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What Can Shippers Do To Stay Competitive?

The e-commerce boom has no doubt stimulated economies internationally, driving demand for consumer goods and creating jobs in its wake. Logistics companies and carriers have celebrated the phenomenon. After all, growth in consumer demand means growth in demand for transportation services and invariably juicier bottom lines. Right?

Actually, the story doesn’t quite follow the Economy 101 text book’s narrative of what happens when an uptick in demand occurs. Real world factors have made the equation more complicated. The trucking sector of the logistics industry experienced this boom firsthand — ground carriers seeing massive growth in demand for the transportation of smaller loads, characteristic of e-commerce cargo. So, what is the downside?

While ground carriers should be reporting their best quarters on record, they are instead coming face to face with a serious problem: meeting the demands of their customers.

The trucking capacity shortage. There is simply not enough capacity to go around. While ground carriers should be reporting their best quarters on record, they are instead coming face to face with a serious problem: meeting the demands of their customers. As a result, shippers are forced to be more competitive about reserving trucking capacity, and the price of that capacity has risen substantially. This economic situation is the reverse of what was happening in recent years when carriers were scaling down their fleets, holding off and making any orders of new trucks in the face of overabundant capacity. Now, carriers are putting in orders all at once due to an uptick in demand experienced in both land and air freight, that commenced during the first half of 2017.

How are shippers being affected? 

Shippers are experiencing the shortage of capacity in raised shipping rates. The script has flipped on them; instead of being able to shop around for the best package deal on their ground transportation needs, they are instead experiencing limited options for their needs at higher prices. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the effect of the trucking capacity shortage on shippers, referencing that last year, transportation costs rose 7% for U.S. businesses, a substantial increase compared to the 4% average over the last five years ended in 2017. This data was originally reported by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ annual State of Logistics Report. The rise in costs are not likely to be temporary. This means shippers will have to adjust to new tighter margins, allocating more of their budget to transportation costs. For some, this difference could mean being nudged out of the market, especially considering that the shortage is only forecasted to increase. 

What is causing the shortage? 

Growth in demand is one half of the coin that is the shortage in truck capacity. The other half is the shortage of truck drivers, which is a multi-faceted issue in itself. Until innovations like drones and autonomous vehicles become real-world technologies, which are still a long ways from hitting the market, there is no getting around the fact that truck drivers are crucial to the supply chain.  The driver shortage is not a cyclical issue that will decrease or stabilize anytime soon, according to experts. The U.S. saw a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers at the end of 2017, according to the Washington Post’s sources, up from a shortage of 36,000 the year before, and according to NASDAQ: CNBC, the shortage is actually going to triple in the next decade if nothing changes. The acquisition of a trucking license takes only a few weeks. Even though drivers are now being offered upwards of $80,000 yearly salaries, and some in the six-figure range, low barriers to entry and high salaries are not enough to attract enough drivers for a combination of reasons. So, why can’t ground carriers find enough manpower to keep up with demand?  

Electronic logging devices 

The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has caused some controversy in the industry. Truck drivers and CEOs alike have opinions on both side of the fence, as to whether or not the federal requirement of the implementation of ELDs is a good idea. 

While it’s true that truck driving deaths have increased over the last decade, the drivers themselves don’t necessarily appreciate the new, digitized version of hour logging.

The mandate was established to hold drivers more accountable for accurately recording their hours in hopes that fewer accidents and fatalities would occur as a result of fatigue from overworking. While it’s true that truck driving deaths have increased over the last decade, the drivers themselves don’t necessarily appreciate the new, digitized version of hour logging. Executives are also apprehensive about the mandate because of the high cost of implementation, the associated learning curve and the hiccups that come along with it. Many believe that the ELD mandate has been a major cause in deterring truck drivers from continuing their careers in the field, due to a perceived distrust or disrespect of privacy. 

Public perception & lifestyle 

Outside of the ELD mandate, experts also think that a low public perception of truck driving is causing a low rate of entry to the career. As the older generation of drivers begins to retire, they are not being replaced with a younger generation as quickly as demand for capacity needs.  The lifestyle associated with being a driver includes sleeping on the road, long hours, and many nights spent away from family.  

With the younger generation pursuing higher education at higher rates than ever before and unemployment being at a low right now, the workforce is not gravitating toward trucking, despite the appeal of high pay. 

While the wages seem like they should be attractive to younger generations entering the workforce, it seems that lifestyle may be another deterrent. With the younger generation pursuing higher education at higher rates than ever before and unemployment being at a low right now, the workforce is not gravitating toward trucking, despite the appeal of high pay. 

What can shippers do to stay competitive? 

As industry leaders work to find solutions to attract more truck drivers, many companies are rethinking their supply chains in order to prepare for a continued more expensive freight market. This means optimizing inefficiencies wherever possible in order to compensate for the greater expense by minimizing costs where you can. Shippers can implement strategies like defining business rules around factors like weight, volume, time constraints, and cargo sensitivity of their shipments in order to gain a strong understanding of what their actual costs are and where there is an opportunity to minimize them. 

Investing in software that will allow you to purchase capacity and plan your shipments can be the make-or-break factor in a highly competitive environment.

Investing in software that will allow you to purchase capacity and plan your shipments can be the make-or-break factor in a highly competitive environment. BlueGrace’s proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. To speak to one of our experts and find out more about BlueGrace and how we can help provide you with the solution to your supply chain needs, fill out the form below or contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING.

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Growing A Green Supply Chain

“Going Green” has been an action catchphrase for just about every industry over the past decade. Consumers laud companies that put out green initiatives or take other steps that make their company run cleaner and help slow some of the daily damage caused to the environment. Yet despite all the happy little symbols and environmentally friendly packaging, many companies aren’t really concerned about it. Off the record, some companies will admit that they don’t think the effort is actually necessary and that their company is running just fine the way it is. A more common opinion is that even if global warming is a real danger, that it’s simply cost prohibitive to make any drastic or long-lasting changes to their operations.

There is something of a disparity between consumer idealism and what a corporation deems as necessary. Moreover, it creates an argument between the two. The need to protect the planet, and a corporation’s responsibility to create paying jobs for the general public while providing affordable goods and services. 

The Lesser of Two Evils 

Even for the corporations and manufacturers that realize the need for environmental sustainability, there is a need to continue to manage their supply chains in such a way as to sustain their own business. This creates a rift between corporate and consumer. A good example of this was when NGO ForestEthics released a report that slammed retailers and logistics providers alike for using companies who fueled fleet trucks with diesel that was created with bitumen sands from Alberta which causes a considerable strain on the environment 

Even when companies are trying to do the right thing, it’s never so cut and dry, leaving them handling the proverbial double-edged sword.  

Alberta’s government, however, countered with statistics showing the number of jobs created by the oil sand farming as well as the overall economic contribution that came from the operation. Walmart also came up against a consumer conscious hardship in the effort to take steps towards sustainability. In 2015, the retail giant developed a seafood certification plan that was intended to promote ocean sustainability. The environmentalist group, Greenpeace, said that Walmart’s efforts weren’t enough, whereas the Alaskan fishermen that were providing the seafood said that the requirements were too much to handle. Even when companies are trying to do the right thing, it’s never so cut and dry, leaving them handling the proverbial double-edged sword.  

A Matter of Cost 

Why should a company go the extra mile to make sure they’re going green if the consumer isn’t willing to meet them at the checkout line?  

Speaking of the double-edged sword, there’s also the cost to be concerned with. While the general consumer consensus says that they would like everything to be sustainably sourced and environmentally friendly, the truth of the matter is that most consumers don’t want to pay the extra costs associated with it. So that begs the question, is environmental sustainability really worth the effort? Why should a company go the extra mile to make sure they’re going green if the consumer isn’t willing to meet them at the checkout line?  

Three Big Reasons to Go Green 

According to Yossi Sheffi, the Director of the MIT Center for Logistics and Transportation, there are actually three big reasons why companies should continue to make the effort to become sustainable. Risk mitigation, cost-cutting, and hedging. “Regardless of the degree to which company executives believe in the threat of climate change or the ravages of environmental degradation, many of their customers do, and they need to respond to these beliefs (even though the same customers are not likely to be willing to pay more for sustainable products). If they don’t, they risk incurring the wrath of NGOs and the media, leading to reputation damage,” Director Sheffi explains. In terms of cutting costs, Mr. Sheffi explains that green initiatives can help to reduce supply chain costs. “An example is how reducing the number of empty miles can shrink a company’s carbon footprint and capture cost savings in freight transportation. Retailer Macy’s eliminated 21% of empty miles and saved about $1.75 million annually by joining a program that posts retailers’ empty miles and finds shippers that can take advantage of the unused truck capacity.” 

Millennial consumers tend to be more environmentally conscious than the baby boomer generation of consumers, and these convictions may shape future markets.

Hedging is also a big reason to start planning and initiating green operations. Given that the generational dynamic is moving away from the baby boomers and into the millennials, there is going to be a change in consumer taste and demand. “Millennial consumers tend to be more environmentally conscious than the baby boomer generation of consumers, and these convictions may shape future markets.” Sheffi explains that the Clorox Company actually lost money with their green initiative “Green Works.” It was a small, environmentally friendly product line, that didn’t fare too well in the market but in exchange, the chemical company learned a lot about the manufacturing and marketing of such products.  

It’s Not Easy Being Green  

Finding the right balance between green practices and practical manufacturing is easier said than done. In the case of Clorox, they had to lose money to learn a valuable lesson. But not all initiatives are a loss for the company. Campbells Soup, for example, managed to change their packaging process which cut waste and saved them a good bit of money in exchange.  

Companies really have to examine their operation and decide which is the best course of action to take for manufacturing and the transportation of their goods, start to finish. In this, the ultimate intentions aren’t really what’s important. Even if a company tweaks their supply chain just to be more efficient and ends up cutting down on carbon emissions, the end result is a net win, both for the environment as well as the profit margin.  

