Transporting tools, installation equipment, and measuring and testing devices for a project abroad requires precise planning and a great deal of knowledge about transport routes and the specifics of the individual countries. “The nuts and bolts of any foreign assignment are the international customs documents, which can be applied for through the Chamber of Industry and Commerce,” Eric Ackermann, head of materials management at SCHOLPP in Chemnitz, explains. As a rule, companies should use the Carnet ATA (Admission Temporaire) certificate for this – provided the recipient country accepts the Carnet procedure (the German Directorate General of Customs provides a list of countries at

This “passport for goods” specifies the applicable import and export regulations for most of the countries in the world. The temporary export of corresponding goods is permitted for a limited period of one year, but an extension is often possible without any problems, providing the goods are returned complete and in unchanged condition.

Taiwan is an exception to this rule: Companies wishing to temporarily transfer goods to the small island state have to present the Carnet CPD (Carnet de Passages en Douanes) certificate. The related agreement pertains to the European Union and Taiwan and can be applied only between these two parties. What both Carnet documents have in common is that they enable faster border clearance – an absolute must to meet the schedule for transporting and installing machinery.

Transport routes: Weighing up time and costs

Of course, the lead time always depends on the scale of the assignment. As a rule, project managers, in collaboration with materials management and personnel scheduling, need four weeks for planning and implementation. During this time, the managers determine the scale and quantity of the required material and decide on the transport route.

For overseas assignments, the sea route is often advisable; this is cheaper but takes more time. On the European mainland, on the other hand, truck transport is more efficient and can cover more than 1,000 kilometers in just two days. For transporting small tools, electrical measuring and testing equipment, and manageable deliveries of replenishments, air transport is also an option.

“No matter which transport route we consider to be the most appropriate – preparing for it is not to be underestimated,” Eric Ackermann emphasizes. For this purpose, he and his colleagues use the existing country lists, which they update regularly. All the information on these lists is also in the relevant local language so that Russian or Chinese customs officials, for example, can complete their checks much faster.

Checking down to the last wrench

Speaking of China, SCHOLPP ships materials and tools there, too. Just recently, an export container was dispatched to colleagues at SCHOLPP’s Shanghai site. “The journey really was the destination here,” the head of materials management says as he recalls this difficult assignment, which presented new challenges on an almost daily basis. “China is without doubt a special case when it comes to exports, as the authorities always want to know everything in minute detail – from precise specification of the tools to their use.” But that’s not all: The 4,000 tools plus other packages also had to be labeled with information on the country of origin, as well as being weighed and tagged. “In China, everything is checked scrupulously, right down to the last wrench – you have to be aware of that and allow time for it.”

When in Rome …

Each country has its own individual import regulations. One challenge SCHOLPP employees face time and again is the import of electrical equipment. For both sea and air freight, electrical parameters that must not be exceeded apply in particular to rechargeable devices and lithium-ion batteries. Especially when working on British construction sites, this means either using a special 110-volt drill from the outset or having a transformer with you that brings the voltage up to the German standard of 230 volts. “Of course, we always try to bring everything with us that is either difficult to get in the country or not available at all,” says Eric Ackermann.

In Singapore, for example, tools and sling gear must be certified in advance and marked with a specified color code. They are then subjected to regular inspections at the construction site. In Scandinavia, on the other hand, lifting gantries have to be fully functional even in the cold winter, which is why the hydraulic oil is replaced with a different viscosity. And crates shipped to Australia have to have a special wooden floor that prevents pests and germs from entering as stowaways.

No quarantine for tools

The current coronavirus pandemic is naturally also affecting the international operations of companies like SCHOLPP. “There’s so much that is unpredictable at the moment,” says the head of materials management, summarizing the current situation. At least it’s still possible to transport goods to their destinations even if the available capacities have decreased significantly. Then again, in contrast to SCHOLPP’s employees, tools do not have to be quarantined on arriving at the site.