Journal of Transportation Technologies, 2012, 2, 324-333 Published Online October 2012 (
Development Process of Intermod al Transport Solutions:
The Case of Dedicated Solutions Based on Large Shippers’
Edith Sorkina
School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Received July 20, 2012; revised August 24, 2012; accepted September 4, 2012
The objective of this paper is to create a process view of the development of intermodal transport solution from the ba-
sic idea to implementation. Special case of dedicated solutions based on large shippers’ volumes is chosen, where the
shippers engage in the development process of the new solutions. Research is conducted using a qualitative approach:
multiple case studies. Empirical data has been obtained through in-depth semi-structured interviews with relevant re-
spondents involved in the development projects. Shippers’ perspective on the development process is studied. Deve-
lopment process can be described through a generic four-stage process: Initiation, Planning, Implementation, and Fur-
ther Development. Differen t actors and di fferent resources are required at the different stages. The complex process of es-
tablishing new intermodal solutions has lacked attention in the intermodal research. Understanding and improving the
development process of new intermodal solutions is considered to have an important effect on the viability of intermo-
dal transport and can help to understand the barriers th at prevent companies from switching to intermodal. Development
process of new dedicated intermodal solutions is a gradual process of building up the transport solution in a continuous
interaction between shippers and transport service providers. Research has focused on the shipper perspective on inter-
modal transport, showing that switching to an intermodal transport is not simply a mode choice issue, but involves a
transition process that takes time, demands resources, cooperation/coordination between multiple parties, may require
changes in the supply chain beyond the transport link, inv olves multiple actors, and involv es an industry that is itself in
a process of change.
Keywords: Intermodal Transport; Case Study; Development Process; Shipper; Exploratory Study
1. Introduction
Intermodal transport is “the movement of goods in one
and the same loading unit or vehicle, which uses succes-
sively two or more modes of transport without handling
the goods themselves in changing modes [1].” The ra-
tionale of using intermodal transport is to exploit the
natural advantages, the different transport modes provide,
in combination. Road transport is flexible and enables
high accessibility, while rail and sea/inland waterways
transport allows realizing economies of scale. Moreover,
intermodal transport is generally regarded as more envi-
ronmentally favorable than road transportation [2].
Nevertheless, the strong political support and a clear
rationale, has still resulted in a relatively low market
share of intermoda l transport in Europe [3] and failure to
fulfill its growth expectations [4,5 ]. While road transport
has been growing and preserves its dominant position in
the intra-EU freight transport system [6], continuing con-
cerns over the externalities from the transport sector:
“···transport system is not sustainable/···/it is clear that
tra nsport cannot develop along the same path [7],” where-
as creating condition s for intermodal transport is still one
of the key measures for making the industry more sus-
On the fragmented and competitive transport market a
switch from one road service provider to another is not
difficult, while a change from unimodal road transport
solution to an intermodal one is rather complicated [5].
Substantial research exists on obtaining a better under-
standing of the barriers for modal shift. Barriers are often
contextual and differ depending on which actors’ per-
spective within the intermodal industry is discu ssed. This
paper argues that from the shippers’ perspective, switch-
ing to an intermodal solution is not simply matter of a
mode and carrier choice decisions that could be studied
through the factors that influence these decisions. Swit-
ching to an intermodal solution is a process of change
that takes time, resources, involves multiple actors, and
opyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
involves an industry that is itself in a process of change
(deregulation, standardization, new actors). Thus, deeper
investigation is n eeded that would help to understand the
into the development process of new solutions. The com-
plex process itself can be seen as one important barrier
for increasing use of intermodal transport.
