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15 posts categorized "Supply Chain"

TMS is driving forward

By David Maloney | July 27, 2015 | 8:03 PM | Categories: Material Handling, Supply Chain, Transportation

A research survey released earlier this month shows just how important transportation management has become. The survey, conducted by InMotion Global (the folks behind the AscendTMS transportation management system), reveals that the use of TMS has more than tripled in the last 10 years.

The report details that 54 percent of logistics professionals currently use transportation management software in some way. InMotion Global says that is up from only 15 percent in 2005. And to show further how TMS is growing, the research also explains that of the remaining 46 percent not currently using a TMS, more than half say that they expect to use transportation management software within the next 12 to 24 months.

 Among other findings taken from the report: 

  • The two most common reasons for not using a TMS are cost (43%) and complexity (32%).
  • Trucking companies were most likely to use a TMS if they had more than 20 trucks in service (89%). For those with under 10 trucks, the percent using a TMS falls to just 31%. For those with under 5 trucks in service TMS use was only 16%.
  • Shippers and manufacturers used a TMS system primarily for LTL shipments (47%). However, that number rises to 73% if the shipper moved an average of 30 or more truckload shipments per week.
  • Home-grown TMS systems accounted for 6% of TMS systems in use today, and 3% of survey respondents use a freight module as part of another system (such as an ERP or sales management system). 

 Clearly transportation management systems are playing a more crucial role than ever before in managing the flow of goods. Companies have learned through experience and through their competition that decisions need to be done in a smarter way using available data. A good TMS fills that role.

A merger of material handlers

By Ben Ames | July 24, 2015 | 1:53 PM | Categories: Material Handling, Supply Chain

Two companies made news in the material handling sector this month when Inmar, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm that operates supply chain, promotions, and healthcare platforms for retailers and manufacturers, announced it had acquired Scanner Applications. 

Inmar’s core business is supplying technology to help its clients operate intelligent commerce networks, connecting offline and online transactions in real time for retailers, manufacturers, and their trading partners. More specifically, the Inmar Supply Chain Network combines the unique transaction processing of returns with real-time analytics to enable supply chain improvement and facilitate reverse logistics.

Scanner Applications, of Cincinnati, supplies turnkey solutions for trade promotion management and tracking services. Combine that with Inmar’s offerings—such as digital and paper coupon and rebate processing and settlement, digital coupon distribution, promotion analytics, and shopper behavior research—and the new partners think they have something special.

The two companies plan to join forces to create a broad suite of consumer and trade promotion solutions for retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers, as shoppers increasingly demand both flexibility and personalization from retailers.

 As part of Inmar, the Scanner Apps team will continue to operate from its Cincinnati location, enabling Inmar to extend its presence in that area of the U.S. For more information, check out www.inmar.com.

Why supply chain managers should care about material handling equipment

By Toby Gooley | July 14, 2015 | 1:23 PM | Categories: Material Handling, Supply Chain

Back in March, I attended the biennial ProMat trade show in Chicago. ProMat, produced by the trade association MHI, boasts more than 800 exhibitors and largely focuses on material handling equipment, technology, and services for warehouses and distribution centers (DCs). I was there in my role as a senior editor for DC Velocity, but could not help thinking about what the show had to offer readers of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' member magazine of which I am editor. Among all the forklifts, conveyors, and other material handling equipment I found much that could—and should—pique the interest of supply chain managers and executives.

Why should someone who lives in the world of inventory management, demand forecasting, and network optimization devote time to learning about material handling equipment? Because that equipment is what makes it possible to implement supply chain strategies. Without efficient warehouses and distribution centers supported by new equipment and technology, all you have is a plan on paper (or a computer screen). And with supply chains undergoing increasingly rapid transformation influenced by disruptive technology, this has become an area supply chain managers can’t afford to ignore.

Here are just a few examples of the intersection of material handling and supply chain strategy from the show:

  • Much of the more sophisticated equipment on display, such as goods-to-person systems and automated storage and retrieval systems, could play a role in helping companies address broader supply chain concerns—for instance, speed to market and bringing consistent performance to global operations. Vendors are providing complex solutions designed from the customer back—that is, starting with a problem or a new market imperative, and developing equipment and technology that not only address that need, but also revise upstream and downstream processes as needed.
  • E-commerce appears to be the single greatest factor influencing material handling equipment development. The design, or redesign, of everything from packaging equipment to conveyors and sortation systems to order picking and storage systems is being heavily influenced by the unique needs of e-commerce fulfillment. Software, too, is under the microscope; warehouse management systems (WMS), for instance, are being retooled to keep up with e-commerce’s faster pace and its focus on individual piece picking and shipping.
  • Robotics has matured from a gee-whiz novelty to an important tool for bringing consistent, reliable, 24 x 7 performance to an array of tasks in high-throughput distribution centers. Robotic equipment—including some that is designed to work alongside human order pickers and packers—could mitigate the effects of labor shortages and allow more workers to shift from ergonomically challenging, repetitive activities to those that truly require human input. With labor availability, training, and management expected to become more problematic in the future, it’s time to look at robotics as a viable solution.

For more examples, as well as commentary on how this important subject fits into the big supply chain picture, be sure to read MHI’s Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap report at www.mhlroadmap.org. We've also covered the report at DCV.

On track in Texas

By David Maloney | June 25, 2015 | 8:17 PM | Categories: Lift Trucks, Material Handling, Supply Chain, Transportation, Warehousing

Yesterday I was in Pharr, Texas working on a print story and a video at a company called McCoy’s Building Supply (look for this story in an upcoming issue of DC Velocity). As the name implies, McCoy’s provides lumber, hardware, shingles, blocks, and a full range of other building products to construction firms from over 80 locations throughout five southern states. I was there to look at their use of Toyota lift trucks, particularly in moving the heavy loads within their yard.

 

The Pharr facility does a little of everything. It serves as a distribution point for other McCoy stores in south Texas and there is also a retail store attached to the lumberyard that provides hardware and other home improvement products to do-it-yourselfers.

 

What struck me as uncommon about this facility was that it had a rail spur in its yard. While rail is often used to supply manufacturing facilities, few distribution operations in the U.S. have rail connections. Two flatbed rail cars had been dropped off onto the spur the night before I visited. Heavy-duty pneumatic-tire lift trucks were used to quickly unload the cars the following morning, taking advantage of their ability to access the rail cars from both sides.

 

Of course, a lot of freight moves by rail in North America. It is the most cost-effective ground transport available to shippers. Most rail loads, though, have to transfer to trucks to reach a D.C. Having a rail spur in their yard allowed McCoys to purchase full train car loads, which gave them better pricing and saved on freight. The product is then distributed to other local McCoy’s stores.

 

Possibly in the future we will see more distribution networks designed to better take advantage of direct connections to rail, gaining the efficiencies and cost savings found with being on-track.

Fast track off track on trade disputes

By Peter Bradley | June 23, 2015 | 10:25 AM | Categories: Supply Chain, Trade

With its vote to end a Democratic-led filibuster, the US Senate will pass fast track authority this week for the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP), the most wide ranging trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement. The House will be under enormous pressure to go along.

Most of the details of the pact remain secret as negotiations continue, and that secrecy is one of the reasons that authorizing fast track authority has run into opposition. 

But a more contentious part of the deal is the Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) mechanism. That creates a binding arbitration process by which foreign investors can challenge a nation's laws or regulations that they contend unfairly cause those investors economic harm. 

ISDS has been a part of trade agreements for a long time. but as large international firms have used the process more and more often to go after laws and regulations they don't like, ISDS has become a central issue to opponents of TPP and similar agreements (notably the now stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.) 

When you look at some of the ISDS challenges, it's no wonder. As the Economist reports, "Among the cautionary examples often cited are the suit brought by Vattenfall, a Swedish energy firm, against the German government for phasing out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster and that of Veolia, a French utility, against the Egyptian government for raising the minimum wage." And there others like that that create similar concerns. Philip Morris Asia, for example, has challenged Australia's rules aimed at reducing smoking by requiring health care warnings on tobacco packaging under the ISDS procedures. The results of that case are pending. Furthermore, ISDS cases have proliferated, jumping sharply over the past decade or so, 

It surprises me that the Obama administration has not seemed amenable to reforms in the ISDS process to allay at least some of the concerns of the TPP opponents. The Economist, in the same report, says European trade authorities, in an effort to restart the transatlantic talks,  have suggested changes that would make the process more like that found in courts of law, with public access, permanent arbitrators, and an appeals process.

The original idea behind ISDS processes was to protect investors from arbitrary and confiscatory rules in nations where they invested in order to encourage that very investment. But it seems to being used more often to challenge laws and regulations that are merely inconvenient--health and environmental rules, minimum wage laws and the like. Furthermore, with business investment flourishing around the world, even the need for ISDS might be questionable.

I'm no foreign trade expert, but a process that could let outside arbitrators rather than our own courts determine whether our rules and regulations are legitimate--a process, by the way not open to all-- makes me as a citizen pretty uncomfortable.

 

 

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.



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