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Evolving Consumer Demands Prompt Continued Changes in Logistics

Twenty years ago, no one would have imagined for a second that they could order a product online in the morning and have it on their porch before they got home from work. Today, it’s all but expected that delivery occur within very small timeframes, even the same day.

The battle amongst large players in the e-commerce segment like Amazon and WalMart for fastest delivery times appears to only be escalating, meaning consumers are becoming more and more used to getting their packages within a couple days. This means changes in logistics operations must continue to evolve in order to support these demands. Note: Download our whitepaper, Walmart: The Retail-Supplier Relationship for even more details.

In order to keep up with consumer demand, logistics must evolve.

Today’s consumer demand means that buyers expect more from suppliers. They need the right merchandise delivered at the right time in precisely the way they need it delivered. When these expectations aren’t meant, suppliers may be faced with penalties that can be crippling. The drive for on-time delivery can also lead to unexpected accessorial fees. In order to keep up with consumer demand, logistics must evolve.

Logistics Technology Evolves to Meet Demands

Many logistics divisions are turning to technology to help meet evolving demands. Without the technology, keeping up is a pipe dream for many operations. Here are some of the technologies logistics operations are falling back on in order to serve their customers better:

  • Demand Planning– It’s critical to stay ahead of the game when delivery timeframes are so short. Demand planning software is changing to make sure suppliers are ready to meet demands.
  • Smarter Analytics– Top notch analytics are being implemented across logistics operations, from warehouses to transportation, to give logistics providers a leg up. Analytics are used to support many arms of the logistics operation, as well as keeping stakeholders informed.
  • TMS– Comprehensive transportation management systems are critical to getting loads out the door and ensuring on-time delivery. Improved routing, load tracking, cost control, and reporting are critical to helping companies meet consumer demands while working within their operational budget.
  • IoT– The Internet of Things has major potential to help suppliers meet stringent demands. Load tracking (i.e., real-time GPS tracking) and monitoring (i.e., atmospheric conditions, handling sensors to detect impact to parcels) are two major IoT applications being implemented by cutting-edge suppliers to improve delivery.
  • Blockchain– Blockchain is a technology being implemented to improve traceability and accountability in supply chains by recording data in a way it can’t be tampered with or changed. 

Demands for Faster Delivery Mean Demand for Better Visibility

A transparent supply chain is one of the most important factors in meeting deadlines. Consumers and retailers alike insist on knowing where their merchandise is, when they’ll get it, and how they’ll get it. 

Supply chain visibility is a top priority at most companies, but only 6% of companies say they’ve achieved full visibility. While supply chain visibility ranks behind OTIF and delivery issues in a 2017 Geodis survey, it may hold the key to solving those problems.

Staying one step ahead is critical to supplier success, and stagnation simply won’t do in the current logistics

Consumer and retailer demand will inevitably continue to evolve and put more pressure on the logistics industry. Staying one step ahead is critical to supplier success, and stagnation simply won’t do in the current logistics market. Wondering how your logistics operations can keep up with ever-hastening delivery expectations? Contact one of our representatives at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to get a free supply chain analysis from one of our experts!

Supply Chain Technology 2020: What to Expect?

Technology has become synonymous with supply chains. It’s not only creating new and innovative products to support global supply chains,  but is also rapidly changing how the industry operates. These new technologies are being leveraged by both traditional and tech-first logistics companies in the freight and logistics space to help build digital and integrated supply chains that provide end-to-end visibility to all the stakeholders.  

According to this report by Gartner, released in January 2019, the top technology trends for the year were artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, IoT, robotic process automation (RPA), autonomous things, digital supply chain twins, blockchain, and immersive experience.  

Others like artificial intelligence, autonomous things, blockchain, and robotic process automation are comparatively new and yet to be explored fully.