The paper is structured in following matter. Firstly,
existing relevant literature is presented, followed by a
discussion on the specific focus of this paper and the me-
thodology applied. Then background on the empirical
cases used is presented. Main part of the paper is about
structured description of the development process of 3
new intermodal solutions. Finally the paper ends with
discussion on the main findings and conclusion from the
2. Relevant Literature
While the development process of new intermodal solu-
tion has not been directly the focus in intermodal re-
search, several related works should be brought to atten-
tion. Jensen [8,9] has developed a process for designing
and evaluating a competitive intermodal tran sport system
and identified the characteristics the new system should
possess to be attractive for the market and competitive in
the long term. Moreover, the work by Bärthel and Wox-
enius [10,11] has focused on the development of inter-
modal transport for small flows over short distances, pre-
senting a case study of a pilot project. The research high
lights that though the project was technically and logisti-
cally viable, intra-organizational and business strategic
shortcomings severely hampered the development proc-
Case study research [12] on successful application of
intermodal transport solutions focuses on why different
companies have shifted to intermodal transport and high-
lights the interaction between the in termodal solution and
the companies’ logistics systems. Similarly, the current
research aims to study intermod al transpo rt in the con text
of the supply chains, within which the new solutions are
Work by Sjöstedt et al. [13] discusses the different
potential designs of intermodal transport systems in re-
gards to the impact of two system properties—comer-
cial openness and technological openness, on the flexi-
bility and controllability of the intermodal system. Ac-
cording to the authors, openness to technologies (degree
of flexibility in use of different technologies) should be
designed at an early stage of system development, while
commercial openness (e.g. degree of openness to differ-
ent users) can be subjected to changes at later stages.
Finally, in Bergqvist et al. [14] authors focus on estab-
lishment process of new intermodal terminals—important
components of intermodal solutions. Authors investigate
the historical establishment process and identify factors
influencing this process: profitability, location, political
entrepreneur, large lo cal shippers.
3. Research Focus
Traditional intermodal transport, which accounts for
most of the intermodal flows, is created through market
exchange processes, where carriers (supply side) are re-
spo nsible for connecting transportation and the sale of the
entire door-to-door transport solution to the end-cus-
tomer [15]. Intermodal industry is in a process of change:
new actors are emerging breaking the existing structure
of monopolistic national operators [5]. For example, ap-
pearance of specialized actors in certain niche markets
like the port hinterlands. This paper investigates the de-
velopment process of new intermodal solutions, where
large shippers with sufficient transport volumes develop
and operate their own intermodal transport services. This
can be considered a certain alternative to the market me-
chanism. This segment is found interesting, as the com-
mon problem for new intermodal solutions is how to
consolidate enough freight that would make the solution
economically viable. In Sweden, the potential size of this
mar k et se gm en t i s 16% - 17% of all freight shipped (mea-
sured in volume) as that is the corresponding share of
large manufacturing and wholesaling companies’ freight
volumes transported on distances over 300 km [4].
Therefore, there is a potential to shift large volumes off the
road. Obviously shippers’ willingness to switch is not a
single factor in the change process, but an important one.
Moreover, solutions developed in such a way carry the
potential to develop into intermodal transport solutions
open to other shippers, as the important step is to have
base volumes to start with. Finally, problems associated
with the increased use of intermodal transport and rail are
often seen in the ex isting attitudes an d lack of ex perience
in the industry [16,17] in terms using alternatives to road
transport, thus studying these cases creates visibility and
awareness of the concept.
4. Methodology
Research has been conducted using a qualitative ap-
proach with multiple case studies. Three case studies are
conducted to avoid excessive focus on aspects that are
contextual rather than generic. Nature of this study is
aimed to be explorative: to look at th e internal processes,
not visible to outsiders, to be able to understand how new
solutions are developed. Therefore, the process model
used for analyzing the cases has been kept generic, and
the interviews conducted for gathering empirical material
have been done in a semi-structured manner that enables
to preserve flexibility [18]. Cases chosen for the study
are examples of dedicated solutions based on large ship-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
pers’ volumes. All cases chosen are intermodal solutions
with one endpoint in Sweden, as having such a common
point, makes the cases more comparable due to the spe-
cial geography of the region, but also common business
and institutional environment. Empirical data has been
mainly obtained through in-depth semi-structured inter-
views with relevant respondents involved in the deve-
lopment projects. Though an extensive interview guide
had been developed in advance, the idea behind the in-
terviews has been to obtain the “story” of the develop-
ment processes, focusing on predefined aspects of the
process, but also leaving room for unstructured discus-
sion regarding the process. All in all 9 interviews have
been conducted, complimented with two site visits. Data
from interviews is not referenced in the text. The re-
spondents have been mainly logistics managers both
ranging from executive level to more operational, to get
an understan ding of di f ferent views.
