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technology

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!

ELDs Are Coming Fast! Some Facts & Predictions – Infographic

Countdown to the ELD Mandate – December 16th 2017

It is time to plan for the ELD Mandate as a freight shipper, if you haven’t already. When the electronic logging device mandate takes place, many shippers will be caught off guard with shipments taking longer than expected due to the restrictions put in place on drivers.

We thought it would be beneficial to show some fast facts and predictions about ELDs that we originally published in 2016. What do you think about the new requirements? Are you ready? If you have any questions feel free to contact your BlueGrace Representative today.

Click the image below for a larger version or download the PDF version here and feel free to share.

The Future of the Highway Steering Towards Platooning

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Volvo is leading the way for advancements in connectivity in the United States. Goran Nyberg, President of Volvo, states connectivity is “changing the industry and the way we work and the way we communicate.”

“Platooning” is the term applied to a convoy of trucks electronically linked to a lead truck with an active driver. Testing in Europe since 2009, Volvo has found the trucks boost fuel economy by reducing wind drag and lessening the workload for drivers.

“How many people question who is running a big aircraft today? It’s fully computerized, and a pilot is governing the environment,” Nyberg said.

A predictive cruise system that can conduct a 360 scan of the surrounding area is also under development. In a video simulation, a cyclist was spared because the truck took over emergency control to avoid an accident.

If legislation is approved, platooning in the U.S. could be a reality in five years.

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.

What is EDI and how does it work?

What is EDI and how does it work?  This question is asked to me every day.  I am not an expert in the technology field, but I do understand the terminology and the basic functions of the EDI cycle since I have been involved in setting up all of our carriers/partners so that they can communicate with our BlueShip™  system via EDI.  I came across this short paragraph that will provide you with some understanding of the EDI cycle in the transportation industry.  Furthermore, I have listed the technical definitions for each of the EDI codes.  

The typical cycle for Transportation is as follows:

A vendor sends a Motor Carrier Shipping Information document (EDI 204) to the cartage firm to specify that there is a shipment to be picked up. The cartage firm sends a Response Load Tender (EDI 990) to the vendor, specifying if they will pick up the shipment. When the shipment is picked up, the cartage firm may send back the status of the shipment to either the vendor or the ultimate receiver in the form of a Motor Carrier Shipment Status Message (EDI 214). The triggering of this document being sent can be pre-arranged (the parties will make an agreement of when the status is sent) or either the shipper or the ultimate receiver can request a status by sending a Motor Carrier Shipment Status Inquiry (EDI 213). Once the shipment is completed, the cartage firm sends the Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice (EDI 210) to the vendor to pay.

 EDI 204 – Motor Carrier Shipping Information-EDI 204 is used to tender a shipment to a carrier and/or forward the shipment details to a carrier, consignee or third party. It provides the carrier (and/or third party) with a detailed Bill of Lading rating and scheduling information pertinent to the shipment. Its basic use is to be an initial shipment tender between shipper and carrier. It can be used as a Load Tender (telling the carrier when to pick up the goods) or a Bill of Lading (specifying to the carrier what exactly is to be picked up.  The usual procedure is to send EDI 204 to the carrier. The carrier will respond with an EDI 990 (Response to Load Tender), which specifies that the carrier will pick up the goods.

 EDI 990 – Response to Load Tender-This transaction is sent by the motor carrier in response to a shipper sending the carrier a Load Tender (EDI 204 – Motor Carrier Shipping Information document with the Load Tender option).  The document will contain the carrier’s acceptance, conditional acceptance or a decline, if they decline to accept the load tender. It can also contain the reason for the conditional acceptance or the decline of the load tender.

 EDI 213 – Motor Carrier Shipment Status Inquiry-This transaction is used to request the status of a shipment from a motor carrier on a single shipment or a set of shipments.  It may be sent to the carrier by the shipper or the ultimate receiver of the goods. This document is an ad-hoc request for the status. If the carrier and the shipper and/or receiver have a set schedule for responses (in the form of an EDI 214 Motor Carrier Shipment Status Message), then this document is never sent.

 EDI 214 – Motor Carrier Shipment Status Message-This transaction is used to pass information relating to the status of an assigned, loaded-en-route, or delivered shipment. It is sent from the carrier to either the shipper or the ultimate receiver. It may be sent as a response to an EDI 213 (Motor Carrier Shipment Status Inquiry) or at regularly scheduled intervals. The carrier may also send it if there is a change in the shipment status (e.g. the truck is delayed in customs).

 EDI 210 – Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice-This transaction can be used as an Invoice to request payment for services rendered or as details pertaining to freight shipment charges. An Invoice will typically be sent for each shipment.  

*information/definitions taken from http://www.logistics-edi.com/

Mike Sumnick, Director of Operations 
Follow me @msumnickBG

RFID Tag You’re It

Technology continues to evolve faster and faster and it is impacting every industry including transportation.  As someone who has spent their career working in the technology field, I strive to stay up to speed on the latest changes in technology, especially those that have a direct impact to my industry and me.  I see technology empowering businesses to become more efficient, secure, and more profitable.  Of course technology can bring new problems such as different security concerns but if developed and implemented correctly, the advantages can greatly outweigh the disadvantages.  One technology that has actually been around for a while but is beginning to be much more widely used is RFID.  RFID, which stands for Radio-Frequency-Identification, is the system that allows products to be identified and tracked with radio waves using a tag applied to the product and an external reader.

RFID is becoming more popular in the transportation industry by providing better efficiencies and security.  RFID can provide better security to help companies have more visibility of their shipments and detect any tampering with the shipping seal.  RFID can also help shipments gain green lane status while going through inspections.  Better security can also aid productivity as shipments spend less time in inspections and there are fewer chances of having problems in customs.  Productivity and efficiency can also be increased in other ways with RFID by providing better identification of shipments and fewer errors.  Companies can lose track of shipments in large warehouses or container yards when the ID numbers are written down incorrectly forcing staff to waste time searching for the lost shipment.  One company mentioned they have two to three employees searching for lost containers every day.  Even locations that use barcode technology to eliminate manual errors can increase efficiencies with RFID since it takes time to scan a barcode of each item whereas a RFID reader can identify all of the items at once allowing the employee to move onto to the next shipment much quicker.  RFID can also help improve a company’s profits by increasing customer satisfaction thereby increasing the chances of future purchases.  When shipping products to customers, mistakes can occur when the employee has to manually prepare the shipment and manually verify that the shipment is complete.  If the products contained RFID tags, the shipment could be verified against the order before leaving the facility that it is complete and contains the correct products ordered by that customer.

The examples above are just a few of how RFID can be used to improve business processes today and I’m sure we will continue to see new ways this technology can be used in the future.  The question is, how can RFID be used to improve your business?

Justin Belcher, Vice President of Technology
Follow me @JBelcherBG