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Adapting to the Growing Requirements of a Fast-Paced Supply Chain

 

With the constant fluctuations in the global market, the freight industry is changing. With new technology, shipping demands, and changes in global policies, freight forwarders will also have to change to keep the pace. Logistics Trends and Insights has released their 2017 survey on the Evolution of the Freight Forwarder, which asked respondents how the freight forwarder is changing.

With the constant fluctuations in the global market, the freight industry is changing

“Indeed, the market is not only undergoing a redefinition, but it also has literally been caught in the middle of global, political and economic changes. Shifts in political thought favoring protectionism or populism, along with continued concerns within the ocean and air freight markets, have led many forwarders to seek acquisitions, new services, and new geographies in order to stay afloat. While gross revenues and volumes for many forwarders grew in the past year or so, they came at a price with lower profits and in some cases, a financial loss,” the report says.

What obstacles will forwarders have to overcome?

As the market continues to shift, what obstacles will forwarders have to overcome to keep pace with the changes within the freight industry?

Critical Pain Points for Forwarders

The major obstacles for forwarders according to the respondents, can be broken down into four categories. Tight margins make up the bulk of forwarders woes with 42 percent marking that as their primary concern. Rates and uncertain global environment are almost tied at 23 and 22 percent respectively. The remaining 13 percent lists capacity as their top concern, something which has been troubling the industry as a whole over the past few years.

Changing Customer Expectations

Of course, it isn’t just the market that is changing, but also the expectations of customers. The average consumer wants their products sooner and at a lower cost. To adapt, shippers need to push their supply chain in a new direction which means that forwarders have to be able to respond in kind. So what are customer expectations for a freight forwarder?

Shippers need to push their supply chain in a new direction

“Forwarders are indeed facing many challenges, but we must not forget the value they bring to the table. A new question for this year, we asked, “What do customers value most from a forwarder?” The majority of respondents, 33.7%, indicated trade expertise.

Visibility of cargo movements and ease and timeliness in booking freight

We found this interesting as it seems to play into the evolving definition of a forwarder as a facilitator, value-adder and a consultant. However, 45% of the responses were split among low rates, visibility of cargo movements and ease and timeliness in booking freight while 21.3% indicated additional thoughts including all of these choices, credibility, communication, and control, analysis, development of supply chain solutions.”

Changing Transportation

Another aspect of changing expectations from customers is that they want more ways to move their freight. As such, forwarders have to be able to provide multiple modes of transportation that best suit the customer’s needs. As a result, forwarders are seeing some changes in revenues based on modes of transportation.

Forwarders are seeing some changes in revenues based on modes of transportation.

Air transport is one of the biggest growing sectors of market gain shares for forwarders at 42.3 percent of the responses. Given the uncertainty of ocean shipping, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that ocean freight has been on the decline for forwarders. Rail and trucking haven’t changed all that much. However, there has been a slight increase in rail use with 33 percent of responses indicating growth while only 14 percent have marked down that it was in decline.

Opportunities For Growth

Of course, the object of any successful business is to differentiate themselves from the competition. Niche markets are one strategy that some forwarders are going with, catering to specific needs of their customers, other forwarders might not be able to offer. However, 44.3 percent of the respondents said that their differentiation strategy would be to invest in new technology.

The object of any successful business is to differentiate themselves from the competition

“Indeed, technology is playing a major role in forwarders’ evolution. DB Schenker’s investment in UShip, DHL’s launch of its online freight marketplace CILLOX and even FedEx’s introduction of FedEx Fulfillment are all redefining the way items are fulfilled, booked and shipped.”

There is also the growing need for e-commerce fulfillment which will provide many opportunities for forwarders to attain desired growth in both fulfillment as well as cross-border services.

Overall, the need for freight forwarders will only continue to grow

Overall, the need for freight forwarders will only continue to grow, especially if they can continue to adapt to the growing requirements of a faster-paced supply chain as well as providing the necessary flexibility required for e-commerce fulfillment.

To request your copy of the white-paper, click here.

 

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The Real Threat for the Trucking Industry has Nothing to do with the ELD

 

 

The electronic logging mandate (ELD) has been something of a sore subject for the trucking industry as many companies worry about it cutting into their efficiency and, subsequently, profit margins. However, the real threat for the trucking industry has nothing to do with the ELD, but rather the growth of e-commerce.

Changing the Game: Amazon

Amazon has a gift when it comes for shaking up expectations. Same day delivery or even one to two hour deliveries for groceries in select cities is giving trucking companies a run for their money, quite literally in some cases. As the expectations for consumers shift towards instant delivery and omni channel shopping, trucking companies that lose sight of what’s really going on are risking being knocked out the game by e-commerce companies.

Last year alone, e-commerce sales reached $394.9 billion, a 15% growth from 2015.

Last year alone, e-commerce sales reached $394.9 billion, a 15% growth from 2015. The 2016 e-commerce sales volume accounted for 8.1% of all U.S. retail sales and is continuing to grow. As for Amazon, the e-commerce giant underwent a huge growth spurt, up to 27% in sales volume, netting a cool $2.4 billion in profit, well above the 2015 figure of $594 million.

Amazon is outpacing most trucking companies and completely reshaping the market landscape in their image.

This is, in part, due to the fact that Amazon carries just about any product a consumer could ever want, which makes for convenient one stop shopping. With their growing logistics and delivery capabilities, Amazon is outpacing most trucking companies and completely reshaping the market landscape in their image.

Hot on the Heels

Amazon and Wal-Mart are usually the frontline runners when it comes to e-commerce sales and headlines, but they aren’t the only ones in the game. Many brick and mortar stores are starting to tap into the potential of e-commerce and omni-channel sales in order to stay viable. Best Buy, for example, made some considerable investments to their online sales, increased their e-commerce volume by 17.5% which then boosted their online sales by 21% according to the Motley Fool.  Other companies such as Macy’s and Home Depot are also starting to boost their e-commerce capabilities, offering their customers new ways to shop and more convenient ways to pick up their goods.

Many brick and mortar stores are starting to tap into the potential of e-commerce and omni-channel sales.

Trucking in Trouble

If a disruptive change is a good thing for an industry, e-commerce is presenting a destructive change for the trucking industry. Consider Amazon’s unparalleled purchasing power, while the increase in e-commerce sales might seem like a good thing for the trucking, Amazon is able to pursue a low-cost model for trucking.

E-commerce is presenting a destructive change for the trucking industry

“First, core carriers and dedicated carriers appear to be used by Amazon only in cases where brokers cannot find cheaper capacity in the open market,” said John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research for Stifel Capital Markets. “This is a new, less attractive version of what core carriers and dedicated fleets traditionally represented [and] we have heard that several carriers have backed away from this customer for this reason.”

“[The truckload market] is still tough; excess capacity continues to exist, prolonging a very competitive pricing environment,” Larkin adds. “Trucking companies are still having trouble finding drivers and, to boot, poor weather is troubling the first quarter,” according to a recent post from FleetOwner.

The logistics industry as a whole is undergoing a considerable culture shock.

With the rapid growth and development of e-commerce sales, the logistics industry as a whole is undergoing a considerable culture shock. The tried and true method is rapidly vanishing as consumers demand faster deliveries from more locations. Distribution and warehousing centers are being to slow down and many are closing their doors for good. Unless the trucking industry is able to find a way to cope with these new changes, in addition to the hurdles they already have to clear, there could be a cataclysmic upheaval in the way we look at logistics.

 

 

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Last Mile Becoming the Front Line for Logistics

The growing strength of e-commerce has been putting a serious pressure on the transportation industry. As customer expectations are rapidly shifting towards the instant gratification of same day delivery, long haul trucking is shrinking by comparison. While some trucking companies are struggling to keep the pace with the changing market, others are shifting gears and switching their tactics. The game is changing for carriers and forwarders. It’s no longer about the journey but instead it’s all about the final mile.

It’s no longer about the journey but instead it’s all about the final mile.

So what exactly is the “last mile?” It’s pretty much just what it sounds like. Last mile deliveries are when the package makes the final leg of its journey straight to the customer’s preferred location. The caveat is that customer’s preferred location and item of choice are changing constantly. One day a customer might have a new keyboard delivered to their office, while the next day they might have some new workout equipment delivered to their home. In either instance, logistics providers, carriers, and freight forwarders need to find ways to get the package where it needs to go in the shortest amount of time possible.

Logistics providers, carriers, and freight forwarders need to find ways to get the package where it needs to go in the shortest amount of time possible.

The Short Stop Over the Long Haul

As the demands of e-commerce and last mile deliveries continue to grow, the trucking industry is at the precipice of change. The old way of distributing goods across the country by smaller fleets is fading.  Instead of simply bringing goods to a DC or warehouse, trucking companies are starting to favor the short haul, multi-stop nature of last mile deliveries in response to the growing need of e-commerce companies. The industry is growing rapidly. According to the Census Bureau  US E-Commerce Sales as Percent of Retail Sales is at a current level of 8.50%, up from 8.20% last quarter.

Instead of simply bringing goods to a DC or warehouse, trucking companies are starting to favor the short haul, multi-stop nature of last mile

Amazon alone is shaping up to control over 50% of the e-commerce market by 2021, with cause the demand for last mile deliveries to continue to grow exponentially. By switching modes of deliveries traditional long-haul companies are able to capture more of the e-commerce market share and for those that are perfecting their system, it’s making an incredible difference.

An Imperfect System

While last mile deliveries are certainly in vogue, they still leave something to be desired in terms of efficiency. For starters, the last mile isn’t something that has a set route or pattern. Instead, it’s constantly shifting and changing. While a package might be going to the same place, it could be coming from a different location, which can drastically alter the delivery time. Additionally, because the last mile of delivery is constantly changing, that also means that rates can vary rather drastically. This can create some difficulties when it comes to negotiations between both shippers and carriers alike.

Because the last mile of delivery is constantly changing, that also means that rates can vary rather drastically.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are other challenges that surround last mile deliveries. If a customer isn’t available at home to sign for a package, it could add to a backlog of deliveries. Package theft can increase shrink for shippers while lowering reliability ratings of carriers. Urban congestion and traffic can also cause some serious delays, making it that much harder to meet customer and consumer expectations alike. 

Alternative Methods of Delivery

While there are still some issues to work out, many delivery companies are working on finding alternative methods for completing the last mile. Drones have been in the headlines for quite some time as a viable means of delivering packages and Amazon has been getting closer to their goal of a drone delivery fleet.  Interestingly enough, the e-commerce giant has been taking a keen interest to geese of late. To better calibrate their drone systems to avoid collisions and other incidents, Amazon has been studying geese as a “non collaborative” control object or, simply put, something else to train their drones to avoid.

Amazon has been studying geese as a “non collaborative” control object or, simply put, something else to train their drones to avoid.

Aside from the drones, ground based delivery bots are also in the works, allowing deliveries to be made directly to a customer’s home via an autonomous system. These delivery bots are capable of navigating through residential areas via crosswalks and sidewalks. With deliveries made directly to a customer’s door step, it can expedite the last mile delivery process without necessarily cranking up the labor time.

However, there are other means of making the last mile that don’t rely on expensive assets like drones or delivery bots. Crowdsourcing apps are giving people looking to make a little extra money the chance to moonlight as a package handler.

“In 2015, venture capital investments in supply chain and logistics start-ups was more than four times higher than in 2014 ($1.2 billion versus $388 million),” said Andre Pharand, Andre Pharand, Accenture’s global management consulting lead for the postal and parcel industry. “Venture capital dollars invested in the same space in the first quarter of 2016 alone was $1.75 billion.Companies like UberRUSH for parcels, Postmates, Deliv and even Amazon Flex provide spot-market deliveries by independent drivers. The companies post delivery jobs on their apps to alert drivers to available gigs,” according to Supply Chain Dive.

Legacy Trucking Companies Beware

Legacy trucking companies who still think that e-commerce isn’t something to be concerned about are going to be in for a rude awakening. E-commerce is only continuing to grow and many brick and mortar are looking into omni-channel options in order to stay viable. Failing to adapt to this considerable disruption of the logistics industry will lead to considerable hardships in the future. Last mile deliveries are becoming the frontrunner for logistics focus as e-commerce continues to grow.

E-commerce is only continuing to grow and many brick and mortar are looking into omni-channel options

 

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What Can We Expect for the IoT for 2017 and Beyond?

The IoT of 2017

The Internet of Things, an interconnected program that is supposed to provide unparalleled data for shippers and carriers, has certainly been a hot topic for the logistics industry. With 2016 well and truly in the past, it’s time to start looking forward to what 2017 will hold for this burgeoning system. What new changes can we expect? How do these expectations compare to what we thought the system could do for us in the past? With a new partnership between Intel’s logistics platform and Honeywell’s hardware and cloud services, the IoT is beginning to really take shape.

What new changes can we expect?

The Partnership

The newly formed partnership, announced last Thursday, will marry Intel’s connected Logistics platform to Honeywell’s Connected Freight Solution. Data gathered by this new system will allow shippers to track products from start to finish. However, this system ranges far beyond the simple tracking capabilities of a truck or pallet. Users will be able to track a number of different variables including: temperature, shock, vibration, tilt, humidity, pressure, and exposure to light. If freight gets damaged during transit, a shipper will be able to know when, where, and how it happened. That alone can prove invaluable when it comes to preparing damage audits and projecting yearly PNLs.

Data gathered by this new system will allow shippers to track products from start to finish.

With data being tracked by a number of low cost sensors, part of the Intel/Honeywell package, users will have access not only to data on demand, but data that is pre-drilled down to useful data points that a company can act on.

Past Predictions for the IoT

While there have always been high hopes for the IoT, the expectations for it’s potential have changed throughout the past few years.

“Several years ago the market for connected products and services was promising eye popping growth numbers of up to 100 billion units. Today, a majority of forecasts show a more tampered 20 billion or 30 billion units (while a few others say we are saying we are still severely underestimating size of impact),” according to an article from Postscapes regarding IoT market forecasts.

Cyber security is also expected to become a boom market

What’s interesting to note from this article is that while the IoT is expected to grow by leaps and bounds, it’s not a standalone technology. Included in these forecasts is also expectations for sensor technology, cloud computing, and cellular capabilities will also continue to grow and expand. Cyber security is also expected to become a boom market as the sensitivity of data continues to rise.

On the Rise for 2017

So what can we expect for the IoT for 2017 and points beyond? Forbes has quite a few predictions that are worth considering. For starters, this year is going to see a lot of shake ups as new companies trying to get in on the game either make the cut, or get swallowed up by larger, more stable companies. As the IoT is now past proof-of-concept, there will soon be regulations and standardization to contend with as well. These regulations won’t be static either, as the technology continues to grow and evolve so will the standards being applied to them. As the IoT continues to grow and take shape, companies will need to embrace the new technology swiftly or fall behind the competition as supply chains and logistics fully enter into the digital realm.

Companies will need to embrace the new technology swiftly or fall behind the competition

 

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How Can Expedited Shipping Be A Game Changer For Your Business?

 

Quick, Fast and In a Hurry

You can bet that manufacturers pay close attention to the Must Arrive By Date (MABD), set by big box retailers like WalMart and Target. While big box retailers mandate Must Arrive By Dates to ensure their shelves are always stocked with products consumers want, many companies who sell products directly are often are losing potential customers and revenue by not offering expedited shipping options to customers who have their own Must Arrive By Dates in mind for freight sized purchases.

What Is Expedited Freight?

For smaller parcel sized items, a business will often utilize the overnight or next day air options available from USPS, FedEx or UPS. But for larger sized items requiring freight shipping, many businesses and consumers aren’t aware that expedited shipping options are available, or find that they aren’t able to receive reliable or economical shipping rates from their current transportation partners.

Let’s explain more about how Expedited Freight works in comparison to standard LTL Options.

The transit of a standard LTL shipment is typically estimated as the shipment being picked up from the shipper that has to be taken to a terminal where it will be cross-docked. During this process the shipment will be loaded and unloaded from freight trucks multiple times, depending on the distance, before it arrives at the final destination. While many LTL carriers offer guaranteed shipping services, some shipments need to arrive sooner than LTL shipping can provide.

New Expedited Options For Your Business

Depending on the size of a shipment there are multiple expedited shipping options available for freight sized orders. By cutting out the cross-docking necessary in LTL shipments, expedited services are able to cover quite a bit more ground, or air, in a much shorter time than a standard LTL carrier could.

Cargo vans, straight trucks with lift gates, and air freight can be utilized for shipments that would ordinarily take up a few pallet spaces on a LTL truck. For orders that require a full truckload, a team of drivers can be booked so that your freight can theoretically move non-stop without breaking regulations imposed by the United States Department of Transportation. 

Expedited Freight = Time Sensitive Freight

It doesn’t matter if it’s June or if its a few weeks before Black Friday, as a shipper, you have the ability to expedite your freight. Whether you need to get your pallet of a custom equipment repair parts to the factory that is currently down or you need to get your trade show displays to a convention center by Friday, expedited shipping may be the best route for you. Some of our current customers are from industries like: Auto Parts, Promotional Displays, Industrial EquipmentTrade Show Management,  Airplane Parts, Computer Servers & Equipment, Maintenance Repair, AV Equipment, Restaurant Equipment and Medical Suppliers.

What Qualifies for Expedited Shipping

  1. Shipments that need to be picked up after 5 p.m. and delivered before 8 a.m.
  2. Shipments that need to move 1000 miles in 24 hours.
  3. Shipments that are loose and fragile, can’t be cross-docked with LTL carriers.
  4. Shipments that require faster transit than what LTL can offer. (Express LTL is one step away from Expedited)

How Does BlueGrace Put Expedited Shipping to Work for YOU?

BlueGrace can easily handle any expedited freight shipment request. We offer 30-minute quotes on price and capacity directly, from over 300 pre-screened, local expedite carriers nationwide. With over 10,000 pieces of equipment from Sprinter vans and semis, to domestic air, we can handle any type of freight. Each shipment it tracked by Macropoint, so you always know where your freight is located.

Expedited Freight Only Works With An Expedited Quote

BlueGrace is also one of the few providers that is able to offer guaranteed pricing and availability within 30 minutes of your request.

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For any questions, please contact your BlueGrace Logistics Rep today! If you call after 5PM EST or weekends, please email expedite@mybluegrace.com or you can download our Expedited PDF by Clicking Here.

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The Next Generation Supply Chain

 

The demands of today’s marketplace are shifting, growing, and evolving more rapidly than ever. Shippers have increasing expectations of carriers and their supply chain as a whole, requiring not only increased efficiency, but also flexibility and adaptability to respond to the events and obstacles that regularly occur in the ever shifting marketplace.

Shippers have increasing expectations of carriers and their supply chain as a whole

The next generation model of the supply chain is the combination of adopting automation and infusing it with digital technology for enhanced performance. While these new technologies are creating flourishes in innovation and creating opportunities to cut costs along the supply chain, it is also driving the rate of change, creating both disruption and pressure to remain competitive.

These new technologies are creating flourishes in innovation and creating opportunities

MHI has just released it’s 2017 Annual Industry Report which had 1,100 respondents from both supply chain leaders and manufacturers alike.  The focus of this report is to identify which technologies will have the most transformative potential on the future of the supply chain.

The Top Nine Technologies according to the MHI report are:

  • Cloud Computing and Storage
  • Robotics and Automation
  • Sensors and Automatic Identification
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Wearable and Mobile Technology
  • 3D Printing
  • Driverless Vehicles and Drones
  • Inventory and Network Optimization Tools
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

The Role of Big Data

Without a doubt, one of the largest focal points of new technology is data, whether it be the ability to access large amounts of data or to pinpoint certain factors that can affect the supply chain. The Internet of Things (IoT) was among the top five of the nine transformative technologies. While a number various technologies are essential to the collection and utilization of this data, the overall culmination from the IoT is becoming the lynchpin in technology growth. While 24% of the respondents currently use the IoT, 55% have plans to adopt it in the near future and within the next two years growing to 92% by 2023.

The Internet of Things (IoT) was among the top five of the nine transformative technologies

“On Demand” and “Always On” Supply Chain Models

In addition to the emergence of new technology, the industry is also looking at a different way of perceiving the supply chain. Service on demand, for example, is reflective of customers being more comfortable with technology and online transactions. Additionally, this spurs the increasing demands that customers are placing on businesses in terms of shorter service cycles, lower costs, increased transparency, as well as corporate responsibility. Even logistical feats such as next day delivery are losing their lustre as customers are now looking for an even shorter turnaround time. The only way to maintain such fluidity and flexibility in the supply chain will be by embracing new technology.

The only way to maintain such fluidity and flexibility in the supply chain will be by embracing new technology.

If the on-demand supply chain model wasn’t enough, those same growing expectations for customer service and quick turnaround are establishing the need for a supply chain to be “always on.” Order confirmations, updates, tracking information, order fulfillment, and proof of delivery are just a few of the expectations that are now being placed on shippers and carriers alike. In order to meet these requirements the supply chain must be efficient, transparent and, for lack of a better word, flawless. To that end, the concept of the ‘always-on’ supply chain can run around the clock in order to keep ahead of the daily challenges that face any supply network.

Robotics to Lead the Charge 

While data and information are important to predictive and reactive supply chain models alike, robotics will be setting the pace for the rest of the industry according to the report. The industry is currently looking at a 37% adoption rate for automation and robotics. However, that figure is expected to grow to 54% over the next two years, up to 71% within the next five years. Given that the cost of robotics is dropping while the implementation is getting easier, the rise in industry adoption rates is understandable. As menial and repetitive tasks are being doled out to the robotic workforce, human employees are given the flexibility to implement operational changes that allow a business to become more efficient while simultaneously cutting down costs on redundant labor.

The industry is currently looking at a 37% adoption rate for automation and robotics

As the technology continues to change and evolve at a rapid pace it will be up to logistics decision makers to keep ahead of the curve and stay competitive. While different manufacturers, shippers, and carriers each have an opinion as to which of the emerging technologies will be the most vital, it will undoubtedly be a combination of all of them that will provide the key to success.

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Drones – Why You Want Them In Your Supply Chain.

 

Drones are all over the media these days. Civilian drones have taken selfies to a whole new height, while Amazon has been working to get their drone delivery service off the ground. However, many companies are looking at the other ideas of using drones, especially when it comes to mapping out your supply chain.

An article recently released on Forbes website is showing the advancements being made to drone technology and why they could become an invaluable resource moving forward.

New Technology Makes Drones more Effective

One of the most pressing concerns about drone use is the limited range of operation. Even with the new battery technology, a drone typically has a flight time of about 25 minutes.

While this is great for taking a few aerial shots at a picnic, it’s not too helpful when it comes to large scale operations like mapping a supply chain.

Matternet, a company that specializes in drone logistics systems, partnered with Mercedes-Benz to co-develop a docking system that would allow a drone to take off from and reconnect to the roof of a vehicle. This would not only solve the matter of charging, it would also accommodate for packing and delivery all while increasing the range and payload utilization in the field.

This alone already ramps up the possibility for drone usage for last mile deliveries and improved logistics.

What Drones Could Mean for Your Supply Chain

First and foremost, drones are incredibly flexible as far as their uses go, even if you’re not looking to make quick deliveries.

“It’s increasingly clear that drones deserve consideration as part of your digital roadmap. Plus, ground and even ocean-going drones are developing fast, with problem-solving applications such as driver hour limitations, inaccessible or hazardous locations and massive materials handling chores, similar to what BASF is doing with autonomous vehicles in its mega-plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany,” says Forbes writer, Kevin O’Marah.

Companies Look into Fielding Drones

More and more companies are looking into fielding drones, and nearly a third of all supply chain professionals have said that drones have become very important to their supply chain roadmapping and strategy.

This is almost triple what the response was only two years ago, back in 2014.

More businesses are seeing the tremendous benefit and are lobbying to get regulatory approval for wider use. This is something which the FAA has been slow to agree to at first, but is starting to become more receptive to the idea as time goes on.

Proactive vs. Reactive

Much like the new digital platforms that are allowing businesses to be proactive about their supply chain issues, rather than merely reactive, it would be a mistake to ignore the benefits of drones and the advantages they can bring to your supply chain.

 

 

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SAP & Transportation Integration in Consumer Electronics

SAP provides unprecedented scalability as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for any business. SAP means quick access to all important components of your business with the data to back it up. Many businesses tend to miss out on valuable data for what can be a major component in their transportation and logistics programs.

We have already done the hard part.

Integration is Seamless

Integrating all your shipping and freight into SAP may seem complex and time consuming but when you partner with ERP-IS and BlueGrace Logistics, you will find the transition is absolute. We have already done the hard part.

It makes for an almost “Plug-n-Play” integration

The fact that ERP-IS and BlueGrace have already spent the time and money to seamlessly integrate our systems, it makes for an almost “Plug-n-Play” integration into a customer’s SAP environment. The partnership gives the CIO, CFO, and the executive suite, the information, data, and business intelligence reports they need to make their business more profitable.

Customization for Every Partner

Every SAP customer has their own level of customization, but it is nothing that our dedicated BlueGrace Engineers haven’t seen before.  Integration within a customer’s SAP environment requires only a bit of cooperation from their IT and Transportation personnel.

Every SAP customer has their own level of customization

SAP & Transportation Integration in Consumer Electronics

In the case of a world-wide consumer electronics manufacturer that was already lined up with a shipping platform through an SAP partner, BlueGrace provided a more cost effective and efficient approach to their supply chain.

We immediately identified carrier routing opportunities

While this manufacturer was already integrated with the SAP partner, their shipping process was a bit antiquated. Our transition and onboarding process with them provided a modernized solution to preparing data and exposing inefficiencies within their supply chain. We immediately identified carrier routing opportunities that would have gone unnoticed and this ultimately resulted in a signifcant cost savings and reduction in transit time.

This ultimately resulted in a signifcant cost savings and reduction in transit time.

READ MORE about our partnership with this Consumer Electronics Manufacturer in the case study below.

SAP & Transportation Integration In The Consumer Electronics Industry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BlueGrace Logistics – Why We are Attending SAPPHIRENOW 2017

 

Why BlueGrace Logistics is Attending SAPPHIRE NOW

At BlueGrace we have a firm belief that we can make EVERY business better and have proven this again and again by providing transportation management services for companies in all types of industries.

A single provider for your freight that is more of a partner than a vendor.

No matter what the industry, we look to become your outsourced transportation department. A single provider for your freight that is more of a partner than a vendor.

What Services Do We Provide

A few of the services we provide are:

  • Specialized reporting, business intelligence, customer engineering, and analytics
  • Dedicated operations, project management, and customer service support
  • SAP/ERP integration
  • TMS solutions
  • Freight Bill Pay and Audit
  • Claims Management
  • Freight Cost Allocation, GL-Coding, and Customized Invoicing
  • Indirect Cost Avoidance Measures

Let’s Talk More At The Show

We look forward to discussing your freight needs while at SAP. If you stop by our booth (#1053) or we stop by yours, here are a few things we would like to discuss:

  • Why did you decide to visit SAP – SAPPHIRE NOW & ASUG Conference?
  • Based on your business model, would any BlueGrace customers benefit from your services?
  • Can you or your vendors benefit from any of our services?
  • What all do you have planned for the conference and what do you want to take away from the show?

BlueGrace Logistics is excited to be a part of this massive show! Please add us to your agenda while you’re here and we look forward to this year’s show!

Free Case Study

SAP & Transportation Integration in Consumer Electronics

In the case of a world-wide consumer electronics manufacturer that was already lined up with a shipping platform through an SAP partner, BlueGrace provided a more cost effective and efficient approach to their supply chain.

We immediately identified carrier routing opportunities

While this manufacturer was already integrated with the SAP partner, their shipping process was a bit antiquated. Our transition and on-boarding process with them provided a modernized solution to preparing data and exposing inefficiencies within their supply chain. We immediately identified carrier routing opportunities that would have gone unnoticed and this ultimately resulted in a significant cost savings and reduction in transit time.

This ultimately resulted in a significant cost savings and reduction in transit time.

READ MORE about our partnership with this Consumer Electronics Manufacturer in the case study below.

SAP & Transportation Integration In The Consumer Electronics Industry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Florida’s Growing Season on the Rocks?

 

Produce Season in Florida

Produce season is certainly a profitable time for a lot of states, Florida in particular. With 9.4 million acres spread across 47,300 farms as of 2015, when it comes to produce, Florida is one of the biggest growers of fruit and vegetables in the United States. In addition to sheer volume of oranges and fresh tomatoes that Florida grows annually, there are a number of other crops being produced including grapefruit and sugar cane, both of which account for more than half of the total U.S. value.

When it comes to produce, Florida is one of the biggest growers of fruit and vegetables in the United States.

While most of the crops grown in Florida are exported to the U.S. East coast, some of the biggest competition for the Sunshine state doesn’t come from the U.S but Mexico. What Florida exports to the East Coast, Mexico predominantly covers for the West Coast and then some. However, with President Trumps hard line stance against Mexico, how will this affect trade between the two?

What Florida exports to the East Coast, Mexico predominantly covers for the West Coast and then some.

Florida Agriculture Wants its Voice to be Heard

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the specialty crop industry has been working with them to come up with ideas to dilute the “Mexican Dumping” of produce.

Florida agricultural representatives were visiting lawmakers offices throughout the month of February

So How will Trump Help?

Part of the rallying cry for Trump’s campaign was to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States. Part of the plan to do so was to impose a 20% trade tariff on goods and produce coming in from Mexico. While it sounds like an intimidating move, it’s more or less just posturing at this point as Trump doesn’t have the authority to make such a change to an already existing trade agreement, only Congress can do that.

Part of the rallying cry for Trump’s campaign was to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States.

However, assuming that Trump somehow managed to wiggle around that, it’s highly unlikely that the additional cost wouldn’t simply be passed onto the U.S. consumer instead. So, while it might seem like Mexico would be paying for the border wall, it would really come down to the U.S. consumer in the end.

Florida Vs. NAFTA

While the President can’t directly affect a preexisting trade agreement, it’s certainly no secret that NAFTA hasn’t done Florida growers any favors. Given the lower cost of production and access to a longer growing season, Mexico can “dump” produce into the U.S, over stocking the market and driving down Florida’s profitability.

It’s certainly no secret that NAFTA hasn’t done Florida growers any favors

“In the years immediately after NAFTA’s passage, U.S. trade officials failed to fulfill promises and commitments that were made to secure Florida’s support for the trade pact. Safeguards and remedies that were supposed to protect Florida’s specialty crop industry clearly did not work,” according to an article from Growing Produce. “That’s why the grower community is hopeful over President Trump’s announced intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). They see it as an opportunity to right the wrong dealt to the industry when the treaty was negotiated in the early 1990s. The ordeal of Florida farmers since the pact was signed illustrates how poorly crafted trade agreements can hurt an industry.”

U.S. trade officials failed to fulfill promises and commitments that were made to secure Florida’s support for the trade pact.

 

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BlueGrace Logistics – Why We Are Attending ConExpo 2017

This week, the transportation management team from BlueGrace will be exhibiting at the Con-Expo show in Booth #B9500 in the Bronze Lot at Con-Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. The big question is “What is a Logistics company doing at a tradeshow for construction companies?” At BlueGrace we have a firm belief that we can make EVERY business better and have proved this again and again by providing transportation management services for companies in all types of industries. No matter what the industry, we look to become your outsourced transportation department. A single provider for your freight that is more of a partner than a vendor.

BlueGrace will be exhibiting at the Con-Expo show in Booth #B9500 in the Bronze Lot at Con-Expo in Las Vegas Nevada

What Services Do We Provide

A few of the services we provide to the construction industry are:

  • Specialized reporting, business intelligence, customer engineering, and analytics
  • Dedicated operations, project management, and customer service support
  • ERP integration
  • TMS solutions
  • Freight Bill Pay and Audit
  • Claims Management
  • Freight Cost Allocation, GL-Coding, and Customized Invoicing
  • Indirect Cost Avoidance Measures

Let’s Talk More At The Show

We look forward to discussing the freight needs of the construction industry while at Con-Expo. If you stop by our booth or we stop by yours, here are a few things we would like to discuss:

  • Why did you decide to visit Con-Expo?
  • Based on your business model, would any BlueGrace customers benefit from your services?
  • Can you or your vendors benefit from any of our services?
  • What all do you have planned for the week and what do you want to take away from the show?

BlueGrace is excited to be a part of this massive show that only happens once, every 3 years! Please add us to your agenda for the week and we look forward to this week’s show!

Download one of our construction industry case studies below

This Hardware Supplier saved 13% of their yearly freight spend which added up to $260,000 annually.

Hardware Suppliers In The Construction Industry Case Study

 

Learn how BlueGrace helped this replacement parts provider keep transportation spend below 7% of their total budget.

The Logistics Behind the Construction Equipment Replacement Parts

 

Reverse logistics can be a challenge for even the most seasoned transportation team. Read how BlueGrace helped them integrate and simplify.

BlueGrace Reverse Logistics In The Construction Industry Case Study

 

 

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The Evolution of Shopping: Capitalizing on Omnichannel Retailing

 

There are many aspects of our daily lives that we tend to take for granted, at least when you compare it from it’s origins to where we are now. Communication, for example, has come a long way when you look at the evolution of the telephone to the cellular marvels that are housed in just about every pocket around the world. Shopping is another necessary aspect of daily life that has evolved considerably from its origins. Retailers need to understand these changes that are happening now, are going to be crucial if they want to stay in business.

Shopping is another necessary aspect of daily life

Disruption Breeds Change

Shopping is equal parts necessity and leisure activity for today’s population. We go to the store to buy the things we need for daily life such as consumable items and domestic goods. But there’s also the aspect of bargain hunting which thrills some consumers to no end. In either instances, there have been some considerable disruptions throughout the history of commercialism that have changed the scope and shape of the game. These disruptions, according to the Harvard Business Review, take place about every 50 years or so.

Shopping is equal parts necessity and leisure activity for American population

“A century and a half ago, the growth of big cities and the rise of railroad networks made possible the modern department store. Mass-produced automobiles came along 50 years later, and soon shopping malls lined with specialty retailers were dotting the newly forming suburbs and challenging the city-based department stores. The 1960s and 1970s saw the spread of discount chains—Walmart, Kmart, and the like—and, soon after, big-box “category killers” such as Circuit City and Home Depot, all of them undermining or transforming the old-style mall. Each wave of change doesn’t eliminate what came before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Retailers relying on earlier formats either adapt or die out as the new ones pull volume from their stores and make the remaining volume less profitable.”

Omnichannel Shopping, is going to pose a considerable change for brick-and-mortar retailers

The newest disruption, Omnichannel Shopping, is going to pose a considerable change for brick-and-mortar retailers, one that will facilitate the need to adapt or step out of the game entirely.

The Best of Both Worlds: Capitalizing on Omnichannel Retailing

As with just about any industry, when new technology comes into play, you either adapt and succeed or you fail. However, understanding the bridge between having a physical store and an online presence, isn’t impossible. It’s about putting customer service at the forefront. While online sales are great, especially when there are customers who don’t live within easy travel distance to the actual store, brick and mortar stores are still very important. This is especially true when you consider the fact that Amazon, which started exclusively as an e-commerce business, is now building physical locations for their shoppers. Why would Amazon want a brick-and-mortar storefront when their customers can literally shop for just about anything from the comfort of their own homes with a few simple clicks? It’s easy, shopping in store gets shoppers to buy more.

Amazon, which started exclusively as an e-commerce business is now building physical locations for their shoppers

Impulse buys and tactile shopping (the ability to touch and feel things like clothes) actually generate higher sales than shopping online does. A customer can feel the item, take in the sensations of the display and try it out for themselves, rather than trying to guess at it from a screen. This is one reason why retail stores need to keep their physical presence up before delving into the digital realm.

Transportation and Logistics can be a Big Opportunity for E-Commerce

While physical retailers will have to look into making digital investments, digital retailers are gearing up to make logistics investments. Given the rate of growth for online sales, expedited logistics and transportation is a fast growing industry. Consumers want to be able to order their goods and either have them delivered same or next day, or have the option to pick it up at the closest store. In order to make that happen, there needs to be a fairly substantial increase in the flexibility of transportation and logistics. The standards for a company’s supply chain are no longer about just getting goods from A to B. It’s more like A to Z12  and then the logistic support necessary for omnichannel retailers becomes infinitely more complex.

There needs to be a fairly substantial increase in the flexibility of transportation and logistics

Getting the infrastructure in place to make these deliveries in a timely manner will pay dividends for e-commerce companies, an opportunity that many aren’t willing to pass up.

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How Do Construction Suppliers Overcome Logistics Challenges?

The MABD and Your Construction Supply Company

Construction suppliers who provide hardware and tools are under tighter compliance regulations to get the right products to the right stores or distribution centers by a certain time, or they pay a fee. Walmart suppliers now face paying a fee of 3% of the cost of goods of all deliveries after the Must Arrive By Date (MABD).

These regulations for Walmart were implemented back in early 2016, but other retailers such as Target and Home Depot have been charging these fees for some time.

Walmart suppliers now face paying a fee of 3% of the cost of goods of all non-compliant deliveries.

Your construction supply company succeeds or fails based on the constant delivery of your products. Even more so now with the MABD mandate. The timely and effective delivery of your products, is a major priority for you, your retailers and your market. How do the logistics aspects of hardware and building materials differ from other industries?

How do the logistics aspects of hardware and building materials differ from other industries?

The truth is they don’t, with the exception of specific project dates and deadlines that could be missed.

Manufacturers and suppliers that work with large retailers like Walmart, Target and Home Depot are more successful in getting their merchandise on the shelves with the proper lead time due to partnering with a third party logistics provider (3PL).

Out with the Old

Doing things the old way, is not always the best way. Once employees get comfortable in their schedule and day to day routine it  becomes difficult to change those habits and behaviors. BlueGrace Logistics has seen and learned how to explain and implement these changes. In the case study you will learn about a Hardware distributor that was drowning in manual processes and letting inefficiencies become the norm.  

Once employees get comfortable in their schedule and day to day routine, it becomes difficult to change those habits and behaviors.

How We Reduced Costs & Removed Manual Processes for Hardware Supplier

A large big box hardware supplier, based in the Midwest, was utilizing a single national carrier model. There was no GRI mitigation, or freight bill auditing. The manual task of booking shipments was taking up much of the customer support team’s day. The accounting team had no way to tell if the invoiced amount of the shipment was the same as the quoted amount of the shipment. The ways of the past were starting to catch up as volume increased and this supplier had to make a change.

This Hardware Supplier saved 13% of their yearly freight spend which added up to $260,000 annually.

Hardware Suppliers In The Construction Industry Case Study

What About Other Construction Freight?

As a successful third-party logistics (3PL), BlueGrace handles the freight for all types of construction supply businesses. This freight can be heavy, oversized loads, such as cranes and dump trucks to replacement parts and pallets of construction materials. Our first step in any relationship is what sets us apart and brings the most value to your freight and logistics team. Your current freight data is analyzed and then processed with our proprietary engineering software.

Your current freight data is analyzed and then processed with our proprietary engineering software.

This process gives your logistics team a brand new overview of your freight. From there, your team has access to the entire BlueGrace toolbox of solutions, including ERP integrations to our flagship quoting and product, BlueShip. All of these tools come with a team of logistics experts at your disposal and a constant goal to make your freight program more successful.

Would you like to talk with BlueGrace today? Feel free to call our Enterprise Group at 800.MY.SHIPPING or come see us at the CONEXPO in Las Vegas March 7-11 Booth #B9500.

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Laying the First Bricks: Amazon is Getting Physical but Wal-Mart Fights Back

 

There aren’t a whole lot of companies that can match up to the innovative prowess of the e-Commerce giant, Amazon. It seems as though every couple of months we’re catching some snippet that Amazon is trying out a new trick for the convenience of its loyal customers and, true to it’s nature, Amazon is about to pull their next trick out of the bag. An actual grocery store.

Amazon Go

Unlike AmazonFresh, the online grocery shopping option that promises quick deliveries of produce and other perishables, Amazon Go will be an actual brick and mortar store, one of the few ventures Amazon hasn’t really gotten into yet. So why the sudden change? For starters, how about throwing the competition a curve ball?

Some of Amazon’s biggest competitors are Wal-Mart and Target, who focuses on a combined service of both groceries as well as higher ticket items such as apparel and home goods.

Some of Amazon’s biggest competitors are Wal-Mart and Target, who focus on a combined service of both groceries as well as higher ticket items such as apparel and home goods. While the groceries and produce account for a relatively small amount of the sales, it does bring in business which helps these chains hit their real goal of selling more expensive items.

Working out of a brick and mortar store will have its advantages.

Logistically speaking, trying to deliver produce and temperature sensitive goods in an appropriate time frame isn’t out of the scope of Amazon’s fairly comprehensive delivery machine, but it’s not necessarily practical either. This is why the grocery delivery service is only offered in select locations and still isn’t quite as popular as the tried and true alternative, as many customers still prefer to do their grocery shopping in stores, being able to touch, smell, and generally select their produce before purchase.

Many customers still prefer to do their grocery shopping in stores, being able to touch, smell, and generally select their produce before purchase.

According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is experimenting with a few different styles of store, a convenience style or quick pick up store, as well as a drive through style, which lets customers skip having to walk into the store to begin with. The key is this, if Amazon has a physical location to work out of, they can capture more of the grocery market shares. As it stands, online grocery shopping is only a small portion of the business, about one percent currently, but is expected to continue to grow.

Wal-Mart Fights Back

If Amazon is going physical then Wal-Mart is retorting with the digital, according to an article from The Motley Fool. Many of the Wal-Mart supercenters are getting a technological upgrade in the attempt to keep Amazon in check in two ways. First is the curbside order pickup. Rather than having to walk into the store, select your items, then wade your way through the checkout line, you can simply place your order online and have it brought out to the car, allowing customers to skip the check out.

Additionally is the Gas and Go Style of Shopping, Similar to a Convenience Store.

Additionally is the Gas and Go style of shopping. This involves a secondary shop, similar to a convenience store, that has some last minute grocery items, coffee, snacks, and other concessions, as well as being a full service Gas Station. The twist is that, customers can place an online order, which is fulfilled by a nearby Supercenter, and arrive at a set time to have their groceries delivered while they gas up their vehicle. This level of convenience, combined with the grocery infrastructure that Wal-Mart already has in place might be enough to keep Amazon Go at bay.

This level of convenience, combined with the grocery infrastructure that Wal-Mart already has in place might be enough to keep Amazon Go at bay.

The Master of Logistics

It’s fairly safe to say that this point that Amazon’s actions are rarely without some sort of ulterior motive. Think back to the Amazon cloud services, which was originally designed to be an in-house service and was then converted into a highly successful business model.

If Amazon can get down the necessary logistics infrastructure to handle groceries and perishable produce, who’s to say they can’t then turn that service towards their competitors?

If Amazon can get down the necessary logistics infrastructure to handle groceries and perishable produce, who’s to say they can’t then turn that service towards their competitors? While it’s unlikely that many grocery stores are eager to hand over any form of control over to Amazon, it might be something we hear about in the future, especially given how skilled Amazon is at offering a high caliber service at a lower rate than the competition. Again, this is a bit too far off to tell presently, but it will be something to keep an eye on, especially as Amazon Go stores start to open around the country.

 

 

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2017 Is The Year Of The 3PL. Will Your Freight Be On Board?

While the shipping industry is still suffering through a glut of overcapacity, things are finally starting to look up. The 3PL Value Creation Summit of 2016 yielded some pretty interesting results. Namely that the value added by 3PLs is only expected to keep going up through 2017 and beyond, a welcome boon for the weary shipper. This growth is expected to continue well through the following year and only continue beyond that.

“The global third party logistics (3PL) market is expected to be worth $925.31 billion by 2020 and will be partially driven by the outsourcing of secondary business activities,” according to a study released by Orbis.

A Combined Front of Transportation

While just about all modes of transportation are experiencing an issue, oceanic freight is dealing with a gross overcapacity and weak demand, truckers are faced with growing legislation and on the road concerns, to name a few issues, it will be the combined effort of all these various modes of transportation that will create the greatest value for shippers. A service, of course, that is rendered by eager 3PLs.

“Although carrier overcapacity on the still continues, Evan Armstrong, the president of Armstrong & Associates, predicts that integrated solutions such as air-ground, air-sea, and other combinations will create more value for shippers and increase 3PL margins,” said Patrick Burnson, executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review .

The big winner in the transportation race is going to be the domestic transportation sector

However, the big winner in the transportation race is going to be the domestic transportation sector, responsible for facilitating the last mile deliveries for the majority of eCommerce companies.

Calmer Waters for M&A to Mark Stability for the End of 2016

One of the most promising signs of 2016 is seeing the feeding frenzy of mergers and acquisitions finally dying down. Now that all of the smaller companies have either been absorbed or faded away, the transportation industry is able to turn its attention on the importance of building the right team, focusing on training and talent acquisition. This is important to note given the confusion and frustration of the M&A period that many companies have experienced caused by negative acquisition experiences and overpriced companies. With the dust finally settling, 3PLs and logistics companies can focus on adding value for their customers, which will come as no small undertaking.

With the dust finally settling, 3PLs and logistics companies can focus on adding value for their customers, which will come as no small undertaking.

The challenges of managing geographically dispersed supply chain operations as a result of increased globalization, has led to several companies to outsource their logistics function.

And difficulties with addressing logistical challenges has also led to increased outsourcing by wholesalers and retailers, thereby boosting the 3PL industry.

It found that emerging trends such as Big Data and availability of bespoke 3PL services are expected to drive the market over the forecast period,” says Andrew Allen, a CIPS contributor.

Improving Technology will Continue to Add Value

Another driving factor is the continuous improvement of technology which will only add value for all parties involved. Cloud based IT solutions help to control overhead costs while providing invaluable data in real time, which is necessary for the continued success of 3PLs and shippers alike.

All told, 2017 looks to be a more promising year for both Shippers and 3PL providers.

 

 

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Is Your Freight Protected? Freeze Protection For Temperature Sensitive Shipments

As the holiday season approaches, there are a number of freight tips companies should take into account to ensure that their supply chain continues to function efficiently and cost effectively. Companies must also consider the challenges presented by winter weather that accompanies the holiday season.

Anticipating transportation delays and mapping suppliers that could be affected by big storms and freezing temperatures, are good first steps.

Winter Giving Transportation the Cold Shoulder

The 2015 – 2016 winter season was responsible for a record-breaking blizzard that brought freight transportation in mid-Atlantic states to a halt for a number of days as crews worked to clear the roads of upwards of 3 feet of snow in cities such as Richmond, Baltimore, New York City and Philadelphia. Immobilizing snow also fell across areas in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Arkansas and thousands of freight cargo flights were grounded as major transportation hubs were closed.

Outside of unavoidable transit delays, companies also need to consider physically protecting their freight shipments from the harshness of winter.

Outside of unavoidable transit delays, companies also need to consider physically protecting their freight shipments from the harshness of winter. You should also consider working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that is able to offer an all-inclusive coverage plan for freight shipments to alleviate the pains of not only damaged freight, but to protect temperature sensitive shipments as well.

Technology Gives Logistics Some Valuable Insight

Weather forecasts are all well and good, but even preparing for delays due to the weather will only go so far. What about when the unexpected should occur. A truck carrying temperature sensitive materials breaks down and will miss its scheduled drop off. Will it be caught in time to make other arrangements? This creates a rather dangerous guessing game when it comes to sensitive freight. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a valuable web of information that users can access, in real time…

The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a valuable web of information that users can access, in real time, to check the location and the status of their freight. That sort of information can make the difference between arranging a truck transfer to get cargo to its destination on time and watching, in horror, as millions of dollars of product simply goes to waste because of a mechanical error, as was nearly the case for Biogen, whose truck carrying temperature sensitive pharmaceutical components was nearly lost when a truck broke down.

Not only does this information greatly help with making logistics decisions, especially when it comes to rerouting a truck due to weather concerns, but it can also help to control shipping costs and strengthen the working relationship of a shipper and a 3PL service provider. That alone can be reason enough, especially when it comes to dealing with the rather unpredictable Winter weather.

Find a 3PL Who can Handle the Cold

It’s important to understand that ‘Acts of God,’ such as extreme winter weather, are not covered when it comes to guaranteed or expedited freight. Being prepared in advance and moving shipments earlier than routinely expected when weather is expected, is something a transportation partner would help with.

A prepared 3PL will understand that every company has its own specific needs in relation to freight transportation and in the winter months

A prepared 3PL will understand that every company has its own specific needs in relation to freight transportation and in the winter months that can mean that some shipments need to maintain an above freezing temperature in order to maintain their quality and value. As many items such as perishable foods, chemicals & electronics are ruined and become useless if they reach a temperature below freezing, it’s important to be ahead of the coming cold.

There are several different means of protection available for shipments such as these and a reputable 3PL will work with specific carriers to make sure that your freight is taken care of properly. From heated or insulated trailers and temperature sensitive load planning and routing technology, to on-site snow removal and cargo quilt thermal blanket protection, your shipment will be protected.

Finding a 3PL that has a large network of LTL and truckload providers that offer freeze protection services to ensure that your shipments arrive safely, and on time, is key to your supply chain’s success this winter.

The challenges of winter are nothing new but preparation in advance is key. Are you prepared?

 

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Debate This: Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Systems

bluegrace_autonomous_driving

We saw the success of the automated fleet as it made its debut journey through Eastern Europe. The idea that something the size of a tractor trailer can link up and draft off another tractor trailer in near perfect unison seems like something out of science fiction. However, the technology is not only here, but is undergoing approval for use in not only the logistics sector, but also for non-commercial use as well. The V2V or vehicle to vehicle communications systems is currently being debated on with a final decision to be issued from the White House this coming January.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) submitted a draft proposal to require V2V technology in all cars and light trucks to the White House at the beginning of this year,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is optimistic that the rule would be released before the next administration takes over in January.

A Frequency Issue

One of the biggest opponents for the V2V systems is the band spectrum which the system will be using according to a recent article from Bloomberg. There is a growing concern as telecommunication companies are attempting to skirt around the Department of Transportation’s issuance of the V2V rule which would allow automotive manufacturers to start making plans to use the spectrum.

The DOT and the Federal Communications Commission are working together to test spectrum-sharing tools. However, the 5.9 gigahertz spectrum band at the center of the industry fight should remain dedicated for use by connected cars until there is a proven and safe method of sharing it,” Foxx said.

About More than Just Communication

While the vehicle-to-vehicle communication system is all well and good, there’s a bigger prize at the end of the line, the driverless car. This has some pretty big implications not just for the consumer sector, but would prove to be a massive boon for the logistics industry as a whole. Imagine if the roads were free of traffic jams and snarls caused by inattentive or unskilled drivers. Not only would this cut down on the amount of accidents, but also traffic flow as a whole would be greatly improved. This improvement would come as an increase in fuel efficiency and productivity overall for trucks on the road, allowing for better forecasting and productivity for logistics decisions makers.

That is, of course, if the NHTSA, the DoT, and the White House can all come to a consensus this Janurary.

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A Change of Plans: Reevaluating A Company Supply Chain

bluegrace_achangeofplans

Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP)

Both are critical to running a successful business, however trying to favor one over the other can prove to be disastrous. More often than not, companies are losing out on considerable profits, or paying out tremendous expenses such as last minute shipping charges due to a lack of cohesion between sales and operations planning.

A number of manufacturing companies are operating off a general set of rules for supply and demand, leaving both sales and production teams frustrated when they aren’t reaching their target goals.

While these generalizations might have cut it in the past, companies are going to have to change their operations if they want to succeed and thrive in the future.

The Creation of Internal Conflict

Supply Chain Management Review, an online industry news source recently reviewed this issue as it’s occurring in a number of companies, not only manufacturing, but service firms as well. With decision makers from both sides of the companies calling shots without conferring with the other side, there are a number of mistakes being made.

“A different type of demand–supply mismatch plagued a computer hardware maker. It relied on ocean shipping for units made in China because that was $15–$20 per unit cheaper than air freight. But while the units sailed across the ocean, the commercial team frequently changed their forecast for the mix of units that would sell over the next few weeks. The company routinely had to scramble at the last minute to ship via air (at great expense) in order to match the right supply to changes in demand forecasts.”

The article goes on to list a number of different causes for these problems, the core of which, comes down to poor information. Often times different cells within the operation are operating with different sets of data, both of which are skewed, leading to complications down the line.

Learning the Best Practice

Perhaps the biggest facilitator for change is the growing expectations from clients. With higher demand for more products with shorter delivery times, manufacturers will need to get their act together. Failure to do so could mean losing out on profits or even losing clients altogether.

“Running merely good S&OP may no longer be acceptable, because customers have higher expectations for product availability and fast delivery. The spread of new digital channels, on top of existing physical channels, has made it more complicated to know where inventory sits and what it will cost to deliver to customers. Also, the supply chain has grown more complex as suppliers operate a more far-flung network of suppliers, third-party logistics providers and inventory partners. Coordinating all that activity can be a stiff challenge.”

Changing the Game

In addition to finding better ways to communicate within the business, other business are branching out in different ways and are successful in doing so.

Apple is a perfect example of this. Originally, all Apple products were made and manufactured in the U.S. which was all well and good when they started. However, it didn’t take long for Apple to realize that manufacturing could be done cheaper out of house.

Not only could parts be procured at a lower cost but everything from assembling to warehousing could be done at a better rate. Some would simply cite lower labor costs as the main reasoning for this strategy, and to that end, gives Apple some flak for not bringing jobs back stateside. However, there’s more than one side to that issue.

“It’s also about, you don’t have as many mid-level manufacturing engineers available in the U.S. anymore, just because as an economy we don’t have as many of those types of jobs. That’s not the type of education that we focus on anymore, and there’s a ton of that over there,” said Evan Niu in an interview with the Motley Fool.

“Including the lower-cost labor, they have more people that are within the specific skill sets that they need to ramp up the manufacturing. I think a long time ago they said you could fit every single manufacturing engineer within, they would need a baseball stadium; in the country, that’s just how many there are now. Over in China, Foxconn can get hundreds of thousands of engineers within a couple hours if they need them to make some change, or tweak some processor. There’s a lot of sides to the story why they do it like that,” he added.

The manufacturing industry is accelerating and evolving rapidly, creating a challenge as businesses will need to be able to adapt and overcome, altering their business structure to meet the ever changing demand. — The real question is, will companies be able to adapt to quickly enough to meet these new expectations?

 

 

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Empathy in the Workplace – Why BlueGrace is Successful!

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Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Take a moment and think back to some of the jobs you’ve held in your life.

If you identify as a millennial, you’ve probably held several jobs since college. You maybe reach a point where you hit a ceiling, or you don’t enjoy the culture, disagree with management, etc. You may have worked for a company that doesn’t empathize with it’s people.

Typically the older generations have more tenure at companies and see long-term growth within. They ignore the issues with management or the mundane work culture, and “put in their time”.

So who is right and wrong in this scenario? Are the millennials wrong for wanting to be happy and pursue something different? Are the Gen X and older right for “embracing the suck”?

The feeling of being unimportant and undervalued is actually more common than you might think.

The End of an Era

The days of ‘hiring the resume’ are soon coming to an end. Highly successful start-ups are focusing on the person and not necessarily the resume, in the recruiting process.

A large issue is that companies are placing too much value on “hard skills” or the abilities of prospective employees that directly complement the nature of the position.

On paper, that sounds like what a company should do right?

There is no arguing that hard skills are important, as the company does depend on employees with strong knowledge that allows the organization to run smoothly. Putting a strong emphasis on the process has allowed companies to evolve and develop to the point they have today.

When Process Comes Before People

However, when process comes before people, when empathy and the true valuing of employees comes after the bottom line, it creates a large problem for retention.

No one wants to work a job where they don’t feel appreciated.

Prospective employees don’t want to sign up with a company where all their coworkers seem unhappy. It creates stagnation and lack of innovation, which can be the death of a business, or at least have a crushing effect on morale and productivity.

Building a Team

Much the same with playing sports, your team is only as good as your weakest player. Here’s where ideas like empathy and inclusion come into play.

Your smartest and most tenured manager may be loaded with hard skills but lack in the subtleties necessary to be an effective team player. This person could be ruthless when it comes to efficiency, which may lead to a singular mode of thinking, “My Way or the Highway” scenario.

While you might get a good jump in numbers for a time, that sort of thinking can be fragile, as it’s too rigid.

The logistics industry is constantly changing, and because of this, a good manager needs to be able to adapt and change tactics as necessary. They need the help of the team in order to stay ahead of the changes and make the process work consistently.

This is why empathy is so very important.

BlueGrace Logistics and Empathy

We’ve mentioned our Core Values before and we have highlighted our second as ‘Be Caring of Others’. This is probably one of the characteristics we focus on the most during the recruiting process.

Our team not only cares about each other, we care for our carriers, vendors, clients and partners. We work best with those who have compassion for others and truly show it.

The takeaway from this is simple. If you want a better business, you have to put your people first. Give them an environment where they cannot just survive, but thrive, and you’ll find your company will also reap the benefits.

To see all available positions at BlueGrace Logistics locations all over the US, visit careers.mybluegrace.com today.

 

 

 

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Fast Facts & Predictions About ELDs – Infographic

Countdown to the ELD Mandate

The time to plan for the ELD Mandate is now!

With the new ELD compliance creeping up on the trucking and logistics industry, we thought it would be beneficial to show some fast facts and predictions about ELDs. What do you think about the new requirements?

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

bluegrace-eld-infographic

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