Process Model for Analysis
Development process of new intermodal transport chains
is studied through a generic four-stage process applicable
to any new transport solution development process: Ini-
tiation (basic concept development), Planning (prepara-
tory activities), Implementation (launch of the new solu-
tion) and Further Development (further modifications after
start of operations). Such a generic view of the process
has been chosen to preserve broad applicability, but still
permit structured view of the process. In principal, every
phase could end up in termination of the process. Figure
1 below illustrates the generic process chosen to th at will
be used to study of development process of new inter-
modal solutions.
5. Cases
5.1. Volvo
Volvo Group is one of the leading manufacturers of trucks,
buses, construction equipment, drive systems for marine
and industrial applications and aerospace components.
Transport plays an important role in Volvo’s supply
chain. Firstly, Volvo has a great disadvantage against
competitors as major part of operations in the Nordic
region, creating long distance to suppliers and markets.
Moreover, transport is part of the customer-order-manu-
facturing system, which means that rigid requirements in
Figure 1. Generic process view to be applied in analysing
the case studies.
terms lead time and punctuality are placed on the trans-
port system. Latter makes the whole system highly time
sensitive and in case of delays, there is a risk of major
spill-over impact on other parts of supply chain (manu-
Volvo has an extensive experience of using rail from
1950s, mainly due to economies of scale advantage that
rail transport enables. Rail h as been used in conventional
wagonload setups mainly from factory to factory, but also
the company has been using an in termoda l so lution based
on road-sea combination between Sweden and continen-
tal Europe.
The case analyzed in the paper is about the develop-
ment of new intermodal transport solution for inbound
transport from component suppliers in Germany to as-
sembly plant for Volvo Group and Volvo Cars in Goth-
enburg, Sweden. In Germany Hanover is used as a rail
hub were single wagon flows from several destination is
consolidated into a block train destined to Gothenburg,
pre and post carriage is done by road. Previously, same
route was served 100% by unimodal road transport.
5.2. Coop
Coop is the second largest grocery retailer in Sweden,
having a market share of around 21.5%. Coop belongs to
the food retail industry that is characterized by low
product margins and large share of logistics costs. Ope-
rating in a highly concentrated market, with similar pro-
duct range and high substitutability, the need to have the
products at the right time in the right place is very im-
portant. The pressure on logistics system is also increased
by the fact that large share of the product range are tem-
perature sensiti ve go o ds.
Coop has been using rail since the 1950’s, mostly
wagon load transport. Coop also participated in the joint
R&D project together with competitors to investigate th e
potential of a collaborative intermodal solution. However,
Coop stepped out of the project as a result of the top
management’s decision to develop an intermodal solu-
tion on its own.
The case studied in this paper involves development of
a dedicated intermodal solution combining Coop’s in-
bound flows between suppliers (manufacturers, whole-
salers) in southern Sweden and main warehouses (Bro,
Västeras, Enköping), and outbound flows from ware-
houses to stores in south of Sweden (through cross-doc-
king terminals and directly to hypermarkets). The initial
rail route has been Helsingborg-Tomteboda with a stop
in Alvesta on the southbound journey. The solution co-
vers following product groups: non-food; chilled; frozen
foods; fruits. Previously the same route was mainly served
both road transport, combined with wagon-load “when-
ever possible”.
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5.3. Stora Enso
Stora Enso (SE) is one of world’s leading paper and pulp
manufacturers. The company, as it is today, was formed
through a merger of the Swedish company Stora with the
Finish company Enso in 1998. Logistics and transport
play an important role for the company as most of the
produce from Northern Europe is exported (long distance
from the markets) and the industry is highly price sensi-
tive. Moreover, as SE belongs to a process industry with
continuous manufacturing (to keep the utilization of the
expensive machinery high) and transport operations are
rather not time sensitive. Unitization of the cargo flow in
the supply chain has been an important development in
the SE’s logistics system-to reduce handling damages
and increase cargo density. Fina lly, important to mention
is that SE is a major transport buyer in Swedish transport
market, which has been an important factor in the deci-
sion of the Swedish Rail Authority to participate in the
development project.
SE has also an extensive experience of using rail pre-
viously for connecting with the customers in continental
Europe, but wagonload transport has been problematic
both due to low utilization of space and risk of damage.
Intermodal solution studied in this paper involves so-
lution connecting the mills in Sweden and Finland with
customers in continental Europe and UK. Only part of
the transport solution is intermodal: unitized cargo is
transported from 6 Swedish mills to the port of Gothen-
burg via three rail connections and onward by sea to the
port of Zeebrugge in Belgium. The distribution onwards
from the port is not investigated as that involves stripping
the cargo units and reloading cargo either to a truck or
train wagons (for the European market) to be shipped to
Local Distribution Centers, or loaded into other contain-
ers to be shipped overseas. Previous solution on the same
route was based on wagon-load traffic between Sweden
and continental Europ e.
6. Results and Analysis
6.1. Initiation Phase
In a way the ideas for potentials intermodal solutions in
all 3 cases were born long before the official start of the
projects that led to the implementation of all 3 new in-
termodal solutions. In all 3 cases, prior to the approval
of the new concept ideas and the official start of the de-
velopment process, previous attempts of starting up new
solutions using a combination of transports modes had
been made, but terminated and not proceeded. In case of
Coop, logistics department had previously (approx. 15
years ago) proposed to start up an intermodal solution,
but due to the lack of internal support, the idea was not
pursued. Similarly, Volvo made studies on a potential
intermodal solution between Sweden and Germany dur-
ing 2003-2004, but as the study failed to find a suitable
business case and the mega trailer technology was not
commercially available at the time, the idea was aban-
doned. Finally, SE actually set up a multimodal trial sys-
tem with the use of rail and Ro-Ro ships (with handling
of cargo in between), but the solution did not meet the
expected results neither financially nor in terms of dam-
ages, thus was also not pursued. Though failed attempts,
these studies and trial created knowledge within the com-
panies about opportunities as well as p roblems in regards
to intermodal solutions. Latter combined with the previ-
ous experience in rail and intermodal formed a valuable
knowledge base for initiating new intermodal solutions.
As highlighted in the literature, attitudes towards modes
depend on the experience shippers have with the differ-
ent modes and perceptions on quality and are better
among those with actual experience [19]. Table 1 below
summarizes the important aspects of the initiation phase.
In the initiation phase the basic idea/concept of new
intermodal service is developed and gets approved.
Though main work in concept development has been
done by the internal logistics units within the companies
investigated, the top management has played an impor-
tant role in approving and supporting the co ncept. In case
of Coop, top management actually started up the whole
process. Moreover, decision was made despite the fact
that at the same time Coop’s logistics unit was involved
in a research project evaluating the potential of an inter-
modal solution based on combining flows from several
Table 1. Initiation phase: Case summaries.
Initiation aspect of the process Stora Enso Coop Volvo
Organizational origin of triggering idea Logistics Department Top Management Logistics Department
Actors involved in concept development Logistics Department Logistics Department Logistics Department
Organizational level of approval Top
Management Top
Management Top
Choice of the process leader Logistics Department Logistics Department Logistics Department
grocery retailers. Involvement of the top management
points to the importance of the long term perspective in
making the decision to switch to intermodal transport. In
case of Volvo and SE, idea originated from the logistics
unit within the company and was approved by top man-
agement and received strong support throughout the de-
velopment process.
Thus, the initiation stage has been mainly about inter-
nal approval of the concept, not involving other external
parties. However, in case of Coop we also see the in-
volvement of the rail operator in the concept develop-
ment. Decision to build up a new intermodal solution
was an outcome of negotiations with Green Cargo (the
major rail operator in Sweden) to start a company to-
gether with Coop that would handle all the logistic op-
erations for the retailer. In the dialogue between the re-
tailer and rail operator, intermodal transport was one of
the main issues discussed.
In case of Volvo, company did investigate the possi-
bility of developing a more open solution that would be
run by an external party either a railway company or a
forwarder, but due to lack of interest or willingness to
take the risk by an external party-Volvo decided to de-
velop their own solution.
6.2. Planning Phase
Planning phase starts after the basic concept has been
internally approved and the major work starts on defining
the physical components of the system; defining the re-
quirement; negotiations with existing and potential part-
ner s ( service providers, equipment providers, supply chain
partners, authorities); feasibility assessments (cost calcu-
lations, environmental calculations, evaluation of differ-
ent alternatives); operations planning; contingency plan-
ning etc. Planning phase involves multitude of actors, both
internal and external.
An important question in development of a new in-
termodal solution has been the issue of fit between the
intermodal transport solution and the existing setups. In
case of Coop, major work had been around restructuring
the warehouse network to enable consolidation of freight
fl ows. That consequently also meant renegotiations of c o n-
tracts with suppliers, who were previously responsible
for transport. Thus, supply chain adaptation in the form
of rationalization of the warehouse network, acted as an
important prerequisite for building an economically vi-
abl e intermodal system. In case of SE, development of the
new solution involved restructuring the European ware-
house network and centralizing the transport and distri-
bution function that was previously divided between the
mills. Needed consolidation of control over freight trans-
port within the company resulted in a major internal or-
ganization change. In case of Volvo, the fact that tran-
sport is part of the customer-order-manufacturing system,
stringent requirements were placed on the design of the
new solution with no adaptations to the current system.
Deciding upon a load unit is an important part of the
preparatory activities. In case of Volvo, there were long
discussions on which equipment to use: previous invest-
tigations (2003-2004) showed that mega trailer technol-
ogy was not widely available on the market; however by
2008 situation had chang ed. Mega trailer was fo und to be
most suitable because of cargo type (volume goods). As
trailers were used before for road transport, there would
be no change from the component suppliers’ point of
view. Mega trailers offered flexibility in case of distur-
bances-as it was easier to switch to road. In case o f Coop,
trailers were found useful similarly because of the flexi-
bility to use them on road when necessary. In case of SE,
load unit was developed specifically for the type of cargo
transported—paper reels. Specialized cargo units were
basically oversized containers. This also meant that only
part of transport chain could be intermodal: the transport
further on from Zeebrugge would require reloading of
cargo and transporting it further to European market by
means of truck or wagonload rail as the regulations out-
side Sweden do not permit using this type oversized
cargo unit.
Finding suitable terminals was another key part of
planning process. In choice of terminals, available capac-
ity is important, but also location: to ease and reduce pr e-
and post-haulage. Finding a suitable terminal in Sweden
for Volvo was a major problem and finding a solution
took time. But as a result of lucky circumstances, just
before start of operations opportunity presented itself and
Volvo was able to purchase a terminal close to its facili-
ties in Gothenburg. Deal was finalized a week before
operations started, which meant very quick adjustments
had to be made to enable taking in the whole train. For
Coop and SE, initial setup involved contracting terminal
operators for purchase of existing services.
Negotiations with rail operator and signing the con-
tract has been a major step in all 3 cases as signed con-
tracts created commitments for several years. In case of
Coop, rail operator had been chosen from the start by the
top-management as the initial idea was about starting up
a joint company for managing all Coo p’s logistics needs.
In case of Volvo, German operator DB was chosen in-
stead of existing partner Green Cargo (used in another
train setup), both to diversify supplier base, but also be-
cause of the main part of the journey in the new setup
would be in the German rail network-it was important to
get access to the German Automotive RailNet (special-
izing on automotive industry) system. In case of SE—the
scale of the operations required to have the major rail
operator on board, thus Green Cargo as the dominant rail
operator in Sweden was the natural choice for partner.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
Putting in place the physical system of the intermodal
solutions requires monetary commitments. In all cases,
rail transport contracts had been written for full train sets,
which forced the companies to bare the risk in case of
underutilization of the rail capacity.
