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COVID-19

New Year Resolution: Start Collecting More Data in 2021

Most of us are happy to have put 2020 behind us. A new year means a new start and for most people, that means setting goals of making it out to the gym, cutting back on the indulgences and maybe paying a little more attention to the checkbook. With everything the past year has thrown at us, a fresh start sounds like just the thing the doctor ordered.  

If 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that our supply chains are not nearly as secure as we might have once thought.

However, resolutions need not only apply to individuals. A new calendar year is a perfect time to set some goals for your organization and start planning new business strategies. If 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that our supply chains are not nearly as secure as we might have once thought. COVID-19 has exposed quite a few vulnerabilities in both the procurement and distribution process of goods and materials and the overall transportation process. As many organizations have scrambled to find alternative suppliers and quick solutions to the myriad of problems that cropped up from the pandemic, now is the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and begin to implement a more robust system to be better prepared for when such disruptions happen again in the future.  

So what should the number one resolution be for every organization that is responsible for managing a supply chain? As you might have guessed from the title, it’s time to start collecting more data. 

The Big Benefits of Big Data 

Over the past two decades, information technology has grown by leaps and bounds, which, considering how outdated most practices are in the freight industry, it’s a welcome change.

For starters, the process of digitalization means that companies are moving away from paper logs and forms, countless emails and phone calls, and are automating their processes. Not only does this result in fewer human errors (a missing form here and a mis-click there), but it expedites the entire process of booking and shipping freight, allowing organizations to operate more smoothly and efficiently.

However, the benefits of this process don’t stop there. Digitalization also creates the opportunity to collect data that would otherwise fall into the unknown. That data is what creates the necessary visibility into your supply chain and day-to-day operations to truly understand what’s happening behind the scenes.  

In the past, companies have simply operated blindly. A carrier was booked, the cargo was moved, it arrived where it needed to go, maybe late, maybe on-time. Job done. However, in today’s marketplace, that’s not enough as the “Amazon Effect” has pushed customer expectations to new heights. Consumers aren’t content to order their package and wait. They want real-time updates as to where their goods are; they want ultra-fast delivery times; they want it for free (or as close to free as possible), and they want it now.  

Simply put, good data drives better service. 

In the B2B world, shipments must be on time, in full, or shippers run the risk of getting hit with fines, penalties, and chargebacks. Not to mention the risk of losing preferred supplier status, which is a major hit when dealing with big retailers like Wal-Mart. With competition tighter than ever for just about any industry, providing that insight isn’t just a nicety, it’s a necessity. Simply put, good data drives better service.  

How Do I Collect More Data? 

This is one of the most important questions every company needs to be asking themselves. The supply chain is capable of generating vast amounts of data, in some cases, too much. There are a few problems with this. First problem is that the data either gets overlooked, or siloed away where it doesn’t serve any other purpose than consuming bandwidth. Companies that ignore their data miss out on some significant opportunities to improve their operations and reduce their overall operating costs.

Without a focal point and clear goal, too much data is just as bad as not enough data. 

The second issue is that even if companies begin collecting the data, they end up getting lost. This is known as “analysis paralysis” a state in which so much data comes flooding in and there is no conceivable means of separating what’s good from what’s not. Without a focal point and clear goal, too much data is just as bad as not enough data. 

This brings us to the third point, oftentimes there is no clear goal or direction to go with the data. Data analytics is a powerful tool that can push shippers to new levels of operational efficiency if they know which direction to go with it.  

To that end, many shippers decide to bring in help from outside their organization either by working with a third party logistics provider or by incorporating a transportation management system (TMS).

A TMS is key in helping you mine valuable data from your supply chain, which increases your operational visibility and offers insights into areas where your company can improve. But it also goes beyond that. A TMS can also reduce your operational costs, which, given what we’ve seen from 2020, will be an essential survival strategy for every company going forward into the new year.  

The good news is, implementing a TMS into your organization doesn’t have to be a costly or disruptive endeavor, and the benefits that can be realized from both the supply chain optimization and the cost reduction are significant. Moreover, the data collected from utilizing a transportation management system can create an insight into your organization that you might not have had otherwise. That insight is both powerful and necessary should you decide to take your resolution a step further and perform an internal audit of your operations.  

The New Year is just around the corner, so it’s time to start making your resolutions and more importantly, planning to make them a reality. Request your FREE Supply Chain Analysis today!

Help Wanted: The 2020 Seasonal Logistics Hiring Boom

The seasonal shopping madness is already underway as retailers begin priming their customers for the holidays. 2020 has, without a doubt, been one of the strangest years for just about everything. The global pandemic, a myriad of natural disasters, and a tense presidential election will very likely mean that consumers are going “all out” for the holidays, and companies like Amazon and Walmart are happy to help them with their purchase needs.

Many retailers, including Target and Walmart continuing through the month to meet the needs of online shopping.

Because there are still global restrictions and precautions in place due to COVID-19, we can expect to see a surge in e-commerce and retail sales. For example, Amazon’s Prime day, which usually takes place in July, happened in October this year. While Amazon hasn’t released their total sales figures, they did say that third party sellers on the marketplace earned over $3.5 billion. Black Friday looks to be on target as one of the biggest Black Friday ever, in terms of sales. Many retailers, including Target and Walmart continuing through the month to meet the needs of online shopping.

These companies are bracing for the massive capacity crunch, which could affect up to 7 million packages per day, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The real question is whether or not logistics companies will have the necessary capacity to deliver all of these orders. Even big players in the game, FexEx and UPS have already reached capacity. With the bulk of orders still to come, retailers and logistics companies alike are telling customers to shop and ship earlier than ever before. These companies are bracing for the massive capacity crunch, which could affect up to 7 million packages per day, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

All Hands on Deck at Amazon

To make sure they are ready for the holiday rush, Amazon has announced that they will be hiring 100,000 workers.

Amazon is a giant machine with an uncountable number of moving parts. To make sure they are ready for the holiday rush, Amazon has announced that they will be hiring 100,000 workers. While they didn’t say if these workers will be seasonal specific or full-hires, the goal is to flesh out Amazon’s logistics and fulfillment network. Amazon is offering a minimum starting wage of $15/hr and up to $1,000 sign on bonus in some markets to entice warehouse and delivery workers. Amazon also plans to open 100 additional buildings across it’s fulfillment, sortation, and delivery network. The e-commerce giant intends to bolster their capacity by upwards of 50 percent by the start of the peak season to meet the uptick in demand.

UPS ups Their Workforce

UPS is also looking to bring in 100,000 seasonal employees to prepare for the holiday season.

UPS is also looking to bring in 100,000 seasonal employees to prepare for the holiday season. Much like Amazon, the UPS ranks have already swelled at the beginning of the year to meet the logistics needs of the e-commerce boom caused by the pandemic.  During the second quarter of 2020, UPS saw a 23 percent growth of package volume over the same time last year which forced the company to bring on an additional 39,000 workers. The shipping deadlines for UPS are December 15 UPS Ground, December 21 UPS 3 Day Select, December 22 UPS 2nd Day Air, and December 23 UPS Next Day Air. UPS will also impose surcharges ranging from $1 to $3 per package on high-volume US residential shippers.

FedEx is Growing its Capabilities

FedEx will expand its Sunday home delivery service to cover nearly 95 percent of the U.S. population.

In addition to the 75,000 seasonal workers hired for 2020, a 27 percent increase from last year, FedEx is putting more effort into growing its delivery capabilities. The company will expand its Sunday home delivery service to cover nearly 95 percent of the U.S. population. FexEx will also be increasing Ground’s network capacity and expanding the coverage radius of FedEx Freight Direct service. The shipping deadlines for FedEx are December 15 for FedEx Ground, December 22 for FedEx 2Day, December 23 for FedEx Standard Overnight, and December 25 for FedEx Same Day. FedEx will also be applying peak season surcharges to high-volume shippers, ranging from $1 to $5 depending volume.

