As the Blade Turns
Revolving Wings (RW) is a Kalamazoo, Michigan, manufacturer
of equipment for the renewable energy sector. The company has a strong domestic
market for their fiberglass composite wind turbine blades. Still, RW has some
excess plant capacity and is investigating opportunities to enter the export
market. Demand for turbine blades is strong in India, where there is a strong
commitment to renewable energy, but a shortage of critical parts to meet the
growing need for power generating capacity.
During its annual executive retreat, exporting is a major
topic of discussion. After a presentation by the business development team and
a similar evaluation by an industry analyst, RW’s CEO sees the light. He
quickly becomes a strong proponent of selling wind turbine blades to a power
company near Bangalore, India. “Now all we have to do is figure out how to get
the blades there quickly and without damage,” says the CEO. “Thomas, get your
team on this one. I want some solid answers.”
Thomas Shelby, RW’s transportation director, knows this is a
big opportunity for the company but it comes with tremendous challenges.
Picking the right mode, finding ports that can handle the blades safely, and
routing the freight are just a few of the issues that keep Shelby awake the night
after the CEO tagged him to lead the “export to India” project.
At his next staff meeting, Shelby reminds his team: “These
blades can be up to 68 feet long and weigh 6 tons. We have to first get them
from the plant to the point of export. That’s not easy, since we need to plan
routes to avoid urban rush hours, sharp curves, narrow roads, and
“On top of those usual challenges, we have to find a
high-quality international carrier to get the blades to India,” Shelby adds.
“And don’t forget the port challenges and final delivery to Bangalore.”
Turning to you, Shelby says: “We need a plan of action for
the CEO by Friday. Don’t mess this up, our company’s fortunes are riding on
this export program.”
1. What are the major problems and pitfalls that RW faces as
it tries to go global with its product line?
2. What mode(s) of transportation would you recommend to
Shelby as most appropriate for moving the turbine blades domestically and
3. How would you route shipments of turbine blades from
Kalamazoo to Bangalore? Why?
4. What role will ports play in the flow of turbine blades
from the United States to India?