Some logistics service providers claim they can do anything; and while this may be a bit of a stretch, when called upon to do so, some can rise to some interesting occasions.

In 1903, when William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycle, they probably had no idea of what they were starting. From a modest beginning in a 10 X 15 foot wooden shed in Milwaukee, not just a mode of transport, but a national pastime has evolved. In 2003, to celebrate its 100th birthday, Harley-Davidson staged “The Ride Home”, a gigantic rally gathering bikes from all over the world to Milwaukee. There a great three day party was held, with over 200,000 guests and bikes attending.

Harley’s subsidiary, Harley Owners Group (HOG) caters to almost a million Harley enthusiasts worldwide. Several thousand of them are located in Europe and regularly meet in 68 regional locations. To celebrate the 100th birthday, HOG offered full logistics services for all members to ensure the bikes of those who wanted to attend, arrived in Milwaukee in time for the party. In order to accomplish they turned to an LSP to develop a customized solution for this challenging task.

The time window opened four weeks before the event and closed four weeks after. A lot of owners used the occasion to ride through the U.S. Also, bikers in Europe try to get the most out of their short season, so they asked for the latest possible dates from Germany and other European countries, as well as for the option to pick up and deliver their bikes at various airports around the country.

Careful packaging was of vital importance to avoid scratches and damage to paint, chrome, and other parts of these valuable machines. To accomplish this, the LSP worked closely with Harley’s main transportation agent, SKS, who has a long and successful experience transporting motorcycles by truck in Europe. They were responsible for the pick-up and packaging of the bikes. They had to be in clean condition and their tanks filled to no more than one quarter of their capacity to conform to U.S. import regulations. Battery cables had to be disconnected, as well.

To try to meet each biker’s individual budget, two transport options were offered – ocean and air freight. In both cases, freight charges are calculated on volume, so in order to maximize the use of the packing space, windshields, mirrors, and handlebars had to be detached. For the airfreight option, the LSP selected Lufthansa, and complete charters were reserved for motorcycle transportation. Several test shipments were made the year before, utilizing SKS and the airline. When the bikes arrived in the U.S., the LSP took over. The service package included transportation and customs clearance in and out of the country. Insurance was available for those who wanted it, and in cooperation with a travel agent, the LSP reserved over 300 motel rooms with a view of the occupant’s machines.

This LSP developed an innovative logistical solution tailored to each biker’s individual needs. Since literally everything was taken care of, it was a true “no worries” solution for the client and the bikers. Many companies have similar challenges with new product introductions, promotions, or other temporary situations. When these occasions arise, you will find that a call to a reliable logistics service provider can cure both cost concerns and headaches.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch