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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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A Growing Need for 3PLs

It’s been a rough ride for over-the-road freight transportation over the past few years. Higher levels of government regulations have created a strain for drivers including the Hours of Service and the Electronic Logging Device mandates. These both came at a time that trucking companies were struggling with the pre-existing issue with a severe shortage of drivers. With the median age of drivers approaching retirement age, the condition will likely get worse before it gets better. Additionally, there have been huge fluctuations in both spot rates and demand over the years which have left carriers in a rather precarious situation.  

Despite the difficulties, there is good news on the horizon. Spot market rates, according to DAT and Truckstop.com, have risen upwards of 20 to 35 percent and contract rates have climbed by an average of 8 percent, year-over-year.  

This is good news for carriers, but managing the influx of work could require some extra help from intermediaries and 3PLs. Already, the conversations are beginning about solutions for the generational workforce as well as the adaptation to the increasing levels of disruptive technology hitting the markets.  

Higher Brokerage Margins 

Last year, 3PLs made due with fairly low margins, about 10 to 15 percent for freight transactions. Mostly as a result of vying for the top spot as a low-cost option for shippers who were looking for a truck on the cheap without using a service in the first place.  

Now, in 2018, with capacity tightening, shippers are making a return to 3PLs which will cause third party margins to increase to as much as 15 to 20 percent.

Because of the availability of capacity in 2016 and the first half of 2017, most shippers were able to obtain reasonable rates with carriers, which means that 3PLs had to provide an array of other services to set themselves apart from the competition. Now, in 2018, with capacity tightening, shippers are making a return to 3PLs which will cause third party margins to increase to as much as 15 to 20 percent. Carriers are hoping this will result in a sustainable relationship with 3PLs.

A Spike in Demand is on the Horizon 

Freight demand was unusually high between January and February, with a slight slow down through March. Given that these volumes are much higher than they were over the same period from last year, it’s another sign pointing towards the growing health of the transportation industry.  

If shippers want to keep up with demand, they’re going to have to change the way they do business.  

While this is undoubtedly a good start to the year, produce season, April through July, has kicked off, which means an even bigger spike in demand as produce season will give way to other peak consumer seasons including the Holiday season. Considering that all of this is outside the continual rapid growth of eCommerce markets, 2018 is going to be a busy year, to say the least. If shippers want to keep up with demand, they’re going to have to change the way they do business.  

Sensing the growing demand, many trucking companies are beginning to double up on their orders for new trucks. “Trucking companies ordered 35,600 trucks in May, more than double the orders from the same month a year ago, according to preliminary figures by ACT Research. That leaves manufacturers with an order backlog of more than 200,000 trucks, or 8.4 months of production,” according to an article from WSJ.  

“This is an astonishing rate of order placement,” said Kenny Vieth, president of the Columbus, Ind.-based ACT. “What’s facilitating it is that truckers are absolutely crushing it on freight rates and profitability right now.”  

Shippers might Start Looking to 3PLs for Visibility 

According to a report released by TIA working with Project44 and 10-4 Systems, 3PLs can, in fact, offer the level of visibility that shippers are looking for despite contrary beliefs.  

“Significant advances in visibility technologies have created a wide range of perceptions and expectations among shippers, including some that are inaccurate. 3PLs in this report identified a complicated web of factors that affect those perceptions and expectations, such as the demands of data aggregation, the need for more education, and the accelerated pace of change that affects 3PL and shipper alike,” the report says.  

Over the past year, the importance and need for visibility have only increased as suppliers are dealing with ever-increasing customer expectations and delivery standards

The TIA hopes that their report will highlight 3PLs that have a product or service offering that will provide the necessary information to shippers regarding their freight. With each passing year, the number of shippers that use 3PL services to keep them updated on their freight during the transportation cycle is increasing. Over the past year, the importance and need for visibility have only increased as suppliers are dealing with ever-increasing customer expectations and delivery standards. Walmarts OTIF (On Time: In Full) policy is a perfect example of this, which can punish shippers for not adhering to a strict delivery schedule.  

Data and Tech will Pave the Way 

It’s more than just the growth of demand that is making 3PLs a tempting partner for shippers. With the influx of big data, analytics, blockchain technologies, and so many more innovations, attempting to keep pace can be difficult. As demand grows and capacity tightens, shippers and carriers alike need to be smarter about how they operate if they want to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. 

As the industry continues to change, it’s likely that we’ll only see 3PLs continue to grow in popularity.

A Better Way of Doing Business

At BlueGrace, we take your current freight data and get an inside look at what your team may be missing. Our carrier procurement strategists will help you meet tight deadlines, optimize your freight expense, and ultimately, find peace of mind. Fill out the form below to find out more about how partnering with BlueGrace can create more visibility and opportunities to simplify, overall helping you find a better way to do business.

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Supply Chain TLC

For the most part, we consider the supply chain to be a means to an end. While it’s an important means, it’s simply the process required to transition raw materials to finish product and take that product from the production floor to its end user.

While the supply chain is a rather complex system that utilizes a company’s logistics capabilities to the utmost, there are some companies that put decidedly more effort, energy, and even love into making it operate at its peak. Some companies will go the extra mile, quite literally, to make sure that they are producing the best possible product for their consumers and bringing some true innovation to the industry.

Some LUSH Sources  

Consumer consciousness has been on the rise lately as end users are becoming more aware of what goes into their products. There have been a number of reports about big companies catching flak and negative press because of their willingness to cut corners when it comes to bringing in their raw materials. It’s companies like Lush that really bring ethical sourcing to light, and have changed our understanding of a truly visible supply chain.  

Sandalwood, for example, has some incredible value for the cosmetics industry both for its scent as well as it’s therapeutic values. The tree itself takes over 10 years to grow to harvestable maturation and is predominantly found in India and Australia. Given the high levels of global demand, it’s become illegal to cut, harvest, and sell sandalwood out of India without permission from the state forest department, making it a perfect enterprise for criminal entrepreneurs.   

It strengthened my understanding of what we wanted and what we didn’t want,’ Gendry-Hearn says. In short, they weren’t going to get sustainable sandalwood from India.” 

“Gendry-Hearn and Constantine (buyers for Lush) were in India to investigate the dark underworld of sandalwood smuggling. The trip ended after a meeting in a hotel with a smartly dressed man she described as ‘the big boss.’ He entered with several bodyguards, sat across from them and put his gun on the table. Gendry-Hearn wasn’t scared. ‘My thought was: this is brilliant, this was exactly what we wanted,’ she explains. The big boss boasted that the price of sandalwood oil would never go down as he was sitting on massive reserves of wood and would restrict what was coming through. ‘It strengthened my understanding of what we wanted and what we didn’t want,’ Gendry-Hearn says. In short, they weren’t going to get sustainable sandalwood from India.”  

This is just one example of the lengths Lush undertakes to ensure their true to their word on ethically sourced materials. More than that, Lush builds on their relationships with their suppliers and promotes various initiatives (and funding) to increase awareness of corporate social responsibility.  

ADIDAS Kicks it Up a Notch 

When you consider the sheer amount of consumer goods that are made, transported, and purchased on a daily basis, it almost comes as a shock to realize that footwear is actually one of the most time-intensive products on the market today. The supply chain for shoes more closely resembles that of automobiles, parts and components are made in one location, shipped to another factory for the next assembly step, then shipped to the final factory location to be stitched, glued, and packaged as a finished product. This is a product that hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.  

Now, however, with the rapid change in consumer expectation towards instant gratification and same day delivery, months-long process to assemble a pair of kicks simply won’t do anymore.

That’s what prompted ADIDAS to come up with the concept of the “speed factory.” “A couple of years ago, the top minds at Adidas decided this clunky, inefficient model was too limiting. “That’s why we looked into the technologies available and decided, ‘Hey, if we want to be faster and more flexible in doing what our athletes want and need, then we have to rethink the way we make products,’” says Gerd Manz, the head of technology innovation within Adidas’ Future team, which looks ahead three to seven years to set the company’s course.” 

Turning the average lead time from a few months down to a few weeks or even days is pretty astounding in its own, but when you consider the other ramifications of cutting out much of the supply chain it becomes even more impressive. The reduction of transportation costs and CO2 emissions alone will go a long way towards improving the companies standing and compliance with global green initiatives.  

Walmart’s Blockchain for Food Safety  

Walmart and blockchain alike have been garnering a good deal of headline attention in the recent past. Walmart, in particular, has launched a tough initiative for carriers and suppliers alike with their On Time: In Full (OTIF) policy which will penalize deliveries that are early, late, or incomplete.  

More than simply seeing the data, blockchain technology offers a total view of a product through its entire delivery through the supply chain.   

Blockchain, on the other hand, is an innovative new technology that will maximize the amount of accessible data within the supply chain. More than simply seeing the data, blockchain technology offers a total view of a product through its entire delivery through the supply chain.   

And Walmart’s plan with this new technology? To increase food safety.  

“One of Walmart’s grandest projects is an attempt to graft a blockchain, that immutable cryptographic ledger first used by bitcoin, onto the world’s complex food supply chains. Walmart has roped in some of the industry’s biggest players, among them fruit producer Dole, consumer goods giant Unilever, and Swiss water and food conglomerate Nestle, to form a consortium of 10 food producers and retailers to make it a reality,” according to Joon Ian Wong of Quartz 

“They’re building the technology with IBM, which has been among the most active technology firms pushing blockchain solutions to corporate technology departments. If Walmart is successful, the project could fundamentally alter the way information is secured, stored, and shared across the food and retail industry, ushering in an era where an item of produce can be tracked in real-time from farm to table, by producers and consumers,” he adds. 

Visibility is a Must

Again, consumer consciousness is on the rise. People want to know where their food and products are coming from. They want to know that it’s all being made and sourced responsibly and ethically. We’re living in an age where consumers want to know what’s going on behind the scenes of big companies and visibility is simply a must. BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help give you the visibility you need, feel free to contact us using the form below: 

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The Unique Needs of the Consumer Goods Sector

Almost everything we touch or consume or use in society is a consumer good. Bicycles, refrigerators, jewelry, clothing, etc. Consumer goods are products bought for and used by consumers, rather than by manufacturers for making other goods. The sale of consumer items is big business. Consumer spending represents 69 percent of the U.S. economy. Two-thirds of that figure is on services (such as housing and healthcare). However, a full one-quarter is spent on non-durable goods like clothing and groceries with the remaining portion on durable goods, like cars and appliances.  

The National Retail Federation estimates retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent this year, buoyed by economic growth. 

Deloitte’s 2018 Consumer Products Industry Outlook Report reports that “the US economy is likely to continue to grow at a moderate 2.0–2.5 percent rate into 2018. A key source of strength is consumers, who have benefitted from a strong labor market and rising incomes. Unemployment is at a record low of 4.2 percent, with an average of about 148,000 jobs added every month. Real disposable personal income is up, albeit slowly, by 1.8 percent in 2017, and is likely to pick up momentum next year, rising by more than 2.0 percent.” 

Unique Challenges of the Consumer Good Sector 

The transport of consumer goods presents unique logistical challenges. Non-durables must be transported quickly – and frequently. Fast-moving consumer goods (perishables, trendy items, items linked to promotions and product rollouts) are subject to certain operational constraints – some of which are controllable and some of which are not (highly variable outbound logistics).  

Customers control the choices and the buying process.

Durables, along with non-durables, are affected by the extra pressures of the “New Customer”  – a customer that is more aware, more demanding and who holds higher expectations than we have ever seen before. These expectations relate to the availability of products (on the shelf, i.e., no out of stocks) and timely, free, traceable delivery (for home shipment). Customers control the choices and the buying process.

A well-developed digital presence across platforms and channels – consumer-centric, smart-phone focused –  is what will drive future sales.  

Shopping patterns and distribution networks are changing. Some customers go to bricks and mortars stores to do their consumer research, then order online from the same store or rival. Others make their purchase in-store after engaging in online comparison shipping. In-store purchasing remains strong, but there is more choice for the consumer. A twofold presence for retailers (in-store and online) is becoming mandatory. A new trend is for stores to partially function as fulfillment centers for online orders. A well-developed digital presence across platforms and channels – consumer-centric, smart-phone focused –  is what will drive future sales.  

Where 3PLs Come In 

Many larger consumer goods firms have historically relied upon in-house logistics. Now they are turning to third party-logistics providers (3PLs) in droves, joining the ranks of smaller brands of consumer goods that do not have the same in-house distribution capabilities and are more familiar with outsourced relationships. Ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies operating in the US sought out help from a third party logistics provider in 2017 (up from 46% in 2001). 

Because 3PLs are nimble, they are able to juggle the B2C needs of the new world of consumer goods logistics well. They are uniquely suited to help firms cope with the rising costs of freight.

Unique advantages of 3PLS in the field include: 

  1. Consolidation – combining loads from closely located suppliers to keep logistics costs down.
  2. A network of resources – such as warehousing spaces and flexible transportation fleets. 
  3. Economies of scale – derived from an increase in handled items (leading to better productivity). 
  4. Technology – a robust proprietary software that can integrate complex supply chain ecosystems in a manner comparable to a leading enterprise.

BlueGrace uses proprietary technology to enable you to proactively identify opportunities to alleviate costs and optimize your supply chain. Fill out the form below or call us today to see how we can help simplify your distribution needs! 

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Accelerating Business Growth And Lowering Cost With Data Analytics

Too many companies are experiencing transportation and freight expenses as one of their top three costs. Smaller companies feel the pinch the most. They typically incur greater logistics costs than medium and large sized companies, as do companies that sell lower product value goods. In a recent survey, 32% of online retailers expected logistics and delivery to be their biggest cost this year. The expense of moving products or assets to different destinations should not be the leading cost in any business, if possible. (See How Does Freight and Transportation Fit into your Budget? 

What’s behind the dramatic rise in transportation costs in nearly every sector? There are simply not enough drivers on the road to keep up with demand.  

Truck Capacity Crunch 

The first explanation for the rise in transportation costs is the truck capacity crunch.

The first explanation for the rise in transportation costs is the truck capacity crunch. See “Rising Costs and Lower Capacity in the Domestic Truckload Market.” There are simply not enough drivers on the road to keep up with demand. “Surging transportation demand is spurring trucking companies to charge as much as 30 percent more for long-distance routes compared with prices a year ago, and they’re hard pressed to add capacity because of a long-standing shortage of drivers,” explains Thomas Black, in Bloomberg’s “There Aren’t Enough Truckers, and That’s Pinching U.S. Profits.” Tyson Foods Inc anticipates paying $200 million more for freight in 2018 from the previous year. Kellogg Co’s logistics costs are expected to rise by nearly 10 percent. 

Chief Executive Jim Snee of Hormel Foods, the maker of Skippy peanut butter and SPAM, says, “We don’t believe we’re going to recoup all of our freight cost increases for the balance of the year.” He informed Reuters that the company’s operating margin sank to 13.2 percent, from 15.6 percent due to rising costs – freight among them – in the most recent quarter. 

Stringent Demands of the ELD Mandate 

The second reason is the new ELD (Electronic Logging Devices) Mandate which entered into force on December 18, 2017.  Drivers are now driving less, in keeping with the new regulations. Fewer drivers on the road at any given time due to the ELD Mandate is equivalent to taking 200 to 300,000 or so trucks off the market, according to a podcast episode by Freight Savings Tips.

Truck Driver Wage Increase

With fewer people getting licensed to become truck drivers, and older drivers retiring (see “Attracting the Next Generation of Truckers”), it will be inevitable that wages will need to go up to attract much-needed drivers. To cover the cost of truck driver wage increases, truckload rates will inevitably rise. 

Fuel Price Hikes 

The rise in fuel prices is especially hard-hitting for companies as fuel represents a significant portion of freight spends – often appearing as a surcharge on carrier invoices or embedded in line-haul rates. Fuel, according to the Harvard Business Review, is often the “largest inadequately monitored part of a company’s cost structure.” 

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service calls this season “the most expensive driving season since 2014.”  

Congestion In Cities 

With increased traffic volumes and customer expectations on delivery times, the pressure to perform – quickly, and in congested parts of the city (i.e., tricky navigation) is very real. Consumer changes and complicated last-mile delivery obligations require money which must then be offset elsewhere. 

The main solution – and greatest hope for companies engaged in shipping activity –  is data analytics.

What To Do: It’s All about Data Analytics 

The main solution – and greatest hope for companies engaged in shipping activity–  is data analytics. Data analytics lessen the cost of bringing products to retailers or customers by uncovering new possibilities.  

Transportation spending covers many dimensions. Therefore, there are many opportunities to control the spend. These solutions come in the form of reconsidering warehouse processes, leveraging IT systems, revising package and product designs to alleviate excess weight and increase shipment density, or “nearshoring” (reducing the number of miles shipments travel). 

Bringing in the Experts

Companies who have relied on BlueGrace’s tried-and-true data analytics have recouped losses from mistakes they have made in the past. Consider the consumer packaged good company that underwent BlueGrace data analysis to determine what the “true cost” of its orders were (using information from historical orders) when freight cost was allocated.

The company executives were able to “drill down and allocate a freight cost to not only the customer level but the customer location, customer location type (Direct to Store or Distribution Center) and even down to the SKU level.

The company executives were able to “drill down and allocate a freight cost to not only the customer level but the customer location, customer location type (Direct to Store or Distribution Center) and even down to the SKU level. Since freight cost was not passed through to the client, this would either show a net margin loss on certain orders or opportunities to reduce the freight cost allocation on others to become more competitive. The result highlighted regions that were more costly to ship to, products that did not have enough margin potential to consider shipping unless they met a specific minimum requirement and insight into regions of the country that would benefit from an additional warehouse location.” 

With BlueGrace’ specialized business intelligence, processes become clearer. Transportation costs are curbed relative to sales and overall budget. Ready to find your own clarity today? Feel savings relief by taking the first step. Watch the video on our proprietary game-changing data service here and talk to an expert today. Fill out the form below or call 800.MY.SHIPPING (697-4477) to be connected to a Transportation Management Expert. 

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Survey Says: Visibility is the Main Goal

Digital supply chains are nothing new as far as the headlines are concerned. There is a lot of promise and potential for the new technology in terms of efficiency and easier adaptation to other advancements and solutions. Yet even with the knowledge of the many benefits associated with digital supply networks (DSN), many companies are only now beginning to embrace it.  

According to information from a new study, there is still a disconnect between the opinion of the digital supply chain and the actual implementation of it.  

The survey conducted by Deloitte and MAPI, included more than 200 different manufacturing organizations. They found that a little over half of the respondents believe that their investment and adoption of DSN or a digital supply chain solution maturity level is ‘above average’ when compared to their competitors. Yet of those respondents only 28 percent have actually started to implement their solutions.  

Visibility is the Main Goal 

Transparency represents one of the biggest potentials for efficiency gain in the industry.

Above all else, the survey shows the main reason why manufacturers are looking into a digital supply network; end to end transparency. Transparency represents one of the biggest potentials for efficiency gain in the industry. The survey also shows that of the respondents, only 6 percent have a process in place where every member of the organization can see everyone else’s data.   

“Stephen Laaper, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and co-author of the study, said: While enthusiasm is high and manufacturers realize the benefits of Digital Supply Networks, many companies struggle to identify the right technology landscape which will provide the most value when they are approaching a digital shift,” according to an article from The Manufacturer 

“As a result, many hold off with key aspects of their transformation, which in turn puts their transformation at too slow a place to avoid disruption,” Mr Laaper added. 

Understand the Impact and Value of DSNs 

Many industry executives believe that DSNs offer several advantages over the traditional, linear, supply chain but they don’t believe that implementation of this technology will have any significant or ‘game-changing’ impact. 56 percent of the respondents said that they believe that a digital supply chain would provide significant benefit to their company.  

While visibility is the main goal of DSN implementation, speed is another factory that manufacturers are interested in.

While visibility is the main goal of DSN implementation, speed is another factory that manufacturers are interested in. Over half of the respondents, 52 percent, cited a dramatic reduction in time needed to make strategic decisions as their top reason for implementation. 43 percent of respondents said they are looking for an optimization and efficiency boost. 

Digital supply chains and DSNs also offer an array of financial benefits that are of interest to manufacturers including but not limited to, increased sales efficiency, lower operating costs, and better pricing and margins.   

Challenges for Manufacturers 

Benefits of DNS are a draw for manufacturers, but implementation might be easier said than done. Talent in the industry will present a challenge for DNS implementation, both in finding new talent capable of working with the technology and training existing employees to work with it. This represents the top challenge for 30 percent of the survey respondents.  

Change, believe it or not, is another fairly substantial obstacle towards implementing digital solutions. For an industry that has remained more or less the same over the past several decades, over a third of those that responded (37 percent) said that overcoming that resistance to change would be the greatest challenge to a successful DNS implementation.  

All companies operate differently, thus their DSN implementations carry unique challenges based on the existing infrastructure, talent base, culture and technological requirements.

“John Miller, council director at MAPI, said: There is no one way to deploy a DSN. All companies operate differently, thus their DSN implementations carry unique challenges based on the existing infrastructure, talent base, culture and technological requirements.” 

As with any digitally based technology, cybersecurity will always be a concern, especially in the wake of the DDOS attacks and cyber virus attacks that hit major shipping industries last year. A fifth of the respondents said that data security risks are the reason they are reluctant to provide information to outside suppliers, which is crucial for many DNS systems. While blockchain technology might help to assuage these concerns, the technology is still too new for many manufacturers to consider at this stage.  

The Road Ahead 

There are a number of obstacles on the road for an industry-wide embrace of a digital supply chain. While some companies are starting to get their feet wet, there are many that are still hesitant to take the plunge. The survey shows that many executives can see the benefits of a DNS that can improve their business as a whole but are still nervous about the new technology.  

There is a cautionary tale to be told in this, according to MAPI’s John Miller. “Companies that are too conservative in their approach may wait too long before finally implementing initiatives that are too large and complex,” Miller said.  

“In the end, these companies risk being late to the game and implementing solutions whose value is hard to measure because of either the time it takes to show an improvement or the overall scale of the implementation.” 

The industry is changing, there’s no doubt about. The waves of disruptive technology are not only coming, but they are starting to pick up speed with how quickly they are devised, created, implemented, and revised.

The industry is changing, there’s no doubt about. The waves of disruptive technology are not only coming, but they are starting to pick up speed with how quickly they are devised, created, implemented, and revised. This is a welcome breath of fresh air for the industry, that has largely remained unchanged throughout the decades. Yet, while we can see the change as a good thing indeed, adapting to those changes will ultimately be one of the most difficult challenges for industry players. 

Determining which path to take will be an undertaking for sure, but one that has a high payoff in the end.

Getting a Head Start in the Tech Race

Companies that fail to embrace this new digital era will find themselves outpaced and outdated before too long, while companies that take the initiative now will have a head start in the tech race to come. BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help give you the visibility you need to gain efficiency, feel free to contact us using the form below: 

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The Rise of Dropshipping

While the concept of dropshipping is nothing new (it’s been around since the 70’s) it’s starting to increase in popularity thanks to the e-commerce boom. Dropshipping itself is a simple concept. Rather than shipping goods to a retailer, they go from the manufacturer directly to the consumer. The earliest forms of dropshipping came in the form of radio and television ads. Even certain brick and mortar stores used dropshipping as a means of selling bulkier items like furniture that would typically take of a great deal of storage space or that cost more to transport.

Drop Shipping Is On The Rise

Now, with ad space available virtually (read literally) everywhere, drop shipping is on the rise. Companies like Zappos, and Wish are taking advantage of advertising through social media sites like Instagram and Facebook and are able to reach millions of potential consumers with next to no effort. Shopify, in particular, is an interesting company to look at when it comes to dropshipping. The total amount of money to go through Shopify over the course of 2017 was an astounding $27 billion. This was a 70 percent increase in revenue from the 2016 sales figures. Yet in all the years that Shopify has been in operation, it has yet to turn a profit. That’s right, Shopify has yet to see anything in return for its massive revenue streak.

When you look at it in that light, it kind of makes dropshipping seem like a scam. But in reality, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Dropshipping as a Business Model

As a business model, there’s something to be said for dropshipping. It eliminates the need of heavy capital investments in both inventory and warehousing space. Because there’s no need to buy bulk inventory, there’s no inventory risk (shrink, damage, unsold merchandise) which further reduces the financial burdens for a burgeoning business. While it does mean slimmer margins, a savvy entrepreneur with the right items and a good logistics setup can make a successful entrance into an otherwise tough market.

Additionally, dropshipping is also great for existing stores to test out new products without the need for a heavy purchase. By listing a product on their website and seeing what sells, a company can gather enough market data to determine whether or not it’s a worthwhile product to invest in. It might cost a little more upfront with extra shipping fees, but it’s better than having an excessive amount of stock sitting around and taking up valuable warehouse space.

To give an example of how widely spread the dropshipping business model is now, here are some of the stats on dropshipping compiled by Quartz:

2 million: Advertisers on Instagram per month

$10.9 billion: Projected Instagram ad revenues this year

500,000: Number of merchants on the e-commerce platform Shopify, up 74% in the last five years

$1 million: Sales per minute facilitated by Shopify around big shopping days like Thanksgiving

The Uneven Field

While dropshipping has merit as a business plan, there is a certain unevenness to the playing field. Many of the companies that advertise on social media sites are actually overlaps for much bigger Asian wholesale companies. In this “accuracy by volume” method of advertising, these companies are able to list a multitude of different products to the same target audience with little effort. However, the disadvantage doesn’t stop there. Shipping from China is, in many ways, cheaper and easier than it is to ship within the United States.

“Under the terms of a 2010 treaty, postal authorities get a set fee from their foreign counterparts to deliver a package within their borders,” said Adam Pasick of Quartz.

“If a company from China wants to ship something to a US consumer, the USPS gets no more than $1.50—which often makes it cheaper for Chinese merchants to ship a package up to 4.4 lbs from Shenzhen to Des Moines than it costs to ship from, say, Seattle,” he added. This is why low-cost goods from Alibaba go for little more than a $10 shipping charge.

Bigger Players in the Field

It isn’t just Asian wholesalers that are taking advantage of this business model. Large retailers like Macy’s, Home Depot, and Pier 1 Imports are also using dropshipping as a means of increasing their online market presences. This stands to reason, as omnichannel and online shopping are beginning to gain popularity over the strictly brick and mortar experience.

While most of the goods that come from these dropship based web-stores are more than lackluster, there is still a great deal of potential for the business model, especially for businesses that already have a physical presence. Not only can it cut down on warehousing costs and inventory risks but it can offer a great deal to the customer experience as a whole. Expanded product lines combined with easy to order and easier to receive goods is in keeping with the change in consumer expectations and the shift in market conditions.

Preparing for the Future

Combining dropship marketing with a well-developed logistics system might have some merit in the near future as e-commerce continues to grow and develop. If you don’t believe us, just remember that Amazon started as a dropship company before it became the e-commerce titan it is today. 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. For more information on how we can help you prepare you for the future and simplify your supply chain, contact us using the form below: 

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Walmart’s OTIF Policy Gets Harder 

On Time In Full is a policy that Walmart created back in 2016 and implemented in August of 2017. In an attempt to drive their proficiency up and costs down, the mega retail chain started targeting their supply chain. Under this policy, suppliers that failed to deliver the total amount of promised goods, to designated stores at the prescribed time are penalized; fined up to three percent of the total shipment value.  

The shipment has to arrive exactly when it’s expected. Not before, and certainly not after.  

It’s not just trying to curb late deliveries, either. The OTIF policy also cracks down on trucks arriving too early, as it can create excess traffic and delays for loading and unloading. For suppliers and trucking companies, this means there’s no leaving early to create a buffer zone. The shipment has to arrive exactly when it’s expected. Not before, and certainly not after.   

In addition to making things more challenging for suppliers to make sure their goods arrive on time, it will bring even more stress on carriers – we discussed this in more detail in our earlier post. With the Electronic Logging Device more closely monitoring hours of service, truckers will be in a tight spot when it comes to making sure that deliveries arrive exactly when they’re supposed to, all while making sure to stay compliant with their working hours.  

A Tough Policy Gets Tougher 

As of April 1st of this year, the company made the policy even harder. Prior to this month, the OTIF policy stated that full truckload shipments needed to meet a 75 percent OTIF rating and less-than-truckload shipments needed to meet 33 percent OTIF to avoid fines. Now, FTL’s are required to meet an 85 percent standard (down from the lofty 95 percent they had originally planned) while LTL requirements have increased to 36 percent.

Keeping products on the shelf is the name of the game for Walmart.

Keeping products on the shelf is the name of the game for Walmart. With increased competition from the likes of Target, Dollar General, and Amazon, the more items Walmart can keep in stock, the less likely they are to lose out to the competition.  

A Necessary Change 

While it’s easy to paint Walmart in a bad light through this policy, they aren’t the only company to enforce such a policy. Competition stores like Target, Kroger, and Walgreens also have similar OTIF policies. If retailers don’t hold the supplier accountable and they don’t make them try to comply, then suppliers can cause backlogs.

With the 90 percent failure rate for full and timely deliveries, Walmart has found a rather convenient way to turn a problem into profit.

According to a Bloomberg report, Walmart had a OTIF success rate hovering around a dismal 10 percent. With the 90 percent failure rate for full and timely deliveries, Walmart has found a rather convenient way to turn a problem into profit. This new policy doesn’t cost the company a dime. In addition to generating money from the fines, increased product availability will also mean increased in-store sales.  

Given that Walmart is such a heavy hitter for suppliers, suppliers will have little choice but to either comply or lose out on some considerable business. With the extra revenue generation, Walmart can take that money and reinvest in its e-commerce business.  

A Hard Place for Small Suppliers 

While larger companies have no problem meeting delivery quotas, it’s the LTL deliveries that are going to take the brunt of the OTIF policy. Considering the strained nature of supply chain as it is, especially in the trucking sector. ELD and HoS mandates are pitting truckers against the clock as it stands. Couple that with the driver shortage and rising demand for LTL, and capacity becomes even more limited.   

Couple that with the driver shortage and rising demand for LTL, and capacity becomes even more limited.   

At least in that regard, the company has cut smaller suppliers a little slack, which is the reason that LTL shipments have less than half the requirements of their FTL counterparts. An LTL doesn’t schedule a delivery to a Walmart [distribution center] until the freight arrives at the terminal.

In order to avoid hefty fines being levied by Walmart and other retailers such as Kroger and Walgreens, suppliers are going to have to tighten and fine tune their logistics and supply chain considerably, especially given the current tight capacity environment.  

Do You Need Help With OTIF Issues?

A 3PL, such as BlueGrace, can help your business overcome the challenges of OTIF and other supply chain issues. If you have questions about OTIF or just how to simplify your current transportation program, feel free to contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below and we will be happy to assist.

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Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Trucking

Freight is one of the most essential industries in the United States, and according to the US Freight Transportation Forecast publication conducted by the American Trucking Association (ATA), it’s going to continue growing over the next decade. The ATA forecast estimates that US freight will grow to 20.73 billion tons by 2028, a 36.6 percent increase over tonnage moved in 2017.  

Given the considerable amount of freight being moved, the freight industry has some considerable challenges to overcome to get the job done. New regulations (such as the ELD mandate) are putting a strain on trucking companies. Fuel prices and spot rates are prone to changing which can make finding reliable capacity, booking freight, and making a profit frustrating, even at the best of times. Increasing demand means a shortage in capacity, and many shipments are being left behind and delayed. There’s also a massive driver shortage in the United States, a problem that will get worse before it gets better.  

In order to mitigate the obstacles, logistics is going to have to get a whole lot smarter.

In order to mitigate the obstacles, logistics is going to have to get a whole lot smarter. While human intelligence certainly goes a long way towards planning, artificial intelligence is beginning to take up a role in the industry.  

The Growing AI Market 

AI has a number of applications that will be crucial to the trucking industry and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Increasing operational efficiency can help to reduce costs for OEMs and fleet operators. Predictive modeling is also made possible by AI, allowing for preemptive maintenance by combining data collected via the Internet of Things, sensors, external sources, and maintenance logs.   

“The possible increase in asset productivity (20%) and the reduction in overall maintenance costs (10%) can be observed,” according to a recent article from Market Research.  “Also, according to a publication by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication have the potential to prevent 40% of reported crashes.”  

In addition to increased road safety, AI can also offset the potential increase in trucking costs and higher driver wages. Artificial Intelligence will also help OEMs and fleet operators stay in compliance with new regulations regarding vehicle and driver safety. This is spurring the growth of ADAS technologies and other initiatives created by OEMs, especially when it comes to automated vehicles. It’s estimated that the AI market within the transportation industry will grow from $1.21 billion in 2017 to $10.30 billion by 2030.   

However, despite the growth and development in the AI market, installation and infrastructure costs will likely be prohibitive to smaller companies. Even a few ADAS features like blind spot detection, telematics, and lane assist can drastically increase the cost of a commercial vehicle. Adding AI systems to vehicles will also require a heavy infrastructure cost as well, further complicating implementation and adoption.  

Various AI Functions for Trucking 

Artificial Intelligence in the trucking industry presents a wide array of opportunities and potential, especially when combined with automated trucking.  

“AI constitutes various machine learning technologies such as deep learning, computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), and context awareness. Some of the recent applications of these technologies in the transportation industry are semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles, truck platooning, and human-machine interface (HMI) applications,” Market Research says. 

Deep learning is one of the most promising AI developments.

Deep learning is one of the most promising AI developments. As an advanced form of AI, it analyzes a myriad of different data sources including images, sound, and text, and then compiles that data through a synthetic neural network. The result is the ability to identify and generalize patterns and strengthens the decision-making capabilities for safe operation of autonomous vehicles.  

Computer vision is another potential application for AI in trucking. Computer vision utilizes a high-resolution camera and increases the HMI (human machine interaction) capabilities of driver and vehicle. The camera interprets various data inputs such as lane departure, traffic signs, and signals, and is also able to detect driver drowsiness. Ideally, this version of AI will help to bridge the gap between semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles.  

The Future of AI in the Trucking Industry 

AI will be instrumental in the future of trucking. Not only can it collect and monitor data, but as it observes patterns, it will be able to make predictions based on those patterns. These predictions will enhance onboard AI capabilities assisting in both driver and navigation functions as well as back-end functions like data monitoring and preemptive maintenance. Onboard AI will also increase connectivity and communication between other trucks on the road, improving platooning and other joint lane management systems.  

The strength of AI in the trucking industry will be dependent on the amount of data it has to work with.

The strength of AI in the trucking industry will be dependent on the amount of data it has to work with. The more data, the smarter the AI. Building up a database from scratch, however, can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor, one that might be impossible for some companies to achieve in a reasonable time frame.

Integrating AI systems with a transportation management system can help to reduce both costs and implementation time, however.