 Improving the supply chain is not only a great way to lessen the carbon footprint, but improve operational efficiency and profits.

With better efficiency comes a reduced impact on the environment. As the supply chain is the industry heavy hitter for greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, improving the supply chain is not only a great way to lessen the carbon footprint, but improve operational efficiency and profits. This is where a 3PL like BlueGrace can help. BlueGrace specializes in identifying weak spots in the supply chain and provide a holistic solution, making your supply chain run as smooth and efficient as possible. To find out more about how we can help you improve efficiency, reduce cost, and simplify your supply chain, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today!

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Chilled Supply Chains

While most supply chains operate on the assumption that if the freight is frozen, something has gone terribly awry. However, some goods need to be kept on ice in order to maintain freshness and comply with food safety regulations.  

Much the same as any other supply chain, however, cold and frozen supply chains are also subject to the laws of demand. For example, there are roughly 2.5 billion pounds of beef stockpiled in U.S. cold storage facilities as a result of trade regulations and tariffs set forth by the Trump administration.  

Here are some interesting cold storage stats provided by Quartz 

49 million: Pounds of butter in US cold storage in July 1918 

310 million: Pounds of butter in cold storage in July 2018 

3.6 billion: Cubic feet of cold storage space in the United States 

36 million: Temperature-controlled square feet at 2800 Polar Way in Richmond, Washington, the largest cold storage warehouse in North America 

$28 billion: The projected value of China’s cold chain market in 2025 

25%: The growth rate of India’s cold chain industry 

$24 million: The cost of two refrigerators for Air Force One, which must carry 3000 meals in case of an emergency. 

A Brief History of Cold Supply Chains 

Refrigeration was brought about in the United States in the late 1800s. Originally it was thought that warehouse owners were using cold storage to scam consumers by stockpiling fruits in order to control pricing. However, that notion was quickly set to the side and by the mid-20th century, refrigerated transportation had changed the nature of the supply chain and access to proteins and rarer produce to the average consumer.

As the middle class continues to grow in developing countries, the demand for reefer transport is rising.

Refrigerated shipping containers, “reefer units” were originally invented in the 1950’s and are still used to haul approximately 90 percent of the world’s food trade. As the middle class continues to grow in developing countries, the demand for reefer transport is rising. Anything from food to pharmaceuticals relies on reefer units as these goods make their way around the world.   

How a Cold Chain Works 

There are a number of different goods that utilize chilled transport: meats, produce, flowers, pharmaceuticals, even transplant organs. While the exact practice varies from product to product the general practice remains the same. Quartz details the step by step for produce.    

  • The first step is pre-cooling: Getting the harvest from the field to on-site cold storage. A one-hour delay in hot weather means one day less of shelf life at the store. There are a lot of methods, from the simple (shade, spraying water) to the sophisticated (vacuum cooling). 
  • Then it’s into the reefer. An automated system can fill a truck in 10–15 minutes. 
  • Next, it moves to a cold storage facility, which is just a giant warehouse with lots of metal shelves. Here’s what an automated one looks like. 
  • After that, it’s back to the reefer and to the store, where fresh fruit and vegetables are taking up an increasing amount of space. 
  • Finally, it’s moved out to the display case, where fresh-cut produce has to be maintained between 32℉ and 41℉, a tricky physics problem. 

Of course, with more stringent requirements from the FDA, containers have to get smarter as well as the supply chain. One such adaptation is reefer containers that can monitor temperature data in real time. This allows suppliers to monitor and prove that their produce or other temperature sensitive goods have been within acceptable thresholds for the duration of the trip.   

Blockchain is expected to play a big role in the future for preventing expired or mishandled food from reaching customers.

Another advancement links that container to data systems, specifically blockchain data, which provides a more or less permanent snapshot into the entire life cycle of the product. There are a number of major players in the food industry including Walmart and Nestle that have had a bad rap for bad food. Blockchain is expected to play a big role in the future for preventing expired or mishandled food from reaching customers. “You’re capturing real-time data at every point, on every single food product,” says Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, which leads the effort. “It’s the equivalent of FedEx tracking for food.” 

One of the biggest advantages to using blockchain for food item supply chains is that the data can’t be faked, changed, or altered. Once the data is in, it’s in for good since blockchain databases work peer to peer instead of being housed on a single server. Additionally, because of the shared nature of the data, it can actually help to cut down on operation costs, by eliminating the need for data silos and processing.  Should a food issue arise, the process of tracking down not only the spoiled goods, but the location and other goods that might have been contaminated from the same source can be tracked down in minutes, rather than weeks, which helps protect not only the consumers but the retailer selling the products.  

How Can I Simplify My Freight Needs? 

This is just one example of the diverse nature of the supply chain and highlights the need for agility, visibility, and flexibility to make it all work. At BlueGrace, we help our customers navigate through the constant changes the industry brings. No matter the situation, we can help simplify your freight needs. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak with a representative today! 

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Controlling Costs and Preventing Accessorial Loss

Controlling costs is critical for any business to be successful. When working with a supply chain, the more complex it is, the more chances there are for additional costs and surcharges, any of which can cost your company a great deal of extra money.

They are any freight services that go beyond the normal scope of pickup and delivery.  

Accessorial charges are a particular type of surcharge. They are any freight services that go beyond the normal scope of pickup and delivery. This can include inside or special delivery charges, waiting or detention time, fuel surcharges, storage fees, and many others. Given the way the freight market is changing, especially due to the rise and continual growth of e-commerce, many companies are looking to a more specialized version of last mile delivery as customers want their products sooner rather than later. The “white glove” last mile service, while costly, is growing increasingly important as customer service is becoming one of the last true differentiators among the competition.  

In our webinar, we covered the basics and most common questions of accessorial charges which include:  

  • What are accessorials? 
  • How do they affect cost? 
  • How do they affect supply chain efficiency? 
  • How can we mitigate problems? 
  • How do we know if we have a problem? 

Consumers want their product today, that means that retailers want it delivered, checked in, and on the shelf yesterday.

Logistics and supply chain management has become a very tight game, almost cutthroat in its harsh severity. Consumers want their product today, that means that retailers want it delivered, checked in, and on the shelf yesterday. With the ability to order just about anything a consumer could possibly want from the vast online marketplace, brick and mortar retailers have to run an even tighter ship than they have before if they have any hopes of competing. To that end, some retailers are upping the ante and doling out punishment for shippers who aren’t in compliance.  

What Are Accessorials?  

As we mentioned above, accessorials are extra charges associated with freight delivery that fall outside simple pick up and delivery. We gave a few examples above, but those are by no means the only accessorial charges that you could be stuck paying. Here are some other types of common accessorial charges.  

  • Reweigh 
  • Limited Access 
  • Liftgate 
  • Residential delivery 
  • Appointment / Notify 
  • Sort & Segregate 
  • Hazardous Materials  
  • Trade Show Delivery  

While inaccurate weighing of freight could be a result of an honest mistake, the cost of that mistake can add up quickly.

It’s important to control and monitor as many of these as possible to help control costs. Consider reweigh charges for example. When a carrier weighs freight and compares the actual weight to what’s listed on the bill of lading, the difference can be instantly tacked on to the invoice. For shipments that are 50 pounds or more over what the bill of lading states, there is a $25.00 validation fee as well as an increase to shipping costs. Additionally, all freight fees, fuel surcharge fees, and any other applicable accessorial fees will be adjusted accordingly. While inaccurate weighing of freight could be a result of an honest mistake, the cost of that mistake can add up quickly.

How Accessorial Fees can Affect Your Supply Chain  

One way to better control accessorial charges is to have a more efficient and agile supply chain. Detention fees are a prime example of where efficiency pays off. For the LTL market, every shipment has a set amount of free time per stop before the charges start being applied. While this is based on weight, meaning that heavier shipments have more time, it can be hard to gauge just how long each stop is going to take which leaves your company exposed to detention fees.  

Another thing to consider is that the ELD mandate severely limits the amount of working time a driver has available. The longer it takes to load and unload freight can cause delivery delays and will ultimately increase the price of a shipment. Once you start adding detention fees onto the bill it can quickly become more expensive than you were initially anticipating. 

It’s critical to have your supply chain running smoothly and efficiently.

Because of this, it’s critical to have your supply chain running smoothly and efficiently. Not only does it increase the chances that you will make your delivery schedule, but having a more efficient operation makes you a more attractive customer to carriers (which increases the likelihood of getting the capacity you need) as well as helping to control shipping costs.  

Learn More About How You Can Manage Accessorial Charges   

When it comes to controlling costs, the more you understand about extra fees the better off you’ll be. Because many of these accessorial charges can compound and complicate others, it’s important to understand the full workings of your supply chain and identify any potential problems before they arise.  

The truth of the matter is that the more you understand your freight and the way your carrier works, the more accessorial fees you can either reduce or negate entirely. Many of these fees won’t even enter into the picture so long as the shipper is taking the time to make sure they’re doing things right. Doing this means preventing the issue before it even begins. On the other hand, if your freight invoice is coming as a bit of a shock, it might be time to take a closer look at the surcharges and determine what you can you do to correct the issue.  

Ultimately, everything we covered in the webinar is about helping your company to manage these fees and perform better across the board. From internal operations to external executions, everything is connected and we break it down for you. Watch the full webinar to learn more about how you can be successful!

If you would like to speak to one of our freight experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below:

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The Importance of Retail Compliance in Today’s Market

Logistics and supply chain management has become a very tight game, almost cutthroat in its harsh severity. Consumers want their product today, that means that retailers want it delivered, checked in, and on the shelf yesterday. With the ability to order just about anything a consumer could possibly want from the vast online marketplace, brick and mortar retailers have to run an even tighter ship than they have before if they have any hopes of competing. To that end, some retailers are upping the ante and doling out punishment for shippers who aren’t in compliance.

So what can you do to maintain retail compliance? What about improving your operations to make your company more efficient? We covered these and many more topics in a recent webinar including:

  • Weekly Product Planning
  • Proactively Managing Appointments
  • Planning Optimal Shipping Dates
  • Eliminate Reactive Shipping
  • Creating an Internal Scorecard
  • Learning to identify Real Issues and Actionable Items
  • Improving Communication and Cooperation among Multiple Departments
  • Daily Tracking Updates
  • Full Visibility on Actual Deliveries
  • Learning to Identify Preferred Carriers
  • Utilize Upgraded Carrier Service Levels

Here are some of the key highlights from our webinar that can really have an impact on your business. While this doesn’t cover everything, these elements are vital to running a successful business in today’s marketplace.

Visibility is a Must

One of the key points that the webinar focuses on is visibility. Keeping up with retail compliance is more than just making delivery deadlines. The amount of disruptive technologies and customer expectations hitting the field requires a level of visibility that was, until recently, unheard of.

Customers want to know where their product is during transit. They want to be able to track its progress, start to finish until the product is in their control. More than that, they want to know the status of the product itself during transit. While this might not matter quite so much for clothing and other domestic goods, it plays a huge role for sensitive goods such as electronics and food items.

Being caught out of compliance could result in more than just heavy fines, it could result in a total shutdown of business and operations, which is ruinous for smaller companies.

Earlier this year, the FDA passed the Food Safety Modernization (FSM) act which details the requirements for sanitation, cleanliness, and closely monitored temperature control. Being caught out of compliance could result in more than just heavy fines, it could result in a total shutdown of business and operations, which is ruinous for smaller companies. This is one of many reasons why visibility is so vital to companies in their day to day operations.

OTIF and MABD Requirements

Walmart, one of the biggest retailers in the United States, is just one of many companies that are tightening their expectations for their suppliers. Walmart’s On-Time In-Full (OTIF) policy has set a precedent that will actually fine shippers and suppliers if goods don’t arrive when they are supposed, whether that be early or late. This means that shippers and carriers need to work closely together to hit the designated delivery window.

Must Arrive By Date (MABD) and OTIF are crucial for the changing client expectations.

Must Arrive By Date (MABD) and OTIF are crucial for the changing client expectations. Given that Walmart is such a substantial customer for many suppliers in the United States, making deliveries on time and in full is the difference between making a tidy profit, or losing out on a major customer. Additionally, chargebacks could carry a heavy fine, especially for smaller companies. As it stands, Walmart will penalize shippers by 3 percent of the total PO for any late or incomplete shipments. It’s not just Walmart that’s stepping up the regulations either as more companies continue to tighten their delivery windows.

We covered the importance of having someone managing these new requirements as well as questions that need to be answered. Are shipping dates being planned into production times? If there’s a mistake resulting in a delayed shipment, will you be able to identify where the mistake happened? What plans are there in place to reduce potential chargebacks and improve vendor reliability?

Better Planning Means Better Compliance

Planning is a large part of logistics, and being able to enhance planning is another touchstone of what we covered in our Retail Compliance Webinar. For example, what do you do if a truck breaks down while en route to a delivery? Is your company able to catch it with enough time to make the deadline? What about finding carriers with an open capacity to move product? Is your company able to find space, even when capacity gets tight?

These are a few questions that logistics planners and decision makers need to be asking themselves on a regular basis. Reactive shipping, planning a shipment due to a shortcoming of the original agreement, is a risky practice. There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re already trying to play catch up. Much like maintenance on a piece of machinery, waiting for something to break is always much worse than fixing something before the breakdown actually occurs.

While there are a considerable number of possibilities to consider when trying to be proactive rather than reactive, it’s becoming easier to be proactive with the advancements of visibility and supplemental technologies.

The supply chain is very much the same. It requires a good deal of forethought to keep it flowing smoothly. If, for example, you don’t have a dedicated carrier fleet, will you have the necessary capacity to keep freight moving in a timely fashion? While there are a considerable number of possibilities to consider when trying to be proactive rather than reactive, it’s becoming easier to be proactive with the advancements of visibility and supplemental technologies.

That level of planning is no longer a novelty or a nicety for customers. It’s becoming a requirement as well as a differentiator among suppliers. Companies who are playing it too conservatively will have a harder time meeting retail compliance than companies who are staying abreast of the changes as they occur.

Staying Compliant

Changes in transportation regulations, tightening capacity, new technology hitting the market, higher spot rates and higher levels of demand from customers and consumers. Any one of these can be hard to navigate by itself, but trying to deal with all of it at the same time can border on the impossible.

Ultimately, everything we covered in our webinar is about helping your company to stay compliant and perform better across the board. From internal operations to external executions. Everything is connected and we broke it down for you. Click HERE to watch our webinar about retail compliance and learn more about how you can be successful. Ready to speak to an expert? Fill out the form below or call us at 800.MYSHIPPING

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What is Transportation Management Workflow and How Does It Work?

Transportation Management Workflow may be defined as a supply chain workflow that connects and links the various parties involved along the chain from, for example, the seller’s warehouse to the buyer’s warehouse. A professional and effective logistics services provider needs to have an efficient transportation management workflow which follows a logical sequence and has the most effective operational procedures. 

One of the primary requirements would be to operate an effective TMS or Transportation Management System. 

One of the primary requirements would be to operate an effective TMS or Transportation Management System.  The TMS used should be capable of handling various aspects of transport management including needs assessment, effective analysis, integration and management in addition to providing you visibility on inbound products, receiving, storing and distribution. An effective TMS will provide comprehensive data analysis on the current shipping costs and processes which offers you an opportunity to compare your costs and processes versus what is available in the market. 

These analyses can help you optimize your supply chain process and also provide overall cost reduction. Your TMS must also be capable of handling pick and pack operations, product consolidation, replenishment and also final distribution and delivery to the receiver. 

A well designed and effective TMS is of paramount importance in:
  • Reducing freight costs
  • Automating the routing and other internal processes
  • Consolidation
  • Freight audit
  • Improving visibility
  • Tracking costs and delivery

Using your transportation management workflow, you can analyze important business metrics such as class and weight breaks, shipment density heat maps, cost/ton and cost/mile metrics, carrier utilization reports, DC optimization results, on-time performance. 

An effective transportation management workflow will also be able to make recommendations on ways of reducing costs, identifying and controlling the costs per client which will also uncover inefficiencies, if any, in your business model. For example, you may be using antiquated routing methods with your current service providers that need some modernization in order to provide you with a more cost-efficient transportation management program. By conducting engineering reviews into your customer’s data, you will be able to identify inefficiencies within the existing strategy and adopt a more dynamic carrier routing which can result in significant cost savings and reduction in transit time. 

The transportation management workflow must always be evolving as trade is dynamic and there must be constant workflow audits along the various silos within the supply chain.

Tracking and tracing is an essential and vital part of the transportation management workflow

Tracking and tracing is an essential and vital part of the transportation management workflow and the TMS used should be suitably equipped to handle this vital component in the flow. 

While everyone likes to handle their own business especially if you are in the transportation business, sometimes it may just be more cost effective to outsource the transportation portion of the whole supply chain workflow. One needs to do extensive and thorough data analysis of all current costs within the transportation and logistics silos. Such analysis will allow you the opportunity to find ways to save money for your customers but also provide efficiency in operations. An efficient way to reduce costs would also be to negotiate accessorial charges because the various carriers may have different container sizes and types that they use for the transportation.  

You can also use the TMS to plan warehouse spatial planning as your business may need to accommodate various sizes and weights of cargoes arriving in LTL or FTL modes. Using the TMS effectively will also assist in reducing the truck loading and turn around times which in turn will reduce the warehouse overheads in terms of staff overtime, etc. It may also be used to consolidate the booking processes which in turn will result in a consolidated billing process,  reducing the overall time spent doing this activity manually by auditing, reviewing, paying and collecting each invoice. 

History is the best teacher

History is the best teacher they say and in line with this, one also needs to pay special attention to historical freight data. You can analyze the performance levels of the various carriers used, achieve cost savings, and have an edge when it comes to future rate negotiations. 

Conclusion

When effectively used TMS can assist customers to gain efficiencies in improving their service offerings while also allowing them to create scalability in their business processes. Customers, especially shippers, are always looking for ways to improve service delivery and efficiency while limiting the costs. By efficiently managing the transportation management workflow, shippers can address costly challenges like rate fluctuations, hidden charges, track and trace, visibility, etc. From both a functional and cost perspective, effective management of the transportation management workflow provides value to the customer. 

BlueGrace’s Proprietary Technology

Our technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. Our customers are especially impressed with the user experience, which is completely customizable and has real-time updates, giving them a single source tool for tracking, addressing, and product listing. To see a demo and speak to one of our BlueShip experts, fill out the form below or call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING.

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Choosing the Right 3PL to Align with Your Business Strategy

Most shippers don’t spend much time worrying about who is driving the trucks carrying their goods, but choosing a 3PL with the right carrier network makes all the difference when your business is expanding. B2B and B2C networks are increasingly determined by where the customer is, rather than a companies’ geographical location. With more business moving to online, you need to be prepared to meet your customers where they are. 

When your customers need change, you want to be able to say “yes.” But logistics is a complicated business and when you are examining your choices, there are some factors to consider.

The first step is to understand your internal requirements – consider what your specific needs are before looking for a 3PL. Questions to ask include, what modes of transportation and what services you will need? What volumes do you plan to ship and where? Do you have specific security or visibility requirements? Are your shipments time-sensitive? The list goes on… Despite their expertise, 3PLs are only as useful as their knowledge of your business and customer requirements. 

The right 3PL will also have a network density that connects you with the right carrier, at the right location and with the right capacity and expertise.

Start with Carrier Partnerships

Whether you are shipping intra-warehouse or last-mile, it’s important that your 3PL  has the capabilities to make it happen. Two considerations are technology and partnerships.  

