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Make Logistics Your Strategic Advantage

The November 1977 issue of Harvard Business Review carried an article titled “Logistics – Essential to Strategy”. Citing reasons such as “a decline in the growth rate of domestic markets, large incremental costs of energy, and an increasing emphasis on multinational markets in corporate strategies”, it foretold that logistics will become an essential part of the “corporate strategy of the future”.  

There could not have been a more accurate prediction.  

Today, logistics has become the game changer for both business and the nation’s economy. For businesses, it forms an essential part of the complete product and customer service offering. By enabling the movement of people and commodities from one place to another, logistics has always played a visible part in building the nation’s economy. Now, it is also a significant contributor to the GDP. In 2017 the transportation sector alone contributed 8.9 percent of the country’s GDP.   

Why is logistics gaining so much importance?  

Globalization and the ensuing cut-throat competition has made it necessary for organizations to focus on providing customers with an added incentive to buy from them. Customers are no longer easily pleased. While one can sustain in the business for some time by introducing new variants, it is not enough to keep the buyers coming back for more. At times, even a price difference might fail to attract customers.  Then what can capture the attention of the customer? 

Logistics is the new differentiator.

Now, especially with the increasing popularity of online shopping, customers look for availability of the product at the required time and place followed by quick and timely delivery of their purchases. This demand can only be fulfilled if shippers can get their logistics right. Logistics is the new differentiator.  

What are the benefits of putting logistics first? 

Customer demand: According to a research conducted by Retail-Week, in response to a question on what they expect in terms of delivery, 70 percent of the customers surveyed said they would like to have more flexible delivery options. Statistics from another survey revealed that 56 percent of online customers in the age group of 18-34 years look for same day delivery options. 61 percent of those surveyed said they are willing to pay an additional price if they can get same-day delivery. These statistics clearly highlight the growing importance of why shippers need to pay attention to their logistics strategy, planning, and execution.  

Competition: It is no longer a seller’s market. Very few products or services enjoy a monopoly in the current market scenario. If one store or online shopping portal does not have the product in stock. There are many other options in the market for customers to buy from. So, whether you are an online store or a traditional retailer, if you fail to supply the product at the store when in demand, there’s a huge possibility of losing the customer to the competition. Regular and timely supply can be maintained only if the proper logistics program is in place. 

Given the fact that customers are willing to pay for a premium delivery service, it makes business sense to procure and provide this option.  

Achieving a balance in cost and service quality: Logistics is a cost. More often than not, shippers think that to remain competitive, one must negotiate and procure the lowest rates available in the market. While it is necessary to negotiate freight rates and keep the go-to-market price of the product in control, it is also equally important to understand how too low a cost can hamper the quality of the service. If shippers have insight into where and when they need to provide premium logistics services and where a regular delivery will suffice, they can hire a mix of vendors or negotiate for different service levels with the same vendor. This will help shippers offer the flexibility and choices in the delivery that the customers seek. Given the fact that customers are willing to pay for a premium delivery service, it makes business sense to procure and provide this option.  

Geographical reach: A strong logistics strategy can help you reach wider markets and more customers at the right time. This is especially important if you’re an e-commerce business or a retail chain with branches in different cities. A well-planned logistics system is essential to cater to different geographies and ensure that the product reaches the distribution centers or retail stores in time to fulfill customer orders. If the logistics operation is weak, it becomes difficult and financially unviable to operate a multi-city or an international business.  

If shippers do not take the required effort to understand the logistical needs of their business and plan in advance to procure the services they would need, it can have a negative impact on the business.

Logistics is the core of a business. It is what ensures that your product reaches the intended customer cost effectively and on time. This activity often involves multiple handling points and different modes of transportation. If shippers do not take the required effort to understand the logistical needs of their business and plan in advance to procure the services they would need, it can have a negative impact on the business. If you need help in understanding and building a strong transport management system, contact us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today!

Connected Logistics is the Future of Global Trade

According to reports, the connected logistics market is set to grow at a CAGR of 30-35 percent by the year 2021. In the next 2 to 3 years, analysts predict the connected logistics industry to be worth USD 40 – 50 Billion. It is expected to change the entire landscape of the global supply chain.

Integrated, Digital, IoT, Smart Logistics, Automation, and Big Data are some of the words and phrases that we’ve come to associate with logistics. All these together give us what we call connected logistics. With even one of these aspects missing from the mix, it would be highly difficult to build a logistics network that links all the players in international trade.

Who Are Parts of The Connected Logistics Network?

But today, logistics has ceased to be just a process of storing and transporting goods.

More often than not, when we speak of logistics we tend to associate the word with storage of goods and their movement from location A to location B. But today, logistics has ceased to be just a process of storing and transporting goods. It’s no longer limited to transport and storage facilities.  Apart from the road, rail, air, and sea transport and warehouse operators, the term connected logistics also includes customer service teams, manufacturing, production planners, inventory planners, and the sales team. All these teams have responsibility for processes that are necessary to deliver the final product to the end consumer. IT companies, software and hardware providers enable these teams to stay connected and support them to deliver a superior customer experience through cutting edge technology. This is how evolved logistics has become.

It is now not only a crucial part of the supply chain, but also an essential element of an organization’s product and customer service strategy.

In fact, it will not be remiss to say that logistics is often a key differentiator – a USP for certain consumer products. In addition to the businesses and technology providers, connected logistics also includes lawmakers, cybersecurity monitoring agencies, and government authorities – especially transport, IT, and infrastructure departments across the globe. This group is responsible for creating a framework that can take into account the variations in rules and regulations across the globe and ensure that trade across borders is carried out efficiently.

What are the features of a Connected Logistics Network?

Real-time data: With the use of new and advanced technology and advanced analytics, the connected logistics network provides its users real-time data and market insights. This is making it simpler for organizations to make informed business decisions.

Now shippers can track their shipments from the time it leaves their warehouse or factory till the time it reaches the final place of delivery right on the platform where they booked the transport. 

Increased shipment visibility: Gone are the days when one had to follow up with customer service executives at transport companies to know the location of their shipments. Digitalization, RFID tags, and GPS trackers have immensely improved shipment visibility. Now shippers can track their shipments from the time it leaves their warehouse or factory till the time it reaches the final place of delivery right on the platform where they booked the transport. This is also facilitating better transport planning especially in the case of intermodal transportation.

Inventory management: Imagine a large warehouse with stacks of boxes of different SKUs. Earlier, warehouses would have to maintain physical records of the goods and manually manage FIFO and order picking. Even after the initial ERP systems were introduced, there were still some challenges in the order picking process. Now, with the new technology like the RFID tags and ERP systems warehousing operations have become much easier, less time consuming and more efficient.

JIT inventory: Both manufacturing and retail organizations are working on leveraging the Just in time inventory management concept to help reduce inventory holding and storing cost. This process can be better managed with the connected logistics network as an advanced system can be equipped to provide triggers for when is the optimum time to place an order for inventory – FG or raw material – so that it reaches the factory or store at just the right time.

Global compliance management: Global trade comes with different rules, regulations, and legal requirements. It is difficult to keep track of changes in the rules and adhere to all the requirements of each country one does business with. New systems that are equipped to store legal checkpoints and raise a red flag when these requirements are not being met are making it comparatively painless for companies to meet country-wise compliance requirements.

This not only reduces the organizations’ cost on systems and software, but it also ensures seamless flow of information from one process to another in a standard format which will, in turn, limit the loss of data.

Integrated systems: System integration is one of the major facets of connected logistics. Now, organizations do not need to maintain separate systems for their different departments. Transport management system, warehouse management system, sales and billing, production planning, and finance-management can all be integrated into one platform with different modules and controlled access. This not only reduces the organizations’ cost on systems and software, but it also ensures seamless flow of information from one process to another in a standard format which will, in turn, limit the loss of data.

Document management: System integration has also helped improve documentation management and storage. Now, documents pertaining to a shipment or sale can be stored in digital format on the system. There is limited need to store and maintain physical copies. Authorized personnel can easily access these documents whenever they need to. Potential benefits are:
● Easy access to delivery signatures, original BOLs, and W&I docs
● Fast PODs to verify deliveries and invoices
● Clear view of delivery receipts and customer notes
● Clean/organized shipping documentation

While the initial investment in such technology and equipment might seem huge, the returns are equally attractive.

While the initial investment in such technology and equipment might seem huge, the returns are equally attractive. Since these systems and technology have become the demand of the day, it has become imperative for organizations willing to get a share in global trade to upgrade their systems and stay connected to the global business via their logistics network. This is especially critical for 3PL and 4PL logistics service providers.

Get Connected

At BlueGrace, we offer a proprietary TMS that is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® 4.0 offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. Many of our customers prefer to integrate their systems or ERPs such as SAP or NetSuite directly with our BlueShip platform. Our IT integrations team will work closely with your staff to complete the connection between systems, keeping you connected every step of the way. To request a BlueShip demo, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our experts. 

Festive Cheer and Cargo Theft Go Hand in Hand During the Holidays

The holidays bring three main things for the shippers – festive cheer, increased business, and high risk of cargo theft. While increased business orders and sales are the reason to rejoice for shippers, the equally high probability of having their cargo stolen during transit tends to dampen the festive spirit. But given the season and business needs, cargo theft during the holidays is unavoidable.

Tis the Season

According to LPM Insider, businesses in the U.S. lose around $15 to $30 billion dollars each year. This figure too is on the conservative side as quite a few incidents of cargo theft go unreported, it further reports.

Do we just let the robbers rob us of all the hard work that we and our teams put in to getting holiday shipments out, or is there something we can do to safeguard our business interest and our shipments?

Among the various commodities being shipped during the holiday season, products that cannot be tracked and food and beverages shipments tend to be targeted most by cargo thieves. This doesn’t mean that shippers of other commodities or bulky products can rest easy. Cargo theft is a reality for most during the holiday seasons, so much so that there are reports of gift packages being stolen from front porches. Do we just let the robbers rob us of all the hard work that we and our teams put in to getting holiday shipments out, or is there something we can do to safeguard our business interest and our shipments?

Preventive Measures

If we treat cargo theft like any other business or operational risks, we might be in a better position to deal with such incidents and mitigate their impact on our business during the holidays.

Here are some measures that the shippers, truckers, and warehouse operators can take to minimize theft during the festive season.

  1. Pre-plan shipment deliveries: While it might not be possible to completely avoid making a shipment delivery during the holiday season, it would be helpful if shippers and their transportation providers could work out a plan to deliver high-value shipments before the festive mood kicks in. This can, to an extent, minimize the risks of cargo theft.
  2. GPS enabled vehicles: Transportation providers should install GPS trackers in their vehicles to be able to effectively track the shipments until it reaches the final place of delivery. If the vehicle is tracked, any irregular stoppages or route that has been taken can be noted and inquiries can be made with the driver as soon as there is any deviation. Knowing that the vehicle is being tracked and that they can be held responsible, the drivers will also be more cautious while making unscheduled stoppages or leaving the vehicle unguarded for a long time.

    Third-party service providers, such as BlueGrace, are professional and value their market reputation. They have checks and balances in place to avoid cargo theft or any other risk to the shipments while it’s in their custody.

  3. Vetted service providers: When appointing services providers, shippers should properly vet them and do a thorough reference check. Third-party service providers, such as BlueGrace, are professional and value their market reputation. They have checks and balances in place to avoid cargo theft or any other risk to the shipments while it’s in their custody.
  4. Hire additional manpower: This point is especially for warehouse operators. During the holiday season, staff strength tends to be low. Try to get additional workers and guards for the warehouses to cover the operations and security posts during the holidays before the season sets in.
  5. CCTV cameras: Equip your warehouses with CCTV cameras to monitor the warehouse at all times. Be sure to place cameras in a position that all the entry and exit points are covered.
  6. Alarms: Installing burglar alarms in vehicles and warehouses, will work as an additional security measure and assist in warding off thieves.
  7. Locks: Even though this is one of the most basic security measures, it is necessary to reiterate it here. Check to be sure all locks on truck shutters and warehouse entry and exit points are sturdy and in working condition. Train your staff to double check the locks after the truck or the warehouse has been locked.
  8. Train your staff: Train your truck drivers and warehouse staff to be able to detect suspicious activity and people lurking around the shipment. If the staff is trained to notice any such activity around the shipment, they can be on their guard or take measures to protect the shipment. Drivers should also be trained to avoid parking the trucks in unsupervised areas or in places where the risk of theft is high. If there’s a helper traveling with the driver, both of them can take turns to watch over the vehicle when making a stop for refreshments or rest.

Year-round Security

While incidents of cargo theft increase during the holidays, making the safety of employees, customers, business partners and security of the shipments in your custody a company culture and a year-round process is crucial. When this becomes a business practice, preparing for the holiday shipment delivery won’t seem like such a huge task and will also ensure that your employees are well prepared to deal with any such situation.

Different Freight Types, Different Risks and Rewards

When it comes to running your business, it can be difficult to identify points of improvement, leading you to believe that things are as good as they can get, but in a climate of rising logistics costs, making sure that your operations are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, can mean the success or failure of your business.

Ground transportation is a cost faced by almost every shipper in every industry, and quite a significant one, yet many shippers aren’t paying enough attention to how their ground transportation spend is being allocated, or don’t realize that there are different ways to approach it. In this article, we will break down a major factor that affects transportation costs: the differences between less-than-truckload (LTL) and full-truckload (FTL) services. We will break down those terms, what they mean for your business, and give two examples of how BlueGrace helped clients that were operating with less-than-ideal business models save hundreds of thousands on their ground transportation costs.

Yes, the perceived cost savings associated with sharing a truck with five other shippers is tantalizing, and a legitimate notion, but it’s not everything.

LTL has gained a reputation of being a more efficient, cost-saving method of transporting freight. It can be thought of like carpooling for cargo; if two people are going the same place, why not double-up and go in one car, splitting the cost savings? Translating that idea into a business scenario, if you’re a small-to-medium sized business, you likely do not have enough product going to one destination to fill up a truck’s full trailer, so LTL can seem like a cost-saving no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not quite so cut-and-dry. Yes, the perceived cost savings associated with sharing a truck with five other shippers is tantalizing, and a legitimate notion, but it’s not everything. There are other factors to consider when deciding between LTL and FTL, and there is no, one-size-fits all approach.

Potential Downsides of Utilizing LTL

Timing: By nature of LTL, there are multiple stops along the route that means longer lead times and may cause delays in the supply chain. So, if you are aiming to minimize transportation time, which everyone is in the logistics world, then you are making a sacrifice.

If your company operates in the realm of e-commerce, it would be prudent to examine the costs associated with the loss of business that your business suffers due to potentially longer LTL delivery times, and evaluate what options would open up if you were able to reduce your transportation times by a period of days.

For some shippers, timing is absolutely critical. The obvious examples are perishable products, like fresh produce and pharmaceutical products, which cannot sit for long periods of time in untempered conditions. But now, other “non-perishable” products, like apparel, electronics, and non-perishable food products are becoming time-sensitive in the e-commerce driven world, with monoliths like Amazon now offering same- and one-day shipping options, which have set a standard in the minds of consumers to receive products quickly. If your company operates in the realm of e-commerce, it would be prudent to examine the costs associated with the loss of business that your business suffers due to potentially longer LTL delivery times, and evaluate what options would open up if you were able to reduce your transportation times by a period of days.

Damage: Another common problem associated with LTL transportation is the higher occurrence of damage to cargo. Due to the frequent stops and touch points along routes, in which cargo is being loaded and unloaded from the trucks, freight generally incurs more damage on LTL trips than on FTL trips. For hardier freight, some light damage to exterior packaging is unlikely to be of major consequence, but for shippers dealing in more delicate products, delivering damaged product could mean having to refund a customer for the full price paid for the product, the burden falling on you. If your product is not easily damaged, this may not be an important factor, but if your product is damaged frequently or even occasionally, calculate the average cost that you end up paying to make up for damages per quarter, and then comparing to how much it would cost you to instead opt for FTL, which would result in significantly less damage. Which cost is higher in the end? It will depend on your particular business.

It’s not an easy task for shippers. At BlueGrace, we work with shippers on a case-by-case basis to help determine strategies that fit business’ specific needs. Our digital platform, BlueShip®, takes all of a company’s attributes into account to identify which options result in minimized costs and maximized profits. In the case studies, for example,“Private Equity Group & Transportation Cost Reduction,” and “Manual Process Reduction & TMS Integration for Restaurant Industry,” we dive into each case, exploring how BlueGrace helped two different clients with similar needs rethink their supply chain strategies that were giving them less-than-optimum results.

The routing guide left out multiple states that certain carriers could not go to. Because of this issue, the supplier was receiving chargebacks from distribution centers on a regular basis.

In the first case, a private equity group (PEG) was using proprietary enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to allocate resources and make business decisions. After analyzing the company’s situation, it turned out that the ERP was not suited for the client. The routing guide left out multiple states that certain carriers could not go to. Because of this issue, the supplier was receiving chargebacks from distribution centers on a regular basis. Once BlueGrace helped them downsize their carrier network to a more tailored group of carriers, it saw a 12 percent reduction in transportation costs and $300,000 in annual savings.

In the second case, a restaurant supplier was having difficulties managing their current in-house ERP system. They had looked at 3PL solutions in the past, but couldn’t find a solution that suited their needs, causing them to continue to incur chargebacks frequently, dinging their bottom line significantly over time. After the implementation of BlueGrace’s systems, the supplier was able to straighten out their supply chain and avoid chargebacks, saving them 12 percent in hard costs totaling at $468,000 in one year.

Do You Understand Your Business’ Needs?

At BlueGrace, we understand that every business has specific needs.We would love to learn what matters most to you in this aspect of your business. Contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today, and learn how you can optimize your supply chain, minimize costs, and maximize your company’s bottom line!

GRI Season: The Importance and Benefits of Digitalization 

The arrival of fall marks the beginning of the biggest annual influx in demand for the transportation of freight. This is caused by the flurry of demand from shoppers that crop up in anticipation of the holiday season. While increased demand means increased business opportunity, it can also mean a headache for players in the logistics industry — shippers, forwarders, carriers and retailers alike — as they gear up to deal with the season’s intensity. Retailers hire on seasonal employees, while carriers brace for capacity to be pushed to the limits.

Carriers raise their rates to compensate for increased costs in fuel, equipment, technological investment, and the cost of paying their drivers.

Peak season manifests in the costs shippers pay to carriers in the form of General Rate Increases (GRIs). Carriers raise their rates to compensate for increased costs in fuel, equipment, technological investment, and the cost of paying their drivers. Depending on the current economic climate that year, GRIs can be higher or lower, but average at around 5 percent.

Which factors will be especially affected during this year’s peak season, considering the current economic climate?

Higher demand for e-commerce

Consumers’ love affair with online shopping is not going anywhere anytime soon. E-tailer juggernaut Amazon.com had their most successful Amazon Prime Day in history. International shoppers purchased over 100 million products on the website and the company saw more sign-ups for its Prime service on July 16, the Monday before the event than any day in company history.

With the boom showing no signs of slowing down, the rising costs to secure capacity are sure to remain a theme during peak season this year.

E-commerce directly affects the demand for logistics services, as it raises the demand for more routes and last-mile services. With the boom showing no signs of slowing down, the rising costs to secure capacity are sure to remain a theme during peak season this year.

The driver shortage

With the simultaneous driver shortage caused by a retiring generation of truck drivers and the somewhat unpopular ELD mandate, carriers are paying higher than average wages in order to attract good drivers. The domino effect through the supply chain means that this is another cost reflected in the GRIs that shippers pay, and ends up detracting from your company’s bottom line.

Continuously rising fuel costs

During the spring of 2018, diesel prices increased in every region of the country with prices above $3 per gallon in many key logistics regions of the United States, and in August, diesel fuel costs 23 percent more compared to the previous year. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. According to the Journal of Commerce, U.S. contract truckload rates will likely cool down to a more modest 5 percent on average in 2019, but will still be higher than in years past; the overall increases are another major factor that will continue to play into rising GRIs.

In the Case Study, “Manual Cost Removal and Freight Cost Reduction for Hardware,” BlueGrace explores a scenario in which a big box client grapples to deal with increases in GRIs. The client was operating with a single national carrier model, which at a time, was working sufficiently enough for the supplier. However, as demand increased and their business had grown, the old-fashioned operational system began to prevent the company from reaching its full potential. Operations were becoming time-consuming, employees were becoming overwhelmed, and profits were suffering.

Negotiating GRI costs with carriers during times of unexpected rate increases was a major emerging problem for the company.

Negotiating GRI costs with carriers during times of unexpected rate increases was a major emerging problem for the company. Its lack of digital booking meant that there was no way for them to verify if the invoiced amount of the shipment was the same as the quoted amount of the shipment. In addition, the overwhelming amount of volume being moved was creating a bottleneck in the process, due to the time required to record data manually.

The supplier contacted BlueGrace to address these issues, agreeing to integrate its in-house Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system with BlueShip®, BlueGrace’s Transportation Management System (TMS). In doing so, they were able to negate the time-consuming process of manually booking shipments by digitalizing the process. Digitalization also enabled the client to access its own data with better transparency, allowing it to make better-informed business decisions.

Once processes are made electronic, companies like BlueGrace are also able to help businesses save by using their pre-negotiated contracts with all of the carriers whose GRIs don’t adhere to the standard set by larger companies and working with online service providers directly to handle complex negotiations so that the client doesn’t have to.

Once processes are made electronic, companies like BlueGrace are also able to help businesses save by using their pre-negotiated contracts with all of the carriers whose GRIs don’t adhere to the standard set by larger companies and working with online service providers directly to handle complex negotiations so that the client doesn’t have to. The result is a lower cost paid by the client, and a healthier bottom line; the supplier detailed in the case study ended up saving 13 percent of their yearly freight spend, which added up to $260,000 annually.

To find out how implementing can enable your business to achieve its optimal cost reduction surrounding issues like GRIs to reach its full profit potential during the peak season rush, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today.

Can Your Supply Chain Weather The Storm?

With two months left to go of this hurricane season, the eastern seaboard has been hammered by Hurricane Florence. While the storm has died out, the overall damage reports are still rolling in. As of now, over 500,000 businesses and homes are without power, mostly in North Carolina. Prolific flooding and rainfall continue to be an issue for many in the area and current damage tolls from the storm are estimated to be between $17 and $22 billion in property damage and lost economic output.

a new report for the movement of critical supply chains, food, fuel, clean water, and medical supplies and equipment, during a hurricane

In the wake of these storms and natural disasters, the researchers from the MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab have created a new report for the movement of critical supply chains, food, fuel, clean water, and medical supplies and equipment, during a hurricane and how these supply chains might be better directed during future disasters.

The report is a summary of the MIT roundtable discussion, “Supply Chain Resilience: Restoring Business Operations Following a Hurricane,” held last December. The discussion brought in 40 supply chain leaders from both the public and private sectors to discuss the challenges that were brought about by the 2017 hurricane season, which has proven to be one of the worst in U.S. history since 1900. The discussion focused on the need for better ways to share information and coordinate resources and how that could accelerate the restoration of business operations.

Pre-crisis supply chain mapping and post-crisis visibility may enable better management of resources.

“The discussions revealed potential opportunities for improvement, especially in the realm of business-government coordination. For example, pre-crisis supply chain mapping and post-crisis visibility may enable better management of resources. In cases where detailed real-time data is impractical, aggregate indicators and sentinel data sources could provide timely, actionable insights. Better relationships among businesses and the many government agencies in all levels of jurisdictions could improve coordination in a crisis. Although the future of disasters may be dynamic and unbounded, research, development, and rehearsal of resilience strategies can help mitigate the black swans to come,” MIT News says.

Transportation Breakdown

In addition to a number of businesses being closed due to loss of power or structural damage, there are some severe disruptions to transportation as a result of major hurricanes. Ocean transportation can be seriously disrupted by major storms. The port of Wilmington, for example, and the port of Charleston, just to the south, only recently reopened and resumed intermodal travel for freight.

The problem is that port closures can cause some significant delays for general freight transportation, even to areas that aren’t necessarily affected by the storm.

The problem is that port closures can cause some significant delays for general freight transportation, even to areas that aren’t necessarily affected by the storm. Freight has to be rerouted to another port which can cause some heavy congestion during the loading and unloading phase. In addition to that delay, the freight now has a longer distance to travel before reaching its intended destination. Hurricanes also bring on a tremendous amount of flooding which can shut down city infrastructures as well as closing off major roadways. The roads that are open are often heavily congested with traffic which can all but shut down transportation into these areas.

Temporary Regulation Repeal Should be Permanent Says Truckers

Of course, safety is also a concern for the trucking industry, but with the Hours of Service ruling and the Electronic Logging Device mandate, truckers are having to operate on a very tight schedule. This means spending time in rest stops and hotels while storm victims are left waiting for their supplies. Fortunately, the FMCSA granted blanket exceptions to the HoS regulation for any drivers carrying relief supplies for those that have been affected by Hurricane Florence.

Weather-related waivers are routine, says Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “It’s done for storms, whether it be for floods or hurricanes, it’s done for snow or dramatically cold weather. We watch with great interest in looking for the mushroom clouds. We don’t see them. Safety doesn’t go to hell.”

With the current ruling, once the driver starts the clock, they have to work their 14-hour block. This means a driver can’t take an extended break or wait for traffic to clear up. This combined with the ELD’s that are now required on freight haulers means that even moving the truck across the parking lot starts the clock running with no way to stop it.

Combine this with the inclement weather from a storm and drivers are going to be driving through the thick of it by necessity once the blanket exceptions are lifted.

Spencer argues that this inflexibility could actually detract from safety, rather than enhancing it. Because the clock starts running as soon as the truck moves, and doesn’t stop until the clock runs out, a driver is more likely to continue driving, rather than taking a rest break. Combine this with the inclement weather from a storm and drivers are going to be driving through the thick of it by necessity once the blanket exceptions are lifted.

Help Your Supply Chain Weather Out the Storm

Given the fact that a hurricane has the potential to severely disrupt your daily operations, it’s important to take precautions ahead of time.

Know when they’re going to happen: Hurricane season begins June 1st and runs until November 1st. During that time, it’s important to keep an eye on storms that could develop into something worse. When it comes to hurricanes, it’s usually not a matter of if, but when.

Increase Your Visibility: Visibility plays a huge role in protecting the supply chain. The more aware you are of your freight movements, the easier it is to reroute in the event of an emergency.

Plan Ahead: Making contingency plans ahead of time can save you a lot of hassle and heartache later on down the road. Having the right key systems in place and understanding your operations from front to back is crucial. Not just during natural disasters, but for day to day operations.

Get Help: Consider working with a 3PL to help manage your transportation needs. Freight capacity in the United States is scarce to begin with. During a natural disaster, capacity becomes needed for disaster relief efforts which makes that capacity window shrink even further. As a result, spot rates rise which can make hurricanes a truly costly endeavor for a number of businesses. Working with a 3PL like BlueGrace can help secure capacity and enhance your ability to book freight . This can help make all the difference. To speak to one of our freight experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

Understanding the Capacity Effects of the ELD Mandate

Carriers in the trucking industry are still adjusting to the growing pains of the federally mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) following implementation deadlines earlier this year. For many carriers, even with deadlines in the rearview mirror, there is still confusion around the details of the mandate. Even those who are fully intent on cooperating may not be confident that they are in full compliance, or which specific aspects of their operations even need to be in compliance. 

The fines, which went into effect in April, state that under Title 49, section 521, any driver or carrier who does not keep a Record of Duty Status (RODS) is subject to being pulled off the road and face a civil penalty of $1,000 to $10,000 for each offense. Even still, one-third of U.S. truck drivers still use paper logs to track hours of service, despite the federal mandate, says a new survey with 2,400 respondents from software-as-a-service (SaaS) company Teletrac Navman that provides GPS fleet tracking. 

But contrary to popular belief, fines are regularly being issued to carriers.

While there has been an industry narrative developing since news of the mandate emerged that the potential to face fines is more of a “boogeyman” scare-tactic than a real concern, the evidence tells a different story. But contrary to popular belief, fines are regularly being issued to carriers. Almost $32 million worth of fines had been racked up as of Feb. 28 and another $142 million as of Aug. 22, totaling at $174 million. 

Source: https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/fleets-not-using-ELD-data-survey/531410/

BlueGrace’s Brian Blalock, Senior Manager of Sourcing Strategy, and Raddy Velkov, Director of Trucking Operations, explain these fines’ effect on the nation’s trucking capacity, the lanes that are the most affected, and how to use mode optimization to respond to the situation in their webinar,“Response to the ELD Mandate”.

Blalock says that with trucks being taken off the road, shippers are experiencing a constriction of capacity, “which means things are becoming more and more difficult for us as shippers to be able to create good business plans, make good decisions and make sure our freight arrives on time and in full.” 

First, Blalock lays down how the ELD mandate affects different routes, i.e. local, short haul, tweener, and long haul.  

What Does the ELD Mandate Mean: Transit times, Capacity, and Rates 

Local (less than 100 miles): Runs that are under 100 air miles are considered not subject to the ELD mandate, so the segment of small carriers that operate entirely on a regional basis have been unaffected.  

Short Haul (100-450 miles) “As the mileage grows… there is more of an adjustment period due to the longer length of haul.” But if you drive beyond the 100-mile radius or take more than 12 hours to return to your home base, you are required to maintain a RODS.  

Tweener (450 – 800 miles) This category is the most affected by the ELD mandate, Blalock and Velkov explain. Smaller carriers that were running one- and two-day points illegally were able to charge shippers less because they were recording use of the equipment for one day, whereas the larger size carriers who were in compliance had to pay the true, higher amount. 

Once you’re inspected and ticketed by the DOT you are more likely to get ticketed or inspected again.

“Larger carriers… were compliant to run these two-day points,” Velkov explained. “Some of these larger carriers were already compliant for a lot of years, just due to the sheer size of their fleet.” Velkov added, “Once you’re inspected and ticketed by the DOT you are more likely to get ticketed or inspected again, so the carriers with larger fleets were getting inspected more than the owner-ops. with one or two trucks, so they wanted to adjust the playing field in this market space and be price competitive.”  

Long Haul (over 800 miles) The long haul runs are also affected by the ELD mandate, of course, but many carriers operating these runs were already in compliance. 

With the ELD-mandate changing business dynamics many carriers have made it their goal to minimize cost in order to reduce rates to stay competitive, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle.  

Analysis with BlueGrace 

If all of the conversations you’re having internally are about rates, you’re having the wrong conversation.

“If all of the conversations you’re having internally are about rates, you’re having the wrong conversation,” Blalock said, “because more of the cost can be driven out by better decisions than by any decisions that can be made to rates.”  Velkov and Blalock explain how businesses can use data to optimize their business models, using the metrics and analysis available with Bluegrace’s services. The process starts by looking at a full picture of the supply chain to understand the network and cost distribution. 

Shippers should internally ask questions like, which vendors are costing more money than they’re worth? Can I negotiate better dollar per pound rate with them? Are we losing money with this a specific vendor? Once you have a strong understanding of your current network and the costs associated with your vendors, you can begin to dig deeper by looking at various analysis offered by BlueGrace, such as the ship weight analysis, explained below.  

Ship Weight Analysis Report: This measure allows shippers to look at month-to-month based on average weights cost per pound per month to determine if there are any outliers. For instance, were there any particular times your company did better than others? 

There is a tendency to steer away from FTL because of cost, to shift to multiple LTLs, but this may not always be the best option.

“You’re not always looking for mistakes, but instances in which things were done considerably better,” Blalock commented. You want to understand the exact cost per unit, or as Blalock says, the cost to put each widget on the shelf. This will help you make smarter business decisions, for instance, whether or not to book full truckload (FTL) or less than truckload (LTL.) “There is a tendency to steer away from FTL because of cost, to shift to multiple LTLs, but this may not always be the best option,” Blalock said. You may be making the mistake of booking LTL thinking it is saving you excess cost, but if sixteen LTL booking costs you $200 each, versus paying for one $1000 FTL, you’ve just paid in excess of $2,200. 

How BlueGrace Can Help

With the ELD-mandate in effect and a capacity crunch in full swing, there is an industry-wide pressure to curb costs, but there is no reason to fold under the pressure. There are plenty of opportunities to save on costs waiting to be revealed. All it takes is a hard look at your business model.  To speak to one of our freight experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below. 

What Can Shippers Do To Stay Competitive?

The e-commerce boom has no doubt stimulated economies internationally, driving demand for consumer goods and creating jobs in its wake. Logistics companies and carriers have celebrated the phenomenon. After all, growth in consumer demand means growth in demand for transportation services and invariably juicier bottom lines. Right?

Actually, the story doesn’t quite follow the Economy 101 text book’s narrative of what happens when an uptick in demand occurs. Real world factors have made the equation more complicated. The trucking sector of the logistics industry experienced this boom firsthand — ground carriers seeing massive growth in demand for the transportation of smaller loads, characteristic of e-commerce cargo. So, what is the downside?

While ground carriers should be reporting their best quarters on record, they are instead coming face to face with a serious problem: meeting the demands of their customers.

The trucking capacity shortage. There is simply not enough capacity to go around. While ground carriers should be reporting their best quarters on record, they are instead coming face to face with a serious problem: meeting the demands of their customers. As a result, shippers are forced to be more competitive about reserving trucking capacity, and the price of that capacity has risen substantially. This economic situation is the reverse of what was happening in recent years when carriers were scaling down their fleets, holding off and making any orders of new trucks in the face of overabundant capacity. Now, carriers are putting in orders all at once due to an uptick in demand experienced in both land and air freight, that commenced during the first half of 2017.

How are shippers being affected? 

Shippers are experiencing the shortage of capacity in raised shipping rates. The script has flipped on them; instead of being able to shop around for the best package deal on their ground transportation needs, they are instead experiencing limited options for their needs at higher prices. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the effect of the trucking capacity shortage on shippers, referencing that last year, transportation costs rose 7% for U.S. businesses, a substantial increase compared to the 4% average over the last five years ended in 2017. This data was originally reported by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ annual State of Logistics Report. The rise in costs are not likely to be temporary. This means shippers will have to adjust to new tighter margins, allocating more of their budget to transportation costs. For some, this difference could mean being nudged out of the market, especially considering that the shortage is only forecasted to increase. 

What is causing the shortage? 

Growth in demand is one half of the coin that is the shortage in truck capacity. The other half is the shortage of truck drivers, which is a multi-faceted issue in itself. Until innovations like drones and autonomous vehicles become real-world technologies, which are still a long ways from hitting the market, there is no getting around the fact that truck drivers are crucial to the supply chain.  The driver shortage is not a cyclical issue that will decrease or stabilize anytime soon, according to experts. The U.S. saw a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers at the end of 2017, according to the Washington Post’s sources, up from a shortage of 36,000 the year before, and according to NASDAQ: CNBC, the shortage is actually going to triple in the next decade if nothing changes. The acquisition of a trucking license takes only a few weeks. Even though drivers are now being offered upwards of $80,000 yearly salaries, and some in the six-figure range, low barriers to entry and high salaries are not enough to attract enough drivers for a combination of reasons. So, why can’t ground carriers find enough manpower to keep up with demand?  

Electronic logging devices 

The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has caused some controversy in the industry. Truck drivers and CEOs alike have opinions on both side of the fence, as to whether or not the federal requirement of the implementation of ELDs is a good idea. 

While it’s true that truck driving deaths have increased over the last decade, the drivers themselves don’t necessarily appreciate the new, digitized version of hour logging.

The mandate was established to hold drivers more accountable for accurately recording their hours in hopes that fewer accidents and fatalities would occur as a result of fatigue from overworking. While it’s true that truck driving deaths have increased over the last decade, the drivers themselves don’t necessarily appreciate the new, digitized version of hour logging. Executives are also apprehensive about the mandate because of the high cost of implementation, the associated learning curve and the hiccups that come along with it. Many believe that the ELD mandate has been a major cause in deterring truck drivers from continuing their careers in the field, due to a perceived distrust or disrespect of privacy. 

Public perception & lifestyle 

Outside of the ELD mandate, experts also think that a low public perception of truck driving is causing a low rate of entry to the career. As the older generation of drivers begins to retire, they are not being replaced with a younger generation as quickly as demand for capacity needs.  The lifestyle associated with being a driver includes sleeping on the road, long hours, and many nights spent away from family.  

With the younger generation pursuing higher education at higher rates than ever before and unemployment being at a low right now, the workforce is not gravitating toward trucking, despite the appeal of high pay. 

While the wages seem like they should be attractive to younger generations entering the workforce, it seems that lifestyle may be another deterrent. With the younger generation pursuing higher education at higher rates than ever before and unemployment being at a low right now, the workforce is not gravitating toward trucking, despite the appeal of high pay. 

What can shippers do to stay competitive? 

As industry leaders work to find solutions to attract more truck drivers, many companies are rethinking their supply chains in order to prepare for a continued more expensive freight market. This means optimizing inefficiencies wherever possible in order to compensate for the greater expense by minimizing costs where you can. Shippers can implement strategies like defining business rules around factors like weight, volume, time constraints, and cargo sensitivity of their shipments in order to gain a strong understanding of what their actual costs are and where there is an opportunity to minimize them. 

Investing in software that will allow you to purchase capacity and plan your shipments can be the make-or-break factor in a highly competitive environment.

Investing in software that will allow you to purchase capacity and plan your shipments can be the make-or-break factor in a highly competitive environment. BlueGrace’s proprietary 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. 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.

Growing A Green Supply Chain

“Going Green” has been an action catchphrase for just about every industry over the past decade. Consumers laud companies that put out green initiatives or take other steps that make their company run cleaner and help slow some of the daily damage caused to the environment. Yet despite all the happy little symbols and environmentally friendly packaging, many companies aren’t really concerned about it. Off the record, some companies will admit that they don’t think the effort is actually necessary and that their company is running just fine the way it is. A more common opinion is that even if global warming is a real danger, that it’s simply cost prohibitive to make any drastic or long-lasting changes to their operations.

There is something of a disparity between consumer idealism and what a corporation deems as necessary. Moreover, it creates an argument between the two. The need to protect the planet, and a corporation’s responsibility to create paying jobs for the general public while providing affordable goods and services. 

The Lesser of Two Evils 

Even for the corporations and manufacturers that realize the need for environmental sustainability, there is a need to continue to manage their supply chains in such a way as to sustain their own business. This creates a rift between corporate and consumer. A good example of this was when NGO ForestEthics released a report that slammed retailers and logistics providers alike for using companies who fueled fleet trucks with diesel that was created with bitumen sands from Alberta which causes a considerable strain on the environment 

Even when companies are trying to do the right thing, it’s never so cut and dry, leaving them handling the proverbial double-edged sword.  

Alberta’s government, however, countered with statistics showing the number of jobs created by the oil sand farming as well as the overall economic contribution that came from the operation. Walmart also came up against a consumer conscious hardship in the effort to take steps towards sustainability. In 2015, the retail giant developed a seafood certification plan that was intended to promote ocean sustainability. The environmentalist group, Greenpeace, said that Walmart’s efforts weren’t enough, whereas the Alaskan fishermen that were providing the seafood said that the requirements were too much to handle. Even when companies are trying to do the right thing, it’s never so cut and dry, leaving them handling the proverbial double-edged sword.  

A Matter of Cost 

Why should a company go the extra mile to make sure they’re going green if the consumer isn’t willing to meet them at the checkout line?  

Speaking of the double-edged sword, there’s also the cost to be concerned with. While the general consumer consensus says that they would like everything to be sustainably sourced and environmentally friendly, the truth of the matter is that most consumers don’t want to pay the extra costs associated with it. So that begs the question, is environmental sustainability really worth the effort? Why should a company go the extra mile to make sure they’re going green if the consumer isn’t willing to meet them at the checkout line?  

Three Big Reasons to Go Green 

According to Yossi Sheffi, the Director of the MIT Center for Logistics and Transportation, there are actually three big reasons why companies should continue to make the effort to become sustainable. Risk mitigation, cost-cutting, and hedging. “Regardless of the degree to which company executives believe in the threat of climate change or the ravages of environmental degradation, many of their customers do, and they need to respond to these beliefs (even though the same customers are not likely to be willing to pay more for sustainable products). If they don’t, they risk incurring the wrath of NGOs and the media, leading to reputation damage,” Director Sheffi explains. In terms of cutting costs, Mr. Sheffi explains that green initiatives can help to reduce supply chain costs. “An example is how reducing the number of empty miles can shrink a company’s carbon footprint and capture cost savings in freight transportation. Retailer Macy’s eliminated 21% of empty miles and saved about $1.75 million annually by joining a program that posts retailers’ empty miles and finds shippers that can take advantage of the unused truck capacity.” 

Millennial consumers tend to be more environmentally conscious than the baby boomer generation of consumers, and these convictions may shape future markets.

Hedging is also a big reason to start planning and initiating green operations. Given that the generational dynamic is moving away from the baby boomers and into the millennials, there is going to be a change in consumer taste and demand. “Millennial consumers tend to be more environmentally conscious than the baby boomer generation of consumers, and these convictions may shape future markets.” Sheffi explains that the Clorox Company actually lost money with their green initiative “Green Works.” It was a small, environmentally friendly product line, that didn’t fare too well in the market but in exchange, the chemical company learned a lot about the manufacturing and marketing of such products.  

It’s Not Easy Being Green  

Finding the right balance between green practices and practical manufacturing is easier said than done. In the case of Clorox, they had to lose money to learn a valuable lesson. But not all initiatives are a loss for the company. Campbells Soup, for example, managed to change their packaging process which cut waste and saved them a good bit of money in exchange.  

Companies really have to examine their operation and decide which is the best course of action to take for manufacturing and the transportation of their goods, start to finish. In this, the ultimate intentions aren’t really what’s important. Even if a company tweaks their supply chain just to be more efficient and ends up cutting down on carbon emissions, the end result is a net win, both for the environment as well as the profit margin.  

 Improving the supply chain is not only a great way to lessen the carbon footprint, but improve operational efficiency and profits.

With better efficiency comes a reduced impact on the environment. As the supply chain is the industry heavy hitter for greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, improving the supply chain is not only a great way to lessen the carbon footprint, but improve operational efficiency and profits. This is where a 3PL like BlueGrace can help. BlueGrace specializes in identifying weak spots in the supply chain and provide a holistic solution, making your supply chain run as smooth and efficient as possible. To find out more about how we can help you improve efficiency, reduce cost, and simplify your supply chain, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our freight experts today!

Chilled Supply Chains

While most supply chains operate on the assumption that if the freight is frozen, something has gone terribly awry. However, some goods need to be kept on ice in order to maintain freshness and comply with food safety regulations.  

Much the same as any other supply chain, however, cold and frozen supply chains are also subject to the laws of demand. For example, there are roughly 2.5 billion pounds of beef stockpiled in U.S. cold storage facilities as a result of trade regulations and tariffs set forth by the Trump administration.  

Here are some interesting cold storage stats provided by Quartz 

49 million: Pounds of butter in US cold storage in July 1918 

310 million: Pounds of butter in cold storage in July 2018 

3.6 billion: Cubic feet of cold storage space in the United States 

36 million: Temperature-controlled square feet at 2800 Polar Way in Richmond, Washington, the largest cold storage warehouse in North America 

$28 billion: The projected value of China’s cold chain market in 2025 

25%: The growth rate of India’s cold chain industry 

$24 million: The cost of two refrigerators for Air Force One, which must carry 3000 meals in case of an emergency. 

A Brief History of Cold Supply Chains 

Refrigeration was brought about in the United States in the late 1800s. Originally it was thought that warehouse owners were using cold storage to scam consumers by stockpiling fruits in order to control pricing. However, that notion was quickly set to the side and by the mid-20th century, refrigerated transportation had changed the nature of the supply chain and access to proteins and rarer produce to the average consumer.

As the middle class continues to grow in developing countries, the demand for reefer transport is rising.

Refrigerated shipping containers, “reefer units” were originally invented in the 1950’s and are still used to haul approximately 90 percent of the world’s food trade. As the middle class continues to grow in developing countries, the demand for reefer transport is rising. Anything from food to pharmaceuticals relies on reefer units as these goods make their way around the world.   

How a Cold Chain Works 

There are a number of different goods that utilize chilled transport: meats, produce, flowers, pharmaceuticals, even transplant organs. While the exact practice varies from product to product the general practice remains the same. Quartz details the step by step for produce.    

  • The first step is pre-cooling: Getting the harvest from the field to on-site cold storage. A one-hour delay in hot weather means one day less of shelf life at the store. There are a lot of methods, from the simple (shade, spraying water) to the sophisticated (vacuum cooling). 
  • Then it’s into the reefer. An automated system can fill a truck in 10–15 minutes. 
  • Next, it moves to a cold storage facility, which is just a giant warehouse with lots of metal shelves. Here’s what an automated one looks like. 
  • After that, it’s back to the reefer and to the store, where fresh fruit and vegetables are taking up an increasing amount of space. 
  • Finally, it’s moved out to the display case, where fresh-cut produce has to be maintained between 32℉ and 41℉, a tricky physics problem. 

Of course, with more stringent requirements from the FDA, containers have to get smarter as well as the supply chain. One such adaptation is reefer containers that can monitor temperature data in real time. This allows suppliers to monitor and prove that their produce or other temperature sensitive goods have been within acceptable thresholds for the duration of the trip.   

Blockchain is expected to play a big role in the future for preventing expired or mishandled food from reaching customers.

Another advancement links that container to data systems, specifically blockchain data, which provides a more or less permanent snapshot into the entire life cycle of the product. There are a number of major players in the food industry including Walmart and Nestle that have had a bad rap for bad food. Blockchain is expected to play a big role in the future for preventing expired or mishandled food from reaching customers. “You’re capturing real-time data at every point, on every single food product,” says Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, which leads the effort. “It’s the equivalent of FedEx tracking for food.” 

One of the biggest advantages to using blockchain for food item supply chains is that the data can’t be faked, changed, or altered. Once the data is in, it’s in for good since blockchain databases work peer to peer instead of being housed on a single server. Additionally, because of the shared nature of the data, it can actually help to cut down on operation costs, by eliminating the need for data silos and processing.  Should a food issue arise, the process of tracking down not only the spoiled goods, but the location and other goods that might have been contaminated from the same source can be tracked down in minutes, rather than weeks, which helps protect not only the consumers but the retailer selling the products.  

How Can I Simplify My Freight Needs? 

This is just one example of the diverse nature of the supply chain and highlights the need for agility, visibility, and flexibility to make it all work. At BlueGrace, we help our customers navigate through the constant changes the industry brings. No matter the situation, we can help simplify your freight needs. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak with a representative today! 

Controlling Costs and Preventing Accessorial Loss

Controlling costs is critical for any business to be successful. When working with a supply chain, the more complex it is, the more chances there are for additional costs and surcharges, any of which can cost your company a great deal of extra money.

They are any freight services that go beyond the normal scope of pickup and delivery.  

Accessorial charges are a particular type of surcharge. They are any freight services that go beyond the normal scope of pickup and delivery. This can include inside or special delivery charges, waiting or detention time, fuel surcharges, storage fees, and many others. Given the way the freight market is changing, especially due to the rise and continual growth of e-commerce, many companies are looking to a more specialized version of last mile delivery as customers want their products sooner rather than later. The “white glove” last mile service, while costly, is growing increasingly important as customer service is becoming one of the last true differentiators among the competition.  

In our webinar, we covered the basics and most common questions of accessorial charges which include:  

  • What are accessorials? 
  • How do they affect cost? 
  • How do they affect supply chain efficiency? 
  • How can we mitigate problems? 
  • How do we know if we have a problem? 

Consumers want their product today, that means that retailers want it delivered, checked in, and on the shelf yesterday.

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.  

What Are Accessorials?  

As we mentioned above, accessorials are extra charges associated with freight delivery that fall outside simple pick up and delivery. We gave a few examples above, but those are by no means the only accessorial charges that you could be stuck paying. Here are some other types of common accessorial charges.  

  • Reweigh 
  • Limited Access 
  • Liftgate 
  • Residential delivery 
  • Appointment / Notify 
  • Sort & Segregate 
  • Hazardous Materials  
  • Trade Show Delivery  

While inaccurate weighing of freight could be a result of an honest mistake, the cost of that mistake can add up quickly.

It’s important to control and monitor as many of these as possible to help control costs. Consider reweigh charges for example. When a carrier weighs freight and compares the actual weight to what’s listed on the bill of lading, the difference can be instantly tacked on to the invoice. For shipments that are 50 pounds or more over what the bill of lading states, there is a $25.00 validation fee as well as an increase to shipping costs. Additionally, all freight fees, fuel surcharge fees, and any other applicable accessorial fees will be adjusted accordingly. While inaccurate weighing of freight could be a result of an honest mistake, the cost of that mistake can add up quickly.

How Accessorial Fees can Affect Your Supply Chain  

One way to better control accessorial charges is to have a more efficient and agile supply chain. Detention fees are a prime example of where efficiency pays off. For the LTL market, every shipment has a set amount of free time per stop before the charges start being applied. While this is based on weight, meaning that heavier shipments have more time, it can be hard to gauge just how long each stop is going to take which leaves your company exposed to detention fees.  

Another thing to consider is that the ELD mandate severely limits the amount of working time a driver has available. The longer it takes to load and unload freight can cause delivery delays and will ultimately increase the price of a shipment. Once you start adding detention fees onto the bill it can quickly become more expensive than you were initially anticipating. 

It’s critical to have your supply chain running smoothly and efficiently.

Because of this, it’s critical to have your supply chain running smoothly and efficiently. Not only does it increase the chances that you will make your delivery schedule, but having a more efficient operation makes you a more attractive customer to carriers (which increases the likelihood of getting the capacity you need) as well as helping to control shipping costs.  

Learn More About How You Can Manage Accessorial Charges   

When it comes to controlling costs, the more you understand about extra fees the better off you’ll be. Because many of these accessorial charges can compound and complicate others, it’s important to understand the full workings of your supply chain and identify any potential problems before they arise.  

The truth of the matter is that the more you understand your freight and the way your carrier works, the more accessorial fees you can either reduce or negate entirely. Many of these fees won’t even enter into the picture so long as the shipper is taking the time to make sure they’re doing things right. Doing this means preventing the issue before it even begins. On the other hand, if your freight invoice is coming as a bit of a shock, it might be time to take a closer look at the surcharges and determine what you can you do to correct the issue.  

Ultimately, everything we covered in the webinar is about helping your company to manage these fees and perform better across the board. From internal operations to external executions, everything is connected and we break it down for you. Watch the full webinar to learn more about how you can be successful!

If you would like to speak to one of our freight experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below:

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

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.

Choosing the Right 3PL to Align with Your Business Strategy

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

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

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

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

Start with Carrier Partnerships

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

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

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

Door to Door deliveries

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

Experience matters

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

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

Do the services match the requirements?

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

How many modes?

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

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

How’s their customer service? 

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

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

Is your 3PL BlueGrace?

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

Freight Damage: 8 Practical Ways to Avoid It 

Whether you are a shipper, receiver or trucker, freight damage affects all equally. Freight damage not only increases your cost and affects your revenue, but recurring or heavy damages can cause friction between supplier and end users. 

As a Freight Operator, you can take several measures to avoid freight damage and shipping claims. 

1. Understand your cargo

Understanding the nature of the cargo is of utmost importance so that you can use the correct type of transport for your cargo and the correct type of packaging. For example, if you are shipping drummed cargo you don’t need the same level of protection as you would if you shipped fragile or bottled cargo such as sauces, jams, etc. If you are shipping cargo that is more volumetric in nature than weight (example Cotton Bales) you need a truck with a bigger space capacity than weight capacity. 

2. Choosing the right packaging

This is a critical aspect of trying to avoid freight damage. Once you have understood the nature of your cargo, which may be fragile, heavy, sensitive to water, sensitive to heat, etc., you need to carefully assess the type of packaging required for your product. For example, if you are packing fragile cargo such as bottles, it is important to ensure that these cargoes are packed using durable packaging like corrugated cardboard which is then palletized on wooden pallets for easy and safe handling. 

Use quality pallets that will last longer than cheaper pallets. Cheaper pallets may give in a short term, and better quality pallets will allow for double stacking as required. Don’t take shortcuts or skimp on the proper packaging material as this short-term saving could result in a much bigger expense at a later stage in case of any claims. 

3. Label your goods correctly

While it sounds like a no-brainer, a lot of freight damage can be avoided by labeling the cargo correctly. For example, if you are shipping liquid cargo or any other cargo that needs to be kept upright, it is important to label it correctly so the cargo handlers know which way to carry it. Similarly, if the cargo is hazardous, then it is important to label it appropriately. You should use the required hazardous labels so safety precautions can be taken. 

4. Protecting your packaging 

Cargo such as clothing, shoes and other high-value retail goods are special targets for thieves and protecting your cargo is of utmost importance. Protecting your packaging is also essential against weather and dirt, especially if you use cardboard cartons. 

You can protect your cargo by sealing it with good quality tape (usually with your company branding on it), strapping it and shrink wrapping it.

5. Stow the goods correctly

Stowing of goods on the pallet or the truck is absolutely essential to avoid freight damage. Due care must be taken to stack goods in a uniform and stable manner so that weight is equally distributed across the pallet(s) and the truck. Your products must stay within the dimensions of the pallet such that it cannot get damaged during handling. 

If your cargo has a mixture of heavy and light goods (say boxes of canned food and boxes of marshmallows), ensure that the boxes of canned food are stowed at the bottom and the boxes of marshmallows are stowed on top of the canned food. 

6. Stow the truck correctly

A lot of freight damage happens when cargo shifts inside the truck during transit. Cargo moves inside the truck due to improper stowage inside the trailer.  Whether it is palletized cargo or non-palletized cargo, the cargo should be stowed inside the truck as tightly as possible to avoid movement. 

If in spite of your best efforts there is some space between the cargo, you should use suitable dunnage material like airbags (inflatable dunnage) to absorb sudden impacts and to prevent the load from shifting. In the case of fragile cargo, you can use cargo nets to secure it, so it doesn’t move during transit. 

7. Ship in bulk

Try to consolidate your goods and move as FTL (Full Truck Load) to avoid using LTL (Less than Truck Load) as much as possible. LTL moves multiple handling before the cargo gets to its final destination. However careful one is, multiple cargo handling has a possibility of damaging your cargo. 

8.Choose reliability over price

Choose the right supplier. Using a reliable freight partner is of utmost importance in the whole supply chain process. You should choose your reliable carrier based on a few factors such as their FMCSA score, the trucks that they use, the age of their fleet, their insurance and liability cover, their cargo handling safety record and their staff training methodology. While these may not guarantee the safety of your goods, it can give you a pretty good idea of your supplier. 

To summarize, 

Freight Suppliers

  1. Ensure the cargo is properly packaged before you accept to ship it 
  2. Ensure that the cargo is properly labeled and marked
  3. Ensure that all documentation for the cargo is correct 
  4. Ensure cargo is stowed properly and can handle the various weather and transit conditions while en route to its destination 

Freight Customers

  1. Ensure that you know how to properly pack and stack your goods, or use a qualified company to do this job for you 
  2. Check and recheck your cargo, its packaging, its labeling, stacking/packing and documentation before it leaves your warehouse 
  3. Ensure you have the correct receipt from your supplier when you are handing over your cargo
  4. Ensure you choose the right supplier for the movement of your goods 

Whether you are managing your own processes or you are using the logistics services of BlueGrace, proper preparation is one way to help prevent damage. 

By working closely with all suppliers involved in the movement of your goods, you can ensure that your cargo will reach its destination in time, within your budget, and in the condition that it left the origin. 

Do You Need Help With Understanding Your freight?

Whether you are managing your own processes or you are using the logistics services of BlueGrace, proper preparation is one way to help prevent damage. If you have questions about how you can better prevent freight damage, or just how to simplify your current transportation program, contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below, we are here to help!

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

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

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

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

More Returns Than Ever

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

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

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

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

Why Returns Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How BlueGrace Can Help

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

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

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

Cost or Asset: The Need for Talent in the Supply Chain 

When it comes to the supply chain, efficiency is the name of the game. The smoother the interaction between the links, from start to finish, the more profitable everyone is along the line. Companies have been furiously analyzing every facet of the chain, from transportation routes to in-house technology and processes in terms of the financial efficiency. In short, if it can give an advantage, improve the system, or help to cut down operating costs in any way, it’s typically touted as a good thing.  But when it comes to investing in that efficiency, where is the best place to hedge your bets? Is it in technology? A consulting firm? While all of these are important, is any one of them hiding the real key to success.

The Un-Correlated

Given the many different assets a company could hitch their hopes on, it would seem like one would rise above the rest, right? If nothing else, given the size and scope of the transportation industry, there would at least be a trend towards one process over the other. While it makes perfect logical sense, the truth of the matter is, there really isn’t a direct correlation between investment and success in the industry.

“Despite all the ads at airports and pretty PowerPoints by consultants, we cannot find support for the claims of ‘Best Run Companies Use Technology X’ or ‘Manufacturing Companies Using Consulting Services With Company Y Have Better Results.’  …or a single instance of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) drives better results,” says Lora Cecere, the founder of Supply Chain Insights.

Companies think that they are managing costs and inventory better through technology investments, but they are not.

“Across the industry, we find that companies think that they are managing costs and inventory better through technology investments, but they are not. Through graphing the financial metrics, we find that 90% of companies are stuck at the intersection of operating margin and inventory turns. With rising complexity, they are unable to make improvements in a balanced scorecard,” she added.

Talent Makes the Difference

When it comes to controlling costs, the only constant for improvement is the investment in supply chain talent. According to the survey taken by Supply Chain Insights, it was the companies who could manage their talent better than their peer groups that gained the cost advantage. This played out in three different metrics: Operating Margin, Profit Margin, and EBITDA as a percentage of Quarterly growth. In all three of these metrics, it was proper talent management that proved to be the most effective.

So what are these companies with better talent management doing that their peers aren’t?

So what are these companies with better talent management doing that their peers aren’t? There are six aspects or gaps in particular that these companies are focusing on.

“Belief in the company, appreciation for work, the need to be a part of a talented team, admiration for leadership, training and professional development and flexible work schedules. Empowered workers make a difference. With the flurry of M&A, industry consolidation, outsourcing, and downsizing, the gaps for North American manufacturers are increasing,” says Cecere.

 Provide a job where your employees feel appreciated, and are given the tools they need to not only succeed, but grow, and you’ll have a more dedicated workforce.

Provide a job where your employees feel appreciated, and are given the tools they need to not only succeed, but grow, and you’ll have a more dedicated workforce.

“Most companies have an endless cycle of cost-cutting. The cost-cutting is more severe in the back office than the front office teams of sales and marketing. Companies are often so busy pinching pennies that they miss the greater opportunity. With slowing growth, as companies end the year, many teams face draconian cost-cutting efforts. When faced with these choices, just remember that empowered employees drive a competitive advantage. Our take? Talent matters,” Cecere adds.

The Reality of the Human Asset

Human talent will invariably become more valuable than any physical asset, including technology.

Investing in talent is about much more than merely cutting costs down the road. Human talent will invariably become more valuable than any physical asset, including technology. A study conducted by Korn Ferry and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, a British economic consultancy shows just how valuable people are to any organization.

“The study found that globally, human talent—people, labor, knowledge—will be worth as much as $1.2 quadrillion over the next five years whereas physical capital— inventory, real estate and technology—will be worth an estimated $521 trillion, showing human talent, intelligence and capital is far more valuable than physical capital,” the  22nd Annual Third-Party Logistics Study reports.

“Human talent is also the greatest value creator available to organizations. For every $1 invested in human talent, $11.39 is added to GDP, proving that investing in people can generate value for the organization over time that significantly exceeds initial financial outlay.”

While automation and new technology might replace some facets of the industry, even truck drivers, there will always be a need to have highly skilled professionals on the roster.

When you consider the rapidly evolving nature of the industry, it’s easy to see just how vital talent is to any company. While automation and new technology might replace some facets of the industry, even truck drivers, there will always be a need to have highly skilled professionals on the roster. Providing them with the right technology and opportunities to grow will not only enable them to sharpen their skills but also increase their value and subsequently the value of your business.

Your Supply Chain Talent Is Readily Available Here

There is no need for companies to search for more supply chain talent. BlueGrace has 100s of talented people with the skillsets to help improve or develop your supply chain. Imagine that you had 3 more people working on optimizing your freight for each single employee you have in-house. That is the value the team at BlueGrace offers. Let us monitor your costs, communicate with the carriers and lower your overall freight spend year over year. Contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING to talk with an expert today or fill out the form below.

Are You Part Of The Available Supply Chain Talent?

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

Urban Density, Changes in Technology and Last Mile Delivery: What Can Cities Do?

 

With the rise of e-commerce and technological improvements in transportation, like autonomous vehicles and increasing urban density, we are witnessing a historic transformation in our cities. Future trends in freight movement is a “hot topic” in policy and supply chain circles.

With so many changes ahead,  a key question emerges: Can cities cope?

Daimler recently made headlines with the launch of its “all-electric Fuso ecanter truck” in New York City. The vehicle will be rolled out in other US, European and Japanese cities in the next two years, with UPS as the first commercial partner with the truck. Toyota released a hydrogen-fuelled semi-trailer that currently hauls cargo between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach without producing tailpipe emissions. This pilot is part of a longer-range plan by the Port of LA to reduce emissions. Urban planners in Dallas are examining the possibilities for the “hyperloop” in their city, “a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes.” With so many changes ahead,  a key question emerges: Can cities cope? What can cities do to stay on top of change?

Here are five “takeaways” on the topic.

1.   Understanding the Nature of Change is Key

Many predict that the U.S. economy will double in size over the next 30 years. The nation’s population is expected to rise from 326 million in 2017 to 390 million in 2045. More and more, Americans will live in congested urban or suburban sprawls called “megaregions.” Less than 10% of the country’s population will live in rural areas by 2040. This is a stark contrast to the 16% of Americans who lived in the countryside in 2010 and 23% in 1980.

This trend means more “everything”.

The surge in population and economic growth brings with it escalating freight activity. Freight movement across all modes are projected to grow by approximately 42 percent by 2040.This trend means more “everything”. More pressure on roads and transit lines by commuters, more parcels delivered, particularly with the meteoric rise of e-commerce.

One special concern is “the last mile.” The last mile is the final step in the delivery process. The last leg of the delivery process is when an item (or person) moves from distribution facility (or transit point) to end user (home). The length of the distance can vary from a couple of city blocks to 100 miles. This video from the Ryerson City Building Institute clearly shows the effects of the “last mile” on commuters – in this case, in the Greater Toronto Area.

Some of the challenges involved with the last mile are:

  • increased traffic congestion and traffic accidents
  • Noise, intrusion, the loss of open spaces to transport infrastructure projects
  • Environmental and social (public health) impact from local pollutant emissions
  • Illegal parking and resting, idling vehicles
  • Problems experienced by vehicle operators when operating in urban areas
  • Parking and loading/unloading problems including finding road space for unloading; fines, and handling
  • Parcel Theft

2. Cities Must Take Notice

Cities have long been concerned with capacity thresholds for commuting and predicting traffic flow. The new topic of “last mile” in the supply chain must now receive greater notice. We are moving away from discussion on “smart commuting” alone. While still important, traditional topics like carpooling and promoting public transit are giving way to issues such as digitalization and automation (think ride-hailing and autonomous shuttles).

3. Business Concerns Must Factor Into Urban Logistics (alongside Sustainability and Livability Goals)

Furthermore, it must be recognized that economic activity in urban areas depends on the movement and delivery of goods through freight carriers. City and traffic planners must be made aware that urban settings can be inhospitable places for freight deliverers. There must be more public and private sector coordination in freight planning. “Cities can shape markets to focus private sector attention and invest on the needs of cities and the people who live in them by mobilizing infrastructure, talent, and other assets to support the right kinds of AV-based solutions,” was one of the conclusions in “Taming the Autonomous Vehicle: A Primer for Cities (Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute) .

Business goals must be incorporated into the dialogue alongside the goals of community sustainability and livability

How freight distribution processes can be integrated into metropolitan transport, land use, and infrastructure planning is a balancing act.  Business goals must be incorporated into the dialogue alongside the goals of community sustainability and livability. An efficient and future-forward freight system will support and attract new industry for the respective area.

4. A Variety of Solutions Will Likely Be the Answer

Some of the most popular solutions include advances in technology. Transportation technology growth is very exciting, much of it spurred by seeking solutions to urban density, commuting and freight patterns.  Other solutions are more “old-fashioned” or even a return to basics. Mixing traditional and emerging technologies is the way ahead:

  • Use of electric vehicles (EV) –“sustainable mobility”
  • Autonomous vehicles and drones
  • Human-powered delivery vehicles – Cargo-bikes, pedal trucks, and pushcarts
  • Amazon lockers in commercial venues (drop-off points)
  • Vehicle access restrictions based on time and/or size/weight /emission factor/fuel type of vehicle and bus lanes
  • Curbside pickups
  • Load consolidation or co-loading
  • Truck platooning
  • Night-time deliveries, relying on “quiet equipment” and driver training
  • “On-Road Integrated Optimisation and Navigation,” or route optimization, such as introduced by UPS as a big data solution to analyze parcel operators’ daily multi-stops
  • Innovative 3PL solutions like BlueGrace’s proprietary technology, “designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands”.

A BlueGrace Case Study In Action

Recently, an e-commerce furniture business in Portland, Oregon found it had outgrown its 3PL’s manual logistic capacity, due to heavy e-commerce volumes. When this company looked to BlueGrace for ways to improve its supply chain, it was discovered that they would benefit from opening another warehouse in the Northeastern area of the US. An alternative distribution solution lowered freight costs and decreased transit days.

For the last mile to be facilitated, there must be easier access to customers and shorter distance between the hub and home.

The idea of re-examining distribution is part of a larger process of change. For instance Amazon, FedEx and UPS are creating/investing in nationwide networks of distribution and fulfillment centers. “Warehouses like these are becoming a way of life for many urbanites,” reports the Wall Street Journal. This trend is already bringing new life to formerly “sleepy towns” like Tracy, California and Kenosha, Wisconsin. For the last mile to be facilitated, there must be easier access to customers and shorter distance between the hub and home.

Make your Last Mile work. Talk with a BlueGrace Logistics expert today!

You Will Need Expedited Freight After The ELD Mandate Begins

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is going to put a serious squeeze on many supply chains, and possibly have a major effect on your business as soon as December 2017. With the devices in place, stricter hours of service regulations will be going into effect. While these are meant to increase the safety and wellbeing of the driver, many are concerned about the interruptions this mandate will cause to scheduled delivery times.

Some Exemptions are Available

While an acclimation period is to be expected, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is making some exemptions to the ELD ruling in a few cases, the most important being:

Sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs WILL NOT HAVE the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. Why is this exemption important for your freight? We will discuss more below.

So while the FMCSA is insistent on the implementation of the devices across the industry, they’re leaving a smaller, cross section of the trucking industry untouched. This comes with a slight sigh of relief as the rest of the industry continues to resist against the ruling. With the deadline for ELDs drawing closer and companies trying, and failing to repeal the mandate, other avenues for fast and timely deliveries need to be considered.

This is Where Expedited Shipments Can Help

Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

Unlike most other freight that moves with routine regularity, expedited freight has a nature of its own. Consider the timing aspect of it. The whole idea behind expedited freight is that it should be picked up and moved off quickly. A solution for anything from a shortage of parts to a peak season order. Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

In addition to the change in time and pace, there’s also the consideration that expedited freight might have some irregularities that aren’t found in normal day to day hauling. For example, the product that needs to be delivered might be going to an urban area. This usually means that ramps and docks aren’t an option, so the driver needs to have access to the right equipment to get the freight loaded or unloaded. There’s also a variance of cargo from one delivery to the next.

the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight.

In short, the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight. It needs to be quick, versatile and most importantly, available.

The BlueGrace Expedited Solution

So what do you do when you’re faced with less available hours and capacity? You turn to an expedited freight expert. The days of overpromising and overdriving trucking companies are quickly coming to an end. Instead, working with a broker who has the resources to expedite shipping will be the answer. BlueGrace not only understands the importance of getting your product from A to B quickly, but they also understand that the new regulations are very quickly going to start cramping up the rest of the industry.

BlueGrace is ready to serve customers with our national fleet of non-dock high sprinter van, small/ large straight trucks with liftgates and pallet jacks for inside pick-ups and deliveries. As we mentioned, sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs will not have the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. We will also be able to provide true teams services for sprinter vans and up to 26ft straight trucks. Another added benefit to the hands on approach for expedited is that all shipments are tracked with updates every 2-4 hours depending on day points.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you. BlueGrace provides you with a pool of 300+ pre-screened carriers that specialize in expedited shipments and can provide you with a quote in as little as 30 minutes. How’s that for fast?

In an uncertain time, BlueGrace takes the stress out of your freight by giving you the information and technology you need to get the job done. Click here to download our Expedited PDF with more details.

Need An Expedited Quote?

Fill out the form below for your FREE 30 Minute Expedited Quote, or call TOLL-FREE 877.630.7446 to be connected with our Expedited Freight Team immediately.

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.