Integrating AI systems with a transportation management system can help to reduce both costs and implementation time, however. Working in tandem, the AI can help to increase driver safety while a TMS can optimize the overall efficiency of the supply chain, allowing for a smoother and more profitable operation.  

Using a 3PL to Prepare for the Future

While there is near limitless potential for artificial intelligence in the future of the trucking industry, it’s still a ways off from where it needs to be for rapid and easy implementation. The same is also true for automated trucking. However, there are readily available steps you can take to improve your operations without having to break the bank. We at BlueGrace specialize in true Transportation Management, without the need for a heavy investment in labor or technology. For more information on how we can help you harness the full potential of your logistics, fill out the form below:

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A Bright Future for Intelligent Logistics

The transportation and logistics industries are perhaps one of the most vital industries in the United States, if not the entire world. On average, trucks haul approximately 70 percent of all consumer goods across the country, and that number is only expected to grow as the global economy continues to grow and change. However, while it is the most vital of all industries, it has also remained the most stagnant, with very little about the industry changing over the past several decades.

The potential for these digital changes is immense, allowing companies to work smarter by lowering operation costs while boosting efficiency.

Yet, we’re beginning to see what can be described as an age of enlightenment for the transportation industry, a digital renaissance. Something in which logistics planners and trucking fleet owners alike are beginning to dive into. These changes are covering everything from ridesharing, “smart” logistics, and even automated vehicles. The potential for these digital changes is immense, allowing companies to work smarter by lowering operation costs while boosting efficiency. Even going so far as increase environmental sustainability as truckers, planners, and shippers all learn to connect on a broader level.

The Growing Web of Interconnection 

In short, the digital age is built on the concept that just about anything is possible, including a sort of omniscience that is vital to running a highly efficient supply chain.  

One of the biggest advantages of this digital age is how interconnected everything is. The Internet of Things (IoT) is providing more data and more accessibility to that data than ever before. New software systems are able to track where freight is during every stage of its transportation and the condition of it during its trip. 3PLs and other intermediaries are developing digital platforms that can connect a shipper to a carrier with a few clicks, rather than an exhaustive list of phone calls, emails, and faxes. Customs documents can be uploaded and transmitted to mobile devices,  less demurrage and detention fees when a paper document gets lost in translation. In short, the digital age is built on the concept that just about anything is possible, including a sort of omniscience that is vital to running a highly efficient supply chain.  

Building On the Infrastructure 

Digitization within the transportation industry also has another, less obvious benefit. It gives developing countries easier access to the global market. As these countries haven’t built up their logistics capabilities to that of the U.S. or the E.U. attempting to break ground on this front is often both cost and time prohibitive. Having access to a digital platform allows them to “leapfrog” directly into digital and mobile solutions for logistics.  

“According to the All India Motor Transport Congress, there are close to 12 million trucks in India. The road freight volume in India is forecast to be 2,211.24 billion freight tonne-kilometer, growing at 4.7 percent,” according to a recent article from YourStory.com 

Market research from Novonous, ‘Logistics Market in India 2015-2020’ shows that India is a prime example of a country that can benefit from new, digitized logistics platforms. The report shows that the logistics sector for India approximately $300 billion, and expected to grow by 12.17 percent by 2020. Factor in that 90 percent of trucks in India are operated by single truck owners, and you can see the potential for connectivity and digital platforms.  

The Growth of E-commerce and Digitization 

E-commerce, of course, is at the heart of much of this digital growth as many consumers begin to veer towards a digital shopping cart, rather than brick and mortar stores. As E-commerce companies such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Flipkart begin to grow and attract more customers, the potential for higher logistics costs also increase. As it stands, India spends about 13 percent of its total GDP on logistics, versus China at 18 percent and the U.S at 8.5 percent. Even a drop of 4 percent in logistics spending could save India upwards of $50 billion.   

The visibility and scalability of a digital network will undoubtedly be vital for the growth of the global economy.

The visibility and scalability of a digital network will undoubtedly be vital for the growth of the global economy. Not only does it help to level the playing field for new players making the market more accessible, but it also helps veterans and legacy companies to operate more efficiently.  

Real-time visibility solutions can help tackle delays, productivity issues, accidents, diversion, theft, and damage.

“Mobile operators are uniquely poised to offer regional and global connectivity solutions for the logistics sector. These real-time visibility solutions can help tackle delays, productivity issues, accidents, diversion, theft, and damage,” says the Yourstory Team.   

“Governments can also improve the quality of logistics via measures like budgetary outlays, foreign direct investment regulations, clarity in classification of logistics players, tax structures, and requirements for open data sharing. This covers truck fleets and the warehousing sector,” they added.  

The logistics sector is heading towards a new digital era, that much is certain. Tech startups, along with forward-thinking incumbents, are bringing innovations and insights into the field and is shaking up the old ways of doing things. As this new era grows in years, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing the logistics and transportation industry in a wholly different light.  

Offering Intelligent Logistics To All Customers 

BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help take your hard to understand and complicated data and turn it into easy to read and well calculated decisions data, feel free to contact us using the form below:

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Change Is Coming For The Trucking Industry

Disruptive technologies will often alter the form and function of an industry, at least to some degree. The changes brought about by these new disruptions are subtle, making the sector more efficient (production is a good example of this) but change little else. The transportation industry, however, is standing at the precipice of total revolution. These new, disruptive advancements won’t affect it in small ways, but rather change it altogether, making the industry something completely different from what we’ve seen over the past several decades.   

There are some big questions to answer when contemplating how these new developments will alter and impact the industry.

There are some big questions to answer when contemplating how these new developments will alter and impact the industry. IHS Markit’s latest study “Reinventing the Truck” is taking a closer look at how new power-train and autonomous trucking will affect logistics, trucking, and the energy industry.  

New Changes for the Trucking Industry  

Of these new changes, the first one to consider is that we’re beginning to see new patterns of both distribution and consumption across consumer markets. Typically speaking, a growth in trade reflects economic activity, but that relationship might change due to changes in manufacturing and distribution practices. 3D printing, for example, means that certain consumer goods could be manufactured on site, rather than being transported from a manufacturing facility and then being hauled to a DC before reaching its final destination. Local production of consumer goods could reduce supply chains and lower demand for freight carriers, negating shipping costs entirely in some instances.  

New Technology in the Industry 

Technology will also be a driving factor. According to Markit’s study, there are three key areas in the industry that will be impacted. The first of these is through increased data access. As the IoT and expanded sensor banks allow logistics companies to gain access to more data throughout the supply chain, networks and best practices will see optimization and increased efficiency.   

Electric vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and developing a longer delivery range, making them ideal for urban settings.

Other advancements to be aware of will change fuel consumption patterns throughout the industry. Electric vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and developing a longer delivery range, making them ideal for urban settings. As electric drive trains are quieter, hours of operation can be extended, allowing carriers to operate throughout the night when traffic is reduced, which will change deployment patterns as well as fuel consumption.  

The Role of Automation 

Increased levels of automation within the industry itself will also play a large role in the transformation of the transportation industry. Warehouses are employing more robots for picking and packing of orders. Automated loading and unloading systems can reduce truck detention times, allowing a driver to get back on the road quicker.

Automation will greatly reduce costs by increasing efficiency which will be enhanced as connectivity and communication levels increase.  

Self-driving vehicles are also on the horizon which will allow for a greater traveling distance and might be enticing for new, younger drivers, as a reason to get behind the wheel. Automation will greatly reduce costs by increasing efficiency which will be enhanced as connectivity and communication levels increase.  

New Regulations will Change the Supply Chain 

Lastly, there is the change in trucking regulation to consider, which will have the most immediate impact on the industry. These new regulations are taking place on a local, state, and national level. These policies have a wide range of goals, anywhere from reducing CO2 emissions and improving (reducing) fuel consumption, to addressing longstanding labor issues. Regardless of their intention, these new regulations all share one factor in common, the will to alter the established patterns and practices of the trucking industry. Germany, for example, has allowed individual cities to ban diesel trucks. That alone will significantly change the transportation industry, bringing a new level of complexity for fleet operators that work in and around urban areas as it can vary from city to city.  

Change to Affect More than Just Transportation 

Considering that these changes have a far-reaching impact, not just on the transportation industry, the Markit study also looked at how other industries will be affected. With supply chains being shortened or even negated in some instances as well as new regulations and standards being put into effect, oil refineries and the petrochemical industry will begin to see a diminished demand from their biggest customer. 

Given that the transportation industry plays a considerable role in the global economy, many industries will be affected and will undergo their own set of changes in order to keep pace.  

In short, these new changes will push our understanding of disruptive technologies to a new level as the transportation industry will begin to undergo a metamorphosis. Given that the transportation industry plays a considerable role in the global economy, many industries will be affected and will undergo their own set of changes in order to keep pace.  

Ready for the Change? 

At BlueGrace, we work with you every step of the way. We’re here to help you understand your current freight issues and make sure your supply chain is ready for any changes in the industry without ever missing a beat. For more information on how we can help you simplify your supply chain and achieve your goals without labor or technology investments, contact us today using the form below: 

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Attracting the Next Generation of Truckers

As time changes, the views and opinions of the generations that follow will also change. As the baby boomers are beginning to approach the golden age of retirement, new generations are starting to step up to the plate. This is creating a shakeup for the global economy as a whole. We’re seeing a change in aspirations as well as life goals in those that are entering the workforce. For some industries, it has created a renaissance of new ideas, innovations, leaders, and visionaries.

Simply put, the U.S trucking industry is facing a driver shortage of which it has never seen before.

Other sectors, like the trucking industry, might have a harder time attracting new prospects. Simply put, the U.S trucking industry is facing a driver shortage of which it has never seen before. As manufacturing and retail sales continue to increase, shippers and carriers alike are scrambling to find the capacity to keep freight moving, resulting in many shipments being up-charged or left behind. “A 2017 report by the American Trucking Association noted that the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to meet rising demand, while the latest jobs report noted that 185,000 jobs have been added over the past four months alone,” according to a recent article from MSNBC 

 “The shipping infrastructure is facing a tight capacity crunch this year, and the small to mid-sized business shipper will feel the upward pressure in raised rates due to the lack of drivers and trucks available,” said Tim Story, EVP of freight operations at Unishippers. “The new mandate could result in a 4-8 percent loss in capacity (available trucks on the road).” 

To make matters worse, the average age of truck drivers on the road today is 55, which means many will be considering retirement in the near future. As qualified drivers begin to leave the field, there is a concern that there won’t be enough new drivers to replace them. In order to attract fresh blood and new talent for the industry, trucking companies are focusing their efforts on the newest generation of up and coming young adults: the self-oriented Millennials, who are in their twenties and thirties.  

Trucking is a Hard Sell  

While there is plenty of talent to choose from in the millennial pool, trucking is a hard sell when it comes to attracting new drivers. Truck driving doesn’t necessarily carry the glamorous reputation that some industries might have. Long hours and time spent away from home seem to be a deterrent for many who would consider getting behind the wheel.

While some trucking companies are willing to foot the bill for the education, that’s not a universal standard – at least not yet.  

Additionally, there’s the need for a CDL commercial driver’s license which is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. It takes both time and money to obtain. While some trucking companies are willing to foot the bill for the education, that’s not a universal standard – at least not yet.  

With that being said, it’s still a considerable commitment for someone fresh out of school who is trying to decide what to do with their life. Younger drivers will also be facing an age barrier as well as you need to be 21 and over to be able to cross state lines. Even if trucking companies were able to recruit younger drivers, there’s still going to be a time restraint before a young aspirant can become a full-fledged trucker.  That timing can make a big difference too. A millennial fresh out of high school isn’t able to enter into the field, which means by the time they can they’ve likely moved on to a different career field. Recruitment is also proving to be a challenge for the trucking industry as well.

Until a recruitment solution is identified, it will continue to be a problem.

While many trucking companies are starting to pay for ad space on social media sites in an attempt to find new drivers, the cost vs. yield is out of balance. “Carriers are having to spend more money on advertising to get people to apply, but only getting one to two drivers out of each 100 applications they receive,” said Story. “Between the training required, predominantly male-dominated field, age hurdles and more, carriers are having to pay drivers higher rates that will continue to increase. Right now, there aren’t enough qualified drivers in the applicant pool to satisfy the needs of the industry. Until a recruitment solution is identified, it will continue to be a problem.”  

Changing the Demographic  

Another issue for the trucking industry is that it is predominately male. According to Ellen Voie the president and CEO of the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association, only about seven percent of the entire trucking fleet in the U.S is made up of women. While this made sense for the physical requirements necessary twenty years ago, that’s no longer the case. “There’s very little physical exertion anymore,” says Voie “Even the hood releases and the dollies are hydraulic. You just push a button. WIT’s mission is to work with truck manufacturers and trucking companies alike to promote women in the industry and to help reduce the obstacles faced by women in the trucking industry. By making the industry more accessible for women, it will help to ease the driver shortage by increasing the available pool of drivers to get behind the wheel.   

Autonomous Trucks Will be Good for the Industry  

Conventional wisdom believes that automated trucking will simply remove the need for human drivers, but that isn’t the case, or at least it won’t be for quite some time. However, the trucking industry does stand to gain from the addition of autonomous trucking.

While Millennials might hold the keys to the future, reaching out to them will be the challenge.  

Autonomous trucks will still need a human driver to navigate urban settings as well as handling the more intricate aspects of entering and exiting highways. The technological aspect alone can help to attract younger drivers, while the added safety features might make the field more accessible to younger drivers and women alike while reducing the amount of training necessary to get them on the road. In any event, the trucking industry has its work cut out for it, especially as the driver shortage problem continues to worsen. While Millennials might hold the keys to the future, reaching out to them will be the challenge.  

Ready to Launch A Career in the Logistics Industry?

BlueGrace partners with the industry’s best in class LTL, Truckload and Expedited carriers. If you are ready to learn the in’s and out’s of the transportation industry, CLICK HERE to launch your logistics career and 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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How To Label Your Freight Correctly, The First Time

While it sounds like a no-brainer, a lot of cargo damage happens due to incorrect labeling of the packages that are being transported. Labeling is an integral part of cargo packaging and is an essential aspect to ensure that your goods reach the correct destination at the required time. Correct and proper labeling including package handling instructions is critical to ensure that your goods are delivered safely and efficiently.

Labeling is also important to facilitate real-time tracking of your package as it moves through your trucker’s network and your country’s road network.

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. Not just for handling and safety, labeling is also important to facilitate real-time tracking of your package as it moves through your trucker’s network and your country’s road network.

Your cargo label should have a few mandatory components which are crucial to ensure prompt delivery.

  1. Clearly marked pick up or senders address. This is crucial because, in case of any returns or non-delivery, the cargo can be returned safely to the sender.
  2. Sender’s reference number. In order to identify the package, as the same sender could be sending various parcels to the same receiver but with different items.
  3. Clearly marked delivery address. This should have the full style address including the zip/postal code to ensure that it gets to the right area as there could be cities and streets with the same name in different parts of the country, but zip/postal codes are unique.
  4. Receiver’s reference number. The receiver may be receiving parcels from same, or various senders and they can identify the contents/order quickly with the reference number.
  5. If goods are hazardous, then the relevant hazardous labels must be affixed to the box.
  6. If the goods are Fragile, it must be labeled with Fragile stickers or tape.
  7. The label should have be clearly visible and have a big enough barcode for quick and reliable scanning.
  8. The label should be at least A5 size or larger to accommodate all the above information.

You have to ensure that only the relevant markings are present on the outside of the package

If there are markings on the label or box that are irrelevant to the shipment, that must be removed as it may cause confusion with regard to the delivery. The labels used must be hardy and be able to withstand the elements as in sun, rain, snow or any other conditions they may be exposed to during the journey although it is unlikely that the goods can get wet during road transport. If you have more than one item in a consignment to the same receiver, it would be good to affix the labels in the same place on each item as it makes it easier for the goods to be scanned and sorted.

There are standard labels for package handling instructions which clearly indicate the nature of the contents of the packages so that everyone in the transportation chain knows what handling methods to be used like whether the package is sensitive to heat or moisture or which side is up and where the loading hooks may be used etc.

The symbols on the labels are based on an international standard ISO R/780 (International Organization for Standardization).

Source: Transport Information Service

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 delays or additional charges. If you have questions about how you can better prevent freight issues, 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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Why e-Commerce is now “Talking Shop”

Retail has undergone a radical evolution over the past few decades. When Amazon first appeared online, it was little more than an online bookstore which then piggy-backed toys for now extinct Toys-R-Us.

As e-Commerce began to gain ground, sites like Amazon were a good place to shop for a wide assortment of things you might need around your house. As the e-Commerce disruption to the brick and mortar store continued, you could launch Amazon from your phone, to shop or compare prices on the go. Now, e-Commerce goes a step further with voice-driven shopping, otherwise known as conversational commerce.

“The past year has been a decisive year for voice-driven Conversational Commerce – consumer purchase of products and services via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. While earlier restricted to chatbots accessed via messaging apps for shopping, the definition of Conversational Commerce has significantly expanded with the arrival of voice-based personal assistants, presenting brands with an opportunity to build greater intimacy with their customers,” according to an article from Capgemini.

The Growth of Conversational Commerce

Being able to shop from the comfort of your home on a computer or a smartphone is certainly a convenience. Being able to build a shopping list just by talking is even easier. That’s probably why Capgemini’s survey concluded that 40 percent of consumers would likely be using a voice shopping method over visiting a website or using an app within the next three years. Additionally, 31 percent will likely choose to use a voice assistant over physically visiting a shop or a bank branch.

When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

As the system is fairly intuitive, simply speaking what you want added to your shopping list. Given the ease of use, it’s no surprise that 51 percent of consumers are also voice assistant users for things such as purchasing. A voice assistant can also perform a wide array of other functions such as calling for a ride on Uber, making payments or sending money, or even ordering takeout for dinner. When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

A Personalized Customer Service

Typically, having to interact with a robot when you’re calling customer support can be an irritating process at the best of times. Interestingly enough, 1 in 3 respondents of the Capgemini survey said they’d be willing to replace customer support or in-store shop sales support with a personalized voice assistant to enhance their in-store shopping experience. While that might seem like a negative aspect for retail stores, it’s shown to actually increase brand loyalty as well as average spending by an additional 8 percent per order.

With this new wave of technology, retail stores are being presented with a truly unique means of increasing both their customer service and customer satisfaction. Companies that can create a dynamic and positive voice shopping assistant experience will be better able to serve their customers while increasing business at the same time. That’s not to say that human-based customer service will be completely phased out in the near future.

While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

While a voice assistant is nice, it’s human empathy that can really make a person feel at ease when they have a problem. Many retailers are focusing on customer service as a means of increasing their business. This becomes increasingly important as many industries are turning towards automation to boost efficiency. While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

Logistics is a perfect example of this. When a shipper is having an issue trying to find a shipment, an automated call menu might be the last thing they want to hear. Having a human operator or customer service representative close at hand to help troubleshoot issues has always been vital, perhaps even more so now with the abundance of new technology. Because of this, retailers will have to learn to navigate the line between multi-platform digital solutions and good-old-fashioned human interaction. Voice assistants will be able to bring a lot to the table, connecting both companies to other companies and consumers to everything in new and exciting ways. This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

BlueGrace Cares

BlueGrace provides world class customer service and makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their 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, feel free to contact us using the form below:

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Why Is The Supply Chain Industry The Source of So Much Innovation? 

Trucking is arguably one of the most vital jobs in the United States. When you consider that 70 percent of the freight that moves through the country is transported by trucks, the trucking industry is the backbone that holds the U.S. upright. As important as trucking is, however, it would be nothing without a strong running supply chain. Manufacturers need a constant stream of materials and resources to produce goods and retailers and other companies need a constant stream of deliveries in order for their business to operate. 

“The U.S. supply chain economy is large and distinct. It represents the industries that sell to businesses and the government, as opposed to business-to-consumer (B2C) industries that sell for personal consumption,” the Harvard Business Review says. Much the same way that the trucking industry keeps many U.S. citizens employed, the U.S. supply chain industry accounts for 37 percent of all jobs in the country, employing approximately 44 million people. Interestingly enough, these jobs also pay significantly more than a number of professions and are largely responsible for bursts of innovation within the economy.   

“The intensity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs, a proxy for innovation potential, is almost five times higher in the supply chain economy than in the B2C economy. Patenting is also highly concentrated in supply chain industries,” HBR adds. 

It’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.  

So what is it that makes the supply chain industry pay so well and be responsible for such innovation? It might just be the fact that it’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.  

The Importance of Supply Chain Services 

As we mentioned above, the trucking, manufacturing and retail industries rely heavily on supply chain services to function and survive in today’s economy. With a heavy focus on lean manufacturing, many companies simply can’t afford to have extra products or parts lying around – there needs to be a constant influx, giving these companies what they need precisely when they need it. But it doesn’t explain why it stands out from other sources of employment. To that, Mercedes Delgado, a research director and scientist of MIT and Karen Mills, senior fellow of Harvard Business School, have taken a look at the categorization of employment and made an interesting discovery when it comes to the supply chain. “Only 10% of employment in the economy is in manufacturing, and 90% is in services. It is commonly thought that most of those service jobs are low-wage occupations at restaurants or retail stores, while the manufacturing jobs have higher wages. But not all services are the same.” – Delgado and Mills stated in the recent HBR article. “With our new categorization, we can separate supply chain service jobs – which are higher-paying – from the Main Street service jobs that tend to be lower paying. These supply chain service jobs include many different labor occupations, from operation managers to computer programmers, to truck drivers. They comprise about 80% of supply chain employment, with an average annual wage of $63,000, and are growing rapidly,” they added.  

On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.  

Through their work, they’ve also uncovered a subcategory of the supply chain industry which is traded services. These services are traded and sold across many different fields such as engineering, design, software publishing, logistics services and many others. This subcategory, in particular, showed some of the highest wages and STEM concentration of the entire economy. On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.  

“Our supply chain economy framework leads to a more optimistic view of the economy. If we were to focus on supporting supply chain services, particularly those in traded industries, the result might be more innovation and more well-paying jobs in the United States.”  

How Does this New Category Affect Policy? 

While it might not seem like an important find, this new categorization is actually very important, especially when it relates to U.S. economic policies. For starters, there needs to be a heavier investment in skilled labor. While the supply chain industry has the majority of STEM workers already on the payroll, there is a shortage in America in general. This makes it hard for both sides to continue the level of growth and innovation. Many companies already have a hard time finding the necessary talent to keep them moving forward.

Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent. 

Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent. The second point from Delgado and Mills is that we need to support regional industry clusters. “Suppliers produce inputs for businesses, and therefore, they particularly benefit from being co-located with their buyers in industry clusters. Catalyzing and strengthening organizations that support regional clusters is one way to promote buyer-supplier collaboration.” 

Finally, it’s a matter of making sure that supply chain service providers have access to the necessary funds to continue their work. Many of the products and services that they create are things that can’t be patented which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to continue generating the necessary capital. Having government policies in place that would guarantee loans or credit support for suppliers would go a long way to ensuring stability and funding for these service providers to start and grow.  

 The supply chain is a very large industry within the United States and one with the potential for some dynamic growth. Supply chain service providers play a crucial role in not only ensuring that other industries are able to function but also provide the necessary access to these resources that will help this new category of the industry to grow and the American economy as a whole.

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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The Long Bumpy Road to Blockchain in Trucking

With rapid advancements in interconnectivity, such as the Internet of Things and the added advantage of instant data streaming, the freight industry has been devouring data technology as a whole and is getting a much-needed overhaul. Yet, the picture is incomplete. There are still some serious gaps, tracking being a great example of this. While shippers may have a general idea of where the freight is during its transit, often it is difficult or impossible to pinpoint the exact location and the estimated time of delivery.

Let’s face it, trucking is the life force of this country.

Communication within the industry also leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout the industry, many companies are using different systems for recording freight which allows some data to be lost in translation. That might be the reason why there is some considerable hype being built around blockchain technology. In fact, this hype is gaining some serious momentum when you consider there is a new faction, the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance (BiTA) that is working to find blockchain solutions for some of the most common trucking problems. Let’s face it, trucking is the life force of this country. Trucks are moving approximately 70 percent of the nation’s freight. As a whole, it represents over 80 percent of the nation’s freight bill. That being said, they could use all the help they can get to make the process more efficient.

Privatized Blockchain for the Industry

There is a considerable amount of potential within blockchain technology. As a data service, it can track and categorize every transaction through a products life-cycle.

For a logistics decision maker, the ability to pinpoint the location of various assets, both tangible and intangible, is invaluable.

For a logistics decision maker, the ability to pinpoint the location of various assets, both tangible and intangible, is invaluable. Within every step of the shipping process, blockchain can track the data and provide analyzable and actionable information which allows for more accurate and efficient decision making. As it’s a shared platform, the necessity for a privatized blockchain for the U.S. becomes apparent. Of course, that privatization isn’t necessarily exclusive, but rather separate from other blockchains used just for the industry. This would give shippers, carriers, freight brokers, 3PLs and anyone else in the BiTA consortium who needs to be in the know, access to a transaction ledger. BiTA’s goal, as a standards organization, is to develop a common framework to encourage the development of blockchain applications for asset tracking, transaction process and overall logistics management. All of which is geared at turning the trucking industry into something more intelligent and efficient.

…and The Seemingly Never-Ending Capacity Issue

Think about some of the most common issues within the industry. Manufacturers and shippers have a hard time finding available capacity. Putting aside the driver shortage for a moment, it makes no sense that it’s so difficult to find capacity when there’s an average of 29 billion empty or partially loaded miles per year. It also helps to understand that the trucking industry itself is incredibly fragmented in the United States. There are over 1.5 million trucking companies fielding close to 3.5 million drivers. While that might seem like a lot, 90 percent of those companies have access to six trucks or less. That makes it even more difficult for shippers to match up with carriers, both of whom need each other.

Matching a shipper’s demand to a carrier’s supply is just one of the many ailments within the industry that can be alleviated by blockchain technology.

Matching a shipper’s demand to a carrier’s supply is just one of the many ailments within the industry that can be alleviated by blockchain technology. There are many in the industry, both startups and legacy companies alike that believe that blockchain technology can make routing more efficient, cutting down on fuel costs and increasing productivity.

 

Source: Next Autonomous

In reality, blockchain has a near limitless amount of potential, if it can get off the ground that is.

Considering how varied the industry is with so many different players in the game, it can help to unify the trucking industry to help it become more efficient as a whole. Logistics planners can see the “whole picture” rather than just pieces of it at a time. With real-time data, they can make better decisions to make the industry leaner and smoother overall. In reality, blockchain has a near limitless amount of potential, if it can get off the ground that is.

The Blockchain Obstacles  

As with any new technology, there will be some hurdles and obstacles that need to be cleared in order for it to become successful. The first issue is that everyone needs to trust in the technology and believe it to be the sole source of truth for the industry. While most people will believe in the system they are working with, it’s a little more complicated with blockchain. As a crypto-technology, it is incredibly secure and the data is locked. That being said, nothing can be changed, altered, or corrupted. It becomes carved in a digital stone, for lack of a better term. Because the technology is distributed, there isn’t a sole governing authority for the data either. In short, it’s a double-edged sword. Data can’t be lost or tampered with, but it also can’t be altered. This means that there needs to be absolute faith that the data within is a genuine accounting of transactions.

If there is any hope of uniting the industry and reducing the inefficiencies of fragmentation, everyone will have to play the game.

Secondly, blockchain will need total participation from smaller companies, both shippers and carriers. If there is any hope of uniting the industry and reducing the inefficiencies of fragmentation, everyone will have to play the game. Much the same as trust. The problem here is that smaller companies often have a hard time drumming up the necessary capital to invest in new technology. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is a perfect example of this. Larger companies had no problem, and many were prepared well before the deadline. Smaller companies, on the other hand, watched the deadline come and go with only 37 percent of 1,600 fleets in compliance with the ruling prior to the deadline. Trying to get that many smaller companies on board with the same, or at least compatible software will definitely be an uphill battle. However, once that’s done, you’ll have an entire industry, shippers, carriers and brokers alike completely connected and collaborating on a frictionless network.

Simply put, there is some tremendous potential for blockchain and it could very well revolutionize the industry.

Lastly, the industry as a whole needs to accept data standardization. Everyone does things a little differently, which might work in the fragmented mess that it is now, but in order for blockchain to not become a convoluted jungle of indecipherable data strings, it all needs to be standardized. This is something that BiTA is trying to spearhead by working on standardization from the outset. If the history of the trucking industry has taught us anything, it’s that incorporating blockchain technology universally across the sector is another obstacle that won’t be so easy to get around. A difference in programs could mean a time-intensive process for integration to simply make the program work with the blockchain, nevermind the data entry in itself. Simply put, there is some tremendous potential for blockchain and it could very well revolutionize the industry. However, it’s going to be a long and bumpy road before we get to the smooth workings and benefit from what blockchain could provide.

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reduce the amount of physical paperwork with our FREE proprietary software, BlueShip®. BlueShip is user-friendly, completely customizable and has real-time updates, giving you a single source tool for tracking, addressing, and product listing. Fill out the form below to request a free demo today:

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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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The Importance of Customer Care in The Age of Automation and AI 

We’re approaching a new age. Not just in technology, but in our mentality towards that technology. Self-driving cars are no longer just a concept but are in the pre-production testing phase. Robots are less novelty and more integral to many aspects of our lives and our jobs. Simply put, we’re approaching a new age that might see a lot less need for human interaction.   

Though they may be intuitive and programmable, robots aren’t capable of handling every aspect of a job.

Many industries, not just the freight and logistics sector, have voiced some concerns about the integration of robots in the workforce. Truck drivers might take a back seat to an automated rig, at least for the highway stretches. Logistics planners might sit on the sideline while an AI constructs the hypotheticals and maps out the best route from A to B. When you consider it like that, it seems as though there might be a good reason to panic about the encroaching robotic workforce. Though they may be intuitive and programmable, robots aren’t capable of handling every aspect of a job. In fact, there are a few areas where they fall drastically short of the mark.   

Human Core Capabilities  

Despite what Isaac Asimov had to say about the matter, there are three areas in which robots simply can’t hold a candle to a human counterpart. These “core capabilities” are creativity, community and empathy. Robots aren’t designed to feel human emotion. They can’t understand when a customer is frustrated by a missing or damaged piece of freight.

Sharing Economy 

People will change their view of asset ownership, something that has been more or less hardwired into previous generations. For those that own assets, they want to get the most out of them. For those that don’t, they want to be able to access them instantly, without the need to ever own them. To make this easier to understand, consider Uber for a moment. The vehicle owner can take their asset and use it to make some extra money by giving rides. The users simply have to tap a few buttons on their phone, and a ride is summoned, ready to take them to their destination without the need to own a vehicle themselves. This is a perfect example of the Sharing Economy.  

Empathetic Businesses 

With automation growing, we’ll see a shift in the sharing economy into the empathy economy. This empathy economy will be more focused on matching humans or businesses with a need for empathetic services to those who are willing to offer them, according to the World Economic Forum 

True empathy isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful expression of humanity. In a world full of robots, empathy can only become more valuable

“It’s cliché to say that empathy is in short supply today because every generation probably has the same sentiment. The good news is that automation will force humans to be more human and the empathy economy will create opportunities for humans to monetize a unique capability. True empathy isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful expression of humanity. In a world full of robots, empathy can only become more valuable,” says WEForum.

Companies will need to find the balance between automated production and workers, with the softness of human emotion and customer service. Customer service specialists and the “white glove” treatment of customers will be the true differentiator between competitors in the field. The stronger the empathetic match between company and potential customer, the more likely it is that they will become a regular client.   

The Human Element 

In many regards, we look for other people to not only help us with our problems but also to understand what we’re going through. Humans will always be the best in understanding emotions. We understand how frustrating it can be to be put on hold or left with questions and seemingly no answers. It’s that human connection that is vital for businesses.  

While many businesses understand this, that’s not to say that they won’t automate at least some of their customer service elements. Well, augment might be a better word 

They all do that in the name of efficiency. However, it will be important for them and us as customers, to keep the human connection alive and well. Amazon’s Grab-and-Go is a perfect example of this. The concept is that customers don’t need to go through checkout or interact with a cashier. Simply grab the items they want and have Amazon automatically track and charge the “purchases.” While this drastically removes much of the human element, the Amazon Grab-and-Go stores are also staffed with human workers who can help answer any questions and guide customers through the process. In other words, there will always be a need for human interaction in any business environment. Human-based customer service is and will continue to be the cornerstone for building a strong business.  

Treat customers as people and not just another line in the profit margin and your business is golden.  

While data services are certainly a must, they are also becoming the norm in the logistics and freight industry. Real-time data and high-end visibility used to be a selling point, now it’s simply an expectation. Customers want to know where their products are and when they can expect them to arrive. They want a simple and easy to use system that gives them the comfort and security of knowing that they have made the right choices for optimizing their supply chain. Nonetheless, despite all the efforts and advancement of different technologies, it will be the mutual understanding created by the human empathy that will solve problems. Treat customers as people and not just another line in the profit margin and your business is golden.  

Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace

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. Their 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, feel free to contact us using the form below:

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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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Rising Costs and Lower Capacity in the Domestic Truckload Market

2018 is off to a strong start for the economy and manufacturing, but there is a shortage of available truckload capacity on the spot market. The Purchasing Managers Index has not dropped below 50 since August of 2016. This time frame almost exactly correlates with the last low point in the Dow Jones Industrial index. (October 2016, 18142.42) In August of 2016, the dry van spot market rate was roughly $1.65 per mile, today that number is $2.30 per mile. As already discussed, that number is coming along with a driver shortage and carriers not wanting to adhere to the ELD mandate.

More Freight, Less Capacity

Currently there are 5.5 available loads for every available truck in the United States. Carriers can pick and choose the freight they want, at the rate they want, going where they want.

On the heels of the new Tax Plan, businesses like Boeing, AT&T, AAON, AccuWeather, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and many others have given out employee bonuses and increased charitable donations to show good faith in the plan. This leads many to believe economic growth is not slowing down in 2018 which then leads to more manufacturing and more freight shipments.

How Can BlueGrace Help?

Transportation Management providers like BlueGrace Logistics will consult with your business and provide a solution that can help insulate your company from the chaos in the spot market. Here’s how:

  • Current State Analysis, inefficacy identification
  • Future State Vision and growth plan
  • Benchmark Current Rates, identify lanes and current carrier mix
  • Load Planning and Consolidation Scope and Strategy
  • Network Optimization
  • Dedicated resources

BlueGrace can start this process with an initial consultation and discovery call. Do not let the constraint and capacity of 2018 ruin your budget before it even gets started. Fill out the form below to schedule your free assessment today!

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