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Chicago — not just a hub, a high-tech logistics magnet

“No one’s coming to save us,” Bobby Harris, president and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, tells shippers. He’s talking about the tight-capacity, high-priced, surface transportation market, which he expects will continue until late 2019. One BlueGrace solution — it is going to Chicago to hire help. (Above: Chicago, with Lake Michigan.) Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor | Jun 07, 2018

Chicago draws logistics business like Hollywood draws actors, or a lamp draws moths. The city’s importance as a logistics hub predates even Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, blamed, rightly or wrongly, for starting the fire of 1871.

As the United States and its people moved west, Chicago became the crux in America’s railroad backbone. Today, Chicago still is the most important rail center in North America, but it’s also a high-tech logistics hothouse.

“There’s just such a surplus of talent there, at a time when we’re looking for a lot of talent,” Bobby Harris, president and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, said shortly after BlueGrace opened an office in downtown Chicago in May.

“The market we’re seeing now will be around for quite some time. We need to add a lot of capacity and a lot of professionals,” he said. Chicago “is a rich source of talent and resources, whether it’s truckload capacity or sales reps.”

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) such as BlueGrace will need resources to guide shippers through the tightest, costliest freight market since the early 2000s. Harris’s advice to shippers: “Whatever you think you’re doing really well, think another step.”

At this point, “everyone knows capacity is tight,” Harris said in an interview. “The question is how long will it be this way? My belief is that it’s going to be a tight market, in truckload and less-than-truckload [LTL], into late 2019.”

Chicago — a booming logistics sector since mid-2000s

Since the mid-2000s, Chicago has experienced a logistics explosion, with non-asset, 3PL, and technology companies large and small opening shop and tapping a young, tech-savvy workforce.

Coyote Logistics, now part of UPS, and Echo Global Logistics were both founded in 2006 and now are billion-dollar-plus 3PLs. Along with several other Chicago 3PLs, they are the original third-party logistics “disruptors.”

Tampa-based BlueGrace is part of the tech-based logistics community that has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. The 3PL has been on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing firms five times, including last year, ranked at 3,744.

Harris founded BlueGrace as a technology firm in 2007. Previously, he was a franchisee with freight forwarder United Shipping Solutions and worked at LTL trucking companies Southeastern Freight Lines and Yellow Transportation.

In 2012, BlueGrace ranked 20th on the Inc. 5000 list, with a three-year growth rate exceeding 7,000 percent. Last year, Bluegrace grew at a three-year rate of 79 percent, with $188.1 million in revenue in 2016, according to Inc.

That year, Bluegrace got a $255 million infusion of cash from private equity firm Warburg Pincus. The investment helped the 3PL expand in its core LTL trucking market and buy back franchised BlueGrace operations.

“We brought back virtually most of our franchises with the exception of a few,” Harris said. “We’re 95 percent direct-owned now.” In Chicago, BlueGrace’s new office is in the Chicago Board of Trade Building, a landmark skyscraper.

Eighty new hires will staff the office, which opens July 9. “We expect to make continuous investment [in the office] and we’re bullish on it. There’s a reason some of the biggest and most successful logistics firms are in Chicago.”

One reason is some of the biggest and most successful users of logistics services are there too. McDonald’s this Monday opened a new $250 million, 550,000-square-foot headquarters building in Chicago’s West Loop.

Online grocer Peapod on Tuesday opened its new headquarters at 300 S. Riverside Plaza in the West Loop, next to the Chicago River, relocating all of its corporate employees from the northern suburb of Skokie, Illinois.

‘Silicon Prairie’

Some 3PLs have made similar leaps. Several years ago, LoadDelivered Logistics relocated from North Grove, Illinois, to downtown Chicago. LoadDelivered founder Robert Nathan called the area “Silicon Prairie.”

Facebook and Google both plan to add more than 100,000 square feet to their Chicago offices and hundreds of workers, according to Built in Chicago, an online community for technology entrepreneurs, and the Chicago Tribune.

The tech giants compete with logistics companies for the same base of young, educated, technology workers. In Chicago, “We’ll have new hires out of college, and we’ll get supply chain professionals with experience,” said Harris.

