Planning to Ship Overseas? Here are 8 Things You Must Consider

By Contributing Author | 03/03/2020 | 7:28 AM

International shipping is on a rise, thanks to increased e-commerce sales. Shipping overseas is slightly different than shipping locally. There are custom regulations, additional paperwork and extra procedures that you must be aware of.

Here are 8 factors that you must consider before shipping overseas.

  1. Customs and Taxes

Every product you ship must clear customs. This is to make sure that the product is allowed into the country and check if all the taxes and duties are correctly paid.

The fee depends on the value of the product and the country it is being shipped to. Any non-paper item will have a duty fee before it can be shipped to another country. Most shippers have the paperwork and duty information available on hand. You just need to fill out the paperwork and pay the required tax. 

  1. Weight of the Package

Shipping overseas is not cheap. Since the shipping fee is based on the weight of the package, it is important that you weigh the product accurately.

Use weighing scale to determine the exact weight of the package. If the product is weighed incorrectly, you may end up paying extra.

Some shipping services need a specific weight or dimension requirement. Ensure the package fulfils all such shipping requirements of the shipper.

  1. Time of Transit

It is very important to determine the delivery date when you ship overseas. Check how long the transit time is and plan your shipment accordingly.

International shipments are more likely to get delayed due to a number of factors. Most countries might not even have the option of overnight shipping. The custom clearance might take a while depending on what you are sending. Determining the time will help you plan the shipment properly.

  1. Compare Prices on Shipping

If you are shipping several packages, compare prices on the shipping. Every company has a different shipping fee.

Go to their website to check their fee. Enter the dimensions and weight of the package you want to ship. This will give you an estimate of the amount that you will have to pay for the shipment.

  1. Documents

Getting the paperwork right is essential for international shipping. The most common document is the Commercial Invoice. It is a detailed list of the sender, receiver and information of the products being shipped. It also includes the value of the products and country of origin.

Other important documents include Certificate of Origin, Electronic Export Information, Shipper’s Export Declaration and NAFTA Certificate of Origin. Learn about all these documents and check which ones you need for shipping your products.

When you have the paperwork in order, you can expect smoother shipment and on-time delivery.

  1. Medium of Transportation

You can ship overseas through 3 mediums – air, sea or freight. Regardless of which medium you choose, consider the cost, time and product you want to ship.

Shipping by sea is generally affordable but transit takes a long time. Air freight is the fastest but is the most expensive option.

You would not want to ship perishable and delicate goods via the sea as they can get damaged in closed containers. Determine which products are good to send by road. Once you know all the options, you can choose the best medium to transport. 

  1. Identify the Restricted and Perishable Goods

Check if the item is on the restricted items list or not. It should not be on the restricted list of the country you live and where it is being shipped to. If it is found to be restricted, the customs personnel can prevent the product from leaving or entering the country.

Additionally, check if the goods are perishable or not.  If you follow the best shipping practices for perishable products, you can ensure that the products don’t get spoilt during the transit.

  1. Insurance

No matter how careful you are, there is a risk of damage in international shipments. For this reason, you must insure the products for accidents and damages. This will save you money, especially if the product is valuable and expensive.

If your business is ready to step into international waters and take global orders, go right ahead. Shipping products internationally is not as overwhelming and tedious as it sounds. Keep the above-mentioned points in mind and you can ship any product internationally without worrying.

Kevin Hill heads the marketing efforts at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, CA. Besides his day job, he loves to write about the different types of scales and their importance in various industries. He also writes about how to care for and get optimized performance from different scales in different situations. He enjoys spending time with family and going on camping trips.

Turning Back the Clock on Two-Day Shipping: Enabling Sustainable Logistics

By Contributing Author | 02/26/2020 | 4:05 AM
By Gregg Lanyard, director, product management/strategy – transportation and logistics, Manhattan Associates

Consumers’ shopping habits are constantly evolving, and they have increasingly shifted towards e-commerce purchases with speed and convenience. In the last decade alone, consumers have gone from willingly paying for one-week delivery to expecting free two-day shipping. This demand has forced retailers, despite size, to introduce a free shipping offer, no matter the logistics hurdles. Thus, doing so comes at a great cost to efficiency, as well as sustainability.

In addition to demanding fast and free delivery, consumers are increasingly looking to make purchases with brands that align with their values, and sustainability is top of mind. Recent research found that 50 percent of shoppers this past holiday season were willing to try delivery options that were greener and 47 percent of consumers wanted to shop at environmentally conscious retailers.

This poses a unique challenge for brands. Fast and free shipping are still the top requirements for consumers when selecting a retailer and they will lose out to competition if they cannot meet these needs. Yet, they must also balance the interests of sustainability-conscious shoppers and manage logistics margins.  

A possible solution? Incentivizing customers into more efficient shipping.

The State of Logistics

To understand how incentivizing customers into more efficient shipping will be beneficial for retailers, first we must look at the state of logistics. E-commerce throws all longstanding, traditional supply chain and fulfillment principles and strategies out the window because most logistics networks were never built to handle the high volume, direct-to-consumer (DTC) small packages and speed associated with e-commerce orders. Things like scale, consolidation and centralization don’t work in this new model, especially as shipment sizes shrink, frequency increases and delivery locations expand.

To accommodate this shift, brands have moved away from traditional distribution centers and have expanded their networks to add many different channels of fulfillment to support a range of sales channels such as marketplaces, making logistics more complex. For example, you may order four different items during a single transaction and that one order arrives from four different delivery trucks from four different service providers, all at different times during the same day. This is a logistical nightmare that is only made more complex when half of the order is returned, shifting inventory and adding transportation costs. With no signs of change on the horizon, retailers must implement new initiatives that encourage more sustainable shipping practices.

The Solution

Incentivizing customers into choosing more sustainable and efficient shipping options is the only mutually beneficial solution for both the customer and the retailer. Most companies do not have the capital to continue providing free and fast shipping at their current rate. Customers are not going to permanently change their ways, even those customers aware of the environmental toll, unless they are incentivized, or alternatively, penalized.

Offering an incentive, such as a discount for a slower order, can encourage customers to choose shipping timelines that are more aligned with a company’s logistics network. While it may seem like customers wouldn’t be interested in this because speed is a top priority, Deloitte found that 80% of the shoppers who prefer free shipping are willing to wait three days or more for delivery. Some brands have already found success doing this by offering store credit or gift cards for longer delivery windows. In high volume order periods, such as the holiday shopping season, this kind of incentive could be especially successful in helping to reduce stress on the logistics network. Often those making purchases around Black Friday for the holidays typically don’t need the items until at least a few weeks later.

 Additionally, if this concept is coupled with other fulfillment options, like locker pick-up or buy-online-pick-up-in-store, retailers can see costs savings from a logistics and supply chain perspective. Finding a mutually beneficial balance for both the customer and the retailer will be the only way to ensure long-term, sustainable shipping.  

Optimizing the Results

Even with more efficient e-commerce orders, logistics networks must modernize to become an integrated, omnichannel network that supports DTC and wholesale effectively. Brian Gibson, chair-elect to the Center for Supply Chain Innovation at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business and vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), says that companies must look toward more intelligent order management and transportation management systems to not only consolidate, but also optimize the network. An integrated intelligent network enables companies to prioritize and schedule to ensure maximum profitability while still meeting service line agreements. Then, with warehouse management systems, each of these technologies can be connected so that retailers can make better overall decisions to manage customer demand and move product in the most efficient way possible. If a retailer is able to alter consumer behavior by incentivizing more efficient fulfillment, as well as modernize its logistics network to better handle omnichannel commerce, they will be more likely positioned for scalable growth and success.

Propane Forklift Considerations in an Electrify-Everything Movement

By Contributing Author | 02/11/2020 | 4:55 AM

By Jeremy Wishart, Propane Education & Research Council

“Electrify everything” is a movement gaining momentum across the country.

Driven by a growing concern for global warming, the movement is intended to encourage businesses to reduce emissions to near-zero carbon levels quickly. But electricity as an energy source with zero carbon emissions is misleading at best, given its upstream emissions and the fact that much of the country’s electricity is manufactured at coal-fired power plants. Fortunately, there is a clean energy alternative that can provide a solution for material handling professionals seeking a better emissions profile for their equipment: propane.

Here are a few things warehouse and facility managers should take into consideration as the electrify-everything movement continues to grow:

Propane is a clean, low-emissions energy source

Since the 1990s, the industry has seen a shift toward cleaner business practices and a growing number of businesses are focused on a low-emissions operation. While this trend has helped give rise to electric forklifts, and the electrification movement, propane is managing to keep pace because of its low-emissions profile.

And the numbers back it up. The Propane Education & Research Council, in partnership with the Gas Technology Institute, conducted a comparative emissions analysis of targeted applications in key propane markets, including forklifts. We analyzed full fuel-cycle energy consumption, greenhouse gas, and criteria pollutant emissions (nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide).

The study revealed that, when compared with electric forklifts, propane can reduce SOx emissions by 76 percent. When it comes to emissions, propane having an edge over electric may come as a surprise to some material handling professionals, as electric’s full emissions profile is often overlooked. While it’s true that electric equipment produces zero emissions during normal operation, it’s important to account for the emissions produced in the creation and transmission of electric batteries. That includes all of the emissions produced at coal-fired plants where electricity is generated, as well as the emissions during transportation to the facility. Not to mention, the disposal process of electric batteries. And when the battery goes dead, facility managers can’t simply dispose of them without severely impacting the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers them a hazardous material, which means they have specific handling and disposal regulations attached.

As the trend toward clean, emissions-reducing alternative energy sources continues, companies should keep renewable propane on their radar. It’s estimated that by 2040, renewable propane will supply nearly half of our nation’s propane demand. The emerging energy source is a byproduct of the renewable diesel and jet fuel production process, which converts plant and vegetable oils, waste greases, and animal fat into energy. Because it’s produced from renewable, raw materials, renewable propane is even cleaner than conventional propane — and far cleaner than other energy sources. And considering its chemical structure and physical properties are the same as traditional propane, renewable propane can be used for all the same applications.

Propane has no hidden costs

When you do the math on the long-term costs of forklift energy options, propane takes top billing in a lot of ways. Propane-powered forklifts consistently cost less than other options, including electric, providing cost savings throughout ownership.

According to data from PERC, the capital costs of propane forklifts are almost 30 percent lower than electric. Unlike their propane counterparts, electric forklifts incur additional utility costs to keep them charged. Electric forklifts’ battery life and power output diminishes over time and can lead to future costs, including additional expensive batteries. Charging electric forklift batteries when the remaining charge is too high or too low can significantly reduce the battery’s lifespan, too. And in many cases, proper disposal or reconditioning of electric forklift batteries can be a costly proposition. The life expectancy of a propane cylinder, in contrast, is three times longer than an electric forklift battery and oftentimes extends beyond the typical lifespan of a forklift. Propane-powered forklifts can also be refilled at any time without impacting the lifespan of the cylinder.

Beyond the initial equipment purchase and the cost of propane itself, all that facility managers and business owners are responsible for is maintenance and storing the cylinders, which they can either purchase or lease from their propane supplier. Business owners may also be able to secure a contract with their local propane supplier, providing more financial peace of mind.

In addition, facility managers who make the move to electric oftentimes forget about the installation requirements that come with electric equipment — which can have a significant impact both financially and structurally. Electric forklifts often require the costly installation of battery charging stations, which must be located in a designated area of the facility. It’s important to note that charging stations may cause issues in some facilities and require costly service upgrades to accommodate the new power requirements. With propane forklifts, however, infrastructure requirements are minimal. Refueling infrastructure requires only storage space for the propane cylinders, freeing up valuable warehouse square footage that would otherwise be occupied by battery stations.

Propane doesn’t sacrifice performance

Lastly, propane keeps businesses operating around the clock. Propane-powered forklifts provide 100 percent power throughout operation, pushing heavy loads at full capacity faster and longer than electric forklifts. One cylinder typically covers an entire eight-hour shift. In addition, propane forklifts maintain more consistent travel speeds and acceleration throughout a shift compared to battery-powered forklifts, according to data from PERC.

Whether used in large operations or smaller fleets, propane provides the quick refueling necessary to keep material moving. Swapping out an empty propane cylinder for a full one takes just a few moments, and eliminates the need for additional expensive, heavy batteries, downtime spent recharging, or strict battery management by crews. Companies can also work with a propane retailer to ensure propane cylinder cages are always full by setting up a tailored refueling schedule.

Visit Propane.com/Material-Handling to learn more about the benefits of operating with propane forklifts.

JeremyWishart (Propane Council)Jeremy Wishart is director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at [email protected].


Controlling Temperatures In Facilities, Warehouses, and Manufacturing Centers

By Contributing Author | 01/23/2020 | 3:15 PM

By Mark D’Agostino, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Hunter Industrial


Controlling your facility or warehouse’s temperature can be challenging, especially if you have high ceilings, several windows, a large workforce or just a big space. Despite these factors, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires the minimum temperature for indoor workplaces to be 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the maximum be 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, OSHA’s approved range for indoor humidity is between 20 and 60 percent to reduce mold growth and assist with the overall temperature control.

Importance of Air Quality

Beyond ensuring you are meeting OSHA standards, good air quality and temperature control can enhance workplace productivity. A recent Harvard Business Review survey reported that the number one workplace wellness perk that employees most desired was air quality. Air quality received 58 percent of the survey vote, with the option for an on-site gym receiving only 16 percent of the vote. 

Air quality is crucial to maintaining your workforce. By improving temperature control in buildings, you're creating a more comfortable, healthier work environment. We have seen companies experience reduced absenteeism and employee complaints, coupled with boosts in overall productivity.

One manufacturing and logistics company echoed this sentiment after installing seven 24-foot industrial HVLS (high volume, low speed) ceiling fans in their 300,000-square foot warehouse. Keeping their HVLS fans running 24/7, the company's Vice President of Supply Chain noted, "[HVLS] fans provide uniform comfort year-round for our nearly 230 employees, which has increased worker productivity. … The fans are essential in creating an optimal, healthy environment in our facility from ceiling to floor."

Improving Cost and Energy Savings

Turning off your building HVAC system when no one is in the building increases the demand on the HVAC system when it’s turned back on. That’s because the equipment has to work harder to reach the desired indoor temperature when it’s switched on. Using an HVAC system coupled with an industrial ceiling fan can help save energy while preventing your HVAC system from working too hard.

Designed with longer blade lengths than conventional fans, industrial ceiling fans have diameters that can range from 7 to 24 feet and move large volumes of air with minimized energy consumption per square foot. One HVLS fan can mobilize as much air as 10 to 20-floor fans or twelve 48-inch barrel fans—translating into reduced operating costs of about $1 per day. Also, this efficiency is most prevalent in colder months.

HVLS fans also help with thermal destratification to save on heating costs

In the winter—buildings with high ceilings often experience significant heat stratification where warmer air rises to the ceiling while cooler air remains at floor level. This phenomenon forces a facility’s heaters to work two to three times harder to keep employees and building occupants adequately warm while most of the heat continues to be trapped above their heads.


These points are just a few examples of how HVLS fans can be comprehensive solutions to improve workforce comfort, circulate air and heat more efficiently and reduce overall energy costs. The importance of a facility's air circulation and air management can't be underestimated, and investments in the right HVLS solution for your facility can make radical transformations in a company's wellness standards while boosting its bottom line.


5 Trends for Forward-Thinking Fleet Management

By Contributing Author | 01/03/2020 | 10:10 AM

As technology forces us to be more flexible and forward-thinking in order to stand out from the competition, the roles of fleet managers and fleet management companies are changing.

Below are five trends that forward-thinking fleet managers are embracing and implementing.

1. Electric Vehicles

Is an all-electric fleet the future? At the most recent Work Truck Show, electrification was a key topic due to the fact that electric vehicle registrations more than doubled in 2018, reaching a record high of 208,000 registrations. While consumers in some areas of the country are readily adopting this technology, fleets are just beginning to make the change.

Gasoline and diesel fuel prices have become the number one contributing factor to the high cost of fleet operations, which means electric vehicles and their fuel efficiency capabilities may rise in popularity for some fleets. While a fully electric fleet may be a stretch in some industries, for others it may become a reality in as little as the next five years. 

2. Leveraging Telematics

Fleets have many sources of data, but converting that information into an effective solution to drive business forward and lower costs can be a challenge. 

Measurable success opportunities are achievable with every trip when fleets utilize a telematics solution. Sensors, GPS devices, and engine diagnostics are installed in individual vehicles, and information is then transferred to a central location where it can be analyzed by fleet managers. This technology helps all types of fleets understand things like vehicle utilization and driver trends in order to improve safety, reduce fuel costs, and enforce better maintenance practices.

“Analyzing data to find actionable insights will continue to gain importance as fleets become more connected and the amount of data produced continues to grow,” said Tom Coffey, Senior Vice President of Merchants Fleet. “It will remain essential to start with creating a baseline and then manage to the baseline creating alters and thresholds.”

