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An Uncertain Trucking Horizon—“The Risks of a Mild Recession Have Increased”

While the U.S has boasted some rather pleasing levels of growth and continued prosperity following the recession nearly a decade ago, we might be seeing an end to it, at least in some sectors, shippers and carriers in particular. According to the Cass Freight Shipments Index, May statistics dropped 6 percent, year over year, while the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage index shows only a suggestion of growth at 0.9 percent from May 2018, the smallest annualized gain since April 2017. 

Shippers not only paid less to move freight, but they also moved less product as well, indicating a slowing down of business. 

That however, is only the tip of the iceberg. The Cass Freight Expenditure index turned negative by one percent, beginning a descent after climbing a healthy 6.2 percent. This is a rather substantial switch which indicates that shippers not only paid less to move freight, but they also moved less product as well, indicating a slowing down of business. 

Stats are also slowing down for the US truckload linehaul rates, with rate increases of only 1.2 percent in May, year over year, whereas the Cass Intermodal Price Index was up 4.2 percent the year before. 

As the Cass Shipments Index has declined for the sixth straight month, author of the index report Donald Broughton, declared it a signal of economic contraction. “Whether it is a result of contagion or trade disputes, there is growing evidence from freight flows that the economy is beginning to contract,” he said in the report, issued Tuesday.

Contraction, as you might have guessed, is quite the opposite of expansion. It’s not even a matter of incrementally slow growth, but rather shrinking. A contraction is what has people nervous. Textbook definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of economic contraction and we’re at six, presently. That has Broughton sounding the alarm, however, the contraction is not yet universal, nor is the Cass Shipment index going negative a guaranteed indicator of economic distress.  

The question is, does this sudden reversal in spending and drop in shipments mean simply a slow down in growth, an economic contraction, or is it mirroring a shift in freight demand brought on by the Trump Administrations tariffs?

The question is, does this sudden reversal in spending and drop in shipments mean simply a slow down in growth, an economic contraction, or is it mirroring a shift in freight demand brought on by the Trump Administrations tariffs? Or, is it a mix of all these factors? 

A Recession Could Hurt Some More than Others

When you don’t take risks, that means we are not going to grow at the same pace that we were.

Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist and senior vice president of international trade policy and cross-border operations, spoke to the council here. “When I come to meetings like this, everyone is like, “What is going on? Are we headed for a recession?’ ” Costello said. “When people start asking those questions, you know what that tells me? You go back to your businesses, and you are not going to take risks. And when you don’t take risks, that means we are not going to grow at the same pace that we were.”

Costello sites President Trump’s trade war as a cause for much of the uncertainty in the industry which is one of the many unknowns that could hurt the U.S. economy, ending the period of expansion since the third quarter of 2009. 

To be fair, that is a considerable time for expansion to go uninterrupted, but Costello also is hesitant to call the current market status a possible recession in 2019 and 2020. 

“The risks of a mild recession have increased,” Costello told the audience of freight officials and executives at a recent NAFC conference. “It’s not my forecast. All I am saying is, the risks have increased.  The theme is slowing but growing.”

With the increase in pay to help keep experienced drivers and attract new ones combined with the lower spot rates for hauls, it could prove to be a deadly combination for smaller carriers.

Fleets stand to lose the most during the economic uncertainty, especially smaller carriers who are at the mercy of the spot markets which has been getting hit with rate drops over the past few months. With the increase in pay to help keep experienced drivers and attract new ones combined with the lower spot rates for hauls, it could prove to be a deadly combination for smaller carriers.

“Contract freight is doing better than the spot market,” Costello said. “The spot market has been hit hard … I think you are going to see more and more fleets going out of business.”

The situation could result in potential “carnage” with some fleets, as they seek bankruptcy protection or simply go out of business, he added.

A Muted Spring for Freight

Spring was undoubtedly a soft season for the freight industry this year, but we’re seeing the dam start to break, or at the very least crack. Truckload rates reported by DAT solutions out of Atlanta have risen by double digits in the last few weeks as more and more freight appears to be moving in land from U.S. West coast, always a good sign as it will mean that June statistics and rates were higher than May. 

This is very good news for owner-operators and independents that depend on the spot market more than their larger counterparts. However, that breathing room might not be long-lived if the current downward trend continues. 

“In the short term, Los Angeles, northern California, and Atlanta are much more robust in the last thirty days, both in load-to-truck ratios and, more recently, pricing,” says Mark Montague, an industry pricing analyst at DAT.

“While we are starting to see higher quantities of summer produce, USDA and DAT’s own internal data suggest it continues to be a sub-par year for produce shipments.  It could still turn around with a few weeks of favorable growing conditions, so this remains a wild card. This will also have a ripple effect across other segments of the supply chain,” Montague adds.  

A recession, while not a great thing, wouldn’t be totally devastating to contract carriers, but it might be damning for smaller companies.

What we’ve seen so far is that the future is decidedly unclear, much of it due to the current geopolitical standing and impending trade war as the global economy reshuffles its hand preparing for the next round. A recession, while not a great thing, wouldn’t be totally devastating to contract carriers, but it might be damning for smaller companies. As for shippers, now is the time to review your supply chains and develop your contingency plans for a multitude of events including the growing impact of e-commerce demand and rapid fulfillment expectations on freight flow and distribution locations. 

The industry is changing, and we will be seeing a radical shift in the topography of freight shipping, both the highs and the lows, not just in the United States but globally. BlueGrace is committed to helping our customers navigate through the constant changes the industry brings. No matter the situation, we are here to 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!

Regaining Lost Customers in the Digital Age 

Let’s be honest, there are few things that feel more rewarding than securing a new customer. It’s incredibly important for business growth and development and at the end of the day, more customers mean more money. With that being said, no business should ever operate on a model where the acquisition of new customers supersedes the importance of advancing old or preexisting customers. More specifically speaking, winning back profitable old customers that you might have lost. 

In the business-to-business (B2B) world, reacquisition is incredibly important. Losing customers happens more often than you might expect, especially given the current market, where customers have more options than ever to evaluate and re-evaluate their suppliers, find new ones, and make changes. 

Losing a customer can be a costly endeavor, and that cost is only going up.

Losing a customer can be a costly endeavor, and that cost is only going up. For some firms, long-standing customers are also their best customers.  As recently as 2014, for example, “the average publicly traded manufacturing firm received over 25% of its revenue from large buyers, up from 10% in the early 1980s.”. Any company, regardless of size, would be leery at the prospect of losing a customer like that. 

Former customers already have a certain expectation about your company and capabilities, and it’s almost impossible to change the first impression.

The reacquisition process, however, is a bit different than acquiring fresh customers. The most obvious difference is former customers already have a certain expectation about your company and capabilities, and it’s almost impossible to change the first impression. The other side of the coin, however, is you also have your own set of criteria and history, so you know if that customer is worth pursuing. 

Fortunately, when it comes to winning back a lost partner, it’s less about wining and dining, although that’s certainly a part of it in some cases. Realistically it comes down to this, can your company get the job done this time better and in a most cost-effective way? The good news is that a lot of what customers are looking for, both new and old, can be found from within your supply chain.

Rebuilding Relationships in the Digital Age

Assuming you’ve done the math, you’ve come to realize that Customer ‘X’ is definitely an asset to your roster and is worth romancing back into a partnership. Where do you begin? This isn’t necessarily an easy question to answer as not only does it depend on the specific customer, but it is also prone to change due to the current state of flux in the market. Everything is shifting, getting technological upgrades, and becoming digital. Even customer expectations are starting to trend towards digital solutions. Having said that, finding the right way to move forward is like trying to find the needle in a haystack, in the back of a moving truck. 

What many businesses are looking for today is visibility, flexibility, and assurance that they’ll get what they need, when they need it.

What many businesses are looking for today is visibility, flexibility, and assurance that they’ll get what they need, when they need it. The ability to provide those things to a customer not only marks you as a good business partner, but it’s also a key differentiator amongst the competition. The digital “olive branch” in today’s market is what kind of data and information you can provide your customers, and overall accountability of your services and, most importantly, the strength of your supply chain.

Managing Customer Expectations

Customer expectations are constantly growing and changing. Walmart is a prime example of this. The superstore is locked in a battle of epic proportions against Amazon. Every empty spot on a shelf means a potential missed sale. A sale that could end up going to Amazon or even a different competitor. 

As a result, Walmart started stepping up their expectations from their suppliers, hitting those that don’t hold up their end of the bargain with charge-backs and other fees. However, given the size and reach of a retail giant like Walmart, business potentials for suppliers are enormous. If you make the supplier list, they tend to be the kind of customer you don’t want to lose. To that end, suppliers have little other choice but to pull up their bootstraps and live up to Walmarts expectations.

No doubt, the bar is set high, but this may also present the opportunity for those who are able to demonstrate that they have been developing and evolving their business practices. Showing your former customer that you can get the job done and done right is a sure fire way to win that customer back. 

You need to be able to prove that you have a robust plan to meet their needs as well as the capability to follow through. If they have a tight delivery schedule, then you’ll need to have a plan in place to accommodate it.  Those accommodations are made through shoring up your supply chain to create the flexibility and visibility necessary to handle the freight, even when capacity and other elements are against you. 

Controlling Costs 

Controlling costs and optimizing the supply chain also means that you can provide your customers the visibility, flexibility, and the overall assurance that they will have what they need, when they need it. 

Costs are a big factor in any working relationships. A lot of partnerships have dissolved simply due to an inflating price point, which can be caused by any number of reasons. Unfortunately, it tends to be either a knee-jerk reaction to pass the buck when times get tough and for some customers, that cost is simply too much. Controlling your costs goes a long way towards repairing broken relationships, especially when it means that you can regain a former customer at the expense of your competition. Controlling costs and optimizing the supply chain also means that you can provide your customers the visibility, flexibility, and the overall assurance that they will have what they need, when they need it. 

The benefit to this approach is two-fold, really. First, you’re gaining back a lost customer as well as proving that your business solutions have grown and matured from the last time you’ve worked together. This not only opens the door to regaining a lost customer but could also provide opportunities to gain new ones. The other is that controlling your costs, via your supply chain, also increases overall efficiency which extends to all of your customers and your operations as a whole. Ultimately, the bulk of costs comes from transportation and the supply chain. As freight rates are prone to fluctuate wildly, the cost of shipping goods can also vary to a great degree making it hard to manage. For manufacturers shipping goods to customers, this needs to be managed effectively to keep costs low and both parties happy.

There are a number of different factors to consider when you’re trying to evaluate your supply chain. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone.

Making these corrections and changes on your own can be a difficult proposition at the best of times. There are a number of different factors to consider when you’re trying to evaluate your supply chain. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Having a 3PL partner like BlueGrace can help get your supply chain where it needs to be, not only win back former customers, but to also help you win over future prospects. Call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below to see how we can help!

The Secret of Successful Supply Chains: A Culture of Continuous Improvement 

Why are some supply chains operating at an optimum level, while others are struggling to perform day to day operations? How are some supply chains able to respond quickly to market demands, while others miss opportunities? Why are some supply chain managers able to reduce costs without compromising product and service quality, while others are dealing with rising costs?  

There is only one answer to all these questions.  

An organizational culture of continuous improvement is the secret of a healthy, cost-effective, responsive and efficient supply chain.  

What is the Culture of Continuous Improvement?

As the name suggests, Culture of Continuous Improvement means – having a culture where process, system, service, and product improvement is an ongoing and continuous activity. This culture is embedded in the organization’s foundation. It involves, encourages and motivates all the employees, management, vendors, and suppliers to seek out avenues and means to improve how the organization functions at every level.

How do Supply Chains benefit from Culture of Continuous Improvement?

The supply chain is one of the biggest cost centers in an organization. It is the function responsible for manufacturing, storing, and distributing the product. It makes the product available to the end customer. To be able to keep up with industry trends and market demands it is necessary for supply chains to constantly innovate. And, innovation can’t happen without continuous improvement. In fact, both are interdependent. 

When supply chains improve and innovate, they are able to do the following:  

  • Reduce costs 
  • Enhance efficiency 
  • Optimize processes 
  • Improve service and product offerings 
  • Decrease go to market time 
  • Reduce response time to market and customer demands 
  • Helps integrate the different functions within the organization 

All these things help the organization improve revenues and remain competitive.  

How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement in the Supply Chain

Creating a culture of continuous improvement requires the involvement of the entire organization. It can’t be done in silos. For example, if you plan to continuously improve your supply chain, you will by default have to roll out the continuous improvement plan in all the other departments as well.  

Here’s how you can create a culture of continuous improvement in your supply chain and all the other functions of the organization:  

  1. Align the C-Suite: Any process or strategy change in the organization can’t succeed without the involvement of the C-suite and function leaders of the organization. Once the leaders and the management is aligned and agrees to make continuous improvement a part of the organization culture, it becomes comparatively easier to implement changes.
  2. Set clear objectives and goals:  Any change or activity undertaken without a goal or objective is not only difficult to achieve but also challenging to “sell” to the employees. So, when you decide to make continuous improvement a part of your organizational culture, define what you aim to achieve from it. For example, the supply chain’s objective can be improved inventory management, better machine utilization, or lower transportation costs.
  3. Define how you will measure it: Along with setting objectives and goals, it is also necessary to define how you will monitor and measure their performance. Unless there are proper metrics in place to measure the outcome, you will not understand if your plan is working in accordance with your goals. Apart from knowing how your plan is performing, results also help keep employees engaged. If they are achieving the said goal, it motivates them to do better and take initiatives to find other ways to further improve their performance. If it is not providing the said results, it helps find new solutions and opens doors for innovation. Either way, it keeps up the spirit of continuous improvement. 
  4. Seek input from employees: Your employees are responsible for implementing the strategies for continuous improvement. They also have first-hand knowledge of the pain points of the process they handle and have insights regarding how it can be improved. If they are also involved at the planning and strategizing stage, they will be motivated to take ownership for its success.
  5. Allow room for failure: Condemning failures is one of the biggest hurdles in embedding a culture of continuous improvement in the organization. If employees feel they will be penalized for failure, they will neither suggest new ideas nor be enthusiastic about implementing anything new. On the other hand, when they have the assurance that they will not be punished for failure, they will not only be motivated to find new ways and means to improve the processes and systems but will also put in their best efforts to make them a success. 
  6. Introduce technology: Technology is one of the tools to improve systems and processes within the organization. Any strategy to create a culture of continuous improvement in the organization can’t overlook the contribution of technology. By using the right technology, you can eliminate redundant and duplicate processes, reduce manual work, and integrate different processes. Technology also helps connect the end customers to the business, thus improving your service offerings. For example, if your logistics department uses a transport management system, you can connect with transporters and customers on the same platform. Track your shipment real-time and offer the feature to your customer as well. Additionally, a TMS will also help you monitor and track your logistics department’s performance. Thus, aiding you in your efforts to build a culture of continuous improvement. 

While these steps will help you initiate improvement, to make it a part of the culture and keep it “continuous” you will need to pursue it relentlessly and passionately.

While these steps will help you initiate improvement, to make it a part of the culture and keep it “continuous” you will need to pursue it relentlessly and passionately. It will require steadfast efforts starting from the leadership team going down to the employees at the bottom of the hierarchy. 

At BlueGrace we believe the passion for our work is what enables us to constantly look for ways and means to improve our services and products and find better solutions for our customers. It is the secret of the success of our organization. Want to connect with one of our experts to see how BlueGrace can help simplify your supply chain? Call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing an Internal Audit of Your Supply Chain 

While all facets of the modern business are important, arguably the most important to any retail, manufacturing, or goods based service is their supply chain. The supply chain serves as the backbone of these companies and has a significant impact on the company’s business strategy which directly affects its operation and operational costs. Additionally, the performance of the supply chain has a direct impact on a company’s ability to provide services to their customers and create additional value via services offered or simply through reliability. With the multitude of changes that have been occurring within the logistics, trade, and freight industries now, more than ever, is an opportune time to conduct or review the process of internal audit of your supply chain. 

An internal supply chain audit is one of the most powerful methods of evaluating and possibly improving your supply chain, reduce operations costs, and increase competitive advantages.

An internal supply chain audit is one of the most powerful methods of evaluating and possibly improving your supply chain, reduce operations costs, and increase competitive advantages. The goal of the internal audit is to help you find weaknesses within your supply chain and correct pain points, bottlenecks to increase supply chain flexibility, agility, and overall efficiency.

To make the most out of your audit and its results, it’s important to understand that the supply chain isn’t a stand-alone, isolated feature of your business. In all actuality, the supply chain is suffused in every aspect of your business. As such the supply chain needs to be viewed between all participating companies and suppliers throughout the supply chain, with solutions applied from a holistic approach.

Why an Internal Audit is Necessary for Your Supply Chain

For most companies, audits are typically part of the normal routine, either for financial records or for physical inventory. The entire purpose behind an audit is to make sure things are where they should be and that everyone is playing by the same rules.

“Internal auditing is defined as an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization to accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes,” as defined by The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).

This is especially important when trying to maintain retail compliance, for example, with increasing customer demands like On Time; In Full (OTIF) or Must Arrive By Date (MABD).

Simply put, an internal audit is a multi-step process that is a means of determining whether your current systems and operations are in compliance with your company’s predetermined operating procedures and regulations. This is especially important when trying to maintain retail compliance, for example, with increasing customer demands like On Time; In Full (OTIF) or Must Arrive By Date (MABD). Conducting an internal audit does more than just evaluates the supply chain, it also takes a necessary look at the interaction between other aspects of the organization such as the accounting and financial systems, practices, and procedures. For example, are your planners and purchasers communicating properly, not only with each other but with the production floor and shipping department? Are parts coming in with enough lead time that items can be manufactured and shipped according to customer requirements? 

An internal audit is important because it allows the company executives and logistics decision makers to examine the effectiveness of their business operations and controls and applications of new policies. Over time, establishing those best practices means a more competitive and more profitable company in the future.

Things to Consider Before you Start the Audit

Performing an audit is one thing, but knowing what areas you need to be focusing on is something else entirely. While every audit should be more or less tailored to the specific needs of an individual organization, here is the basic framework for initiating an audit that needs to be included:

  • Audit Planning: Internal auditors should have a plan in place well before the actual auditing begins. 
  • Examining and Evaluating Information: Internal auditors should have a standardized criterion to compare findings against. 
  • Communicating Results: Audit should have a clear and concise method of reporting their findings. 
  • Follow Up: Internal auditors should follow up in a timely manner to ensure that appropriate actions have been taken to correct audit findings.

This framework also serves as a support system for corporate managers and allows managers of larger production systems to delegate the oversight of the audit to the internal audit department. This is important for a few reasons:

  • Operating Complexity: Automated data processing has increased the levels of complexity when analyzing data, a task better suited for those who know what to look for. 
  • Decentralization: Given that supply chains are prone to be decentralized in terms of a physical location due to globalization. 
  • Lack of Expertise: As the adage goes, stick to what you know. Leave those auditors in charge of the audit for the best quality audit.

With the right framework in place for the audit to commence, let’s take a look at the tasks involved for the actual audit.

Supply Chain Structure and Internal Audit Tasks

Like we mentioned above, every company is different and, as a result, the needs for every individual supply chain will vary. So while there is no hard and fast or “Use audit ‘A’ for Supply chain system ‘1’ ” convenient method of doing things, there are some common focal points that are applicable for just about every organization and style of the supply chain. 

The supply chain management processes identified by The Global Supply Chain Forum are:

  • Customer Relationship Management 
  • Supplier Relationship Management 
  • Customer Service Management 
  • Demand Management
  • Order Fulfillment 
  • Manufacturing Flow Management 
  • Product Development and Commercialization 
  • Returns Management

All of these processes are hallmarks of a healthy supply chain and also indicative of the successful supply chain management. Here again, we can see all of the links that connect the supply chain to every other facet of the business. Another benefit to performing an internal audit is that offers to perfect opportunity to increase the synergy between these various departments. For CFO’s and supply chain leaders, this means that supply chain management deals with total business excellence and represents a new way of managing the business and relationships with vendors, suppliers, and partners.

An internal audit can help a company in finding answers to crucial questions about managing success factors of supply chain excellence, of which these can be divided into five main sections: 

  • Strategy – To determine if the enterprise has a clear strategy tuned to business expectations and focused on profitably servicing customer requirements 
  • Organization – To determine if an effective organization structure exists enabling the enterprise to work with its partners to achieve its supply chain goals
  • Process – To determine if the enterprise has excellent processes for implementing its strategy, embracing all plan-source-make-deliver operations
  • Information – To determine if the enterprise has reliable information and enabling technology to support effective supply chain planning, execution, and decision-making 
  • Performance – To determine if the enterprise is managing supply chain performance in ways that will increase the bottom line, cash flows and shareholder returns

Supply Chain Risk Management

As much as we wish we could, the ability to see and accurately predict the future still eludes us to this day. In the end, it all comes down we can optimistically refer to as an “educated guess”.  With that being said, even the most educated guesses can’t predict the weather or a broken down truck. This means that within every supply chain, there will always be an element of risk. That risk represents any number of things that can go wrong within your supply chain and halt or delay your shipments. For this very reason, risk management is incredibly important when evaluating your supply chain. 

An internal audit can provide business leaders with the necessary framework to develop an appropriate supply chain risk management program.

Risk management is a huge proponent of supply chain health, especially given the instabilities in the global marketplace created by political uncertainty, trade tariffs, etc. An internal audit can provide business leaders with the necessary framework to develop an appropriate supply chain risk management program. This is how your supply chain audit can also help with risk reduction and increased security: 

  • Reviewing and understanding supply chains, including their strengths and weaknesses, in developing markets, to validate monitoring programs
  • Working with the company’s supply chain specialists to help develop a monitoring process that can be repeated
  • Helping to identify which suppliers are critical 
  • Assessing which suppliers may be vulnerable to threats and helping draw up a residual mitigation profile
  • Identifying strong risk control procedures
  • Helping to develop key analytic tools and techniques
  • Aiding with compliance monitoring

Ideally, the risk mitigation will also allow companies to increase supply chain efficiency to the point where on hand stock can be reduced. While having excessive stock might create a buffer in time where shipments are running late or capacity is tight, that excess can also eat into company profit margins. Additionally, having a well-running supply chain vastly lowers the chance for disruptions, operating costs, and other unexpected costs such as chargebacks, detention fees.

Despite the cause, however, the results are often the same, a drastic slow down of operations and a huge impact on customer satisfaction and profitability.

Supply chain management is a very complex structure of activities with cross-functional processes, and it presents one of the most important functions in the company since it is directly linked to all functions of the company. Supply chain problems can result from any number of things including natural disasters, labor disputes, supplier bankruptcy, an act of war or terrorism, systems breakdowns, procurement failures, and other causes. Despite the cause, however, the results are often the same, a drastic slow down of operations and a huge impact on customer satisfaction and profitability.

The supply chain internal audit aims to support managers in process optimization and above all in cost reduction which result from an uncertain environment by evaluating and directing management towards approaches which will prevent or reduce negative effects. 

After analyzing definitions and some of the standards of internal audit, it can be concluded that this process can improve effectiveness and efficiency, and by that, the performances of many functions within the organization. High-impact supply chains are more competitive and are capable of winning market share and customer loyalty, creating shareholder value, extending the strategic capability and reach of the business. Independent research shows that excellent supply chain management can yield: 

  • 25-50% reduction in total supply chain costs 
  • 25-60% reduction in inventory holding 
  • 25-80% increase in forecast accuracy
  • 30-50% improvement in order-fulfillment cycle time 
  • 20% increase in after-tax free cash flows

To increase supply chain strength, agility, and overall integrity, companies should develop a framework for a structured approach to ongoing risk identification and management. This will enable businesses to proactively address organizational supply chain risks on a periodic basis – a practice that affords stronger company and brand protection against supply chain risk gaps.

The more we know the more we can simplify.

The more we know the more we can simplify. When we know what your current transportation situation involves and what your pain points are, we can really help you simplify. The journey with our customers begins with the Needs Assessment process and the goal to determine transportation management solutions that increase productivity and decrease overall costs. To speak to one of our freight experts, call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to receive a FREE Supply Chain Analysis.

How the CFO Can be a Change Agent in the Supply Chain

Managing cash flow, planning the financial outlay, keeping the balance sheet in order, and ensuring all financial compliances are met are a CFO’s core job function. But this is not all that a CFO does. The CFO is also responsible for identifying opportunities to reduce operating costs without sacrificing the quality of the products and services offered by the company.

But is it a good strategy to wait for things to go wrong to ask the CFO to step in?

Supply chain and transportation are two of the biggest cost centers in an organization. The cost for these functions is measured as a percentage of sales and differs from industry to industry. However, according to this McKinsey study, most industries report supply chain and logistics cost in the range of 1.8% to 10%. When costs remain within the industry parameters, supply chain and logistics are usually given the leeway to make their financial decisions. The CFO steps in only when the cost rise above the set industry norms or in case any other financial abnormality is noticed. But is it a good strategy to wait for things to go wrong to ask the CFO to step in? Wouldn’t the supply chain and the organization as a whole benefit if the CFO is a part of the supply chain decision making?

What Does the Corporate World Think of CFO’s Involvement in the Supply Chain?

The necessity of CFOs involvement in supply chain is not a recent phenomenon. A 2013 study by Ernst & Young aptly highlighted the importance of CFO’s involvement in the supply chain. Ernst & Young surveyed 423 CFOs and heads of supply chain around the globe to understand their view of a CFO’s contribution to the supply chain.

According to the results of the survey, of all the respondents, “only 26% finance executives and 21% supply chain executives said that the CFO’s contribution to the supply chain is based around a business-partnering model”. But this trend seems to be gradually changing as “70% of CFOs and 63% of supply chain leaders responded that their relationship has become more collaborative over the past three years”.

Organizations that have a collaborative relationship between the CFO and supply chain also tend to perform better.

The survey also revealed that those organizations that have a collaborative relationship between the CFO and supply chain also tend to perform better. “Among survey respondents with an established business partner model in place, 48% report EBITDA growth increases of more than 5% in their company over the past year, compared with just 22% of those that have not yet adopted this approach.”

In the past five years, the demand for CFO’s involvement in the supply chain has only grown. Last year, an article in the European Financial Review spoke about the book What CFOs (and Future CFOs) Need to Know About Supply Chain Transactions by X. Paul Humbert, Esq. According to the article, the book showcases not only the necessity of a collaboration between the CFO and the supply chain but also demonstrates how the company’s finances and its books are impacted by the decisions taken by functions within the supply chain:

“an organization’s financial results are intertwined with the performance of the purchasing function. Purchasing and purchased inventory affect the balance sheet and capital allocation.”

Another article in Smart Industry Update published in 2018, speaks on behalf of the CFOs seeking answers to supply chain issues which the CFOs may not have first-hand knowledge of. For example, the article lists the following three critical questions that CFOs should ask of their supply chain to be able to make better decisions regarding their supply chain and create better business strategies:

  • How accurate is our supply-chain visibility?
  • How quickly can we identify and address challenges in response to disruption?
  • How well can we respond to changes in the industry=?

The survey and the two articles leave no doubt of how crucial it is for CFOs to be involved in the supply chain function and work in collaboration with the head of supply chain. In fact, it is not only the supply chain that needs the CFO, the CFO also needs the supply chain.

How The CFO Can Be A Change Agent For The Supply Chain

An article titled How Brilliant CFOs Use the Supply Chain to Drive Business Value – Do you know the questions you should be asking in Innovation Enterprise targeted at CFOs lists down possible areas that can benefit from the CFO’s involvement.

Source: Innovation Enterprise

It says “If the answer to any of these questions highlights a potential issue then it is important to engage with the head of supply chain and agree a process to address the issue. It may also indicate that there is an opportunity to partner more closely with supply chain/operations to leverage the knowledge and skills of the finance team to enable better decision making in the business.”

The transportation offered also influences customer’s buying decisions

All the above areas are crucial from the financial, product, and delivery point and can benefit from a collaborative effort from the CFO and the supply chain. For example, let’s take a look at the second, sixth and eighth question. Freight costs are pegged around 3 – 5% of supply chain costs. Freight contract negotiation is one of the most important activities of the logistics function. It has an impact on the budget, affects the cost reduction KPI given to the logistics department. In B2C businesses, to a certain extent, the transportation offered also influences customer’s buying decisions. How can the function benefit from CFOs insight?

When the CFO is involved in this decision-making from the start, it increases the possibility of improvement in contract terms and in cost reduction.

On the cost reduction and financial front, the CFO, with their fact-based view of the organization, can help the logistics team negotiate better freight contracts. The rates negotiated in these contracts are based on a multitude of factors like government policies, fuel prices, political relations between trading countries, and global business environment. Logistics may or may not have insight into these issues, but the CFO and his team will have knowledge of what is going on in the business world. So, if they know there is a possibility of fuel prices changing in the next six months or a recessionary trend is being noticed, they can advise the logistics team to negotiate a short-term contract and revisit it later. Similarly, in the case of B2C shipments (ref Q6), the CFO and the supply chain head can negotiate for contracts with different delivery options in order to serve different customers. But this can only be done if the supply chain knows the financial viability of these options and that information can be gained only from the CFO of the organization. When the CFO is involved in this decision-making from the start, it increases the possibility of improvement in contract terms and in cost reduction.

Today, to be effective in their job and to create a competitive supply chain, CFOs need to lend their expertise to the supply chain and seek their inputs in the setting the goals and objectives of the company.

Long gone are the days when the CFOs limited themselves to matters pertaining to managing company finances. Today, to be effective in their job and to create a competitive supply chain, CFOs need to lend their expertise to the supply chain and seek their inputs in the setting the goals and objectives of the company.

At BlueGrace, we have found that working with organizations where CFOs are directly involved has helped turn over a new leaf and make significant cost reductions, positively impacting the supply chain of that organization.

We provide quarterly business intelligence reports that give updates on the savings targets you give to us, key performance indicators (KPIs), and special project updates. The CFO of a company, in particular, is able to use these metrics to budget and forecast for the organization moving forward. Connect with our team at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to find out how we can work with your CFO to build an efficient and optimal supply chain.

The State of Your Supply Chain Affects the Level of Your Inventory 

Inventory is the core of any business. The right inventory, at the right time, at the right point in the supply chain is crucial for the success of the business.

For example, the shortage of raw material at the factory will affect production. If warehouses are not replenished on time, distribution will be derailed. If retail outlets run out of stock, sales and customer relationships will be adversely impacted. Each of these processes in the supply chain is dependent on the availability of inventory to carry out their function and meet business objectives. 

While the unavailability of inventory results in a loss of sales, too much inventory leads to an increase in the carrying cost.

While the unavailability of inventory results in a loss of sales, too much inventory leads to an increase in the carrying cost. Carrying cost is the cost incurred to store, handle, and maintain inventory at every stage in the supply chain.

The factory, warehouse, and the retail outlet all incur the cost of storing and managing the inventory until it is required at the next stage in the cycle or sold. A high carrying cost ultimately impacts the price of the product and the profit margins of the company. Hence, neither excess nor a shortage of inventory is an ideal situation. 

This is why it is essential to understand the inventory consumption pattern and arrive at an optimum level that needs to be maintained at each stage in the supply chain. 

Why does the State of the Supply Chain matter?

How you operate your supply chain, how agile it is, the technology you use, the level of digitization, the extent of integration among the different stages of the supply chain. All these things affect the performance of the supply chain. The level of inventory you need to maintain at all times is dependent on the capability of these parameters.

An agile, integrated, and digital supply chain makes it easier to understand how the inventory is being consumed at each stage.

An agile, integrated, and digital supply chain makes it easier to understand how the inventory is being consumed at each stage. It enables inventory managers to calculate the optimum level of inventory more accurately. The optimum level of inventory is where minimum carrying cost is incurred and there is no loss of sale or disruption in the production or delivery process. In other words, the inventory reaches the required point just in time – not any sooner, and not later. 

When organizations use this strategy to design their supply chain they inevitably improve their inventory management.

Winning Logistics Strategies in the Race to the Urban Consumer, a whitepaper by DHL and Euromonitor on last-mile transportation, explained how companies can become more competitive and improve their supply chain by adopting the F.A.D strategy. The F stands for flexible transport, A is automation, and D is data management. When organizations use this strategy to design their supply chain they inevitably improve their inventory management. They can better plan inventory inward and outward movements, improve on speed and reduce administration and handling costs, can improve inventory forecasting and planning, process data real-time, and provide shipment tracking. 

For example, this article cites how Apple understood the importance of supply chain management as early as 1997 and with proper supply chain planning, the company successfully managed to beat the competition. For the Christmas of 1998, the company bested its competition by simply changing its freight mode from sea to air.

“To ensure that the company’s new, translucent blue iMacs would be widely available at Christmas the following year, Jobs paid $50 million to buy up all the available holiday air freight space, says John Martin, a logistics executive who worked with Jobs to arrange the flights.”

This one change made sure that its products were easily available during the holiday shopping season. Apple could not have done this if it had followed a rigid approach to transport planning and management. 

And, if the delighted customer is also a competitor, you know you’re doing something right.   

Another example in the article shows how it delighted customers with quick delivery and shipment tracking. And, if the delighted customer is also a competitor, you know you’re doing something right.   

“When iPod sales took off in 2001, Apple realized it could pack so many of the diminutive music players on planes that it became economical to ship them directly from Chinese factories to consumers’ doors. When an HP staffer bought one and received it a few days later, tracking its progress around the world through Apple’s website, “It was an ‘Oh s—’ moment,” recalls [former HP supply chain chief Mike] Fawkes.”

What are the benefits of a well-managed supply chain?

A supply chain that is managed properly makes it easier to monitor stock at various touch points. It can help improve inventory forecasting and distribution. Some of the benefits that such a supply chain offers for inventory management are: 

Visibility: Visibility allows inventory managers to monitor inventory levels at each stage. With a continuous and real-time view of the inventory, they can place orders or plan distribution of the inventory to reach the intended destination on time. 

A strong transportation management system also enables you to store historical data, provide advanced analytic tools and trend reports, enable users to optimize freight expenses thus helping you create an efficient shipping process.

TMS: While inventory is the life of the business, transportation is the backbone. Without adequate transportation management, it will be challenging to get the inventory to the right place at the right time in the required condition. In addition to planning transportation, a strong transportation management system also enables you to store historical data, provide advanced analytic tools and trend reports, enable users to optimize freight expenses thus helping you create an efficient shipping process.

Integration: We cannot stress this enough. Integration is crucial to get complete control over inventory. For integration to be truly successful, it needs to take into account the needs of different departments and their workflow. When all the parties handling inventory are able to connect to the same system, only then will you be able to get better visibility of your inventory, improve tracking, and planning. 

Analytics: The digital supply chain is a substantial resource of hard data. It provides stakeholders with the opportunity of developing and monitoring KPIs and assist them in improving their supply chains. When the data for all the functions are gathered at a single reliable source it increases accuracy in forecasting and improves execution. The reports and trends can be used for making informed decisions. 

The state of your supply chain and inventory, the levels you need to maintain are directly related. If the supply chain is equipped with the latest technology and is functioning at optimal levels at each stage, it would reflect in the form of optimum inventory levels. If it is not, then you may see piles of inventory accumulated at each stage. There may be situations when you need to keep unusually high or low inventory levels. However, when inventory levels fall below or go above the optimum without a valid reason, take it as a red flag, talk with an expert. Contact us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to connect with our team today for a FREE analysis of your supply chain. 

Time Definite Freight & Positive ROI

The saleability of a product is not only dependent on its quality and features, but also on how it is delivered and how soon it can reach the customer. In other words, delivery has become a crucial part of a business’s success. If it’s managed effectively, it can positively impact the bottom line and help build a stellar market reputation. If not, then it can have a negative effect on both. 
 
In our March webinar, titled Time Definite Freight and Positive ROI, Brian Blalock, Senior Manager Sourcing Strategy, and Eric Chambers, Vice President, Field Performance at BlueGrace Logistics, discuss the delivery method that is redefining the logistics landscape.

What is Time Definite Freight?

What is time-definite freight and how is it different from the normal freight delivery mechanism? How does it benefit the business and its customers? These and other such questions tend to arise when we discuss why this delivery trend is quickly becoming an integral part of an organization’s logistics strategy and customer service offering. 

Time-definite freight is precision delivery. It’s not on any given day or any roundabout day. It’s on a particular day, a particular time – morning, afternoon, AM, PM. It can be any time of the 24 hour day.

To address these questions and provide context to the discussion, Eric explains “time-definite freight is precision delivery. It’s not on any given day or any roundabout day. It’s on a particular day, a particular time – morning, afternoon, AM, PM. It can be any time of the 24 hour day.”
 
This definition provided not only answers the “what” but it also gives an insight into “why” shippers and logistics service providers need to know about it and make it a part of their organization’s logistics strategy. It is important because it puts the customer’s requirements at the center of logistics planning, ensuring that goods are delivered according to the timelines given by the customer.

Is Time Definite a New Logistics Solution?

The life sciences industry, e-commerce, cross border express providers like UPS, FedEx; last mile solutions by truckers, Amazon Prime’s free 2-day delivery, and disaster recovery institutions like the Red Cross are all using time-definite transportation.

No, it is not. Certain industries are already leveraging this delivery mechanism to optimize their supply chain and provide better service to their customers. The automotive industry started using just-in-time (a form of time-definite delivery) years ago. The life sciences industry, e-commerce, cross border express providers like UPS, FedEx; last mile solutions by truckers, Amazon Prime’s free 2-day delivery, and disaster recovery institutions like the Red Cross are all using time-definite transportation.

What Are the Benefits of Time Definite Delivery? 

“There are many many benefits of time-definite, it really depends on the individual working in a company or its customers”, says Eric. To provide an insight into how time definite can help improve the bottom line, he shares that it can help reach end customers faster and reduce handling points in a delivery.

When multiple handling points in a delivery are eliminated, the handling costs go down and it also reduces the probability of the shipment getting damaged. 

Both of these things have a huge impact on the bottom line. For example, if you are able to take your product to the market faster, it not only helps improve the cash flow but also ensures that you are a step ahead of the competition. Similarly, when multiple handling points in a delivery are eliminated, the handling costs go down and it also reduces the probability of the shipment getting damaged. 

Technology & Optimizing Time-Definite Freight

Given the fact that technology is being leveraged to improve and optimize different aspects of logistics, it is but natural to ask if time definite can be further improved with technology? Yes, it can.

Speaking about how technology is making time definite a complete logistics solution, Eric shares that: 

  • Technology can be used to improve response time and on-time delivery.
  • Technology can provide real-time visibility of the shipment.
  • If the shipment requires certain transit conditions, they can be arranged with the help of technology. For example, temperature monitoring and reporting to FDA for compliance for pharmaceutical products.
  • Technology can improve inventory forecasting and replenishment, thus minimizing loss of sales due to stockouts.

Success factors and a Real-Life Use Case

It’s not enough to just deploy new systems and processes. It is also important to know if they are working for you and your customers and how they can be further improved.

To know the success factors of Time-Definite Delivery and how we at BlueGrace collaborated with a pharmaceutical company to handle a critical business situation with the help of technology-powered time-definite delivery watch the webinar here
 
Questions regarding Time-Definite Freight, or want to explore how you can make it a part of your logistics strategy? Connect with our team by contacting us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below.

Why a Supply Chain Analysis is Crucial for Your Business

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Supply chains are complex and dynamic. They comprise many different variables that operate both on their own and as a part of a whole. The success of a supply chain depends on the integration of all the components without compromising their individual roles and responsibilities.

To design and operate a supply chain that is efficient and effective in both cost and service, it is important to analyze the contribution of each component in the system and how it impacts the other variables.

How Will a Supply Chain Analysis Help You?

A timely and periodic analysis will work as a preventive health check-up for your supply chain thus ensuring it continues to operate at an optimum level.

A thorough study of the processes will give you insight into the performance of the different aspects of the supply chain. It will help you identify which processes are crucial to the success of your business. An end-to-end in-depth analysis will also highlight which processes are redundant or need to be restructured. In short, a timely and periodic analysis will work as a preventive health check-up for your supply chain thus ensuring it continues to operate at an optimum level.

Apart from assisting you in understanding the different aspects of the supply chain, a study of planned against actual performance will also provide information on how you can further improve your services to match customer demand and control operating costs.

It’s safe to say that transportation is the backbone of the entire supply chain.

Transportation is one of the most crucial functions and is integral to almost all aspects of the supply chain. The manufacturing department is dependent on it to get raw materials to the factory on time. The factories need it to ship the finished goods to warehouses who in turn need it to ship the goods to the end customers. It connects the different parts of the supply chain and helps convert the final product into sales – thus generating revenue for the organization. It’s safe to say that transportation is the backbone of the entire supply chain.

A Deeper Look into Your Supply Chain

There are many factors that need to be considered when conducting a complete assessment of your supply chain. However, the health of the system can be easily ascertained by taking a look at how your transportation management system measures against the parameters given below:

Freight Costs: Transportation is a cost center. It’s considered to be operating at an optimum level if the rates are contained within a certain range of the cost per unit of shipment or net sales/purchase price of raw materials. The range of acceptable percentage varies from industry to industry.

Transit Time: Transit time is one of the main indicators of successful transportation planning. If your transport rates are low but the transit time is long, then you are saving money at the cost of service quality.

On Time Delivery: Are you delivering products within the timelines agreed with your customers or your retailers, such as Walmart or Target? Is the warehouse inventory replenished timely? Is the factory receiving goods in time? If the answer to these questions is yes, then its a plus point for your transportation planning. If the answer to any of these questions is no or most of the time, then you need to rework your transportation planning.

Damages: If you have managed to contain the transport rates and deliver within acceptable transit time, but there’s the rate of damage claims are high, then again, your transportation planning needs to be restructured.

Shipment Visibility: A good transportation system offers you and the customer visibility into the shipment’s location from the time it leaves the starting point until it reaches the intended destination.

Capacity Utilization: Are you utilizing truck capacities to the fullest extent possible when planning your deliveries or spaces on trucks are going underutilized? Unutilized space will translate into higher cost per shipment, leading to uncompetitive products and loss of profit.

If you’ve gotten a negative result or response for any of these parameters, then it is time to get a thorough inspection of all aspects of your supply chain.

At BlueGrace, we understand the importance of operating a robust supply chain. That’s why we offer a FREE Supply Chain Analysis to help you gain insight into how your supply chain is performing. Call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING, or fill out the form below to speak to one of our experts and set up your free supply chain analysis today!

Controlling Costs and Preventing Accessorial Loss

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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

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!

There are a number of other benefits that can come from working with and outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL. If you would like to speak to one of our experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

Be Sure, Be Insured. Why Carrier Liability Is Not Insurance

Insurance is an important part of risk management. It helps businesses mitigate financial loss arising from unforeseen events that may disrupt their supply chain. Transporting goods from one location to another is a crucial part of the supply chain. It is what keeps the business running. Hence, transport or cargo insurance should be an essential part of a shipper’s supply chain risk management strategy. 

While most shippers understand the importance and the need for cargo insurance, there’s a debate on whether to rely on carrier liability or to get a separate insurance policy.

In the webinar titled  Be Sure, Be Insured, Brian Blalock, Senior Manager Sourcing Strategy, BlueGrace, and Tyffany Gunn Kelley, Senior Manager Strategic Partnership and Channel Partner Program, UPS Capital, discuss: the difference between carrier liability and real insurance importance of insurance insuring solutions how organizations can manage risks to their supply chain

  • the difference between carrier liability and real insurance
  • importance of insurance 
  • insuring solutions 
  • how organizations can manage risks to their supply chain

Here are a few important pointers from the webinar:

UPS Capital appointed Harris Poll to survey U.S professionals who supervise shipments or are key decision makers for their company to understand their views on cargo insurance and how they manage risks in their supply chain. For the study, Harris Poll surveyed more than 600 professionals.

Why do shippers need insurance?

Setting the direction for the webinar, Tyffany shared some of the findings from the survey which highlights the risks to shipments during transit and explain why shippers need insurance: 

  • 1 in 10 shipments face a glitch 
  • 92% of the respondents said they experience some delay, loss, or damage in transit each year
  • 15% of shipments can be affected due to in-transit incidents 
  • Approximately a loss of USD 56 Billion is reported annually due to cargo and freight movement (National Cargo Security Council)
  • No mode of transport is free of incidents like lost shipments, damages, or delays
  • Full truckload shipments report a loss of 12.8% annually 
  • LTL shipments show an annual loss of 10.8%  
  • Loss from ocean freight stands at 9.9% annually
  • Air freight reports a loss of 9.5% annually 

What is the impact of lost, damaged or delayed shipments?

To provide some perspective on the kind of damage such incidents can cause, UPS Capital asked the respondents to list down the areas that they thought were adversely affected due to lost, damaged, or delayed shipments:

  • 52% respondents said it hurt customer relationships 
  • 51% respondents said it resulted in financial loss
  • 46% respondents said it cost them in terms of employee time and cost
  • 36% respondents said it had a negative impact on company reputation

What is shippers’ view on carrier liability?

Do shippers, logistics professionals, decision makers understand what carrier liability is and what kind of coverage it provides to their valuable shipments? The survey provides some alarming results.

  • According to the results from the survey, almost 90% of the shippers rely on carrier liability to manage risks to cargo while in transit. 
  • Approximately 39% of the respondents thought that carrier liability is the same as real insurance. 
  • While 61% of the respondents believed that carrier liability and insurance were not the same, only a few of them were able to pinpoint the difference between carrier liability and insurance and the extent of cover each provides. 
  • Almost 25 – 50% of the participants thought that their carrier liability provided cover for incidents or events that it actually did not.

Why is carrier liability not enough?

Since a majority of shippers rely on carrier liability, it is necessary to understand what carrier liability is and how much coverage it actually provides. 

The Business Dictionary defines carrier liability as “Air and ocean carriers are normally liable for all damage, delay, and loss of cargo except those arising from the act of God, act of the shipper, and the inherent nature of the goods from acceptance of cargo through its delivery or release. Air carriers are usually liable under Warsaw convention, and ocean carriers under Hague convention.” 

The definition of carrier liability, also explained by Tyffany, itself provides a list of instances where a carrier cannot be held liable for loss to shipment during transit. Apart from the given instances, as Tyffany shares, the law allows carriers to limit their exposure and exempt a variety of situations thus further limiting their liability. To cite a few examples from the webinar that carrier liability does not cover:

  • Cross-border shipments getting damaged by a customs agent or other government agency during inspection
  • Pirates, hijackers or other “assailing thieves” stealing ocean containers  
  • A fire breaking out on a cargo ship that destroys cargo on board

What are the benefits of real insurance?

Along with providing a variety of policies which may be customized to suit the shipper’s requirements, real insurance also offers a host of benefits that can mitigate financial loss, help maintain the market reputation and customer relationships. Some of the benefits highlighted in the webinar include:

  • Claims are settled based on the real valuation of the shipment
  • It provides insurance coverage for all modes of transportation 
  • It covers door-to-door, so no separate policy is needed in case of multi-modal transportation 

However, getting a cargo insurance policy is not a complete solution. It is also necessary to record the information about your supply chain so that you can understand the consequences in relation to claims. One of the best ways to do it is in a transportation management system, says Brian. 

To know more about why you need real insurance coverage, insurance solutions and how a transportation management system can help keep track of and manage insurance claims, make informed business decisions for your supply chain, and mitigate risks to your supply chain watch the complete webinar HERE.  

Want to know more about UPS Capital’s insurance plans offered to BlueGrace customers or our transportation management system? Connect with our team today by filling out the form below, or call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING.

3PL’s Might Bridge the Gap in a Revenge Market 

We’ve all heard that turnabout is fair play but in the trucking market, that mentality could make for a vicious marketplace. Of course, no one likes to pay any more for a service than they have-to, but given the fluctuations that happen within the freight market it’s all part of the game, right?

The problem is, when you focus solely on the bottom line, working relationships, the level of the provided services, and customer care can often be shoved to the wayside.  

A Fairweather Friendship 

While not all shippers will use and abandon their third-party (3PL) logistics providers during an economic shift, enough have done so in the past that left a bad taste in the mouths of 3PLs.

