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Tight Capacity Ahead

It’s a good time to be a carrier. With markets running hot, carriers have ample opportunities to pick up freight and can be choosy about which ones they take. From the most profitable lanes to the highest price loads, carriers have been running the game and raking in some serious revenue, as much as high single or double-digit percentages. According to the latest earning reports from FTL carriers, shippers haven’t secured peak season capacity on notice. As it stands, there is no indication of freight demand slowing or contractual truck capacity lightening up any time soon. As a result, many carriers are noticing a markedly improved performance from that over previous years.

Reinvesting in the Fleet Can Have Downsides 

Given the fact that many carriers are increasing their profits, they’re looking to reinvest in their company, replacing older trucks with newer, more efficient models. According to the Journal of Commerce, one such company, Covenant Transport, brought on 400 new trucks, while getting rid of 465. In total, the company plans on bringing in 880 new trucks while removing 940 aged trucks from the fleet.“Covenant’s truckload revenue increased by $16.1 million year-over-year in the quarter, a 17.4 percent gain attributed to a 14.2 percent increase in average freight revenue per truck. The carrier increased that revenue with fewer team drivers, fewer average team miles per truck, and an increase in the number of trucks that lacked drivers — 5.2 percent of its fleet,” says the JOC.  

While more revenue is being generated from shippers being willing to pay for capacity, the overall capacity is being diminished.

The problem here is twofold. While more revenue is being generated from shippers being willing to pay for capacity, the overall capacity is being diminished. Conversely, the driver shortage is beginning to exacerbate the problem considerably. “From a capacity perspective, attracting and retaining highly qualified, over the road professional truck drivers remains our largest challenge,” Richard B. Cribbs, executive vice president, and chief financial officer, said in a statement Wednesday. “Low unemployment, alternative careers, and an aging driver population are creating an increasingly competitive environment.” Which means in order to fix the current problem, carriers are going to have to do something to draw in some fresh blood to take up the wheel and keep freight moving.  

Raising the Pay Grade 

So how much is enough of a pay incentive to bring in younger drivers? According to DCVelocity, the pay is going to have to increase to about $75,000 annually if there’s any hope of not only attracting but keeping qualified drivers on the roster for the long haul. Typically speaking, drivers get paid by the mile. However, when you factor in delays for shipping and receiving (miles not being driven) a lot of drivers are having a hard time making a solid living from hauling freight.  

“As of May 2017, the median truckload driver wage was slightly more than $42,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10 percent of earners pulled down more than $64,000, according to BLS data. Since then, an increasing number of fleets have substantially increased driver wages. Many salaries have risen by double-digit amounts during the past year or so,” according to the DCVelocity Team 

A Continuing Problem  

According to Driver iQ, a company that produces background screening products and other services for the trucking industry, larger fleets are having a harder time keeping personnel than smaller companies.  “While about two-thirds of recruiters at larger companies said their drivers were retiring at their expected times, about the same percentage of executives at smaller carriers indicated their drivers were staying longer,” according to the survey.  

As for shippers, capacity is already tight, and it’s only going to get tighter as the driver shortage continues.  

In their second-quarter forecast on driver recruitment and retention trends, Driver iQ predicted that approximately 45 percent of fleet recruiters are expecting a rise in driver turnover rates, even more so than the already high levels from the previous quarter. The turnover ratio is double what it was in the fourth quarter of 2017, meaning trucking companies are steadily losing more drivers. While carriers are making out well now given that they can cherry-pick freight due to the high demand, losing more of their driving force is going to put them in a tight spot down the road. As for shippers, capacity is already tight, and it’s only going to get tighter as the driver shortage continues.  

Strengthen Your Supply Chain

BlueGrace partners with an extensive list of carriers, providing you with the resources needed to ease the affects of the tight capacity crunch.  If you would like more information on how BlueGrace can help simplify your supply chain and reduce transportation costs, fill out the form below or contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING to speak to one of our freight experts today!

How The New Tariffs Could Affect the Supply Chain

With three rounds of attempted trade negotiations come and gone, a trade war between the United States and China, representing the two largest economies in the world has begun. China’s Ministry of Commerce has made a declaration that they will fight back against the Trump administrations imposed retaliatory tariffs on imports to China. China is now joining the ranks of other major players in the global economy, Canada, Mexico, and the EU, who are fighting back against these tariffs.

The $200 billion in import products that are being considered span a wide array of household and consumer goods

The $200 billion in import products that are being considered span a wide array of household and consumer goods including, but not limited to, bicycles, sound systems, refrigerators, pocketbooks, vacuum cleaners, cosmetics, tools, and seafood. With a 10 percent duty markup, the tariff would highlight just how dependent the U.S. consumer economy has become on imports.

“In recent days, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, who oversees foreign investment, has instructed local governments to gauge how the biggest round of U.S. tariffs to date—25% duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods imposed on Friday—is affecting American businesses operating in China, the officials said. In particular, authorities are looking for signs of U.S. companies potentially moving facilities out of China. That would be a blow to Beijing’s effort to attract foreign capital and keep people employed at a time of gathering economic gloom,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The idea behind the imposition of tariffs is to increase the cost of imported goods to the point where American manufacturers can compete more effectively, and punish other countries for unfair trade practices. But the reality is that the global economy is so intertwined that most U.S. manufacturers rely heavily on imported parts to support their own U.S. production,” according to Supply Chain Management Review.

Seeing as how many U.S. based manufacturers rely on parts that come from outside the country, we could see a stymie point in production that could create a heavy impact on manufacturers and shippers in the near future.

So how will this growing trade war affect global supply chains? Seeing as how many U.S. based manufacturers rely on parts that come from outside the country, we could see a stymie point in production that could create a heavy impact on manufacturers and shippers in the near future.

The Backlash from the Automotive Sector 

While the new jobs are a boon to the U.S. economy, it is not without consequence. “BMW said Monday that it would move production for some of its SUVs out of the U.S. as a result of new tariffs placed on the vehicles,”  according to The Post and Courier in South Carolina. “The German-based automobile manufacturer signed an agreement with its Chinese partner, Brilliance Automotive Group Holdings, to increase the number of vehicles produced in the country, according to the Charleston newspaper, with the total reaching 520,000 by 2019.” 

 Volvo might also be pulling jobs out of the United States as a means of offsetting these tariffs.  A necessary step as many of the vehicles the company produces in the U.S. and exports to other countries such as Europe and China. Volvo has recently put its plans to expand production in the United States, which would increase staffing from 1,200 to 4,000 on hold.  

A Slow Build for the U.S. Economy

There will undoubtedly be a good deal of fluctuation as U.S. and Chinese companies alike learn how to negotiate these new tariffs. Partner companies between the two countries are already negotiating terms for splitting the difference to help offset some of the lower point tariffs such as the 10 percent increase on Chinese seafood. However, the more substantial duties, such as the 25 percent markup on exported automobiles have some manufacturers looking to pull away.  

“Over time, tariffs reshape the economy. Newly protected industries draw workers and investment away from exporting industries whose inputs are now more expensive. That effect is compounded when exports are also targeted by foreign retaliatory tariffs. Heavily protected industries, like U.S. sugar farmers, don’t export much because prices abroad are much lower than at home. Protectionist countries like India and Brazil have lower imports and lower exports relative to GDP than open economies like South Korea and Chile,” Douglas A. Irwin, an economist, and trade historian at Dartmouth College notes. 

Exporters are going to have a hard time finding ways to mitigate the additional costs of the tariffs while still making a profit.  

Ultimately, the U.S. economy could see some potential benefit from these changes as it might level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers. In the end, however, those that will suffer the most boil down to the consumers buying the products affected by the tariffs, and the exporters. Exporters are going to have a hard time finding ways to mitigate the additional costs of the tariffs while still making a profit.  

How the Supply Chain Will React 

As the cost of raw materials goes up, many companies will have to reevaluate their opinions and suppliers to determine what the best course of action is.

With any major jostling of exports and imports, there will be a rather substantial effect on the supply chain. As the cost of raw materials goes up, many companies will have to reevaluate their opinions and suppliers to determine what the best course of action is.   As tariffs were introduced on imported washing machines Marc Bitzer, the chief executive of Whirlpool Corp., celebrated his win over South Korean competitors LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics Co. “This is, without any doubt, a positive catalyst for Whirlpool,” he said on an investor conference call. 

Nearly six months later, the company’s share price is down 15%. One factor is a separate set of tariffs on steel and aluminum, imposed by the U.S. in March and later expanded, that helped drive up Whirlpool’s raw-materials costs. In the best case scenario, existing suppliers can negotiate with clients to help offset costs. Worst case means disruption and possible standstill for production should components and materials become cost prohibitive for manufacturers. Part of what has helped control the price of consumer goods is the low cost of Chinese labor. Without that, we could see a considerable rise in inflation on U.S. consumer goods at least until the market is able to rebalance itself.   

What Supply Chain Managers Need to Keep in Mind  

Purchasing and Sourcing managers will have their work cut out for them with the new tariffs in place, leaving them to scramble to find new sources where the tariffs don’t apply in order to help keep costs low. However, finding a new supplier is only the first step. There will still be the need for qualifying and completing a risk assessment before a new supplier can be brought on board. Additionally, the supplier must be vetted for product quality, capacity, delivery schedules, and other vital categories to make sure that they will be a reliable partner. Unfortunately, this can be a time-consuming process, but many companies already began sourcing new suppliers when the new tariffs were first announced.

Logistics channels will need to evaluate and contract with foreign trucking companies, freight forwarders, and identify export requirements from other countries before the supply chain can flow smoothly.

Negotiating transportation will be another matter altogether. Logistics channels will need to evaluate and contract with foreign trucking companies, freight forwarders, and identify export requirements from other countries before the supply chain can flow smoothly. This could mean completely altering ocean freight sailings and ports of call, as well as new air freight routes which could cause some delays in the production schedule during the early stages of these changes.  

Supply bases will also be profoundly affected as they take a considerable period of time, approximately 12-18 months, to be reestablished, especially when it involves complex parts such as circuitry. Unfortunately, some of these parts will be unable to be sourced from other countries which means that the base price of components will increase. With manufacturing costs on the rise, many companies will have to make the decision as to how far they can push their customers on the price point before they have to swallow the increase and take a hit to the bottom line.  

Many manufacturers will have to become more flexible in their approach to the supply chain to help offset eventual overages in inventory which will often occur as an attempt to prevent shortages.

Sales and Operations planning will need to make some considerable adjustments in the way they view their supply chain. Supplier schedules will inevitably change which will also change logistics needs. Inventory levels will also have to change as a result which could incur more shipping costs as production runs short on necessary components. This means that many manufacturers will have to become more flexible in their approach to the supply chain to help offset eventual overages in inventory which will often occur as an attempt to prevent shortages.  Of course, there’s also the consideration of what forms the “retaliation” will take as any number of them could result in higher costs and longer shipping times. China has already proposed closer inspections on U.S. imports as well as long delays through customs for more rigorous checks, which can significantly reduce the speed and efficiency of the supply chain.

Your focus should be on developing alternative and flexible supply chains that can be adjusted with speed. It’s time for all hands on deck to fight for your company’s survival.

“Supply chain professionals should take immediate action, if you haven’t already, to secure new suppliers and to do strategic planning using multiple “what-if” supply and cost scenarios.  Your focus should be on developing alternative and flexible supply chains that can be adjusted with speed. It’s time for all hands on deck to fight for your company’s survival,” Supply Chain management suggests.  

In short, this new trade war is going to force changes on many companies, and the supply chain will suffer. Those companies who have the agility to respond quickly will be the best off, but as relations between these global powers remain in limbo, the final result is yet to be determined.  

All Hands on Deck

BlueGrace helps our customers navigate through the constant changes the industry brings. No matter the situation, we are here to simplify your freight needs. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak with a representative today!

Produce Season and How It Affects Capacity

 

Food items are something that will always be in demand. Consumers expect fresh produce and other food products year around. As such, FTR Transportation Intelligence expects 154.5 million truckloads of food and kindred products this year, up 5% from 2017. Moreover, truckloads of food are expected to rise by an additional 8% to 166.9 million by 2020. This, in turn, results in an increased demand for refrigerated and dry vans. 

However, regulatory requirements including the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes new rules covering shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers that transport food is having an impact on the industry. One part of the act on food transportation spells out requirements on issues, including adequate temperature controls for trucks, food contamination prevention, and vehicle cleanliness.  

Additionally, individual food, beverage, and perishable suppliers are feeling the heat from rising transportation prices.

Additionally, individual food, beverage, and perishable suppliers are feeling the heat from rising transportation prices. During their most recent earnings calls, Kellogg Co. noted that freight is causing its most “acute” cost pressures, while General Mills Inc. issued a full-year profit warning due to increasing costs associated with the shortage of truck drivers. While Kellogg is looking towards its supply chain to achieve cost savings, other food companies such as Hormel Foods and Smithfield Foods, have started to build out their own private trucking fleets. 

Produce Season Is a Busy Time 

While holidays have a substantial effect on freight capacity, produce season can cause one of the biggest crunches of the year. This year, produce season is kicking off with a bang, which might cause some strain on both carriers and shippers. “US wholesalers and shippers stocking shelves with produce are grappling with steep truck rates up as high as 30 percent from last year — as prices out of California and Mexico surge with the produce season kicking into high gear after Memorial Day,” according to the Journal of Commerce 

 “Refrigerated truck rates have followed the same industry-wide trend: spot market prices are up about 20 percent to 30 percent on a year-over-year basis. Load-to-truck ratios are elevated because there aren’t enough trucks capable of handling the demand, which gives the truckers leverage to prioritize shippers paying a higher rate.” 

Truckers Feeling the Weight of The ELD 

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, which was passed last December, is starting to put some extra pressure on carriers. The mandate has effectively lowered productivity while increasing the transit times, as carriers have to contend with the mandatory rest period. According to the Cass Freight Index, shipments have risen upwards of 12 percent over the last month, meaning more trucks are needed to handle the same freight volume. This, of course, needs to happen before a carrier can consider taking on new freight.  

Fortunately for the produce season, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made certain allowances for agricultural carriers. So long as the carrier is operating within 150 air-miles of the loading site, be it a farm, silo, or processing facility, they won’t have to start the clock. Leaving the radius would cause to the clock to resume, but the added flexibility is essential for agricultural businesses to survive the produce season.  

Supply and Demand: A Double-Digit Rate Spike  

Even with the added flexibility softening the blow from the ELD, market conditions remain largely unchanged. The rise in capacity demand for the season is resulting in some hefty transportation fees. According to data from the USDA, national refrigerated spot rates were up 28 percent (25 percent not counting diesel costs) over the same week last year. These rates are being seen fairly consistently, ranging from 22 to 29 percent on the U.S. west coast. “At one point this year, I paid $12,000 for a truck. Last year for the same load and same route, it would’ve cost me $9,000 [33 percent hike],” said Peter Pelosi, director of transportation for A&J Produce Corp. 

Kurt Schuster of Texas’s Val Verde Vegetable Company told KRGV, “They tripled or even quadrupled. What would normally be a $2,000 ride turned into an $11,000 ride? One of the main drivers was actually in the big freeze that hit the U.S., but these freight rates aren’t helping at all.” 

Roadcheck Week Had Carriers Scrambling 

To further add to the complication, the month of June is when the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts it’s Roadcheck Week. While it’s only a period of 72 hours, most carriers are scrambling to make sure their ducks are in a row. The focus for this year’s road check: Hours of Service Violations. “The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck takes place June 5-7, 2018. Over that 72-hour period, commercial motor vehicle inspectors in jurisdictions throughout North America conducted inspections of commercial motor vehicles and drivers.

Thirty-two percent of drivers who were placed out of service during last year’s three-day International Roadcheck were removed from our roadways due to violations related to hours-of-service regulation.

This year’s focus was on hours-of-service compliance,” says the CVSA brief. “The top reason drivers were placed out of service during 2017 International Roadcheck was for hours-of-service violations,” said CVSA President Capt. Christopher Turner of the Kansas Highway Patrol. “Thirty-two percent of drivers who were placed out of service during last year’s three-day International Roadcheck were removed from our roadways due to violations related to hours-of-service regulations. It’s definitely an area that we needed to call attention to this year,” the CVSA added.  

Work Smarter Not Harder  

If the capacity crunch and rate hike proves anything, it’s the fact that shippers and carriers alike are going to have to work smarter if they want to operate at peak efficiency. The ELD mandate is slowing road freight down considerably.  

A transportation management system can help make the most of a ripe transportation season while avoiding the pitfalls that come with higher transportation costs and reduced capacity.

This is one of the big reasons that shippers and carriers are looking to 3PLs to help bridge the gap. A transportation management system can help make the most of a ripe transportation season while avoiding the pitfalls that come with higher transportation costs and reduced capacity.  BlueGrace partners with an extensive list of carriers, providing you with the resources needed to ease the affects of the tight capacity crunch.  If you would like more information on how BlueGrace can help  simplify your supply chain and reduce transportation costs, fill out the form below to speak to one of our experts today! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago — a booming logistics sector since mid-2000s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Silicon Prairie’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Rise of Dropshipping

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

Drop Shipping Is On The Rise

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

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

Dropshipping as a Business Model

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

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

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

2 million: Advertisers on Instagram per month

$10.9 billion: Projected Instagram ad revenues this year

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

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

The Uneven Field

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

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

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

Bigger Players in the Field

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

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

Preparing for the Future

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

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:

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 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:

Turning Returns into Return Customers: How Reverse Logistics Defines e-Commerce

The way to succeed at e-commerce is to think like your customers. But how do they think?

A decade ago, retailers were responsible for the in-store experience and the quality of their product. That was pretty much it. Today, online retailers are held accountable for everything that happens in-between, in transit, and a lot more. Traffic used to annoy shoppers on the way to the mall, but today, those same delays are the retailer’s problem as well. Online retailers picked up the legwork in exchange for access to a booming market. With those extra responsibilities, you might be obsessed with the complexities of your fulfillment and returns operations – like everyone else in e-commerce – but that’s not what’s important to your customers. They want reliability and they don’t want to pay for it.

To put it another way, the e-commerce experience starts the moment a customer navigates to a platform and ends either when the product arrives at the purchaser’s address, or when their returned purchase is processed, and the refund is deposited into their bank account or refunded to their credit card. In between those moments, a complex web of interactions brings dozens of different companies together, and the failure of one link can reflect poorly on the whole chain.

More Returns Than Ever

It’s a chicken and egg question whether e-commerce is driving returns, or if the increasing ease of returns is turning more consumers on to online purchases. One thing is for sure though, there are more returns than ever.

This is especially true for apparel shopping, where the widespread adoption of free returns has turned the internet into a virtual changing room. Some fulfillment experts estimate that the return rate for online apparel purchases is close to 40 percent. That’s because, as of yet, there really isn’t an online equivalent to trying on an article of clothing in person. There’s a similar dynamic at play with other online purchases. Those free returns induce shoppers to buy online because they know if it doesn’t work out, they can ship it back.

Without free returns, few shoppers would risk buying an article of clothing that might not fit.

Without free returns, few shoppers would risk buying an article of clothing that might not fit. So now that we’ve established the importance of returns, the challenge is to make returning an online purchase a positive experience for customers.

Why Returns Matter

It’s quite simple. Returns matter because the moment your customers decide – for any number of reasons – that they want to return their purchase in exchange for a refund, the clock starts ticking. The moment they make that decision, they are holding a product that they don’t want and they are short the amount of money they spent on it. It’s a delicate situation and keeping the customer on your side is a complex interaction of logistics and customer service.

At the same time, every one of us has retailers, restaurants, or other corporate entities that we love. For many of us, that attachment comes from their customer service experience, friendly interactions with the staff, or some other interpersonal experience. With e-commerce, those opportunities don’t exist and retailers must make up for that with flawless logistics, as customers swap brick and mortar familiarity for online convenience.

This challenge will be won or lost based on your company’s logistics

This challenge will be won or lost based on your company’s logistics, so having that in mind, here are a couple of points to consider as you evaluate your e-commerce strategy:

Make it easy – From your customers’ perspective, returns should be easy to handle and seamless. At this point, prepaid return labels and flexible return shipping are commonplace, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. You need to make sure that you communicate the best return options to your customers, such as where they can drop off the packages, pickup times and other important information. You should communicate this automatically, in advance, so that your customers know that they have options. This will help them feel in control of the experience at all times.

Make it visible – with the right track and trace technology, it’s easy for logistics companies to know where a shipment is at any given time. That information should be communicated to your customer. Online shoppers might not even know about the option, but proactively letting them know how their return is processing improves the retail experience and converts customers into return shoppers.

Make it fast – Nobody wants to wait for their refund, so your returns policy should take that into account. A smart return policy should be able to dispense refunds in advance of their final processing when they arrive back at the warehouse. Regardless of how your company processes the return, the customer should be taken care of first and not held up by logistics constraints.

Make it scale – Every holiday season there are at least several articles about bottlenecks in the returns policy and that’s because millions of more customers turn to the internet every year for their gift purchases. Check with your logistics provider in advance of busy periods to ensure that they can scale to your needs.

How BlueGrace Can Help

You should be focusing on your core strengths in retail, not logistics, and that’s where we come in.

You want your logistics partner to embrace these values and to have a sophisticated enough approach to accommodate a data-intensive e-commerce operation. At BlueGrace, an experienced customer support team manages the entire returns and claims process to ensure a high customer satisfaction rating. BlueGrace uses its strategic relationships with their carriers to get great pricing with a mix of quality carriers. At BlueGrace, we work with new customers to understand their businesses and engineer the most seamless delivery and returns process possible. You should be focusing on your core strengths in retail, not logistics, and that’s where we come in.

With the logistics experts at BlueGrace reviewing past data at the beginning of the relationship, our partner e-commerce customers can increase their profits, save employee time and most importantly keep the online customers they spent so much to acquire. Feel free to fill out the form below for a free analysis today!

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

 

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

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

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

Here are five “takeaways” on the topic.

1.   Understanding the Nature of Change is Key

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

This trend means more “everything”.

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

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

Some of the challenges involved with the last mile are:

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

2. Cities Must Take Notice

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

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

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

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

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

4. A Variety of Solutions Will Likely Be the Answer

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

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

A BlueGrace Case Study In Action

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

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

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

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

You Will Need Expedited Freight After The ELD Mandate Begins

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is going to put a serious squeeze on many supply chains, and possibly have a major effect on your business as soon as December 2017. With the devices in place, stricter hours of service regulations will be going into effect. While these are meant to increase the safety and wellbeing of the driver, many are concerned about the interruptions this mandate will cause to scheduled delivery times.

Some Exemptions are Available

While an acclimation period is to be expected, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is making some exemptions to the ELD ruling in a few cases, the most important being:

Sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs WILL NOT HAVE the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. Why is this exemption important for your freight? We will discuss more below.

So while the FMCSA is insistent on the implementation of the devices across the industry, they’re leaving a smaller, cross section of the trucking industry untouched. This comes with a slight sigh of relief as the rest of the industry continues to resist against the ruling. With the deadline for ELDs drawing closer and companies trying, and failing to repeal the mandate, other avenues for fast and timely deliveries need to be considered.

This is Where Expedited Shipments Can Help

Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

Unlike most other freight that moves with routine regularity, expedited freight has a nature of its own. Consider the timing aspect of it. The whole idea behind expedited freight is that it should be picked up and moved off quickly. A solution for anything from a shortage of parts to a peak season order. Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

In addition to the change in time and pace, there’s also the consideration that expedited freight might have some irregularities that aren’t found in normal day to day hauling. For example, the product that needs to be delivered might be going to an urban area. This usually means that ramps and docks aren’t an option, so the driver needs to have access to the right equipment to get the freight loaded or unloaded. There’s also a variance of cargo from one delivery to the next.

the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight.

In short, the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight. It needs to be quick, versatile and most importantly, available.

The BlueGrace Expedited Solution

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

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

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you.

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

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

Need An Expedited Quote?

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

How Shippers Should Already Be Prepared For The Holiday Season

Do you smell the pumpkin spice in the air? If you close your eyes, do you hear the faint jingling of bells in the distance to be? That’s because the holiday season is approaching. And, it’s approaching fast.  The busiest time for all, logistics companies, retail stores as well as shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers. If they are properly prepared, they can take advantage of having their items on the shelves faster for consumers to buy and reap the financial benefits. However, if they aren’t prepared, they could find themselves in a world of stress trying to find carriers to move their freight. – So, what can shippers do to prepare?

Plan For Unexpected Events

Remember while planning for the holiday season that it’s an incredibly busy time filled with unforeseen events. More people will be on the roads to visit their friends and family, and with more people on the road, more wrecks occur. More wrecks, more traffic jams, may cause your freight to be delayed.

Also, the holiday season usually packs a cold punch with winter storms creating dangerous conditions for drivers that could even keep them off the road for a few days. Be sure to track the weather before scheduling shipments around winter storms.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate. One common mistake we experience time over time is the misclassification of freight. Minimize these errors by using a density calculator.

Compete With Larger Shippers

WalMart and Amazon are two of the biggest powerhouses in the world during the holiday season and can make it difficult for smaller shippers to offer competitive rates. Often times carriers can be lured away to make deliveries for these larger shippers on a seasonal basis.

We’ve seen this way too often. To be able to compete with larger shippers and keep their products moving, small and medium-size companies will have to offer and pay higher rates for carriers. If this story rings a bell, consider partnering with a 3PL. More often than not, 3PLs can provide better service and competitive rates.

Carriers enjoy working with 3PLs because they consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling.

They can do so as they have an extensive network of carriers. Carriers enjoy working with them because 3PLs consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling. Plus, the fact that they move such a high volume of freight that gives them a stronger buying power, which results in highly competitive freight rates.

Reflect On The Past

Think back to last year. Did your entire operation run smoothly with only a few minor hiccups or were you pulling your hair out? Make changes to improve your business from the inside out by locating the problems and finding solutions for them.

Did you have enough manpower to handle packaging and loading extra freight? You may need to implement an all hands on deck policy for the holiday months or hire a few seasonal employees. The key here is to hire good employees to keep your operations running smoothly. Also, consider a preseason training program for new and veteran employees to boost efficiency and minimize mistakes.

Did you have enough office staff to handle all of your paperwork in a timely manner? If not, consider getting a few extra secretaries or finding a way to automate processing all of this information digitally to cut costs and save time. Programs like Quickbooks could really help you transform your office.

Also, check out our latest technologies to see how to improve tracking, addressing, and product listing. By automating your services to become more efficient, you will be able to cut down on document processing time, costly accounting mistakes, and build more productive relationships with carriers.

Are You Ready? The Holidays Are Coming

Prepare your business now for the holiday madness!

 

 

A Brief Explanation Of Freight Classing For Engines

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A part of BPO, business process outsourcing is the transportation of product. A manufacturer can make the best, fastest engines in the world, but then a reliable transportation partner will be needed to help get this shipment from point A to point B. There are many issues with FBAP or Freight Bill Pay and Audit when it comes to the classification of products. Here is a short explanation on getting the proper NMFC code and freight class for engines and transmissions.

There are over 10 different NMFC codes for various engine types that can cause confusion during the initial stages of the shipping process.

Internal combustion engines are a highly complicated and valuable piece of machinery to ship; with over 10 different NMFC codes for various engine types that can cause confusion during the initial stages of the shipping process. These engines fall under a specific NMFC code though (NMFC 120800) and require you ship them in certain conditions. You need to ask yourself quite a few questions and discuss them with your shipping representative before you ship your engines. This could determine the shipping cost and freight class of your shipment.

Questions you should ask include:

  • Is the engine new or used?
    A used engine must not work and can only be used for salvaging or reconditioning. If the engine is repaired or refurbished, it qualifies as new. Used engines fall under a different NMFC code and freight class.
  • Is the engine drained of all liquids?
    The engine is not allowed to be shipped until it is drained of all liquids, except those necessary to prevent rust, corrosion or other damage.
  • How is it being packaged?
    The way the engine is packaged is another factor in determining the freight class. The simple difference between mounting on a wheeled shipping carrier and shipping on racks or cradles can create a large difference in freight rates.
  • What is the released value of the shipment?
    The released valuation is another large factor in determining the freight class of engines and must be given at the time of quoting, as well as notated on the bill of lading.

These guidelines only apply when shipping internal combustion engines, NOI, so it is important to make sure you have all the correct information before you book your shipment.

If you have specific questions about your engine shipment, please contact a qualified shipping representative today at 800-697-4477. We also have freight class experts available to answer your NMFC and freight class questions. Looking to book your engine shipment? Request an engine shipping quote today!

Guaranteed vs Expedited Shipping

Every day shipments are booked for pickup with LTL carriers, and on occasion those carriers get overloaded and miss the pickup. A serious problem arises when that freight was time critical, such as a manufacturer waiting on freight from their vendors to finish a product. In cases like this, we have seen plants shut down until the freight arrives.

One way to help prevent this situation from occurring is a guaranteed shipment. By placing a day guaranteed on your shipment, the LTL carrier will be responsible if the freight misses that guarantee. They are much more inclined to pick up freight with guarantees attached to avoid paying the freight charges.

In case a carrier does miss the pickup on a time sensitive shipment, an expedited shipment may be required.  A dedicated carrier is called in to move the freight. This carrier picks up the freight and drives straight through until it arrives at the specified delivery location. Shipping costs for Expedited Freight can become expensive, as you are paying for a dedicated truck. However, when you compare the costs of expedited shipping versus the cost of shutting down the manufacturing plant, it may be a bargain.

Freight traveling cross country may require an air rate. When the freight is sitting in Laredo, TX and needs to be in Boston, MA by 10 AM the next day, the freight must be sent by air. This can be very expensive as airline space is very limited.

BlueGrace Logistics are the experts in expedited situations and the phrase our LTL representatives typically hear is “you just saved my job!” The worst feeling in the world as a customer is knowing that your job may be on line if the freight does not arrive. When you have a hotel opening in New York on Saturday and the drapes are still in Alabama on Thursday morning, that sinking feeling in your stomach will not go away until the freight arrives. On Friday morning when the customer calls to say “Thank you! You saved my job!” there is a feeling of significant relief for them – which is the best feeling for our company.

Avoid the stress and don’t play with chance, setup your next time sensitive shipment with BlueGrace Guaranteed services.  In the event you need expedited help, BlueGrace can help you there too.

 

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BlueGrace Logistics Sponsors Carlos Condit in UFC Welterweight Championship TOMORROW NIGHT!

BlueGrace Logistics is proud to announce that we will continue the sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Interim Titleholder Carlos Condit continues as the fighter competes in the year’s most anticipated UFC Welterweight Championship matchup against George St. Pierre. The live event will take place tomorrow, November 17, 2012 at The Bell Centre in Montreal and will be broadcast on UFC 154!  BlueGrace Logistics has been heavily involved with the sponsorship of MMA fighters, cross-branding the sport with the services of a transportation logistics provider.

“We are proud to sponsor Carlos Condit because he is a driving force representing good sportsmanship and work ethic,” says BlueGrace President and CEO Bobby Harris. “As we grow and continue to add new stakeholders to the organization, it’s important for us to have a role model who works hard, plays hard and can share a story of success. Condit does that for BlueGrace.”

We hope you’ll join us in cheering on Carlos Condit! Join the conversation on Twitter by following @carloscondit and mentioning @mybluegrace!

If you want more information on this fight or on BlueGrace, please call 1.800.MY.SHIPPING!