While all the above technologies are gaining ground in the industry and are being used to solve supply chain problems, some of them like IoT and advanced analytics have been around for a while and are familiar. Others like artificial intelligence, autonomous things, blockchain, and robotic process automation are comparatively new and yet to be explored fully. However, 2019 did see some of the newer technologies making big strides and are expected to be in trend in 2020 as well. They are:  

  1. Autonomous trucks: We’ve been hearing about autonomous trucking for a while now. In 2019 autonomous trucking gained a lot of ground with a few companies in the sector ready to roll out their self-driving trucks on the road. Some companies making news in this sector are TuSimple which got funding at the beginning of 2019 and Plus.ai, a Cupertino, California-based startup, that has already tested its autonomous truck on the road. Plus.ai’s autonomous truck has made the world’s first cross-country trip to transport butter to a town in Pennsylvania. The autonomous trucking industry is expected to keep up the momentum in 2020 also. According to an article in Supply Chain Digital, Allied Market Research has forecasted that the global market for autonomous trucks is expected to cross $1 billion this year and show a growth rate of 10.4% every year up to 2025.  
  2. Blockchain: While Blockchain technology has been around in the logistics and freight industry for a few years, there’s still a lot of scopes to explore this technology. Last year, TradeLens – a blockchain shipping platform developed by Maersk and IBM finally started picking up after a lackluster start. According to a news release on Maersk’s website, the platform will now be used by MSC, CMA-CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, and ONE. The success of platforms like this will help in getting more companies in freight and logistics to explore blockchain technology. More supply chain partners on a single blockchain-enabled platform will help facilitate the timely and safe exchange of data among the various stakeholders, even competitors, and enhance traceability, reliability, and transparency in the system.  
  3. Artificial intelligence: The Gartner report had listed artificial intelligence as one of the promising supply chain trends of 2019. Since all technologies that require a certain level of responsiveness and user interaction are empowered by artificial intelligence, this is one technology that will evolve with new technologies and needs of the industry. So in 2020 also one can expect AI to be an important part of the technological revolution in multiple supply chains.  
  4. Robotic process automation: Robotic process automation (RPA) is an artificial intelligence software that helps program robots to carry out standard processes without intervention. It is also useful in programming robots to collect data while they are doing their set activities. According to a 2019 Gartner press release, in 2018, the global market for robotic process automation grew 63%. The research firm expected the revenue in 2019 to reach $1.3 billion. Similar to AI, the RPA software demand will grow along with the deployment of robotics in supply chains. 
  5. Digital supply chain twin: A digital supply chain twin has been defined as a replica of the real-world supply chain function. The digital platforms that helped integrate all organizational functions and manage and monitor the processes digitally have now given way to more sophisticated systems that present a mirror image of the on-ground supply chain functions. These digital replicas are making it easier for organizations to simulate the real-time supply chain, identify plausible issues and take preemptive actions. This kind of technological representation of the supply chain is expected to be one of the top trends in 2020.  

While technology forms a critical part of understanding where the logistics and freight industry is headed, it is not the only factor.

These are just some of the main technological trends of 2019 that are expected to continue getting focus in 2020 and probably even in the next few years as well. While technology forms a critical part of understanding where the logistics and freight industry is headed, it is not the only factor. There are other aspects like regulations, laws, economy, and freight rates that help determine the fate of the supply chain. To know how the industry fared on these counts on the year gone by and how these aspects are expected to impact the logistics and freight community in the new year, register for our webinar: State of the Logistics Industry here

In addition to connecting with industry experts and gaining insight into where the industry is headed in the new year, all registered webinar attendees will also have the option to get a free supply chain analysis and optimization study based on their current data! Get in touch with our team at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to find out more.  

Shippers Growing Success With 3PLs 

The 24th Annual Third-Party Logistics Study for 2020 has been released and it shows a growing success between shippers and their 3PL partners. 

“The majority of shippers, 93%, report that the relationships they have with their 3PLs generally have been successful. A higher number of 3PLs, 99%, agree that relationships have generally been successful,” the study says.  

As 3PLs continue to offer a wider array of services, shippers have been eager to leverage what they have to offer.

The study continues to find that shippers and their 3PL partners are developing a much greater awareness and synchronicity of goals, as well as how data sharing and new technology can help them advance those goals. As 3PLs continue to offer a wider array of services, shippers have been eager to leverage what they have to offer. The result is an optimization of the supply chain, reduced costs, and the creation of overall value within the supply chain.

“This year’s study once again proves that shippers and their 3PL providers are strengthening their relationships and continually moving toward meaningful partnerships. They are collaborating to accomplish their supply chain goals and improve efficiencies. The available evidence confirms that both parties are creating reliable solutions and improving the end-user experience for the customer, which is allowing shippers to use the supply chain as a strategic, competitive advantage.” 

3PLs Are Rising to the Occasion 

Currently, both shippers and 3PLs have been enjoying favorable economic conditions both at home and abroad. That is not to say that it has been a perfectly smooth road as both continue to face challenges in transportation capacity and facility-based resources. However, the relationship has proven to be beneficial to both parties as they’ve worked together to overcome tight customer deadlines and raise both customer and consumer satisfaction levels. 

Another advantage to the relationship between 3PLs and shippers is the ability to adapt to and overcome challenges .

Shippers, of course, have higher expectations of their service providers and third-party providers have responded by increasing not only their service offerings but also their innovations when it comes to overcoming challenges within the current market environment. Simply put, transportation and logistics companies are realizing that the focus needs to be placed on digital capabilities, cost and asset efficiencies, and a broader range of services to meet their customers’ needs.

Current Global Market Challenges

The logistics and freight industry is in a state of flux currently. New technologies, tighter regulations, and growing customer expectations are all forcing necessary changes to the supply chain. According to the 2020 study, here are some of the biggest challenges shippers and 3PLs are facing to date. 

Growth of e-commerce: E-commerce and the “Amazon effect” have had a tremendous impact on brick and mortar retailers. The result is that many of them are branching out into omni-channel marketing and distribution to meet customer needs. This adds a whole new layer to existing logistics and supply chain structures.  

There are both domestic and global economic changes that are putting pressure on supply chains to adapt and react.

Economic uncertainty: There are both domestic and global economic changes that are putting pressure on supply chains to adapt and react. Many of these include sourcing new suppliers and improving cross border relationships with trading partners. There are also signs of slowdowns within certain major global economies which will soften demand and create new challenges for shippers.   

Driver shortage: This problem is not unique to the United States, but it’s certainly one of the most prevalent locations. With the average age of the American truck driver approaching retirement, there is a decided lack of interest in younger generations to get behind the wheel. ATA’s chief economist,  Bob Costello estimates that the current 60,000 driver deficit could reach 160,000 by 2028.  

Disruptive technologies: While disruptive technology breeds innovation within the industry the difficulty of adapting and integrating these new technologies also increases. Some of the disruptive technologies impacting supply chains include the use of drones, autonomous vehicles, cloud-based capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI), internet-of-things (IoT), blockchain.  

While dealing with all the above challenges, there’s also the challenge of keeping pace with the competition.

Competitive challenges: While dealing with all the above challenges, there’s also the challenge of keeping pace with the competition. Especially as there is a new start-up for every day that is poised to disrupt businesses, business models, or even entire industries. This applies to all, trading and manufacturing companies, as well as logistics providers, who are attempting to differentiate themselves from a growing number of startups backed with millions of dollars worth of venture capital investments. 

The take away from the survey is that shippers and third party providers are growing and prospering together.

The take away from the survey is that shippers and third party providers are growing and prospering together. As new challenges arise, shippers are looking to 3PLs for answers, innovations, and solutions. Conversely, 3PLs are looking to build long term and steady relationships with shippers as the number of providers continues to grow.  

With growing uncertainty in the geo-policitical arena, new technologies, and the explosive growth of e-commerce, it’s likely that we will continue to see growth in the relationships between shippers and 3PLs. For more information on how BlueGrace can be the partner to help strengthen and bring visibility to your supply chain, call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to speak to one of our experts.

Survey Says: Visibility is the Main Goal

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

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

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

Visibility is the Main Goal 

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

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

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

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

Understand the Impact and Value of DSNs 

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

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

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

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

Challenges for Manufacturers 

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

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

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

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

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

The Road Ahead 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting a Head Start in the Tech Race

Companies that fail to embrace this new digital era will find themselves outpaced and outdated before too long, while companies that take the initiative now will have a head start in the tech race to come. BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help give you the visibility you need to gain efficiency, feel free to contact us using the form below: