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ltl

Shifts in Consumer Trends and the Future of Retailers

Consumer behavior during the global pandemic of 2020 is proving difficult to absorb for many businesses. Fraught with the risk of infection, restricted business hours, and massive unemployment, the average shopper has reallocated their purchasing power online. The virus has impacted traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States particularly hard and bankruptcies are on the rise as a result. 

How Will 2020 Impact Trends in 2021?

A popular theory has been that the retail world was already experiencing an overhaul based on demographics.  More people reside alone.  This leaves less time for shopping in person. With increasing connectivity and on-the-go attitudes, it is natural for shopping to gravitate towards handheld apps and home deliveries.

Consumers have become savvier about how they go about shopping.

Additionally, consumers have become savvier about how they go about shopping. Prices and online reviews are easily compared in a matter of minutes. This creates an opportunity for disruptors to undercut competitors in a range of categories, such as price, customer service, and speedy delivery.

According to a recent interview done by Harvard Business Review with Marc-Andre Kamel, a partner who heads the global retail practice at Bain & Co, these retail trends existed before the momentous events of 2020.  Rather than creating new trends, it is reasonable to conclude that recent events merely accelerated existing trajectories. 

Which Retailers Were Set Up for Success in 2020? 

Naturally, online retail giants like Alibaba or Amazon entered the tumultuous year with enough resources to weather the storm. But what about smaller retailers? Many haven’t fared so well, but what about the ones that have?  There are four prototypes necessary to maintain a sustainable position.

Regional Gems: These companies find their strength where their larger competitors are not prevalent.  Protected by their ties to the regional consumer base and culture, their business model is thriving.  Due to the relative novelty of online shopping in these areas, it is difficult to project how these companies may fare against emergent business models.  

Hitchhikers: With a flair for creativity, these companies rely heavily on branding status to appeal to consumers. While these retailers could not hold their own against a company like Amazon, they can profit by riding those coattails.  

Value Players: It seems simple, but keeping prices low ensures stability during a widespread financial crisis. Aldi, TJ Maxx, and Burlington are a few examples.

Scale Fighters: The final possible precursor to success in 2020 is size. Retailers like Walmart have the heft and established consumer base to fight other ecosystems. 

Which Retailers Lacked Positioning?

With cash flow reduced for most shoppers and a focus on buying online, many retailers found themselves at a disadvantage while simultaneously needing to change their business model to survive. Shifting shrinking resources is a challenge for any business. Trying to do that while restructuring a business during a global crisis borders on the impossible.

Legacy Laggers: Aptly named because they are often some of the more visible household names (and they’re falling behind). Facing immense pressure from both the market and shareholders when profits plummet, many of these companies choose to consolidate. Many doomed department stores could survive as something reinvented by re-imagining ambitions and joining forces. 

Unsustainable Innovators: These exciting new entities face a dead-end when it comes to profitability. They either perish during growth or gain the attention of a previously mentioned Scale Fighter who wishes to absorb their knowledge.

Is It Reasonable to Expect a Retail Rebound Post-Vaccine?

The trend from older to younger generations is a reduced emphasis on showy consumption and a shift towards sustainability and personal meaning. Data shows that COVID accelerated this trend and a percentage of older generations have adopted their children’s shopping habits. This is a sign that a retail rebound is not likely.  

These profits have exceeded any business lost during the quarantine.

Meanwhile, consumer data from the East suggests that shoppers are eager to buy. China, which had a more comprehensive response to the pandemic than the United States, has emerged from lockdowns and enjoyed a surge in retail activity. While this was seen mostly online, those who browsed were more likely to take their carts to checkout. These profits have exceeded any business lost during the quarantine. China did previously outpace the US in luxury purchasing, however, so this trend may not translate to an accurate projection for the Western market.  

Can the Ecosystems Fail?

According to Harvard Business Review, Amazon will invest $100 billion more than any other top 10 retailers globally. Add to that their history of successful innovation, and they’re more likely to drive consolidation than a stall in growth.

While Amazon has a robust consumer base relying on them for online purchasing, part of what made them so successful in the 2020 pandemic is the nearly doubling number of Hitchhikers that sell their products on its platform. In fact, one of the only major obstacles Amazon faces right now is keeping deliveries timely amidst such prolific demand.  

For smaller retailers, keeping pace with e-commerce giants will be a difficult task, but it is possible through innovation, creativity, and a weather eye on consumer trends. 

Retailers are not the only ones struggling with the new economy. If you are a shipper trying to overcome the impending obstacles of COVID-19, our team of experts are available and ready to help. Contact us today!

The LTL Process And Your Business: 10 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments can be a perfect augment to your shipping abilities, especially when you don’t have enough freight to send a full truckload but don’t want to delay a shipment. However, as with anything, the more moving parts you have, the more opportunities you have for things to go wrong.

The bad news is, LTL mistakes are pretty common, and those mistakes can add up quickly, eroding your shipping budget. The good news is, these mistakes are rather easy to avoid. Here is a list of the ten most common mistakes shippers make when shipping LTL freight as well as solutions to correct the problem.


