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Is Your Supply Chain Ready for NAFTA Changes?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is about to be on the block for renegotiation. Possible changes from the renegotiation can take on many forms including, but not limited to: 

  • Adjustments to the Rules of Origin for Product Content  
  • More-stringent Labor Standards,  
  • Possible withdrawal return to World Trade Organization most-favored-nation tariffs.  

These potential changes to NAFTA will all have serious and important implications for the supply chain as well as the profitability of U.S. based manufacturers and exporters. However, as negotiations are still ongoing, a lot is uncertain about the outcome of these negotiations including the outcome and possible consequences for companies. As these changes can be offset or made worse by currency adjustment, there are more than a few company executives that are watching the events with bated breath.  

One of the biggest changes is the “border adjustment” which could cause such a currency fluctuation.“The proposed “border adjustment” that is part of a tax reform package Congress is debating could cause the U.S. dollar to appreciate relative to other currencies. Under the plan, companies would not be able to deduct the cost of imports from their revenue, a move that today enables them to lower their overall tax burden. At the same time, exports and other foreign sales would be made tax free,” according to the Harvard Business Review. 

Unfortunately, the uncertainty is causing a great deal of hesitation among U.S. business leadership teams as no one is quite certain how these changes are going to play out.  

He who hesitates, is lost.” Joseph Addison’s Cato 

As the old maxim goes, waiting for a more clear picture of the future could have disastrous results for the supply chain and the bottom line for many companies. So what steps should you be taking to prepare your operations for the NAFTA renegotiation?  

Hope for the Best and Prepare for the Worst 

“Successful companies thrive in uncertainty by incorporating change into their strategy. Leadership teams can limit the negative consequences of a possible NAFTA withdrawal and currency moves by adopting an approach that anticipates several future scenarios. This approach also applies to companies based in Mexico and Canada, as well as other countries, such as China, with trade agreements that may be vulnerable to U.S. political upheaval,” HBR advises. This is doubly true given that the Trump administration has been implementing trade tariffs which are being met with equally difficult conditions from U.S. trading partners.  

As with most aspects of the supply chain, flexibility and agility are going to be the key to success.

As with most aspects of the supply chain, flexibility and agility are going to be the key to success. Companies will need to focus on the risks that matter most to their operations and engage in a continual cycle of execution, monitoring and, most importantly, adaptation. Continuing to progress and evolve during these volatile times will prevent stagnation and allow companies to react to challenges rather than trying to run damage control.  

Actions to Consider 

There are a number of ways that these changes and uncertainties can be mitigated. Companies with a better reaction time will fare better than those who are slow to react, giving them an edge over their competition. Companies should develop and have plans to implement a response to any of the aforementioned changes to NAFTA.  

These are the three main directives suggested by Bain and Company, a Global Management Consultancy based out of Boston, Massachusetts.  

  • No-regret moves. Some actions will increase a company’s competitive edge, no matter what scenario plays out. They include improving cost management or operational effectiveness in procurement, supply chain, and inventory management. NAFTA renegotiations heighten the urgency to look for new operational efficiencies, as they give companies greater flexibility to face new treaty restrictions. For example, a retailer that becomes more efficient will have the option of not passing on cost increases to consumers — without hurting its profit margins. 
  • Options and hedges. Leadership teams that develop strategic options and hedges for a variety of future scenarios navigate better when new developments unfold. These could include expanding procurement options or increasing volume sourced from competitive local suppliers. For example, back when NAFTA was being negotiated, several Mexican companies, such as auto parts supplier Rassini, seized the opportunity to invest in modernizing their operations so they could expand beyond their local customer base to compete globally. One option today is automating operations to some degree. If NAFTA is repealed, it would be easier to move a partially automated production line back to the U.S. than a highly manual line. The option value lies in the cost of moving, relative to paying the border adjustment and higher World Trade Organization import tariffs that would kick in under the withdrawal scenario. 
  • Big bets. The most challenging balancing act involves large-scale investments that have different payoffs depending on how future uncertainties play out. Any company that keeps its supply chain and manufacturing footprint plans for North America may be making a big bet, and management teams should assess their investment plans from this perspective. Companies could go even further by expanding production capacity or switching suppliers from foreign- to U.S.-based companies. Or they could make a contrarian bold bet, as is being contemplated by Ammex, a disposable-glove distributor based in the U.S. that sells to labs, hospitals, and other companies around the world. Ammex is looking to invest in e-commerce and double down on Mexico, a key developing market for the firm, while nervous competitors draw back from the country. If a big bet looks too risky to take immediately, companies can wait for greater clarity and move quickly once changes look likely. 

Given that most companies have the technology in place to monitor such changes, they should also be able to map out appropriate responses to them as well. Armed with the right intelligence at the right time, a savvy company can make moves to put them ahead of the game and still come out profitable even with the incoming tariffs. 

Quick response and right thinking strategies will win out the day as these new trade deals are brought into the light.

The full effects of NAFTA changes are unknown and will be for a time. Mexico is pushing to have the deal finalized with the Trump administration by the end of August, but the long-term effects on supply chain speed, costs, and inventory could take years to manifest fully. Between changes to NAFTA and the tariffs, successful companies will need to embrace radical change as part of their day to day operations. They will need the tools in place to anticipate and respond to a multitude of possible outcomes faster than the competition and before any such outcome can be finalized. Quick response and right thinking strategies will win out the day as these new trade deals are brought into the light.

How Can A 3PL Help?  

No matter the situation, we are the experts here to simplify your freight needs and give you the visibility needed to stay ahead of the game.

BlueGrace helps our customers navigate through the many obstacles that can occur in their supply chain. No matter the situation, we are the experts here to simplify your freight needs and give you the visibility needed to stay ahead of the game. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or feel free to fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today!

Driving Down Supply Chain Costs with Mode Optimization

The term “optimization” is thrown around often in the logistics landscape. It’s true, optimization is an indispensable part of a well-run business model. Of course, every business owner wants their operations running as tightly and efficiently as possible, but the footwork required to determine how to optimize your business’s operations and see tangible results is often easier said than done.  

Our Webinar discusses the typical LTL network and differentiates between less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload and the factors companies should consider when deciding which alternative is best for a particular shipment.

In our Webinar “Driving Down Supply Chain Costs with Mode Optimization,” Brian Blalock, Senior Manager of Sourcing Strategy at BlueGrace, discusses the typical LTL network and differentiates between less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload and the factors companies should consider when deciding which alternative is best for a particular shipment. Both have their advantages and weaknesses, but one may suit the business better depending on the kind of freight being transported, the location or origin and destination. While the decision is sometimes considered arbitrary, in order to optimize your operation, i.e. lower cost and maximize profit, it is crucial to consider the following factors. 

LTL vs. Full Truckload

LTL shipments must be 12 linear feet or less, usually 5000 pounds or less, and are “typically consolidated with other freight from other shippers,” Blalock said, continuing that they are identified by class and that the structure, and that pricing can be very complex because it is determined by product class, distance and weight. Typically, it costs less than a full truckload, an obvious appeal to any shipper. 

Fewer claims of damage occur with truckloads than with LTLs.

Fewer claims of damage occur with truckloads than with LTLs. “Why?” One might ask. It’s simple. Blalock uses the example of witnessing luggage being boarded into the belly of an aircraft; people rarely handle a stranger’s items as gently as they would their own. In conclusion, the “less handling of freight, the less damage to the freight,” Blalock says. Since LTLs require more stops and handling, more damage is incurred to LTL freight than full truckload on average. 

When shipping a full truckload, your freight is the only thing on the trailer, so transit time is only contingent upon the required breaks for drivers and the time between pickup and delivery locations. The freight never has to leave the truck because it travels directly to its destination, so truckload shipments tend to arrive faster than LTL shipments, while at the same time, incurring less damage. 

When to Not Ship LTL?

LTL loads should be the choice for shippers dealing in smaller quantities at a time as carriers charge by weight and volume, but may not be the optimal choice at every juncture. In order to determine which mode is right for your operation, create business and shipping rules around factors like weight, volume, time constraints, and cargo sensitivity of your shipments. You need to consider the rate at which damage may occur in your LTL shipments. How much does it really end up costing you at the end of the day? In knowing this information, you will be better able to decide in which case you need to opt for a full truckload, and which you are able to go with an LTL. 

If the margins are tight on your product, the last thing you want is another cost eating away at your bottom line.

Another key is understanding how business decisions affect OTIF (on time in full). “If you ship to Walmart you can’t show up late, you can’t show up early, and you can’t show up incomplete,” Blalock said. “Any of those that you do, typically, [are] about a 3% ding to the cost of the entire invoice.” If the margins are tight on your product, the last thing you want is another cost eating away at your bottom line. “Likewise, if you continue to not hit your dates, you’ll find that you can lose valuable shelf position, and you won’t be shipping to Walmart anymore.” Blalock says to consider using different carriers for different shippers to this end: “The choices that you build into your business rules include choosing the right type of carrier every time,” he said.  

Supply Chain Engineering

“Understand that we are following the linear rules of the carriers,” Blalock says. “Build the rules of your freight around your tariffs.” Blanket rate pricing main type associated with the LTL market. Customer specific pricing is negotiated on your behalf when all of your capacity is going to a single provider, which is typically preferred for shippers with a larger freight spend. BlueGrace negotiates specifically customer-by-customer to determine which suites the customer better. “If you’re in Montana or the upper peninsula of Michigan, sometimes you may just want to pay the more expensive LTL cost,” he said, due to the fact that market is more remote, and competition between carriers is less apparent. 

Identifying consolidation opportunities is the key to the cost-reducing aspect of optimizations.

Identifying consolidation opportunities is the key to the cost-reducing aspect of optimizations. BlueGrace’s software is designed to help clients consolidate unnecessary costs in their unique supply chains. One measure that BlueGrace uses is a center of gravity study, which considers various origin points and points of destination and calculates where each region should ship from to find the fastest route at the best cost. “You want to be able to take advantage of the ability to choose the right mode every time and drive down costs. If all things are equal, an FTL is going to travel much faster … and [incur] less damage to freight,” Blalock said. “If time is no issue, if the freight is indestructible,” then LTL could be the best option for you. 

Click HERE to watch the full Webinar and learn more about tariffs and fuel surcharges associated with costs. If you would like to speak to one of our freight experts, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

Bluegrace Logistics Begins Hiring for New Downtown Chicago Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JULY 23, 2018

 CONTACT:

Michelle Damico michelle@michelledamico.com 312.423.6627

Bluegrace Logistics Begins Hiring for New Downtown Chicago Office

Opening date for new Chicago Board of Trade Building office is set and hiring search has begun

CHICAGO,ILLINOIS — BlueGrace Logistics, a nationwide third-party logistics (3PL) provider, announces the official July 23, 2018 opening of their new Chicago office in the iconic Chicago Board of Trade Building, 141 W. Jackson Blvd. The BlueGrace Logistics recruiting staff is currently deep into their search for both experienced sales professionals and recent college graduates in Chicago who are looking for a new and exciting opportunity in the rapidly growing Chicago market, which the industry’s Journal of Commerce described as a high-tech logistics magnet.

BlueGrace Logistics is grateful to Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his warm welcome as we establish our downtown presence to best serve new and existing customers.

“In opening their Chicago office, BlueGrace Logistics recognizes that they will have access to world-class talent,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago’s innovation and talent pipeline ensures that companies doing business in the city can benefit from our globally-connected, diversified economy.”

Applications are being accepted for 80 new employees who will be occupying the Chicago Board of Trade office over the next year, more than doubling BlueGrace’s workforce in the Chicago metropolitan area. These sales professionals will support the nationwide operations for the company. BlueGrace Logistics’ Itasca, Ill. office will also remain open and currently has 65 employees.

“We’re excited to be downtown and bullish on Chicago because it’s a rich source of talent and resources for BlueGrace Logistics,” said Bobby Harris, CEO. “Being in the Board of Trade gives us greater access to college grads who want to work and live in a vibrant city. Plus, as the nation’s logistics hotbed, Chicago has a deep pool of experienced tech and sales professionals to serve our customers and to fuel our growth, not just in the metro area, but nationwide,” he added.

The freight industry continues to increase in complexity with tightened capacity and other shipping requirements. Because of this, more companies are seeking BlueGrace’s industry expertise and ability as a 3PL provider to access to many different carriers, routes, and modes of transport at competitive prices. Increasing customer needs offer huge opportunities for talent in the logistics industry from sales to information technology. Chicago has long been a hotbed for both of these industries, making the downtown location perfect for their rapid growth.

About BlueGrace Logistics:

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the largest third-party logistics (3PL) providers in the United States.  With over 500 employees and working with over 10,000 customers to provide successful shipping solutions, the company has achieved explosive growth in its nearly 10-year operating history.  Backed by a $255 million investment by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the company operates 11 locations nationwide, and its headquarters are in the sunny Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

 

Bobby Harris, President and CEO

The Importance of Retail Compliance in Today’s Market

Logistics and supply chain management has become a very tight game, almost cutthroat in its harsh severity. Consumers want their product today, that means that retailers want it delivered, checked in, and on the shelf yesterday. With the ability to order just about anything a consumer could possibly want from the vast online marketplace, brick and mortar retailers have to run an even tighter ship than they have before if they have any hopes of competing. To that end, some retailers are upping the ante and doling out punishment for shippers who aren’t in compliance.

So what can you do to maintain retail compliance? What about improving your operations to make your company more efficient? We covered these and many more topics in a recent webinar including:

  • Weekly Product Planning
  • Proactively Managing Appointments
  • Planning Optimal Shipping Dates
  • Eliminate Reactive Shipping
  • Creating an Internal Scorecard
  • Learning to identify Real Issues and Actionable Items
  • Improving Communication and Cooperation among Multiple Departments
  • Daily Tracking Updates
  • Full Visibility on Actual Deliveries
  • Learning to Identify Preferred Carriers
  • Utilize Upgraded Carrier Service Levels

Here are some of the key highlights from our webinar that can really have an impact on your business. While this doesn’t cover everything, these elements are vital to running a successful business in today’s marketplace.

Visibility is a Must

One of the key points that the webinar focuses on is visibility. Keeping up with retail compliance is more than just making delivery deadlines. The amount of disruptive technologies and customer expectations hitting the field requires a level of visibility that was, until recently, unheard of.

Customers want to know where their product is during transit. They want to be able to track its progress, start to finish until the product is in their control. More than that, they want to know the status of the product itself during transit. While this might not matter quite so much for clothing and other domestic goods, it plays a huge role for sensitive goods such as electronics and food items.

Being caught out of compliance could result in more than just heavy fines, it could result in a total shutdown of business and operations, which is ruinous for smaller companies.

Earlier this year, the FDA passed the Food Safety Modernization (FSM) act which details the requirements for sanitation, cleanliness, and closely monitored temperature control. Being caught out of compliance could result in more than just heavy fines, it could result in a total shutdown of business and operations, which is ruinous for smaller companies. This is one of many reasons why visibility is so vital to companies in their day to day operations.

OTIF and MABD Requirements

Walmart, one of the biggest retailers in the United States, is just one of many companies that are tightening their expectations for their suppliers. Walmart’s On-Time In-Full (OTIF) policy has set a precedent that will actually fine shippers and suppliers if goods don’t arrive when they are supposed, whether that be early or late. This means that shippers and carriers need to work closely together to hit the designated delivery window.

Must Arrive By Date (MABD) and OTIF are crucial for the changing client expectations.

Must Arrive By Date (MABD) and OTIF are crucial for the changing client expectations. Given that Walmart is such a substantial customer for many suppliers in the United States, making deliveries on time and in full is the difference between making a tidy profit, or losing out on a major customer. Additionally, chargebacks could carry a heavy fine, especially for smaller companies. As it stands, Walmart will penalize shippers by 3 percent of the total PO for any late or incomplete shipments. It’s not just Walmart that’s stepping up the regulations either as more companies continue to tighten their delivery windows.

We covered the importance of having someone managing these new requirements as well as questions that need to be answered. Are shipping dates being planned into production times? If there’s a mistake resulting in a delayed shipment, will you be able to identify where the mistake happened? What plans are there in place to reduce potential chargebacks and improve vendor reliability?

Better Planning Means Better Compliance

Planning is a large part of logistics, and being able to enhance planning is another touchstone of what we covered in our Retail Compliance Webinar. For example, what do you do if a truck breaks down while en route to a delivery? Is your company able to catch it with enough time to make the deadline? What about finding carriers with an open capacity to move product? Is your company able to find space, even when capacity gets tight?

These are a few questions that logistics planners and decision makers need to be asking themselves on a regular basis. Reactive shipping, planning a shipment due to a shortcoming of the original agreement, is a risky practice. There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re already trying to play catch up. Much like maintenance on a piece of machinery, waiting for something to break is always much worse than fixing something before the breakdown actually occurs.

While there are a considerable number of possibilities to consider when trying to be proactive rather than reactive, it’s becoming easier to be proactive with the advancements of visibility and supplemental technologies.

The supply chain is very much the same. It requires a good deal of forethought to keep it flowing smoothly. If, for example, you don’t have a dedicated carrier fleet, will you have the necessary capacity to keep freight moving in a timely fashion? While there are a considerable number of possibilities to consider when trying to be proactive rather than reactive, it’s becoming easier to be proactive with the advancements of visibility and supplemental technologies.

That level of planning is no longer a novelty or a nicety for customers. It’s becoming a requirement as well as a differentiator among suppliers. Companies who are playing it too conservatively will have a harder time meeting retail compliance than companies who are staying abreast of the changes as they occur.

Staying Compliant

Changes in transportation regulations, tightening capacity, new technology hitting the market, higher spot rates and higher levels of demand from customers and consumers. Any one of these can be hard to navigate by itself, but trying to deal with all of it at the same time can border on the impossible.

Ultimately, everything we covered in our webinar is about helping your company to stay compliant and perform better across the board. From internal operations to external executions. Everything is connected and we broke it down for you. Click HERE to watch our webinar about retail compliance and learn more about how you can be successful. Ready to speak to an expert? Fill out the form below or call us at 800.MYSHIPPING

The Search for a Supply Chain Solution

Supply chain management has always been an essential part of running a successful business, but now the rules of the game are changing. In order to stay ahead of these changes, the supply chain needs to become better organized, more flexible, and able to adapt to whatever is coming down the road.  

Compliance, for example, is becoming a big concern. Trucking companies are being hit with some heavy rules and regulations, such as the ELD and the HoS mandates, which can limit the efficiency of freight transportation. The EPA has passed new regulations regarding carbon emissions which also need to be contended with. Not the least of which is the change in demand and expectations of the customer. Everything is moving at a much more accelerated pace. Consumers aren’t content to wait for two weeks when they think they should have it in two days.  

Handing these changes appropriate does more than making your company more efficient. It raises your overall customer service experience which is vital to the day and age of social media where bad publicity and losing a customer to the competitor is just a tweet away. Legacy systems and the old-school methodology has gotten us this far, and it’s not going to cut it in today’s market. So what needs to change? 

Supply Chains: Out with the Old and In With the New 

Looking back at those legacy systems, they’ve worked for a considerable amount of time, so what’s wrong with them now? Ultimately, they’re clunky and slow to move. Companies need the ability to change and adopt new strategies quickly, be it a capacity shortage or a bottleneck in materials. Legacy systems support a certain rigidity which, back then, was fine. A customer could wait a little longer for a part, piece, or item to be delivered. Now trying to stick to the old ways runs the risk of hindering growth, costing more in both business and expenses, and could put the future of the company itself in jeopardy.  

Unfortunately, many of these changes in demand for the supply chain are coming at a time where IT budgets are being cut back. The end result is that more money is being spent on maintenance and upkeep rather than overhauling and innovating these systems. It’s not much better for new companies, however. Having to shell out a considerable investment in new systems and technology might prove too dear a price for a company that doesn’t necessarily have the extra capital to throw around.

Realistically, what we need is a new approach to this problem

Realistically, what we need is a new approach to this problem. A new way to push both innovation and differentiation from the competition. A scalable solution that can be moved up incrementally as a company is able to both adapt and afford these changes based on needs and goals for the supply chain.

Modern Flexibility 

Another interesting thing to note is that these changes are coming at a much faster pace than we’ve ever seen before, and they aren’t showing any signs of letting up or slowing down.  

Customer and consumer expectations are growing and changing. They want newer, better, and faster, and they want it delivered quickly in a way and location that is convenient for them. Couple that with the fact that new startups and companies are hitting the field daily, and it’s easy to see how a rigid supply chain could spell out disaster.  

Aside from looking to incorporate other systems or looking to a 3PL to help troubleshoot your supply chain, the only other alternative is to get left behind.  

Speaking of newer companies, many of them are already hip to these marketplace changes. They’re starting the game with a scalable and more agile approach to their supply chain which makes them a heavier competitor, despite being new to the game. While changing over to the latest versions of system software and new functionalities can help keep pace with the competition, it’s both, time consuming and expensive. Aside from looking to incorporate other systems or looking to a 3PL to help troubleshoot your supply chain, the only other alternative is to get left behind.  

Visibility is a Must 

Today’s supply chain is a global construction in the majority of cases. Crossing over borders and oceans creates a new level of difficulty that we haven’t seen in the past. Customs and regulations, translations and transportation issues, demurrages and delays, any and all of these events can severely slow the supply chain down and rack up some hefty surcharges in the process. This is one reason why enhanced visibility is an absolute must. It not only helps a company to mitigate risk but helps to reduce costs while raising profitability.  

Visibility, however, remains one of the more difficult bridges to cross for many companies.

Visibility, however, remains one of the more difficult bridges to cross for many companies. Much of a companies information is buried and when systems aren’t communicating, it makes true visibility seem all but impossible without dedicating substantial resources to it. However, a lack of real-time visibility means that almost every area of your business could be affected. Production costs, product design, customer satisfaction and compliance all rely on a high level of visibility. 

Finding the Right Solution 

Having the right solution in place for your supply chain can take many different forms, but all of them share a few key characteristics.  

Agility: The ability to change to new demands quickly is vital. The right solution should be able to highlight and identify weak spots within your organization and supply chain and help you to create a plan to fix it.  

Ease of Use: The solution shouldn’t create more problems. Having a system that is excessively complex or difficult can bog down the process while leaving existing issues unfixed. The right solution should cut the processing time down and help you get your freight on the road faster.  

Completeness and Connectivity: When it comes to shipping freight, your solution should be able to handle it all. Whether you need to manage full truckloads, LTLs, or a complete, multimodal transportation and logistics program.  

Cost and Efficiency: Simply put, having a solution in place is one thing, but being able to afford it is something else entirely. Finding the right solution should help to save your company money, not put it in the red.  

Fast, Flexible and Safe Deployment: A total systems overhaul can create some serious issues. Deploying a solution needs to be able to be performed quickly and seamless so as not to disrupt the day-to-day operations that keep your company running.  

How BlueGrace Can Help 

Of course, there are numerous systems and solutions out there that all promise to meet your needs when it comes to improving your supply chain. But not all of those solutions are created equal, and no one fits all. Also bear in mind, when the system fails or is unable to handle your requirements efficiently and professionally, your operations can come to a screeching halt.  

BlueGrace offers a different approach to upgrading the supply chain that is both innovative as well as easy to integrate. When you’re looking to keep freight moving, BlueGrace is there to help. With our TLC approach, we take the time to make sure that your supply chain is flowing smoothly and you’re turning your operation into the best, most efficient business it can be. To speak to one of our experts and find out more about BlueGrace and how we can help provide you with the solution to your supply chain needs, fill out the form below or contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING

Produce Season and How It Affects Capacity

 

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

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

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

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

Produce Season Is a Busy Time 

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

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

Truckers Feeling the Weight of The ELD 

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

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

Supply and Demand: A Double-Digit Rate Spike  

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

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

Roadcheck Week Had Carriers Scrambling 

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

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

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

Work Smarter Not Harder  

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

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

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

The Inner Workings of Overnight Shipping

E-commerce has radically changed the way we look at shipping. When Amazon first got off the ground back in 1997, waiting a week or two for a book was par for the course, and that was assuming that the item was being shipped domestically.

Now, waiting a week or more is almost inconceivable. The modern consumer expects rapid deliveries that border on the level of impossible back in the inception of e-commerce. Even now, the two-day delivery is breaking way for the next or even the same-day delivery.

Warehouses and order selection are being automated. Deliveries are being made by ride-sharing companies, drones, and delivery robots. Parcels are moving through the stream from start to finish at break-neck speeds, and all the while e-commerce continues to push the envelope for delivery times.

While this means that there has been considerable growth and evolution of the supply chain, there are certain aspects of the old school methodology which are still in play even now.

How Overnight Shipping Actually Works 

Package delivery is kind of like a race. When a customer places the order, the starting gun is fired and the clock starts ticking. But rather than a marathon or a cross-country run (even though most packages are, in fact, going cross country), it’s more like a relay race.  

As it stands, most major packaging companies use what’s known as the hub-and-spoke method for deliveries. A package gets dropped off at a drop point (Post office, FedEx or UPS locations, etc.) and is transported to the nearest cargo-shipping airport. From there, the package is flown to the nearest hub where it is unloaded, sorted, and reloaded back onto the next plane to continue its journey. Once the package reaches the target airport (sometimes requiring a third and final flight for truly rural locales) it’s loaded onto a truck and either sent to a sorting facility, or straight on to the last mile of the delivery.  

While it all seems fairly standard practice at this point, we have to consider that this hub-and-spoke method really only came about in the 1970’s when FedEx founder, Frederick W. Smith proved the efficiency behind the concept.  

Memphis: The Super Hub 

Interestingly enough, the biggest hub in the United States is Memphis, Tennessee. So much so that Memphis is home to the second busiest airport in the world, second only to Hong Kong. This is due largely to the fact that FedEx has set up shop for their super hub in Memphis. With 30,000 employees, the super hub is able to process and ship about 3 million packages a day with an average air traffic flow of 150 planes taxiing and departing nightly.  

Cargo departing Memphis can reach just about anybody in the United States in the optimal shortest amount of time — making it the perfect sorting site for overnight shipments.

So, why Memphis, with a population of 650,000? “Because it’s just a short jaunt from what’s called the mean center of the United States population (located in eastern Missouri). In other words, cargo departing Memphis can reach just about anybody in the United States in the optimal shortest amount of time — making it the perfect sorting site for overnight shipments.

For packages making the trip across the pond, Anchorage, Alaska is the chosen hub of departure for packages going to and from Japan, making it the fourth busiest freight hub in the world.  

What makes Overnight Shipping so Affordable? 

As the idiom goes, a plane in the sky is worth two on the tarmac. Simply put, airlines make money from planes that are in use, but that actually only works for passenger flights. To that end, commercial planes are in constant use.  

Domestic overnight cargo flights, on the other hand, don’t need to be in constant use. Why? Because carriers use much older planes.  

“Many cargo planes fly just one dedicated route every night, basically like a bus in the air. Sometimes they spend just a couple hours in the air each day, and the rest of it they sit around at one end of the spoke or the other. It sounds inefficient, but in fact, the economics of this work out for cargo couriers because they haven’t shelled out huge investment in the first place. They’ve bought retired commercial aircraft—basically a fleet of used cars,” says Quartz.   

The savings alone from repurposing retired aircraft is considerable. According to Avitas, an airline consulting firm, a brand new 767-300ER can run upwards of $200 million. The same model of the plane after 20 or so years of service? Around $9 million. That savings alone means that a cargo plane can be used as needed, waiting to be loaded with cargo to make the run back and forth, and causing considerable less wear and tear in the process versus a passenger plane that has to keep moving for the airline to recognize a return on investment.

Creating a Strong Foundation 

The transition of point-to-point delivery systems into the hub-and-spoke have brought e-commerce a considerable distance, but much in the same way that we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, there’s no sense in getting rid of the things that do work. As the future of the supply chain continues to evolve through this new industrial revolution, we will see more advancements. 3D printing taking the place of manufacturing for on-site building and delivery. Drones that can make drops to your own personal location, be it a park or a parking lot.  

 The demanding future of shipping will be built on the scaffolding created in the past.

The demanding future of shipping will be built on the scaffolding created in the past. As it continues to evolve, the elements that withstand the test of time will not only be evident, they will become foundational for your supply chain. BlueGrace’s freight specialists work with you every step of the way to understand your requirements and set up a solution that’s tailored to your needs. For more information on how we can help you prepare for the future and simplify your supply chain, contact us using the form below: 

The Supply Chain Manager of The Digital Age

 

The supply chain has long been held as the lifeline for any company’s operations. It is the flow of goods and materials necessary for the company to continue to function and operate at peak efficiency. Because of that, supply chain managers understandably need the most accurate information in real-time about what’s happening within the chain. Armed with up to date data, a manager can make decisions about how to proceed in the event of problems, delays, and overall operations.  

Legacy systems that have sustained the supply chain for the past several decades are no longer valid.

However, in the face of new and disruptive technologies, the legacy systems that have sustained the supply chain for the past several decades are no longer valid. They lack the ability to provide the necessary end-to-end visibility required for high speed, lean operations. But it’s not just the tech that’s getting outmoded. Soon the position of supply chain manager might be a thing of the past as well.

“New digital technologies that have the potential to take over supply chain management entirely are disrupting traditional ways of working. Within 5-10 years, the supply chain function may be obsolete, replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end workflows and requires very little human intervention,” according to the Harvard Business Review.

“With a digital foundation in place, companies can capture, analyze, integrate, easily access, and interpret high quality, real-time data — data that fuels process automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics, the technologies that will soon take over supply chain management,” HBR adds.  

Making the Shift 

Some companies are already experimenting with different ways to make the shift into an automated supply chain. Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are already being used to digitize and automate the more labor heavy and repetitive tasks within the supply chain. While this applies to warehouse and distribution center mechanics, such as order picking and selecting, it also applies to front-of-the-house tasks such as purchasing, invoicing, accounts payable, and various facets of customer service.   

The use of predictive analytics is giving companies better insight into upcoming demand which is vital for shoring up in times of demand volatility, as well as making better use of in-house assets, and cutting costs for customer service functions without sacrificing quality.   

Intelligent Design Leads to Smarter Operations  

One of the big aspects of this technological shift is sensor data. The data collected can better monitor machine use and maintenance which can reduce downtime by providing real-time alerts on upcoming maintenance reducing the chances for machine breakdowns.   

Blockchain technology is also growing in both popularity and utilization as a means to radically optimize how different parties collaborate and communicate within supply chain networks. Instantaneous and complete data chains can provide users, end-to-end, with complete visibility of the entire supply chain process from initial components and raw materials to completed products slated for delivery.  

Transportation procurement should also be digitized in order to keep the pace.

Transportation Management Systems (TMS) will also be playing a role in the supply chain shift. Given the newfound agility of the digitized supply chain, it makes sense that transportation procurement should also be digitized in order to keep the pace. Many companies are looking more to 3PLs and intermediaries to find capacity and book freight, trusting in their systems to reduce the time and effort previously required to perform this task.  

As we mentioned before, robotics are seeing a heavier implantation rate for warehouse and fulfillment center operations. Rio Tinto, a global mining consortium, has been exploring automated metal mining operations for the past several years. This would make use of driverless trains, automated trucks, cameras, lasers, and tracking sensors, all of which would allow the supply chain to be managed remotely while improving safety and the need for personnel in remote locations.  

Less Personnel: More Control 

One of the concepts set forth by Rio Tinto and other companies who are taking the automated approach to supply chain management is the “digital control tower.” This is, in essence, a virtual decision center which is equipped to provide necessary end-to-end visibility in real time across the global supply chain. For smaller companies, these control towers have become the command center for operations. For those working in these control towers, it is their job to keep their thumb on the pulse of their supply chain, monitoring the influx of data 24/7 for any inventory shortages, bottlenecks, or literally anything else that could disrupt their supply chain operations.  

The control towers serve as the front line for a supply chain, allowing planners to quickly adapt, change, or reroute the supply chain to correct any of these potential issues before it becomes an actual problem. This works not only for retail companies but for industrial companies as well. “One manufacturer’s complex network moves more than a million parts and components per day. The control tower flags potential supply issues as they arise, calculates the effects of the problem, and either automatically corrects the issue using pre-determined actions or flags it for the escalation team,” says HBR.  “Similarly, a steel company built a customized scenario-planning tool into its control tower platform that increases supply chain responsiveness and resilience. The tool simulates how major, unexpected equipment breakdowns — so-called “big hits” — will affect the business and points to the best risk mitigation actions,” they added.  

Is This the End of the Supply Chain Manager? 

As more and more things turn towards automation, there is always the concern that human positions will be replaced and outmoded. This has, typically speaking, only affected the lower end of the spectrum, those positions that perform the menial and repetitive tasks. However, as the supply chain itself is becoming more and more automated, will we see a need for supply chain managers in the future or will they too be replaced by AI and computers?  

Rather than simply managing people to do the repetitive work, they’ll have to manage the data flows.

 Ultimately, the answer is no. Much like any position that could be replaced by a robot or a computer algorithm, there will always be a need for some human intervention. For supply chain professionals, this will mean focusing on different skill sets in the future. Rather than simply managing people to do the repetitive work, they’ll have to manage the data flows. Analyzing and interpreting the data to make the best possible decision when handling a potential issue. This skill will require learning how to make the most of digital tools, analyze and validate data sets, and make an effective forecast from the data provided.  

It will be the companies and the specialist who can adopt and adapt to the new technologies that will come out on top.

Companies will have to change their approach from the tried and true to the new order. Supply chain management, as we’ve known it from the past is on it’s way out. It will be the companies and the specialist who can adopt and adapt to the new technologies that will come out on top.  

As manufacturing and decision making become more automated, transportation will also be a vital area of focus for companies. Both the supply chain and transportation are in the process of evolving into something completely different from what we’ve seen in the past. Companies will have to adapt, and quickly, to these changes if they want to keep their supply chain flowing smoothly. While the digitization can help with that to some extent, there are some areas in which it will fall short.

A Vital Asset 

Third-party logistics providers will become vital in this disruptive era, helping companies navigate the shifts and changes within transportation logistics as they occur. BlueGrace not only provides clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions, but our proprietary transportation management system, BlueShip, is free!  For more information on how we can help give you the visibility you need and adapt to the future, feel free to contact us using the form below: 

 

Bricks and Mortar: 5 Real Applications of AI To Improve Bottom Line

Many applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for brick and mortar retail seem far off, or too futuristic. We picked 5 of the more accessible applications of AI that could help improve your bottom line this year.

1. User accounts

Brick and mortar stores have often felt disadvantaged when it comes to AI compared to e-commerce retailers. Stores simply do not have the same depth of customer behavior tracking data that Amazon does, for example. However, many AI applications for e-commerce could transfer to physical stores.

With store user accounts, retail brands better synchronize offline and online retail.

The mingling of brick and mortar with online shopping occurs in many ways – such as relying upon location-based services or the use of a universal cart that can be used whether you are shopping on a mobile, desktop or voice-powered device. Omnichannel commerce covers many forms of customer experience – the many touch points a customer has with a retailer. Brick and mortar retail can rely on online data when shoppers set up a user account at the store, or from using click and collect or delivery services. With store user accounts, retail brands better synchronize offline and online retail. This reduces the “separateness between these channels [that] poses a threat to operational efficiencies and adds friction to customers hoping to shop in a seamless and consistent fashion.”

2.Recurring billing

A shift towards recurring orders and subscription shopping services is taking place. Retailers can immediately think of ways to encourage clients to consider their habitual, recurring purchases (laundry soap for instance) and plan for them. In that way, habitual orders can be delivered “on repeat.”

Smaller companies might consider subscription programs to expand customer reach and deepen relationships.

Smaller companies might consider subscription programs to expand customer reach and deepen relationships. With subscriptions, member incentives increase visitors to physical locations (Special offers). An example of a “masterful combination of a subscription program and a sophisticated store network”, is Sephora. Cosmetics are especially suitable as sampling products. Those interested want to try out new products – plus they are small and easy to ship. “Sephora’s PLAY! program offers subscribers access to new products through home deliveries while also encouraging them to shop at their local stores to build up points they can redeem for exclusive prizes and experiences.”

3. Style assistants

AI Style assistants in stores are not too far off, as well as other forms of augmented reality, like voice-activated assistants. Expect changes in the store environment, such as is already happening at Zara. “At Zara’s new flagship store in London, shoppers can swipe garments along a floor-to-ceiling mirror to see a hologram-style image of what they’d look like as part of a full outfit. Robot arms get garments into shoppers’ hands at online-order collection points. iPad-wielding assistants also help customers in the store order their sizes online, so they can pick them up later.”

4. What’s Old is New Again

What is AI really anyway? Retail AI is simply mimicking the original experience of a country store (when an associate would help you, care about you, and talk with you) (personalization), with empathy (care for the customer) and manners.

The bulk of retail revenue continues to be derived from brick and mortar stores. The tactile nature of shoppers’ needs is one of the most important factors of this and why physical retail remains. AI can improve empathy, or sensitivity and understanding of a customers’ point of view – and needs – to scale. As observed by many, “It’s no longer about segmenting customers based on general characteristics such as gender or age. Knowing a consumer’s attitudes and sentiments towards things, favorite day of the week they like to shop, the associate they like to deal with, the price points that they buy at, etc., will help retailers better target their consumers and deliver a great experience.”

Using AI options can begin today, even in the way we remember the original needs of the customer.

5. Logistics & Inventory Management

AI addresses out of stock product head on. With AI solutions, a notification that an item is out of stock, running low or out of place in the store is sent out right away to an in-store associate. Currently, Home Depot’s website offers “a vast array of local store data, such as stock levels down to the number of SKUs carried in a store. If you need 10 items of a specific SKU, you want to know a store has that many before you go. It’s no good if we only have two,’” explains Dave Abbott, the retailer’s vice president of integrated media.

Also, data-driven insights on the logistics end, such as offered by BlueGrace, increase operational efficiency

Also, data-driven insights on the logistics end, such as offered by BlueGrace, increase operational efficiency. Using BlueGrace proprietary technology connects retailers with AI possibilities. After companies undergo a review with a BlueGrace specialist, they are presented with new opportunities for cost savings, such as opportunities to implement predictive analytic technology with certain partners that will factor in weather and inventory levels. This will help direct trucks to different stores as part of an overall supply chain improvement. BlueGrace’s enhanced shipment visibility and business intelligence pave the way for AI initiatives.

For more information on how BlueGrace can help you create visibility and operational efficiency, feel free to fill out the form below or contact us at 800-MY-SHIPPING.

What is Transportation Management Workflow and How Does It Work?

Transportation Management Workflow may be defined as a supply chain workflow that connects and links the various parties involved along the chain from, for example, the seller’s warehouse to the buyer’s warehouse. A professional and effective logistics services provider needs to have an efficient transportation management workflow which follows a logical sequence and has the most effective operational procedures. 

One of the primary requirements would be to operate an effective TMS or Transportation Management System. 

One of the primary requirements would be to operate an effective TMS or Transportation Management System.  The TMS used should be capable of handling various aspects of transport management including needs assessment, effective analysis, integration and management in addition to providing you visibility on inbound products, receiving, storing and distribution. An effective TMS will provide comprehensive data analysis on the current shipping costs and processes which offers you an opportunity to compare your costs and processes versus what is available in the market. 

These analyses can help you optimize your supply chain process and also provide overall cost reduction. Your TMS must also be capable of handling pick and pack operations, product consolidation, replenishment and also final distribution and delivery to the receiver. 

A well designed and effective TMS is of paramount importance in:
  • Reducing freight costs
  • Automating the routing and other internal processes
  • Consolidation
  • Freight audit
  • Improving visibility
  • Tracking costs and delivery

Using your transportation management workflow, you can analyze important business metrics such as class and weight breaks, shipment density heat maps, cost/ton and cost/mile metrics, carrier utilization reports, DC optimization results, on-time performance. 

An effective transportation management workflow will also be able to make recommendations on ways of reducing costs, identifying and controlling the costs per client which will also uncover inefficiencies, if any, in your business model. For example, you may be using antiquated routing methods with your current service providers that need some modernization in order to provide you with a more cost-efficient transportation management program. By conducting engineering reviews into your customer’s data, you will be able to identify inefficiencies within the existing strategy and adopt a more dynamic carrier routing which can result in significant cost savings and reduction in transit time. 

The transportation management workflow must always be evolving as trade is dynamic and there must be constant workflow audits along the various silos within the supply chain.

Tracking and tracing is an essential and vital part of the transportation management workflow

Tracking and tracing is an essential and vital part of the transportation management workflow and the TMS used should be suitably equipped to handle this vital component in the flow. 

While everyone likes to handle their own business especially if you are in the transportation business, sometimes it may just be more cost effective to outsource the transportation portion of the whole supply chain workflow. One needs to do extensive and thorough data analysis of all current costs within the transportation and logistics silos. Such analysis will allow you the opportunity to find ways to save money for your customers but also provide efficiency in operations. An efficient way to reduce costs would also be to negotiate accessorial charges because the various carriers may have different container sizes and types that they use for the transportation.  

You can also use the TMS to plan warehouse spatial planning as your business may need to accommodate various sizes and weights of cargoes arriving in LTL or FTL modes. Using the TMS effectively will also assist in reducing the truck loading and turn around times which in turn will reduce the warehouse overheads in terms of staff overtime, etc. It may also be used to consolidate the booking processes which in turn will result in a consolidated billing process,  reducing the overall time spent doing this activity manually by auditing, reviewing, paying and collecting each invoice. 

History is the best teacher

History is the best teacher they say and in line with this, one also needs to pay special attention to historical freight data. You can analyze the performance levels of the various carriers used, achieve cost savings, and have an edge when it comes to future rate negotiations. 

Conclusion

When effectively used TMS can assist customers to gain efficiencies in improving their service offerings while also allowing them to create scalability in their business processes. Customers, especially shippers, are always looking for ways to improve service delivery and efficiency while limiting the costs. By efficiently managing the transportation management workflow, shippers can address costly challenges like rate fluctuations, hidden charges, track and trace, visibility, etc. From both a functional and cost perspective, effective management of the transportation management workflow provides value to the customer. 

BlueGrace’s Proprietary Technology

Our technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. Our customers are especially impressed with the user experience, which is completely customizable and has real-time updates, giving them a single source tool for tracking, addressing, and product listing. To see a demo and speak to one of our BlueShip experts, fill out the form below or call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING.

A Growing Need for 3PLs

It’s been a rough ride for over-the-road freight transportation over the past few years. Higher levels of government regulations have created a strain for drivers including the Hours of Service and the Electronic Logging Device mandates. These both came at a time that trucking companies were struggling with the pre-existing issue with a severe shortage of drivers. With the median age of drivers approaching retirement age, the condition will likely get worse before it gets better. Additionally, there have been huge fluctuations in both spot rates and demand over the years which have left carriers in a rather precarious situation.  

Despite the difficulties, there is good news on the horizon. Spot market rates, according to DAT and Truckstop.com, have risen upwards of 20 to 35 percent and contract rates have climbed by an average of 8 percent, year-over-year.  

This is good news for carriers, but managing the influx of work could require some extra help from intermediaries and 3PLs. Already, the conversations are beginning about solutions for the generational workforce as well as the adaptation to the increasing levels of disruptive technology hitting the markets.  

Higher Brokerage Margins 

Last year, 3PLs made due with fairly low margins, about 10 to 15 percent for freight transactions. Mostly as a result of vying for the top spot as a low-cost option for shippers who were looking for a truck on the cheap without using a service in the first place.  

Now, in 2018, with capacity tightening, shippers are making a return to 3PLs which will cause third party margins to increase to as much as 15 to 20 percent.

Because of the availability of capacity in 2016 and the first half of 2017, most shippers were able to obtain reasonable rates with carriers, which means that 3PLs had to provide an array of other services to set themselves apart from the competition. Now, in 2018, with capacity tightening, shippers are making a return to 3PLs which will cause third party margins to increase to as much as 15 to 20 percent. Carriers are hoping this will result in a sustainable relationship with 3PLs.

A Spike in Demand is on the Horizon 

Freight demand was unusually high between January and February, with a slight slow down through March. Given that these volumes are much higher than they were over the same period from last year, it’s another sign pointing towards the growing health of the transportation industry.  

If shippers want to keep up with demand, they’re going to have to change the way they do business.  

While this is undoubtedly a good start to the year, produce season, April through July, has kicked off, which means an even bigger spike in demand as produce season will give way to other peak consumer seasons including the Holiday season. Considering that all of this is outside the continual rapid growth of eCommerce markets, 2018 is going to be a busy year, to say the least. If shippers want to keep up with demand, they’re going to have to change the way they do business.  

Sensing the growing demand, many trucking companies are beginning to double up on their orders for new trucks. “Trucking companies ordered 35,600 trucks in May, more than double the orders from the same month a year ago, according to preliminary figures by ACT Research. That leaves manufacturers with an order backlog of more than 200,000 trucks, or 8.4 months of production,” according to an article from WSJ.  

“This is an astonishing rate of order placement,” said Kenny Vieth, president of the Columbus, Ind.-based ACT. “What’s facilitating it is that truckers are absolutely crushing it on freight rates and profitability right now.”  

Shippers might Start Looking to 3PLs for Visibility 

According to a report released by TIA working with Project44 and 10-4 Systems, 3PLs can, in fact, offer the level of visibility that shippers are looking for despite contrary beliefs.  

“Significant advances in visibility technologies have created a wide range of perceptions and expectations among shippers, including some that are inaccurate. 3PLs in this report identified a complicated web of factors that affect those perceptions and expectations, such as the demands of data aggregation, the need for more education, and the accelerated pace of change that affects 3PL and shipper alike,” the report says.  

Over the past year, the importance and need for visibility have only increased as suppliers are dealing with ever-increasing customer expectations and delivery standards

The TIA hopes that their report will highlight 3PLs that have a product or service offering that will provide the necessary information to shippers regarding their freight. With each passing year, the number of shippers that use 3PL services to keep them updated on their freight during the transportation cycle is increasing. Over the past year, the importance and need for visibility have only increased as suppliers are dealing with ever-increasing customer expectations and delivery standards. Walmarts OTIF (On Time: In Full) policy is a perfect example of this, which can punish shippers for not adhering to a strict delivery schedule.  

Data and Tech will Pave the Way 

It’s more than just the growth of demand that is making 3PLs a tempting partner for shippers. With the influx of big data, analytics, blockchain technologies, and so many more innovations, attempting to keep pace can be difficult. As demand grows and capacity tightens, shippers and carriers alike need to be smarter about how they operate if they want to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. 

As the industry continues to change, it’s likely that we’ll only see 3PLs continue to grow in popularity.

A Better Way of Doing Business

At BlueGrace, we take your current freight data and get an inside look at what your team may be missing. Our carrier procurement strategists will help you meet tight deadlines, optimize your freight expense, and ultimately, find peace of mind. Fill out the form below to find out more about how partnering with BlueGrace can create more visibility and opportunities to simplify, overall helping you find a better way to do business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago — a booming logistics sector since mid-2000s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Silicon Prairie’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ready to apply? Visit https://mybluegrace.com/careers/working-at-bluegrace/ to check out all available positions nationwide.

Lucrative Futures For Logistics Specialists

While Supply Chain Manager doesn’t typically make the top ten list of answers to “what do you want to be when you grow up” there is something to be said for positions in the logistics industry. Especially the salary. And when it comes to deciding on a career path, a heavy paycheck can go a long way towards attracting new talent.

According to the APICS’s premier annual survey, there is a very bright future for people working in the supply chain industry with both increases in pay as well as high levels of job satisfaction across the profession.

The survey revealed that in 2017, the average salary for supply chain professionals was $85,210. 90 percent of those surveyed said their raises were at least 3 percent. What’s more is that nearly all of the respondents said they were very happy with their professions and likely to stay with the supply chain industry.

“The data revealed in this report show that supply chain careers represent a fulfilling, dynamic and rewarding long-term career choice for professionals,” said APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE.

We foresee that this success will continue as supply chain professionals continue to become a more integral part of the overall business strategy.

“We’re excited to see that our members are well-compensated and continuing to advance in their careers. We foresee that this success will continue as supply chain professionals continue to become a more integral part of the overall business strategy,” Eshkenazi added.

The Path to Success: Education

Education plays a vital role in the salaries of supply chain professionals.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that education plays a vital role in the salaries of supply chain professionals. According to the survey, even so much as one certification could lead to a 19 percent increase in pay over peers without any certifications. Beyond that, having 2 or 3 certifications means a pay increase of 39 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Those respondents who had earned an APICS certification reported a median salary that was 27 percent higher than those without any certifications. Additionally the education, unsurprisingly, play a part in continuing the career. Even with the same level of tenure, the results of the survey show that more education in the field results in better pay and more chances for advancement.

A Need For Talent 

The pay alone makes the supply chain industry an appealing field for those who are deciding on their career path. Given the high levels of job satisfaction, an average of 8.4 out of 10 according to survey responses, it’s likely that we’ll see even more graduates coming out with degrees related to logistics and supply chain management.  

The industry needs new talents, given the rate that the supply chain is growing and changing.  

Which is a very good thing, as the industry needs new talents, given the rate that the supply chain is growing and changing. While tenure is still essential, experience trumps many other attributes regardless of the industry, there’s still a noticeable difference in pay for those with a degree in supply chain matters. Graduates with less than one year of experience are seeing a slightly higher level of pay than those with 1-3 years of experience. While this might be a move to help entice new people into the industry, it’s still an interesting side note.  

Those willing to take on the responsibility of a leadership role can expect even more jump in pay grade. Supervising a group of at least 50 individuals has reported a base salary that is 82 percent higher than those who do not manage. Even managing as few as 1 to 4 people will see a 13 percent increase.  

A Promising Future  

Given the levels of technological advancement that many industries are undergoing at this time, it’s important to consider the future of the supply chain industry as well as its longevity. Many jobs and careers are on the verge of becoming automated. While this does much for their respective industries, it does make deciding what career path to take a little more difficult. The supply chain and logistics sectors are prime examples of this technological revolution, with much of the industry being automated and digitized.  

There will always be a need for a human element within the industry, perhaps even more so with the deluge of automated processes being added on a near-daily basis.

Yet even with these changes being made, there will always be a need for a human element within the industry, perhaps even more so with the deluge of automated processes being added on a near-daily basis. Certified talent with a more up-to-date education will be vital for the industry which might be part of the reason why so many companies are upping the ante with higher pay, student loan assistance, and other incentives.  

Do You Want To Advance Your Career In Logistics?  

At BlueGrace, we’re growing at an impressive rate. We’re looking for logistics professionals in most of our offices across the country. If you would like to advance your current logistics career or start a new career in this fast growing industry, click the link below to access our list of available positions:

Careers

The Unique Needs of the Consumer Goods Sector

Almost everything we touch or consume or use in society is a consumer good. Bicycles, refrigerators, jewelry, clothing, etc. Consumer goods are products bought for and used by consumers, rather than by manufacturers for making other goods. The sale of consumer items is big business. Consumer spending represents 69 percent of the U.S. economy. Two-thirds of that figure is on services (such as housing and healthcare). However, a full one-quarter is spent on non-durable goods like clothing and groceries with the remaining portion on durable goods, like cars and appliances.  

The National Retail Federation estimates retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent this year, buoyed by economic growth. 

Deloitte’s 2018 Consumer Products Industry Outlook Report reports that “the US economy is likely to continue to grow at a moderate 2.0–2.5 percent rate into 2018. A key source of strength is consumers, who have benefitted from a strong labor market and rising incomes. Unemployment is at a record low of 4.2 percent, with an average of about 148,000 jobs added every month. Real disposable personal income is up, albeit slowly, by 1.8 percent in 2017, and is likely to pick up momentum next year, rising by more than 2.0 percent.” 

Unique Challenges of the Consumer Good Sector 

The transport of consumer goods presents unique logistical challenges. Non-durables must be transported quickly – and frequently. Fast-moving consumer goods (perishables, trendy items, items linked to promotions and product rollouts) are subject to certain operational constraints – some of which are controllable and some of which are not (highly variable outbound logistics).  

Customers control the choices and the buying process.

Durables, along with non-durables, are affected by the extra pressures of the “New Customer”  – a customer that is more aware, more demanding and who holds higher expectations than we have ever seen before. These expectations relate to the availability of products (on the shelf, i.e., no out of stocks) and timely, free, traceable delivery (for home shipment). Customers control the choices and the buying process.

A well-developed digital presence across platforms and channels – consumer-centric, smart-phone focused –  is what will drive future sales.  

Shopping patterns and distribution networks are changing. Some customers go to bricks and mortars stores to do their consumer research, then order online from the same store or rival. Others make their purchase in-store after engaging in online comparison shipping. In-store purchasing remains strong, but there is more choice for the consumer. A twofold presence for retailers (in-store and online) is becoming mandatory. A new trend is for stores to partially function as fulfillment centers for online orders. A well-developed digital presence across platforms and channels – consumer-centric, smart-phone focused –  is what will drive future sales.  

Where 3PLs Come In 

Many larger consumer goods firms have historically relied upon in-house logistics. Now they are turning to third party-logistics providers (3PLs) in droves, joining the ranks of smaller brands of consumer goods that do not have the same in-house distribution capabilities and are more familiar with outsourced relationships. Ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies operating in the US sought out help from a third party logistics provider in 2017 (up from 46% in 2001). 

Because 3PLs are nimble, they are able to juggle the B2C needs of the new world of consumer goods logistics well. They are uniquely suited to help firms cope with the rising costs of freight.

Unique advantages of 3PLS in the field include: 

  1. Consolidation – combining loads from closely located suppliers to keep logistics costs down.
  2. A network of resources – such as warehousing spaces and flexible transportation fleets. 
  3. Economies of scale – derived from an increase in handled items (leading to better productivity). 
  4. Technology – a robust proprietary software that can integrate complex supply chain ecosystems in a manner comparable to a leading enterprise.

BlueGrace uses proprietary technology to enable you to proactively identify opportunities to alleviate costs and optimize your supply chain. Fill out the form below or call us today to see how we can help simplify your distribution needs! 

Accelerating Business Growth And Lowering Cost With Data Analytics

Too many companies are experiencing transportation and freight expenses as one of their top three costs. Smaller companies feel the pinch the most. They typically incur greater logistics costs than medium and large sized companies, as do companies that sell lower product value goods. In a recent survey, 32% of online retailers expected logistics and delivery to be their biggest cost this year. The expense of moving products or assets to different destinations should not be the leading cost in any business, if possible. (See How Does Freight and Transportation Fit into your Budget? 

What’s behind the dramatic rise in transportation costs in nearly every sector? There are simply not enough drivers on the road to keep up with demand.  

Truck Capacity Crunch 

The first explanation for the rise in transportation costs is the truck capacity crunch.

The first explanation for the rise in transportation costs is the truck capacity crunch. See “Rising Costs and Lower Capacity in the Domestic Truckload Market.” There are simply not enough drivers on the road to keep up with demand. “Surging transportation demand is spurring trucking companies to charge as much as 30 percent more for long-distance routes compared with prices a year ago, and they’re hard pressed to add capacity because of a long-standing shortage of drivers,” explains Thomas Black, in Bloomberg’s “There Aren’t Enough Truckers, and That’s Pinching U.S. Profits.” Tyson Foods Inc anticipates paying $200 million more for freight in 2018 from the previous year. Kellogg Co’s logistics costs are expected to rise by nearly 10 percent. 

Chief Executive Jim Snee of Hormel Foods, the maker of Skippy peanut butter and SPAM, says, “We don’t believe we’re going to recoup all of our freight cost increases for the balance of the year.” He informed Reuters that the company’s operating margin sank to 13.2 percent, from 15.6 percent due to rising costs – freight among them – in the most recent quarter. 

Stringent Demands of the ELD Mandate 

The second reason is the new ELD (Electronic Logging Devices) Mandate which entered into force on December 18, 2017.  Drivers are now driving less, in keeping with the new regulations. Fewer drivers on the road at any given time due to the ELD Mandate is equivalent to taking 200 to 300,000 or so trucks off the market, according to a podcast episode by Freight Savings Tips.

Truck Driver Wage Increase

With fewer people getting licensed to become truck drivers, and older drivers retiring (see “Attracting the Next Generation of Truckers”), it will be inevitable that wages will need to go up to attract much-needed drivers. To cover the cost of truck driver wage increases, truckload rates will inevitably rise. 

Fuel Price Hikes 

The rise in fuel prices is especially hard-hitting for companies as fuel represents a significant portion of freight spends – often appearing as a surcharge on carrier invoices or embedded in line-haul rates. Fuel, according to the Harvard Business Review, is often the “largest inadequately monitored part of a company’s cost structure.” 

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service calls this season “the most expensive driving season since 2014.”  

Congestion In Cities 

With increased traffic volumes and customer expectations on delivery times, the pressure to perform – quickly, and in congested parts of the city (i.e., tricky navigation) is very real. Consumer changes and complicated last-mile delivery obligations require money which must then be offset elsewhere. 

The main solution – and greatest hope for companies engaged in shipping activity –  is data analytics.

What To Do: It’s All about Data Analytics 

The main solution – and greatest hope for companies engaged in shipping activity–  is data analytics. Data analytics lessen the cost of bringing products to retailers or customers by uncovering new possibilities.  

Transportation spending covers many dimensions. Therefore, there are many opportunities to control the spend. These solutions come in the form of reconsidering warehouse processes, leveraging IT systems, revising package and product designs to alleviate excess weight and increase shipment density, or “nearshoring” (reducing the number of miles shipments travel). 

Bringing in the Experts

Companies who have relied on BlueGrace’s tried-and-true data analytics have recouped losses from mistakes they have made in the past. Consider the consumer packaged good company that underwent BlueGrace data analysis to determine what the “true cost” of its orders were (using information from historical orders) when freight cost was allocated.

The company executives were able to “drill down and allocate a freight cost to not only the customer level but the customer location, customer location type (Direct to Store or Distribution Center) and even down to the SKU level.

The company executives were able to “drill down and allocate a freight cost to not only the customer level but the customer location, customer location type (Direct to Store or Distribution Center) and even down to the SKU level. Since freight cost was not passed through to the client, this would either show a net margin loss on certain orders or opportunities to reduce the freight cost allocation on others to become more competitive. The result highlighted regions that were more costly to ship to, products that did not have enough margin potential to consider shipping unless they met a specific minimum requirement and insight into regions of the country that would benefit from an additional warehouse location.” 

With BlueGrace’ specialized business intelligence, processes become clearer. Transportation costs are curbed relative to sales and overall budget. Ready to find your own clarity today? Feel savings relief by taking the first step. Watch the video on our proprietary game-changing data service here and talk to an expert today. Fill out the form below or call 800.MY.SHIPPING (697-4477) to be connected to a Transportation Management Expert. 

Survey Says: Visibility is the Main Goal

Digital supply chains are nothing new as far as the headlines are concerned. There is a lot of promise and potential for the new technology in terms of efficiency and easier adaptation to other advancements and solutions. Yet even with the knowledge of the many benefits associated with digital supply networks (DSN), many companies are only now beginning to embrace it.  

According to information from a new study, there is still a disconnect between the opinion of the digital supply chain and the actual implementation of it.  

The survey conducted by Deloitte and MAPI, included more than 200 different manufacturing organizations. They found that a little over half of the respondents believe that their investment and adoption of DSN or a digital supply chain solution maturity level is ‘above average’ when compared to their competitors. Yet of those respondents only 28 percent have actually started to implement their solutions.  

Visibility is the Main Goal 

Transparency represents one of the biggest potentials for efficiency gain in the industry.

Above all else, the survey shows the main reason why manufacturers are looking into a digital supply network; end to end transparency. Transparency represents one of the biggest potentials for efficiency gain in the industry. The survey also shows that of the respondents, only 6 percent have a process in place where every member of the organization can see everyone else’s data.   

“Stephen Laaper, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and co-author of the study, said: While enthusiasm is high and manufacturers realize the benefits of Digital Supply Networks, many companies struggle to identify the right technology landscape which will provide the most value when they are approaching a digital shift,” according to an article from The Manufacturer 

“As a result, many hold off with key aspects of their transformation, which in turn puts their transformation at too slow a place to avoid disruption,” Mr Laaper added. 

Understand the Impact and Value of DSNs 

Many industry executives believe that DSNs offer several advantages over the traditional, linear, supply chain but they don’t believe that implementation of this technology will have any significant or ‘game-changing’ impact. 56 percent of the respondents said that they believe that a digital supply chain would provide significant benefit to their company.  

While visibility is the main goal of DSN implementation, speed is another factory that manufacturers are interested in.

While visibility is the main goal of DSN implementation, speed is another factory that manufacturers are interested in. Over half of the respondents, 52 percent, cited a dramatic reduction in time needed to make strategic decisions as their top reason for implementation. 43 percent of respondents said they are looking for an optimization and efficiency boost. 

Digital supply chains and DSNs also offer an array of financial benefits that are of interest to manufacturers including but not limited to, increased sales efficiency, lower operating costs, and better pricing and margins.   

Challenges for Manufacturers 

Benefits of DNS are a draw for manufacturers, but implementation might be easier said than done. Talent in the industry will present a challenge for DNS implementation, both in finding new talent capable of working with the technology and training existing employees to work with it. This represents the top challenge for 30 percent of the survey respondents.  

Change, believe it or not, is another fairly substantial obstacle towards implementing digital solutions. For an industry that has remained more or less the same over the past several decades, over a third of those that responded (37 percent) said that overcoming that resistance to change would be the greatest challenge to a successful DNS implementation.  

All companies operate differently, thus their DSN implementations carry unique challenges based on the existing infrastructure, talent base, culture and technological requirements.

“John Miller, council director at MAPI, said: There is no one way to deploy a DSN. All companies operate differently, thus their DSN implementations carry unique challenges based on the existing infrastructure, talent base, culture and technological requirements.” 

As with any digitally based technology, cybersecurity will always be a concern, especially in the wake of the DDOS attacks and cyber virus attacks that hit major shipping industries last year. A fifth of the respondents said that data security risks are the reason they are reluctant to provide information to outside suppliers, which is crucial for many DNS systems. While blockchain technology might help to assuage these concerns, the technology is still too new for many manufacturers to consider at this stage.  

The Road Ahead 

There are a number of obstacles on the road for an industry-wide embrace of a digital supply chain. While some companies are starting to get their feet wet, there are many that are still hesitant to take the plunge. The survey shows that many executives can see the benefits of a DNS that can improve their business as a whole but are still nervous about the new technology.  

There is a cautionary tale to be told in this, according to MAPI’s John Miller. “Companies that are too conservative in their approach may wait too long before finally implementing initiatives that are too large and complex,” Miller said.  

“In the end, these companies risk being late to the game and implementing solutions whose value is hard to measure because of either the time it takes to show an improvement or the overall scale of the implementation.” 

The industry is changing, there’s no doubt about. The waves of disruptive technology are not only coming, but they are starting to pick up speed with how quickly they are devised, created, implemented, and revised.

The industry is changing, there’s no doubt about. The waves of disruptive technology are not only coming, but they are starting to pick up speed with how quickly they are devised, created, implemented, and revised. This is a welcome breath of fresh air for the industry, that has largely remained unchanged throughout the decades. Yet, while we can see the change as a good thing indeed, adapting to those changes will ultimately be one of the most difficult challenges for industry players. 

Determining which path to take will be an undertaking for sure, but one that has a high payoff in the end.

Getting a Head Start in the Tech Race

Companies that fail to embrace this new digital era will find themselves outpaced and outdated before too long, while companies that take the initiative now will have a head start in the tech race to come. 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 give you the visibility you need to gain efficiency, feel free to contact us using the form below: 

BlueGrace Logistics Opening Office In Chicago And Adding 80 Jobs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 14, 2018

 CONTACT:

Michelle Damico michelle@michelledamico.com 312.423.6627

BLUEGRACE LOGISTICS OPENING OFFICE IN CHICAGO AND ADDING 80 JOBS

Access to Talent and City’s Status as Global Transportation Hub Key Drivers in Innovative Logistics Company’s Decision to Locate in Chicago

CHICAGO,ILLINOIS — Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined BlueGrace Logistics, a nationwide third-party logistics (3PL) provider, to announce the company is opening an office in downtown Chicago. BlueGrace plans to add 80 jobs at its new location in the iconic Chicago Board of Trade Building. The new office will open July 9, 2018 and support the continued strong growth BlueGrace has accomplished since its launch nine years ago.

“Innovative businesses choose to grow and invest in Chicago because they recognize the unparalleled strength of the city’s talent and transportation networks,” Mayor Emanuel said. “BlueGrace Logistics is a welcome addition to the city’s innovation ecosystem and I look forward to watching them thrive in their new home in the city of Chicago.”

“The unique layout of the existing office fits the BlueGrace culture of high energy and pursuing outrageous goals.” said Bobby Harris, President and CEO. “The Midwest area is rich with young, college-educated talent, and Chicago is already an elite spot for the logistics industry. The proximity of public transportation and all of the other amenities of downtown Chicago alongside this location made this an easy and logical choice for our business growth strategy to recruit, hire, and train the best and brightest young talent available.”

Mark Ford, COO of BlueGrace Logistics, who will manage the employees in the downtown Chicago office, commented: “As complexity increases, more companies are turning to 3PL’s for their industry expertise and ability to provide access to many different carriers, routes, and modes of transport at competitive prices. To stay competitive, 3PL providers will continue to evolve, and innovation and technology will play a key part in their success. BlueGrace is exploding with growth, and Chicago is the epicenter of the 3PL community, so it is only natural that we significantly increase our investment in human resources in this city and make a long-term commitment to the area.”

BlueGrace plans on hiring 80 new employees to fill the Chicago office in the next 12 months. These sales professionals will support the company’s operations nationwide. The company is headquartered in Tampa, Florida and has 10 regional offices across the United States.

About BlueGrace Logistics:

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the largest third-party logistics (3PL) providers in the United States.  With over 500 employees and working with over 10,000 customers to provide successful shipping solutions, the company has achieved explosive growth in its nearly 10-year operating history.  Backed by a $255 million investment by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the company operates 11 locations nationwide, and its headquarters are in the sunny Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Bobby Harris, President and CEO

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

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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.

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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: