Browse Tag

logistics technology

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:

BlueGrace Logistics Awards 2017 Innovator of the Year to project44

BlueGrace Logistics annual award goes to the company they recognize as having the greatest impact on their business and industry via new innovation. They selected project44 from a group of hundreds of service providers that offer products, services, or programs. BlueGrace relies on its partners to provide best in class service while creating new and energizing offerings to the market. Bobby Harris, CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, stated “project44 went far beyond expectations for BlueGrace in 2017 and continues to rapidly expand their relationship with us by offering unique services. We couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

project44’s technology is integrated with their BlueShip TMS, creating new speed and visibility for customers not found in other 3PL TMS (Transportation Management System) solutions. Currently BlueGrace is utilizing the LTL, VLTL and TLV products available from project44.

“BlueGrace leads the industry by investing in innovative technology to deliver seamless services that meet their customers’ evolving transportation needs,” said Jett McCandless, CEO and Founder of project44. “They recognized very early on the value of automating manual processes and replacing outdated EDI connections. We’re proud to work with such a fast-growing and technology-focused logistics provider and to receive this award from them.”

Congratulations to project44 for their 2017 Innovator of the Year Award.

 

About project44

project44 enables you to deliver stronger value to your customers, through the power of information. By digitizing the entire shipment lifecycle, we ensure access to the right information, at the right time—creating a smarter end-to-end shipping experience. With project44, automate the full shipment lifecycle from quote-to-invoice to see real-time, end-to-end information symmetry. Our multimodal, one-to-many model gets you connected to the largest network of capacity providers in the most streamlined way, empowering you to immediately support new automations and carriers without spending IT resources or wasting time on complex integrations, improving the productivity and efficiency of your entire business.

Learn more:

 

About BlueGrace Logistics

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the fastest growing leaders of transportation management services in North America. As a full-service third-party logistics provider (3PL), BlueGrace helps businesses manage their freight spend through industry leading technology, high level freight carrier relationships and overall understanding of the complex $750 Billion U.S. freight industry. BlueGrace is headquartered in Riverview, Florida with over 12 corporate locations across the U.S. For more information, visit www.mybluegrace.com.

 

Common Concerns and Simple Solutions of U.S. Manufacturers

How does logistics differ among manufacturers across the globe? Do the logistics needs of a particular steel manufacturer differ from that of a food and beverage supplier versus or a chemical manufacturer? In some instances, absolutely – But, according to a recent Logistics Management article that discusses the results of the “Business Strategy: 2012 Supply Chain Survey – Manufacturing Priorities and New Technology Adoption,” most all manufacturing companies share a common concern – reducing supply chain costs by implementing simple solutions through the use of technology.

There is no doubt that the global economy is impacting all manufacturers and retailers. Consumers demand faster production, higher quality materials, and lower prices. Transportation logistics typically accounts for 30% of the cost of any good. Here are some ways you can stay competitive in your marketplace, while increasing your bottom line:

  • PLAN AHEAD: Begin planning for the increase in demand for the holiday season this year. Retailers have prepared their forecasts and are analyzing consumer purchasing trends. Perhaps your item is going to be on the “hottest-selling” list this year. Are you ready? Back-to-school season is fast approaching and the ports have been planning for a virtuous year for retailers.   As we all know, no matter how well you plan – stuff happens! You must be flexible, react and make changes when necessary.
  • Lean strategies and operations: Whether it’s wasted materials or labor hours, a business must adopt lean thinking and processes to remain competitive and profitable in a global market. Eliminate waste in your production: hours, materials, etc.
  • Transportation efficiency: That’s where we come in, and there’s that word efficiency again! Trucking companies, ports, and 3PLs (like BlueGrace Logistics) are continuously searching for ways to move goods across the globe seamlessly. Technology plays a critical role in efficiency and a transportation management system (TMS) could be just the perfect solution for your business’ logistics needs. With a TMS, you are able to quote freight shipments, book the carrier of your choice, and track 24-7.  BlueShip® offers customization and can be integrated to your businesses information system. Controlling transportation costs is led by route optimization, reduced fuel consumption, and reduced idle time.

Take a look at the findings of the Business Strategy: 2012 Supply Chain Survey – How does your company’s concerns differ or mirror those of over 350 U.S. manufacturers surveyed? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

Contact one of our transportation experts today to book a shipment! Shoot us an e-mail or give us a call at 800.MY.SHIPPING

The Rise of the TMS and Why You Need One

Rate, route and track… oh my!

In an era of skyrocketing fuel prices and limited capacity, transportation management systems have become quite the hot, and necessary, commodity.  Despite the confusing economy, in 2010 alone the global TMS market peaked at $625 million. This data should not come as a surprise to anyone in the transportation industry. Considering how effective these systems have been at streamlining processes and cutting down on costs to shippers, it’s no wonder 3PLs have been utilizing these solutions for nearly two decades.


Basic features of a TMS:

  • Help create loads
  • Determine the shortest routes and best utilization of carriers
  • Manage orders and transport tenders
  • Track and trace shipments
  • Control freight payment
  • Provide visibility
  • Monitor carrier performance

 

How they help:

BlueGrace Logistics’ BlueShip® and other transportation management systems are highly beneficial to cut down on costs in your business. Companies have been known to experience cost reductions anywhere from 5-15% or more. Retailer chargebacks, for example, are cut down on improvements in customer service, business processes, and resource management.

These systems accelerate reaction times by increasing visibility and productivity. Real-time event management is crucial in logistics. With longer supply chains and lead times, the need for visibility systems is greater than ever. A faster reaction time means more solved problems, leaving excess time to devote to the core matters of your operation.

 

Why wait? 

Shippers don’t have to adapt all of their processes to an off-the-shelf application any longer. With systems like BlueShip, you can create an interface that’s custom designed to fit your unique needs. We are not a one-size-fits-all establishment.  Don’t worry, this kind of customization won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Fortunately for shippers of BlueGrace, 24-7 access to the online transportation management system is absolutely free!

If you’re interested in learning how BlueShip can enhance your business, feel free to contact our team and we can walk you through it. Is your business currently using a TMS but wonder how ours compares? Contact us, we’d be happy to show you the BlueGrace way!

Fresh-Cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry

The nation’s 2nd highest gift-giving holiday is fast approaching and retailers and shippers alike are kicking it into high gear. According to the US Census Bureau, there are more than 23,000 florists in the United States! Flowers account for 70% of all gifts bought each year on Mother’s Day.

With such essential perishables on-board, you may wonder how these delicate tokens are transported from their origin to your mother’s hands. The inventory must be kept cool and in constant motion, creating a complex logistical approach to any supply chain. One day lost in delivery can equal 10% of the effective floral shelf life, limiting the opportunity for the re-seller to sell the product.

The journey begins with the snip of a stem – the clock is ticking to get the flowers to their destination. The majority of flower supply stems from Colombia and Ecuador. Christine Boldt, Executive Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida describes the supply flow after being placed immediately in a refrigerated truck for transport to a cool warehouse at the airport, “They go through a process we call ‘pre-cooling,’ in which any warm air that might be trapped in the box is vacuumed out. That allows the flowers to cool faster than they would if we simply left warm air inside the package.”

Fresh-cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry, Mother’s Day 2012
Fresh cut flowers experience pre-cooling and are released to the warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to their destination. Source: http://bit.ly/LXlMz2

Following the “pre-cooling,” the blossoms travel through the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport (MIA). MIA houses approximately 2/3 of the supply (about 35,000 – 70,000 boxes every day) with huge spikes in volume around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day! In an effort to challenge Miami International Airport’s market dominance, California-based Mercury Air Group’s opened a 12,700-square-foot refrigeration facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Once packages arrive, they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); ensuring the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases can take up to four hours. Fortunately, only two percent of shipments are labeled non-compliant under APHIS regulations. After the flowers receive the “green light,” the next step is another pre-cooling and release to warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to an international location or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. The flora can reach any city in the US by truck in less than five days.

Retailers are the final link in the cut-flowers supply chain before reaching your mother’s hands. Retailers include traditional florist shops, online stores, supermarket chains, roadside vendors, gas stations, drugstores, etc. Supermarkets account for nearly 40% of our flower sales and are steadily increasing sales throughout the slower parts of the year.

From harvest to retailer, perishables are a challenging transport, but 3PLs are here to help. BlueGrace® Logistics offers freight shipping services and solutions that aid in simplifying the supply chain process. Our dedicated representatives provide complete consult in helping shippers choose the best mode of transportation as well as the right carrier for their needs. Our customizable transportation management system, BlueShip™, provides detailed visibility of time-sensitive shipments so you’re always aware during transit.

We know the importance of on-time delivery. Whether it is flowers or materials, let BlueGrace® handle the logistics while you manage your other critical business operations. Contact a member of our team for a free, customized freight quote today!

If you’re involved in the shipping process of flowers, please add your input! Do you work in the floral industry and have any tips to share? Let the community know by commenting on our blog!

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: @BG_JennyD

 

Logistics: What is it? BlueGrace Offers the Whole Package

What is logistics?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in the industry. Add “third party” to “logistics” and you may as well be wearing a sign that says “barrage me with questions, please!” Confusion may be created because the meaning is so broadly applicable across a diverse range of trades. The scope of “logistics” could describe the operations of a thriving corporate enterprise or the play-by-play of a day in the life of a soccer mom. While both accurately depict the word, those are not exactly the everyday logistics we manage at BlueGrace® Logistics.

To say we handle the details of transporting your goods from Point A to Point B would not do justice to what truly goes on behind the scenes of your freight’s journey. The factors below offer a glimpse into what you experience by partnering with BlueGrace for your logistics.

  • Optimization. One way BlueGrace creates value is by helping customers optimize existing transportation and logistics functions. We take a deep dive into the inner-workings of your transportation management to identify inefficiencies. With these discoveries we engineer solutions for specific processes in your supply chain and aid in execution across all departments. We strive to create new opportunities which ultimately increase efficiency and your bottom line.
  • Preservation. With so much change and variability in the supply chain, optimization is a recurring process. We don’t abandon you once changes are in place, it is our job to take that extra step and ensure those improvements are maintained and your success continuous.
  • Reporting. When you work with a logistics provider, we know that the ultimate goal is to take care of your shipments from start to finish without having to chase anyone for updates along the way. This is why we provide complete visibility through BlueShip™, our transportation management system. Using information like real-time tracking, we allow you the freedom to dictate what, when, and how you view your shipments and reports. Our customized reports take the guessing out of your supply chain.
  • Understanding. This part of our “logistics” is one that we hold in the highest regard. BlueGrace is comprised of over 150 years of experience in logistics, freight and transportation management. Our expertise helps you make the best decisions for your company. We strive to gain a healthy understanding of your business goals and how you wish to attain them.

Logistics means different things to different people. All of the factors above encompass what it really means to BlueGrace. Logistics goes well beyond just shipping… it reaches into the heart of your business. If you would like to request a free freight quote or an audit on your logistics processes, contact our team today!

What does logistics mean to you? What are the most important factors in determining who handles your freight? We’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to join our team of professionals, contact BlueGrace Careers or visit our Careers page for more information about a career in logistics.

 

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: BG_JennyD

Partnership Reduces Costs and Transit Time… Creating Benefits for All

This is a fantastic read and I wanted to share it with you! Logistics Management reports how a closeout retailer, Tuesday Morning, partnered with a leading transportation provider, Averitt Express, and increased their bottom line.  Headquartered in Houston, TX, the retailer strived to find a solution to transport its “obnoxious freight” and keep inventory moving. The experts at Averitt Express, one of our valued partners, provided a distribution center (DC) bypass solution, eliminating significant transportation costs and shipment days for Tuesday Morning.

Kudos to the transportation professionals at Averitt and congrats to the team at Tuesday Morning! It’s evident you are a dynamic match!

At BlueGrace® Logistics, our team of experts can evaluate your supply chain to identify inefficiencies and propose solutions to eliminate time and enhance your bottom line. Contact us today for a free audit and to discuss collaborative distribution.

Read the Logistics Management article  “Tuesday Morning’s DC bypass cuts two weeks, 19 percent cost out of supply chain.”

 

– Samantha Hill, Community Manager
Follow @SamHill_BG on Twitter!

#BGInvestigates: Why not use a 3PL?!

No acronym boils the blood of a BlueGrace® Logistics employee more than “3PL”. In our experience, this acronym conveys an adopted meaning that doesn’t give justice to the value added service BlueGrace delivers. We believe 3PL providers should be an extension of your business, not an outsourced process. So instead of a “3PL”, we consider ourselves a Logistics Service Provider.

Phrasing is not the reason that decision makers stray from 3PLs. To further understand the issue, BlueGrace investigated internally. Here are the most common concerns:

 “I’ve been burned by other 3PL’s, so now I steer clear…”

This could be the most common objection to any business considering a new 3PL. To those questioning the use of 3PL’s, we say, “Well you haven’t experienced BlueGrace.” Completely nixing all 3PLs from your life is the wrong move. We have learned the most common reason for failed 3PL partnerships is billing resolutions. At BlueGrace, we take certain precautions to safeguard against mistakes. We know that re-classes and re-weighs are the heartache of any shipper’s existence. Our new and enhanced BlueShip Transportation Management System allows users to enter weight and dimensions into their customized portal; alerting the shipper to contact their rep if the shipment requires special attention (pricing, class, etc.).

Another concern is the lack of education from the provider to the customer. This results in miscommunication and animosity, which potentially leads to a short-lived business relationship. It’s vital for you, the shipper, to understand what we provide. A good Logistics Service Provider (or 3PL) will help their customer understand resources like NMFC codes, cubic capacity and linear feet guidelines.

“If we can be of help, we will. If not, we tell you. We want to create mutually beneficial relationships and properly educate our customers,” says Eric Chambers, Sr VP of Sales.

“You don’t own your own trucks, so why should I trust you with my freight?”

That’s a good question. BlueGrace Logistics has a strong network of top rated carriers to handle our customer’s goods. We use a scorecard with each carrier to monitor overall performance such as damages in transit and punctuality. Our carrier partnerships allow us to negotiate competitive rates on your behalf. Take advantage of the lower costs that the buying power of the right 3PL can get you.

BlueGrace Logistics provides free quotes and internal audits of your current logistics processes. For any questions in regard to your shipping needs call 1.800.MY.SHIPPING

So, we hope this topic was helpful in identifying your concerns in determining whether or not working with a 3PL is right for you. Give us a call, send an email, or follow us on Twitter (@mybluegrace) for more on these important subjects as #BGInvestigates.

Visit us online at www.mybluegrace.com

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow @BG_JennyD on Twitter!

“Not Interested”

All day long I hear from people who are “not interested.” It makes me wonder, what are they not interested in? They don’t want to help their company? Well I do! On a personal level, when you say you’re not interested in life, where could that lead you? Say you’re married – When your husband asked you out, what if you said “I’m not interested”? Then you would not be in your current marriage right now. What if you said you weren’t interested to that amazing job opportunity? Where would your life be? We don’t know for sure how our lives would be based on past decisions, but chances are we’d be different.

The best thing to do is listen and pay attention to the opportunities in front of you. This is what we aim for at BlueGrace. The more open you are with individuals within the company increases the chance for something great. As a logistics and technology provider, BlueGrace wants to help cut your overall costs and introduce you to other options for your business regarding your freight. When we listen to each other, we have the opportunity to do great business together. Without the listening, things stay the same… which means no growth.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

– Ariel Saiani, National Sales Rep
Follow me @ArielSaiani_BG

RFID Technology

Many people reading this may have heard the term RFID before, but may not be familiar with what it is. RFID technology is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first patented system being developed in the early 1980s. It’s taken until the early 2000s, however, for it to begin to achieve mainstream use, including in the shipping world.

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification, and it works just the way it sounds. Long story short, it uses radio waves to exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag. RFID has various advantages over traditional barcode scanning including the lack of a need for direct line of sight, increased durability (i.e. barcodes being damaged), and the ability to be read/write objects. In other words, an RFID reader can scan an object and change the information of the tag.

As an example, imagine that the shipping information on a package is incorrect. In order to fix this, a new label would have to be created with a new barcode. With RFID, the information is all stored on the tag and it can be changed using the scanner. This alone significantly simplifies the shipping process. The same is true of damaged bar codes. Since RFID doesn’t require direct line of sight, the issues of scuffed or damaged barcodes being unable to be read is non-existent. This leads to increased efficiency in shipping, less errors, and ultimately, cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.

Carriers like UPS and Federal Express have already widely implemented the use of RFID to track shipments. As time goes on, this trend will continue as the technology increasingly becomes cheaper to implement, and the advantages become more commonly known. Private enterprises aren’t the only ones implementing RFID to lower costs and decrease errors associated with managing large amounts of inventory. The Department of Defense has been using RFID for years to keep track of valuable equipment and inventory and continues to replace antiquated inventory systems with it.

Time is money in shipping and freight and every second counts. Lost packages, shipping errors, and slower delivery times can create a nightmare for carriers and consumers alike. RFID has been a long time in coming, and if current trends are any indication, RFID is here to stay and will continue to replace the tried and true barcode system that many companies still employ. That means everyone will enjoy cost savings and an easier inventory and shipping process.

– Sean Leitzinger, Programmer Analyst