Browse Tag

transportation

How a 3PL Takes the Logistics Out of Running Your Business

One of the first rules of running a business is, “focus on your strengths.” It sounds easy in principle, but for medium-sized companies undergoing rapid growth, it’s often hard to discern what those strengths are when every day brings new opportunities and challenges. Logistics is a tricky area. In today’s tech-intensive retail environment, customers expect to get their orders quickly, reliably and transparently. When they don’t, they will walk away and take their business elsewhere. The good news is that the rise of online shopping has pushed a slew of new, tech-savvy logistics companies into the sector while forcing established companies to invest in making their operations more digital and agile.  

You’ve Got Choices 

Let’s start with scalability because that’s where a lot of businesses run into supply chain problems. There once was a two-person startup that was growing steadily until they were mentioned on The Colbert Report, and nothing could have prepared them for what happened next. In the span of 24 hours, they went from local business to national retailer doing twenty times the sales – and nobody was prepared. The ‘Colbert Bump,’ a term coined to describe a surge of interest or business in the wake of a mention on TV, is an extreme example – but it makes for an interesting case study for scaling. It quickly became clear that they couldn’t handle their own fulfillment anymore. In addition to the complexities of hiring and training more staff, it was a question of simple economics. They needed a national presence and that meant forward shipping their products closer to major markets to deliver ‘on demand.’ 

If you’re going national, you need a national partner that works with a spectrum of carriers and different modes of transportation, with competitive pricing.

The next couple of months they’d learn that if you’re going national, you need a national partner that works with a spectrum of carriers and different modes of transportation, with competitive pricing. That way, you’re sure that your product is where it’s supposed to be and you can align your inventory with expected sales. 

Stay in Control 

Outsourcing your logistics shouldn’t mean losing visibility. It should mean the opposite.

Outsourcing your logistics shouldn’t mean losing visibility. It should mean the opposite. The right logistics partner will create transparency in hidden corners of your supply chain that you didn’t even know existed. Whether you like it or not, your in-house distribution is already working with multiple partners – and that’s problematic. You might have a separate partner for pick up, one for distribution, one for packaging and then one for returns. That’s an incredible amount of time spent calling multiple vendors and carriers, especially when there’s uncertainty in whether you’re getting the right services, process transparency, and competitive prices. 

A 3PL provider allows your company to integrate all of these costs and pay a single vendor, rather than several for your packaging and shipping needs. In addition to lower costs, one dynamic partner lets you allocate more resources toward growth – and that’s what you’re good at. There’s also an important customer service advantage to partnering with a 3PL. When your customers order from you, their three most important interactions are with your sales platform, customer support team, and the company that delivers their order. The right 3PL partner can use their expertise and infrastructure to exert that kind of control over the delivery process. That way, you can be assured that the deliveries are happening on time and you can pass on that level of visibility to your customers. 

Built to Scale 

3PLs are built to handle higher volumes of orders with increasing logistics needs. Your company might be able to handle fulfillment today, but as your market expands it will take up more of your time and might exceed your level of expertise. Bringing in a logistics partner leverages economies of scale. With higher volumes of shipments, the rates you’re charged are increasingly important. A single 3PL partner centralizes organization, meaning real-time visibility over your supply chain and more customizable shipping options.

The right 3PL partner will also increase transparency and that’s going to make your customers happy, while cutting costs.

That’s what 3PLs are designed to do. Apart from cutting payroll with a much smaller logistics operations staff, you can opt for a specialized in-house logistics department that interfaces with your 3PL. No matter how good you are, your 3PL is better when it comes to managing inventory and logistical distribution. When choosing a 3PL partner, make sure that they have developed software and tracking systems, which can be used to generate data that will allow you to reach your customers more efficiently. A tech-savvy logistics partner can help your company understand customer behavior and keep you ahead of industry trends. The right 3PL partner will also increase transparency, and that’s going to make your customers happy while simultaneously cutting costs.

Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace

BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. With a fully built-out national network and global partners, BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Their expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, feel free to contact us using the form below:

ELDs Are Coming Fast! Some Facts & Predictions – Infographic

Countdown to the ELD Mandate – December 16th 2017

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

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

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

A Brief Explanation Of Freight Classing For Engines

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

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

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

Questions you should ask include:

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

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

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

How is your 3PL delivering on their proposed solutions?