The USPS Freight Prediction

The United States Postal service will bring on it’s usual 35,000 to 40,000 seasonal workers for positions

The Postal service is preparing for the busy season, with an expected 15 billion pieces of mail and 800 million packages. The United States Postal service will bring on it’s usual 35,000 to 40,000 seasonal workers for positions such as mail handlers, holiday clerk assistants, and mail processing clerks. USPS, like FexEx, is working on a different angle, and will be pushing its Click-N-Ship feature, allowing users to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage, and request free next-day package pick up. The USPS urges customers to plan accordingly as it predicts that December 14th will be the busiest day online with more than 13 million customers predicted to be on the postal service website for help with shipping holiday gifts. USPS shipping deadlines include December 18 for First-Class Mail and packages, December 19 for Priority Mail, and December 23 for Priority Mail Express.

Preparing for the Surge

This was one of the earliest holiday season kick offs ever, not to mention the biggest one to date. It is estimated that holiday spending will reach $1.15 trillion, a 1 to 1.5 percent increase from 2019. This year will see a dramatic increase in online sales as more and more customers avoid brick and mortar stores. Even with the increased personnel and investments in increased infrastructure, it’s unclear as to whether or not retailers will be able to handle the strain of increasing sales volumes. Even after the holidays are over, demand will still be radically steep as the post-holiday reverse logistics debacle begins. 

About 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.

But that’s only part of the story, because your success doesn’t depend on shipments and deliveries alone. To thrive, it needs dependable relationships between customers, carriers, and logistics experts. When Bobby Harris founded BlueGrace in 2009, he saw that even the top logistics firms were overlooking the true heart of their job. So, he built a company that put its people and its customers before profit. The proof of that is evident in our core values, our caring culture, our countless community efforts, and in the heartfelt testimonials from our customers.

We’re Hiring!

Looking for a job that’s miles away from ordinary? Do you want to work in a place where your voice will be heard and your passions celebrated? Do you want a career in one of the fastest growing business sections in the U.S? Why not join the BlueGrace team?

We’re always on the lookout for the humble and caring, the motivated and driven, the bold and talented – for those who want to have fun while contributing to the growth of a nation-leading company. Sound like you? Apply today!

How Technology Can Enhance Your Supply Chain In Four Ways

Supply chain disruptions are just a part of doing business. Seasonal events such as holiday shopping, black swan weather events, geopolitical tensions, and, in the case of 2020, a global pandemic. Anyone of these disruptions can cause a slow down in your supply chain and any combination of them can bring it to a screeching halt. Especially when that disruption has the ability to affect the entire world.

Nearly 75% of U.S. companies reported supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus-related issues.

According to a March survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Chain Management, nearly 75% of U.S. companies reported supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus-related issues. Before COVID-19 broke loose, most industries haven’t really felt the need to test their supply chain resiliency, or at least not to the extent that it is being tested now. Today, supply chain resiliency has taken on a new meaning and now includes aspects such as geographical diversification, visibility, and surplus capacity. These new considerations extend from raw materials to finished goods. 

What organizations needed from the outset of the pandemic, and will continue to need for the foreseeable future, is a reliable means of predicting COVID-19 cases as well as their current supply levels, product burn rates, and possible obstacles to sourcing materials.

As most companies haven’t found a reliable means to practice divination we’ve found that, with the right technology and data, this is possible.

As most companies haven’t found a reliable means to practice divination we’ve found that, with the right technology and data, this is possible. Here are four ways technology can help your organization build a stronger, more proactive supply chain. 

1.   Drive Comprehensive Supply Chain Visibility

Growth in global trade over recent decades has given rise to ever-increasing levels of complexity in supply chains. Few organizations likely evaluate the total network of manufacturers, distributors, and other logistics professionals who are all accountable for ensuring that the journey from raw material to delivered finished goods runs smoothly.

Yet 68% of product disruptions are a result of poor demand signaling. Global pandemic notwithstanding, the overall health and success of a supply chain rely on the ability to access accurate data with transparency into the whole of the supply chain. 

The health care supply chain is a perfect example. Early 2020 saw the initial outbreak of the Coronavirus and a drastic spike in demand. This was coupled with export bans from countries that supply more than 80 percent of the raw materials that are used to create personal protective equipment which created widespread shortages. In many hotspots around the world, supplies went from two-week worth of PPE supplies in February to only a few days’ worth by March.

Real-time data on the total supply chain enables organizations to accurately identify the intersection of demand and supply

Real-time data on the total supply chain enables organizations to accurately identify the intersection of demand and supply, secure product more effectively and sustainably, and better ascertain the potential risks with suppliers. Using a trusted supply-chain analytics platform delivers the reliable and precise data needed for organizations to identify areas of product vulnerability and introduce safeguards, whether it be a small disruption or something on the scale we’re seeing with COVID.

2.   Properly Managing a Complex Supplier Network

Within any multifaceted organization lies the beating heart of a complex supply network which consists of thousands of vendors working across multiple sites and regions that provide supplies and supporting operations. For example, an integrated health care system master vendor list can include upward of 6,000 distinct organizations, suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers.

Given the complexity, it is understandable that many organizations lack the ability to manage thousands of suppliers and their associated contacts

Given the complexity, it is understandable that many organizations lack the ability to manage thousands of suppliers and their associated contacts, proactively track services performed, and manage timely invoicing and payments.

To better manage the sheer multitude of vendors and reduce the overall risk of shortages and disruptions, organizations need a holistic strategy that typically includes the enlistment of a 3PL partner. Third-party logistics service providers can offer a procurement platform that leverages real-time data to more accurately manage vendor contracts, provide service verifications, automate invoicing and payments, manage overall supply chain costs, and improve the efficiency of the supply chain as a whole.

3.   Pinpoint and Engage Diverse Supply Chain Partners

Supplier diversity is a facet of the supply chain that has often taken a back seat to overall operations. However, as many organizations have had to learn the hard way, diversification is crucial to mitigating disruption.

While large companies are great for churning out products at a steady rate, small community businesses can help to fill in the gaps of your supply chain

While large companies are great for churning out products at a steady rate, small community businesses can help to fill in the gaps of your supply chain. Due to their size and agility, these companies can turn out projects with quick deadlines, as well as provide value-added services and products on a regular basis. For the healthcare industry, supplier diversity is essential, as it improves inclusiveness and equity, builds trust between patients and providers, and improves health outcomes for patients.

3PLs can help to solve this problem by linking you to a network of dedicated and reliable service providers, such as carriers

The challenge, however, is finding and vetting quality service providers, which is often difficult for larger companies, regardless of industry. 3PLs can help to solve this problem by linking you to a network of dedicated and reliable service providers, such as carriers, from their pool of trusted professionals, which allows your company to build a stronger supply network while reducing operations spending.

4.   Using Technology to Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan

The pandemic has caused a surge in demand across a wide variety of industries, as consumers have increased web orders across all e-commerce shopping platforms, a trend that will only continue to grow as we approach the holiday season and continue to see a resurgence in the spread of COVID-19 around the world. However, demand surges aren’t just limited to the pandemic, but can be triggered by black swan weather events such as hurricanes and winter weather.

These surges cause a significant jump in spot rates, which can throw your transportation budget completely out of balance.

These surges cause a significant jump in spot rates, which can throw your transportation budget completely out of balance. Not only do these spot rate jumps take months to return to pre-disaster levels, but the overall capacity shortage created by the demand hike can disrupt and delay the flow of your supply chain.

The technology systems that come with the right 3PL partner can not only help you improve your disaster response, but also help you find capacity when you need it most.

Strengthening Your Supply Chain with BlueGrace

With a technology-enabled supply chain, organizations can better allocate critical products and supplies while saving money, time, and―in some cases―lives.

Since 2009, our passion for logistics has helped shippers connect with carriers and keep our customers’ supply chains moving. We are dedicated to developing cutting edge, best in class technology that helps to drive savings, visibility, and efficiency into your operations. Contact us today to learn more about how BlueGrace can help your business not only survive these trying times, but thrive.

Will Q4 of 2020 Change the Way We Look at Bid Season?

If it were a normal year, the fourth quarter would bring a steady increase in trucking rates. However, 2020 has been anything but normal, so what does that mean for Q4?

Given that everything this year has been so drastically different from what we would expect, 2020 has been guided at best by short term predictions. It was predicted that Q2 would have lower rates due to lockdown, and while they were low, they still exceeded predictions. During Q3 we saw a surge in trucking rates, likely triggered by the e-commerce boom, and it’s expected to continue throughout the year. All signs are pointing to a prolonged trucking rally, despite the pandemic and political uncertainty in the U.S.

Ultimately, we’re in for something completely different for the fourth quarter than we’ve ever seen before.

Ultimately, we’re in for something completely different for the fourth quarter than we’ve ever seen before. All historical data is essentially being tossed out the window as 2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways. With bid season fast approaching for shippers, understanding what Q4 has in store will have a tremendous impact on how you go about your bidding process for 2021. 

High Q3 Rates Will Lead to Even Higher Rates in Q4

The pandemic has caused a shift in consumer spending due to social distancing measures and the lockdown period across the United States which has caused a spike in trucking demand. Despite the economic strains and widespread job loss that was experienced by many consumers, retail sales haven’t weakened. Instead of eliminating non essential spending, consumers have shifted their purchasing habits away from services and over to material goods, especially through e-commerce platforms.  

This means that retailers have been seeing peak volumes well in advance of the holiday spending season, causing them to struggle to keep stocks replenished. The demand has been reducing inventory levels, while sales remain strong (and continue to grow) leaving no buffer period before sales really start to climb in November and December as consumers begin their holiday shopping.

These two factors combined can result in elevated truckload spot rates and capacity shortages through the end of 2020 and potentially continue well into 2021.

With reduced inventory, a rise in demand for consumer products such as retail and grocery, and the continued recovery of industrial production will continue to push growth in truckload demand. However, challenges in the U.S. with the dwindling pool of truck drivers will continue to result in capacity shortages throughout several industries. These two factors combined can result in elevated truckload spot rates and capacity shortages through the end of 2020 and potentially continue well into 2021.

To add to the logistic nightmare, consumers now have an inherent expectation for fast shipping from e-commerce sites as well as a wider availability of pickup options which means that retailers are pressured to offer competitive shipping times or else lose out on sales to companies like Amazon.

Even with the current unemployment rate, the housing market is growing and consumer spending remains high.

The United States continues a strong economic climate despite, or perhaps in spite of, the uncertainties 2020 has given us; from social unrest due to the presidential election, to the ongoing struggle with COVID-19. The stock market is high and there is a growing optimism for an economic upswing ahead. Even with the current unemployment rate, the housing market is growing and consumer spending remains high. However, the economy could still be vulnerable, especially if the stock market is responding primarily to low interest rates and has an underlying weakness to its overall stability.

What can shippers do to manage current market volatility?

If we’ve learned anything from 2020 is that historical data is all but useless, as everything is different from the years we’ve seen prior. With bidding season on the horizon for 2021, it’s important to make sure that your organization has a clear direction on how to manage its bids to avoid redlining your freight budget.

An important place to start for your business in 2021 is with your routing guide procedure. Take another look at this document, make sure it’s up to date. Make sure you adjust for current rates and that it contains all your current requirements. It might be necessary to rebid for the short-term when the truck capacity is tight. Perform detailed research on market conditions and decide how long this customized “mini-bid contract” will last. As always, utilize freight forecasting and reporting to help manage your spot bids and awards.

How BlueGrace Can Help You Get the Most Out of Your Bid Season

In this year, more than ever, we need to think outside the box. In a constrained and uncertain market, this creates challenges for shippers. Last year, when demand was low and supply was outpacing demand, shippers had easy RFP cycles with carriers and brokers undercutting each other for rates. Programs like our Low Volume Aggregation program are attractive in the current market and can help shippers make sustainable bids for the upcoming year that will help them thrive during the uncertainties ahead.

Read more about our LVAP program here, or contact us using the for below to see how we can help your company succeed.

What the Freight Industry Might Learn from COVID-19

When the pandemic began to spread, the world was simply not prepared. Businesses and governments had to scramble to move an unprecedented volume of critical supplies around the world faster than we’ve ever thought possible.

Lockdowns caused a massive surge in e-commerce, leaving small and large businesses alike struggling to keep pace with the demands. The healthcare industry was pressed even harder as the call for life-saving medical equipment, medicines, food, and PPE. All in all, it had the potential to be a disaster.

What kept everything together was the express delivery industry, which not only rose to the challenge but exceeded it in many ways.

What kept everything together was the express delivery industry, which not only rose to the challenge but exceeded it in many ways. However, that is not to say that everything ran smoothly, far from it in fact. Many uncoordinated efforts led to significant disruptions even though they were based on good intentions. 

  • Some governments quarantined cargo freight crews systematically, even if they showed no symptoms or did not come from a COVID-19 hotspot.
  • Some cities imposed neighborhood-specific curfews for no reason (starting in the early hours of the afternoon).
  • Border crossings closed to all traffic, including international trucking.
  • Drivers faced inconsistent health protocols.
  • Officers at border customs operations could not reach their post because of public transportation lockdowns, nor could they work from home thanks to paper-based clearance systems.

Intense industry lobbying has managed to reverse or change these measures to allow the movement of critical goods across borders. International organizations that understand how interwoven global supply chains operate have similarly issued guidelines in order to better align with government initiatives.

However, there are still barriers in place that continue to disrupt global supply chains.

Practical Policy Changes

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic is about how to streamline an imperfect system, including protocols that make global cargo supply chains not only safer for workers but more predictable. The pandemic has also highlighted the need to modernize the border clearance process as well as the need for trade agreements to promote economic recovery around the world.

The pandemic has shown the world that in order to prepare for future, large-scale disruptions, governments, and international organizations need to join forces with the private sector.

The pandemic has shown the world that in order to prepare for future, large-scale disruptions, governments, and international organizations need to join forces with the private sector.

UPS and the Global Express Association, which represents the three leading global express delivery carriers, have provided practical policy recommendations to keep supply chains operating smoothly.

Implement protocols to ensure the safety of cargo crews and other workers: Health protocols differ from country to country. Having a standardized approach would mean more timely shipping operations while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Such protocols could include making sure that all freight industries, regardless of mode, have access to adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There will also need to be a more precise focus on safety management principles, using recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) as a foundation.

Approach border clearance like a gateway, not a checkpoint: Customs clearance creates some significant obstacles for express delivery. However, inconsistent rules and restrictions from one country to another country makes trade unpredictable.

Customs modernization is critical for fast border clearance. This means leveraging the right technology including electronic records, e-payment systems, and a digital risk management system. Countries should also embrace more progressive regulations that would help transport life-saving shipments and reduce physical contact at border crossings and during last-mile deliveries.

Existing international treaties such as the Revised Kyoto Convention and the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement make this possible. To work, though, governments must fully implement the agreements.

Building a More Resilient Supply Chain in the Wake of the Pandemic

These solutions are aimed at streamlining commerce, revitalizing businesses, and providing humanitarian relief where it is needed most. The biggest take away is that these measures aren’t just for the current pandemic, but would help the world be a step ahead of the next global crisis.

Day by day, the world comes closer to putting COVID-19 behind us, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hardships ahead. To truly maximize the efficiency of a global supply chain, it’s going to take a holistic approach, harmonizing all the players around the world. When that happens, there’s no telling what kind of potential we can see from the global supply chain.

Finalizing Your 2021 Transportation Budget – The New Normal

Freight Budgeting for 2021 is going to be very different from the traditional budgeting done in previous years. The effects of the economic shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 crisis have trickled down to Q4 and have managed to create unforeseen supply chain challenges for business operations across North America. Organizations have addressed and responded to the situation in various ways and the adaptations have been unique to each market and industry served.  With this same principle applied there cannot be one standard transportation budget methodology applied while planning for 2021 The ability to respond to these challenges will determine the future strategies required in 2021 to ensure recovery and possible profitable performance.

The essential goods movement surged in the past months, and different modes were preferred to move these goods.

Freight Budgeting then vs. now

The evident change in consumer behavior and the booming e-commerce marketplace has opened access to new consumer segments relying on faster doorstep deliveries for products that were earlier purchased the traditional way. The essential goods movement surged in the past months, and different modes were preferred to move these goods. The industry saw more parcel shipment related movements and trucking kept the economy afloat. The crisis brought many digitization initiatives to the forefront and accelerated technology innovations. The need for advanced analytics has been stressed time and again to enable businesses to respond better to disruption.

Budgeting for 2021 will need mapping existing resources with strategy and a shift from the traditional inputs and standard approaches.

Amidst all the industry changes and shifts, the crisis has brought in excellent opportunities to learn and implement new strategies for 2021. Budgeting for 2021 will need mapping existing resources with strategy and a shift from the traditional inputs and standard approaches. The need for more incredible speed and cost control spans across all industries, therefore making it a challenging task to achieve a perfect budget for 2021. The traditional approach to budgeting, whether bottom-up or top-down, can face roadblocks with repeated negotiations and may ignore syncing strategy with value creation and resource allocation. Therefore, the 2021 budgeting should be a strategic exercise that considers data insights to unlock value and bring flexibility in resource allocation to ensure desired resilience in the supply chains.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive Analytics regarding supply chains can help provide some actionable insights into the budgeting process. The data insights can help predict customer responses or purchase behavior based on 2020 to suggest better ways to respond to demand in the coming year. Questions like how has the crisis impacted other stakeholders across geographies and what are their implications in freight budgeting for 2021?

Streamlining the freight budget process

Streamlining the freight budget process to be more responsive in disruptive scenarios is essential. The procedure to achieve such streamlined and efficient budgeting may vary from business to business this year. What may work for one company may not drive results for the other.

Operational KPIs

Comparing the recent trends and linking operational KPIs with strategic plans are elemental to drive data regarding the actual impact the business has endured in times of this economic crisis. How has the economic crisis impacted liquidity risks and how the uncertainties in the market impact these operational KPIs must be understood to plan the recovery and the strategy governing the freight budget for 2021.

A careful assessment of all factors that brought about the level of disruption for businesses this year will determine the strategies for 2021. Some may have to focus on sustaining the business while others may focus on restructuring the business to match the demand.

Finalizing Your 2021 Freight Budget Webinar October 21

At BlueGrace, we are addressing the need for a more strategic approach to freight budgeting in 2021 through a webinar. Watch the recorded Webinar now to learn how to steer your budgeting exercises for 2021 to build a more robust and agile supply chain for your business. We will address the burning questions related to planning the freight budget this year and discuss how BlueGrace is helping navigate the uncertainties of post-pandemic normalcy.

Truck Load Freight Contracts: Understanding Contract Rates and the Spot Market

With the global pandemic still in effect, freight capacity is fluctuating even more than usual. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a tightening of capacity for numerous reasons, not the least of all being several smaller carrier companies going bankrupt. Whenever there is a change in the overall availability of capacity, changes to both spot and contract rates are right behind it.

Understanding those rates can help your company make better decisions about how to move your freight, saving you both time and money, while keeping your operations flowing smoothly. But what is the difference between the two different rates, and which one should you be more focused on?

Understanding the Relationship between Spot Rates and Contract Rates

Freight rates are broken down into two different categories, contractual rates and spot rates. Contractual rates make up about 70 to 80 percent of overall market rates and are governed by the average spot rate at the time of bidding. Contract rates offer peace of mind for both parties. For carriers, there is guaranteed volume, while shippers have the peace of mind knowing that trucks will show up, on time, to move their freight, even when capacity gets tight.

However, there are situations in which shippers will opt for a spot rate instead. For inconsistent freight volumes, seasonal or one-off shipments, shippers might not benefit from a contracted carrier. However, spot rates are incredibly volatile and change with demand. While demand is low, shippers can often get a better rate, but run the risk of going over their shipping budget when the overall available capacity swings the other way.

Shippers Should Start Considering Contracts

When the Covid-19 outbreak first started, overall consumer spending dropped drastically. This led to a significant drop off in freight demand which, in turn, dropped spot rates and opened up capacity. While this was incredibly beneficial for shippers, carrier profitability comes under pressure. Couple this with the Trump administration’s trade war with China, and many smaller carriers couldn’t afford to keep their doors open. With fewer carriers, and continued pressure on underperformers, the available capacity will continue to drop. As the U.S. begins to open back up, and consumer spending picks up, this means that demand will see a sharp uptick.

“After six consecutive quarters of deflation, the market is rebounding, heading back towards an inflationary environment, the spot market will reach an inflationary environment by Q1 of 2021,” William B. Cassidy, of JOC.com

This means that spot rates will climb, rather quickly. So what does that mean for contract rates?

Like we mentioned above, spot rates affect contract rates, which means an increase in both. However, for shippers, bidding out a freight contract for a carrier might prove to be more beneficial in the long run due to the following:

  • Spot rates will continue to climb as reopening continues across the country and demand increases.
  • Shipers have likely already seen the floor for spot rates, meaning we’ve seen it at its lowest point so it has nowhere to go but up.
  • Shippers will begin to experience capacity issues. This perhaps the most important issue. Whenever there is a capacity crunch, carriers can cherry pick freight for the best rates which means you’re either paying a premium, or your freight ends up sitting on the loading dock. 

The secret to maintaining operations is to find the balance between contract rates and spot rates. As carrier operations begin to capitalize on the effects of continued increases of the spot market rates, it will be time for shippers to start looking for more carriers and fulfillment options to fill the void.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn how to better manage your contract and spot rates? Curious about what the second half of 2020 holds for freight rates? You can watch this webinar, as well as all of our past sessions, as part of our free resource library, to learn more. Every month, we here at BlueGrace will have a new webinar on the topics that matter to you! Stop in for next months webinar and receive a free supply chain analysis for your business.

Digitalization In Trucking

Digitalization, as an industry trend in the logistics world, has emerged quite late. However, now that digitalization and innovation seem to have caught up the industry’s pace, much transformation can be expected. Digitalization refers to using advanced technologies to integrate physical and digital worlds through a seamless exchange of information occurring at different supply chain nodes. Hence, the process helps improve productivity, use data analytics for informed decisions, automate mundane manual tasks, reduce the scope of error, and induce process excellence throughout the supply chain.

Logistics, as a whole, is experiencing this wave of innovation in automation and digitalization initiatives.

Logistics, as a whole, is experiencing this wave of innovation in automation and digitalization initiatives. When we refer to trucking, digitalization may refer to a comprehensive and automated system where processes are monitored and controlled by technologies that optimize operations while directly contributing to the bottom line. The extensive growth of e-commerce is a driving force behind driving digitalization in trucking. Changing consumer behavior, prolific e-commerce discounts, same-day deliveries are all changing the way products move at different stages of the supply chain. The need for digitalization in the industry is greater now than ever.

Elements of Digitalization in Trucking

Digitalization can be witnessed in broadly four segments of the industry: Goods, Conveyance, Infrastructure, and Business Processes. Therefore, the elements of a digitally enabled trucking system can be an autonomous communication system, remote diagnostics, real-time tracking and tracing capabilities, and seamless exchange of information among integrated systems. The large-scale penetration of mobile connectivity, smartphones, geo-location tracking systems, and sensor technologies like the Internet of Things are all contributing to the logistics industry’s digital revolution. With the growing need for data analytics, the future of trucking will be mostly dependent on critical insights from analytical systems to drive forecasts, meet demand, manage risk, and reduce costs.

With the growing need for data analytics, the future of trucking will be mostly dependent on critical insights from analytical systems to drive forecasts, meet demand, manage risk, and reduce costs.

Goods: Inserting tracking devices such as a tracking bar, QR code stickers, and RFID tags in goods are common. RFID tags are quite useful in providing real-time information about location or GPS and external climate conditions such as temperature and humidity. Having such tracking systems in goods and containers that carry these goods is particularly relevant because tracking them while on transit across geographies is necessary to provide real-time data and shipment status. Sensors, connectivity, and the application are the three elements that comprise the tracking technology for shipping containers. Sensors tell the containers’ location, and through connectivity, the data transmits to the application. APIs are used to extract this data further and put it on the logistics platform to be analyzed.

Conveyance comprises the trucks, delivery vans, and other vehicles equipped with sensors that report their location, speed, engine condition, etc. to the systems.Routing and navigation are integral elements of this aspect as they facilitate improved operations considering constraints such as congestion. Autonomous trucking is finding increasing mentions in enabling digitalization in the industry. PwC, in a 2016 report, predicted that trucking and logistics would soon comprise an ecosystem of autonomous vehicles, combining driverless, cabless trucks and delivery hubs staffed by robots. It further stated that a fully automated end-to-end supply chain would be capable of building a product on a digitized assembly line with digital capabilities that signal and book transport for its delivery when it is close to being completed. The customer’s address that the goods are shipped to will be already coded, and the freight-matching system would match the available capacity on trucks destined for the specific route. While this may seem a bit futuristic at present, autonomous vehicles are invariably gaining momentum, and companies like TuSimple, Aurora, Daimler, and Embark Trucks have aggressively ventured into this avenue. German automaker Daimler AG is also experimenting with ‘Platooning’ to improve efficiency for long-haul transport. Platooning is when a single truck pilots a fleet of trucks that follow the same route and instructions as made by the driver. The trucks in platoons will be controlled centrally to ensure uniformity in speed, fuel consumption, and delivery speed.

The digitalization of infrastructure is also of utmost importance, including the things that support the transportation activities. The road infrastructure is the central element in the planning and management process of road transport. Thus, digitalizing roadways, terminals, distribution centers, logistics parks form an integral part of the initiative. Equipping infrastructure with sensors helps monitor their use and condition that enable effective traffic management systems to optimize capacity. Similarly, smart roads with sensors and data collecting devices that can detect collision points and warn nearby drivers can be of great use in avoiding road accidents.

Business processes are the glue that binds all the different elements of a supply chain. These processes support the transactional functions of freight distribution. Business processes such as inventory management, demand forecasting, assigning load to carriers, managing and allocating warehousing capacity, freight invoicing etc can all be digitized using TMS, WMS, and their integration with ERP. EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) has, for long, governed the integration of information between systems. Lately, APIs have enabled seamless data sharing for easy management of platforms and extraction of relevant data. Another technology that is enabling automation of business processes is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This technology is non-intrusive in nature and leverages the existing IT infrastructure of organizations. The increasing adoption of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) as a replacement for paper logs is also an initiative to move to more digitized systems.

Benefits of Digitalization in Trucking

With the proliferation of e-commerce and the need for trucking growing leaps and bounds, the digitalization of trucking is needed more than ever now. The digitalization of trucking comes with its share of benefits that enable optimum fleet and space utilization, enhanced efficiency, significant cost-cutting, and integrated systems.

1. Optimum utilization

Empty runs of vehicles is a major cost in trucking. Inefficiencies of dispatching systems where trucks travel to pick-up destinations without load contribute to additional costs and wastage. Digital platforms interconnecting systems help in the consolidation of truck capacity are a necessity.

2. Enhanced integration

Digitization facilitates the integration of trucks in sync with the logistics chain through real-time data of locations, estimated shipment arrival times, and information regarding departure times to factories, warehouses, and customers. Such integrations foster timely delivery, better performance, and customer satisfaction, enabling them to track the shipments’ status remotely.

3. Enhanced efficiency

Digitized trucking enhances efficiencies at granular levels as well as in the broader scope of processes. By incorporating cutting-edge materials handling practices into daily operations, better allocation of space, capacity, and resources, enhanced inventory control, and significant cost reductions contribute to enhanced efficiency and productivity.

Digitized trucking will enable faster transfer of goods in and out of distribution centers and to end customers.

Digitized trucking will enable faster transfer of goods in and out of distribution centers and to end customers. Through easy track and trace capabilities and smooth booking processes, customer experience can be improved. Measurement of key performance indicators can further help improve operations. Furthermore, blockchain can enable the complete transparency of the social and environmental footprint of purchases shared with end-users. All in all, the digitalization of trucking as an industry is a win-win scenario for all.

Questions on how digitized trucking and other technology will be changing the logistics landscape for your business? Ask an expert with the form below.

Seven Important Skills Every Supply Chain Leader Needs

The supply chain has become one of the most critical functions in an organization. Its dynamic nature and the high impact it has on the business makes it challenging to manage. Thus it is necessary for the success of the business to have a strong and well-informed leader at the helm.

However, good leadership skills and information savviness alone are not enough to handle the supply chain function and manage the team. There are other necessary capabilities apart from business know-how and general leadership skills that a supply chain leader needs to lead the function efficiently and effectively.

What are the most important skills that every supply chain leader should have?

While there are many skills a supply chain leader should have, tome impact the business more than the others. These skills are non-negotiable and a must-have. They are:

  1. Strong Analytical Skills: Supply chain is all numbers and analysis. To lead the function effectively, it is extremely essential for the leader to be comfortable with numbers, handling large amounts of data, analytics, and the various analytical models that are used for decision making. A lack of these skills or discomfort with analytics can be fatal for not only the function but the organization as well.
  1. Technology Know-How:  Since the past couple of years, supply chains have been adopting new technologies, digitalizing, and automating processes. In such a scenario, it becomes crucial for the leaders to understand and be open to adopting new and advanced technologies to manage the function. In fact, they not only need to understand, but they also need to lead the adoption of technology for their organizations.

A report by Gartner titled “Gartner Top 8 Supply Chain Technology Trends for 2020” says, “It is important for supply chain technology leaders to adopt a mindset that accepts and embraces long-term perpetual change”. Supply chain leaders should be able to identify what technology will work best for their organizations and be the champions for change. If supply chain leaders possess such a mindset, it becomes easier for them to convince the management to adopt new technologies as and when an upgrade is required and to lead the team through the change.

  1. Strategic Thinking and Operational Mindset: Supply chain is a function that involves both strategy-making and operations. To be able to make good strategies, the people leading this function need to have an understanding of business and the environment the business operates in. And, to make sure the supply chain functions smoothly, they should have knowledge of how things work on the ground.

In short, a supply chain leader should be able to think strategically and execute the plans operationally with equal efficiency. If either of the skills is missing, it becomes difficult for the supply chain to function smoothly and create value.

  1. Negotiation Skills: Leading a supply chain function means endless negotiations with internal stakeholders and external business partners. They need to know how to put forth their viewpoints and get a buy-in from the other parties involved. To be able to do this efficiently, they need to have a good grasp of the market dynamics, rates and pricing of services, and the latest industry trends.
  1. Quick Decision Making: Supply chain is a fast-paced function. In the supply chain, it is common to come across situations that require quick and on the spot decisions. At such times, the supply chain leader should be able to use the data and information on hand to make quick but informed decisions and follow through with them. He should also be able to train his core team to do so. A lack of this skill can lead to further disruption of operations and delays in completing the task. If this happens often, it can make the supply chain inefficient.
  1. People and Relationship Management: Today’s supply chain is usually not limited to one geography or location. They are spread across the globe. A global supply chain has many participants in the form of internal teams spread across regions, vendors, business partners, and business associates from different parts of the globe. Each team or partner has its own way of working, cultural mindset, and knowledge.

They should also know how to bridge the gap in knowledge of the function and technical understanding to make sure none of the team members feel left behind and are able to cope with the dynamic function. To do so, they need to have an understanding of different cultures, regional peculiarities, emphatic attitude, soft skills, and people management skills.

  1. Statutory and Legal Knowledge: Supply chains have to comply with a lot of taxes, duties, labor-management laws, and export-import formalities. Even a little slip up in any complying with a statutory or legal requirement can result in large fines. This is why, along with functional expertise, supply chain leaders need to have at least a basic understanding of laws and regulations of the regions they operate in. This also ensures that they can get the best solutions for such matters from their local teams.

Along with these skills, supply chain leaders also need trusted partners to make sure their supply chains are running smoothly. That’s where we – BlueGrace Logistics come in. Our team has expertise in analyzing supply chains and helping our business clients find the right solutions to improve their supply, make it more effective, and create value.

To know more about how we can work with your supply chain leaders and teams to take your supply chain to the next level, get in touch with us today!

11.84 Billion Tons Of Freight Moved And Other Trucking Trends

With the global pandemic still in effect, freight capacity is fluctuating even more than usual. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a tightening of capacity for numerous reasons, not the least of all being several smaller carrier companies going bankrupt. Whenever there is a change in the overall availability of capacity, changes to both spot and contract rates are right behind it.

Understanding those rates can help your company make better decisions about how to move your freight

Understanding those rates can help your company make better decisions about how to move your freight, saving you both time and money, while keeping your operations flowing smoothly. But what is the difference between the two different rates, and which one should you be more focused on?

Understanding the Relationship between Spot Rates and Contract Rates

Freight rates are broken down into two different categories, contractual rates and spot rates. Contractual rates make up about 70 to 80 percent of overall market rates and are governed by the average spot rate at the time of bidding. Contract rates offer peace of mind for both parties. For carriers, there is guaranteed volume, while shippers have the peace of mind knowing that trucks will show up, on time, to move their freight, even when capacity gets tight.

However, there are situations in which shippers will opt for a spot rate instead.

However, there are situations in which shippers will opt for a spot rate instead. For inconsistent freight volumes, seasonal or one-off shipments, shippers might not benefit from a contracted carrier. However, spot rates are incredibly volatile and change with demand. While demand is low, shippers can often get a better rate, but run the risk of going over their shipping budget when the overall available capacity swings the other way.

Shippers Should Start Considering Contracts

When the Covid-19 outbreak first started, overall consumer spending dropped drastically. This led to a significant drop off in freight demand which, in turn, dropped spot rates and opened up capacity. While this was incredibly beneficial for shippers, carrier profitability comes under pressure. Couple this with the Trump administration’s trade war with China, and many smaller carriers couldn’t afford to keep their doors open. With fewer carriers, and continued pressure on underperformers, the available capacity will continue to drop. As the U.S. begins to open back up, and consumer spending picks up, this means that demand will see a sharp uptick.

“After six consecutive quarters of deflation, the market is rebounding, heading back towards an inflationary environment, the spot market will reach an inflationary environment by Q1 of 2021,” William B. Cassidy, of JOC.com

This means that spot rates will climb, rather quickly. So what does that mean for contract rates?

Like we mentioned above, spot rates affect contract rates, which means an increase in both. However, for shippers, bidding out a freight contract for a carrier might prove to be more beneficial in the long run due to the following:

  • Spot rates will continue to climb as reopening continues across the country and demand increases.
  • Shipers have likely already seen the floor for spot rates, meaning we’ve seen it at its lowest point so it has nowhere to go but up.
  • Shippers will begin to experience capacity issues. This perhaps the most important issue. Whenever there is a capacity crunch, carriers can cherry pick freight for the best rates which means you’re either paying a premium, or your freight ends up sitting on the loading dock. 

The secret to maintaining operations is to find the balance between contract rates and spot rates. As carrier operations begin to capitalize on the effects of continued increases of the spot market rates, it will be time for shippers to start looking for more carriers and fulfillment options to fill the void.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn how to better manage your contract and spot rates? Curious about what the second half of 2020 holds for freight rates? You can watch this webinar, as well as all of our past sessions, as part of our free resource library, to learn more. Every month, we here at Bluegrace will have a new webinar on the topics that matter to you! Stop in for next months webinar and receive a free supply chain analysis for your business.

Truckload Freight Contracts: Understanding Contract & Spot Rates

Throughout 2020, truckload carriers felt the burn of the China-U.S. trade war, declining capacity, and low spot rates. In general, markets with lower spot rates are more beneficial to shippers, keeping carrier profitability in check. The opposite applies when contract rates are lower, allowing carriers to retake control and reap greater profits. In addition, the risk for a resurgence of higher spot rates and renewing interest in truckload freight contracts is an area, shippers should understand and keep their eye on in 2020. According to William B. Cassidy of JOC.com, he describes this chance:

“After six consecutive quarters of deflation, the market is rebounding, heading back towards an inflationary environment, the spot market will reach an inflationary environment by Q1 2020.”

To combat that prediction and also consider the influence of the coronavirus, shippers need to understand the driving forces of change in the truckload market, what is already happening with the coronavirus, and a few tips to better underscore and improve use of both truckload freight contracts and spot rate shipping. 

Driving Forces of Change in Contract and Spot Rate Markets

The biggest driving force of change in the market involves available capacity and its influence on capacity. As explained by Cassidy:

“DAT noted that freight demand, in terms of total spot and contract volumes, has been increasing, with spot volumes rising 7 percent in 2019 year over year and contract volumes 4 percent. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) predicts a 1 percent increase in contract truckload volumes for 2019, down from annualized growth of 3.2 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2017.”

How much capacity must exit the market before supply and demand move back to a closer alignment? Some experts believe truckload capacity and freight demand already are closer to equilibrium than they’ve been since 2017 and that a surge in demand could tip the balance. Others think trucking’s supply-demand gap will take more time to close.”

Unfortunately, that prediction and driving force now hangs in the balance with a likely swing away from the prediction. That’s right. Capacity is rapidly increasing overseas, and it will likely lead to changes in the U.S. truckload freight contracts’ market.

The State of Truckload Freight Contracts Will Retract Due to the Coronavirus

Capacity is dependent on the demand in the volume of imported raw materials, finished products, and other supplies from around the world. Many electronics, automotive, and medications and medical equipment arrive in the U.S. from China. In addition, the flow of exports from the U.S. to the APAC region, including the iPhone and agricultural products, are at risk. There is a near-stop to the flow of freight in the region due to the coronavirus. So, what happens in other areas abroad and in the U.S.?

The freight that would have filled trailers and help carriers push spot rates upward vanishes. Now, carriers have too much capacity, too many drivers, and too few lanes to travel that make a profit. As a result, the spot rate market is on the verge of bottoming out, and shippers will benefit to an extent. The real problems for shippers will not become evident until their favored carriers start to close lanes and begin to exhibit signs carriers are looking to gain profitability when more reweighs and reclasses occur or accessorial fees tick up. At this point, shippers will face the uncertainty of limited carrier availability, if any, and an inability to move freight to their customers as cost-effectively.

The only way to maintain operations lies in creating a balance between the use of contract and spot rates to get the best deal to benefit everyone.

The only way to maintain operations lies in creating a balance between the use of contract and spot rates to get the best deal to benefit everyone. As carrier operations begin to suffer the effects of continued drops in the spot rate market, it will be time for shippers to start looking for more carriers and fulfillment options to fill the void.  

How to Better Understand Contract and Spot Rates

Shippers that wish to create a successful balance between the use of spot rate and truckload freight contracts need to follow these steps:

  1. Connect your supply chain assets to a centralized supply chain control tower. 
  2. Leverage the full scale and scope of the BlueGrace TMS. 
  3. Take advantage of managed services, including invoice auditing and accounting services.
  4. Rate shipments across all modes and potential trade lanes to determine the best-case, not the cheapest, shipping option. 
  5. Always consider the “other” factors in tendering freight, including claims’ insurance and management needs.
  6. Diversify your carrier network to include the small and local carriers that have expertise in both truckload and last-mile delivery.
  7. Extend your TMS and order fulfillment systems across your whole supply chain, including brick-and-mortar stores.
  8. Remember to integrate new systems with existing platforms to enable omnichannel capabilities and take advantage of all available inventory. 

Gain Better OTR Rating With an Advanced, Customizable TMS at BlueGrace

The freight rate market is continuously changing to reflect the risks and opportunities in the market. As the year rolls on, shippers need to take the steps necessary to shore up their operations against the industry’s top risks, including market volatility and the coronavirus. Moreover, applying the functions and wide-ranging benefits of a dedicated TMS and 3PL’s lineup of managed services will provide a protective barrier against risk and help your organization succeed. Find out how more information and visibility can improve your use of spot rates and truckload freight contracts by calling BlueGrace at 1.800.MY.SHIPPING or filling out the contact form below. 

Outside-In: The Future of Supply Chain Planning

Supply chains are evolving fast. To keep up with the fast pace of supply chain evolution it is important for supply chain planners to upgrade their skills and step up their business planning and forecasting techniques. If the planners lag behind, it will have an adverse impact on not only the supply chain but also on the organization as a whole. 

The Gartner Supply Chain Planning Summit held in Denver, USA, in November 2019, emphasized this very aspect. According to Marko Pukkila, Vice President and Team Manager, Gartner, who shared his views during the summit:

“The job description of SCP leaders today looks totally different than 10 years ago. It’s no longer enough to provide copious amounts of data — planners must use the data to draw conclusions about future risks and opportunities. It’s all about supporting business objectives. Gartner calls this an outside-in mindset.”

What is the Outside-in Mindset? 

As Gartner defines it, the outside-in mindset is about being

aware of what is happening around you — be it a business objective or an upcoming recession — and use the capabilities of the planning function proactively to set up internal processes that are optimized for whatever will happen in the future.”

In simple terms, the outside-in mindset is about understanding external factors and the impact they will have on the business objectives. It is about creating a system that can not only take into consideration the impact of these outside forces but can also respond quickly to the ever-changing global economic-social-political environment. It is about creating a planning process that is agile and flexible enough to integrate future events. 

What are some situations where the outside-in approach would help? 

Let’s take the US-China trade war situation. This scenario has been in existence since 2018. It has impacted the trade relations between the two nations. Needless to say, it has had an impact on the supply chains of the organizations of the two countries. For example, Chinese organizations that were exporting to the US may have seen a decline in the orders due to tariffs or the US organizations would have had to reduce quantities of goods imported from their Chinese counterparts. In this situation, the US companies would have to find another source (country) to fulfill their requirements and the Chinese would have to find alternative buyers for their finished goods. 

While the trade war is an anomaly, as a concept is not unheard of. In this situation, organizations that may have researched and identified alternative buyers or sellers ready to do business with them in case of a change in the trade relationship between their countries would have suffered less of a set back as compared to those who may have neglected to take this factor into consideration.

A current situation that is creating havoc on supply chains is the Coronavirus virus outbreak. An article published on February 14, 2020, in The Wall Street Journal which quotes Lars Jensen, head of Denmark-based maritime research group Sea-Intelligence, saying:

“Substantially less cargo is being moved between China and the rest of the world.  Last week we had an additional 30 sailings canceled, with 23 across the Pacific and the rest to Europe.” The article further states that “Mr. Jensen said the canceled trips, which have topped 50 since late January, will delay or reduce shipments into the U.S., where retailers may see a slowdown in their traditional restocking of inventories for the spring.”

Another article titled The new coronavirus could have a lasting impact on global supply chains published in The Economist shares the example of Apple supply chain which manufactures a bulk of its iPhones in China, being impacted by the virus outbreak.

According to the article, “Analysts reckon that the virus could lead to Apple shipping 5-10% fewer iPhones this quarter and could scupper its plans to ramp up production of its popular AirPods.”

These are just two instances that are coincidently related to one of the major economies of Asia and will have an impact on US businesses. But there are many other situations that may not have a far-reaching, global effect but can disrupt the supply chain at a local level. For example, labor strikes can impact day-to-day operations and create a backlog in the supply chain. Supply chain planners need to factor in local incidents as well while making supply chain plans. 

The Gartner outside-in approach suggests that it is important for supply chain planners to be able to read the data and information available to them and identify possible outliers – roadblocks, challenges, and opportunities, in the future. They should then incorporate solutions or plans to be able to navigate their supply chain should those outliers become a reality in the future. 

How to incorporate the outside-in approach in supply chain planning? 

To incorporate the outside-in approach in supply chain planning, Gartner advises a 3-step process: 

1. Realize that the time to transform is now: Citing the 2008 – 2010 economic recession, Gartner says that organizations that were ready with planning processes in place that provided forward-looking insights fared better during and post the recession than those who tried to streamline their supply chain after the recession hit. To put it simply, there’s no time like the present to streamline the supply chain with the evolving global business, economic, political and social scenario. While the change may seem to be in the distant future, it is wiser to prepare the supply chain for it today. 

2. Refocus the planning team to business outcomes: Organizations need to understand that supply chain planning and business planning are not independent of each other. Explaining this point, Gartner says: “It’s no longer enough to just provide a forecast — planners must use the forecast to find pathways that guide the business to where it wants to go. Think of an advanced navigation system that doesn’t only plot the best route, but also foresees roadblocks and traffic jams and navigates around them.” Further adding, that the planners need to be able to convince the other stakeholders why this plan is good for the business and how it will help them succeed. 

3. Become the orchestrator of success: The supply chain planners need to take the lead on creating cohesion between the different departments of the organization and their business plans. Explaining the point, Marko Pukkila, Vice President and Team Manager, Gartner, says: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts when all parts of the business go into the same direction. This is what planning should accomplish”

Today supply chain planners have data available to them from every touchpoint of their business. This data, if used effectively can form a strong foundation for supply chain plans. But data is just the starting point. As the Gartner three-step process suggests, supply chain planners should use this data in a constructive manner to create actionable insights, solutions, and bring all the stakeholders on board to follow through the plan. 

We know implementing an outside-in approach in supply chain planning is easier said than done. That is why our team of experts not only helps you analyze your supply chain with the help of advanced technology but also guides you in finding effective and efficient solutions to address the issues in your supply chain. Get in touch with our team to know more! 

The Key to Managing Disruption? Outsourcing.

Crises such as the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent disruption to our economy and supply chains have truly brought to light the importance of effective risk management. In a world where normally reliable trade partners are shutdown for weeks or ports are closed or workers are furloughed, companies that were one minute functional are now scrambling for solutions to move goods from manufacturing to warehouse to distribution center to retail outlets. What once seemed like a well-oiled machine is now full of chaos or emptiness. 

Hiring a 3PL can help companies work their way through tough times.

Hiring a 3PL can help companies work their way through tough times. A lack of resources to maintain and improve growth, lack of experience coping with crises, a deficient organizational structure or insufficiently trained or available staff are all hurdles that can be overcome by outsourcing logistics operations. 

86% of Fortune 500 companies are outsourcing to 3PLs, and with good reason. 

A 3PL Allows You to Focus on What You Do Best 

Handing off some or all logistics operations to a Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider allows companies to focus on the product or service(s) they provide without dealing with the, well, logistics of it all. Whether a company is looking for help managing their entire logistics operations or simply needs help putting together a tech stack that serves their needs and goals, 3PLs can tackle the operations that are out of their wheelhouse. 

It Can Cut Costs 

Because of their industry knowledge, access to top tech, highly developed networks, and the potential for bulk discounts, 3PLs may be able to help companies cut logistics costs and manage their budgets more effectively. Outsourcing can lead to the development of smarter, more efficient processes tailored to a specific business’ needs. 

Reducing logistics spend through better deals with carriers and/or improved operational efficiency opens up opportunities for growth.

Reducing logistics spend through better deals with carriers and/or improved operational efficiency opens up opportunities for growth. It leaves room in the budget for improvement, whether that be through expansion, R&D, or hiring on top talent. 

3PLs Provide Scalability 

When you hire a 3PL to handle logistics, you’re gaining a modicum of scalability that you simply can’t get with an internal department or positions dedicated to logistics. A 3PL can provide the staffing you need during every season. A 3PL may also allow for scalability in a new location without the upfront expense associated with opening a physical location, providing expertise and connections in new shipping lanes without a dedicated staff.  

Outsourcing Isn’t Without Risk 

As with just about any business endeavor, outsourcing to a 3PL isn’t risk free. When a company is spending money, it’s inevitable that things could go sideways and they won’t receive the return on investment they’d hoped for. Risks involved in outsourcing to a 3PL include unexpected costs, trouble during the transition of operations from your company to the 3PL, and reduced customer service. 

Mitigating the Risks 

Discussions on expectations, service requirements, budget, and other pertinent details should occur before hiring a 3PL.

There are certainly ways to reduce the risks listed above. Choosing a 3PL with extensive knowledge and experience in your industry and in the type of operation you’re hiring them to carry out is critical. Look at references and reviews of the company and speak with companies who have used the provider if possible. Discussions on expectations, service requirements, budget, and other pertinent details should occur before hiring a 3PL, plus continued effective communication is important to ensuring key players are on the same page. 

In Conclusion 

When times are tough, whether due to extraordinary market conditions like the ones today, or just about any other circumstances, a 3PL can help companies work through problems without the large capital outlay often required with internal operational improvements. Wondering how a 3PL could help your company through a crisis? Contact BlueGrace today to get a free supply chain analysis from one of our experts! 

The Impact Of The Coronavirus On Surface Freight

Recall that at the beginning of the year, industry experts expected the surface freight spot market would gradually increase to make up for its decline over the past year. Every publication on the planet was encouraging shippers and logistics service professionals to start thinking about renewing their interest in contracted freight rates that would help keep freight spend under control. In addition, the uncertainty over a global trade war between the US and China was on the brink of collapse, and all signs indicated growth in the market. Then, the coronavirus became the latest hot topic in supply chain management. Shippers that wish to stay competitive need to understand a few things about the true impact of the coronavirus on surface freight and what they need to do to prepare for it now. 

What’s Happening With The Coronavirus? 

The coronavirus is a major threat to the global supply chain. While its spread has been largely limited to areas of the AIPAC region and a few thousand cases outside of that region, it appears to be catching fire more quickly. The mass quarantines in Wuhan applied the metaphorical breaks to production and left the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index closed for more than three weeks. Substantial drops in ocean container rate indices occurred, losing up to $100 per $800 in the time frame. While this might not seem like an issue for surface freight, it alludes to a lowering of spot rate volatility. Meanwhile, Greg Knowler of JOC.com notes that the coronavirus has not yet led to a “rapid resumption of manufacturing almost 4 weeks after the Chinese new year, factories are struggling to restart production. An advisory from UK foreign affairs stated February 17 words that China continues to restrict the movement of people in response to the coronavirus outbreak.” As the restrictions continue and grow more common, especially in areas like the US that are trying to keep the virus from spreading at all costs, the risk to spot rate markets will increase. Restricted movements effectively open more capacity and lead to the bottom falling out from the spot rate market.  

Potential Ways Coronavirus May Disrupt The Surface Freight Supply Chain 

The impact of the coronavirus on surface freight in the US is not yet a primary concern, reports DAT. It’s relative containment overseas and strict containment in the US means that its disruption will be menial for the upcoming weeks. However, even that is a relative example. US supply chains depend on Chinese imports, and as the factories shudder in empty silence, technology products, auto parts, and medicines and medical equipment import levels will decline. Thus, volume in the US will drop. As the drops occur, more carriers will face the problems of too much available capacity. It’s the grand irony of 2020. There were years upon years of discussions of preventing the capacity crunch, and now, there is just too much capacity to make a difference. 

The potential for disruption is severe, and companies need an alternate way to ensure a disruption-free supply chain.  

Of course, additional disruption risks remain. Widespread contamination of freight or spread of the virus in people could lead to mass callouts among drivers, a flat-out refusal to accept mildly ill truckers at warehouse gates, and more. The potential for disruption is severe, and companies need an alternate way to ensure a disruption-free supply chain.  

How to Lessen the Impact of the Coronavirus 

Let’s be clear on one area of concern. There is not a way or step that individual shippers can take to 100% stop the coronavirus from spreading around the globe. It is a virus, and it’s up to health professionals and experts to stop it. Now, that does not mean shippers are left with empty shelves and angry customers. Instead, it just implies a need for more diversity in the supply chain. Shippers need to increase the number of working carrier relationships.

Shippers should take added steps to ensure carriers comply with all applicable health and government regulations.

Shippers should take added steps to ensure carriers comply with all applicable health and government regulations. More visibility into truck location and ETA can also provide peace of mind to ensure shippers are not on the verge of interacting with truckers or others that were recently exposed to locations with a high volume of viral activity and potential effects of coronavirus on surface freight movements.  

Ensure you can always find available capacity and routes by leveraging an advanced transportation management system (TMS).  

Compared to the flu, the coronavirus is more life-threatening when people fail to take basic precautions, such as hand-washing, not touching the face, and staying home when ill. With that in mind, shippers should take those basic steps and radically evolve their logistics management operations to secure more drivers, more carriers, more trade lanes, more stops (or vice versa), and more suppliers. In other words, it is time to scale the supply chain network upward to find more suppliers and available business-to-business service partners to avoid disruptions. Also, do not cut your shipping volume due to the coronavirus. Instead, ensure you can always find available capacity and routes by leveraging an advanced transportation management system (TMS).  

Vaccinate Your Organization Against The Coronavirus With A BlueGrace Partnership 

Using a TMS is one critical way to vaccinate your organization against the coronavirus. If it is going to spread, you cannot necessarily stop it. However, taking the step of investing in a quality relationship with a TMS vendor and third-party logistics servicer, such as BlueGrace, will have a protective effect and help keep your business in business even as the virus spreads. Find out more about how to get started by completing the form below or call us at 800.MY.SHIPPING today.