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supply chain

A Bright Future for Intelligent Logistics

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

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

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

The Growing Web of Interconnection 

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

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

Building On the Infrastructure 

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

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

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

The Growth of E-commerce and Digitization 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offering Intelligent Logistics To All Customers 

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

Change Is Coming For The Trucking Industry

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

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

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

New Changes for the Trucking Industry  

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

New Technology in the Industry 

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

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

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

The Role of Automation 

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

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

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

New Regulations will Change the Supply Chain 

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

Change to Affect More than Just Transportation 

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

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

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

Ready for the Change? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Supply Chain Services 

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

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

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

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

How Does this New Category Affect Policy? 

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

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

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

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

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

Are you part of the supply chain talent pool?

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

Choosing the Right 3PL to Align with Your Business Strategy

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

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

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

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

Start with Carrier Partnerships

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

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

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

Door to Door deliveries

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

Experience matters

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

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

Do the services match the requirements?

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

How many modes?

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

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

How’s their customer service? 

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

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

Is your 3PL BlueGrace?

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

Surviving the Digital Race: What to Watch for in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

What to Watch for 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supply Chain Management 

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

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

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

How BlueGrace Can Help in 2018

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

Identity Theft is On the Rise, and Cargo Theft Might Not Be Far Behind

Identity theft is among the most insidious forms of crime. Not only can it mean a person loses their livelihood, but for an enterprising criminal it could just be a stepping stone for an even bigger target. What sort of targets would criminals be aiming for after stealing an identity? How about truckloads of cargo.

When you consider the amount of information people post digitally, there is a lot of sensitive data out there, just waiting to be taken. This is especially true when you consider the number of cyber attacks that have happened this year alone. The Equifax leak, for example, can be ruinous when you consider what can be done with a little credit information.  In fact, no one really knows just how extensive the security leak really is nor will we know just how many people have been affected by it. However, for freight companies, any form of identity theft could be catastrophic.

Identity theft is on the rise and cargo theft could see a drastic increase as well.

How Identity Theft Could Mean Cargo Theft

When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc.

It seems like a bit of a leap to go from identity theft to cargo theft. After all, when someone steals your identity, that just means they tap your bank accounts and maybe open a credit line, right? Not exactly. When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc. In terms of cargo theft, the scheme, as laid out by The Associated Press,  goes like this:

Thieves assume the identity of a trucking company, often by reactivating a dormant Department of Transportation carrier number from a government website for as little as $300. That lets them pretend to be a long-established firm with a seemingly good safety record. The fraud often includes paperwork such as insurance policies, fake driver’s licenses, and other documents.

Then the con artists offer low bids to freight brokers who handle shipping for numerous companies. When the truckers show up at a company, everything seems legitimate. But once driven away, the goods are never seen again.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good. Here are some other interesting facts pointed out by Adrian Gonzales of Talking Logistics.

  • The average value of cargos stolen by fictitious pickup was $203,744 vs. $174,380 per incident for cargo thefts overall during the study period, a 17 percent differential.
  • The commodities most frequently targeted for fictitious pick-ups are foods and beverages, electronics products and metals.
  • Over half of fictitious pickups occur at the end of a week, on Thursdays and Fridays when the main concern of shippers and brokers is in meeting a delivery date and satisfying the customer.
  • Fifty-five percent of all reported fictitious pick-ups from 2011 through 2013 occurred in California. Significant fictitious pick-up activity has also been reported in Florida, Texas and New Jersey.

Cargo Theft Rates are Falling, but the Cost is Rising

While cargo theft rates have been falling from 2016 to 2017, the value of goods being stolen has been steadily increasing.  Cargo thefts fell for the third consecutive year in terms of reported incidents, but the value of the stolen goods rose 13.3% to $114 million, according to 2016 data from CargoNet.

“There were 1,614 incidents in the United States, including cargo theft, heavy commercial vehicle theft, and supply chain fraud. Thieves stole cargo in 836 cases with an average value of the contents at about $207,000, based on the 554 thefts with an assigned value. It represented a 7.7% decline in cases year-over-year and a 10% drop since 2014. The other 282 cases didn’t include a value for the cargo,” says an article from Transport Topics.

“However, the total value of the stolen cargo, $114 million, is greater than the $100.5 million in 2015 and $94 million in 2014,” they added.

What Happens to Cargo Theft Rates when Identity Theft Rises?

For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

As it stands, we’re still unsure as to how extensive the fallout from the increasing rates of identity theft will be. While cargo thefts have been in decline over the past few years, we might see a rise thanks to the number of vulnerable identities. For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

“Law enforcement has done an outstanding job responding to strategic cargo theft. But it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Not only will the groups pop up in different areas, but cargo thieves will bob and weave away from where the attention is from the police and private industry,” said Scott Cornell, second vice president and crime and theft specialist for Travelers’ Transportation business.

there’s no such thing as being “too careful”.

With the wave of cyber attacks, and now the rise of identity theft, there’s no such thing as being “too careful”. Know who you’re working with, and use a reputable broker to make sure your freight makes it to it’s intended destination.

 

 

What Is The Current Status Of Trucking Capacity?

A sudden increase in freight demand throughout the United States might put shippers in a difficult position for capacity and price later this autumn.

According to the American Trucking Association’s’ (ATA’s) Truck volume leaped 7.1 percent in August from July, and 8.2 percent year over year, the ATA said Tuesday. ATA revised July’s tonnage index, increasing it from 0.1 to 0.5 percent.

Tonnage Gets An Added Boost

“Tonnage was stronger than most other economic indicators in August and more than I would have expected,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “However, prep work for the hurricanes and better port volumes likely gave tonnage an added boost during the month.

“I suspect that short-term service disruptions from when the storms made landfall, as well as the normal ebb and flow of freight, could make September weaker and tonnage will smooth out to more moderate gains, on average,” he said.

Some of that 7.1 percent surge, however, may just be a seasonal adjustment.

Some of that 7.1 percent surge, however, may just be a seasonal adjustment. August is often a light month for tonnage as freight demand typically doesn’t start picking up till the fall. With such an increase taking place in August, ahead of schedule, that will push the seasonally adjusted index higher for the month. With the huge 10.5 percent uptick from July to August for unadjusted tonnage, that means that more, heavier freight was being shipped across the U.S. during August.

While this is good news for carrier, it could mean a rough season ahead for shippers. This increase in tonnage will likely mean tightened capacity for the fall. Additionally, shippers could be facing the biggest rate increase since 2014. 3PLs have been noting for months that capacity has been tightening as the economy improved.

The Effect of Disasters on Trucking

The devastation left in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma is also having a significant impact on the trucking industry. Combined, the hurricanes have done almost $300 billion in damage, which has lowered U.S. economic growth by 0.8 percent in the third quarter.

Considering the damage alone, it’s no surprise that reconstruction demand will be taking the lion’s share of the trucking capacity that would normally be used to serve more general needs.

“Hurricane Harvey will ‘strongly affect’ over 7% of U.S. trucking during the next two weeks, with some portion of that fraction out of operation entirely, according to an analysis by freight research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence,” says Fleet Owner.

While the disruption was more or less contained around the epicenter of the damage, there is an effect that is going to be felt across the country.

“Due to the already tight nature of the truck environment, that means that loads could be left on the docks, according to Noël Perry, one of FTR’s partners. And though the largest ripple effects of Hurricane Harvey will be “regionalized” where freight shipments are concerned, transportation managers across the entire U.S. “will be scrambling,” he added.”

“Look for spot prices to jump over the next several weeks with very strong effects in Texas and the South Central region,” Perry said in a statement. “Spot pricing was already up strong, in double-digit territory. Market participants could easily add five percentage points to those numbers.”

The State of Capacity

As far as the current state of trucking capacity goes, shippers will have to deal with a considerable constriction as the industry contends with the natural disasters and the reconstruction effort. With a considerable jump in demand from July to August and the “peak” season starting early, shippers will also have to contend with the largest rate jump in years in addition to the tight capacity. Simply put, shippers will have to make smart moves if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

 

 

Introducing MatrixIQ in BlueShip

MatrixIQLogo

BlueGrace Logistics has announced the launch of MatrixIQ and SkyView, proprietary features within BlueGrace’s BlueShip software. MatrixIQ is game changing software that enables automated pricing strategy logic that dynamically adjusts pricing triggers in reaction to customer tendencies. The end result creates optimum pricing options. “The agility of the software combined with systemized logic is what we’re most excited about,” said BlueGrace CEO, Bobby Harris.

 

The additional release, SkyView, is the new business intelligence within BlueShip that provides customers access to quick, informative data to run their business. “SkyView is capable of creating powerful reports in a few easy steps at a fraction of the time needed previously. Customers of all sizes are going to love this feature,” said Justin Belcher, CIO of BlueGrace

BlueShip’s new rate screen is the industry’s most progressive feature, using systemized logic to create a simplified carrier selection process. The rate screen uses systemized logic powered by Matrix IQ to give BlueGrace customers a robust platform of information needed to compare carrier price, delivery and service options. Other features include our 5 Star Carrier Rating System, carrier service grouping & consolidation, & new tool tips with optional hidden visibility!

MatrixIQ_RateScreen

You can get a demonstration of BlueShip via YouTube here.

 

You can also request a BlueShip Account here.

Must Arrive By Delivery Date Dilemma: A BG Case Study

SCENARIO:

Tremendous growth leads to challenges related to the distribution of this rapidly expanding health and beauty products distributor. With much of their business moving toward “big box” retailers, the need for carrier management would be required to fulfill the commitments made to their clients. The true cost of doing business seemed more complex than fulfilling orders.

 

MUST ARRIVE BY DILEMMA (MABD):

With vendor scorecards dwindling, and charge backs against purchase orders mounting, the need for a better solution was apparent. From numerous carrier meetings, to drive on time compliance, to costly upgrades in service levels, the trend continued to show little improvement. Lead times were not an issue, and inventory levels were manageable, yet carriers could not seem to comply with the Must Arrive By Date (MABD) displayed on the BOL. Purchase orders were being shipped with ample lead time and in most cases, early with guaranteed service at a premium. Even with upgraded service, the carriers would refuse to refund the charges since they were delivered “on time”, per the standard transit. BlueGrace began by analyzing the data and scorecards to determine root cause of the issue, and set a baseline for current state performance. Next, an assessment of ERP integration capabilities was performed. Through minor customization, the potential for real-time connectivity to BlueShip TMS was an opportunity. This connection would allow BlueGrace to receive incoming orders from specific clients and apply custom business rules to achieve the Overall goal. No matter when the order was received, BlueShip would effectively route the “Best Value Carrier” AND provide the most optimal ship date. This meant that each order, once approved within the ERP, would be rated and routed; with a Wal-Mart approved carrier, at the lowest cost, with standard service and shipped on the day that would best fit that carrier’s network to allow for a delivery within the specified MABD window. Our client showed a 90% reduction in charge backs within the first 60 days of implementing this program. Combined with the dedicated support at BlueGrace proactively tracking each flagged order, the company received the best scorecard performance in recent history.

 

FREIGHT COST ALLOCATION:

The next phase consisted of reviewing what the true cost of each order was when freight cost was allocated. BlueGrace analyzed the average freight cost as a percentage of sale. This percentage was incorporated into the product cost to determine pricing to the end customer. BlueGrace knew there was opportunity to drill down and allocate a freight cost not only at the customer level, but the customer location, customer location type (Direct to Store or Distribution Center) all the way down to the SKU level. Since freight cost was not passed to the client, this would either show a net margin loss or show opportunities to reduce the freight cost allocation to become more competitive. The result highlighted regions that were more costly to ship to, products that did not have enough margin potential to validate shipping cost and insight into regions of the country that would benefit from an additional warehouse location.

Continued Growth:

BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. Our expertise and processes provide our clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost eduction through our procurement and dedicated management.

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

Are You Prepared if a Natural Disaster Disrupts Your Supply Chain?

Although the Weather Channel forecasts a below-average hurricane season in 2012 – there is still uncertainty and history says you can never be too prepared. As Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro instructs,

“people in hurricane-prone areas should be equally prepared every year regardless of seasonal outlooks.”

So what can your business do to prepare this hurricane season? Our team has outlined a few simple procedures to integrate throughout your entire supply chain to help you be proactive and prevent potential loss.

Flooded city hurricane aftermath
Flooded street in the Soho area of Manhattan from last year’s Hurricane Irene. Source: http://bit.ly/LhejIK
  1. Team: Are you prepared if your team is short-handed? Remember that cell phones, email, land lines, etc may become unavailable, which can cause great confusion. To avoid this stress, be sure to have multiple channels to communicate important messages and announcements to your staff. Satellite telephone systems offer a reliable form of communication for your immediate staff members.
  2. Customers: If/when your business is notified of a potential storm, let your customers know immediately so that they can plan ahead and adjust their inventories. Are there any products or materials that will be high in demand before or in the aftermath? The key is to remain flexible.
  3. Supply Chain: Daily operations and supply chain processes can be complicated very easily in the presence of severe weather. An easy way to prepare is to run through best and worst case scenarios with your team so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and how to respond quickly and effectively.
  4. Suppliers: Do you work directly with a single supplier? Is the business located in a hurricane prone area? If so, plan ahead with the supplier and ask how they have prepared to provide services or products in times of disaster. It’s also a good idea to maintain good relationships with multiple suppliers especially if you find yourself in a pinch.
  5. Freight: Be prepared to make special arrangements for your shipments. If the roads are dangerous, truck drivers will be pulled off for safety. An easy proactive measure is to schedule your freight shipments earlier or work with a logistics provider to see if there are any alternative routes. Keep in mind port availability. In the case of heavy rain and flooding, your freight may not be able to move. Consider all modes of transportation.
  6. Insurance Provider: Be sure to have a copy of your policy and get any questions answered from your provider so you’re not left wondering.
  7. Data: Backing up your data is critical. In today’s global economy, businesses function on computer systems and databases. Be sure that your business documents, records, etc are stored at an off-site location.
  8. Community: Once your business has a backup plan, reach out to others in your community and share your tips and advice on how you prepared your business for a natural disaster. Hint: You can start by sharing this information!

No matter how many hurricanes, tropical storms, or natural disasters occur – it only takes one to impact our communities and cause major disruption. Get a plan started today and re-evaluate periodically, especially if severe weather is on the way.

We hope that these hurricane preparedness tips and reminders are helpful to your business. Of course, it is our hope that you will never have to put your plan into action. If you would like more information on how to formulate your own plan, build a kit and get involved, check out this natural disaster preparedness resource from FEMA.

 

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

Logistics, MMA and the Power of 140 Characters

If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA), you may have seen the BlueGrace® Logistics logo slapped on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC®) fighters’ shorts. You might ask yourself, “Why is a logistics service provider sponsoring this sport?

Carlos Condit (left) kicks Nick Diaz in the main event of UFC 143. Photo by Esther Lin via MMAFighting
BlueGrace Logistics sponsors Carlos Condit in Interim Welterweight Championship UFC 143. Source: http://sbn.to/AD4W26

MMA is one of the fastest growing sports today and the fighters demonstrate admirable character and values (not often seen in other sports). Not to mention, the UFC has made a huge impression on the sports industry as whole through its social media madness! Although professional MMA fighting is banned in certain states, that hasn’t stopped the UFC from growing its devoted fan base. In fact, the President, Dana White, embraced the power of Twitter for branding and fan engagement. He invested in a media agency to teach the fighters how to use the social platform and instructed them by saying, “I want you to Twitter your *** off!”

Like Dana, President and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, Bobby Harris, is an enthusiastic advocate of Twitter. Last year, Bobby championed an open social media policy for all BlueGrace employees; instilling trust to represent the brand, all BlueGrace employees complete a Twitter boot camp and social media training in their first week of employment. They’re educated on the power of social media, how to engage and build relationships, and why it is part of the #BGExperience. BlueGrace employees (fighters) interact with customers (fans), partners, and their fellow peers via Twitter.

BlueGrace Logistics Open Social Media Policy
BlueGrace President and CEO, Bobby Harris, teaches Twitter 101 to employees.

It is our mission to provide businesses with the tools and technology required to power their logistics operations in a seamless and efficient manner. We believe that social media provides a forum for open discussion with employees, customers, and partners; where industry experts can ask questions, find answers, and build meaningful relationships.  Social media is the future of supply chain management and logistics – its real-time information sharing capabilities are critical. As the UFC Social Media Manager says, “You can reach anyone, anywhere in the world.”

Watch how we’ve even incorporated mixed martial arts into our corporate training program. Are you or someone you know looking for a career? Get to know BlueGrace and join our team of logistics professionals!

Dana White and the UFC are to be commended on their commitment to social media and for demonstrating what #GreatnessIs … just ask their millions of die-hard fans! The UFC and BlueGrace Logistics made the critical move and experience the power of social media and business everyday – has your business?

Share your social biz story with us! Have you started? Are you way ahead of the game? Do you believe in the power of 140 characters? We want to know!

-Samantha Hill, Community Manager
Twitter: @SamHill_BG

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!

Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Transportation: Earth Day 2012

To commemorate Earth Day 2012, we believe a proper “shout out” to Mother Nature is in order. People say the driving force behind the nation’s economy is the trucking industry. That’s a logical rationale considering nine million people help transport eleven billion tons of freight annually. In regard to these figures, BlueGrace® Logistics asks not only what the freight and shipping industry can do for you, but what can transportation do for the planet?

Sustainability efforts do not come in a one-size-fits-all box, here are methods to shrink your carbon footprint and reduce waste on either end of the supply chain!

Shippers/Warehousing:

      • Motion sensors:Only illuminate
        Shipping Pallet Garden Wows Visitors at the Canada Blooms Garden Festival
        Shipping Pallet Garden
        areas when a truck or other vehicle is actually present at the pickup point.
      • Solar panels: Utilize natural energy and light from the sun, thus reducing energy consumption, or… add a skylight!
      • Packaging materials: Biodegradable packing peanuts made from renewable resources are a great aid in the quest for sustainability. Companies such as StarchTech, produce packaging alternatives that dissolve in water after use.
      • Pallet-sharing programs: Thousands of pallet recyclers buy/sell pallets to create a comprehensive retrieval network. If a pallet cannot be reused for shipments, grind it down to reuse as mulch, animal bedding, or create a pallet garden!

Drivers:

      • Speed Reduction: The easiest (and safest!) step to take. Reducing your speed from 75 to 65 saves up to 27% of fuel and reduces carbon emissions by approximately 31.5 million tons!
      • Idling time: If you’re on a long haul that requires overnight rest, take advantage of truck auxiliary units or truck stop electrification systems to heat or cool your truck instead of wasting diesel while in idle.
      • Accessories and Equipment: Low viscosity lubricants can be used to reduce friction. Monitoring tire pressure regularly is also an efficient step towards fuel-economy.

Carriers:

      • Aerodynamic/engine modifications: Install aerodynamic panels on trailers and replace older engines with new, environmentally friendly engines.
      • Alternative fuel: Biomethane gas emits 50% less carbon than current diesel standard and is derived from organic matter in landfill sites. Coca-Cola Enterprises was the 1st in the logistics sector to invest in biomethane trucks.
      • Collaborative distribution: Merge different loads destined for the same end point to maximize trucking efficiency.

It’s easy to take a pro-active hold on the planet’s future. If you or your company is “Going green” we’d love to hear from you! Comment below and tell us about the steps you’re taking to make a difference!

BlueGrace takes pride in its involvement with the community and sustainability efforts. Several carriers in our network are SmartWay Certified. Naturally, a 3PL is a green solution to manage your logistics needs as BlueGrace operates from web-based systems or cloud computing thus reducing paper waste, consolidates your freight bills into a single invoice, and allows you to select the best carrier to move your goods – saving you green!

Let’s reduce the carbon footprint in your supply chain together! To learn more about how BlueGrace can help increase efficiencies in your logistics processes, shoot us an email or call 800.MY.SHIPPING today!

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

Cocoa Collaborators Exemplify Holiday Spirit

Hershey and Ferrero Group collaborative distributionSo the holiday season is upon us once again. ‘Tis the season of love, laughter, and generosity of spirit. While candy canes and mistletoe are abound, one more important element comes to mind. It’s the element that makes perfect stocking stuffers and the element that continuously gets sent to BlueGrace Logistics and ends up in our break room. The one that seduces the indulgent heart of ladies everywhere and it’s certainly not sugar plums. That’s right—rich, creamy chocolate. In the true peaceful spirit of the holidays, two goliaths of the chocolate world, Hershey Company and The Ferrero Group joined forces in October in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint on the world–what a match made in chocolaty heaven. The competitors allied together through joint warehousing, transportation and distribution. Joy to the world! Now if only they could celebrate by giving out samples of their yummy goods everywhere (Merry Christmas to me)!  Hershey, alone ships over 100,000 outbound refrigerated truckloads annually. Holy toothache, batman!

I read in a manufacturers survey that, in unions such as these, supply chain savings and new growth are high atop the priority list of many large global manufacturers. About half of companies surveyed said reshaping supply chains was a top priority. Though collaborative distribution is indeed a growing trend (across all industries), adoption is slow and is still very much under-utilized in my opinion. For middle-market companies that lack the volume to ship in full truckloads, this method just seems the sensible alternative. With fewer deliveries, less road congestion, reduced energy use and more efficient receiving at the retailer’s distribution center, it’s much more economical and mutually beneficial for both parties involved. Who wouldn’t want to save money while saving the planet?

So, I think these “green”, confectionary trailblazers are setting a terrific example for fellow shippers in their supply chain operations. My hope is that this distribution model will become more of a standard in the future of logistics. All I’m saying is that if Santa Claus could strike up some kind of collaborative supply chain deal, that jolly old man could end up back in the North Pole with his feet up and out of those boots a lot faster and maybe afford to give those elves a raise too.

Are you jumping on board the “green” train this holiday season? Any collaborative distribution plans in the near future? Comment on this blog and let us know!

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow me @BG_JennyD

Daily Transportation and Logistics News – June 28, 2011

Smaller Shippers Bumping Up Supply Chain Budgets

A survey conducted by LTL freight carrier Saia has found that shippers are planning for rate hikes and energy spikes. The less than truckload carrier’s first online survey of small to medium sized shippers found 46 percent of the respondents plan to spend more on LTL trucking.

Diesel Price Falls to Near Four-Month Low

The average price of diesel fuel across the US plunged 6.2 cents in the past week to the lowest level in nearly four months, bringing relief to an industrial sector that has been struggling with higher energy costs.

ATA reports seasonally-adjusted tonnage is down 2.3 percent in May

Following a revised 0.6 percent decline for its advance seasonally-adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage in April, the ATA reported that the same index dropped 2.3 percent in May. This decline continues a trend of uneven freight transportation volumes amid various economic indicators showing signs that the economic recovery has lost its footing in recent weeks especially.

Transport Capital Partners survey points to tight capacity and higher rates over next 12 months

While there is a current moderation in freight volumes, the consensus from a Transport Capital Partners (TCP) survey appears to be that this moderation will not be lasting, with 80 percent of survey respondents indicating trucking volumes will increase within the next 12 months.

Consumer spending was weak in May, due to high gas prices

Consumer spending was unchanged last month, the Commerce Department said Monday. That was the worst result since September 2009. And when adjusted for inflation, spending actually dropped 0.1%.

Governor’s SunRail decision could come this week

This could be the week the SunRail commuter train gets back on track or gets derailed, like so many other mass-transit plans for Orlando. Gov. Rick Scott, who put the $1.2 billion project on hold in January, has said he will decide by Friday what to do with the 61-mile system that would link downtown Orlando with Volusia, Seminole and Osceola counties.

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

Who is really in control of your Supply Chain?

In light of the seemingly endless reports of economic instability and companies digging their heels in with a wait and see approach to the future, many have put a emphasis on cost cuts and control.  From eliminating entire departments within an infrastructure to canceling the annual Christmas party, the impact of these changes can be felt on many different levels.  I have worked with clients during this time to drill down into the fine details of their business and help develop a solution that will prevent reducing their workforce or eliminating company functions that could inhibit the degradation of a company’s culture. 

A common area for improvement has been the inbound supply chain and routing process.  It is surprising how many companies either ignore the inbound component of their business or place all of the responsibility in the hands of their vendors.  It is common practice for vendors to utilize “shipping and handling” as a profit center to their customers.  In the most extreme cases the client felt they had a better deal than the competition in terms of the cost of the raw material, but failed to realize that the vendor was actually selling their product at a loss just to make a profit off the freight charges.

Another opportunity for additional control has been routing the inbound through a specialized team within our organization to set up checks and balances as well as follow proper routing procedures that have been set by the client.  There are many occasions where the vendor has requested expedited delivery at the expense of their customer in order to meet one of their own deadlines or contract agreements.  Would you allow any outside party to have access to your credit card or bank account without complete control over each transaction?  Freight is commonly one of the most impactful costs that most businesses must control and having a new set of eyes develop a customized solution will benefit the company, employees and culture.

– Jason Lockard, Director of Enterprise Sales
Follow me @BGJLockard

Thinking Lean

Last week I attended a webinar on Lean Supply Chain. One concept they discussed was Lead Time. In manufacturing this is generally thought of as the time between placing an order and receiving the product. But at BlueGrace this could take many forms. Lead time could be the time a quote comes in until it has been quoted. It could be any request from a customer or employee. It could be a request from management down the chain of command. It can be just about anything.

The lecturer used the following math formula:
LEAD TIME = VALUE + WASTE

Pretty simple stuff. Lead time equals the value placed on the object by the customer plus wasted time/movement etc. Waste has no value to the customer. Like any mathematical equation if lead time is constant and you increase waste what happens to value? It goes down. Conversely how do you increase value? By lowering waste.

Per the lecture the Ultimate Business Model looks like this:
Supply Lead Time + Manufacturing Lead Time + Outbound Logistics Lead Time  needs to be < Customers Lead Time (this is Built to Order)

Most companies fail at lead times and have to forecast (guess). Their model looks like this:
Supply Lead Time + Manufacturing Lead Time + Outbound Logistics Lead Time  > Customers Lead Time (This is called Inventory)

How does all of this apply to us? Honestly, I haven’t totally put my finger on that but my gut tells me this is important. Lets look at our process when handling a request from Bobby. For example, he told me to manage a particular area of the business.

The optimum design would be:
The time it takes for me to complete (This is Lead Time) = Value (this is the value Bobby places on the request) + Waste (this is me asking someone to get me a list, go through the list, wait for responses, meet to make decisions).

Nothing in the waste category adds ANY value to the customer (Bobby), he just wants it done. In this equation, if we reduce waste (remember, for this equation Bobby’s value is a constant) what happens to lead time? It goes down! The very cool thing about this type of equation is reducing waste does two very big things.

  1. It reduces lead time.
  2. It increases value!

I am about to start a course in Lean Six Sigma. Hopefully,  I will learn more about lean concepts and how it can apply to us but for now please consider this blog and think about the simple equation
LEAD TIME = VALUE + WASTE
This article is worth reading, A Lean Office Eliminates Waste and Saves Time.

Randy Collack, COO
Follow me @schmengieBG

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