Shippers tend to shy away from their “partners” when times are good, capacity is plenty, truckers are looking for freight. When spot rates climb, however, shippers tend to look for shelter in the contract market which makes for a volatile spot market that makes matters much worse than they need to be. 

If shippers weren’t as fickle during market shifts there would be more market stability. For shippers though, the bottom line is often considered as the most important factor.  

During 2017 we saw both Hurricane Harvey hit the coast as well as the introduction of the Electronic Logging Mandate. As a result, shippers skipped the middleman and dropped their 3PLs, opting to work directly with large asset-based carriers instead.

A year later, spot rates have dropped as much 12 percent, according to data from DAT solutions, which are resembling those seen back in 2017 across several markets. Conversely, contract rates have risen, on average, about 14 percent in 2018 and have increased a further 6 percent this year.  

With spot rates on the rise, shippers once again turn to third-party logistics providers with relatively no hard feelings. With negotiations underway, both parties more or less walk away happy.  

Creating a Vicious Cycle 

The same cannot be said for that type of mentality when it’s applied to the trucking companies, however. Here the negotiations tend to carry the memory of what happened the last time rates shifted in the favor of one side or the other. To be fair, that adversarial behavior does swing both ways. When capacity gets tight, trucking companies raise their rates to support the demand. When demand is low, however, and trucking companies are scrambling for a full load, shippers will push for lower rates, a behavior that seems to be hardwired into the business.  

Here is where 3PLs can bridge that gap and help to even out the “revenge” style of marketing.  

It’s hard for many companies to part with that “grudge” mentality, especially when both sides are angling to take advantage of one another when the market permits it. You’d be hard pressed to find a business that is willing to say “Sure, we’ll reduce our rates in favor of a good compromise,” and instead sounds more like “You raised your prices on us. Now it’s our turn.” Here is where 3PLs can bridge that gap and help to even out the “revenge” style of marketing.  

The True Value of a 3PL 

One of the biggest benefits of a 3PL is that they can help a shipper to access different parts of the very fragmented trucking industry. If a shipper has access to large trucking companies, a 3PL can give them access to smaller carriers, both of which have a place in a shippers supply chain. 

“It’s hard to handle relationships with tens of thousands of carriers, so if you let the broker handle that portion, and you have a relationship with your top 10­-15 asset ­based carriers, everyone can have a piece of the pie and work more collaboratively,” said Mark Ford, Chief Operating Officer at BlueGrace Logistics.  

 The main objective of any business is to conquer new frontiers and markets. And, to do this, it requires a wide logistics network and a robust, flawlessly executed logistics strategy.

As we explained it in more detail in one of our previous articles, 7 BENEFITS OF OUTSOURCING LOGISTICS TO A 3PL — The main objective of any business is to conquer new frontiers and markets. And, to do this, it requires a wide logistics network and a robust, flawlessly executed logistics strategy. Your 3PL partner is expected to and can help you achieve your business goals. They may either have their own network across regions or they may have business collaborations with transporters storage facility providers in different regions or a mix of these two, their own network in some cities and collaboration in another. They are thus better placed to help you expand and grow your business. To do this, all you need to do is work with them in a collaborative manner to din the most optimum solution to reach your customers.”

However, shippers who are too focused on their bottom line have a harder time seeing that value in a 3PL partner and might even remain hard pressed to change their ways. 

It’s less a matter of saving a few cents on the mile, however, and more about creating a sustainable and, more importantly, profitable supply chain.

It’s less a matter of saving a few cents on the mile, however, and more about creating a sustainable and, more importantly, profitable supply chain. For shippers who are willing to keep an open mind and maintain a good working relationship with carriers and 3PLs alike have a great opportunity to build longstanding and mutually beneficial relationships. Utilizing a 3PL as a broker can help to save money when the markets fluctuate, but using them as a supply chain consultant is where they can truly save in the long run.  

There are a number of other benefits that can come from working with and outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL. Not the least of all, a better and stronger bottom line.  If you would like to speak to one of our experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

7 Benefits of Outsourcing Logistics to a 3PL

To outsource logistics or manage it internally is a major point of consideration for organizations. The decision is usually arrived at after extensive cost-benefit analysis of both the alternatives. While the outcome is often based on the size and nature of the business, availability of capital and manpower, geography served, operational risks involved and extent of control an organization is willing to let go of, outsourcing is increasingly becoming a favored option. Below we will highlight the top seven reasons why you should consider it too.

While your in-house team may be expert at all the functions, the complex nature of the job makes it challenging for them to do all of it by themselves.

Expertise: Logistics is a very dynamic function. A logistician is required to understand business strategy, manufacturing planning, inventory management, and the nitty gritty of different modes of transportation depending on regions served. Along with having expert knowledge of these functions, they are also expected to be good at creating strategies and implementing them. It also requires a lot of coordination and collaboration with various service providers and government regulatory agencies. While your in-house team may be expert at all the functions, the complex nature of the job makes it challenging for them to do all of it by themselves. A 3PL has expertise in all these functions, they also have a connection with external agencies. They can take over the more tedious and complex jobs, freeing your team to strategize and plan the business.

From negotiating rates, booking the freight, providing storage, arranging for the transportation, getting the shipment loaded to following up on the shipment till it reaches the final destination, a 3PL can do it all.

Taking product to market: A 3PL arranges the transportation – local or international, to ensure that your product reaches the intended destination on time. From negotiating rates, booking the freight, providing storage, arranging for the transportation, getting the shipment loaded to following up on the shipment till it reaches the final destination, a 3PL can do it all. In the case you have international shipments, a 3PL has the experienced professionals to manage that as well. How much and how a 3PL contributes to the process depends on the organization that it works with.

Trained staff: A 3PL not only brings in the logistical facilities like warehouse facilities and transportation, but it also brings with it trained personnel who are equipped to handle the day-to-day logistics of the business. 3PL staff is trained to handle the exigencies of the business and deliver on the KPIs you set for them.

This is the age of digital logistics.

Technology: This is the age of digital logistics. A 3PL brings with it specifically designed, trusted, and ready-to-use systems and processes that can manage the end-to-end logistical process on a single platform. Most of the 3PL service providers are also open to customizing or integrating their digital platforms with that of the organization they work with. This flexibility offered by a 3PL not only helps the organization bridge the gaps in its systems but also helps it to do it at a comparatively lower cost.

Large network: The main objective of any business is to conquer new frontiers and markets. And, to do this, it requires a wide logistics network and a robust, flawlessly executed logistics strategy. Your 3PL partner is expected to and can help you achieve your business goals. They may either have their own network across regions or they may have business collaborations with transporters and storage facility providers in different regions or a mix of these two, their own network in some cities and collaboration in another. They are thus better placed to help you expand and grow your business. To do this, all you need to do is work with them in a collaborative manner to find the most optimum solution to reach your customers.

A 3PL not only has the means to do so, but also the technology and the trained staff to execute the process efficiently.

Dedicated customer service: Logistics is now a major part of customer service. Obtaining the right product, packed in the right manner, at the required delivery time is on every customer’s wishlist. This can only happen if the ordering process and logistics are synchronized and managed correctly. A 3PL not only has the means to do so, but also the technology and the trained staff to execute the process efficiently.

Cost Reduction: Last but not least, outsourcing logistics and allied activities to a 3PL not only provides all the above benefits and improves efficiency but also reduces operating costs and administration overheads.

Why BlueGrace?

When companies want superior supply chain management services and best-in-class technology, they turn to BlueGrace®. Why? Our progressive approach to transportation management helps customers of all sizes drive savings and simplicity into their supply chains.

Will 2019 Be a Carrier or a Shipper-led Market?

Trucking is a cyclical business. There are periods of intense growth followed by a lull and then there are periodic seasonalities which may vary from one industry to another. How long each period lasts depends on the internal and external factors that greatly impact the trucking industry.

International trade policies and volume, capacity, manufacturing industry’s performance, local Government policies, fuel prices, and driver availability all impact the trucking industry’s growth

International trade policies and volume, capacity, manufacturing industry’s performance, local Government policies, fuel prices, and driver availability all impact the trucking industry’s growth. For example, all of 2016 was a difficult year for trade which also affected the trucking industry. However, when business picked up at the start of 2017 and soared till September 2018, the trucking industry also benefited. From there onwards, trucking growth has been showing a declining trend, suggesting that another slump is in the offing. 

What are the reasons behind this slump? Is it a short term decline or a repeat of the low experienced in 2016?

What are the reasons behind this slump? Is it a short term decline or a repeat of the low experienced in 2016? These are the two questions plaguing the trade and analysts since the start of 2019. 

What Factors are Contributing to The Industry’s Concerns? 

The trade war with China: The standoff between the US and China is being highlighted as one of the main factors that may impact the trucking industry in the country. There is fear of freight volume reducing due to the tariffs put up by the two countries on each other. However, according to Transport Futures Principal and Economist, Noel Perry who spoke to this article in TTNews.com on the decline in trucking growth, this fear might be unfounded. Noel Perry suggests that this problem may not be as severe as it is currently being made out to be. He feels that due to the prevailing state of the manufacturing industry in China, the Chinese may be amenable to work out a compromise with the US. 

Reducing truck orders: A common factor used to judge the health of the trucking industry is the number of orders placed for new trucks. According to industry news sources, the orders for new trucks has fallen considerably in January 2019. However, while sharing the numbers, Truckinginfo.com also puts forth a plausible explanation for the reduction in new orders. According to the news in Truckinginfo.comorders reduced by 26% in January 2019 as compared to December 2018 and were 68% less than the truck orders placed in January 2018.

Going by this forecast, it is quite possible that the transport sector may also experience a slow year.  

Economic growth slowdown: 2019 began with some concerns regarding the growth of the economy. In a Wall Street Journal article published in January, leading financial institutes shared their forecast for the year. Goldman Sachs predicts a growth rate of 2% for the first 6 months of the year and a rate of 1.8% for the rest of the year. Morgan Stanley presented a slightly more pessimistic view with a forecast of 1.7% growth rate for the year which could go down to 1% for the third quarter. The article also shares a quote from Jake McRobie, Economist, Oxford Economics, “We have been looking for a gradual slowdown in manufacturing activity amid headwinds from trade uncertainty, reduced fiscal stimulus and weaker global activity, but the risks of a sharper deceleration have increased”, to provide some explanation for the low growth forecast. Going by this forecast, it is quite possible that the transport sector may also experience a slow year.  

Even if one is to consider the lower number, the driver shortage is a critical issue.

Driver shortage:According to this piece in JOC.com, the American Trucking Association found a gap of 50,000 drivers and the FTR Transport Intelligence has reported a shortage of 300,000 drivers. Even if one is to consider the lower number, the driver shortage is a critical issue. The article further highlights that hiring companies are finding it difficult to get drivers onboard even after offering a pay increase. This is one aspect that can hamper the supply chain even when all other factors seem to be positive. 

The Silver Lining

Even the worst of situations tend to have a silver lining, so does the trucking slowdown. While the cost of operating and maintaining trucks is not likely to come down, the slump in business and the extra capacity built over the last two years may provide the shippers with a little leverage when negotiating freight rates. 

Apart from the driver shortage, all other reasons leading to fear of a trucking slump are a part and parcel of the dynamic global business environment. As FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles, Don Ake suggests the lull in business is felt because the industry is comparing the exceptional peak experienced in 2018 to the current scenario.

Hence to get the best results irrespective of the prevailing trade cycle, it makes business sense think strategically, collaborate and maintain relations with well-established business partnerswho can help manage volatility in the current business environment.

That said, the freight market is fickle in nature and can unexpectedly turn into a carrier-led market from a shipper-led market and vice-versa. Hence to get the best results irrespective of the prevailing trade cycle, it makes business sense to think strategically, and collaborate and maintain relations with well-established business partners, like BlueGrace, who can help manage volatility in the current business environment. If you would like to speak to one of our freight experts, call 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

You landed the Wal-Mart account! Now what? The Retail-Supplier Relationship

An enviable position

Congratulations! You made it this far – you’re a Walmart supplier. To achieve this, you’ve provided all your information, proven that your products are a good fit for Walmart’s customers and demonstrated that you are the sort of business Walmart wants to work with. You’ve filled in the forms, shared your certificates and completed the 11 step onboarding process.

It’s a fantastic achievement. According to Walmart, you’re now one of 100,000 businesses worldwide supplying products to its customers. That number demonstrates just how much Walmart is the “800 lb. gorilla” in the supply chain, and it’s also a mark of how highly regarded you are, as a CPG company, to have it agree to distribute your products.

We know that all your distributors, all the retailers you sell wholesale to, are important to you, but Walmart is possibly just that little bit more special. Whether you’ve just started, or have been supplying it for a few years, it’s a different business to the one we all grew up with. The pressure Walmart faces are the same as the rest of the retail sector. Its size is a double-edged sword – its footprint of stores and operations means there are more places to be affected by market disruptions, yet it has the resources to not only weather the storm, but profit from it too.

Just being big isn’t enough, however. What marks Walmart out is its commitment to innovation. In July 2019 it opens its first high-tech consolidation center — a 340,000-square-foot dock in Colton, California that will use automated technology to receive, sort and ship freight. According to the announcement, this ‘will enable three times more volume to flow throughout the center’.

Walmart innovates to maintain its position. Why does it need to do that?

The Situation Today

Walmart needs to continually innovate because it faces a very real threat.

Amazon.

Amazon has been at the forefront of the consumer shopping experience revolution. One-click payments, same-day delivery in certain geographies, multiple delivery and collection options, dash buttons – all features that are shaping customer expectations. Its dominance of the retail landscape is such that it has gone from driving 15 percent of core US personal consumption expenditure (PCE) growth in 2013 to 69 percent in 2017, according to Morgan Stanley Research.

This has forced many retailers, including Walmart, to revise how they serve customers. For Walmart, that means a switch from building stores to focusing more on e-commerce to drive growth. In September 2016, it acquired e-tailer Jet.com, accelerating its online sales and helping it to outperform the retail sector within a year. It consolidated its e-commerce position with the purchase of Indian online retailer Flipkart in 2018.

In much the same way that Amazon purchased Whole Foods to acquire physical presence, Walmart acquired Jet.com to give it a credible e-commerce function.

That does not mean that Walmart is abandoning its bricks and mortar business. Those stores mean that it is closer to more people in the US than any other retailer, with 90 percent market penetration, versus Amazon/Whole Foods’ combined 74 percent.

So, Walmart is closer to you, but Amazon can offer a great experience. This is where Walmart’s innovation switches from automation technology in vast consolidation centers to delivering efficiencies in its extended supply chain. A customer can find anything in Amazon and get it the next day. With a Walmart down the street, if a product is in stock, that same customer can walk away with it on the day.

It is here that suppliers come in. Products have to be in stock. As Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer for Walmart US, told the Wall Street Journal, “When we receive the product that we ordered, we see better sales.”

In other words, if a customer can not find what they want, they will go somewhere else. Not only does the retailer lose that sale, it also loses the opportunity to sell complementary products, or perhaps something that simply catches the shopper’s eye on the way to checkout. According to Greg Foran, Walmart US CEO, five percent out of stock at Walmart’s scale translates to 5,000 orders.

So, Walmart will do everything to make sure that its shelves stay full, that customers can find what they want, when they want it. If insufficient stock is ordered, that’s a retailer issue. If insufficient stock is delivered at the right time, that’s a supplier issue.

At the same time, as Walmart and other bricks and mortar retailers look to economize, they’re looking at where they hold stock. They want stores to sell, not to act as warehouses – the price of retail square footage simply does not allow that in the current market. That’s why Walmart is introducing these consolidation centers – to collate from hundreds if not thousands of suppliers, before using their own distribution networks to get the stock to stores.

That’s the retail landscape suppliers are entering into when they become part of the Walmart supply chain. Alongside this are rising fuel and transport costs – the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) May 2019 update forecasts that regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.92 per gallon (gal), up from an average of $2.85/gal last summer.

It’s an additional cost that both suppliers delivering to Walmart and the retailer itself, through shifting products from consolidation centers all the way to stores, are going to have to take on board. This ultimately impacts margin across the supply chain.

Ramifications: they say jump, you say how high

An environment of ruthlessly seeking efficiency, with fluctuating transportation costs, dominated by 800 lb gorillas.

What that means for suppliers is that they have to deliver when Walmart wants, not when the suppliers feel like it. It’s where OTIF comes in – on the actual due date, exactly the right amount. There is no grace period, limited leeway. That’s because flexibility eats into the margin.

Struggle to comply and chargebacks kick in – currently three percent on all shipments below the threshold. Amazon, with MABD, may appear slightly more lenient, but it has a similar level of chargeback on both late and early deliveries. On top of that, purchase order (PO) and advanced ship notice (ASN) violations (such as failing to confirm a PO or not sending an ASN in good time) levy a two percent charge

It’s just got stricter, as well. From May 2019, suppliers that ship full trucks must hit a specified window 87 percent of the time, up from the previous 85 percent previous target. For less than truckload (LTL) shippers, the jump is that much higher – up to 70 percent in that window, from 50 percent before.

It gets trickier. Historically, suppliers were judged on how consistent deliveries were on time and how complete they were. Now, those two parts will be evaluated separately. It’s all about having data that can be fed back into a stringent evaluation process to identify further efficiency opportunities.

Then there’s the challenge of Walmart as an international operation. As you grow within Walmart, there may become opportunities to supply its Canadian subsidiaries, or even further overseas. That brings its own challenges as you will need to comply with local regulations and legislation, both in terms of your products and your business practices.

What you need to think about if you are

So far, what we’ve discussed applies to all shippers. Yet every business is different, and there will always be specifics that only certain types of suppliers need to focus on. In this section, we’ll take a brief look at three types in particular: newer CPG companies, LTL shippers and those dealing in perishables (such as fresh food).

…a newer CPG shipper

With the introduction of consolidation centers, and the end of stores holding inventory, the onus of predicting consumer demand is passed on to CPG companies. That means knowing who your end customers are, how they shop and when there might be spikes in demand, even if you do not sell direct. This is a challenge for all CPG shippers, but whereas more established brands may have the resources to store spare stock, for newer businesses that capacity may not be available. This is where really clear insights into customers, coupled with efficient internal processes and a lean supply chain of your own, come into play. Falling foul of chargebacks will quickly eat into profits, making it vital that shippers can accurately predict consumer demand.

…LTL

If you’re LTL, the positives are savings in not paying for half-empty trucks, but the drawback is less control over how the carrier gets to your distributor than if you were a full-truck shipper. The carrier may pick up your pallets, then go to another shipper for their products. It might head to a regional dock to unload your pallets to go on another truck heading somewhere else, before being cross-shipped on to a third truck with everyone else heading to Walmart. That means you have to build in additional time to your shipment planning to ensure that you comply with OTIF, which will have ramifications for your own production processes and supply chain.

…dealing in perishables

While targets may be tight for long-life or non-perishable goods, for suppliers that deal in products that have a limited shelf life, OTIF goals are even stricter. That two-day window becomes one, which puts the emphasis on the shipper to be absolutely accurate with their deliveries. All retailers that stock food and drink, particular that which needs to be kept in controlled, refrigerated environments, need it to be able to stay on the shelf for as long as possible, in order for it to be as attractive as possible to customers. Get closer to use by or best before dates, and consumers are less likely to buy, leading to last-day discounting and wastage.

The upside

It might seem like becoming a Walmart supplier is nothing but hardship and the constant threat of chargebacks. Yet it is challenging because Walmart is such a golden opportunity to get your products into the hands of millions of consumers, both in the US and further afield.

It isn’t all about the sales opportunity, however. With retailers like Walmart looking for efficiencies, it forces their suppliers to either follow suit or fall off. By aligning your own systems and processes with the demands of OTIF, you will end up a leaner, meaner machine. This means less wastage in your operations, resulting in less outgoings and more profit.

At a time when all sectors are undergoing huge disruption, this streamlining sets you up to thrive rather than simply survive. While it is demanding, the practices and processes you onboard will unlock long term gains for your business.

The question is, what do you need to consider when aligning your business with the demands of Walmart?

Top tips on being a star supplier for Walmart

Here’s what we’ve learned turns a good shipper into a great Walmart supplier from working with businesses just like yours:

  1. It’s all about data: Walmart wants its supply chain to be as efficient as possible, so it’s willing to share the data it has to help you shape your operations. If you don’t sell direct, getting tangible customer intelligence can be a challenge, but Walmart will share information, such as on-shelf availability and point of sale insights, more often.
  2. Work from the customer backward: On time doesn’t mean in-time to Walmart. If you don’t want to suffer chargebacks, you need to think about your timings from the customer backward. The customer buys your product after it’s been on the shelf X days, so how long prior to that do you need to be delivering it to the distribution or consolidation center? How long does it take to get from your warehouse to that point?
  3. Chargebacks hurt, so make sure it’s justified: Walmart may be huge, but it isn’t infallible. There’s a lot of automation, which means sometimes chargebacks can be applied due to mistakes in their processes rather than your failed compliance. For instance, a carrier may have delivered your shipment OTIF, but the DC did not unload that day. The only way you can contest, however, is to have full and complete records showing how you delivered OTIF against the buyer requirements. Having a trusted logistics partner that can audit your scorecard and compare it to carrier manifests is critical, and it could be the difference between receiving a chargeback or being able to challenge it successfully.
  4. Load planning: If you supply multiple products to Walmart, think about how they are loaded on the pallet or in the truck. It’s no good having the back half of the truck full of products for distribution centers further down the line, or shorter life products nearer the bottom of the pallet.
  5. Think like a Roman: The Romans crisscrossed their empire with straight lines, because that’s the most efficient way from point A to B. You want to do the same, but build in factors such as weather forecasts, traffic patterns, fuel levels, and load points. You’re looking for the most optimized route because it will save you time, which in turn saves money.
  6. Packaging tips: People need to know what’s in the box. That means distribution center employees, yes, but it also means customers. How will it look on the shelves? At Walmart’s Supplier Summit 2019, Foran said “packaging should be designed for impact and efficiency with large fonts that are easy to read, easy to find and bar codes which also are prominent on the packaging.”
  7. Cut down on travel time: Fuel and transport costs are the great unknown, tied to everything from crude production levels to the political situation in the Middle East and South America. You want to control as much as possible, so limit how far you need to move your inventory by positioning it closer to warehouse locations. If Walmart is selling your product predominantly in California, why not get as close as possible to the new consolidation center? Limit the variables and you have a more efficient machine.
  8. Appointment scheduling: Be aware that your mode of transport will dictate when your products can be delivered. Most LTL carriers will not allow you to pre-schedule appointments, preferring to wait until your freight has arrived at the consolidation terminal. It will then be co-loaded with other Walmart-bound deliveries, with appointments based on the trailer the carrier has allocated for that day. It’s therefore vital that you, or more likely your logistics partner, can work closely with both the carrier and scheduling system to make sure this is being done. By doing so, you will be better placed to identify exceptions, such as where the carrier cannot accommodate the delivery, to adjust OTIF without penalty. Most suppliers don’t realize this and miss the opportunity. It is important to note, however, that this must not be abused and is for exceptions only. Your lead logistics service provider is expected to have the right connections and expertise to manage it professionally.
  9. Speaking of carriers, reliable ones are worth their weight in gold: We hear of horror stories where carriers and shippers fall out because neither can clearly understand what the other is actually trying to achieve. The number one mistake people make is to think that being efficient equals going for the cheapest option, when it’s actually about having every part of your chain operating reliably. There are carriers that will drop prices to get business on board, but if you’re then simply more low-paying cattle, is your OTIF compliance going to be top of the carrier’s agenda? You want a good price, certainly, but you need a partner that’s aligned with your objectives more.
  10. The right foundations: You can’t operate a 21st-century business using 20th-century tools. To compete in today’s market needs having the right technology underpinning your operations, foundations which give you visibility and control and allow you to have sight of, and optimize, every aspect of your business.
  11. Embrace digital: Walmart is investing billions in its technology – that means manual processes and paper documents are disappearing. Digital tools like electronic bills of lading are becoming the norm. Do you really want to be the only shipper the trucker has a paper docket for, with the rest on his mobile device the dock or DC are simply scanning?
  12. Ensure everyone lives by OTIF: It’s all well and good your logistics team being held to OTIF, but when the penalties impact the rest of your business, isn’t it really a matter for everyone? It comes back to working back from the customer – the process doesn’t stop when the product leaves your dock but should carry on through to your production team. If you’ve got a lead time of two weeks to produce new stock, that’s not a just manufacturing factor, it’s a supply chain one too.
  13. Walmart want you to win; let it help you: Walmart run a sophisticated education network designed to support suppliers. It’s in its interests that you are operating to the best of your abilities, so make full use of the classes, academy, and tools it offers to help you do just that.
  14. OTIF is vital, but so is everything else: Walmart is taking huge strides in making its entire operation as sustainable as possible, which includes targets for suppliers. These are only going to get stricter, so it’s a good idea to know what they are and keep yourself aligned. There will come a point where being 100 percent OTIF compliant, with customers buying your products in droves, won’t save you if you have a huge carbon footprint and are unsustainable. That’s a lot to take in, so here’s a one-off tip:
  15. How to write a great OTIF action plan: Walmart lives on data, which means evidence. Write a great OTIF action plan and you will have evidence on how you will improve standards. But how do you do that if you’ve not done one before? Googling isn’t an option here – you need qualified, experienced support. Hiring the right people is one route – but they won’t come cheap, and can you justify having them on staff as a permanent employee. Another option would be to outsource to a competent third party. One which has experience of supporting suppliers to build efficient supply chains, whether they’re supplying to Walmart, Amazon or any other big box retailer. Having a supportive partner that has done this, time and time again, for all sorts of different businesses and sectors, means you get access to the right experience and support, tailored to your unique requirements

Being a Walmart Supplier – a story from the frontline

For one Houston-based health and beauty supplier, working with Walmart was a dream come true, until the tremendous growth it propelled led to distribution challenges.

