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Freight

What is Transportation Management Workflow and How Does It Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History is the best teacher

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

Conclusion

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

BlueGrace’s Proprietary Technology

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

A Growing Need for 3PLs

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

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

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

Higher Brokerage Margins 

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

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

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

A Spike in Demand is on the Horizon 

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

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

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

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

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

Shippers might Start Looking to 3PLs for Visibility 

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

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

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

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

Data and Tech will Pave the Way 

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

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

A Better Way of Doing Business

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

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

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: 

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. 

BlueGrace Logistics At SAPPHIRENOW 2018

As a leader in your company, are you getting the supply chain business intelligence and data you need? If not there is a way to get that much needed data and even cut costs in the process with a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) integration with SAP.

BlueGrace Logistics has exhibited at SAP SAPPHIRE for the last 3 years and spoken with executives from all types of industries. Many of the people told us it was either very difficult or incredibly time consuming to get the vital data they need from the supply chain and transportation departments within their organizations. As a 3PL, it is our responsibility to arm the executive suite with the data and business intelligence needed to make better business decisions regarding supply chain and freight.

With our proprietary freight data analysis, we set ourselves apart from other transportation management providers. Our systems take your current freight data and enable our team to get an inside look at what your team may be missing. Opportunities to simplify and save are not hidden anymore.

What Types Of Services Does BlueGrace Offer?

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

Let’s Talk More At Booth #927

BlueGrace Logistics will be joining other leading technology providers in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center June 5-7 for the SAPPHIRE NOW 2018 trade show. At this show, BlueGrace will be discussing how we integrate your freight with SAP to simplify your businesses transportation systems.


FREE BONUS FOR ALL SAPPHIRE NOW ATTENDEES!

Not only can we integrate your freight into SAP, we can use that data to optimize your entire supply chain. The first 25 registered attendees to Booth #927 are eligible for a Free Supply Chain Analysis and Optimization Study, using your current data. We will be able to review our results at the show with you and your team.

YOUR FREE ANALYSIS INCLUDES:

  • Daily/Weekly Consolidation Report
  • Cost per: lb/mile/
  • Cost per SKU, PO
  • Freight cost as a percentage of goods
  • Center of Gravity study
  • Carrier spend breakdown
  • Mode Spend Breakdown
  • Cross Distribution Analysis

Fill Out The Form Below To Let Us Know You Will Be Attending and Receive Your FREE Supply Chain Analysis and Optimization Study At The Show!

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:

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:

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: 

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!

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!

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:

The Long Bumpy Road to Blockchain in Trucking

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

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

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

Privatized Blockchain for the Industry

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

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

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

…and The Seemingly Never-Ending Capacity Issue

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

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

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

 

Source: Next Autonomous

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

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

The Blockchain Obstacles  

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

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

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

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

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

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

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

Choosing the Right 3PL to Align with Your Business Strategy

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

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

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

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

Start with Carrier Partnerships

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

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

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

Door to Door deliveries

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

Experience matters

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

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

Do the services match the requirements?

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

How many modes?

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

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

How’s their customer service? 

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

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

Is your 3PL BlueGrace?

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

Freight Damage: 8 Practical Ways to Avoid It 

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

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

1. Understand your cargo

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

2. Choosing the right packaging

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

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

3. Label your goods correctly

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

4. Protecting your packaging 

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

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

5. Stow the goods correctly

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

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

6. Stow the truck correctly

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

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

7. Ship in bulk

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

8.Choose reliability over price

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

To summarize, 

Freight Suppliers

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

Freight Customers

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

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

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

Do You Need Help With Understanding Your freight?

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

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

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

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

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

Human Core Capabilities  

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

Sharing Economy 

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

Empathetic Businesses 

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

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

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

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

The Human Element 

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

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

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

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

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

Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace

BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. With a fully built-out national network and global partners, BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, feel free to contact us using the form below:

Rising Costs and Lower Capacity in the Domestic Truckload Market

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

More Freight, Less Capacity

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

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

How Can BlueGrace Help?

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

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

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

The End of NAFTA Could Be a Nightmare for Truckers 

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

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

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

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

Truckers Fear of NAFTA Ending 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fallout from the Death of NAFTA  

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can A 3PL Help?  

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

 

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

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

You’ve Got Choices 

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

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

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

Stay in Control 

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

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

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

Built to Scale 

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

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

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

Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace

BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. With a fully built-out national network and global partners, BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, feel free to contact us using the form below:

Surviving the Digital Race: What to Watch for in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

What to Watch for 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supply Chain Management 

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

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

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

How BlueGrace Can Help in 2018

When companies want superior supply chain management services and best-in-class technology, they turn to BlueGrace. Our proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues, feel free to contact us using the form below: