, gas and bulk freight wagons. They are able to refresh and expand their knowledge constantly through regular training packages and instruction courses. As is the case for DB Cargo, safety is a top priority at OMV too: 50 auditors regularly inspect operations, check technical facilities and work processes, and quiz employees on occupational safety.
They also go on safety walks. "Safety walks take place several times a year together with the managers from OMV and DB Cargo", says Knebl. On these occasions, even managers don protective clothing and join in with inspecting the loading facilities and tracks. Knebl, who was instrumental in shaping this collaborative effort from the beginning, knows he is asking a lot of the railway personnel. Roughly 50 DB Cargo employees work in Burghausen in two shifts. The plant shunting service on OMV's premises operates with complete independence. While they must adhere to all standards and regulations, the shunters from DB Cargo can work as they please, provided the wagons are on the departure track on time and in the correct order and configuration. What counts is getting things done – safely.
A DB Cargo shunter for wagon preparation. Copyright: Max Lautenschläger
Smart logistics are in demand
Getting the job done takes some brainpower, and the work of the DB Cargo team has earned Knebl's respect. They have been able to use their shunting locomotive ever more efficiently over the years by applying smart strategies, he says. DB Cargo recently invested in 20 freight wagons to optimise wagon availability. Ludwig Huber is also pleased to see the positive trend. As DB Cargo's head of operations throughout the Bavarian Chemicals Triangle, he oversees more than 200 employees. He stresses the excellent partnership of equals with OMV and the years of experience that many railway employees have accumulated while working independently at the refinery's loading sites and walking up to 15 km every shift.
One issue flagged up by OMV logistician Knebl is the high employee turnover among the shunting personnel, a result of the precarious general situation regarding staffing. Currently, a second gridiron siding is being planned, and Knebl would like to run a second shunting locomotive on it were it not for the lack of skilled employees. He is well aware of how difficult it is right now to recruit and train drivers. Daniel Röder points to DB's ongoing training campaign. Working closely with OMV, DB Cargo will use the OMV plant to train a driver over the course of this year.