In terms of investments made, cases show combination
of investments made by shipper organizations and in-
vestments made by other partners. For example, in case
of Volvo haulers invested in mega trailers as they saw a
new business opportunity in taking p art in the intermodal
setup. In case of Coop trailers were bought by Coop,
similarly SE made the needed investment in the special
cargo units. To enable transport of the special SE con-
tainers on rail, Swedish government invested in infra-
structure adjustments–as it was seen beneficial in terms
of the size of SE’s transport operations and the impor-
tance of the company for the local economy. In case of
Volvo, DB invested in low-built wagons, which for a
major company such as DB was not a significant invest-
ment. Volvo invested in their own terminal, largely not
based on choice, but rather because of lack of alterna-
tives. In all three cases the decisions during the planning
process resulted in new concepts on smaller scale than
the initial idea, but with further development plans. Ta-
ble 2 below summarizes the important aspects of the
planning phase.
6.3. Implementation Phase
The implementation phase is about the official start when
everything is in place and operations begin. In all cases
internal logistics units that were managing the initiation
and planning process remained in charge of operations
after the implementation. This has meant an increased
work load for all the logistics units and a lot of “new”
type of work for which competences and experience had
to be developed. Table 3 below summarizes the impor-
tant aspects o f i mplementati on phase.
A common problem of all transport solutions is find-
ing balances in both directions. Balan cing the flows in an
intermodal setup is import part of making the solution
economically viable. As can be seen from the table above,
all intermodal solutions are built on high utilization in
one way and problematic utilization of capacity in the
other direction. How imbalances have been dealt with
has been di scussed under the planning phase wher e com-
Table 2. Planning phase: case summarie s.
Planning aspect of
the process Stora Enso Coop Volvo
Transport modes Rail-sea Rail-road Rail-road
coverage Sweden (+Finland)-Belgium Sweden Sweden-Germany
Load unit Special design containers Trailers Mega trailers
Supply chain
adaptation Physical and administrational
changes Distribution network: physical and
administrational changes Few changes made in lead time and delivery
Requirements for
the system
Increased cargo density; reduced
vulnerability to damages; high
capacity system; reduced
environmental impact; avoiding
German rail network
Strict lead times and schedule for
store deliveries; reduced
environmental impact; cost
level-equal or slightly less
Reduced environmental impact; cost efficient
set-up; extensive use of the Automotive Rail-
Net; lead time—max 48 hours; attracti ve
routes and stable timetables; flexibility in
back-up solutions;
Train: possible to take other
cargo units;
Ship: possibility to take other
rolling stock is present and
Rail wagons: potentially possible to
take containers, but not used Rail wagons: can take trailers, containers,
swap-bodies, but only mega tr ailers used;
Sea: opened up for 3r d pa rty
cargo through forwarder
one external part y (sold
production unit) using the rail
and sea transport and the special
cargo units
Solution is designed to serve both in ternal and
an external customer (Volvo Cars) of Volvo
Logistics; Rail: partly extra capacity would be
sold to road haulers
Allocation of
financial risk
Shipper: unit loads; rail operator
wagons; ship builder: vessels;
authority: rail infrastructure Shipper: trailers, terminal Shipper: terminal; rail operator: wagons and
locomotives haulers: mega trailers
Involvem ent of
public sector Investments and cha ng e in
regulations No involvement Marc o Po lo II (EU) funding for sta rt-up costs
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
Table 3. Implementation phase: case summaries.
aspect of the
process Stora Enso Coop Volvo
Back-up solution Train-based solution to Europe Road (using the same trailers) 3 alte r na ti ve s: r oa d, alternative
train routes, road + sea
Balance of flows
Rail: high utilization southbound and
low utilization northbound;
Sea: balancing the flow though selling
out capacity (ship operating company
Rail: utilization is high on the northbound
flow (on the average 80%), and 60%
utilization on the southbound flow
Rail: high utilization Northbound
(own cargo); Southbound selling
out extra capacity (ap prox. 2/3) to
road haulers
Managemen t o f
operations Logistics Unit Logistics Unit Logistics Unit
Duration from
initiation to
implementation 3 years: 1997 - 2000 Around 1 year: 2008-2009 2 years: 2006-2008
mercial openness of the intermodal solu tions was put into
Despite the intermodal solutions being fully opera-
tional, having alternative back-up solutions in place was
important in all cases. As explained above-in all 3 cases
companies are highly dependent on efficient transport
operations and sensitive to disturbances, latter with the
exception of SE. In case of SE, the initial rail based solu-
tion was kept as back-up channel thus creating 2 alterna-
tive supply routes in connectio n to contin ental Europe. In
case of Volvo and Coop, where trailers are used as load
units, road is a natural alternative. Because of the sensi-
tivity of Volvo’s production system to disturbances in
transport, several back-up action plans were put in place.
6.4. Further Development Phase
Further development describes the development and dy-
namic that takes place after the initial solution has been
operationalized. In case of Volvo, the solution had been
planned having in mind high utilization rates (especially
considering that the volumes intermodal solution was su-
pposed to cover were only 40% of the traffic between
Germany and Sweden), however after the operations
started in October 2008, the volumes dropped substan-
tially and the intermodal concept dad to be reduced and
redesigned to cope with the volume drop: the preparatory
work was done during February-March 2009 and in-
volved negotiations with another rail freight actor-Van
Dieren (an intermodal service provider), which had a
similar rail based solution suffering from drop of vol-
umes. The new logistics solution was launched in May
2009, with both parties utilizing around 50% of the
available capacity. The cooperation lasted around 1,5
years and was successful in terms enabling both compa-
nies to keep the service running, but going back to the
initial setup enabled Volvo to regain the control and also
there were issues with performance due to the fact that
routes differed and punctually suffered. Table 4 below
summarizes important aspects of the further development
Overall we can see that changes can be divided into
those by force: learning from experience or dealing with
changed circumstances, and changes that are made be-
cause of the success of existing solution enables to con-
sider expansion of the solution in one way or another: in
terms of cargo, unit loads, nod es, etc. The main dynamics
include change in the transport network and change in
the commercial openness of the solu tion. In case of Coop
and Volvo, companies are considering op tions to open up
certain parts of the existing setup to ex ternal users. Espe-
cially as the terminal capacities are exceeding internal
needs. Moreover, for Coop to make viable the expansion
of network to North of part of Sweden some sort of co-
operation with another shipper is needed as balance of
flows on northern route is harder to achieve.
7. Discussion and Conclusions
The research presented in the current paper has aimed to
describe the complex process of development of new
intermodal solution based on large shipper volumes,
where the shipper actually engages in the development
and the later management of the new intermodal solution.
The study is based on three cases from different indus-
tries. In all cases, shippers had a strong environmental
profile; and transport and transport cost play an impor-
tant role in their supply chains; and had previous experi-
ence in using rail and intermodal transport. In the cases
investigated, having the internal competence and a posi-
tive experience had been stressed as an important factor
in even considering the idea initially.
The complexity in terms of number of actors involved
and easiness of implementing change in the logistics
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
Table 4. Further development phase: case summaries.
Further Development aspect
of the
process Stora Enso Coop Volvo
Type of dynamics/activities
Adding new nodes to the solution
(Finish mills; ports in Germany,
UK & Belgium);
Continuous quality improvement
Change of terminal: new terminal
in Bro; Change in ca rgo: excluding
fruits; Quality work: improvement
of the service and response to
disruptions; chan ge of terminal
operator and adding new hauler for
operation in Bro
Commercial openness changed
temporary - cooperation with Van
Dieren to deal with volume drop;
Studying the potential to expand
the solution to Russia & widen the
network in Germany; Continuous
quality work
Reasons for m aking
changes Merger of Stora & Enso: expanding
the solution to include Enso’s cargo
Problems with certain product
group due to tight r equirements on
lead time and fin al delivery
Reducing pre-and post-haulage
with new terminal
Financial situation forced to find
solutions for increasing the
utilization, thus decide to cooperate
with another external partner;
There are opportunities to expand
but need to investigate commercial
system can differ, for instance, depending on whether the
intermodal solution is implemented between units of the
same company or it involves upstream/downstream sup-
ply chain partners; as a domestic o r border-crossing tran-
sport solution. Either way, other external actors will be
involved in developing, implementing and utilizing the
solution. Collaboration with others will require negotia-
tion in respect to responsibilities, roles, risks and costs,
both externally and within the company between the de-
partments. Different time periods from the idea devel-
opment to implementation can be partly explained by
complexity of the proj ects. In case of Coop: rail operator
has been involved from the very beginning. Having the
major government rail operator on the board from the
start contributed to the fast progression and flexibility in
terms of rail slot obtainment which is u sually requiring a
long process. In case of Volvo, early negotiations with
DB and involvement of operational personnel ensured
that “we would not discuss anything that would not work
in the future”. For SE case, adaptations to infrastructure
and new unit load design- took considerable time.
In all cases the initial idea for the intermodal solution
was on a bigger scale than the so lution that actually wen t
through the planning phase and into implementation. In
case of Volvo, the initial concept covered only 40% of
the volume between Germany and Sweden: both because
not all volumes were efficient to consolidate, but also to
have buffer for volume drops. In case of SE, initial rail
based setup was kept in parallel to the new intermodal
setup, plus after implementation the concept was redes-
igned to include Finish mills into the system. Similarly,
in case of Coop, the initial idea included connections to
the north of Sweden, but was at the time left aside du e to
lack of return volumes. Thus in all companies decision
has been to be rather carefu l and complete concep ts were
supposed be put into operations in a gradual process.
In all cases, the change process has been part of chan-
ge in strategic long-term planning. This long-term persp-
ective is important for several reasons. Firstly, the pro-
jects require investments/long-term contracts for the oth-
er parties to get assurance and that requires internal sup-
port from the management. Secondly, as the scale of the
changes is quite significant and the new solutions build a
platform for further expansion/development, thus it needs
to be supported by the vision of the future develop ments.
In the cases investigated we can see that in one case top
management has been the initiator of the whole change
process and in the other 2 cases-change process has re-
ceived a strong support from the management. Strong
long-term commitment also means that the companies
hold on to the new solutions even when problems arise in
utilization of the system and quality.
Adaptations beyond the transport link had been neces-
sary in certain cases to enable implementation of the in-
termodal solution. As a result of the decision to change
the transport solution, Coop’s the warehousing network
also went through a rationalization. Thus, the intermodal
transport solution was not designed to fit existing condi-
tions in the supply chain, but the implementation of the
intermodal solution had an impact beyond the transport
sol ution. Decision to develop the intermodal solution also
affected the contractual agreements with suppliers and
the contract were re-written to change the terms of sale,
which was a major part of the planning process. Chang-
ing the contracts and taking power over freight meant
internalizing transport and logistics tasks that previously
were the responsibility of suppliers, which created a lot
of new tasks for th e Coop Logistics not only in the plan-
ning phase of the process but also after implementation-
the daily operations were run internally. In Volvo’s case
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JTTs
transport is part of the make-to-order manufacturing sys-
tem, thus requirements on the service were kept un-
changed. For SE changes involved both the restructuring
of the warehousing network as well as centralization of
the logistics and transport management unit within the
Common problem for all cases has been opening up
the solution commercially or changing the commercial
openness of the solution. In case of Coop, company
would like to sell out the capacity of terminal, but does
not have the market knowledge. Moreover, expanding
the solution requires finding other shippers to cooperate
with. In case of Volvo, terminal operations are not part of
their core business and the decision to get involved has
been made based on lack o f other options.
The change to an intermodal solution and the in-
volvement in development and running the new solution
did not mean that the companies under study had “in-
sourced” the logistics function. In all cases, companies
had an existing internal logistics and transport function.
However, the change meant taking up new role with new
tasks both in the preparatory stage, but also later in man-
aging the new intermodal solution.
In these specific cases investigated in the paper, ship-
pers directly engage into buying services from transport
and terminal operators, rather than a service provider
selling the transport as a door-to-door product. Such so-
lutions are built to meet the specific needs of the shipper.
Extra capacity or backhaul transport could be sold to the
market to increase the utilization of the solution. Devel-
oping such solutions requires certain resources (financial,
time, knowledge, etc.), and thus expose the company to
risks that would not be the case if intermodal solution
was bought from the market (while certain risks that are
present in both cases).
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