With vendor scorecards dwindling and chargebacks against purchase orders mounting the need for a better solution was apparent. From numerous carrier meetings to drive on-time compliance to costly upgrades in service levels, the trend continued to show little improvement.

Lead times were not an issue and inventory levels were manageable, yet carriers could not seem to comply with the OTIF date clearly displayed on the BOL. Purchase orders were being shipped with ample lead time and in most cases early with guaranteed service at a premium. However, even with upgraded service, the carriers would typically refuse to refund the charges since they were delivered “on time” per the standard transit.

To tackle this, the supplier analyzed the data and scorecards to determine the root cause and set a baseline for current state performance. Next, an assessment of ERP integration capabilities was performed. By linking this with a transport management system, this supplier was able to apply custom business rules to achieve the missing link of the overall issue.

What this meant was that no matter when the order was received in advance of the OTIF, the supplier could effectively route the “Best Value Carrier” and provide the most optimal ship date, relative to the selected carrier’s standard transit time. Each order, once approved within the ERP, would be rated and routed with a Walmart approved carrier delivering the lowest cost, standard service and shipped on the day that would best fit that carrier’s network, all to allow for the delivery within the specified OTIF window.

The supplier showed a 90 percent reduction in chargebacks within the first 60 days of implementing this program and realized the best scorecard performance in recent history.

Now it’s time to start work

As we said before, the hard work starts now. Remember, you aren’t alone – many CPG companies experience difficulties keeping up – back in August 2017, OTIF compliance stood at 70 percent, and it’s taken a while to get higher. Walmart wants you to do well, so listen, learn and take the opportunity that awaits. Look at your own network, your own suppliers and operations, and see how they can work together to support your business with Walmart or any other big-box retailer. Technology and nuances of logistics and supply chain operations are vital here. Working with partners who have the connections, first-hand experience, and understand both the business and technology can make the difference between success and failure.

BlueGrace is a freight and logistics services provider and one of the top 3PLs (Third-party Logistics Providers) with invaluable experience in managing complex logistics programs of leading CPG companies. The dedicated team has the first-hand experience in planning, building and delivering supply chain solutions for CPG businesses that not only help them meet the requirements of their retail partners but turn their logistics from a cost to value add.

You’ve done great work getting this far. Now it’s time to do even better. Give BlueGrace a call today at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below and see how we can help you achieve exactly that.

How to Build an Effective Logistics Communication Process  

Communication is a vital aspect of building a successful business. An effective communication process ensures that information flows seamlessly between departments and amongst the various teams on time and in a form which will allow them to achieve individual, departmental, and organizational goals and objectives.  

While communication in varied forms and frequency is essential for all departments, it is extremely crucial for the executors of the organization’s plans and strategies – the Logistics Department. 

Why is communication important for Logistics  

Information interchange plays an important role in creating a cost-effective and agile logistics management process. It ensures that tasks are completed and transferred from one point to the other seamlessly and without delay.

For example, the sales department needs logistics data to analyze orders that have been shipped, customer service needs information to update shipment status, and the accounts section requires the data to cross-check transporter invoices. The procurement team needs information from logistics when new vendors are to be hired or old contracts are due for renewal. The other functions of the supply chain also have to collaborate or communicate with the logistics team to get their work done.  
 

In addition to the internal information requirements, vendors such as carriers, warehouse operators, and 3PLs also need to exchange information with the logistics team on a daily basis to ensure that the company’s products are delivered at the right time to the right place at the right cost.  

What are the features of an effective communication process for Logistics?

It should be in writing: Written communication is important as it minimizes the scope to misinterpret or forget the message. Today, written communication is the most common form of business communication. Since emails and all forms of messages across multiple platforms can easily be sent to multiple recipients situated across offices, countries, and continents, it is essential for all professionals to develop effective written communication skills and to encourage the same in all employees.

A clear, concise, and consistent message is the hallmark of effective communication.

It should follow the 3 C’s: A clear, concise, and consistent message is the hallmark of effective communication. A clear message ensures that there is no ambiguity in what needs to be conveyed. Conciseness ensures that the message is brief, but includes all important information. And, consistency in language, format, mode of delivery ensures that the receiver does not waste time in understanding the message.  

In logistics, given the fact that a lot of the work is time-bound, marking the right team or person on the email is of utmost importance.

It should be sent to the right recipients: More often than not information is lost in the organizational hierarchy because it is not addressed to the right person. In logistics, given the fact that a lot of the work is time-bound, marking the right team or person on the email is of utmost importance.  
 
It conveys urgency appropriately: Many executives are in the habit of marking all their emails as “urgent” to ensure that it gets immediate attention from the receiver. While this practice is great to ensure that important and critical communication does not get missed, however, if all communication is urgent, it becomes difficult to prioritize tasks. It also dilutes the meaning of the word. In such instances, the receivers take up the tasks in the priority that they think is correct. Hence, it is crucial to mark only communication or tasks that are the top priority as urgent and not all communication.  
 
It should provide clear timelines: The delivery or timeline for getting a response or the task being assigned should be clearly mentioned in the communication. This will help the receiver gather information, plan, and execute the requirements mentioned in the message and avoid unnecessary delays.  
 
It should be transparent and reliable: Interdepartmental conflicts, organizational politics, and cutthroat competition encourage employees to keep information from their counterparts or colleagues. This creates chaos, confusion, and mistrust which in turn affects the execution of tasks. It is thus important that the organizational culture promotes transparent communication and sharing of reliable information.  
 
It should be real-time: Logistics is a fast-paced function and information exchange also needs to be equally quick. Hence, information such as a change in freight rates, loading lists, customer orders, etc. needs to be verified and relayed to the next person as soon as it is received. Apart from these things, queries asked in relation to a task or process should be addressed promptly or the receiver should at least provide a timeline by when the sender may expect an answer. 

Technology Integration: In this digital age, just getting the written communication right is not enough to ensure the successful implementation of business plans. Organizations must also integrate the technologies, backend systems and processes that are used by different departments to ensure that information flows seamlessly and without manual intervention from one function to another. 

For logistics which is an intensely data-oriented function, this integration is crucial.

For logistics which is an intensely data-oriented function, this integration is crucial. It will help reduce manual data entry, delays due to incorrect system entries, and speed up the process. Digital records of all the transactions or logistical activities will also make it easier to get reports, analyze performance, find outliers, and standardize the process across different geographies and vendors. When designing or buying technology or outsourcing the process to a vendor, it is essential to understand if this technology will be able to integrate with other systems that your organization uses with ease and at least cost.

An organization’s logistical communication process can be complete only when all the above elements are present and interlinked via common technology.  

BlueGrace’s proprietary TMS (Transportation Management System) 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. Not only will this simplify your freight but it will provide mountains of usable data to build measurable KPIs and continuously improve your program. To speak to a BlueGrace expert, contact us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

Tips for Becoming a More Strategic Shipper

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While there are a lot of buzzwords in the logistics industry, it may be surprising to some but “business strategy” is not among them. Every company needs a strong plan of approach and a method of conducting business that will put them in a more advantageous position. Successful companies understand that good strategy isn’t about just doing better than the “other guy” but also about not hindering themselves in the process.

One of the biggest ways that shipping companies tend to shoot themselves in the foot is by looking at their carriers as a resource rather than an asset.

One of the biggest ways that shipping companies tend to shoot themselves in the foot is by looking at their carriers as a resource rather than an asset. Being a preferred or “shipper of choice” is one of the best ways to shore up your strategy to make you more profitable today, next week, next year, in five years and years after that.

With the dwindling supply of able-bodied drivers, the relationship between shipper and carrier is more important than ever before. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to attaining that status with your carriers and carrier conduct in general.

Move to an Integrated Supply Chain

One of the worst carryovers from the inception of the logistics industry is that aspect of the business is thought of as a separate entity, a cost center. By siloing these facets rather than integrating them, it’s easy to lose cohesion and efficiency.

For a shipper, every part of their business is (and should be) connected.

For a shipper, every part of their business is (and should be) connected. Your sales team is just as important as those in the warehouse or operating the dock. Even if those are all considered to be connected and are even working as a complete unit, transportation is no less a part of that. All too often, shippers look at their carriers as an afterthought and opt not to include them in the larger operations discussions as well as providing information to them at the last possible minute.

“When an order arrives, ideally the information shouldn’t only be broadcast to inventory folks and the distribution center. The information should immediately go to the transportation group so they can start to coordinate the capacity to move that freight. Too often transportation folks are only notified when the pallets are sitting on the docks,” said Brian Gibson, executive director of the Center for Supply Chain Innovation at Auburn University

While cutting down on the transportation budget might save a little cash up front, it could (and often does) have an impact on other facets of your business.

Of course, the cost is a factor in this regard. While cutting down on the transportation budget might save a little cash up front, it could (and often does) have an impact on other facets of your business. Disconnect and poor communication with a transporter tend to end up costing more in the long run with delays, detention fees, poor customer service, annoyed carriers, unsatisfied customers.

Do Unto Others

The golden rule certainly has its place in the business world and unfortunately, not all shippers and carriers have learned to get along as they should. Pricing is the perpetual thorn in the side, of course, and it’s easy for one side or the other to take advantage when the conditions are right. The “us-against-them” mentality may be useful when it comes to thinking about the competition, but it really has no place when you’re working with a carrier. Treating carriers poorly can have some serious consequences in the future.

Think about 2016 and 2017 when shippers could harangue carriers for a better rate and carriers had no option but to comply. In 2018, when demand was high enough for carriers to be more picky on what freight they carried, the worst of the antagonizers were either dropped or gouged when it came to the bill.

Trucking companies might put up with it when demand is low and they have no choice, but don’t think they won’t drop a company as soon as capacity picks back up.

Build a Good Working Relationship with Carriers

Remember, carriers, just as you as a shipper, are in the game to make money. For them, profit comes when they are more productive, so getting their drivers in, out, and on the road to the next delivery is key. However, when a driver is delayed, that puts a hurting on their productivity and ultimately their bottom line.

One of the best ways you can help to strengthen your working relationship is to ask your carriers to audit your supply chain and make suggestions and recommendations on how to make it more efficient.

One of the best ways you can help to strengthen your working relationship is to ask your carriers to audit your supply chain and make suggestions and recommendations on how to make it more efficient. While detention fees might help to recoup some of the losses from a delay, remember, carriers would much rather keep their drivers moving instead.

Looking Ahead

While we might not be able to predict the future precisely, shippers are able to put together a forecast of what they’ve got coming down the pipeline for deliveries. Communicating that information with carriers ahead of time not only helps to ensure there’s capacity available, but it also makes life considerably easier for both parties and strengthens the relationship at the same time.

Trucking companies like to know what’s coming down the line, more to the point, they like to have shipments lined up so they can keep their trucks moving. If they aren’t expecting anything from you, then they’ll look for freight elsewhere. While that’s a good move on their part, it doesn’t do a shipper any favors when they have freight that needs to get on the road.

One thing to remember is that the more communication you have with your carriers the better the relationship will be and the more reliable the service.

Small to midsize companies will typically make forecasts on a three week or monthly basis while larger companies will run a two-week forecast. Regardless of the number of days or week, though the one thing to remember is that the more communication you have with your carriers the better the relationship will be and the more reliable the service. The optimal goal is to have continuous service with the same carrier pool. This not only helps to build a more stable rapport with the carriers, but it’s mutually beneficial to both parties to have a consistent schedule that shipper and carrier alike can count on.

Make Decisions Based on Data

The technology available to the supply chain has grown up so much over the past few years that we’re able to make inductive leaps that we’ve never been able to do before. With the right technology, we can collect a seemingly endless number of data points, aggregate them and turn them into something comprehensible. From there we can take that information and use it to make informed decisions as well as highlighting opportunities for efficiencies.

Even on the most basic level, for example, this technology gives shippers the ability to track their freight in real time and proactively make decisions that could avoid delays, rather than reacting when it already happened.

Conversely, this data is also a great way to improve the communication between shippers and carriers.

Weekly communication with carriers helps to foster positive growth in relations as well as provides the ideal opportunity to discuss operational problems and pain points. Yes, the transportation budget matters, but that pales in comparison to the difference between getting exceptional service and poor service.

Why Shippers Should Consider Working with a 3PL

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) can be instrumental in navigating this pro-trucker market. As a shipper, working with a 3PL can give you access to carriers that are not only rated and vetted but have a good working relationship with your 3PL partner. Consider it a “leg up” on building a good relationship. Additionally, a good 3PL knows what their carriers are looking for in terms of preferred or “shippers of choice.” Because of that and the changing market conditions, 3PLs are becoming more heavily relied upon to help get the job done.

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

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

Working with a partner that’s dedicated to shaping up your supply chain takes much of the guesswork out of having to do it yourself. We at BlueGrace specialize in doing just that, make your logistics work for you in the leanest and most efficient way possible.

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

What will 2019 bring for the trucking industry?

What will 2019 bring for the trucking industry? Will there be a capacity crunch, demand – supply imbalance? Will the rates increase or will they remain steady? What would be more cost effective – booking spot rates or negotiating contract rates? How will the changes in the trucking industry impact a shipper’s business?

Knowledge of the existing trends can also provide insight into what one may expect from the trucking industry in the coming year.

As the new year begins, all these questions and many more are on the minds of shippers. While no one can accurately predict the changes in the business environment or how the trucking industry will respond to those changes, deliberation on the current year’s performance can help form a more reasonable line of thinking. Knowledge of the existing trends can also provide insight into what one may expect from the trucking industry in the coming year.

Here’s a look at some of the crucial parameters of the trucking industry that can impact shippers.

Rates: According to an article in Logistics Management, the US trucking industry showed a rate increase at 6.2 percent. Long distance full truckload rates showed a growth rate of 7.8 percent in the first half of the year. Less-than-truckload rates increased at the rate of 7.4 percent. The report forecasts a rate increase of around 3.6 percent in the coming year.

A JOC.com article stated 3 differing opinions of what one can expect from the trucking market in terms of rates. It has a bullish rate increase prediction between 5 to 8 percent, a bearish rate hike forecast between 0 to 3 percent, and a median rate increase prediction in the range of 3 to 5 percent.

While there isn’t a consensus on by how much the rates could increase, given the forecasts, shippers might fare better by building in at least the average rate increase in their trucking budgets for the coming year.

While there isn’t a consensus on by how much the rates could increase, given the forecasts, shippers might fare better by building in at least the average rate increase in their trucking budgets for the coming year. These predictions and forecasts can also help them better negotiate their rate contracts with trucking companies or 3PLs.

Capacity: This is the holy grail of the trucking industry for both the truckers and the shippers. Availability of drivers and vehicles, manufacturing industry’s performance, and legal compliances laid down for the industry all have a bearing on carrying capacity. Capacity, in turn, has a strong impact on the rates. When there’s a capacity crunch, rates increase. When it is in surplus, rates decrease.

This increase in trucking volume may lead to capacity constraints in the coming year.

For 2019, according to this article in Reuters, the American Trucking Association (ATA) predicts a 2.3 percent increase in trucking volume every year from 2019 to 2024. This increase in trucking volume may lead to capacity constraints in the coming year. A contradicting view presented by JOC.com and Freightwaves.com, says that while earlier in the year, trucks utilization was at its full capacity, it has come down to 94 – 95 percent. The trend is expected to continue at the start of 2019.

The Freightwave article also points out that the capacity might also be influenced by the availability of drivers rather than the availability of trucks. So even if the vans are available, a shortage in capacity may be experienced due to the lack of drivers.

Given the unpredictable nature of the industry, for shippers who have regular freight, it would make better business sense to work with 3PLs or professional trucking companies instead of individual truck contractors or vendors with smaller fleets to avoid getting short supplied in the event demand increases.

The Economy: How the economy performs has a huge impact on the transportation industry. According to the GDP forecast shared at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, as reported by The Balance, the GDP is expected to be 3 percent in 2018. In 2019 and 2020 it is predicted to be slightly lower at 2.3 and 2 percent respectively. The fall is being considered an outcome of the ongoing trade war with China. The trade war has also created some skepticism in the freight market.

However, the release also forecasts a decent growth rate for the U.S manufacturing sector. It pegs production to increase at 2.8 percent in 2018. A slight decrease in momentum in growth is projected in 2019 and 2020 with rates at 2.6 and 2 percent respectively. Even if the manufacturing growth rates slow down slightly, it is not expected to have too much of a negative impact on the local freight market.

The other trend that seems to be picking up and is expected to continue is shorter distance freight movement.

Apart from these factors, the other trend that seems to be picking up and is expected to continue is shorter distance freight movement. According to this article in Freightwaves.com which quotes Bob Costello, Chief Economist, ATA, “the average length-of-haul for dry van truckloads fell to just around 500 miles for the year-to-date period, down from an average of 800 miles in 2005”. The article highlights that this trend is being attributed to shippers basing their fulfillment centers nearer the customers.

Going by the reports and views expressed by industry experts, 2019 seems to look positive for the industry vis-a-vis economic performance and rates. Shippers may fare better by factoring in a freight rate increase. For both the vendors and the shippers, there may however be some ambiguity on capacity as it is to an extent dependent on the trucking industry’s capacity to attract professional drivers to fulfill the current shortage.

For a 3PL perspective on 2018 and what to look for in 2019, join us on February 20th at 2pm for our FREE 20 minute webinar, STATE OF THE (LOGISTICS) UNION . We’ll discuss the major concerns for shippers entering 2019, and what the next frontier in transparency will be. Click HERE to sign up today!

You can also speak to one of our experts and find out more about BlueGrace by filling out the form below or contacting us at 800.MYSHIPPING

Adam Blankenship, BlueGrace CCO, Talks Logistics With WFLA 970

On January 10, 2019 Adam Blankenship, the Chief Commercial Officer for BlueGrace Logistics was invited to share his thoughts on logistics, leadership and what make our industry tick with host Ryan Gorman at WFLA 970 in Tampa, Florida. Adam was able to give an overview of what BlueGrace does for our customers everyday and how a 3PL helps shippers decrease their freight costs and streamline their supply chain.

Listen to the podcast below to find out more about BlueGrace, what we do, what we believe in and how we are hiring in 2019.

Listen to “CEO Spotlight – Blue Grace Logistics” on Spreaker.

Urban Logistics is Growing

We are witnessing one of the most interesting times in the development of logistics. Shippers and Carriers alike are working towards creating, innovating, and performing all out (and much needed) overhaul of the way we look at delivering packages.

Online and legacy retailers both are encouraged to work with their logistics partners to not only overcome the upcoming challenges but to find bold new approaches to compete as well as survive.

While every step of the process is certainly important, shippers and carriers have been placing a greater emphasis on the last mile of the delivery. And why not? It’s projected that by 2030 more than 600 million more people will be living in urban environments where standard delivery via truck may not be an option. Couple that with the booming growth of online retail sales (e-commerce) and the last mile not only becomes a crucial element for distribution but it’s also a differentiator from the competition. Online and legacy retailers both are encouraged to work with their logistics partners to not only overcome the upcoming challenges but to find bold new approaches to compete as well as survive.

Deliveries are no longer about a simple A to B route. Urbanization has seen to that. With more people living in much more crowded areas, the complexity of deliveries is growing exponentially.

Freight movement across all modes are projected to grow by approximately 42 percent by 2040.

According to the DoT, “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.”

Growing Trends in Last Mile Deliveries

“Shortening the Last Mile: Winning Logistics Strategies in the Race to the Urban Consumer” was a white paper compiled by DHL and Euromonitor which has identified four growing trends that are shaping urban last mile transportation.

  • Localized Delivery
  • Flexible Delivery Networks
  • Seasonal Logistics
  • Evolving Technology

In addition to highlighting these trends, the paper also explains ways that companies can begin to embrace these new tactics and adapt their supply chain to the changing market while growing their competitive advantage.

There must be more public and private sector coordination in freight planning.

“‘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)

Growing Challenges

The white paper found that major urban settings can cause a variety of challenges for distribution including cost, decreased quality of service, as well as overall organizational strain.

Seasonal growth is a good example of this. Not only are major holidays a heavy load time for logistics but many stores run various promotions throughout the year which require extra personnel. The only issue being, these short-term surges in volume aren’t nearly as easy to predict.

“Urban customers’ demands for speed and convenience are forcing retailers to overhaul their warehousing networks, replacing centralized networks with local fulfillment and distribution infrastructure, which can require a more accurate balancing of inventory,” says DHL on the matter.

The Growing F.A.D

With the importance of urban and last mile deliveries growing, how can companies best take advantage these growing trends to overcome the impending challenges as well as stand out from the rest of the competition? In order to be more competitive, efficient, and an overall more successful company the DHL study suggests applying the F.A.D strategy which they described as the following:

(F)lexible or more elastic transport networks can include the more efficient use of available transport capacity in a market, to achieve higher load factors, bring down costs, connect more quickly to end customers, and reduce environmental impact, but can also imply the ability to move shipments more easily between different modes of transport such as bicycles and vans to improve connectivity.

(A)utomation can include a higher level of automated processing at fulfillment centers, but also the deployment of autonomous vehicles and robotics to bring down labor costs, increase productivity, and enhance services.

(D)ata management enhancements allow retailers and their logistics operators to better forecast and position inventory to reduce waste within their supply chain and achieve better availability of stock. It also provides greater visibility on inventory and transport flows, allowing logistics operators to more effectively manage routing and exceptions, and providing tracking to enhance the customer experience.

There is some variance as to which sectors you’ll need to place more time and energy into.

Now there is some variance as to which sectors you’ll need to place more time and energy into. “Effectively, not all three elements need to be managed as actively or invested in as equally.

Different markets, commodities, and operating environments, as well as competitive pressures, may require prioritization of one particular focus area over the others, or a more substantial investment in certain focus areas at the expense of others. For example, if courier shortages are the most pressing issue for one company, that company would need to funnel resources into making its networks more flexible and likely consider automating some of its processes as well. However, another company may be facing increasing pressure from its customers to narrow the delivery timetables offered to them, incentivizing management to consider investing in a data system with AI capabilities to help predict the most efficient windows,” says DHL.

Not only urban consumers, but all consumers will continue to demand solutions that make life both easy and convenient.

Not only urban consumers, but all consumers will continue to demand solutions that make life both easy and convenient. When it comes to their expectations cost, convenience, and flexibility will all be important factors to both the relevance and success of e-commerce companies, as well as transportation companies who will continue to haul the growing industry along.

At BlueGrace, our proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. Many of our customers prefer to integrate their systems or ERPs such as SAP or NetSuite directly with our BlueShip platform. Not only will this simplify your freight but it also provides usable data to build measurable KPIs and continuously improve your program. To speak to one of our experts, call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

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!