Interview: Robert Steinbeiss, Senior Department Manager Delivery, METRO Cash & Carry Österreich GmbH
Mr Steinbeiss, hello – there’s a MAN TGM 26.360 E with a refrigerated truck body on the ramp outside; what exactly is METRO using it for?
Robert Steinbeiss: METRO is not just a cash & carry outlet. For around 15 years now, we have also operated as a wholesale supplier at all twelve METRO sites in Austria. We supply around 48,000 different items – food and non-food – to businesses in the catering and hotel industry all over the country. My department at the METRO headquarters here in Vösendorf, just outside Vienna, provides support to our markets in this regard. As a member of Austria’s council for sustainable logistics (CNL), we are taking part in the field trails with our logistics service provider using the eTruck for us since September 2018.
All kinds of different vehicles bear the METRO logo. How does the MAN eTruck fit in?
Robert Steinbeiss: Alongside the eTGM, which has the highest overall weight in our fleet, we have everything from 3.5-tonne to 18-tonne trucks. We need this mix of sizes because if we are delivering to a catering business in Vienna city centre, for instance, there are hardly any loading zones for a three-axle truck. Nonetheless, Vösendorf is a highly convenient location because we can also serve the rest of the metropolitan area from here. With an average of 250 customers a day, there’s plenty for us to do. The eTruck is used to supply goods to between ten and 15 of our major customers every weekday. It is used to capacity like our other trucks and is fully integrated into the fleet, all while being sustainable and generating zero local emissions.
Sustainability is the buzzword that’s on everyone’s lips right now. What does it mean to METRO?
Robert Steinbeiss: It is an integral part of many departments in our company. One place where it can be seen most clearly is at our newest ‘zero energy’ superstore in St. Pölten, which was built to completely sustainable principles and has won several awards. In addition, we want to take decisive steps over the next six years to reduce our plastic footprint, replace single-use plastics and promote the transition to a closed-loop plastics industry and circular economy. On top of this, we have pledged to reduce food waste in our company by 50% by 2025. What’s more, we are constantly stepping up our collaborations with regional suppliers in order to shorten transport routes.
Short transport routes are exactly what electromobility is for, aren’t they?
Robert Steinbeiss: For inner-city deliveries, certainly. In 2017 we launched the ‘METRO Express’ in Vienna. With this concept, we offer express deliveries with smaller electric vehicles. This was so popular with our customers in the catering industry that we have expanded the service to Graz, Salzburg and Linz over the last year. Not only have we gained fantastic experience from this, but we have also ended up operating the most environmentally friendly delivery fleet in the Austrian retail market. The eTruck is the perfect addition to the line up and allows us to save an additional 40 tonnes or so of CO2 each year.
Your customers need reliable and seamless processes – is there room for ‘experiments’?
Robert Steinbeiss: I think that the term ‘field trial’ is often misunderstood. There is of course an innovation at the heart of these long-term performance tests. However, it is one that has a certain degree of maturity right from the outset. As of mid-June, the MAN eTruck in our business has covered some 7500 miles – all without any major problems. It covers around 50 miles a day and is charged overnight at a dedicated 43 kW charging station. Whenever we faced technical challenges, we received excellent support from the MAN branch in nearby Leopoldsdorf. The only downtime for this truck has been the servicing appointments that were scheduled in advance as part of the trail.
It already sounds like it’s becoming routine...
Robert Steinbeiss: You’re not wrong (laughs). But many of our staff still find the eTruck fascinating – as do I. Its seemingly effortless start-up, the tangible acceleration and the smooth braking with no juddering or shaking... and the only thing you hear is the transport refrigeration system, which is barely louder than a vacuum cleaner!
If you were asked today, would you take part in the MAN CNL eTruck project again?
Robert Steinbeiss: Of course. Because delivery is one of our lines of business and we have a situation that is suitable for long-term trialling of the MAN eTruck, it goes without saying that we should be open to new experiences in this area. Ultimately, the trial is about technologies that could benefit us all in the future. And finally, it is about an issue that, quite simply, we absolutely have to tackle. Companies have more and more responsibility to bear when it comes to conserving the world’s resources. METRO is committed to taking on this challenge – now and in the future.