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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:

Why e-Commerce is now “Talking Shop”

Retail has undergone a radical evolution over the past few decades. When Amazon first appeared online, it was little more than an online bookstore which then piggy-backed toys for now extinct Toys-R-Us.

As e-Commerce began to gain ground, sites like Amazon were a good place to shop for a wide assortment of things you might need around your house. As the e-Commerce disruption to the brick and mortar store continued, you could launch Amazon from your phone, to shop or compare prices on the go. Now, e-Commerce goes a step further with voice-driven shopping, otherwise known as conversational commerce.

“The past year has been a decisive year for voice-driven Conversational Commerce – consumer purchase of products and services via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. While earlier restricted to chatbots accessed via messaging apps for shopping, the definition of Conversational Commerce has significantly expanded with the arrival of voice-based personal assistants, presenting brands with an opportunity to build greater intimacy with their customers,” according to an article from Capgemini.

The Growth of Conversational Commerce

Being able to shop from the comfort of your home on a computer or a smartphone is certainly a convenience. Being able to build a shopping list just by talking is even easier. That’s probably why Capgemini’s survey concluded that 40 percent of consumers would likely be using a voice shopping method over visiting a website or using an app within the next three years. Additionally, 31 percent will likely choose to use a voice assistant over physically visiting a shop or a bank branch.

When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

As the system is fairly intuitive, simply speaking what you want added to your shopping list. Given the ease of use, it’s no surprise that 51 percent of consumers are also voice assistant users for things such as purchasing. A voice assistant can also perform a wide array of other functions such as calling for a ride on Uber, making payments or sending money, or even ordering takeout for dinner. When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

A Personalized Customer Service

Typically, having to interact with a robot when you’re calling customer support can be an irritating process at the best of times. Interestingly enough, 1 in 3 respondents of the Capgemini survey said they’d be willing to replace customer support or in-store shop sales support with a personalized voice assistant to enhance their in-store shopping experience. While that might seem like a negative aspect for retail stores, it’s shown to actually increase brand loyalty as well as average spending by an additional 8 percent per order.

With this new wave of technology, retail stores are being presented with a truly unique means of increasing both their customer service and customer satisfaction. Companies that can create a dynamic and positive voice shopping assistant experience will be better able to serve their customers while increasing business at the same time. That’s not to say that human-based customer service will be completely phased out in the near future.

While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

While a voice assistant is nice, it’s human empathy that can really make a person feel at ease when they have a problem. Many retailers are focusing on customer service as a means of increasing their business. This becomes increasingly important as many industries are turning towards automation to boost efficiency. While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

Logistics is a perfect example of this. When a shipper is having an issue trying to find a shipment, an automated call menu might be the last thing they want to hear. Having a human operator or customer service representative close at hand to help troubleshoot issues has always been vital, perhaps even more so now with the abundance of new technology. Because of this, retailers will have to learn to navigate the line between multi-platform digital solutions and good-old-fashioned human interaction. Voice assistants will be able to bring a lot to the table, connecting both companies to other companies and consumers to everything in new and exciting ways. This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

BlueGrace Cares

BlueGrace provides world class customer service and makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, feel free to contact us using the form below:

The Long Bumpy Road to Blockchain in Trucking

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

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

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

Privatized Blockchain for the Industry

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

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

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

…and The Seemingly Never-Ending Capacity Issue

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

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

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

 

Source: Next Autonomous

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

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

The Blockchain Obstacles  

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

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

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

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

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

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

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

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

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

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

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

More Returns Than Ever

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

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

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

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

Why Returns Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How BlueGrace Can Help

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

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

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

The Digital Pathway to the Logistics Industry’s Future 

Make no mistake, digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry. For an industry so vital to the entire world, the freight industry has been rather stubborn to change its ways. Sticking by the tried and true, fax machines whir and phones ring off the hook as shippers try to connect to carriers, book freight and make sure their goods get from A to B in good condition. For the last several decades, that has been the industry standard, until recently that is.  

We are witnessing a technological revolution as the freight industry finally moves to the present age. Digital services are changing the game, increasing mobility, visibility and information alike. While this change might be coming in with fits and starts, make no mistake, it is coming, and the world is changing as a result.  

Digitalization is Reshaping the Industry 

We are already beginning to see the emergence of highly automated vehicles in many applications, paving the way for those that will be fully autonomous. Warehouses are beginning to incorporate robotics and automation, reinforcing the efforts of human labor and expediting what is typically the most time-consuming process of the freight industry. Blockchain is producing some prodigious effects in terms of information technology and logistics planning. Even e-Commerce is an industry that is picking up speed and outmoding the standbys of brick and mortar stores.  

All of these changes, advancements, and innovations are being brought about by digitalization. 

It’s the capacity of both the storage and the ability to share data that will be the driving force behind the revolution of the transportation industry. That capacity will mean that there is never an empty or impartial load; the most optimal route will always be chosen, and a number of other variables will be predetermined before the order is even sent.  

Digitalization will be what drives innovations in a number of integral supply chain functions while adding new ones such as platooning, load matching and eco-driving. All of these innovations will focus on increasing efficiency without the need to reduce capacity. This means that even as demand rises, the supply chain will be ready to carry the load.   

The Effects of Digitalization on Legislation 

Of course, digitalization can do more than simply make the supply chain more efficient. There is also an enhanced regulatory effect that can be gained from it. While regulations are typically viewed with a negative connotation, such as the Electronic Logging Device mandate, there are some upsides to it as well.  

Digital documentation can help streamline the process in a number of different areas. Compliance with federal regulations like the Hours of Service ruling can be easily done through the ELD. As the mandate was originally designed to make roads safer by removing fatigued drivers, an ELD can be a quick and easy way to show compliance while providing other useful information to both the carrier and the shipper.  

Reduction of physical paperwork can also expedite customs processes, which are notoriously tedious and can drastically slow down the transportation process. With less back and forth on the phone and easy access via a digital platform, the necessary information can be shared quickly and easily, reducing the time and potentially costly penalties for non-compliance. This is just one of the many potential applications for digitalization of the industry.  

A Digital Infrastructure for an Automated Future 

When considering the potential scope of digitalization in the freight industry, it is necessary to understand that it’s not just a handful of companies or even countries that are participating in the technological revolution. It is the industry, as a whole, worldwide. While these little nuances and conveniences might seem novel now, they will inevitably become the industry standard in the near future.  

Digitalization, however, is only the beginning. It is establishing the framework and infrastructure for which all other innovations are being built on. For any of this to work and succeed, it is going to be a continued collaborative effort as an industry to both embrace and adapt to the new way of doing things. — Digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry.  

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

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

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:

BlueGrace Logistics Awards 2017 Innovator of the Year to project44

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

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

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

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

 

About project44

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

Learn more:

 

About BlueGrace Logistics

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

 

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