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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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The Digital Pathway to the Logistics Industry’s Future 

Make no mistake, digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry. For an industry so vital to the entire world, the freight industry has been rather stubborn to change its ways. Sticking by the tried and true, fax machines whir and phones ring off the hook as shippers try to connect to carriers, book freight and make sure their goods get from A to B in good condition. For the last several decades, that has been the industry standard, until recently that is.  

We are witnessing a technological revolution as the freight industry finally moves to the present age. Digital services are changing the game, increasing mobility, visibility and information alike. While this change might be coming in with fits and starts, make no mistake, it is coming, and the world is changing as a result.  

Digitalization is Reshaping the Industry 

We are already beginning to see the emergence of highly automated vehicles in many applications, paving the way for those that will be fully autonomous. Warehouses are beginning to incorporate robotics and automation, reinforcing the efforts of human labor and expediting what is typically the most time-consuming process of the freight industry. Blockchain is producing some prodigious effects in terms of information technology and logistics planning. Even e-Commerce is an industry that is picking up speed and outmoding the standbys of brick and mortar stores.  

All of these changes, advancements, and innovations are being brought about by digitalization. 

It’s the capacity of both the storage and the ability to share data that will be the driving force behind the revolution of the transportation industry. That capacity will mean that there is never an empty or impartial load; the most optimal route will always be chosen, and a number of other variables will be predetermined before the order is even sent.  

Digitalization will be what drives innovations in a number of integral supply chain functions while adding new ones such as platooning, load matching and eco-driving. All of these innovations will focus on increasing efficiency without the need to reduce capacity. This means that even as demand rises, the supply chain will be ready to carry the load.   

The Effects of Digitalization on Legislation 

Of course, digitalization can do more than simply make the supply chain more efficient. There is also an enhanced regulatory effect that can be gained from it. While regulations are typically viewed with a negative connotation, such as the Electronic Logging Device mandate, there are some upsides to it as well.  

Digital documentation can help streamline the process in a number of different areas. Compliance with federal regulations like the Hours of Service ruling can be easily done through the ELD. As the mandate was originally designed to make roads safer by removing fatigued drivers, an ELD can be a quick and easy way to show compliance while providing other useful information to both the carrier and the shipper.  

Reduction of physical paperwork can also expedite customs processes, which are notoriously tedious and can drastically slow down the transportation process. With less back and forth on the phone and easy access via a digital platform, the necessary information can be shared quickly and easily, reducing the time and potentially costly penalties for non-compliance. This is just one of the many potential applications for digitalization of the industry.  

A Digital Infrastructure for an Automated Future 

When considering the potential scope of digitalization in the freight industry, it is necessary to understand that it’s not just a handful of companies or even countries that are participating in the technological revolution. It is the industry, as a whole, worldwide. While these little nuances and conveniences might seem novel now, they will inevitably become the industry standard in the near future.  

Digitalization, however, is only the beginning. It is establishing the framework and infrastructure for which all other innovations are being built on. For any of this to work and succeed, it is going to be a continued collaborative effort as an industry to both embrace and adapt to the new way of doing things. — Digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry.  

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

As the digital infrastructure continues to optimize freight, BlueGrace has been at the forefront, simplifying our customers businesses. 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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The End of NAFTA Could Be a Nightmare for Truckers 

Recent actions from the U.S. President, Donald Trump, have truckers more than a little concerned. During his time on the campaign trail Trump has made his opinion on foreign industries, Mexico in particular, very clear. Touting his “America First” slogan, Trump promised the American people that he would focus on bringing jobs back to the United States and would renegotiate trade agreements to put the U.S. in a better position.  

While that sounds all well and good, the actual ramifications of Trump’s trade tinkering could be disastrous.

While that sounds all well and good, the actual ramifications of Trump’s trade tinkering could be disastrous. He’s already threatened higher tariffs on trade with Mexico and now the president has his sights set on another target, solar energy. His most recent legislative move would place a 30 percent tariff on any solar equipment that is manufactured outside the United States.  

According to Bloomberg, the 28 billion dollar solar industry is heavily reliant on these outsourced parts. In fact, 80 percent of its supply chain is centered around the acquisition of them. Bloomberg also says that this doesn’t just affect the renewable energy industry, driving it to the point of being cost prohibitive, but it could also cause 23,000 Americans to lose their jobs. The tariff would not only target solar panels, but a number of consumer electronics and the steel industry. It’s highly likely that these tariffs could create restriction on US-made goods in other countries.

Truckers Fear of NAFTA Ending 

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a crucial element for the U.S. economy since its implementation back in 1994. The agreement was aimed at reducing or eliminating tariffs and other trade restrictions between partnering countries; Mexico, Canada, and the United States. As partner countries are attempting to work together to renegotiate the deal, the process is being dragged down with “contentious negotiations” and threats of an all-out withdrawal by the United States.  

While many in the industry will agree that the trade agreement is due for some updates and renegotiating, it is Trump’s critical attitude toward these trade agreements that have the freight transportation industry concerned.  

“NAFTA has been a major point of contention since it was first implemented over two decades ago. Critics have argued the trade deal has benefited large corporations or foreign workers at the expense of domestic workers. But to industry groups, the trade deal has been vastly more beneficial than not,” says an article from Transport Topics 

The trade agreement has been very helpful in opening up the markets between the three participating countries and has been a driving force in the success of the trucking industry. With over $6.5 billion in annual revenue for the industry, NAFTA is responsible for creating jobs for over 46,000 people; 31,000 of which are U.S. truck drivers.  

Restricting foreign trade in certain circumstances could hurt both domestic companies and consumers by limiting the flow of goods they might rely on

“President Trump hopes to use trade and other reforms to encourage domestic production – which could result in more jobs. But some domestic production faces barriers that other countries don’t have. Restricting foreign trade in certain circumstances could hurt both domestic companies and consumers by limiting the flow of goods they might rely on,” Transport Topics adds.  

The Fallout from the Death of NAFTA  

So what would happen if the United States were to withdraw completely from the free trade agreement? Most agree that the results would be disastrous.  

The disagreements and heated rhetoric have fueled concern throughout the economy. Many businesses rely on the massive trade deal, which could make them vulnerable depending on how the negotiations end and create uncertainty in the process. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Federal Affairs Vice President Jennifer Thomas notes that there are two bad outcomes that could potentially come from these talks. The first of these scenarios is that NAFTA becomes unworkable and useless due to unrealistic expectations. The second, and potentially most frightening, is we simply lose NAFTA altogether because the U.S. has pulled out entirely.  

The trucking industry could stand to suffer the most, as transportation from the U.S. to either Canada or Mexico is predominantly done by trucking.  

It’s more than just the threat of higher tariffs that would hurt American consumers, who would end up taking the brunt of the increased costs. There are a significant amount of jobs at stake, all of which are heavily reliant on NAFTA. The trucking industry could stand to suffer the most, as transportation from the U.S. to either Canada or Mexico is predominantly done by trucking.  

According to a report released last December by The American Action Forum, a center-right nonprofit, pulling out of NAFTA would increase consumer costs by at least $7 billion and businesses would be hit with $15.5 billion in new tariffs.  

As NAFTA negotiations are still ongoing there is hope that the trade agreement will make it through. However, with the Trump administration avidly arguing against it, there’s really no telling what form the trade agreement will take in the end.

How Can A 3PL Help?  

While we can’t control national policy, we can help our customers navigate through it. When retail stores added ‘Must Arrive By’ Dates, we were able to offer solutions. When Walmart went a step further and tightened their delivery rules with OTIF (On Time In Full), we successfully assisted many of our retail customers. With the ELD mandate in full effect, we’re actively helping our customers navigate issues that cause capacity and expensive penalty problems. No matter the situation, we are the experts here to simplify your freight needs. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, feel free to fill out the form below:

 

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How a 3PL Takes the Logistics Out of Running Your Business

One of the first rules of running a business is, “focus on your strengths.” It sounds easy in principle, but for medium-sized companies undergoing rapid growth, it’s often hard to discern what those strengths are when every day brings new opportunities and challenges. Logistics is a tricky area. In today’s tech-intensive retail environment, customers expect to get their orders quickly, reliably and transparently. When they don’t, they will walk away and take their business elsewhere. The good news is that the rise of online shopping has pushed a slew of new, tech-savvy logistics companies into the sector while forcing established companies to invest in making their operations more digital and agile.  