They’ll need that experience, he suggested, in the year to come.

Harris foresees “continual tightening” of surface transportation capacity. “We’re entering produce season, we’re looking at hurricane season. We don’t see anything that’s going to relieve capacity in the next calendar year.”

He pointed to the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly indices, which showed the US economy expanding both in services and manufacturing in May. The good news is “we’re not finding the monster under the bed.”

Shippers need to put finding capacity “up on the top,” Harris said. “We’re getting a lot of business from people who just can’t get what they need and they’re worried about how it will look over the summer and next winter.”

“No one’s coming to save us,” he said. “We’re going to have to deal with this market for a long time. More drivers, that’s not going to happen, and automated trucks are way too far in the future in this time frame.”

Even so, for 3PLs and carriers, “there’s a lot of opportunity,” he said. “The very good firms will do exceptionally well, smaller firms with fewer resources not as much.” The question for shippers, he said, is “how to optimize what we do.”

Copyright © by The Journal Of Commerce. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Ready to apply? Visit https://mybluegrace.com/careers/working-at-bluegrace/ to check out all available positions nationwide.

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Lucrative Futures For Logistics Specialists

While Supply Chain Manager doesn’t typically make the top ten list of answers to “what do you want to be when you grow up” there is something to be said for positions in the logistics industry. Especially the salary. And when it comes to deciding on a career path, a heavy paycheck can go a long way towards attracting new talent.

According to the APICS’s premier annual survey, there is a very bright future for people working in the supply chain industry with both increases in pay as well as high levels of job satisfaction across the profession.

The survey revealed that in 2017, the average salary for supply chain professionals was $85,210. 90 percent of those surveyed said their raises were at least 3 percent. What’s more is that nearly all of the respondents said they were very happy with their professions and likely to stay with the supply chain industry.

“The data revealed in this report show that supply chain careers represent a fulfilling, dynamic and rewarding long-term career choice for professionals,” said APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE.

We foresee that this success will continue as supply chain professionals continue to become a more integral part of the overall business strategy.

“We’re excited to see that our members are well-compensated and continuing to advance in their careers. We foresee that this success will continue as supply chain professionals continue to become a more integral part of the overall business strategy,” Eshkenazi added.

The Path to Success: Education

Education plays a vital role in the salaries of supply chain professionals.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that education plays a vital role in the salaries of supply chain professionals. According to the survey, even so much as one certification could lead to a 19 percent increase in pay over peers without any certifications. Beyond that, having 2 or 3 certifications means a pay increase of 39 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Those respondents who had earned an APICS certification reported a median salary that was 27 percent higher than those without any certifications. Additionally the education, unsurprisingly, play a part in continuing the career. Even with the same level of tenure, the results of the survey show that more education in the field results in better pay and more chances for advancement.

A Need For Talent 

The pay alone makes the supply chain industry an appealing field for those who are deciding on their career path. Given the high levels of job satisfaction, an average of 8.4 out of 10 according to survey responses, it’s likely that we’ll see even more graduates coming out with degrees related to logistics and supply chain management.  

The industry needs new talents, given the rate that the supply chain is growing and changing.  

Which is a very good thing, as the industry needs new talents, given the rate that the supply chain is growing and changing. While tenure is still essential, experience trumps many other attributes regardless of the industry, there’s still a noticeable difference in pay for those with a degree in supply chain matters. Graduates with less than one year of experience are seeing a slightly higher level of pay than those with 1-3 years of experience. While this might be a move to help entice new people into the industry, it’s still an interesting side note.  

Those willing to take on the responsibility of a leadership role can expect even more jump in pay grade. Supervising a group of at least 50 individuals has reported a base salary that is 82 percent higher than those who do not manage. Even managing as few as 1 to 4 people will see a 13 percent increase.  

A Promising Future  

Given the levels of technological advancement that many industries are undergoing at this time, it’s important to consider the future of the supply chain industry as well as its longevity. Many jobs and careers are on the verge of becoming automated. While this does much for their respective industries, it does make deciding what career path to take a little more difficult. The supply chain and logistics sectors are prime examples of this technological revolution, with much of the industry being automated and digitized.  

There will always be a need for a human element within the industry, perhaps even more so with the deluge of automated processes being added on a near-daily basis.

Yet even with these changes being made, there will always be a need for a human element within the industry, perhaps even more so with the deluge of automated processes being added on a near-daily basis. Certified talent with a more up-to-date education will be vital for the industry which might be part of the reason why so many companies are upping the ante with higher pay, student loan assistance, and other incentives.  

Do You Want To Advance Your Career In Logistics?  

At BlueGrace, we’re growing at an impressive rate. We’re looking for logistics professionals in most of our offices across the country. If you would like to advance your current logistics career or start a new career in this fast growing industry, click the link below to access our list of available positions:

Careers

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Supply Chain TLC

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

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

Some LUSH Sources  

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

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

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

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

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

ADIDAS Kicks it Up a Notch 

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

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

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

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

Walmart’s Blockchain for Food Safety  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visibility is a Must

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

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The Unique Needs of the Consumer Goods Sector

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

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

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

Unique Challenges of the Consumer Good Sector 

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

Customers control the choices and the buying process.

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

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

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

Where 3PLs Come In 

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

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

Unique advantages of 3PLS in the field include: 

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

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

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Unlocking The Benefits of Digital Supply Networks

“Digital” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the transportation and logistics industry. Everything, it seems, is going through a digital revolution. Procurement services and digital platforms are being created, revised, and improved at a pace that the industry is completely unaccustomed to. Other parts of the industry are turning to automation to expedite the process of manufacturing, selection, fulfillment, and shipping.  

While we’re completely onboard with this new digital era, it might be worth it to take a moment and consider whether or not it will live up to the hype.   

“New research which was conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) indicates that while U.S. shippers are increasingly aware of the benefits of digital supply networks (DSNs), many “remain in the early phases” of adoption,” according to Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor for Supply Chain Management Review. 

The Industry’s Caution 

The study, “Embracing a digital future: How manufacturers can unlock the transformative benefits of digital supply networks,” shows that there is a wide difference between the practice and the opinion when it comes to digital supply networks.  

In spite of the nuance and the hype that surround DSNs and other platforms, there are those in the industry that aren’t surprised by the findings.  

Transportation economist, Noël Perry, told Supply Chain Management Review that he was not surprised by the findings. 

“Supply chain managers are taking a cautious approach to digitization,” he says. “And for the time being, that may be a good idea. They should not be spending too much on new technology at this point, but should be poised to adapt when the time is right…which should come soon,” says Noël Perry, a transportation economist,  in an interview for Supply Chain Management Review. 

Perry advises managers to keep themselves informed of the changes in the industry as well as in emerging technology by attending trade events and transportation conferences where many new projects and start-ups get their grand unveiling.  

The Survey By the Numbers  

The survey was conducted of over 200 manufacturing organizations, of which over half, 51 percent, said they believe their DSN maturity level to be “above average” when compared to their competitors. However, of those respondents, there is only 28 percent that has started to implement DSN solutions within their organization.   

 

As for the uses of a DSN solution, one of the biggest goals among the respondents is transparency as it is one of the most critical keys to boosting overall efficiency. In order for end-to-end transparency to occur within a supply chain, there needs to be a total connection of the data, from start to finish. According to the survey, only 6 percent of the respondents have such accessibility to data in place.  

“While enthusiasm is high and manufacturers realize the benefits of Digital Supply Networks, many companies struggle to identify the right technology landscape which will provide the most value when they are approaching a digital shift, said Stephen Laaper, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and co-author of the study. “As a result, many hold off with key aspects of their transformation, which in turn puts their transformation at too slow a place to avoid disruption.” 

Choose Wisely but Make a Choice 

With that being said, the transportation and logistics industries are ripe for change. Some would even say they are long overdue.

As with any new technology, especially such that has such a radical ability to initiate change, it makes industry executives nervous. This is understandable when we consider just how many different services, platforms, and software suits are out there, and more are being released in short order. With that being said, the transportation and logistics industries are ripe for change. Some would even say they are long overdue. Now that change is here, it will be up to individual companies to decide the best course of action to embrace these new changes and apply them in the most beneficial way to their own operations.  