Going it Alone

Most organizations have a “can-do” attitude about everything within their organization. While the spirit of independence is great, it can also create a near-sightedness within their operations. In order to save money, many shippers attempt to manage all of their LTL shipments on their own, which leaves plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.

Solution: Simply put, you’re not going to be good at everything you do. Freight brokers and 3PLs are a fantastic addition to your company. Freight brokers can help you to consolidate LTL shipments into FTLs, saving lots of money and reducing the environmental impact of shipping. 3PLs, on the other hand, are dedicated logistics managers, and can take the bulk of that responsibility off your shoulders letting you focus on your day to day operations.


Not Insuring Your Freight

Theft, traffic accidents, and natural disasters; any one of these potential incidents is waiting to attack your freight, leaving your company to pay for the damages.

Solution: Just like your car and your body, insurance is there to cover the result of a “what if” becoming a reality. Having the right amount of coverage can give your company peace of mind during a shipment, as well as protect your profit margins should the worst come to pass.


Loose Loads Means Damaged Product

Typically, an LTL shipment will go through multiple locations, being loaded and unloaded from a number of different trucks until it reaches it’s final destination. Until we find a way to break the laws of physics, shipping freight will always run the risk of damage. When a truck has to stop short, or rounds a corner too quickly, anything loose essentially becomes a projectile and no amount of packing peanuts will protect the product within.

Solution: Palletize your freight. While it might add to your process time, it will protect your freight during shipment, making sure it all gets to its destination in the best possible condition.


“Where’s this going again?”

It happens to the best of us. Data entry errors can easily result in a costly delay of your shipment.

Solution: Double check your shipping addresses (both beginning and final)before any shipment is scheduled. It sounds obvious, but you might be surprised by the number of shipments that end up in the wrong location because of this.


What Happens when You Assume

Delivery schedules are nice because it gives you a time frame as to when your package will arrive at its intended destination. A common mistake shippers make is to assume that freight will arrive by the estimated delivery date.

Solution: Employing a visibility software solution or utilizing those of a 3PL partner can give you accurate, real-time data that allows you to see where your shipment is during all phases of transit. You’ll know where it is and when it will arrive, allowing you to better communicate this information with your customers. Guaranteed delivery dates can also help to ensure a timely delivery.


Don’t Ignore Ground Freight

Many shippers believe that air freight is always faster. That’s not always true.

Solution: Every mode of transportation has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on where it’s going, ground freight can actually be faster and more efficient than air freight (not to mention cheaper)! Explore all your options and choose the best one for your freight.


The “Set it and Forget it”

This is fine for a rotisserie chickenbut not a good habit for your freight. Shippers tend to trust their carriers implicitly and believe that shipments will be fine once it’s loaded on the truck.

Solution: Again, visibility is key. Working with a software that allows you to follow the progress of your shipment and get up-to-date notifications of the delivery process will allow you to adjust your supply chain accordingly.


Paying Too Much For Shipping

Rates fluctuate on the regular, and are influenced by a number of ever changing factors. Shippers can easily blow their shipping budget by shipping freight with the wrong carrier.

Solution: Shopping for rates can be a time consuming endeavor. Use a shipping platform that allows you to compare all the rates of carriers in one place so you can pick the right carrier at the right price.


Choosing the Wrong Service

When deadlines get tight, mistakes happen. Too many mistakes can leave a customer with a bad taste in their mouth.

Solution: It’s good business to ensure that your customer’s shipping expectations are met. Do your best to not only find the best rate for you, but also the best solution for your customer’s needs. Sometimes paying a little extra on your end is best if it keeps a good customer coming back for more.


“Guess the Size. Win a Prize!”

This is one of the most common errors shippers can make and is one of the most easily avoidable. LTL carriers charge based on dimensions, weight, and density of a package.

Solution: Make sure you collect your freight dimensions and certify them if possible. Armed with that, it’s easier to refute a re-class fee if the carrier decides that your package isn’t in spec.

Why Choose BlueGrace for Your LTL Shipments?

Looking for a comprehensive solution to your LTL woes? Thinking about incorporating a new strategy and opportunities with your LTL business? Look no further than to Bluegrace Logistics. A market leader with a robust LTL platform, our Blueship LTL technology allows clients tools that many suppliers don’t have. 

Bluegrace can give shippers options to select their carrier based on various attributes such as transit time and costs to name a few.  Tracking is visible through our Blueship tool via EDI and API connectivity.  

If LTL is something you would like to get off your plate and into the hands of experts please message us today to begin your discovery discussion.

What Makes The BlueGrace Logistics Blog A 1st Place Winner?

On December 4, 2020 the BlueGrace Logistics Blog was awarded 1st and 4th place in the 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Blog Awards. We could not be happier with this recognition, but more importantly we are happy to be able to deliver valuable content to the logistics industry week after week.

How Was The Award Decided?

According to Logistics Brief the criteria is as follows: Logistics Brief brings together the best content from hundreds of industry thought-leaders. These awards will recognize the Most Valuable Posts as judged by our readers, award committee, and our machine intelligence and social media. We will recognize the posts that provide the highest value to industry professionals – useful and actionable information, that is tactical or strategic in nature, providing either long-term or short-term value.

Thank You Our Readers And Our Content Team!

We would like to thank all the readers who voted for us! We appreciate that you find our content valuable enough to award. We look forward to continuing to provide exceptional content in the future.

Our marketing department and team of writers strive to develop content that helps our customers, carriers, and shippers learn what is important in the logistics space. Our content can help you save money, time and frustration by informing you on the newest technology, trends and issues in logistics and supply chain.

The Best Of 2020

Normally in January we produce an email and blog post to highlight some of the most popular blog posts of the last year. We have decided since we have won these awards, it would be best to do it now, starting with the 2 blog posts that were voted on by Logistic Brief readers

#1 – 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Award for Other Category

There was no bigger news story in 2020 than the COVID-19 pandemic. How the pandemic affected business and especially logistics was full of new lessons and shifts in how we worked, conducted business and lived our lives. The toilet paper shortage was something no one could have predicted and unlike anything consumers had ever seen. Our readers enjoyed reading our view of how and why it happened. Click the image below to read the post.

#4 – 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Award for Freight Category

This blog post was partnered with our Whitepaper on Hurricane Preparedness that was one of our most popular downloads of 2020. Click the image below to read the post.

Do you like what you have read so far? We can deliver the same content directly to your inbox! Add your email to our BluePaper email list below.

Top 3 From 2020

Here is a list of the 3 most popular blog posts that we published in 2020 in order. Click on any of the images to read the post and we look forward to providing you with more of our award winning content in 2021!

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.

Preparing for 2020’s “Shipageddon”

2020 has been different from the norm in just about every single way imaginable, so it should come as no surprise that freight is going off the rails. This year we’re seeing big box retailers like Target and Walmart opening their Black Friday deals decidedly earlier than usual. Amazon, of course, has been leading the way in e-commerce sales for the better part of the year as quarantine and lock down restrictions forced many shoppers to go online, rather than in-store.

As we approach the holiday season, it is expected for cargo freight demand to rise to accommodate holiday shoppers.

As we approach the holiday season, it is expected for cargo freight demand to rise to accommodate holiday shoppers. This year, however, we’re also seeing a historic rise in import volumes measured in TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit) especially on lanes from Asia to the Pacific Coast. Containers and container spaces on ships are sold out and there is now a shortage of available containers in Asia for goods coming to the US. This leads to higher rates, longer lead times, congestion at the ports and higher rates for trucking and rail out of major port markets, especially Southern CA.

“To give you a sense of the demand right now, we are turning away  — each week  — more cargo than we are carrying,” revealed Matson CEO Matt Cox, referring to the scramble for slots on his company’s two China-U.S. services.

Holiday Cargo is Still Moving

When you have a massive amount of freight coming in by sea, it then has to be transferred over to land based carriers. Higher port congestion will create delays, bottlenecks, and an overall lag in the supply chain process. Again, this isn’t anything new for the holiday season. However, more holiday cargo is still being shipped and container and ocean freight space is still being oversold or cancelled. This situation could lead to the perfect storm scenario being dubbed “Shipageddon” in which freight doesn’t make it across the Pacific on time. Cox didn’t say anything to assuage such fears.


“What typically happens is that sort of by the end of October, most of what is going to make its way into the holiday-season shopping cycle will have arrived. That’s not what we’re seeing,” he warned.

“We’re seeing significant congestion in Asia. Although I’m not talking about Matson, we’re seeing cargo that wants to get on a ship that’s being rolled [pushed back to a subsequent sailing]. And we’re seeing the other international ocean carriers put in additional extra loaders [ships not in the normal service rotation]. This is not a typical season. There’s such demand for cargo. Many of our customers can’t keep up with the demand and cargo is back-ordered. For all of those reasons, we’re expecting to see the season extended. To when is the big question.”

Land Freight is About to be Buried

As we mentioned early, what arrives by sea must be shipped by land, be it to a retailer or a distribution center. With this massive uptick in ocean freight, we’re going to see a massive surge in truck freight for both the full truckload (FTL) and the less-than-truckload (LTL) sectors.

In addition to ocean freight space being well overbooked, there are other drivers for this potential shipping doomsday scenario.

Inventory Restocking Freight: While the holidays mean more toys, seasonal, and giftable merchandise, there are still the standard everyday items that stores need to carry for consumers. As we get closer to the holidays, retailers are hitting stockouts and empty shelves faster than ever. To complicate matters, investment bank Evercore ISI released a survey finding that shows 90 percent of respondents said their inventory levels were either “too low” or “a little too low” which suggests that the capacity shortage will continue, if not worsen, for sometime.

Higher than Average Holiday Spending: This year will also mark a potential rise in holiday spending that could range anywhere from a 1.9 percent increase in consumer spending to a 3.5 percent increase, pending the release of an effective pandemic relief bill and the release of a successful COVID-19 vaccine, according to RetailDive.

Holiday Shopping is starting Earlier and Lasting Longer: As we mentioned earlier, major retailers have begun their Black Friday deals well in advance of the typical holiday. Walmart has announced their “deals for days” holidays sales campaign, in which holiday sales will go on for the entire month of November. Target, and Amazon have also responded similarly, and it can be expected to continue right into the Holidays.

Last Mile Delivery is At Capacity: Major carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and the USPS, have had massive seasonal hiring events to try and bring in enough personnel to accommodate the influx in demand. Even with the staggering amount of seasonal workers to process, pack, and ship incoming packages, these carriers are warning consumers to shop now and ship earlier if they want to have their items arrive before the holidays. 

What Does this Mean for Shippers?

For shippers based in the United States, it’s about to be a bumpy ride. Capacity rates are going to be at a premium and even then, might not be available. To make matters worse, there is no way of telling just how long this is going to last, or how much worse it will get. It is important that shippers begin preparing immediately for what will be one of the busiest holiday seasons in memory.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. We here at BlueGrace are also making preparations for the holiday season and are ready to help you connect with carriers to ensure your freight gets to where it needs to be. Find out more about what BlueGrace can do for you and your supply chain today!

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.

How Can A 3PL Help My Organization Grow?

Now, more than ever before, businesses are being tested. Between the political climate of a tense presidential election year, the global pandemic, and natural disasters, many organizations have been finding it difficult to keep their doors open, let alone grow. However, there are a few paths forward that can lead to a company’s growth and financial well-being. One of those paths that is being chosen more frequently by companies in various industries is to partner with a third-party logistics provider. 3PLs offer a vast wealth of knowledge and experience in improving and streamlining operations and bringing new technology to the table. Combined, 3PLs have the potential to help companies overcome the logistics obstacles that block the way to overall growth.

Supply chain operations are often ignored so long as they’re operating within industry standards and customers remain relatively happy with the service these operations provide.

Business growth is often hindered by the limitations of supply chains and the silo of logistics operations. Supply chain operations are often ignored so long as they’re operating within industry standards and customers remain relatively happy with the service these operations provide. The issue with this is that there is little room amongst the status quo for improvement and growth, or to unlock potential savings. Logistics operations, even logistics operations done well, sometimes lack a view of the ‘big picture’, partially because of the way that these operations are often pushed into their own box to maintain operations.

Oftentimes, supply chains are viewed as a separate entity from the rest of the organization. However, the supply chain and the logistics and transportation operations that make it function directly relate to the overall success of the business. When the C-Suite looks to the supply chain as a partner in growth, collaborates to find solutions that both cut costs and creates opportunities for expansion, they may find that partnerships with third-party logistics providers are a viable option to achieve the desired growth.

To help shippers better understand how 3PLs can help their organization grow, we’ve put together a comprehensive white paper that breaks down the various assets a 3PL can bring to the table.

3PLs and Technology

New technology is always something of a double-edged sword for companies. On the one hand, new technology is costly and the setup can be disruptive to business flow and production. On the other hand, however, new technology is often the key to growth and higher levels of efficiency and customer service.

As 3PLs often develop their own proprietary software systems, there is none more qualified to help get it integrated into your current systems to augment and strengthen what you’re currently using.

Third-party logistics providers offer a huge advantage in terms of technology. Not only is the logistics solution tried and tested, but it often comes at a lower cost than buying a new ERP outright. As 3PLs often develop their own proprietary software systems, there is none more qualified to help get it integrated into your current systems to augment and strengthen what you’re currently using.

For example, we’ve discussed how integrating a TMS into your ERP system can be highly beneficial to your operations and help to streamline shipments while increasing overall visibility. This is just one of the many benefits that come from the technological aspect of working with a 3PL.

Is your organization looking for new technological solutions to manage your supply chain but you’re not sure which direction to take or is balking at the sticker price of a new, off the rack, software system?

3PLs can Improve Your Processes

Having an efficient process to the way you do business affects many different aspects of your overall success. Not only does your process determine and control costs, but it also affects the overall satisfaction of your customers.

3PLs are experts in logistics, that is their sole purpose. Their business model revolves around the concept of streamlining and simplifying their customer’s operations so that they, the customers, can be more efficient.

3PLs are experts in logistics, that is their sole purpose. Their business model revolves around the concept of streamlining and simplifying their customer’s operations so that they, the customers, can be more efficient. A third-party logistics provider can help improve processes in two ways: first, by reviewing current processes and making suggestions for changes that will lead to smoother-run operations, and second, by actually taking on those processes through outsourcing.

  • Process Improvements: 3PLs have seen the inner workings of countless organizations, identified potential improvements, and helped those organizations effect changes to improve efficiency and cut costs.
  • Outsourcing to 3PLs: 3PLs employ a host of veritable experts in these specific processes, which makes processes more efficient, more effective, more flexible depending on changing needs and less expensive overall.

Is your organization operating at peak efficiency? If not, does it have the capabilities in-house to identify and correct inefficiencies?

3PLs can Help Audit Your Operation

3PLs often offer supply chain audits, and with their deep industry knowledge, they frequently have great insights into improving operations and strategizing for and executing meaningful growth. The 3PL’s knowledge of industry best practices combined with their tendency to stay at the cutting edge of the industry make them extremely qualified to hand down advice. When these audits are performed on a regular basis, say bi-annually, logistics practices can be assessed by a qualified, unbiased third party. These assessments can help root out second nature practices at the company and are therefore not questioned but aren’t truly serving their purpose in the most efficient way possible.

Does your organization have an in-house auditing process that is geared to making necessary operational changes?

Want to Learn More?

Of course, this merely scratches the surface of what a third-party logistics provider can bring to the table. If you’re looking to make your organization grow, regardless of what events the rest of the world has in store, a 3PL can help you reach your goal. Want to know more about what a 3PL can do for you or answer the above questions? Download our whitepaper today to learn more.

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.

Digitalization Is Ushering Visibility Into Supply Chains

The North American trucking industry is extremely fragmented, as over 90 percent of all fleets own six trucks or fewer. This fragmentation, aside from inhibiting technology incursion, has impeded visibility and transparency in freight movement.

The opacity in operations impacts stakeholders across the trucking value chain. Oftentimes, this lack of visibility or transparency within the supply chain is due to outmoded and dated systems of communication.

The opacity in operations impacts stakeholders across the trucking value chain. Oftentimes, this lack of visibility or transparency within the supply chain is due to outmoded and dated systems of communication. Not only do these systems impede efficiency, but they also result in a number of missed opportunities for shippers, brokers, and carriers alike.

The adoption of digitalization within the trucking industry has spiked in recent years. A lot of it has to do with the rise of e-commerce and its associated ‘Amazon effect,’ which has created the need for expedited supply chains, especially the last-mile. This necessitated that trucking operations shed off inefficiencies especially with respect to visibility, which in turn led to a rise in innovations and the digitalization of the industry.

The Data Differentiator to Visibility

Stakeholders within the freight industry, be it fleets or traditional brokerages, suffer from siloed operations that do not interact with other functions within the same organization. This leads to data streams being trapped within workflows, thereby reducing operational efficiency and visibility.

Companies should phase out paper documentation and adopt digitalization in order to usher in visibility, and reduce complexities in gathering and processing documents. Aside from increasing efficiencies, this will also reduce material consumption, helping companies reach their sustainability goals.

With data streams being streamlined, stakeholders can leverage them via data analytics to gain insights into operations.

With data streams being streamlined, stakeholders can leverage them via data analytics to gain insights into operations. For instance, data analytics helps brokerages prime their operations to be more proactive to market volatility as opposed to only remaining reactive to change. This is particularly crucial in the age of e-commerce, where logistics businesses are expected to be malleable to continually evolving consumer expectations. To help meet expectations, leading companies are (or should be) taking advantage of linking their existing ERP systems to a TMS system.

For fleets, digitalization enables them to have visibility over driver behavior and freight movement. Aside from letting fleets provide an accurate estimated time of arrival (ETA), better visibility allows them to come up with flexible delivery models and faster shipping options.

On-demand fulfillment is a significant differentiator in the last-mile delivery segment. For this, businesses must understand customer behavior and buying characteristics – possible only by analyzing previous orders and having cognizance of market demand.

The Efficiency Perspective of the Freight Hauling Equation

Digitalization enables businesses to create greater visibility and increase cumulative efficiency across supply chains. Automation of repetitive manual tasks at the back office helps channelize worker hours in more productive and value-added endeavors. End customers gain access to shipping information, including real-time freight location, which improves overall customer service levels. Data streams are now stored in the cloud, making it easier to recall and share information between stakeholders in the value chain.

With technology like 5G coming up within the industry, high latency issues via the LTE network transmission will also be solved. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from the place of origin (like a truck cab) to the destination – which is the cloud. High latency is a problem for data analytics, as it results in insights that are not, in essence, real-time. Bad cellular signals, which are commonplace when trucks haul through the country, result in high latency.

With 5G potentially becoming mainstream in a few years, the latency value can be expected to reduce. Stakeholders would then be able to access more ‘real-time’ insights, helping to further improve efficiencies.

Digitalization has helped businesses to eliminate cumbersome manual processes that have been an industry’s staple.

Digitalization has helped businesses to eliminate cumbersome manual processes that have been an industry’s staple. Data levels the playing field for shippers and carriers, whatever be their size of operations. With visibility being ubiquitous across the industry, the overall market can learn to handle volatility better, especially in the context of economic recession or a black swan event like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, adopting new technologies is a costly and time-consuming endeavor, which discourages many companies from adopting newer innovations. This is where digital freight management, specifically third-party logistics providers (3PLs), shine. Partnering with a 3PL allows companies to reap the benefits of these digitized systems without the heavy investment cost of overhauling legacy systems.

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!

Tender Rejections: Coping And Minimizing

Tender rejections cost shippers time and money, not to mention unending frustration. With capacity tightening, specifically for certain load types, tender rejection rates are on the rise, and shippers are under extra pressure to get freight where it’s going on time. Since tender rejection can raise load prices by nearly 15%, it’s in every shippers’ best interest to get to the bottom of rejected tender.

Common Causes for Tender Rejection

There are some common causes for tender rejection, but the following list certainly doesn’t account for every reason a load might be rejected.

  • Long distance to potential backhauls creating a lot of deadhead miles
  • Short lead times
  • An exceptionally competitive truck market
  • Tight capacity in specific trucking segments

Minimizing Tender Rejections

You can’t eliminate the possibility of tender rejections altogether, but there are some ways that you can reduce the number of shipments rejected by carriers.

Clarify RFPs

Occasionally, tender rejection may occur if a request for proposal isn’t clear enough. Ensure your internal processes give carriers all the information they need to understand the scope of your haul.

Choose Your Carriers Wisely

If the rate a carrier offers seems too good to be true, it probably is. A carrier may quote in order to gain business, but if their quote comes out below what the service costs to perform, they may reject the load.

A carrier audit is a great way to check in on tender rejection rates and determine if these rejections are making doing business with certain carriers in your repertoire too costly.

Increase Your Lead Time

If at all possible, try to stretch out lead times to at least a couple days. Give carriers time to fit you into their schedule ahead of time so that they can be assured business.

Diversify

Consider forming relationships with carriers of all sizes and specs operating in your lanes. When you’ve got a long list of potential carriers for a load, you don’t have to hire a carrier who says they can probably fit you in. Spreading your business around helps small carriers thrive, and you may find a great new partnership.

Opt for Multi-Lane Carriers

Carriers may reject a load that comes with too high a connection cost. Any load that’s going to require a driver to schlep a lot of extra miles is one that’s not very appealing.

When you choose a carrier who operates in multiple lanes, especially lanes that connect to your load’s destination, the carrier can keep their costs down by turning another load in short order and therefore are less likely to reject a load.

Build Great Carrier Relationships

While you can’t mitigate every reason for tender rejection by building relationships with carriers, it can certainly go a long way towards getting your load out on the first try.

This is one of the big benefits of working with a 3PL to broker your loads. Freight brokers have already developed great connections with the carriers they engage. When faced with two similar loads at similar rates, a carrier is likely to opt for the load commissioned by the party with whom they have the best relationship.

One way to mitigate the impact of tender rejections is to use a 3PL. It’s a lot less trouble for you if a  freight broker acts as intermediary when a load is rejected, and they have extra incentive to keep costs low while seeking an alternate carrier in order to keep your business. Need help assessing your carriers or adjusting processes to avoid tender rejection? Call us at 800.MYSHIPPING or fill out the form below.

You Want To Be A Supplier For Whole Foods, Right?

While brick and mortar stores haven’t died out completely, the pandemic hasn’t done them any favors. Not being able to leave the house due to COVID-19, many consumers are realizing that it’s not only easier to shop online for their household consumables, but that it’s preferable to having to run out to the store when the pantry starts running low.

Whole Foods, for example, has done incredibly well, owing largely to its owner, Amazon. Much like Walmart, Target, and Apple, Whole Foods, and Amazon have seen some incredible growth in their grocery sector.

“During Amazon’s second quarter of 2020, the retail giant continued to see huge gains overall due to the impact of COVID-19, with online grocery sales alone reaching three times last year’s figures,” reads an article from SupermarketNews.

The second quarter, which ended on June 30, 2020, left Amazon with an overall net income at a staggering $5.2 billion, compared to the $2.6 billion during the same quarter last year. It should come as no surprise that net sales surged 40% from $63.4 billion in 2019 to $88.9 billion.

While the pandemic was at its full height and lockdowns were initiated, consumers took to their keyboards to go shopping.

Spending Money to Make Money

Of course, with higher than average sales comes higher than average operating costs. As Amazon conducted more business, it also had to increase its operating costs to keep pace with the influx of new orders.

Amazon created over 175,000 new jobs since March and are in the process of bringing 125,000 of these employees into regular, full-time positions

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, noted in a statement, “As expected, we spent over $4 billion on incremental COVID-19-related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers in this time of high demand — purchasing personal protective equipment, increasing cleaning of our facilities, following new safety process paths, adding new backup family care benefit, and paying a special thank you bonus of over $500 million to front-line employees and delivery partners. We’ve created over 175,000 new jobs since March and are in the process of bringing 125,000 of these employees into regular, full-time positions.”

Amazon’s Grocery Sales Continue to Grow. Rapidly

It’s hard to believe that Amazon originally started as a bookstore. Now it’s become a full-service virtual grocery store, which has been paying dividends for the once bookseller.

“Amazon’s second quarter was another highly unusual quarter,”says Brian Olsavsky, chief financial officer & senior vice president. “As I mentioned on our last earnings call, we began to see a significant increase in customer demand beginning in early March, and demand remained elevated throughout Q2. Strong early demand in groceries and consumable products continued into Q2, while demand increased during the quarter in our other major product categories like hardlines and soft lines.

Amazon, which owns more than 500 Whole Foods stores, said it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160% and tripled grocery pickup locations during the second quarter

It was only three years ago that Amazon bought out Whole Foods, which gave it the necessary oot in the door to begin selling groceries online. While this move garnered some criticism it turned out to be a smart move on Amazon’s part in the long run. “Amazon, which owns more than 500 Whole Foods stores, said it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160% and tripled grocery pickup locations during the second quarter,” says SupermarketNews.

“We’re reaching more customers with our grocery offerings,” said Olsavsky. “Online grocery sales tripled year-over-year.”

Getting in is the Easy Part

Obviously, being a supplier for a company like Whole Foods is ideal, especially when you can indirectly hitch your star to Amazon. However, becoming a supplier for Whole Foods is the relatively easy part. On the other hand, living up to their high standards and demands is where things get decidedly more difficult.

If you’re thinking of becoming a supplier for Whole Foods or want to understand better what it means to be a supplier and how have requirements and the business changed now that they are part of the Amazon juggernaut, read our Whole Foods white paper.

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.

How the Three M’s Can Help You Cut Down on Supply Chain Cost

As the global supply chain settles into the COVID19 technology driven and customer-centric decade, there’s no time to pause and reflect on what has happened. Now, more than ever is a time for action. You need to pick up the pace and ensure that your processes are leaner, faster, and you are equipped to meet your customer’s expectations. Understanding the nuances of your supply chain and how to improve upon it is the best way to achieve maximum savings, optimize efficiency, and manage customer expectations.

We’ve come up with a concept called the Three M’s, three key areas that you can explore and break down in order to realize the full potential of your company that can help you to get the biggest, fastest savings in your supply chain, today.

They are: Measure; Manage; and Maximize.

Measure

The first of the three M’s is the measure, and it’s all about understanding your supply chain and how it functions. To measure your supply chain is to create an overview of your operations and within that, to develop an understanding of your key processes and where your company’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

Understanding how to create an overview of your supply chain is the very first step in measuring what your company is doing right now and what your current process looks like.

“Understanding how to create an overview of your supply chain is the very first step in measuring what your company is doing right now and what your current process looks like. Either creating an overview or even having an external analysis done by a third party will help you gain visibility and understanding why you’re doing things the way that you do and then taking that information and turning it into actionable information that your company can then use to make better business decisions,” suggests Amanda Staffon, our Senior Business Development representative.

Measuring can help you to:

  • Analyze the need for process improvements.
  • Understand where cargo can be consolidated to increase cost savings.
  • Measure carrier cost structures to maximize efficiencies and lower costs.
  • Better financial efficiency of your end to end supply chain network.
  • Enhanced control over shipment scheduling.

Manage

Manage is all about the internal conversation within your organization. It’s about understanding why key stakeholders which should include, vendors, purchasing, customer service, sales, are making the decisions that they do and how those decisions affect your supply chain. Manage is also about understanding the flow of goods, money, and information throughout your organization.

The data and analytics gathered during the measure phase is instrumental to a proper understanding of your operations

The data and analytics gathered during the measure phase is instrumental to a proper understanding of your operations and can create the insight necessary to understand why these decisions are being made and how you can improve upon them.

There are four key advantages to the management phase:

  • Visibility across the entire supply chain from sourcing raw materials to the delivery of finished goods
  • Modeling future supply chain scenarios as your company grows/changes to ensure speed to market while maximizing cost structures.
  • Complete insight into the production, partner, and supplier performance to ensure responsiveness to customer needs.
  • A Global perspective to keep updated on the latest developments and optimize processes across North America.

Maximize

The last of the three M’s is Maximize, and all about making the most possible good from every factor and decision within your organization. For example, technology helps to maximize efficiency and, in turn, increase profitability.

A well-managed supply chain provides companies with the ability to execute best practices

The other two steps are crucial to maximize as they help you to understand the layout of the organization and what steps you need to take in order to see the most benefits, whether that be further developing strengths, optimizing a specific aspect of your operation, or outsourcing aspects that your company isn’t particularly strong in.

A well-managed supply chain provides companies with the ability to execute best practices in the following areas:

  • Demand Planning
  • Procurement
  • Logistics
  • Inventory Management
  • Information Systems
  • Compliance
  • Distribution
  • Risk Management and Contingency Plans

Putting it into Action

Of course, the first step in this process is often the most daunting. During the uncertainty, dedicating resources (time, energy, money) to anything that doesn’t have an immediately apparent return can be terrifying. However, taking that first step is most important as it lays the path towards improvement and growth in the future.

We encourage you to listen to our free Webinar about the Three M’s to get a more in-depth understanding of the process as well as to take advantage of our free supply chain analysis to see how BlueGrace can help you to improve and optimize your operations.

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

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

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

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

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

Why an Internal Audit is Necessary for Your Supply Chain

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

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

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

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

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

Things to Consider Before you Start the Audit

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

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

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

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

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

Supply Chain Structure and Internal Audit Tasks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supply Chain Risk Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The more we know the more we can simplify.

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

Walmart+ vs. Amazon Prime: How Different Are They?

Amazon delivered a swift blow to retailers with the introduction of Amazon Prime. Walmart is fighting back.

Amazon spent years building what was to be its competitive advantage in e-commerce, its formidable distribution network. By building distribution centers across the country, investing in algorithms to optimize pick-time, and hiring operational wizards from Walmart and other competitors, Amazon gets products to customers anywhere in the United States cheaper and faster than anyone else.

Walmart went in the opposite direction, taking a ‘build it, and they will come’ approach, building stores in rural areas and locating them close enough together to allow for shared warehousing and logistical resources. Walmart plays in the low margin discount retail arena, and they do it better than anyone else. Perishables such as bread and milk are extremely low margin products, but the wide range of offerings gets customers in the door more often and buying more while they’re there. This is their secret, money-making-sauce, the strategy that allows for a wide distribution of fixed costs and lowers their break-even point.

In 2005 Amazon launched a little thing called Amazon Prime, a membership program with perks which is now enjoyed by roughly 150 million global paying members.

In 2005 Amazon launched a little thing called Amazon Prime, a membership program with perks which is now enjoyed by roughly 150 million global paying members. At the time, Walmart was the giant, its profits being larger than Amazon’s revenue. A decade and a half later, however, and Amazon reigns supreme over online sales. In 2019, Amazon accounted for almost 40 percentof the US e-commerce market. Walmart lagged far behind with slightly more than 5 percent.

An ethos of sales is to make it easy for customers to do business with you. Prime aims to do just that. For $119 a year, Amazon Prime offers services such as music and video streaming, one-day shipping on more than 10 million products, and same-day delivery from Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods. It has its loyalty base hooked and has customers shopping more often and spending about twice as much as non-prime customers. 

Walmart, however, still reigns supreme in brick-and-mortar retail.

Walmart, however, still reigns supreme in brick-and-mortar retail. As reported by Recode, they’re now fighting back with an expansion to their grocery-delivery subscription service, which launched last year. Walmart will be using its 20% market share (of an $800 billion category) as a foothold to launch the introduction of Walmart+. To differentiate themselves, Walmart is looking to include perks that Amazon won’t be able to replicate and may offer discounts on fuel and prescription drugs. 

Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited service currently delivers groceries from more than 1600 US stores and costs $98 per year or $12.95 monthly and offers a free 15-day trial to lure new members. It also offers a per delivery fee for non-members and is testing a service that will take the extra few steps and deliver your groceries right to your fridge.

Widening the Customer Base

As we laid out in our Walmart and Whole Foods white papers, Millennials are outpacing baby boomers as the largest living adult generation, and their buying patterns are heavily focused on eCommerce. 

CEO Doug McMillon has given Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside the task of widening their customer base to include more upscale shoppers and create a seamless customer experience, whether shopping online or instore. Whiteside has also put together a product team, to be headed by Chief Product Officer Meng Chee and will focus on using advancements in tech to improve the customer experience.

Amazon is now also widening its target customer base to include lower-income shoppers and is hoping to lure them into Prime memberships with monthly membership rates.

Although both Walmart and Amazon deliver groceries to food stamp recipients, only Walmart currently offers a monthly membership fee option. Amazon is now also widening its target customer base to include lower-income shoppers and is hoping to lure them into Prime memberships with monthly membership rates. Customers may find more financially viable than a one lump sump yearly membership fee.

Walmart has had a bumpy road in its foray into e-commerce. In 2016 Walmart bought out Jet.com for $3.3 billion, but Jet failed to become a driver for online grocery sales and provide the boost into urban areas they were looking for. Walmart announced in June of last year that it would be folding Jet into its e-commerce operations and ended Jetblack, the AI-powered personal shopping service it rolled out in May of 2018.

Back in 2017, they tested a program called ShippingPass, a $49 per year two-day shipping membership, which was then discontinued, members were then refunded their $49 fee.

Both Amazon and Walmart are forerunners into e-commerce, struggles, and even failures are to be expected. Far from being out for the count, it seems Walmart is coming back swinging.

Do you ship to Amazon, Walmart, Target or other large retail or grocery store chain? The rules are changing and it is getting harder and harder to be able to adhere to them. This is where the logistics experts at BlueGrace Logistics can help your team! Feel free to contact us using the form below and set up a 15 minute chat to discuss how we can help you succeed!