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“If you sell on price, you lose on price.” is typically a line that is used inside the walls of BlueGrace. Price is a very important factor in transportation in this trillion dollar industry where there is billions of dollars of waste. Inefficient supply chain consultation, technology, and pricing keeps companies from not growing as fast as they should, and keeps business top line revenue down. In our recent blog “Keep the main thing, the main thing” we told you how keeping your focus on your business should be the most important thing and to leave transportation to the experts. We have seen some lacking proposals from competitors in our space. We want to give you a few pointers in what to look for in a transportation management proposal.

Does the proposal focus on your needs?

In the lead up to this proposal there should be needs you current do not have such as reporting, business intelligence, claims management, auditing, GRI management, as well as others. If these items or others business issues were brought up in the initial talks then they should be on the proposal.

Are solutions proposed explained in how they will be executed?

Companies can say they can do anything and numbers can be bent to make sense. The entity that needs to understand how these numbers and solutions proposed made the proposal page are the business owners and stake holders. Make sure you have a clear understanding of how everything is supposed to take place and when. This takes us to our next suggestion.

Is there a timeline?

9 times out of 10 changing transportation providers is not easy. Large clients have business systems and processes in place. It is up to the 3pl to figure out how to fit those systems to make transportation a seamless business function, rather than a burden. When the proposal is delivered there should be a timeline of when and what happens. Is there an integration schedule? When are the 3pl implementation representatives or IT employees supposed to be on site at your location? When is the “go-live” date? These are a few of the very important items to make sure a 3pl can deliver on a proposed solution.

The focus should be on the business

These are a few very important factors in grading a transportation proposal. The focus should be on the business and the business should understand everything that is going to happen and how the 3pl got there. BlueGrace prides itself on delivering proposals and making them happen. Reach out today to learn how we can become a supply chain partner today.

 

El Nino and the impact on US Transportation

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El Nino will have a major effect on US ground transportation and it looks to be a positive one. Temperatures are forecast to be warmer in the Midwest and Northeast. These regions have been absolutely rocked the past two Winters by Winter snow storms lasting into March. Chicago is largely considered to be the freight capitol of the United States and New Jersey has some of the highest traffic ports on the East Coast. The country may see more rain as opposed to snow. Rain does not have a large effect on ground transportation as it does not paralyze interstate systems and local roads like snow can. Here is a pattern of what types of weather this El Nino can bring:

el-nino-typical-pattern

The Western region of the country desperately needs rain and could cause flooding with a major influx of rain this winter season. The Weather Channel has an in depth article about the effects and patterns of an El Nino weather cycle.

5th Annual Cats vs. Dogs Contest

BlueGrace Logistics holds Fifth Annual Cats vs. Dogs Pet Food Drive Benefiting the Humane Society of Tampa Bay


2015_COMMUNITY_CATSVSDOGS 2RIVERVIEW, Fla. – September 10, 2015: Each year BlueGrace holds their official “Cats vs. Dogs” contest amongst its employees. The contest is a pet food drive in which the women compete against the men to collect the most pet food in pounds. The food is then donated to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to care for the animals in the no-kill shelter.

In 2014, BlueGrace donated more than 44,000 pounds of pet food which was enough to feed the animals for almost an entire year. Since the contest’s inception in 2010, BlueGrace has donated over 80,000 pounds of pet food to Humane Society Tampa Bay. Each year, BlueGrace plans to surpass last year’s amount. Employees come together to donate pet food, as well as leverage contacts to purchase large amounts of food. The contest will run through the middle of October.

BlueGrace Logistics takes pride in giving back to the community through our “Giving Grace” Program created by our President and CEO, Bobby Harris. Our Giving Grace charity of choice is the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and we support the organization in many ways throughout the year. Most recently, BlueGrace employees volunteered for Humane Society Tampa Bay during Creative Loafing’s BeerFest event at MOSI. A percentage of the event’s proceeds went to support the animal shelter.

Want to contribute to the 2015 Cats vs. Dogs Competition and Pet Food Drive? 

The public is invited to participate in the Cats vs. Dogs contest. For information or to donate large amounts (such as a pallet of pet food) contact BlueGrace Logistics at community@mybluegrace.comPlease be sure to specify if you’d like to contribute to the “TeamCats” (girls) or “TeamDogs,” (guys) if applicable. 

Business Boondoggle: Multiple Business Units with Unaligned Transportation Strategy.

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Businesses with multiple units employing different processes for the same task are NOT running lean or effective. It’s easy to get this way. Start-ups enjoy rapid success. Acquisitions are made. Technology is rapidly evolving. The skill set of the workforce changes. The result of which is that you end up using multiple systems, processes and even vendors to solve a single business problem. The business implications are far reaching and too often the executive suite or business owners are not privy to them.

Even when a need and benefit are identified, execution requires more complexity.

Whereas there is often a technology solution to the business problem or problems to increase efficiency and streamline productivity, it is not always understood. Technology often involves a subject matter expert in both the innovation and the problem it is intended to solve. Technology solutions are often misunderstood. More often than not – the business problem itself is misunderstood. Even when a need and benefit are identified, execution requires more complexity. This could include infrastructure, capital investment, training and most of all – change management. Poor Change Management is the single greatest threat to technology innovation and implementation.

During the sales process there are typically multiple detractors. They can come from all over the organization. “I do not like change,” Is the statement sales people hear most often. However, change is key to helping businesses run effective and lean. Change is critical to staying ahead of competition. And most of all change is inevitable, and should not be left alone in the hands of anyone not directly and greatly affected by the outcome.

Here are key issues facing businesses not already benefiting from a transportation and technology provider

  1. Visibility and Reporting. Without technology visibility is the hardest thing to management. Many shippers that do not utilize transportation technology typically have no key performance indicators nor know if their locations utilize a LCC (least cost carrier) program. BlueGrace is able to build a hierarchy to have each location reportable to a top tier level. Reports are limitless and business specific. Reports are built to see items like if your end users are choosing the least cost carrier or not, what is your price per pound or percentage of freight as a sale cost, and how those items are trending.
  2. Not negotiating pricing or GRI’s with full buying power: When a business has multiple units shipping with a number of different carriers and different rate structures the full price negotiation power of the organization is not being used. The pricing is being determined on a pure location spend basis and based on the skill and knowledge base of the decision maker on site at each location. BlueGrace takes all of the information from all of the locations and brings it to our key partner carriers to get tariffs for the entire organization to use. This makes things such as GRI (general rate increase) and KPI (key performance indicator) management so much easier.
  3. Consolidated Billing and Invoice Audit. When multiple business units manage their own freight and price negotiation this means there are freight bills flying around at a fast pace. If a bill goes to the individual unit to be approved, and then sent to corporate for payment how long does that process take? With a number or different carriers and billing times and schedules this has to be a business boondoggle. BlueGrace sends one consolidated invoice per week. This can be sent to multiple end users and is customizable. We also pre audit these bills to also save you time rather than having to perform this practice yourself.

 

These are a FEW of the issues facing businesses with multiple units doing multiple different processes. Please reach out today so we can help you run your business more profitably and effectively. This is our main thing.

 

What are you wasting by not auditing your freight invoices?

At BlueGrace we make it our business to audit every invoice before it gets billed. To maximize the value our services provide, we research all invoice discrepancies and identify as either customer, carrier, or internal error.

If it is determined that the carrier has billed us in error, we dispute directly with them and a corrected invoice before we billing our customers. In the event it was caused by an internal error, we correct the error and adjust the invoice to the quoted price before the customer receives the bill., we will send that invoice at your quoted price. When there is a customer error, we inform you of the carrier findings, justification and educate you on how to avoid costly mistakes in the future. Should you dispute the findings, we provide you the opportunity to dispute with the proper paperwork, pictures, etc. and advocate on your behalf.

Failure to audit your invoices and hold your carrier’s accountable can result in thousands of dollars of annual waste. Here’s a recent, real life example:

If you were to ship, for example, 20 LTL shipments per a week, it could take 5 minutes each shipment to audit. The median salary in the United States is $33k a year. This means by BlueGrace professional auditing your shipments and letting you run your business we save you $26.45 a week in actual money as well as an hour and forty minutes in time. We provide this auditing service as an added service to our customers at no added charge. We can also provide data analysis of your current provider transportation costs to either validate or advise on if you are getting the most competitive rates possible. We also report on these audit savings in quarterly business reviews as you can see in the slide below:

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To learn more about our services email contactus@mybluegrace.com or call 800-697-4477 today

BlueGrace Logistics Sponsored Chael Sonnen at UFC Fight Night 26

At the main event of UFC Fox Sports 1 on August 17, 2013, Chael Sonnen surprised the crowd with an explosive performance over former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Sonnen was a slight underdog entering the fight, but his

BlueGrace Logistics sponsored Chael Sonnen during his big night as he tapped out Shogun in the first round with a guillotine choke in a dominant, one-sided performance. The loss was obviously devastating for Shogun, but Sonnen leaves the fight with multiple fight options.

Another major highlight from the fight, was when Sonnen called out “The Axe Murderer” for a fight during the post-fight recap with Joe Rogan by stating “Wanderlei Silva, six feet tall and 205 pounds, boy, until I met you, I didn’t know they could stack crap that high,” and ended it with “Wanderlei Silva, three months, you and the bad guy.”

BlueGrace is very excited for Chael Sonnen on his win and looks forward to his next fight, probably against Wanderlei Silva.   BlueGrace Logistics was a proud, visible sponsor and can be seen in many of the pictures from the fight! Check out some of the awesome pictures we have posted from the fight on the BlueGrace Logistics Facebook page.

 

BlueGrace Logistics

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The Real Meaning of a Shoulder Ride

As a father to two little girls I have found myself as the proverbial donkey for the last 10 years. It’s a rare occurrence if I’m involved in any sort of walking with my girls, whether it is 20 feet or a mile, my shoulders aren’t carrying one of them. A few months ago I had pulled something in my neck rendering my shoulder ride services useless for a few days. During that time I learned just how lucky I was to be able to give shoulder-rides, albeit amidst the constant whine of newly mobile princesses. I pondered what having the privilege actually meant and listed below are some of what came to mind.

If you are giving a shoulder ride:

  1. You’re probably healthy, strong
  2. You’re carrying someone that loves you dearly
  3. You’re carrying someone that you love dearly
  4. There’s a good chance the rider is your child, in which case you are exponentially blessed for the good fortune of being able to have a child
  5. You’re likely outside or cruising a mall, breathing fresh air
  6. It’s likely you’re off work, probably headed somewhere you really want to be
  7. You almost certainly don’t have a sunburn (not earth shattering but I LOATH sunburns)
  8. You feel safe to walk openly with a small child in public areas; this is not something the entire world enjoys. If you’re lucky enough to be a US citizen then add to your blessings
  9. You’re making someone so very happy and without costing a cent
  10. If you’re not lifting a child, you’re likely lifting a teammate or friend in celebration, again, you are likely healthy and strong.
  11. You like serving others and have a kind heart, which is a true gift

This list could continue for miles but the point is you are amongst the utmost blessed should you find you’re giving a shoulder ride. Healthy, loving, loved, safe, happy, serving, and grateful are all appropriate words for those lucky enough to be carrying another. You are the real 1%, the most fortunate of all in these circumstances.

There is a strong symbolism of a shoulder ride in its power to assist another. Shoulder rides can carry someone else in time of need or simply take a little pressure off someone’s feet for a while. Maybe you can’t lift someone because you’re not near them in distance, maybe you are across the world from them. But chances are, you can lift almost anyone if you have the desire to do so.

There is a potential in all of us to give to others, to support them, and to lift them.

In many of life’s circumstances I find that it’s either necessary or simply a lot of fun if you’re carrying someone, literally or figuratively. As for me, I healed fast that week and have had an added zest for placing my heart on top of my shoulders every chance I get.

P.S.

Sometimes you get to be the rider…

 Man on the shoulders of another man

 -Bobby Harris

 President & CEO

Rising Price of Oil: Effects on Daily Purchases and Transportation

Oil prices are going up in 2012! If you are in the trucking industry or just a consumer, when oil prices go up … YOU are affected. Oil prices not only effect the price of gasoline that we put in our car every day or diesel in a truck (which is more expensive) but also the cost of our food, packaging of products and many other items that we use daily. Remember, the cost of a barrel of crude oil is based on what speculators think will happen to the production and delivery of the barrels of oil around the world. Recently Iran made a statement that they will close the Strait of Hormuz, which is a major waterway for theStrait of Hormuz, Iran transportation of oil from the Middle East. The reason for the statement is not important pertaining to this blog, but the impact to the price of oil would be huge. The NY Times reported that if the Strait of Hormuz was closed, the price of oil could rise as much as 50% or more within days (which we are already beginning to experience).

Today the average cost per gallon of gas is $3.30 and for diesel is $3.78 (eia). Just sit back and imagine if the cost of these two items doubled within 2 days. Let’s do some quick math, to personally fill my car the cost would go from $60 to $118. To fill a truck that can carry 400 gallons of diesel would go from $1,512 to $3,024. For shippers, the fuel cost that you would pay for a shipment from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA would go from an estimated $1,581 to $3,849 just for the cost of fuel. That does not count the line haul cost. If the cost of transportation for our products goes up, so do the costs at stores where we buy our goods. Food, paper towels, diapers, apparel, paper for the copier, etc… will go up.

So, if you ever wonder why oil prices are such a big issue in this country or why the USA spends so much time in the Middle East, just look at the impact it has on your personal budget and transportation services. Look at the impact on one of your shipments if oil prices should double.

-Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services
Twitter: @BGTruckload