It seems the general consensus on the matter is this. Yes, being cautious is a good thing, but there is such a thing as being too cautious. Dragging heels on matters of DSN and other digital solutions might end up costing even more time and money in the future, especially if the competition already has their system figured out.  

How BlueGrace Can Help 

One of the benefits to operating in today’s marketplace is that you don’t have to do it alone. Trying to navigate the nuances of technology as well as working with data is one thing, trying to do it well the first time around is something completely different. This is where we can help.

Our team takes the management of your account and turns it into the opportunity to truly wow you.

Our team takes the management of your account and turns it into the opportunity to truly wow you. From your dedicated support team to the ongoing development of KPI goals, your account is managed at every turn. Driven by data, we continue to grow with you and increase the value of our partnership  

Contact us to learn more about us and how we can help drive your business forward in this digital age.  

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Passion AND Logistics: BlueGrace Collects Over 60,000 Pounds of Food for Homeless Animals

Each year, BlueGrace female (Team Cats) and male (Team Dogs) employees compete against each other to see who can collect the most amount of pet food in total pounds. The food is then donated to a no-kill shelter to feed homeless animals in the community and used for pet owner assistance programs that benefit homebound and elderly residents on a fixed income. This year, the employees of BlueGrace collected over 60,000 pounds of food between Tampa & Chicago – reaching a new record for the contest on a location-wide scale.

BlueGrace’s “Cats Vs. Dogs” Pet Food Drive Sets Company’s Location-Wide Record in 2018

Click Below To Watch The Official BlueGrace “Cats Vs Dogs 2018” Video!

Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Employees at BlueGrace Headquarters in Tampa were able to collect over 31,000 pounds of pet food to donate to Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Lon Savini, Shelter Operations Manager, gives us a breakdown of how impactful the donation is to supporting all of the services the shelter provides to the community:


Animeals Delivery Program:

  • Current monthly average spend on cat & dog food: $4,000
  • Delivered to over 170 recipients one Saturday each month

Donation Impact:

  • Will not need to buy large bags of dog food for at least 2 months
  • Will not need to buy large bags of cat food for a at least 1 month
  • Cost Savings: roughly $6,000

Food Assistance Program:

  • Current monthly average spend on cat & dog food: $2,100
  • Food is broken down into smaller bags and handed out to the public in need of assistance to feed their pets

Donation Impact:

  • Will not need to buy food for the remainder of the year
  • Cost Savings: roughly $16,800

Shelter Operations:

  • Current monthly average spend on cat & dog food: $2,350
  • Used to feed animals living at the shelter throughout the year

Donation Impact:

  • Will not need to buy large bags of dog food for at least 4 months
  • Will not need to buy large bags of cat food for a at least 1 month
  • Cost Savings: roughly $6,500

Since inception of the ‘Cats vs Dogs’ pet food drive in 2010, BlueGrace has now donated over 206,000 pounds of pet food to Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

Since inception of the ‘Cats vs Dogs’ pet food drive in 2010, BlueGrace has now donated over 206,000 pounds of pet food to Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The drive culminates each year with an adoption event at BlueGrace headquarters in Tampa, where 8-10 dogs and cats are brought in by the shelter and employees have the opportunity to take a new family member home. Almost all of the animals were adopted and welcomed home to their new BlueGrace families this year!

Team Cats Reclaim Their Title as Reigning Champions!

The competition is fierce each year – from catchy team names (“Check Meowt” & “Woof Pack”) to secret meetings in the restrooms, it’s a good old fashioned battle of the sexes for the entire duration of the drive. BlueGrace employees are not shy about their love for competition, some would argue that drive’s success has a large part to do with the fun of competing against each other. Team Cats had been the reigning champions EVERY year… until just last year. Team Dogs finally defeated the ladies in 2017 and claimed their crown – and they didn’t think twice about rubbing it in.

But not for long. Team Cats took the W this year and regained their title as THE champions…. and to Team Dogs they say – “Who’s cryin’ meow?”

While the competition aspect of the drive is fun for employees, the ultimate goal is to provide as much food as possible for homeless animals in the community. It’s an effort we are completely dedicated to and every year try to find ways to improve the drive.

“It’s amazing to see my coworkers come together in such a big way. It’s a lot of hard work for everyone involved, we donate our own money, use our own contacts, and organize our own fundraisers.” explains Courtney Smith –  Manager, Culture & Engagement for BlueGrace. “it’s truly a genuine representation of who we are as a company and a culture.

Be Caring of ALL Others Includes Animals

With the amount of growth BlueGrace has experienced over the last few years, the contest extended to other regional locations. This resulted in a major win by our Chicago team for animals at the Animal Rescue Foundation of Illinois this year, where BlueGrace employees collected over 32,000 pounds of food. One employee even secured the largest part of the donation, 30,000 lbs., by himself.

“What one office collected as an entity, one employee collected by himself – this is just beyond epic. We just think it’s really awesome that Scott [Collack] reached out and made this opportunity happen – these animals are truly cared about, we’ve got some really great people with some really big hearts in this company” Bobby Harris – CEO of BlueGrace, on Chicago employee Scott Collack securing the 30k donation.

Putting the Passion in Logistics

Core Value #1 is Be Caring of ALL Others at BlueGrace and is probably our most called upon value. It’s essential to our hiring process, the success of our business and the energy of our culture that our employees have some sort of empathetic trait. We work best with those who have compassion for others and truly show it.

“I started in 2011 and I’ve been able to see how much heart and teamwork goes into this every year. We truly live and breathe our core values here, and I think it’s because they were strategically created to align with the environment our team thrives in” says Whitney McKay – Manager of Marketing & Brand for BlueGrace. “There’s a special place in our hearts for animals, so we choose to do something about it by making it part of our culture. At the end of the day, we believe in their mission to end animal homelessness and really try to educate our team to help spread awareness.”

It’s YAPPY Hour, Not Happy Hour

One of the biggest contributing factors to the success of the drive in Tampa was the involvement of the community.

There are two things we can always count on for a big turnout when planning a fundraising event; One: people love animals. Two: people love happy hour.

This year our goal was to get as many people and organizations as possible involved in the Tampa community, and we knew exactly how to bring everyone together. There are two things we can always count on for a big turnout when planning a fundraising event; One: people love animals. Two: people love happy hour.

Hosted by Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, BlueGrace, Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Tampa Tails, the 2018 “Yappy Hour” fundraising event was wildly successful – raising over $4,000. Silent auction prizes were donated by top local companies like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Florida Aquarium, Tampa Bay Rays and many more. Several businesses and organizations donated resources such as pet food, money, transportation services, raffle prizes and much more to make the final drive donation totals possible:

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Stepp’s Towing, Amity Benefits, XPO, Ward Trucking, Dayton Freight, Sunlife, Atlantic Screening, Spaddy’s Coffee, Chewy, Central Pet Distribution, Warburg Pincus, Cigna Health, World of Beer, MOSIClearwater Aquarium, Florida Aquarium, Outback Steakhouse, PDQ, Miller’s Ale House, Crossfit BNI, Orange Theory Fitness, Metropolitan Ministries, Chipotle, Columbia Restaurant, Southern Muscle, Crunch Fitness, Fitness for $10, Top GolfCamp Gladiator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, AMC Theaters, Kraftologee, Mission BBQ, New Belgium, Canine Cabana, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Tampa Tails.

About BlueGrace

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the largest third-party logistics (3PL) providers in the United States.  With over 500 employees and working with over 10,000 customers to provide successful shipping solutions, the company has achieved explosive growth in its nearly 10-year operating history. Backed by a $255 million investment by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the company operates 11 locations nationwide, and its headquarters are in the sunny Tampa Bay area of Florida.

 

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Accelerating Business Growth And Lowering Cost With Data Analytics

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

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

Truck Capacity Crunch 

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

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

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

Stringent Demands of the ELD Mandate 

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

Truck Driver Wage Increase

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

Fuel Price Hikes 

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

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

Congestion In Cities 

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

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

What To Do: It’s All about Data Analytics 

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

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

Bringing in the Experts

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

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

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

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

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Survey Says: Visibility is the Main Goal

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

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

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

Visibility is the Main Goal 

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

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

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

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

Understand the Impact and Value of DSNs 

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

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

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

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

Challenges for Manufacturers 

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

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

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

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

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

The Road Ahead 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting a Head Start in the Tech Race

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

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The Rise of Dropshipping

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

Drop Shipping Is On The Rise

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

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

Dropshipping as a Business Model

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

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

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

2 million: Advertisers on Instagram per month

$10.9 billion: Projected Instagram ad revenues this year

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

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

The Uneven Field

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

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

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

Bigger Players in the Field

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

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

Preparing for the Future

Combining dropship marketing with a well-developed logistics system might have some merit in the near future as e-commerce continues to grow and develop. If you don’t believe us, just remember that Amazon started as a dropship company before it became the e-commerce titan it is today. At BlueGrace, our freight specialists work with you every step of the way to understand your requirements and set up a solution that’s tailored to your needs. For more information on how we can help you prepare you for the future and simplify your supply chain, contact us using the form below: 

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Walmart’s OTIF Policy Gets Harder 

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

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

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

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

A Tough Policy Gets Tougher 

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

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

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

A Necessary Change 

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

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

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

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

A Hard Place for Small Suppliers 

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

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

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

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

Do You Need Help With OTIF Issues?

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

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Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Trucking

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

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

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

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

The Growing AI Market 

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

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

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

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

Various AI Functions for Trucking 

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

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

Deep learning is one of the most promising AI developments.

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

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

The Future of AI in the Trucking Industry 

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

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

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

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

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

Using a 3PL to Prepare for the Future

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

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BlueGrace Takes 1st Overall At 2018 SportsFest

At BlueGrace, Core Value #3 is “Pursue Outrageous Goals.” Working as a TEAM to pursue these goals is one of the most important dynamics of our company culture; from the way we come together to ensure our customers always have an excellent experience to way we band together to hold one of the largest pet food drives in the country to benefit our furry friends at Humane Society of Tampa Bay, our teamwork is evident. BlueGrace has been bringing our game faces to St. Pete Beach to compete at Corporate SportsFest for the past 8 years in a row, and the goal was always the same – to be #1 out of 200 companies. Core Value #3: Pursue Outrageous Goals.

SporstFest competitive events include volleyball, corn-hole, a surf ‘n turf relay race, dodgeball and tug of war. What may seem like a day of fun in the sun quickly proves to be a challenge reserved for the competitive heart – with the heat, sand and continuous rounds to compete in, there’s definitely no time for sun bathing! As always, our employees had one thing in mind: getting that #1 spot and showing everyone else what we’re made of. We put on our BlueGrace Gear, repped our #LetsDoThisSHIP hashtag, and brought our a-game to the beach!

1st Place Overall for 2018!

WE. DID. IT. Our outrageous employees beat 200 other companies and 4,000 other people at SportsFest 2018 and earned the #1 Company title at Corporate SportsFest this year! Can we get a WOOOO!? Congratulations to all BlueGrace employees who attended and competed in SportsFest 2018. With 200 Tampa Bay companies participating and over 4,000 competitors, SportsFest is always a wildly successful event that embodies team building, solid competition and fun. Exhausted, but ecstatic, our team returned home victorious and more engaged with both coworkers and customers. We’re extremely proud of our team and their drive to succeed! Congratulations to all of the other finalists that competed this year, and kudos to all that participated in Corporate SportsFest 2018!

Checkout our 2018 team video!

Want to join our team?

BlueGrace Logistics is hiring and we want you to join our team! From Sales and I.T. to Finance and Customer Support, we have a position for everyone! Visit http://mybluegrace.com/careers for more information.

 

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A Bright Future for Intelligent Logistics

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

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

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

The Growing Web of Interconnection 

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

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

Building On the Infrastructure 

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

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

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

The Growth of E-commerce and Digitization 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offering Intelligent Logistics To All Customers 

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

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Change Is Coming For The Trucking Industry

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

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

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

New Changes for the Trucking Industry  

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

New Technology in the Industry 

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

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

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

The Role of Automation 

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

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

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

New Regulations will Change the Supply Chain 

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

Change to Affect More than Just Transportation 

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

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

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

Ready for the Change? 

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

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Attracting the Next Generation of Truckers

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

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

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

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

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

Trucking is a Hard Sell  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changing the Demographic  

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

Autonomous Trucks Will be Good for the Industry  

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

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

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

Ready to Launch A Career in the Logistics Industry?

BlueGrace partners with the industry’s best in class LTL, Truckload and Expedited carriers. If you are ready to learn the in’s and out’s of the transportation industry, CLICK HERE to launch your logistics career and see all the positions available throughout the country at BlueGrace. We are constantly awarded a best place to work and love to see our employees succeed!

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How To Label Your Freight Correctly, The First Time

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

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

For example, if you are shipping liquid cargo or any other cargo that needs to be kept upright, it is important to label it correctly so the cargo handlers know which way to carry it. Similarly, if the cargo is hazardous, then it is important to label it appropriately. You should use the required hazardous labels so safety precautions can be taken. Not just for handling and safety, labeling is also important to facilitate real-time tracking of your package as it moves through your trucker’s network and your country’s road network.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Transport Information Service

Do You Need Help With Understanding Your Freight?

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

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BlueGrace Logistics Chief Strategy Officer Retiring

Riverview, FL – March 28th, 2018 / BlueGrace Logistics announced today that Randy Collack, Chief Strategy Officer, has informed the company that he intends to retire this year. A definitive date has not been established, but the process of filling that position with an industry proven COO will begin immediately. BlueGrace has initiated a nationwide search of external candidates who have significant experience holding senior-level executive positions running large-scale sales teams in the transportation and/or third-party logistics industries. We expect to fill this position in the second quarter of 2018.

Mr. Collack has been with BlueGrace since its inception in 2009. He currently oversees several departments as the Chief Strategy Officer, including all Freight brokerage in the Tampa headquarters. Throughout his tenure with the company, Randy has been responsible for the growth of the sales and operations departments, and he has been a critical component of the success BlueGrace Logistics has achieved to date.

Bobby Harris, CEO of BlueGrace, commented: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Randy’s achievements as Chief Strategy Officer at BlueGrace, and with every other position that he commanded during his time with us. During Randy’s tenure, BlueGrace witnessed growth at an unprecedented level for the 3PL industry. Randy will be dearly missed, and we hope he remains a long-time friend and advisor.”

Randy Collack said, “I am sincerely grateful to Bobby Harris and the excellent team at BlueGrace Logistics for the opportunity to lead their sales organization. When I joined the company in its infancy, I was one of the few individuals with significant industry expertise. Now there are hundreds of new faces in the Freight Division with hundreds more expected. As the time nears for me to retire, the company is well positioned to continue its success, having filled many senior level executive positions with high-performing individuals from the logistics industry. I wish my successor in this position, and the company in general, all the best in the future.”

Mr. Collack brought vast industry experience to BlueGrace Logistics when he joined the company, which began as a 9-person, start-up company in 2009. He was the former President of PDT Trucking and held senior positions with Express One and Preferred Shipping. Mr. Collack is also an avid poker player, competing in tournaments across the US.

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the largest third-party logistics providers in the United States. With over 500 employees and working with over 10,000 customers to provide successful shipping solutions, the company has achieved explosive growth in its nearly 10-year operating history. Backed by a $255 million investment by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the company operates 11 locations nationwide, and its headquarters are in the sunny Tampa Bay area of Florida.
For further information, please contact Sean Butler, Chief Human Resources Officer.

For further information, please contact Sean Butler, Chief Human Resources Officer at sbutler@bluegracegroup.com

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Why e-Commerce is now “Talking Shop”

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

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

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

The Growth of Conversational Commerce

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

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

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

A Personalized Customer Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

BlueGrace Cares

BlueGrace provides world class customer service and makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, feel free to contact us using the form below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Supply Chain Services 

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

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

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

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

How Does this New Category Affect Policy? 

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

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

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

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

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

Are you part of the supply chain talent pool?

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

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The Long Bumpy Road to Blockchain in Trucking

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

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

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

Privatized Blockchain for the Industry

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

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

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

…and The Seemingly Never-Ending Capacity Issue

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

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

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

 

Source: Next Autonomous

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

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

The Blockchain Obstacles  

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

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

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

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

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

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