Shippers should look for a partner that allows them to quote, track and control invoicing for their LTL and FTL shipments, across a nationwide carrier network. Because your shipping partner is responsible for integrating different shipments, they are responsible for implementing technology that provides visibility to your shipment across their network of trucks and more. 

The right 3PL will also have a network density that connects you with the right carrier, at the right location and with the right capacity and expertise. With capacity being tight these days, partnering with the right 3PL will increases the chances that your time-critical shipments will be delivered on time and at a competitive price. That means, if you have warehousing and delivery needs in Houston, your 3PL  should have vehicles available to accommodate those needs, and quickly. 

Door to Door deliveries

Not all trucking companies handle door-to-door deliveries and some don’t have to. What matters is that your 3PL is partnered with carriers that offer fleet capabilities that meet your needs. For your urban customers, the trucking company might need to deploy a fleet of smaller trucks or even vans. If your requirements are FTL B2B shipments, you need a trucking company with that sort of capacity. For many shippers, their requirements fall in-between, or into the ‘all-of-the-above category.’ In those cases, your 3PL needs to have a range of carriers available to facilitate your business. 

Experience matters

Shippers should ask themselves if their 3PL understands their business and customer base. For example, a company shipping high-value electronics, will want to check with their 3PL about security protocols. Are trucks secured? Is there a system in place to alert management when drivers divert course? Proactive 3PLs will have systems in place so that your customers can rely on you in turn.  

Shipping disruption is an unfortunate reality in the business, ranging from weather disruptions to dock strikes. The right 3PL will have a plan in place to make sure that you are taken care of. 

Do the services match the requirements?

Some 3PLs specialize in specific modes of transportation, commodities, dealing with regulations and origin/destinations. Others are generalists. Make sure that you ask potential 3PLs if they have experience handling the cargo that your business will be shipping. The right partner for your business will be able to walk you through the different steps required, allowing all parties to agree on the correct protocols and procedures.  Reviewing a 3PLs Case Study library can help you better understand their expertise.

How many modes?

There are four common modes – ocean road, air, and rail. Many 3PLs will offer “intermodal” services, but if they don’t have the size and experience to properly manage that freight in-transit, they are essentially handing off responsibility to another party. 

To avoid this uncertainty, make sure your 3PL works with established rail and intermodal carriers. That way, you get the most options. Offering a variety of modes that let shippers choose slower transit times when possible, which lowers costs. On the flip side, if you need something shipped fast, having a 3PL with a dedicated expedite team will help to ensures that your shipment gets where it’s going, in the time it needs to be there.

How’s their customer service? 

This might seem too obvious to print, but it’s important to distinguish between friendly phone conversations and 3PLs that can get you the information you need when you need it. If there’s a disruption or other events along the shipment chain, you need a 3PL that can reach out proactively to help you make the necessary adjustments on your end. There will always be disruptions, but that doesn’t mean they need to put you on your back heels. 

Customer service is also about finding a 3PL that’s willing to take the time to help you set up the right solution. If your business is experiencing sudden growth, you might not have all the answers.

Is your 3PL BlueGrace?

At BlueGrace, our freight specialists work with you every step of the way to understand your requirements and set up a solution that’s tailored to your needs. BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. With a fully built-out national network and global partners, BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Our expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, contact us using the form below: 

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Freight Damage: 8 Practical Ways to Avoid It 

Whether you are a shipper, receiver or trucker, freight damage affects all equally. Freight damage not only increases your cost and affects your revenue, but recurring or heavy damages can cause friction between supplier and end users. 

As a Freight Operator, you can take several measures to avoid freight damage and shipping claims. 

1. Understand your cargo

Understanding the nature of the cargo is of utmost importance so that you can use the correct type of transport for your cargo and the correct type of packaging. For example, if you are shipping drummed cargo you don’t need the same level of protection as you would if you shipped fragile or bottled cargo such as sauces, jams, etc. If you are shipping cargo that is more volumetric in nature than weight (example Cotton Bales) you need a truck with a bigger space capacity than weight capacity. 

2. Choosing the right packaging

This is a critical aspect of trying to avoid freight damage. Once you have understood the nature of your cargo, which may be fragile, heavy, sensitive to water, sensitive to heat, etc., you need to carefully assess the type of packaging required for your product. For example, if you are packing fragile cargo such as bottles, it is important to ensure that these cargoes are packed using durable packaging like corrugated cardboard which is then palletized on wooden pallets for easy and safe handling. 

Use quality pallets that will last longer than cheaper pallets. Cheaper pallets may give in a short term, and better quality pallets will allow for double stacking as required. Don’t take shortcuts or skimp on the proper packaging material as this short-term saving could result in a much bigger expense at a later stage in case of any claims. 

3. Label your goods correctly

While it sounds like a no-brainer, a lot of freight damage can be avoided by labeling the cargo correctly. For example, if you are shipping liquid cargo or any other cargo that needs to be kept upright, it is important to label it correctly so the cargo handlers know which way to carry it. Similarly, if the cargo is hazardous, then it is important to label it appropriately. You should use the required hazardous labels so safety precautions can be taken. 

4. Protecting your packaging 

Cargo such as clothing, shoes and other high-value retail goods are special targets for thieves and protecting your cargo is of utmost importance. Protecting your packaging is also essential against weather and dirt, especially if you use cardboard cartons. 

You can protect your cargo by sealing it with good quality tape (usually with your company branding on it), strapping it and shrink wrapping it.

5. Stow the goods correctly

Stowing of goods on the pallet or the truck is absolutely essential to avoid freight damage. Due care must be taken to stack goods in a uniform and stable manner so that weight is equally distributed across the pallet(s) and the truck. Your products must stay within the dimensions of the pallet such that it cannot get damaged during handling. 

If your cargo has a mixture of heavy and light goods (say boxes of canned food and boxes of marshmallows), ensure that the boxes of canned food are stowed at the bottom and the boxes of marshmallows are stowed on top of the canned food. 

6. Stow the truck correctly

A lot of freight damage happens when cargo shifts inside the truck during transit. Cargo moves inside the truck due to improper stowage inside the trailer.  Whether it is palletized cargo or non-palletized cargo, the cargo should be stowed inside the truck as tightly as possible to avoid movement. 

If in spite of your best efforts there is some space between the cargo, you should use suitable dunnage material like airbags (inflatable dunnage) to absorb sudden impacts and to prevent the load from shifting. In the case of fragile cargo, you can use cargo nets to secure it, so it doesn’t move during transit. 

7. Ship in bulk

Try to consolidate your goods and move as FTL (Full Truck Load) to avoid using LTL (Less than Truck Load) as much as possible. LTL moves multiple handling before the cargo gets to its final destination. However careful one is, multiple cargo handling has a possibility of damaging your cargo. 

8.Choose reliability over price

Choose the right supplier. Using a reliable freight partner is of utmost importance in the whole supply chain process. You should choose your reliable carrier based on a few factors such as their FMCSA score, the trucks that they use, the age of their fleet, their insurance and liability cover, their cargo handling safety record and their staff training methodology. While these may not guarantee the safety of your goods, it can give you a pretty good idea of your supplier. 

To summarize, 

Freight Suppliers

  1. Ensure the cargo is properly packaged before you accept to ship it 
  2. Ensure that the cargo is properly labeled and marked
  3. Ensure that all documentation for the cargo is correct 
  4. Ensure cargo is stowed properly and can handle the various weather and transit conditions while en route to its destination 

Freight Customers

  1. Ensure that you know how to properly pack and stack your goods, or use a qualified company to do this job for you 
  2. Check and recheck your cargo, its packaging, its labeling, stacking/packing and documentation before it leaves your warehouse 
  3. Ensure you have the correct receipt from your supplier when you are handing over your cargo
  4. Ensure you choose the right supplier for the movement of your goods 

Whether you are managing your own processes or you are using the logistics services of BlueGrace, proper preparation is one way to help prevent damage. 

By working closely with all suppliers involved in the movement of your goods, you can ensure that your cargo will reach its destination in time, within your budget, and in the condition that it left the origin. 

Do You Need Help With Understanding Your freight?

Whether you are managing your own processes or you are using the logistics services of BlueGrace, proper preparation is one way to help prevent damage. If you have questions about how you can better prevent freight damage, or just how to simplify your current transportation program, contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below, we are here to help!

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Turning Returns into Return Customers: How Reverse Logistics Defines e-Commerce

The way to succeed at e-commerce is to think like your customers. But how do they think?

A decade ago, retailers were responsible for the in-store experience and the quality of their product. That was pretty much it. Today, online retailers are held accountable for everything that happens in-between, in transit, and a lot more. Traffic used to annoy shoppers on the way to the mall, but today, those same delays are the retailer’s problem as well. Online retailers picked up the legwork in exchange for access to a booming market. With those extra responsibilities, you might be obsessed with the complexities of your fulfillment and returns operations – like everyone else in e-commerce – but that’s not what’s important to your customers. They want reliability and they don’t want to pay for it.

To put it another way, the e-commerce experience starts the moment a customer navigates to a platform and ends either when the product arrives at the purchaser’s address, or when their returned purchase is processed, and the refund is deposited into their bank account or refunded to their credit card. In between those moments, a complex web of interactions brings dozens of different companies together, and the failure of one link can reflect poorly on the whole chain.

More Returns Than Ever

It’s a chicken and egg question whether e-commerce is driving returns, or if the increasing ease of returns is turning more consumers on to online purchases. One thing is for sure though, there are more returns than ever.

This is especially true for apparel shopping, where the widespread adoption of free returns has turned the internet into a virtual changing room. Some fulfillment experts estimate that the return rate for online apparel purchases is close to 40 percent. That’s because, as of yet, there really isn’t an online equivalent to trying on an article of clothing in person. There’s a similar dynamic at play with other online purchases. Those free returns induce shoppers to buy online because they know if it doesn’t work out, they can ship it back.

Without free returns, few shoppers would risk buying an article of clothing that might not fit.

Without free returns, few shoppers would risk buying an article of clothing that might not fit. So now that we’ve established the importance of returns, the challenge is to make returning an online purchase a positive experience for customers.

Why Returns Matter

It’s quite simple. Returns matter because the moment your customers decide – for any number of reasons – that they want to return their purchase in exchange for a refund, the clock starts ticking. The moment they make that decision, they are holding a product that they don’t want and they are short the amount of money they spent on it. It’s a delicate situation and keeping the customer on your side is a complex interaction of logistics and customer service.

At the same time, every one of us has retailers, restaurants, or other corporate entities that we love. For many of us, that attachment comes from their customer service experience, friendly interactions with the staff, or some other interpersonal experience. With e-commerce, those opportunities don’t exist and retailers must make up for that with flawless logistics, as customers swap brick and mortar familiarity for online convenience.

This challenge will be won or lost based on your company’s logistics

This challenge will be won or lost based on your company’s logistics, so having that in mind, here are a couple of points to consider as you evaluate your e-commerce strategy:

Make it easy – From your customers’ perspective, returns should be easy to handle and seamless. At this point, prepaid return labels and flexible return shipping are commonplace, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. You need to make sure that you communicate the best return options to your customers, such as where they can drop off the packages, pickup times and other important information. You should communicate this automatically, in advance, so that your customers know that they have options. This will help them feel in control of the experience at all times.

Make it visible – with the right track and trace technology, it’s easy for logistics companies to know where a shipment is at any given time. That information should be communicated to your customer. Online shoppers might not even know about the option, but proactively letting them know how their return is processing improves the retail experience and converts customers into return shoppers.

Make it fast – Nobody wants to wait for their refund, so your returns policy should take that into account. A smart return policy should be able to dispense refunds in advance of their final processing when they arrive back at the warehouse. Regardless of how your company processes the return, the customer should be taken care of first and not held up by logistics constraints.

Make it scale – Every holiday season there are at least several articles about bottlenecks in the returns policy and that’s because millions of more customers turn to the internet every year for their gift purchases. Check with your logistics provider in advance of busy periods to ensure that they can scale to your needs.

How BlueGrace Can Help

You should be focusing on your core strengths in retail, not logistics, and that’s where we come in.

You want your logistics partner to embrace these values and to have a sophisticated enough approach to accommodate a data-intensive e-commerce operation. At BlueGrace, an experienced customer support team manages the entire returns and claims process to ensure a high customer satisfaction rating. BlueGrace uses its strategic relationships with their carriers to get great pricing with a mix of quality carriers. At BlueGrace, we work with new customers to understand their businesses and engineer the most seamless delivery and returns process possible. You should be focusing on your core strengths in retail, not logistics, and that’s where we come in.

With the logistics experts at BlueGrace reviewing past data at the beginning of the relationship, our partner e-commerce customers can increase their profits, save employee time and most importantly keep the online customers they spent so much to acquire. Feel free to fill out the form below for a free analysis today!

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Cost or Asset: The Need for Talent in the Supply Chain 

When it comes to the supply chain, efficiency is the name of the game. The smoother the interaction between the links, from start to finish, the more profitable everyone is along the line. Companies have been furiously analyzing every facet of the chain, from transportation routes to in-house technology and processes in terms of the financial efficiency. In short, if it can give an advantage, improve the system, or help to cut down operating costs in any way, it’s typically touted as a good thing.  But when it comes to investing in that efficiency, where is the best place to hedge your bets? Is it in technology? A consulting firm? While all of these are important, is any one of them hiding the real key to success.

The Un-Correlated

Given the many different assets a company could hitch their hopes on, it would seem like one would rise above the rest, right? If nothing else, given the size and scope of the transportation industry, there would at least be a trend towards one process over the other. While it makes perfect logical sense, the truth of the matter is, there really isn’t a direct correlation between investment and success in the industry.

“Despite all the ads at airports and pretty PowerPoints by consultants, we cannot find support for the claims of ‘Best Run Companies Use Technology X’ or ‘Manufacturing Companies Using Consulting Services With Company Y Have Better Results.’  …or a single instance of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) drives better results,” says Lora Cecere, the founder of Supply Chain Insights.

Companies think that they are managing costs and inventory better through technology investments, but they are not.

“Across the industry, we find that companies think that they are managing costs and inventory better through technology investments, but they are not. Through graphing the financial metrics, we find that 90% of companies are stuck at the intersection of operating margin and inventory turns. With rising complexity, they are unable to make improvements in a balanced scorecard,” she added.

Talent Makes the Difference

When it comes to controlling costs, the only constant for improvement is the investment in supply chain talent. According to the survey taken by Supply Chain Insights, it was the companies who could manage their talent better than their peer groups that gained the cost advantage. This played out in three different metrics: Operating Margin, Profit Margin, and EBITDA as a percentage of Quarterly growth. In all three of these metrics, it was proper talent management that proved to be the most effective.

So what are these companies with better talent management doing that their peers aren’t?

So what are these companies with better talent management doing that their peers aren’t? There are six aspects or gaps in particular that these companies are focusing on.

“Belief in the company, appreciation for work, the need to be a part of a talented team, admiration for leadership, training and professional development and flexible work schedules. Empowered workers make a difference. With the flurry of M&A, industry consolidation, outsourcing, and downsizing, the gaps for North American manufacturers are increasing,” says Cecere.

 Provide a job where your employees feel appreciated, and are given the tools they need to not only succeed, but grow, and you’ll have a more dedicated workforce.

Provide a job where your employees feel appreciated, and are given the tools they need to not only succeed, but grow, and you’ll have a more dedicated workforce.

“Most companies have an endless cycle of cost-cutting. The cost-cutting is more severe in the back office than the front office teams of sales and marketing. Companies are often so busy pinching pennies that they miss the greater opportunity. With slowing growth, as companies end the year, many teams face draconian cost-cutting efforts. When faced with these choices, just remember that empowered employees drive a competitive advantage. Our take? Talent matters,” Cecere adds.

The Reality of the Human Asset

Human talent will invariably become more valuable than any physical asset, including technology.

Investing in talent is about much more than merely cutting costs down the road. Human talent will invariably become more valuable than any physical asset, including technology. A study conducted by Korn Ferry and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, a British economic consultancy shows just how valuable people are to any organization.

“The study found that globally, human talent—people, labor, knowledge—will be worth as much as $1.2 quadrillion over the next five years whereas physical capital— inventory, real estate and technology—will be worth an estimated $521 trillion, showing human talent, intelligence and capital is far more valuable than physical capital,” the  22nd Annual Third-Party Logistics Study reports.

“Human talent is also the greatest value creator available to organizations. For every $1 invested in human talent, $11.39 is added to GDP, proving that investing in people can generate value for the organization over time that significantly exceeds initial financial outlay.”

While automation and new technology might replace some facets of the industry, even truck drivers, there will always be a need to have highly skilled professionals on the roster.

When you consider the rapidly evolving nature of the industry, it’s easy to see just how vital talent is to any company. While automation and new technology might replace some facets of the industry, even truck drivers, there will always be a need to have highly skilled professionals on the roster. Providing them with the right technology and opportunities to grow will not only enable them to sharpen their skills but also increase their value and subsequently the value of your business.

Your Supply Chain Talent Is Readily Available Here

There is no need for companies to search for more supply chain talent. BlueGrace has 100s of talented people with the skillsets to help improve or develop your supply chain. Imagine that you had 3 more people working on optimizing your freight for each single employee you have in-house. That is the value the team at BlueGrace offers. Let us monitor your costs, communicate with the carriers and lower your overall freight spend year over year. Contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING to talk with an expert today or fill out the form below.

Are You Part Of The Available Supply Chain Talent?

Are you part of the supply chain talent pool? Are you eager to work with a company that helps simplify businesses across the USA? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you can cut costs for a customer? If so CLICK HERE to see all the positions available throughout the country at BlueGrace. We are constantly awarded a best place to work and love to see our employees succeed!

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Urban Density, Changes in Technology and Last Mile Delivery: What Can Cities Do?

 

With the rise of e-commerce and technological improvements in transportation, like autonomous vehicles and increasing urban density, we are witnessing a historic transformation in our cities. Future trends in freight movement is a “hot topic” in policy and supply chain circles.

With so many changes ahead,  a key question emerges: Can cities cope?

Daimler recently made headlines with the launch of its “all-electric Fuso ecanter truck” in New York City. The vehicle will be rolled out in other US, European and Japanese cities in the next two years, with UPS as the first commercial partner with the truck. Toyota released a hydrogen-fuelled semi-trailer that currently hauls cargo between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach without producing tailpipe emissions. This pilot is part of a longer-range plan by the Port of LA to reduce emissions. Urban planners in Dallas are examining the possibilities for the “hyperloop” in their city, “a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes.” With so many changes ahead,  a key question emerges: Can cities cope? What can cities do to stay on top of change?

Here are five “takeaways” on the topic.

1.   Understanding the Nature of Change is Key

Many predict that the U.S. economy will double in size over the next 30 years. The nation’s population is expected to rise from 326 million in 2017 to 390 million in 2045. More and more, Americans will live in congested urban or suburban sprawls called “megaregions.” Less than 10% of the country’s population will live in rural areas by 2040. This is a stark contrast to the 16% of Americans who lived in the countryside in 2010 and 23% in 1980.

This trend means more “everything”.

The surge in population and economic growth brings with it escalating freight activity. Freight movement across all modes are projected to grow by approximately 42 percent by 2040.This trend means more “everything”. More pressure on roads and transit lines by commuters, more parcels delivered, particularly with the meteoric rise of e-commerce.

One special concern is “the last mile.” The last mile is the final step in the delivery process. The last leg of the delivery process is when an item (or person) moves from distribution facility (or transit point) to end user (home). The length of the distance can vary from a couple of city blocks to 100 miles. This video from the Ryerson City Building Institute clearly shows the effects of the “last mile” on commuters – in this case, in the Greater Toronto Area.

Some of the challenges involved with the last mile are:

  • increased traffic congestion and traffic accidents
  • Noise, intrusion, the loss of open spaces to transport infrastructure projects
  • Environmental and social (public health) impact from local pollutant emissions
  • Illegal parking and resting, idling vehicles
  • Problems experienced by vehicle operators when operating in urban areas
  • Parking and loading/unloading problems including finding road space for unloading; fines, and handling
  • Parcel Theft

2. Cities Must Take Notice

Cities have long been concerned with capacity thresholds for commuting and predicting traffic flow. The new topic of “last mile” in the supply chain must now receive greater notice. We are moving away from discussion on “smart commuting” alone. While still important, traditional topics like carpooling and promoting public transit are giving way to issues such as digitalization and automation (think ride-hailing and autonomous shuttles).

3. Business Concerns Must Factor Into Urban Logistics (alongside Sustainability and Livability Goals)

Furthermore, it must be recognized that economic activity in urban areas depends on the movement and delivery of goods through freight carriers. City and traffic planners must be made aware that urban settings can be inhospitable places for freight deliverers. There must be more public and private sector coordination in freight planning. “Cities can shape markets to focus private sector attention and invest on the needs of cities and the people who live in them by mobilizing infrastructure, talent, and other assets to support the right kinds of AV-based solutions,” was one of the conclusions in “Taming the Autonomous Vehicle: A Primer for Cities (Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute) .

Business goals must be incorporated into the dialogue alongside the goals of community sustainability and livability

How freight distribution processes can be integrated into metropolitan transport, land use, and infrastructure planning is a balancing act.  Business goals must be incorporated into the dialogue alongside the goals of community sustainability and livability. An efficient and future-forward freight system will support and attract new industry for the respective area.

4. A Variety of Solutions Will Likely Be the Answer

Some of the most popular solutions include advances in technology. Transportation technology growth is very exciting, much of it spurred by seeking solutions to urban density, commuting and freight patterns.  Other solutions are more “old-fashioned” or even a return to basics. Mixing traditional and emerging technologies is the way ahead:

  • Use of electric vehicles (EV) –“sustainable mobility”
  • Autonomous vehicles and drones
  • Human-powered delivery vehicles – Cargo-bikes, pedal trucks, and pushcarts
  • Amazon lockers in commercial venues (drop-off points)
  • Vehicle access restrictions based on time and/or size/weight /emission factor/fuel type of vehicle and bus lanes
  • Curbside pickups
  • Load consolidation or co-loading
  • Truck platooning
  • Night-time deliveries, relying on “quiet equipment” and driver training
  • “On-Road Integrated Optimisation and Navigation,” or route optimization, such as introduced by UPS as a big data solution to analyze parcel operators’ daily multi-stops
  • Innovative 3PL solutions like BlueGrace’s proprietary technology, “designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands”.

A BlueGrace Case Study In Action

Recently, an e-commerce furniture business in Portland, Oregon found it had outgrown its 3PL’s manual logistic capacity, due to heavy e-commerce volumes. When this company looked to BlueGrace for ways to improve its supply chain, it was discovered that they would benefit from opening another warehouse in the Northeastern area of the US. An alternative distribution solution lowered freight costs and decreased transit days.

For the last mile to be facilitated, there must be easier access to customers and shorter distance between the hub and home.

The idea of re-examining distribution is part of a larger process of change. For instance Amazon, FedEx and UPS are creating/investing in nationwide networks of distribution and fulfillment centers. “Warehouses like these are becoming a way of life for many urbanites,” reports the Wall Street Journal. This trend is already bringing new life to formerly “sleepy towns” like Tracy, California and Kenosha, Wisconsin. For the last mile to be facilitated, there must be easier access to customers and shorter distance between the hub and home.

Make your Last Mile work. Talk with a BlueGrace Logistics expert today!

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You Will Need Expedited Freight After The ELD Mandate Begins

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is going to put a serious squeeze on many supply chains, and possibly have a major effect on your business as soon as December 2017. With the devices in place, stricter hours of service regulations will be going into effect. While these are meant to increase the safety and wellbeing of the driver, many are concerned about the interruptions this mandate will cause to scheduled delivery times.

Some Exemptions are Available

While an acclimation period is to be expected, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is making some exemptions to the ELD ruling in a few cases, the most important being:

Sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs WILL NOT HAVE the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. Why is this exemption important for your freight? We will discuss more below.

So while the FMCSA is insistent on the implementation of the devices across the industry, they’re leaving a smaller, cross section of the trucking industry untouched. This comes with a slight sigh of relief as the rest of the industry continues to resist against the ruling. With the deadline for ELDs drawing closer and companies trying, and failing to repeal the mandate, other avenues for fast and timely deliveries need to be considered.

This is Where Expedited Shipments Can Help

Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

Unlike most other freight that moves with routine regularity, expedited freight has a nature of its own. Consider the timing aspect of it. The whole idea behind expedited freight is that it should be picked up and moved off quickly. A solution for anything from a shortage of parts to a peak season order. Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

In addition to the change in time and pace, there’s also the consideration that expedited freight might have some irregularities that aren’t found in normal day to day hauling. For example, the product that needs to be delivered might be going to an urban area. This usually means that ramps and docks aren’t an option, so the driver needs to have access to the right equipment to get the freight loaded or unloaded. There’s also a variance of cargo from one delivery to the next.

the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight.

In short, the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight. It needs to be quick, versatile and most importantly, available.

The BlueGrace Expedited Solution

So what do you do when you’re faced with less available hours and capacity? You turn to an expedited freight expert. The days of overpromising and overdriving trucking companies are quickly coming to an end. Instead, working with a broker who has the resources to expedite shipping will be the answer. BlueGrace not only understands the importance of getting your product from A to B quickly, but they also understand that the new regulations are very quickly going to start cramping up the rest of the industry.

BlueGrace is ready to serve customers with our national fleet of non-dock high sprinter van, small/ large straight trucks with liftgates and pallet jacks for inside pick-ups and deliveries. As we mentioned, sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs will not have the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. We will also be able to provide true teams services for sprinter vans and up to 26ft straight trucks. Another added benefit to the hands on approach for expedited is that all shipments are tracked with updates every 2-4 hours depending on day points.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you. BlueGrace provides you with a pool of 300+ pre-screened carriers that specialize in expedited shipments and can provide you with a quote in as little as 30 minutes. How’s that for fast?

In an uncertain time, BlueGrace takes the stress out of your freight by giving you the information and technology you need to get the job done. Click here to download our Expedited PDF with more details.

Need An Expedited Quote?

Fill out the form below for your FREE 30 Minute Expedited Quote, or call TOLL-FREE 877.630.7446 to be connected with our Expedited Freight Team immediately.

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ELDs Are Coming Fast! Some Facts & Predictions – Infographic

Countdown to the ELD Mandate – December 16th 2017

It is time to plan for the ELD Mandate as a freight shipper, if you haven’t already. When the electronic logging device mandate takes place, many shippers will be caught off guard with shipments taking longer than expected due to the restrictions put in place on drivers.

We thought it would be beneficial to show some fast facts and predictions about ELDs that we originally published in 2016. What do you think about the new requirements? Are you ready? If you have any questions feel free to contact your BlueGrace Representative today.

Click the image below for a larger version or download the PDF version here and feel free to share.

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Identity Theft is On the Rise, and Cargo Theft Might Not Be Far Behind

Identity theft is among the most insidious forms of crime. Not only can it mean a person loses their livelihood, but for an enterprising criminal it could just be a stepping stone for an even bigger target. What sort of targets would criminals be aiming for after stealing an identity? How about truckloads of cargo.

When you consider the amount of information people post digitally, there is a lot of sensitive data out there, just waiting to be taken. This is especially true when you consider the number of cyber attacks that have happened this year alone. The Equifax leak, for example, can be ruinous when you consider what can be done with a little credit information.  In fact, no one really knows just how extensive the security leak really is nor will we know just how many people have been affected by it. However, for freight companies, any form of identity theft could be catastrophic.

Identity theft is on the rise and cargo theft could see a drastic increase as well.

How Identity Theft Could Mean Cargo Theft

When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc.

It seems like a bit of a leap to go from identity theft to cargo theft. After all, when someone steals your identity, that just means they tap your bank accounts and maybe open a credit line, right? Not exactly. When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc. In terms of cargo theft, the scheme, as laid out by The Associated Press,  goes like this:

Thieves assume the identity of a trucking company, often by reactivating a dormant Department of Transportation carrier number from a government website for as little as $300. That lets them pretend to be a long-established firm with a seemingly good safety record. The fraud often includes paperwork such as insurance policies, fake driver’s licenses, and other documents.

Then the con artists offer low bids to freight brokers who handle shipping for numerous companies. When the truckers show up at a company, everything seems legitimate. But once driven away, the goods are never seen again.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good. Here are some other interesting facts pointed out by Adrian Gonzales of Talking Logistics.

  • The average value of cargos stolen by fictitious pickup was $203,744 vs. $174,380 per incident for cargo thefts overall during the study period, a 17 percent differential.
  • The commodities most frequently targeted for fictitious pick-ups are foods and beverages, electronics products and metals.
  • Over half of fictitious pickups occur at the end of a week, on Thursdays and Fridays when the main concern of shippers and brokers is in meeting a delivery date and satisfying the customer.
  • Fifty-five percent of all reported fictitious pick-ups from 2011 through 2013 occurred in California. Significant fictitious pick-up activity has also been reported in Florida, Texas and New Jersey.

Cargo Theft Rates are Falling, but the Cost is Rising

While cargo theft rates have been falling from 2016 to 2017, the value of goods being stolen has been steadily increasing.  Cargo thefts fell for the third consecutive year in terms of reported incidents, but the value of the stolen goods rose 13.3% to $114 million, according to 2016 data from CargoNet.

“There were 1,614 incidents in the United States, including cargo theft, heavy commercial vehicle theft, and supply chain fraud. Thieves stole cargo in 836 cases with an average value of the contents at about $207,000, based on the 554 thefts with an assigned value. It represented a 7.7% decline in cases year-over-year and a 10% drop since 2014. The other 282 cases didn’t include a value for the cargo,” says an article from Transport Topics.

“However, the total value of the stolen cargo, $114 million, is greater than the $100.5 million in 2015 and $94 million in 2014,” they added.

What Happens to Cargo Theft Rates when Identity Theft Rises?

For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

As it stands, we’re still unsure as to how extensive the fallout from the increasing rates of identity theft will be. While cargo thefts have been in decline over the past few years, we might see a rise thanks to the number of vulnerable identities. For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

“Law enforcement has done an outstanding job responding to strategic cargo theft. But it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Not only will the groups pop up in different areas, but cargo thieves will bob and weave away from where the attention is from the police and private industry,” said Scott Cornell, second vice president and crime and theft specialist for Travelers’ Transportation business.

there’s no such thing as being “too careful”.

With the wave of cyber attacks, and now the rise of identity theft, there’s no such thing as being “too careful”. Know who you’re working with, and use a reputable broker to make sure your freight makes it to it’s intended destination.

 

 

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An Optimistic Outlook for the LTL Market

The US less-than-truckload (LTL) market is undergoing a tremendous change. Improving economic conditions as well as manufacturing growth has helped increase demand for LTL shipments. As a result, Stifel analyst David Ross noted that the $35 billion LTL market combined for publicly traded carriers reported tonnage per day increased 4% year-over-year during the second quarter of this year.

Indeed, the overall US economy appears to have awakened after a sluggish start to the year. First quarter GDP rose only 1.4%, a disappointment for sure but second quarter growth certainly made up for it growing at a 3.1% clip thanks in part to strong consumer spending.

E-commerce

E-commerce is taking more of the consumer’s spend. According to the US Commerce Department, second quarter e-commerce as a percent of total retail sales increased to 8.9%, up from 7.4% in second quarter 2016. The rise in e-commerce has sparked new service solutions from LTL carriers particularly as “supply chains become shorter, turn times are quicker and there’s a drive for small, but more frequent shipments”, according to Mr. Ross.

Some truck carriers have introduced last mile delivery services for items such as exercise equipment, mattresses, and furniture.

E-commerce packages have been the primary domain of small parcel carriers FedEx, UPS, USPS and regional small parcel carriers. However, as more consumers become habitual to ordering larger, bulkier items, FedEx and UPS, in particular, have struggled because their small parcel facilities and networks are not designed for such items. As a result, some truck carriers such as JB Hunt, Estes and Werner have introduced last mile delivery services for items such as exercise equipment, mattresses, and furniture. XPO Logistics, the third largest LTL carrier per the Journal of Commerce’s 2017 ranking, has taken it a step further by also offering white glove services such as set up, install, recycle etc. and just recently announced plans to expand their last-mile hubs to 85 within a few years. In addition, it is introducing technology that will allow consumers manage retail home deliveries with advanced, online tools.

Technology

Many shippers are looking for more integrated services, faster delivery and fulfillment and increasingly detailed shipment tracking and information. Also, third-party technology start-ups and TMS providers, such as BlueGrace are offering real-time pricing, booking and tracking solution services targeting both the shipper as well as the LTL carrier who may have available capacity on a particular lane.

Pricing and Labor

Stifel’s quarterly overview of LTL trends indicates that fuel surcharges are returning back close to 2015 highs (but remain far below 2011-2014 levels). Carriers are aiming for 3%-5% rate increases, and while getting some push back, they’re not losing freight over any rate hikes. The pricing environment currently remains healthy but could prove a concern over capacity.

LTL carriers are finding it more difficult to hire the needed labor to meet the increasing demands.

Labor continues to be another concern. LTL carriers are finding it more difficult to hire the needed labor to meet the increasing demands. Those that are hired are demanding higher wages. As an example, YRC was able to get some concessions from the Teamsters to allow them to raise pay above the contract level in certain markets.

ELD

The federal-mandated regulatory requirement, ELD (Electronic Logging Device) is set to go into effect in December. ELD is an electronic hardware that is put on a commercial motor vehicle engine that records driving hours.

It is believed that ELD could benefit LTL carriers at the expense of TL carriers.

It is believed that ELD could benefit LTL carriers at the expense of TL carriers. As such, many industry analysts anticipate pricing to increase as well as tonnage while TL capacity is reduced. As the Vice Chairman and CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line stated earlier this year, “A 1% fallout in truckload could equate to a 10% increase in the LTL arena, with larger LTL shipments.”

Outlook

The Journal of Commerce’s annual LTL ranking showed that total revenue dipped 0.4% from $35.1 billion to $34.9 billion after falling 1% the previous year. However, with US industrial output, consumer confidence and an increase in fuel prices, the top LTL carriers will likely return to expansion and revenue growth for this year.

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How Shippers Should Already Be Prepared For The Holiday Season

Do you smell the pumpkin spice in the air? If you close your eyes, do you hear the faint jingling of bells in the distance to be? That’s because the holiday season is approaching. And, it’s approaching fast.  The busiest time for all, logistics companies, retail stores as well as shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers. If they are properly prepared, they can take advantage of having their items on the shelves faster for consumers to buy and reap the financial benefits. However, if they aren’t prepared, they could find themselves in a world of stress trying to find carriers to move their freight. – So, what can shippers do to prepare?

Plan For Unexpected Events

Remember while planning for the holiday season that it’s an incredibly busy time filled with unforeseen events. More people will be on the roads to visit their friends and family, and with more people on the road, more wrecks occur. More wrecks, more traffic jams, may cause your freight to be delayed.

Also, the holiday season usually packs a cold punch with winter storms creating dangerous conditions for drivers that could even keep them off the road for a few days. Be sure to track the weather before scheduling shipments around winter storms.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate. One common mistake we experience time over time is the misclassification of freight. Minimize these errors by using a density calculator.

Compete With Larger Shippers

WalMart and Amazon are two of the biggest powerhouses in the world during the holiday season and can make it difficult for smaller shippers to offer competitive rates. Often times carriers can be lured away to make deliveries for these larger shippers on a seasonal basis.

We’ve seen this way too often. To be able to compete with larger shippers and keep their products moving, small and medium-size companies will have to offer and pay higher rates for carriers. If this story rings a bell, consider partnering with a 3PL. More often than not, 3PLs can provide better service and competitive rates.

Carriers enjoy working with 3PLs because they consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling.

They can do so as they have an extensive network of carriers. Carriers enjoy working with them because 3PLs consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling. Plus, the fact that they move such a high volume of freight that gives them a stronger buying power, which results in highly competitive freight rates.

Reflect On The Past

Think back to last year. Did your entire operation run smoothly with only a few minor hiccups or were you pulling your hair out? Make changes to improve your business from the inside out by locating the problems and finding solutions for them.

Did you have enough manpower to handle packaging and loading extra freight? You may need to implement an all hands on deck policy for the holiday months or hire a few seasonal employees. The key here is to hire good employees to keep your operations running smoothly. Also, consider a preseason training program for new and veteran employees to boost efficiency and minimize mistakes.

Did you have enough office staff to handle all of your paperwork in a timely manner? If not, consider getting a few extra secretaries or finding a way to automate processing all of this information digitally to cut costs and save time. Programs like Quickbooks could really help you transform your office.

Also, check out our latest technologies to see how to improve tracking, addressing, and product listing. By automating your services to become more efficient, you will be able to cut down on document processing time, costly accounting mistakes, and build more productive relationships with carriers.

Are You Ready? The Holidays Are Coming

Prepare your business now for the holiday madness!

 

 

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How does Freight and Transportation Fit into your Budget?

The 2018 budget season is heating up!

We all know how it goes. The heads of each department work on their annual budgets and turn them in to finance. Finance then returns with remarks like “the budget is too high, make it leaner.” How do you go about “trimming the fat” off of the transportation budget? Transportation is typically a 10-12% cost band on the general ledger for most manufacturers and distributors and once the 2018 budget is locked in, it doesn’t change.

MABD and OTIF Affecting 2018

There will be challenges rolling into 2018 with freight carriers and big box retailers making their Must Arrive by Date (MABD) programs or On Time In Full standards (OTIF) rules more strict.

Huge retailers have very strict rules when it comes to receiving products by a certain date to restock their shelves. If a manufacturer or distributor is not getting their product to the retailer by the (MABD) or Must Arrive By Date, the retailer can hit the business with a ‘charge-back’ for a certain percentage of the invoice value. Not only will the business have to pay a fee, but it will reflect poorly on their business scorecard as well. Now, Walmart is taking it one step further with OTIF, On Time In Full standards that can penalize businesses for being too early or not having matching amounts of product.

General Rate Increase with Less-Than-Truckload

At the beginning of every year the LTL carriers will begin to roll out general rate increases also known as GRIs.

Something to remember about LTL carrier GRI’s, is that the announced GRI isn’t necessarily indicative of the true impact to a shipper’s bottom line freight cost because the GRI is not a flat percentage rate increase across the board.

It is merely an aggregate combined average percentage increase across all lanes serviced by a carrier. Rates in some lanes may remain unchanged but some may increase by more than 4.9%.

A shipper could be seriously impacted by a general rate increase much higher than what’s announced by the carrier, so it’s imperative for shippers to check each lane for actual impact on costs.

Has your transportation and supply chain departments brought these items into consideration when rolling out transportation budgets?

Freight Cost Allocation

There is also the issue of past freight cost allocation. True freight cost allocation should show your most profitable ship to locations, customers and products. Were you able to deploy sales people, advertising and marketing budgets to the correct locations? Were customers and product lines also accurate in relation to your budgeting for 2018 as well?

Transportation cost is much more than beating up LTL Carriers on price, sending out an annual RFP and picking carriers based on cost alone.

Don’t just remove a carrier and bring in a new one if you have a spat with the driver or if a shipment gets damaged. Make the decision based on the total of the carriers activity.

Consider a 3PL When Budgeting

Transportation costs affect all aspects of your organization and should be taken very seriously. When working on the 2018 budget, consider working with a third party logistics provider (3PL), as they will take the time to learn your business and see how these costs can affect everyone in your organization.

 

 

 

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Why Heavier Trucks Aren’t the Answer

While the American Trucking Association has been rallying in an attempt to get approval for heavier trucks on the road from Congress, they might not be aiming in the right direction. The obvious standpoint is that heavier trucks would mean better business. As U.S. trucks haul hundreds of billions of dollars across the country annual, a heavy truck would mean more freight can be moved and therefore better profit margins, right?

The trucking slump has nothing to do with the weight of the trucks

But the truth of the matter is that the trucking slump has nothing to do with the weight of the trucks, desired or otherwise, and everything to do with the pricing and the trucking environment as a whole.

A Necessary Change of Perspective

It’s no secret that the U.S. trucking industry is going through a pretty rough patch. The driver shortage alone produces a myriad of problems as trucking companies struggle to retain drivers against new regulations, time spent away from home, and adequate compensation. Even as the industry looks to employ female drivers in what is typically considered a male dominated labor force, filling the gap is proving to be more than difficult.

Driver shortage notwithstanding, the biggest issue that the industry is facing is when it comes to pricing, not the weight allotment 

“Some of the industry’s challenges with achieving adequate profit levels result from overcapacity because of a failure to realize that trucking depends on derived demand for volumes, and that lower freight prices will not stimulate more shipments if the economy is not growing,” says the JOC.

What many carriers aren’t understanding is that price is the one aspect they do have control over. Unfortunately, many of them had fallen into the trap of using a pricing model that was created before many regulations were passed, meaning they’ve had the power to change pricing for the past 30 years but simply failed to do so.

The Turning Point

That’s right. Most trucking companies are using a service pricing system that should have been phased out 30 years ago. Interstate loads were deregulated in 1980 and the same for intrastate loads in 1995. Parcel carrying companies charged based on distance and weight since 1985, leaving some gaps in their plan that didn’t account for oversized packages. During this time there were only five accessorial charges.

Now, 30 years later, parcel companies have shifted over to DIM (dimensional) weight pricing

Now, 30 years later, parcel companies have shifted over to DIM (dimensional) weight pricing. Now, not only can they capture the dimension of all packages they process, but the added charges based on the new pricing structure lead to higher revenue for carriers. Additionally, the accessorial charges have changed from five to 60, which makes up close to 11 percent of the parcel carrier revenue.

Weight Vs. Distance

While the LTL sector has made some changes to incorporate DIM pricing, it’s the FTL sector that is lagging behind. The problem is that the truckload segment is still relying on the distance to create their price point. While load weight does affect variable and fixed costs, the industry has yet to fully incorporate weight into price point generation. Because of this outdated model, shippers with lighter loads can subsidize the heavier loads of other shippers which are hurting the industry as a whole.

Since they’ve begun to incorporate DIM weight pricing, LTL carriers have seen a growth of 3.2 percent per hundredweight for the second quarter of 2017

So what results has the LTL industry seen for their changes? Since they’ve begun to incorporate DIM weight pricing, LTL carriers have seen a growth of 3.2 percent per hundredweight for the second quarter of 2017. This follows the average growth trend of 3.3 percent per year from 2013 to 2016 since the changes have been made.

The FTL sector, however, has seen a nominal growth of 0.5 percent for the second quarter, down from the 1.8 percent over the 2013 to 2016 period. This shows a proof of concept that taking control over the pricing structure can have a much greater impact than bickering over the weight limit.

“As noted, other industry segments have changed business processes and pricing to capture the cost associated with different shipments and value added for various customer groups. Instead of spending resources on uncertainty associated with getting legislative relief for heavier trucks, which will likely create a more negative image with the public, truckload carriers should focus on digging out of the pricing pothole, which is within their control,” the JOC added.

Overall rate costs would be negligible for shippers and manufacturers

While shippers might not necessarily be thrilled at the prospect of higher rates, the overall rate costs would be negligible for shippers and manufacturers. Even a modest 7 percent increase in shipping price would have a negligible increase in production cost, which can easily be passed on to consumers, thus increasing the quality of service and easing the woes of the trucking industry.

 

 

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Strong Supply Chains Create Strong Customer Experiences

Regardless of the industry, customer service will always be the cornerstone of a successful business foundation. Ask anyone you know, and they can tell you about a time they received subpar service, and they will always remember the business who delivered it. It’s that little facet of human nature, the ability to recall something that displeased us so vividly, that makes customer service so vital to a company. Yet even knowing that only 27 percent of companies believe that they offer a superior service over their competitors according to research from Gartner.

A significant opportunity for companies to up their game isn’t from the front end, but the back

While customer service representatives play a prominent role in managing customer relations, a significant opportunity for companies to up their game isn’t from the front end, but the back. The supply chain is pivotal in both marketing and customer service, and strong supply chain organization can make a tremendous difference.

“The supply chain organization typically plays a secondary role to marketing in driving customer experience strategy,” according to Lisa Callinan, a research director at Gartner. “Things are changing, however, in forward-thinking organizations, because the supply chain is uniquely placed to identify customers’ needs and drive better customer experiences.”

Connection Between Supply Chain and Customer Service

Of course, many big name companies understand the importance of the supply chain when it comes to driving up customer satisfaction. Apple, Johnson and Johnson, and Toyota are just a few. Amazon is perhaps the reigning champ when it comes to their supply chain and customer satisfaction. “Customers are influenced by their experience of the supply chain — even in the simplest terms, it’s easy to see that a late delivery can disappoint, whereas an expedited delivery can delight,” Callinan added.

Logistics and customer service make up the backbone of customer interaction

Logistics and customer service make up the backbone of customer interaction, yet many companies still haven’t discovered the best way to obtain the maximum value from either aspect.

A Case Study

At BlueGrace we have the privilege of serving a broad range of companies and industries. One company in particular highlights just how important strong supply chain management can be when it comes to customer satisfaction.

In this particular example, we worked with a company that is the leader in lifting and moving equipment rentals for the U.S. and maintains a comprehensive inventory of equipment. However, despite being best in class for customer service, the company began to suffer when rapid growth began to affect their supply chain.

“Within their industry, this company has a well-earned reputation for best in class customer service. However, faced with changes brought on by rapid growth, they experienced increased inventory management costs and a negative impact on invoicing as a result of delays associated with rentals placed in Off-Hire status but not yet returned to them.”

Given the changes and increased volume of demand, the supply chain became disrupted which then created a domino effect. Inventory management costs began to rise while invoicing suffered because the supply chain stuttered. As a result, a company who typically excels in customer service started lacking which hurt the business as a result.

Through our four step transportation management process, the solution left the company in much better standing:

  • Discover – Research and analysis of current processes,
  • Engineer – Build the solution and plan for integration of process improvements,
  • Execute – Implement recommendations/support and finally
  • Perform – Measure, review and ongoing process improvement

Improved return rental cycle time by 7.3 days, reduced pickup information errors by over 95% and sped up invoicing of returned equipment by 80%.

With the solution in place, the company was able to improve their return rental cycle time by 7.3 days, reduce pickup information errors by over 95% and speed up invoicing of returned equipment by 80%. By making these improvements to the supply chain and making the process more efficient the level of customer satisfaction rose significantly.

This goes to show just how truly interconnected the supply chain is with good customer service. Customer service and the supply chain are the building blocks for any good business foundation. Handling them both properly is what separates a good business from a great business.

 

 

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Trucking is Still America’s Favorite Mode of Freight Transportation

The American Trucking Association recently released the latest edition of the ATA American Trucking Trends 2017 which serves as a compilation and benchmark of data for the trucking industry. Interestingly enough, despite the lull in trucking over the past few years, the ATA report shows the trucking industry’s revenues for 2016 to be upwards of $676.2 billion dollars for the year.

ATA report shows the trucking industry’s revenues for 2016 to be upwards of $676.2 billion dollars for the year.

“The information in Trends highlights exactly what I tell elected officials, regulators and key decision-makers every day: trucking is literally the driving force behind our great economy,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Safe, reliable and efficient motor carriers enable businesses throughout the supply chain to maintain lean inventories, thereby saving the economy billions of dollars each year.”

Trends don’t just cover revenues either. Just about any data you could want or need about the trucking industry in the U.S. is at your fingertips. Here are some other interesting statistics uncovered by the ATA’s Trends

  • Trucks carried 70.6 percent of all freight moved in the U.S., about 10.42 billion tons.
  • In 2016, there were 33.8 million registered commercial trucks including 3.68 million class 8 trucks.
  • Combined they used 38.8 billion gallons of diesel, 15.5 billion gallons of gasoline and traveled a distance of 450.4 billion miles.
  • U.S. commercial trucks paid $41.3 billion in state and federal highway fees and taxes.

The trucking industry is one of the most resilient in the country

While it might seem like the U.S. trucking industry is on the ropes, the nation still depends on trucks to haul freight and keep the country moving. The Trends report just goes to show that the trucking industry is one of the most resilient in the country and will continue to be so for years to come.

Partner with BlueGrace Logistics

BlueGrace is an award-winning, full-service Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider that helps businesses manage their freight spend through industry leading technology with a large network of established carriers to customers across the country. Sure, lots of firms may claim that, but what really sets us apart is our passion to support your success in this complex $676.2 billion Billion U.S. trucking industry.

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