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BlueGrace Logistics

Industry Spotlight – George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner SpotlightOn July 13, 2010, longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died at the age of 80. What most people do not know about the man, who helped a then struggling major league baseball team become one of the most successful teams in history, is that his career began in the shipping industry. 

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Steinbrenner joined his family’s business, the Kinsman Marine Transit Company, shortly after graduating from Purdue University.

Steinbrenner was quite a force in his business dealings, working successfully to revitalize his family’s struggling company. One thing I believe is key when running a business is knowing which commodities are practical for the times and knowing the best way to maximize its profitability. Steinbrenner realized that Kinsman’s true potential lay in the transportation in grain over ore.

Investing in the different facets of an industry is also something I believe to be beneficial in expanding any business. After securing a gross annual income of 100 million dollars, Steinbrenner saw the potential for profit by investing in shipbuilding, acquiring the American Shipbuilding Company in the early 1960’s. In an effort to maximize cost effectiveness, Steinbrenner relocated all operations to Tampa, Florida in 1984. 

Anyone who has followed baseball for the past 40 years can attest to Steinbrenner’s knack for building success. Although some of his methods proved controversial it is undeniable that George Steinbrenner is undoubtedly someone to emulate.

– Jon Cuello, Partner Invoicing

More Trucks Means Better Prices…Hopefully

truck | freight | truckingAs many have noted, truckload capacity is a very interesting issue right now. The full truckload market is completely one-sided in favor of the driver and carrier. The economic downturn caused most trucking companies to cut down on their drivers and equipment with many even selling their trucks overseas. For those who like numbers, there is currently an average of 3.02 loads posted on DAT360 from Transcore for every one dry van truck available at any time. For flatbeds, the numbers get much worse with a current average of 23.95 loads posted for every one flatbed truck available.

As the economy has picked up, even though slightly, companies have started producing more. While this is great, it just adds to the existing capacity issues. The numbers above confirm the effect.These factors have caused truckload rates to reach all time highs. The increased demand combined with higher rates should incent companies to grow their fleets. According to a report from ACT Research, the orders for Class 8 commercial vehicles reached its highest point in June this year. Orders are up 93 percent over last year.  “Early second quarter reports from publicly traded truckload carriers confirm the improving freight transportation environment, as revenues and profits are up significantly from 2009,” said Steve Tam, vice president with ACT. “Overall orders are still below normal replacement levels, but momentum is building as trucker profitability improves,” added Tam.

Basic economics says that increased supply will help bring prices down in the near future. This is just another step in the right direction for all those working with full truckloads.  Those who have worked with BlueGrace Logistics on full truckloads have noticed that the pricing is at an all-time high and finding trucks has been extremely difficult. We have been working hard at finding trucks and developing relationships with many strong carriers, with nearly 100,000 trucks in our network. Through those relationships, we are starting to see that the capacity in a large group of our carrier network is opening up these past few weeks. Hopefully that trend will continue for our customers and us.

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

RFID Tag You’re It

Technology continues to evolve faster and faster and it is impacting every industry including transportation.  As someone who has spent their career working in the technology field, I strive to stay up to speed on the latest changes in technology, especially those that have a direct impact to my industry and me.  I see technology empowering businesses to become more efficient, secure, and more profitable.  Of course technology can bring new problems such as different security concerns but if developed and implemented correctly, the advantages can greatly outweigh the disadvantages.  One technology that has actually been around for a while but is beginning to be much more widely used is RFID.  RFID, which stands for Radio-Frequency-Identification, is the system that allows products to be identified and tracked with radio waves using a tag applied to the product and an external reader.

RFID is becoming more popular in the transportation industry by providing better efficiencies and security.  RFID can provide better security to help companies have more visibility of their shipments and detect any tampering with the shipping seal.  RFID can also help shipments gain green lane status while going through inspections.  Better security can also aid productivity as shipments spend less time in inspections and there are fewer chances of having problems in customs.  Productivity and efficiency can also be increased in other ways with RFID by providing better identification of shipments and fewer errors.  Companies can lose track of shipments in large warehouses or container yards when the ID numbers are written down incorrectly forcing staff to waste time searching for the lost shipment.  One company mentioned they have two to three employees searching for lost containers every day.  Even locations that use barcode technology to eliminate manual errors can increase efficiencies with RFID since it takes time to scan a barcode of each item whereas a RFID reader can identify all of the items at once allowing the employee to move onto to the next shipment much quicker.  RFID can also help improve a company’s profits by increasing customer satisfaction thereby increasing the chances of future purchases.  When shipping products to customers, mistakes can occur when the employee has to manually prepare the shipment and manually verify that the shipment is complete.  If the products contained RFID tags, the shipment could be verified against the order before leaving the facility that it is complete and contains the correct products ordered by that customer.

The examples above are just a few of how RFID can be used to improve business processes today and I’m sure we will continue to see new ways this technology can be used in the future.  The question is, how can RFID be used to improve your business?

Justin Belcher, Vice President of Technology
Follow me @JBelcherBG

How to Improve Yourself Professionally and Personally through Feedback

“Everybody needs feedback, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than paying a trainer.” Doug Lowenstein Upon brainstorming ideas on how to improve yourself both professionally and personally, I came across a common thread in all the training that I have done with various companies.  The one commonality is that each company required feedback.  One might ask, what is feedback? According to CBS Business Network, feedback is defined as “the communication of responses and reactions to proposals and changes, or of the findings of performance appraisals, with the goal of enabling improvements to be made. Feedback can be either positive or negative.”  Feedback should be encouraged within every organization on all levels even between managers and employees flowing not only downward but upward as well.  Everyone has things that they can improve upon, so why not get the specifics on how to do so from the ones that see you in action everyday, your coworkers.  

An  example of positive feedback, “John, I noticed how you were speaking to that customer, do you have a second to talk about it?”  Then, if John gives his permission that is the time to give your feedback. “John, I thought it was really great how you called the carrier for the customer to find out where their freight was and followed up with them until their freight made it to the end destination.  You did a really good job of reassuring the customer that the shipment would be on time.”  On the other end of the spectrum, some negative feedback would be, “Julie, I noticed when you were speaking to that prospect you weren’t really clear about the solutions we offer, do you have a second to discuss it?”  Once permission has been given, “Julie, when you were speaking to that prospect you weren’t really clear on how our transportation management system could benefit the customer.  Next time you should explain how it can integrate with their system, has the ability to create customized reporting, and automatically generates Bills of Lading.”

With the positive feedback, this encourages the employee/coworker to continue their excellent customer service, where as the negative feedback explains ways that the sales rep can make improvements.  Each form of feedback was both clear, concise, and detailed so that the receiver of the feedback knew exactly what the giver was referring to at the time.  You should also give feedback as soon as possible after the action you want to mention occurred and encourage the receiver to give you feedback as well.  This enables employees to make improvements both personally and professionally by engaging in open communication.  Do you encourage your employees to give each other feedback?  If so, how has this helped your organization to grow and develop your workforce?

2nd Annual ARM’s Away Golf Outing

As many of you are aware, last year we started an annual golf outing to honor my wife’s mother, Arlene Ruccio Meyer, who lost her life to breast cancer.  It’s tough to put into words how grateful we are for the amazing support we received and generosity we were shown by all who contributed.

I never actually had the opportunity to meet or know Arlene; however, I can only imagine the type of woman she was based on my blessed relationships with her husband, her son, and the love of my life, her daughter Sherri.  Every day I am so fortunate to share my life with the woman that Arlene helped create.  And for those that participated last year, I am confident that the day’s beautiful weather was a direct reflection of the happiness Arlene was feeling looking down on the start of something special.

At the time of Arlene’s passing in 1983, our technology was limited and the public’s awareness was nowhere near what it is today.  Although research has allowed us to make tremendous strides since then, we’re still far from a cure for breast cancer.  In fact, I’m sure each and every one of you knows someone who has been affected by this devastating disease.

This year, we were fortunate enough to go up to The Cancer Institute of New Jersey on Friday to present them with a check for $11,012.66.  Please see the above picture with Dr. Deborah Toppmeyer.  I can’t tell you how much praise we received for the large amount of money we raised for breast cancer research. 

– Jason Eckhardt, BlueGrace New Jersey

Meet Brent, Starting Fly Half and All Star Customer Service Rep

Brent Couffer

Brent Couffer began his career as a Customer Service Representative here at BlueGrace back in March of this year.  Brent’s role at BlueGrace is to provide the customer with top-level service by addressing any needs that may arise at any given time.  In fact, Brent even went as far as to email a customer back in forth late into the evening to ensure that a shipment was moved on time.  As Brent once told one of our inside sales rep’s, “You keep bringing in the customers and I’ll make sure that they are taken care of!” Brent’s favorite aspect of his job is putting smiles on people’s face and absorbing/learning as much as possible about the logistics industry and business in general. 

Prior to working at BlueGrace, Brent was a full time student at the University of South Florida (USF) where he studied Finance.  Oh yeah, let’s not forget to mention that he is the President and starting fly half for the USF Rugby Football team who are ranked fourth in the nation!!!  When Brent is not busy working and playing rugby, he enjoys spending time on the water in sunny Florida.  Also, he is one of our all stars on the BlueGrace Kickball Team.  If you have any questions or would like to contact Brent, please email bcouffer@mybluegrace.com or post a comment. You can also follow Brent on Twitter @BGWeezy.

Introducing Ben Dundas

Ben Dundas

BlueGrace would like to introduce you to Ben Dundas, our current Systems Analyst.  Ben graduated from the University of South Florida in 2009 and went on to work at Feed-a-Bull where he focused on web and art development.  Ben began working for BlueGrace back in February as an Inside Sales Representative and quickly transitioned to his current position as a Systems Analyst focusing on web development.  One of his current focuses is to improve the functionality and information on the website.  Another feature that has just been added to the website is live chat to improve our customer experience. 

Ben will be working diligently to meet all of the goals for the website.  Of course, when Ben is not working, he enjoys watching football and spending time with his family.  Ben’s favorite team is the Bucs; however, he is an avid USF Bulls fan.  In fact, Ben was on live national television 5 straight USF games in a row! That’s impressive!  In addition to sports, Ben also plays a major role in his fraternity Delta Chi. If you would like to contact Ben, please email bdundas@mybluegrace.com or submit a comment below. You can also follow him on Twitter @ben37dBG. Feel free to submit any website suggestions. Feedback is always appreciated!

Admitting you don’t know is better than pretending you do

In a service industry such as transportation and logistics, the three most powerful words a salesperson can say are “I don’t know.” Admitting that you don’t know everything about freight shipping is better than pretending you do.  As we grow we need to remind ourselves that although we strive to be experts in transportation, we never truly know everything.  There are several different types of customers out there. Mainly, the ones who know everything, the ones who know nothing, and the ones who think they know everything but they know nothing.

The customer who knows everything will tell you what they want, educate you, and you will earn their trust when you don’t insult them by pretending to know what you don’t. The customers who know nothing rely on you to get them the right information. They don’t want you to mislead them in attempts to earn a fast sale. And finally, the customers who think they know it all will never respect a sales rep that pretends to be something they are not. Nobody has ever had a problem with a sales rep telling them “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

The key to continued growth is forgetting what we think we know about our customers and continue to ask questions about their current service and their needs.  This is also true for prospects.  Once you hesitate to pick up the phone because you have already called someone ten times, you have failed.  Preconceived notions about customers as well as transportation carriers cause you to be complacent.  People, business practice, and customer’s happiness change daily. If you don’t have the determination to pick up the phone against your will, then you will miss out. 

Outside sales is no different; when you have gone through your territory ten times and think you know everything there is about each business, you have lost your edge.  You either have to have the determination to go back in to that business and treat it like you have never been there before, or have been hit in the head enough times like me that you really don’t remember being there.  Both will allow you to gain new opportunities. It is only when you can admit not only to others but to yourself that you do not know it all is when you can begin to learn it all!  

– Steve Hicks, Account Executive
Follow me @BG_Steve

Industry Spotlight – Fred Smith

fred smith | fedexHave you ever wondered what it takes to turn a business plan into a global success? I turn to Fred Smith, founder, president and CEO of FedEx.

It is well understood that FedEx is a leading name in logistics. I attribute its phenomenal growth over the past four decades to what Smith values as some of the most important fundamentals in building a business. Those are constant innovation, development of crucial business strategies and ensuring mutual respect between management and employees. These are fundamentals that I consider to the building blocks of any successful organization, including the one in which I work.

It was as an undergraduate at Yale University where Smith first proposed his business plan for FedEx in the form of a term paper, outlining his strategy to develop an overnight delivery service in a computer age. Ironically, he received a grade of C and was told it would not work. His professor clearly did not see the greater potential of the intangibles. 

Smith did not let this deter his plans for his future. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, he joined the United States Marine Corps in 1966. It was here where he studied military logistics, observing procurement and delivery procedures. Additionally, his relationship with Lieutenant Colonel William V. Cowan would eventually assist Smith in FedEx’s Middle East expansion. 

Smith founded FedEx in 1971 with an initial investment of 4 million dollars. Over the next forty years, he would turn his dream into a global transportation powerhouse, commanding over 30 billion dollars a year in revenue, employing 280,000 people worldwide, serving over 200 countries and dispatching more than 8 million shipments a day. 

Perhaps most important to Smith is his relationship with his employees and how he views them as an integral part of FedEx’s success. Ensuring loyalty to the business by fostering strong relationships amongst personnel at all levels is something he considers critical to a successful business and something that all businesses should hope to achieve. These are the intangibles his Yale professor seemed to have missed. People are the single greatest asset in any organization. With one as successful as FedEx, it is clear that Fred Smith has always subscribed to that philosophy. That is what it takes to turn a business plan into a global success.

– Jon Cuello, Partner Invoicing

Making Yourself Invaluable

My brother works for a company with over 13 billion in annual revenue (not freight or LTL related).  Last week he was interviewing for a big internal promotion.  His company only promotes from within and it was down to him versus one other manager.  His overall net impact and performance far outweighed that of the other manager; however, he was not selected for the promotion.

They explained to him that although he has been extremely successful at all of his positions held at the company, the other candidate had experience within one vital division of the company that he didn’t, one in which they are focusing on heavily.  What my brother asked to do though was interesting. Instead of simply staying in his comfort zone, continuing his existing position and waiting for the next opportunity for a promotion, he requested and was granted a lateral move to managing this part of the business, which he didn’t have any experience.  Frustrating as it might have been he understood that he needed this experience and will quickly grow from it.

This is a great example of why cross training is so important.  If you want to excel within your company, you should EMBRACE every opportunity to LEARN everything you can about every part of your organization.  The more people come to you to ask for answers and rely on you, the more invaluable you become.

Cross training falls almost exactly in line with Best in Class posted yesterday.  It’s something that a lot of the time you have to proactively ask to do or ask to learn.  When you get a question that you don’t know the answer to, ask yourself, am I passing along something that might be easy for me to learn? Is this something I’ve been asked before? Is this something that might be beneficial for me to understand? Could this come in handy in the future? Is this something that’s an important part of our company?  If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, take a minute to find out the answer, to learn how to do it, or to learn about that part of your company.  Also, when you have the opportunity, proactively talk to people who you work for and ask them questions about the company you don’t know the answers to.  I love it when people ask me forward thinking and strategic questions.  It shows that people care and want to learn.

Having a working knowledge of every piece of your operation and best practices is a key part of making yourself invaluable.  How valuable are you?

Magnus Edling, VP of Business Development

Customer Service with a Smile

I wanted to take some time to give my personal input on customer service in the freight business. In my 5 years in this industry, I have learned that no matter how great your prices are or how great your TMS works, it is service that will help you keep and grow your business.

I have worked in other service industries as a sales representative. It doesn’t matter what your title is, you always need to let your customers know that you are here to help them. They always need to feel like they are the most important person you will talk to that day. Providing this level of service keeps your customers happy and reduces attrition.  They will know that if something goes wrong with a shipment that you will solve their problem. 

I have seen other sales and customer service representatives get upset with a customer that is asking questions. Just put yourself in their shoes! Questions are just another way for people to learn about your company. It is another chance for you to show why you are different. Customers have a lot of choices for their transportation needs. If you cannot do the job, they will find someone else who will.  I say if you greet the customer with good cheer, ask plenty of questions, try to solve their problem and always provide service with a smile that you will have a customer for life.

– Juan Ortiz, Customer Service Representative

What do you do for a living?

What do you do for a living?

This is a pretty common question when being introduced to new people.  I work for a logistics company, so how should I answer?

Am I in shipping? No, not really.

Do I work for a computer company? That’s not entirely correct either.

Here is my typical answer: “I help manufacturers and distributors optimize their processes to efficiently distribute their products by using our technology.”  Sounds long-winded, right?

Oh, so you are in shipping?Well, it’s not that easy. 

The reason why I love my job and find it so interesting is because of its intricacies.  Good logistics companies do not just provide a website or help you select a trucking company; they become your business partner.  They work with you to determine where the current inefficiencies are in the shipping process. Then, they set goals to help you improve those processes and allow you to focus on your business.  A good logistics company will show you how to control your soft and hard costs and implement strategies to grow your bottom-line.  While technology is important to this process, it really takes a consultant to bring it all together. 

Is your distribution process optimized? Would costs actually go down if your distribution centers were located eslewhere?  Are your customers moving and thereby creating additional costs for you to service them? Are your customers ordering in too small a quantity to reduce shipping costs? Could you affect this by offering inducements to change their ordering patterns?  These are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed.

So I ask,  “What do you do for a living?”

– Vanessa Castillo, Account Executive
Follow me @Vanessa_BGmgnr

Meet Juan Ortiz

 

This week’s employee spotlight is on Juan Ortiz, a customer service representative here at BlueGrace’s corporate office.  The very first time meeting Juan, you would immediately be impressed with his passion for life and his caring for others.  To say that Juan is just “a customer service representative” is a complete understatement.  From the minute the BlueGrace customer calls in and speaks with Juan, they get to experience what we like to call “The BlueGrace Difference.”  Juan gets to know each one of the customers on a personal level whether it is teaching them something in Spanish (Did I forget to mention that he is also Bilingual!) or them teaching him something like how to speak with a Southern draw. Juan takes care of each customer as if they were a personal friend and goes above and beyond to put even the angriest customer at ease.  He might tell them a joke to make them laugh or even say something as simple as please and thank you. 
 


Juan has been with BlueGrace for just shy of 4 months.  He comes to BlueGrace with a smile on his face everyday and possesses a drive that is unsurpassable.  Prior to working for BlueGrace, Juan was a Warehouse Manager for Argix Direct for two years.  Juan joined BlueGrace with a working knowledge of the logistics industry.  Prior to his logistics experience, Juan was a police officer for 10 years.  When Juan is not striving to meet his many goals, he enjoys Latin dancing.  His Latin flair and his overwhelming exuberance are simply infectious here at BlueGrace.  BlueGrace is proud to have Juan as a team member!  If you would like to contact him, please email jortiz@mybluegrace.com or simply post a comment.

Forecast looks good while capacity issues remain

While I was looking through various news and updates in the industry, I found the new forecast for the transportation industry through 2021. The American Trucking Association produced the report and the outlook looks great for the transportation industry as a whole. Capacity however remains an issue that will escalate due to the new CSA 2010. One of the unintended consequences of the CSA 2010 is many drivers will not be able to comply with the new safety  regulations and many carriers will not be able to afford the qualified drivers.

The forecast shows projections for all modes of freight transportation. Railroads are expected to have a small drop in tonnage while Air Cargo tonnage is expected to increase. The trucking industry is expected to show steady growth over the next 11 years with tonnage moving from 68% to just under 71%. Last year trucks captured 81% of the freight revenue. While the recession has hit trucking very hard the last 2 years, this year is starting off very strong and the future looks bright. 

The ATA article, along with the link to the actual report can be found here: http://www.truckline.com/pages/article.aspx?id=718%2F%7b8E1C7279-ED27-4C03-B189-CEEEE26BBB12%7d

The information on the new Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 can be found at their website: http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

BlueGrace Logistics is the latest company to take advantage of the convenience offered by Apple iPhone applications

 

The introduction of the BlueGrace Mobile Freight Optimizer will allow customers to access rate quotes in real time as well as calculate freight rates and transit times for free.

Since its inception, BlueGrace has received over 400 download requests for the application by customers, sales representatives and shipping clerks, all of whom are delighted by the simplicity and ease of accessing shipping information with just a few keystrokes.

Bobby Harris, President and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, says he believes that simplicity is the future of freight transport.

 “The freight industry is traditionally complex, and we’ve removed the difficulty factor with a functional and efficient solution.”

To access the application for free, enter the keyword “freight” in the Apple iPhone App Store.

transportation app | iphone app

BlueGrace Logistics assists relief effort in Haiti

haiti relief | support for haiti

In partnership with Help Brings Hope for Haiti, Inc., BlueGrace is using its expertise in freight transport to organize a charitable truckload that will send clothing, food and medical equipment to the survivors of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

“This type of action supports our mission statement to create an enduring and people-centered culture,” said Account Manager David Inzerillo. “It makes us an intricate part of the community.”

Help Brings Hope for Haiti