You’ve Got Choices 

Let’s start with scalability because that’s where a lot of businesses run into supply chain problems. There once was a two-person startup that was growing steadily until they were mentioned on The Colbert Report, and nothing could have prepared them for what happened next. In the span of 24 hours, they went from local business to national retailer doing twenty times the sales – and nobody was prepared. The ‘Colbert Bump,’ a term coined to describe a surge of interest or business in the wake of a mention on TV, is an extreme example – but it makes for an interesting case study for scaling. It quickly became clear that they couldn’t handle their own fulfillment anymore. In addition to the complexities of hiring and training more staff, it was a question of simple economics. They needed a national presence and that meant forward shipping their products closer to major markets to deliver ‘on demand.’ 

If you’re going national, you need a national partner that works with a spectrum of carriers and different modes of transportation, with competitive pricing.

The next couple of months they’d learn that if you’re going national, you need a national partner that works with a spectrum of carriers and different modes of transportation, with competitive pricing. That way, you’re sure that your product is where it’s supposed to be and you can align your inventory with expected sales. 

Stay in Control 

Outsourcing your logistics shouldn’t mean losing visibility. It should mean the opposite.

Outsourcing your logistics shouldn’t mean losing visibility. It should mean the opposite. The right logistics partner will create transparency in hidden corners of your supply chain that you didn’t even know existed. Whether you like it or not, your in-house distribution is already working with multiple partners – and that’s problematic. You might have a separate partner for pick up, one for distribution, one for packaging and then one for returns. That’s an incredible amount of time spent calling multiple vendors and carriers, especially when there’s uncertainty in whether you’re getting the right services, process transparency, and competitive prices. 

A 3PL provider allows your company to integrate all of these costs and pay a single vendor, rather than several for your packaging and shipping needs. In addition to lower costs, one dynamic partner lets you allocate more resources toward growth – and that’s what you’re good at. There’s also an important customer service advantage to partnering with a 3PL. When your customers order from you, their three most important interactions are with your sales platform, customer support team, and the company that delivers their order. The right 3PL partner can use their expertise and infrastructure to exert that kind of control over the delivery process. That way, you can be assured that the deliveries are happening on time and you can pass on that level of visibility to your customers. 

Built to Scale 

3PLs are built to handle higher volumes of orders with increasing logistics needs. Your company might be able to handle fulfillment today, but as your market expands it will take up more of your time and might exceed your level of expertise. Bringing in a logistics partner leverages economies of scale. With higher volumes of shipments, the rates you’re charged are increasingly important. A single 3PL partner centralizes organization, meaning real-time visibility over your supply chain and more customizable shipping options.

The right 3PL partner will also increase transparency and that’s going to make your customers happy, while cutting costs.

That’s what 3PLs are designed to do. Apart from cutting payroll with a much smaller logistics operations staff, you can opt for a specialized in-house logistics department that interfaces with your 3PL. No matter how good you are, your 3PL is better when it comes to managing inventory and logistical distribution. When choosing a 3PL partner, make sure that they have developed software and tracking systems, which can be used to generate data that will allow you to reach your customers more efficiently. A tech-savvy logistics partner can help your company understand customer behavior and keep you ahead of industry trends. The right 3PL partner will also increase transparency, and that’s going to make your customers happy while simultaneously cutting costs.

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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A Fork In the Road Between Shippers and 3PLs 

Shippers and third-party logistics providers work hand in hand and they tend to agree on most things when it comes to the freight industry. However, what they agree on can have some degree of variance. While there usually isn’t a drastic swing one way or the other, it would seem that 3PLs have a slightly less optimistic view of the future, according to the Journal of Commerce. “Results from more than 200 shippers and third-party logistics service providers underscored a divide in how shippers and their logistics partners view the transportation landscape. In most cases, shippers took a more conservative view of how 2018 would unfold and that alarmed more than a few 3PLs. The survey reflected a market in rapid transition from a two-year downturn to more dynamic growth and tightening capacity,” The JOC said.

Tightening the Belt on Capacity

Capacity is one of the many differences in opinion that the JOC highlighted. Of course, more available capacity means better rates for shippers. The question is, does the conservative stance of shippers validate, or does it perhaps a make them a little naive?

In terms of statistics, the survey shows that 57 percent of shippers believe that capacity will tighten “considerably” over the course of the year. 3PLs, on the other hand, are at 71 percent. When it comes to the topic of already tightened capacity, the scores are a little closer with 44 percent of shippers and 51 percent of 3PLs believing that capacity is already tight.

Much of the capacity conversation has to do with the fact that the U.S. has suffered through a number of natural disasters over 2017. Back to back hurricanes drove up demand for freight as emergency supplies and construction materials were rushed to the sights where the storms hit the hardest. This is on top of an already nationwide surge in freight demand.

While the hurricanes might be over, that doesn’t mean that nature is done messing with the market.

While the hurricanes might be over, that doesn’t mean that nature is done messing with the market. Winter Storm Grayson helped kick off the new year with some extreme weather conditions. As a result, supply chains needed to respond quickly to deal with the oncoming rush of orders amidst the treacherous transit conditions.

3PL Insight on Rising Rates

The rise in rates is another point of debate between shippers and 3PLs. Logistics providers are more apt to see a rise in rates than shippers. Only 58 percent of the shippers surveyed believe that less-than-truckload rates are going to rise, as opposed to the 75 percent of 3PLs. For full truckload rates, the difference is even more drastic, with 66 percent of shippers and 86 percent of 3PLs believing there will be an increase in future rates.

The question is, are shippers being too conservative, or are 3PLs being paranoid?

Much of the rate increase is due to tightening capacity brought on by the additional need from the storms. The question is, are shippers being too conservative, or are 3PLs being paranoid?

The Effects of the ELD

The Electronic Logging Device mandate is now in effect and there are still a number of shippers who simply aren’t prepared to deal with it. The majority of 3PLs, 82 percent, believe that the ELD will have a negative impact on the industry. A third of that number believe that the impact will be moderate.

As for shippers, only 70 percent believe that the ELD will have a negative effect. Of that 70 percent, only 33 percent of those surveyed believe that the impact will only be a slight one. While optimism is usually a good thing, it can prove to be disastrous if shippers aren’t careful. With the ELD in effect and no chance of repeal on a federal level, the once potential punishments are now a very real risk that shippers will have to be ready to answer for if they’re operating outside the federal mandate.

Shippers who are going into this time of change alone have a lot more risks to face than those working with 3PLs as they could be caught off guard by the shift in the market.

The overall takeaway from the JOC survey is this: growth is more than just imminent, it’s already here. Demand is slowly beginning to climb and with it, the cost of operations. Shippers who are going into this time of change alone have a lot more risks to face than those working with 3PLs, as they could be caught off guard by the shift in the market. Between storms and national demand growth, it’s going to be a busy year for shippers and 3PLs alike.

Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace

With our extensive carrier network, technology, and dedicated teams, we are able to provide solutions for our customers when they need it most. We understand that not every customer has the same needs and that those needs may change over time with the growth of your company. We offer customized services and provide on-demand solutions for your business. From daily shipments to the most difficult situations, BlueGrace is dedicated to being the shipping partner that truly gives your business the 3PLTLC it deserves. 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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Surviving the Digital Race: What to Watch for in 2018

As we enter into a brand-new year, it’s time to start looking ahead to what 2018 will hold. The past few years have been considerable, in terms of both changes and technological advancements, with the freight industry seeing some of the most drastic changes. Mergers and acquisitions have challenged the playing field by taking smaller players off the board and strengthening the position of others. As for technology, the freight industry has undergone a veritable renaissance. Data analysis and predictive modeling are just the beginning of the industry’s new bag of tricks.

In 2018, it’s going to come down to the 3PLs and freight forwarders to help bridge the gap in supply chains – for both shippers and carriers.

That being said, shippers and carriers will still need help making it through. While 2017 was certainly better than 2016, it’s still going to be a slog to get back to the post-recession era. In 2018, it’s going to come down to the 3PLs and freight forwarders to help bridge the gap in supply chains – for both shippers and carriers. This change won’t take place overnight of course, but the gradual change will build up to a complete revision of the industry. “The next few years will see an evolution of the sector rather than a big-bang revolution. Undoubtedly, there will be change and those companies who cannot adjust to the new environment will drop out of the market. However, for most of the largest providers at least, the new technologies offer another way of differentiating their products and services; of driving down costs and of creating efficiencies in their networks,” according to Transportation Intelligence.   

It’s the technology that will pave the way for the future, and if 3PLs want to stay viable, they’ll have to adapt. They’ll need to be able to provide higher levels of service such as big data analysis and real-time visibility, all at competitive prices.

As we move forward we’ll eventually see a shift, not just in the way companies perform logistics, but in how they think about logistics as well. Real-time shipping quotes are something of a bonus right now, a feature that shippers appreciate but aren’t demanding just yet. Within the next decade however, real-time quotes and total visibility will become the norm. The next generation of logistics planners will see these ‘smart-contracts’ as part of the everyday operations. It’s the technology that will pave the way for the future, and if 3PLs want to stay viable, they’ll have to adapt. They’ll need to be able to provide higher levels of service such as big data analysis and real-time visibility, all at competitive prices.

What to Watch for 

Big technology trends that started up in 2017 are expected to continue as the new year progresses, as they’ve given visibility to some of the long overdue changes within the industry. As it stands, technology is going to be the lynchpin for 3PLs and forwarders, leaving its mark on the industry as a whole.

Here are the biggest trends to keep an eye on as 2018 gets underway.

Visibility, in particular, is going to be essential for supply chain management in the future.

Digitization- The digitization of the supply chain is a significant move as it completely overhauls the way the industry has been run for the past several decades. Not only is it more efficient, but the amount of accessible information allows more insightful decisions at every step of the supply chain. With the increase in focus on digitization throughout 2018, many companies will realize that in order to survive they’ll have to join the digital ranks. Digitization incorporates many different strategies ranging from a focus on hiring to technology investment strategies. Visibility, in particular, is going to be essential for supply chain management in the future.

Adaptive Organizations and Capabilities– A strong supply chain relies on its flexibility above all else. It’s the ability to adapt and react to any changes or potential obstacles in the environment. “In terms of organizational structure, the largest difference between more and less mature supply chain organizations is typically a broader span of control that includes strong relationships with functions such as customer service and product development, in addition to traditional planning, sourcing, manufacturing and logistics. More significant differences emerge in the scope of responsibility for functional owners and how they partner internally and externally to manage end-to-end (E2E) business process flows such as design-to-launch, requisition-to-settlement, and order-to-cash,” says Supply Chain Management Review.

Automation- Drones and robotics are just the beginning of automation, but they will undoubtedly play a big role in the future. Warehousing and order selection is slowly being automated, but so are last mile deliveries, as drones and automated delivery robots are allowing packages to be delivered quickly in urban settings. Warehousing will see some of the biggest investments in robotics over the course of 2018. As pick-and-pack order selection tends to be the most time and labor-intensive process, a robotic workforce could provide a considerable ROI over time. A culmination of EFT’s 2017 Research and Reports data, as well as the 2018 Third Party Logistics Study report, says that roughly 70 percent of supply chain executives have plans to automate their warehouses.

Electronic transmission of data gives companies more insight to work with, and the amount of raw data that is generated by blockchain will certainly give companies plenty to work with in terms of increasing visibility and reliability

Blockchain Technology- Blockchain has slowly gained traction over 2017 and it’s expected that it will only continue to gain ground. Electronic transmission of data gives companies more insight to work with, and the amount of raw data that is generated by blockchain will certainly give companies plenty to work with in terms of increasing visibility and reliability. As it stands, many in the industry still don’t know enough about blockchain to make much of a comment, but that will change as time progresses and more companies begin to adopt and adapt to the new technology.

Supply Chain Management 

Ultimately, controlling the supply chain and managing it properly will be one of the most crucial service offerings for 3PLs. Management solutions in today’s marketplace will require forwarders to offer shippers access to a myriad of different carriers, routes and modes of transport, and instant pricing. Strong management will be heavily reliant on big data; data gathered via the IoT, blockchain and any other technology will need to be broken down into actionable data and analyzed into something that can be used, whether in predictive modeling or direct decision making.

For 3PLs that want to stay in the game and do better than just survive, it’ll be a matter of harnessing the power of digitalization and information technology. That information will need to be applied in the best possible way to suit the needs and desires of their customers.  

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power, and in today’s marketplace that certainly holds true. For 3PLs that want to stay in the game and do better than just survive, it’ll be a matter of harnessing the power of digitalization and information technology. That information will need to be applied in the best possible way to suit the needs and desires of their customers.  

How BlueGrace Can Help in 2018

When companies want superior supply chain management services and best-in-class technology, they turn to BlueGrace. Our proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. 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 you analyze your current freight issues, feel free to contact us using the form below:

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Big Data and Business Intelligence: What You Need to Know

 

‘Big Data’ has become one of the biggest buzzwords lately. Everyone is talking about it and everyone wants it. The problem is, while most companies know that they need it, they don’t really know what it is or what to do with it once they have it. While having access to “big data” is all well and good and easy enough if you’re willing to pay for it, turning it into something usable is a different matter altogether. This is especially true when you’re trying to figure out what you need to run your supply chain more efficiently.

So what is “big data” and how can it be used?

A Little Bit of Big Data

Big data, as the name implies, is just what you’d think it is. A seemingly incomprehensible amount of information, collected from a multitude of different sources, that can all come streaming in faster than most people can comprehend. That creates the biggest issue with big data, the sense of “analysis paralysis” as most companies end up with more information than they know what to do with.

A seemingly incomprehensible amount of information, collected from a multitude of different sources

According to the Harvard Business Review, the key take away from using big data isn’t about having access to all the data available, it’s about knowing what to do with it and accessing the key pieces of data you need to meet your goals.

Boiling it All Down

The first step is to establish your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Fine tuning the KPIs makes it easier to drill down to the necessary details while bypassing all the superfluous information that could be flooding your systems.

These are a few questions you should be asking when trying to analyze your company’s processes. 

What tools do you utilize to capture your data? When those tools capture the data, what happens with it?

Is Big Data a Good Choice for Every Company?

Absolutely! Having the right systems in place can help your company target weak points and waste and turn the losses to profits. Mostly it’s about having the right data, at the right time, in the right hands. In the case of the manufacturer, big data has helped reduce waste and variability in their production processes and and has dramatically improved product quality. Capitalizing on this data is key for future success.

There are many critical steps to be taken to successfully utilize big data.

A manufacturing company will have to invest many resources into each facet of the business to truly develop efficient processes, manage the supply chain risk and ensure better quality assurance. Big data can distinguish analytics such as “who is likely to buy more product in the United States” instead of asking “who is likely to buy more product in the United States.”

Data Alone is Nothing > Business Intelligence and the 3PL

Data Alone is Nothing, Decisions Driven by Data is Everything!

In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace the use of big data converted into business intelligence is becoming more of a necessity.

BlueGrace uses the information as a foundation for productive discussions with supply chain partners. Basically, BlueGrace takes the hard to understand and complicated data and turns it into easy to read and able to make well calculated decisions data.

Without business intelligence, you waste time, money and opportunity. Make sure you find a partner that is as invested in your business as much as you are.

“The reality is that our relentless focus on the importance of big data is often misleading. Yes, in some situations, deriving value from data requires having an immense amount of that data. But the key for innovators across industries is that the size of the data isn’t the most critical factor — having the right data is.” -Harvard Business Review

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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The Fight Is On: The Current State of the ELD Mandate

The December 18th deadline has come and gone, the trucking industry is still trying to rally against the ELD mandate. The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) requires truckers to switch from paper logs which have been in use since 1930, to a digital system that automatically record hours of service. The original idea behind the mandate was to make roads safer by reducing the number of fatigued drivers on the roads and therefore reduce the number of accidents that occur.

Many in opposition are still looking for a repeal of the regulation.

“Groups representing small businesses and owner-operators have been increasingly vocal in Washington, calling for a delay or exemptions from the mandate for independent truckers and smaller motor carriers. (Some groups have already received exemptions.) Some of those drivers protested against the mandate at truck stops and state capitals across the US Monday,” says the Journal of Commerce.

The Root of the Rally

There are a number of reasons that the trucking industry is fighting against the ELD mandate. For some companies, it’s simply a matter of costs, which could prove to be a detriment, at the very least, to smaller companies. Many critics of the technology claim that standards are lacking in the new devices and could cost operators upwards of $4,000 for the first year it’s installed. An industry-wide estimated price tag for the new mandate runs to the tune of $1.8 billion. Based on cost alone, smaller companies (even those with sterling safety records) could have a hard time footing the bill.

Other drivers believe that the device is a violation of their privacy and even “criminalizes” them.

“That truck is my home, my business, my moneymaker,” truck driver Kim Schwindt told reporter Michelle Choi of KHOU. “I have a right not to have a GPS tracking device on my home.”

Another driver questioned the need for electronic logging.

“If you’re a safe operator, why must you be monitored by the federal government, like you’re a criminal?” David McKinney said. “The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) raised privacy issues in its lawsuit against the mandate, but its arguments were rejected by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in October 2016. The court found the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule did not violate driver confidentiality or the Fourth Amendment,”according to the JOC.

#ELDorME

In a last-ditch effort to shake off the looming ELD mandate, truckers are appealing to U.S. President Trump, who supposedly, is “anti-regulation.”

“The U.S. Department of Transportation and supporters of the rule, set to take effect on Dec. 18, say it will save lives and make the nearly $700 billion trucking industry more efficient. Opponents contend the technology is unreliable and the $1.8 billion price tag is excessive,”said Reuters.

“Small operators – many of them Trump backers – view the Republican president’s response to requests for a delay as a test of his avowed support for small business. ‘One of the things we voted for, I voted for, was a change in the attitude in D.C.,’ said Dick Pingel, a 64-year-old Trump supporter and independent trucker from Plover, Wisconsin. ‘I guess if he doesn’t do anything about it, government isn’t listening to the small guy again,’” the Reuters article added.

A Done Deal

Because the mandate has been passed and is now required by law, it isn’t clear as to how much leeway the White House and the Department of Transportation have to work with if they decided they wanted to delay the ELD.

“My understanding with regard to ELDs is that they are now legally required,” Raymond P. Martinez, Trump’s nominee to head the FMCSA, said during his Oct. 31 nomination hearing. “It would be my intention to first and foremost abide by the law but also to have an open-door policy and work with all the impacted stakeholders,” according to the JOC.

Like it or not, the ELD mandate has kicked off. While the trucking industry is still trying to fight against it, many simply weren’t prepared for the mandate to begin with. With the hope of a delaying action all but past, trucking companies should be looking at the implementation in order to avoid fines and penalties.

The BlueGrace Expedited Solution

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

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

BlueGrace takes the stress out of your freight by giving you the information and technology you need to get the job done.

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

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

Need An Expedited Quote?

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

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BlueGrace Continues The Gift of Giving

As we celebrate the “Season of Giving,” it’s easy to forget what an impact a simple gift can have. A gift can put a smile on someone’s face when they’re having a hard day, or show someone they’re cared for when they’re unsure. Children of all ages plan for months what gifts they will ask for when December comes around. A two-wheel bike or a new baby doll can be found on many lists, but sometimes a list is as simple as just “a toy.” For many children, simply receiving a gift is special as it isn’t guaranteed.

Coming Together As An Organization

BlueGrace recognizes this need each year and works together as an organization to provide gifts to children across the country. “These children aren’t asking for much-just one or two toys to be under the tree on Christmas morning,” Jessica Gonzalez, audit team specialist in the Tampa office and Bags of Joy team captain says. “Giving $10 instead of spending it on coffee can mean the difference between a child receiving and not receiving a toy for the holidays.”

Giving $10 instead of spending it on coffee can mean the difference between a child receiving and not receiving a toy for the holidays.

BlueGrace Richmond Partners With Salvation Army

BlueGrace Richmond partnered with their local Salvation Army this year for their “Angel Tree” program. The Angel Tree program provides more than 2,000 children with toys annually. As an office, they collected and donated 45 toys, which will be gifted to the children in the Virginia area. Sheron Roane, a Customer Service Representative and culture ambassador in the Richmond office, felt this truly reminded their office what the holidays are about. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday parties and craziness of the season. For some children, these toys we donated are the only ones they will receive this year.”

BlueGrace Tampa Partners With Metropolitan Ministries

BlueGrace Tampa partnered again with Metropolitan Ministries for their Bags of Joy drive. “We have 20,000 children we would like to provide 1-2 toys for this year,” Alison Matherly, associate director of corporate partnerships for Metropolitan Ministries explains. “That’s 40,000 toys, which is no easy task.”

The Tampa office held fundraising events all week to raise money, including gift wrapping for donations and a holiday-themed relay race complete with reindeer onesies and ornament races. When all was said and done, 179 toys were donated as well as $200 in online donations. Samantha Downing, Campus Recruiter in the Tampa office, explains the drive to potential employees by saying, “It’s such a great opportunity to be able to give back to the community and really live up to our first core value of ‘Be Caring of All Others.’”

BlueGrace Baltimore Adopts A Family

The BlueGrace Baltimore office adopted a family through Perry Hall Elementary School for another year. This year’s family was a single mom with an 8-year-old special needs daughter and a 6-year-old son. The family received several gifts and outfits for each child, as well as a Walmart gift card for their mom. In addition to gifts, employees provided a full Christmas ham dinner with delicious sides for the family to enjoy.

BlueGrace Chicago Supports Military Families

Lastly, BlueGrace Chicago supported military families by donating to the “Toys for Tots 4×4 parade.” They were able to donate $500 worth of toys to the well-known organization as well as attend the parade to show their support. Abby Palumbo, a Sales Representative and culture ambassador in the Chicago office organized the event. “Many of these military children are celebrating the holidays here while one or both of their parents serve our country overseas or away,” Abby observes. “If we can put a smile on their face, even just for the day, it’s worth it.”

Holiday Magic

So many are in need of just a few minutes or hours of magic this holiday season and if a toy or gift can provide that for a child and their parents, BlueGrace is happy to continue their efforts for another year.

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Retailers Say Don’t Let Your Freight Be Early Or Late

The transportation industry is perhaps one of the most daunting when it comes to rules and regulations. Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Devices are just a few of the most recent roadblocks to come up recently. Merely staying in compliance with these new regulations can be a costly endeavor. What’s worse is that being caught out of compliance could mean penalties, fines, or even a trucker losing their job.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, truckers and freight forwarders have to balance all of that on top of growing customer expectations. WalMart, in particular, is starting to crack down on deliveries with their OTIF program. Kroger, another heavy-hitting retailer, is also beginning to levy penalties on tardy shipments. Missing the delivery window could mean hefty fines for carriers. However in this case, missing the delivery window doesn’t just mean being late, but even arriving early could prove costly for carriers.

Tardy Carriers Will Pay the Price

Retailers are warning retailers that disputes simply won’t be tolerated. On Time. In Full. Or Else.

WalMart can be rather ruthless when it comes to their profit margins, but other retailers are starting to rally to the call, creating an unforgiving environment for errant carriers. Retailers expect their loads to be packaged properly, delivered in full, at the designated time. To that end, retailers are taking a very defensive stance over their new initiative, warning retailers that disputes simply won’t be tolerated. On Time. In Full. Or Else.

Wal-Mart has signaled it could do more than levy fines if problems persist. Charles Redfield, executive vice president of food for Wal-Mart U.S., told suppliers they could also lose shelf space if they don’t solve their delivery issues, according to people in attendance at a supplier meeting earlier this year. “Retailers can threaten suppliers with loss of promotional space in stores”, analysts said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the few short months that the program was unleashed upon carriers, WalMart has already been dishing out the penalties. For example, late or missing freight could cost a carrier up to 3 percent of its value. Early arrivals are no less forgiving due to the fact that they create an overstock. This overstated Just In Time philosophy keeps the shelves full and the WalMart customers spending, which is all well and good for WalMart as it means they can run with the big dogs like Amazon.

it’s likely only a matter of time before more retailers jump on the no-nonsense bandwagon.

“Wal-Mart executives say a more-precise delivery window keeps shelves stocked and the flow of products more predictable, while reducing inventory—all of which are increasingly important to the retailer as it invests heavily to compete online. The change could create $1 billion in additional sales over time, they said. “We hope we don’t have to collect any fees from suppliers. We would much rather have all the product we ordered on time,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg,” the WSJ adds. While Kroger is seemingly more lenient, simply charging a flat $500 for late shipments, it’s likely only a matter of time before more retailers jump on the no-nonsense bandwagon.

Carriers Feeling the Pressure

These new policies will be costly for carriers for more reasons than just the fines.

These new policies will be costly for carriers for more reasons than just the fines. Simply implementing the procedures and equipment necessary to hit that 95 percent compliance mark could prove to be too much for smaller carriers. While bigger carriers can just add some new factory processes to help with packing and loading, smaller carriers don’t always have that luxury. Many new carriers are just hoping to break even for their first few years of operation until they can build both a steady reputation as well as a customer base.

Furthermore, WalMart and Kroger’s steadfast approach to “no excuses” will mean that carriers can be slapped with a fine for circumstances that are beyond their control. Anything from heavy traffic and construction work that causes serious delays to severe weather events that makes travel all but impossible will all have a negative impact on carriers. Conversely, what happens if a carrier does happen to show up early? Is it better to take the financial hit for the early delivery or shell out for extra meals and more time on the road for the driver?

There’s also the concern that drivers might take it upon themselves to exceed the daily drive limit to ensure their delivery is on time. Not only is this dangerous, not to mention illegal, but soon driver’s won’t even have that as an option when the ELD mandate goes into effect this December.

The Bitter Citrus Industry

A growing concern over these new on-time delivery policies is what it will mean for Florida’s citrus growers. As both Walmart and Kroger are considerable retailers of foodstuffs and produce, that makes them some of the biggest customers for such items. As Florida citrus groves have not only been ravaged by HLB for several years, but hurricane Irma caused some considerable damage.

“Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade organization for growers, predicts growers statewide will end up losing more than half of this year’s crop to Hurricane Irma. The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture has estimated the cost of Irma to Florida’s farm sector at $2.5 billion, with projected losses to citrus producers the worst of any sector, at $760 million,”according to an article from Marketplace.

Suffice it to say, this policy might create better profit margins for retailers, but it’s not going to make them any friends among the carrier community.

This puts both the growers and their carriers in a serious predicament. As much of the damage won’t be fully realized for another two years at least, making guesses on shipments is a dangerous gamble. Guessing too low means crops left unsold which is money wasted. Guessing too high, however, means that carriers won’t be able to make full deliveries which means the fines will get passed down the line back to growers. In either case, it’s a lose lose for an industry that’s already in danger. Suffice it to say, this policy might create better profit margins for retailers, but it’s not going to make them any friends among the carrier community. As the regulations begin to tighten from both retailers (who will undoubtedly add more to the list) as well as the ELD mandate, we’ll have to wait and see how carriers respond to the growing pressure.

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, contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below, we are here to help!

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BlueGrace 2017 National Conference | Recap

This year, BlueGrace Logistics held their National Conference at the beautiful SandPearl resort in Clearwater Beach, FL. To no surprise, the conference was jam packed with fantastic speakers including Don Hutson, Alex Sheen and Brian Holloway. Everyone enjoyed learning experiences, lunches and a reception back at headquarters. This was BlueGrace’s 7th installment and biggest conference yet with over 250 people in attendance. Everyone joined together Sunday night on the Gulf Lawn at the SandPearl resort for a welcome mixer down by the beach. Cocktails and appetizers were served while the festivities began and BlueGrace kicked off the 2017 National Conference.

Monday | Day 1

Monday morning started with an official message from President and CEO of BlueGrace, Bobby Harris. After talking about the amazing venue and beautiful Clearwater, FL beaches, he discussed the current status of BlueGrace, it’s business and employees. It has been an exciting year at BlueGrace with the opening of our 11 Branch and Regional locations. 2017 brought the complete redesign of our Riverview, FL headquarters and many of the Branch locations across the US did the same. Data was shared with the team about what we accomplished in our Freight, Truckload and Enterprise departments and what effect future trends will have on us in 2018 and beyond. Bobby left the team with a new found excitement for the year to come and with new tools and data to help accomplish upcoming goals.

Featured Speaker| Day 1

Following Harris’ kickoff, motivational speaker Alex Sheen captured everyone’s attention with his presentation. Tears were shed and sighs were heard as Alex told the story of his because I said I would foundation. His foundation is an international social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. Sparked by the loss of his father, Alex began sending promise cards to anyone who requested them at no cost. Since his father’s passing on September 4th, 2012, because I said I would has sent over 8.42M promise cards to over 150 countries. Alex’s commitment to the betterment of humanity has inspired millions around the world. The story of his promises have been shared virally throughout social media and international news.

The BlueGrace team left this presentation with a renewed vision to stick to your promises, whether it’s for a family member or a customer. The importance of your word can be the strongest tool you have to build lasting relationships and to help your fellow man. We want to thank Alex for his moving and poignant presentation and we will do what we can to put his vision into practice!

Featured Speaker| Day 1

After a short intermission, Don Hutson “The One Minute Negotiator” taught everyone about his successful career in speaking, management and sales. Don is a #1 salesperson in a national training organization, and has earned the “Master of Influence” Award, as well as “Philanthropist of the Year”.

Don spent 2 sessions, one for our general group and one specifically for the sales team. He discussed the importance of selling value to our customers. In an industry so focused on low pricing, both the customer and BlueGrace can lose sight of the more valuable items in a business relationship. Items such as service, response times and communication can increase the relationship to one built on loyalty, not just price. The BlueGrace staff went away with a solid set of tools to increase their interactions and understanding of their current and future customers.

Breakout Sessions| Day 1

As the first day continued, it was time for breakout sessions from select BlueGrace Leadership. Mark Ford, COO Transportation started with his analysis of the truckload and carrier marketplace. He discussed the massive growth of the Truckload division at BlueGrace during 2017 and what the future holds for the division. The data provided to the team gave a us a clear trajectory for the upcoming year and a clear understanding of where BlueGrace is positioned in the 3PL industry as a whole.

The next presentation was by Andy Burke, V.P. Strategic Ventures and Shawn Leonard, Expedite Team Lead about the importance of Expedited Freight in the coming year.The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is going to put a serious squeeze on many supply chains with stricter hours of service regulations going into effect. While these are meant to increase the safety and wellbeing of the driver, many are concerned about the interruptions this mandate will cause to scheduled delivery times. Andy and Shawn discussed how BlueGrace has been serving customers with our access to a national fleet of non-dock high sprinter van, small/ large straight trucks with lift gates and pallet jacks for inside pick-ups and deliveries.

The final break out was with Jason Lockard, Sr. Vice President, Enterprise. The presentation discussed the continued success of our large client interactions and the services we provide to them. From our SAP and NetSuite integrations of our BlueShip platform to our Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), advanced business intelligence & continuous performance improvements, our enterprise team continues to help simplify the freight for our larger clients.

Featured Presenter| Day 1

Returning for his second year, featured presenter and CEO of YRC Worldwide, James Welch concluded the evening with a fantastic presentation about YRC Worldwide both past and future. As one of our valued carriers, James was able to give a very unique look into how YRC and BlueGrace as similar in many ways, especially when it comes to growth and employee retention.

Monday Night Festivities| 3PLTLC RECEPTION

After a full day of knowledge, it was time to unwind a little!

After a full day of knowledge, it was time to unwind a little! Transportation was provided and all were bussed back to headquarters for a BlueGrace style reception. Over 15 carriers set up tables, handing out swag to everyone and food was provided by DATZ catering.  The menu consisted of a taco bar, the most amazing shrimp and grits, fried Mac N Cheese bites and an array of munchies.

“DATZ is always fantastic and a huge hit here at BlueGrace, we were excited to have them cater again!” said Selyna Goldklang, marketing assistant at BlueGrace.

More familiar faces joined the event this time around after a huge success at BG OPEN HOUSE. DJ Papi was back again to get the crowd pumped up and keep the party going.

“I have never had a cookie that tastes this good!”

Sarah Sweeney, Manager of Credit and Billing at BG and former pastry chef at Jackson’s and other local bakeries, wowed everyone again with her delicious sweet treats.

“I have never had a cookie that tastes this good!”, one guest raved as he bit into one of Sweeney’s famous blue crinkle cookie.

The entire reception was a huge hit and was a great end to the first day of the 2017 conference.

Tuesday | Day 2

After the Monday night reception, everyone was bussed back to the SandPearl resort to get a good night’s sleep and get ready for another day full of speakers and presenters.

Featured Presenters| Day 2 | Dave Ross

After the morning presentations, it was time for a returning presenter, Dave Ross, Managing Director of Global Transportation and Logistics at Stifel Nicolaus. As one of the top financial analysts in the logistics industry, David was picked #1 by the Wall Street Journal’s Best on the Street Analysts Survey in the industrial transportation industry. Ross was able to provide an industry updates on the status of the trucking and freight industry. As always , David Ross provided incredibly useful data for both our employees and their customers alike.

Featured Presenters| Day 2 |The Ritz Carlton Leadership Center

When you look to increase customer loyalty and develop new ways to support customers, the best way to do it is to follow the best. Anyone who has stayed at a Ritz-Carlton knows that customer service is not only how they fill hotel rooms, but it is taken so seriously that they are constantly rated number #1 amongst all hotel chains. The BlueGrace team was very fortunate to be able to listen and participate in an amazing presentation by the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. In today’s increasingly competitive global market, consistently exceptional service and customer experience are what create and sustain brand loyalty. For nearly two decades, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center has leveraged the systems and processes of the Ritz-Carlton brand to deliver award-winning services that have allowed thousands of clients to improve customer and employee engagement, innovate their culture and differentiate themselves. The team was able to take away new and exciting ways to increase customer happiness as well as employee enjoyment using the tactics provided by the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

Breakout Sessions| Day 2

For the second round of breakout session we focused on Customer Support and Human Resources. Michael Medlin, Vice President of Customer Support was first with his discussion of the BlueGrace customer and what they want from our support and sales staff. Using data collected during 2017 we were able to help breakdown what our customers want most from us and how to provide it to them. The presentation helped the whole team better understand why BlueGrace is different from other 3PLs and how to keep moving forward with listening posts for all types of customers.

The next Human Resources presentation was from Mercedes Essmann, Director of Corporate Recruiting and was targeted to interviewing and hiring skills. Mercedes discussed how hiring the right people and keeping them engaged is the most important job for all of leadership at BlueGrace. It was amazing how the BlueGrace hiring and employment standards mirrored the Ritz-Carlton methodologies. We found between the 2 presentations, we were certainly on a successful path for growth and employee happiness in 2018.

The final presentation was from Adam Blankenship, Chief Commercial Officer & Executive V.P. and was focused on how as a company and individuals we could simplify our work. As Core Value #2, Simplify, BlueGrace is familiar with looking for ways to simplify not only our work but how our customers approach their business as well. This valuable time brought us together in small collaborative groups to discuss and document items we will work towards in 2018.

Keynote Speaker| Day 2

Day 2’s  keynote speaker was America’s #1 most requested motivational speaker, Brian Holloway. He is an international motivational speaker and renowned corporate trainer, mobilizing companies and organizations in search of peak productivity, helping them achieve new levels of excellence. He understands how to transform thinking within organizations and challenge the competitive spirit of diverse work teams. In 1995, as a forward-thinking expert in new digital technology, Holloway crafted the first online digital platform with ABC Sports, generating 3,000,000 views in the first 48 hours; an innovation that changed the sports marketing world forever. Brian used his platform to help motivate and excite the BlueGrace team. Through stories and past accomplishments in the NFL and business world, Brian delivered concepts that are easy to take back and utilize after the conference.

Tuesday Night Festivities| Gala Dinner

With conference being concluded, it was time for everyone to enjoy a nice dinner at the Island Way Grill, located down the road from the Sandpearl Resort. BlueGrace’s employees and guests all enjoyed local seafood and an island vibe while celebrating another successful year!

Event Sponsors

We would like to thank all of our carrier and vendor sponsors for their incredible participation in this years event. Below is a listing of the sponsors for the event and we look forward to working with all of you next year.

 

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E-commerce Returns Are A Major Challenge To Retailers

CNBC called returns a $260 billion “ticking time bomb,” in terms of the billions that retailers face each year handling unwanted, used or damaged goods. That’s a dramatic shift away from brick-and-mortar era when customers did most of the legwork, and employees could process the transactions in less than a minute.

E-commerce has flipped the paradigm and with giants like Amazon.com and Walmart.com transforming online retail into a virtual changing room – customers are growing more comfortable simply returning clothes that they don’t like, or that don’t fit. According to the Reverse Logistics Association, the average return rate on in-store purchases is about 8 percent. For e-commerce, the rate jumps to between 25 and 40 percent.

Managing that surge in two-way traffic can be a nightmare for smaller businesses

This time around, managing those shipments and paying for them falls onto the shoulders of retailers. That’s easy enough for established e-commerce companies, thanks to their extensive and sophisticated logistics operations, but managing that surge in two-way traffic can be a nightmare for smaller businesses, especially ones that are just now venturing into the realm of e-commerce.

Some Companies Are Looking Askance At Those Costs

In 2016, research from Barclaycard found that six in ten retailers were negatively affected by the growing costs of people returning items that they bought online. Online-only businesses were hit the hardest, with 31 percent telling Barclaycard that managing returns was hurting their profit margins.

Some businesses are even raising prices to cover the costs of returns, but that’s not a long-term strategy for success

Some businesses are even raising prices to cover the costs of returns, but that’s not a long-term strategy for success. Other businesses are getting out of online retail altogether, turned off by the volume of returns. That’s because on an individual level, it is incredibly hard to compete with the logistics outlays of major online retailers.

What Changed?

Amazon started the trend, turning its platform an easy-return zone. That means no questions asked returns, inducing buyers to add products to their shopping carts that they wouldn’t purchase with a no-refunds policy. That’s translated into more sales, but it’s created a headache for companies that operate in the Seattle retailer’s shadow because now, consumers expect the same thing from other retailers.

This trend is especially pronounced in fashion, where customers deliberately order far more items than they pay for, but its spread throughout the market.

Clicking That “buy” Button Sets Off A Mind-boggling Chain Of Logistics Transactions

The process of e-commerce tends to work best as a one-way street, with automated systems built to speed products to consumers as quick and cheap as possible. But e-commerce has given its customers a stake in the supply chain process, and today, they demand the same speed to reverse the process. Customers want that resolution and refund, fast.

A well-built and highly-transparent return management process is critical for two reasons. It reduces costs, allowing companies to grow margins on their online sales, and just as importantly, it keeps customers engaged and happy.

Keeping them informed and happy is critical to generating return business.

Until the return is processed, the customer is out the cost of their purchase, and the company is out the cost of transporting and processing the return. Nobody’s winning in that scenario, so the sooner the retailer can process the return, the better. And while that’s going on, the customer has a right to know where their product is, and when it’s going to be processed. It’s their money after all. Keeping them informed and happy is critical to generating return business.

To avoid tying up resources in a bloated logistics operation, companies need to revisit their approach to customer support and returns

Simply put, it’s relatively easy to sell goods online. There are scores of solutions for smaller companies, and larger ones have their own logistics operations. But far fewer companies can efficiently handle those pesky returns, despite the fact that they are an increasing part of online retail these days. To avoid tying up resources in a bloated logistics operation, companies need to revisit their approach to customer support and returns, and provide full transparency throughout the whole returns and claims process, to ensure high customer satisfaction rating.

Streamlining the Process

It’s important to understand and analyze returns to the granular level, leveraging that data to streamline future returns and ultimately, make sales more profitable.

The logistics experts at BlueGrace review historical shipping data to increase profit, cut labor costs, and keep the online customers loyal to brands by streamlining both the buying and returns process that underpins e-commerce in 2017. It’s important to understand and analyze returns to the granular level, leveraging that data to streamline future returns and ultimately, make sales more profitable. 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 you analyze your current freight issues, feel free to contact us using the form below:

 

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

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

The Un-Correlated

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

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

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

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

Talent Makes the Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reality of the Human Asset

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Supply Chain Talent Is Readily Available Here

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

Are You Part Of The Available Supply Chain Talent?

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here are five “takeaways” on the topic.

1.   Understanding the Nature of Change is Key

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

This trend means more “everything”.

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

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

Some of the challenges involved with the last mile are:

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

2. Cities Must Take Notice

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

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

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

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

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

4. A Variety of Solutions Will Likely Be the Answer

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

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

A BlueGrace Case Study In Action

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

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

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

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

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Saving Lives Through The Power Of Giving

At BlueGrace Logistics, our number one Core Value is Be Caring Of All Others. Every six weeks, we invite One Blood to come out to our Tampa office where our employees are able to take some time out of their day to go out and donate.

The Benefits of Donating

Not only do the people who are receiving blood transfusions benefit from the donation, but there are also some health benefits donors receive as well. Each time you donate you’ll receive a free wellness checkup which includes blood pressure, pulse, temperature, iron count and cholesterol screening. Studies have also shown that giving blood regularly can help keep your iron levels balanced, can result in fewer arterial blockages and giving at least three times a year may reduce the risk of heart attack.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. is in need of blood.

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. is in need of blood. Once you complete your donation and your pint of blood is tested and marked as safe to use, the blood will be transfused within 48-72 hours. Many people think that accident and trauma victims are the patients who need blood transfusions most, but patients being treated for cancer, undergoing orthopedic surgeries, cardiovascular surgeries or being treated for inherited blood disorders are actually where blood is most needed.

Be Caring Of All Others

According to One Blood, over 37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, yet only 5% actually do. As of 2016, BlueGrace has donated over 130 units of blood. With each unit of blood, up to three lives can be saved. That is almost 400 patients that could benefit from the lifesaving efforts of BlueGrace employees! Mike Sumnick, VP of Operations at BlueGrace and the coordinator of the blood drives states, “We pursue outrageous goals here at BlueGrace, and every time we host a blood drive, we will strive to help save even more lives.”

To find a donation center near you, please visit https://www.oneblood.org/donate-now/

 

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How a 3PL Can Benefit Your Business During Disastrous Times

Running your Supply Chain can be stressful, especially in times where unforeseen circumstances arise. When working with a 3PL such as BlueGrace during a logistics service disaster, we are able to offer solutions that many businesses don’t have access to. During an emergency, having a 3PL who you trust, with the full tool set of carriers, technology, people and solutions is crucial. This special set of tools became very useful for one of our accounts during Hurricane Irma.

Preparing for an impact

The packaging solution company had no time frame of how long they could be down

On September 8th , just two days before Hurricane Irma was forecasted to come right through the Tampa Bay Area, our customer requested a seemingly near impossible move. The packaging solution company had no time frame of how long they could be down, since the impact from the storm lie ahead. Because of this, they needed 50 Less Than Truckload (LTL) pallets moved from their location to a safer location until the storm passed. This was a normal LTL request to move from Tampa to Atlanta, but with Irma bearing down and freight embargoes already begun, the capacity was very low in or out of the state of Florida.

Embracing Chaos

With all LTL carriers shut down in preparation for the storm, it was now up to BlueGrace to find a solution to get the pallets out of their warehouse. Our Customer Support and Transportation team worked closely together with the customer to come up with a plan to move the pallets to an out of state warehouse to ensure they would not be damaged during the storm. From there, BlueGrace would be able to get them all sent out to their final destinations.

With two trucks booked, and all pallets set to move, yet another “Embrace Chaos” moment happened.

With two trucks booked and all pallets set to move, yet another “Embrace Chaos” moment happened. The customer’s pallet count went up, adding another 20 pallets and requiring BlueGrace to find yet another truck in a time where capacity was limited. Together our team had to now exhibit all of BlueGrace’s core values to make this happen and be sure this move was a huge success. Within a short time-frame, we were able to find an additional truck and ensure all were successfully loaded and on their way out of state, putting our customer at ease.

What makes BlueGrace different?

We understand that not every customer has the same needs

With our extensive carrier network, technology and dedicated teams, we were able to provide a solution for our customer when they needed it most. We understand that not every customer has the same needs. We also understand that those needs may change over time and with the growth of your company. We are prepared to offer customized services and provide on-demand solutions for your business. BlueGrace is dedicated to being the shipping partner that truly gives your business the 3PLTLC it deserves, from daily shipments to the most difficult situations.

Contact Us For More Information

 

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All Talk or a Reality – Trump’s Crumbling Plans for Infrastructure

While President Donald J. Trump is still expressing confidence in his infrastructure funding plan, gaining bipartisan support during the political climate that is tumultuous can be difficult. However, we’ve seen just how well the presidential confidence has carried other projects such as overhauling health care, changing immigration laws and tax reforms for the middle class. Despite his outward projections and confidence, the cracks in his plan are beginning to show, and we’re left wondering if anything regarding U.S. infrastructure will actually be done this year.

“Trump has scrapped plans for an infrastructure advisory council after two similar panels were disbanded amid backlash to Trump from corporate America,” says John Schulz of Logistics Management. “The President’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was to have advised Trump on the what, when and how of how to improve this nation’s roads and bridges, has been scrapped,” he added.

there is no denying that the need for a robust infrastructure policy is there

While any action has yet to be taken by the government, there is no denying that the need for a robust infrastructure policy is there, and growing. According to a recent Census Bureau report, government spending on public works is at an all time low, about 1.4 percent of the U.S. GDP for the second quarter.

“Ken Simonson, former chief economist for the American Trucking Associations and now with a similar post at Associated General Contractors of America, recently told the New York Times that many states were overwhelmed by past-due infrastructure needs. For example, Illinois recently suspended work on 900 projects because of monetary restraints,” Schulz added.

Unfortunately, despite how desperately U.S. infrastructure needs attention, Administration officials have said the infrastructure plans will be pushed back to the end of the year.

If we’re lucky…

Trump’s Proposed Plan for Infrastructure

So what exactly would this plan entail, were it to come to fruition? Well, the proposal seems rather promising, if it weren’t rather lacking in details or substance. Here’s how Trump decided to start Infrastructure Week this year.

“To kick off the festivities, the president on Monday pushed his plan to privatize air-traffic control. And on Wednesday, he touted his broader infrastructure spending plan. The basic idea of this plan is that the government will spend $200 billion, using tax breaks to incentivize private business to, in turn, spend more money on infrastructure projects. Altogether, with state and local contributions as well, spending would total $1 trillion. The administration also said that it would cut regulations to help the government “get out of the way” of building projects,” according to NPR.

This wouldn’t have been such a problem if there was anything more to it than this, but the White House and the president haven’t exactly been forthcoming with anything more substantial.

Inherent Implementation Issues

The lack of details notwithstanding, there’s also some issues with the plan that can’t simply be fixed by throwing money at it. As Mike Rowe, a guru for all things blue collar, points out, the U.S. doesn’t exactly have a willing and able labor force on standby to handle the work, even if it has the funding.

“There’s a tendency to talk about job creation as if there’s a giant trained workforce standing by, waiting to fill jobs that get created,” Rowe said in an interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press.

our country does have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship with regard to the shovel.

“I wrote to the last president modestly, right after his inauguration,” he said, “not long after my foundation started just to say, ‘look the idea that 3 million shovel ready jobs are going to be created sounds great, but from what I’ve seen our country does have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship with regard to the shovel.”

“So before we say poof, here are the jobs,” he added, “we need to talk about the aspirational element and the practical reality of whether anybody is standing by to do the work.”

“Today I’m still saying the same thing,” Rowe explained, “you know if you’re gonna throw a trillion dollars into infrastructure, it kinda presupposes the idea that you’ve got a trained workforce standing by to do those jobs.”

“We don’t,” he concluded.

“And that to me,” he added, “is the most interesting disconnect in the whole dialogue.”

What does this mean for Logistics?

In terms of physical logistics, Trump’s plan comes as a bit of a mixed bag. While we’re still waiting to hear what they actually have in mind for the new policy, what the Trump administration did offer us was a fast tracking process for infrastructure projects.

“On 15 August, President Trump signed an executive order aiming to curtail the time it takes to get an infrastructure project approved and delivered,” says The Loadstar.

“The Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects order allows an administration to develop a scorecard that tracks progress on a quarterly basis. Projects that miss key milestones will automatically spark senior agency officials’ attention,” LoadStar added.

we might see more projects getting jammed up due to the very thing it’s trying to fix.

So on one hand, much of the bureaucracy and red tape gets cut which means projects can get the green light much faster. On the other hand, we might see more projects getting jammed up due to the very thing it’s trying to fix.

“While this is good for jump-starting shelved infrastructure projects around the country, it will likely lead to a nightmare of logistics planning,” warned Colin D’Abreo, CEO of forwarder KOG Transport.

“Many projects, such as strengthening/replacing entire, or parts of, bridges, for example, require large components. This will lead to bottlenecks in the inland transport permitting sectors, leading to delays in the projects,” he added.

In addition to the potential bottleneck for major construction projects, this new policy would only affect infrastructure projects that occur on federally managed roadways. If a project would have to utilize city or state roads, it’s still subject to permits by respective authorities.

So will we see anything substantive from the Trump Administration regarding the  infrastructure support our country needs? As it stands, only time will tell.

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It’s Yappy Hour, Not Happy Hour! BlueGrace Helps Homeless Animals Of Tampa Bay.

Each Friday afternoon, bars and restaurants across the nation receive an influx of patrons ready for drink specials and relaxation after a long workweek. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay decided to put their own spin on this time-honored tradition and begin hosting “Yappy Hours” to raise money for their shelter in various locations around Tampa. “Yappy Hours” have become a popular event for young professionals and a great fundraising opportunity for HSTB. As a longtime partner of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, BlueGrace decided to host its very own Yappy Hour at a local employee favorite, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.

Puppies, Drinks and Tacos!

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop in Brandon, FL provided indoor and outdoor space so attendees could bring their own dogs, and Humane Society of Tampa Bay brought adoptable dogs in an effort to find their forever homes. “As a proud owner of three rescues of my own, we were excited to participate in such a great cause” said Ian Lieberman, co-owner of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.

BlueGrace worked with Fuzzy’s to gather raffle prizes that would generate as much buzz and excitement as possible. Luckily, many members of the Tampa Bay community were more than thrilled to donate prizes to the cause. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Rays and Bucs happily donated memorabilia and tickets for the raffle, while local attractions such as Lowry Park Zoo, MOSI, Busch Gardens, Big City Events and the Florida Aquarium donated tickets for admission. If sports or theme parks weren’t enough of an attraction, pet lovers had the opportunity to win a custom pet quilt and footprint keepsake from The Pet Loss Center. Local restaurants Brocato’s, WOB, The Columbia and Fuzzy’s themselves donated hundreds of dollars in gift cards. For our fitness-minded attendees there were health supplements donated by Southern Muscle, a one-month program package from Camp Gladiator, a five-class package from Orange Theory Fitness in Brandon, and one free month membership at Crossfit BNI. In total, over $5,500 in prizes were donated and raffled off.

A total of $1,013 was raised for Humane Society Tampa Bay

“As an organization we’ve hosted an annual food drive competition we call ‘Cats vs Dogs’ for HSTB for six years now” said Courtney Smith, Manager of Culture and Engagement.“We were excited to extend this effort out to our community and had a really great turnout!” In addition to the raffle, Fuzzy’s offered homemade dog treats and brownie sundaes with 100% of the proceeds going to HSTB. They also donated $1 from each frozen drink sold that night. Overall, the community response was tremendous. With over 200 in attendance,  a total of $1,013 was raised for Humane Society Tampa Bay to support their continuous efforts towards the homeless pet population in Tampa Bay. “Humane Society of Tampa Bay is such a phenomenal organization that does so much to help the homeless animals in our community” Smith continued. “Partnering with them for this event was truly a labor of love, we can’t wait to start planning the next one!”

Check out these photos from our Yappy Hour event!

Thank you to Dosia White Photography for capturing these awesome moments.

 

 

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The Truth About Supply Chain Visibility

While just about anyone will be more than happy to tell you that visibility is important for your supply chain, few can explain, let alone demonstrate, the exact reason as to why. It’s true that there are many benefits to be gained from increased visibility. However, there are also a considerable number of myths surrounding it.

“These myths distract us from the real issues and solutions surrounding supply chain visibility, causing us to make decisions based on assumptions that are wrong, expensive or even dangerous,” said Christian Titze, a research director at Gartner. “In doing so, they stifle innovation and slow progress toward real goals, accomplishments, and outcomes. By separating the truth from fiction, supply chain leaders can make more informed decisions about their visibility and multi-enterprise initiatives and investments.”

While some of these myths are just simple untruths, there are a number of them that can be harmful to any business that buys into them. Here are a few points about supply chain visibility that you need to be aware of.

Supply Chain Visibility is a Must

There really is no way around this. All organizations should be striving for increased visibility across their supply chain. Visibility sets the stage for forming and executing plans, events, and gathering data which can both generate value for the company as well as help to reduce potential risks.

Visibility isn’t just a company central focus, either. In order to be successful, visibility needs to extend to partner networks and systems.

Visibility isn’t just a company central focus, either. In order to be successful, visibility needs to extend to partner networks and systems. That doesn’t mean, however, that cooperation with partners is the same as visibility. Both companies need to make efforts to improve visibility in their own right while making sure that their efforts can coincide with one another. Failure to do so creates more roadblocks and obstacles in both the partnership as well as in the supply chain.

Visibility is not a “One Stop Shop”

Some companies believe that they can have all the visibility they need by using one platform or vendor. This is just not true. As it stands, no single vendor offers software that can meet the end-to-end visibility needs of a successful supply chain. In fact, most companies will likely need multiple software packages to achieve true end-to-end visibility.

With that being said, it’s important to understand that not all vendor offerings are the same, nor can they be compared so easily. Every potential application and approach is different and can vary widely based on the needs of your company. In short, to find the right fit, it’s going to take more than some quick browsing.

Finding the Right Partner

It’s not always an easy thing to find blind spots in your supply chain. Otherwise, they wouldn’t create such a pervasive issue. Instead, sometimes it takes the help of another party to see where you’re lacking. Such was the case with a U.S. based agricultural chemical manufacturing company.

“A massive agriculture chemicals manufacturer (hazardous materials) in the United States was with another large 3PL (third-party logistics provider) when an opportunity came across for BlueGrace to do a consultative review. Upon conducting the review and data engineering screening, this company felt that BlueGrace offered greater transparency and pricing structure than their current provider and ultimately made the switch.”

Of course there’s more to the story than simply offering a better deal. What this company needed most was better visibility and a way to share information easily, which would make their operation run more efficiently. While we’ve mentioned some things that aren’t true about supply chain visibility, here are a few (very real) benefits from having better visibility.

  • A better pricing structure was created using data gathered from the company. The new pricing structure yielded a 14 percent savings year-over-year.
  • Better transparency offered new opportunities. Making the switch to intermodal transportation allowed the company to save an additional 20 percent.
  • Developed new market strategies based on supply chain data. By implementing more warehouses across the country, the company could more accurately forecast sales and accommodate the demand for transportation.

These are the genuine and measurable benefits of visibility in the supply chain. It’s the ability to see opportunities as well as weak points and capitalize or improve them, respectively. As the supply chain serves as the backbone of any company, it’s visibility that gives it motion. It’s what allows the necessary foresight to allow for sound decision making and is vital to any company looking to be successful in today’s market.

See How We Saved This Company 14 Percent Year-Over-Year

 

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BlueGrace Helps Houston With Truckloads Of Clothing

We are all aware of the damage inflicted on the Houston area from Hurricane Harvey. The amount of homes and lives destroyed was beyond what any of us could imagine. As a 3PL freight provider, there are many ways we can help; by utilizing our carriers we have had the ability to assist in tragedies like Hurricane Harvey. Trucks can bring the necessary items that people need in times like this and they can do it quickly. They can deliver essential items needed right now, like clothing, food, water and supplies that are more important than money at that specific time. BlueGrace was proud to able to help those in need after receiving a call from a clothing supplier August 30th for just this type of relief project.

Supplier Jumps In With Clothing

This particular customer provides southern theme apparel for its distributors across the US.  They reached out to BlueGrace Logistics on August 30 to inform us that they had 45 pallets of overstock socks, shoes and shirts that they wanted to donate to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. While they had the merchandise that Houston residents needed, they felt items would be best distributed by another party. Our team was able to support them by providing transportation to a non-profit specializing in charitable clothing – which was already set up to distribute to the neediest of Hurricane Harvey victims.

BlueGrace Team Steps Up

Within 20 minutes the request for multiple truckloads was processed, and shortly after the Full Truckloads (FTL’s) were scheduled. BlueGrace was able to utilize our close relationship with our carriers and cover all of the freight costs for the supplier. The first truckload was dispatched the following day and the second the day after. The Less Than Truckload (LTL) portion of the shipments were also taken care of, which included 33 more pallets of emergency items shipped to the non-profit for distribution.

Be Caring Of All Others

At BlueGrace we stand by our 5 Core Values, and Core Value #1 is Be Caring of All OthersWhen an opportunity to help others arises, especially when it is something we specialize in like Truckload and LTL transportation, there’s never a hesitation to jump at the chance to assist in any way possible. Shortly after Hurricane Harvey, our own team at BlueGrace Headquarters in Tampa was effected by Hurricane Irma. We felt the support from so many carriers, vendors, partners and employees this week and we truly appreciate it as we help get Florida back on its feet.

For everyone in Houston, we are here to assist you through these tough times and will continue to help both locally and nationally when we are called on to do so. 

 

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