3. Work Culture

Employee satisfaction has a direct influence on the success of every company in every industry. Creating strong employee engagement starts by building an easily understood and supported culture. How can this be achieved? Here are a few ways:

  • Define Your Culture: If you do not define your culture, it will be defined for you. If you find that your workplace culture is not deliberate, this is a great opportunity to review and make changes. Think about your company’s core values and the attributes that can be amplified. Then you can work on better articulating these traits to increase employee understanding.
  • Hire & Retain Employees Based on Your Culture: If you define your workplace culture to be service-oriented and innovative, make sure the people you are bringing on board to work for you embody these characteristics. On the other hand, companies should recognize when people do not fit the culture. If an employee is struggling, try to help them understand why. This can include taking steps to improve their performance or removing them from their position.
  • Make Culture Part of the Management Process: If you define your workplace culture as collaborative but do not mention collaboration during employee performance reviews, you are telling your workforce that it actually is not important to your company.

4. Flexibility

Flexibility has become a competitive differentiator in the world of fleet management. Many top-tier fleet companies have identified market segments where they want to be known as the dominant provider, which can be an efficient way to establish a business proposition.

Here are just a few of the many options for creating a more flexible business model:

  • Client Services: Let’s say that a client needs their invoices to look a certain way because the format must match with their internal processes. This is a small ask, but the flexibility a business offers to meet the client’s needs will go a long way.
  • Scalability: For fleet management companies, especially, it is important to help clients feel like they fit with a business. Offering flexible leasing terms, operations, and services are a way to show clients that you are willing and able to scale with them.
  • Adaptability: What will the future hold for your company and your clients? In fleet management, this could include new modes of transportation or services. Being cognizant of what the future may bring will leave you open and flexible for whatever may come next.

The level of flexibility a company can provide will depend on the types of clients they serve. This could be based on fleet size, fleet type, industry, and other factors.

5. Vehicle Access

Vehicle sharing is alreadycommon in our personal lives, so it makes sense that schools, businesses, and local government offices are exploring the benefits from a business standpoint. For companies in urban areas or businesses with clustered locations, access to a centralized pool of vehicles can provide significant cost savings and a high level of convenience.  

The Boston metro area and its many colleges and universities are an example of a prime location for this type of model. The countless colleges and universities in the city have a variety of departments that require different types of vehicles for different amounts of time. Instead of each campus owning its own fleet, many schools share a single pool of vehicles. Using an easy-to-use online reservation system, a faculty member can quickly book a van to take students to an off-campus event. The benefits for the colleges are two-fold: Vehicles are available on demand and institutions do not need to invest capital into a full-time fleet management program. 

The fleet businesses that will succeed in the future will be the ones that harness data and technology to help their clients increase productivity and efficiency. It is important that fleet managers follow industry trends and utilize tools to propose forward-thinking solutions that will keep their clients laser-focused on the future.  

Author: Adam Secore, Senior Vice President of Operations, Merchants Fleet

94feedef-4fe9-475a-a417-2afb89ed4d2dAdam serves as Senior Vice President of Operations for Merchants Fleet. He joined the company in 2006. Adam provides vision and senior leadership to the over 200 employees dedicated to providing an exceptional customer experience to the diverse Merchants Fleet client base. He is focused on driving strategic operational scale and delivering best-in-class results in all operating areas. Adam is directly involved in the business architecture of the Merchants Fleet technologyTotalView, which enhances customer results. Prior to serving as the Merchants Fleet operational leader, Adam was an industry-leading General Manager for the Merchants Automotive Group retail division—the award-winning Merchants Auto pre-owned vehicle dealership. Under his leadership, Merchants Auto grew over three-fold, providing consistent, record-breaking results to the Merchants portfolio of businesses. During his tenure, Adam led all aspects of the retail business—from strategy & marketing to sales to operations & finance—and developed many innovative product offerings to Merchants Auto customers, to include Right Direction Financial Services. He has an extensive background inmanagementand the automotive industry.



Reuse, reduce, and reap rewards: Is reusable packaging the key to the supply chain revolution?

By Contributing Author | 11/25/2019 | 5:37 AM

By Bob Petersen, Vice-President of Marketing and Product Management, ORBIS Corporation

The consumer-packaged goods (CPG) supply chain is always evolving. From the storage and shipping of olives and wine during Roman times to the mass production that was possible because of the Industrial Revolution, the way we stock and deliver goods has adapted and evolved throughout the years.

Much like the changes that came before, it’s clear we are experiencing another supply chain revolution. With reusability on the top of the consumer’s mind, increasingly stringent food safety standards, cost-driven automation, instant-delivery options and the unrelenting rise of e-commerce, the supply chain hasn’t simply evolved — it’s been turned on its head.

With so much to consider, how can today’s CPGs who are pushing reusability in their consumer packaging, embrace reusability throughout the entire supply chain? The answer is simple: they must find new ways to innovate and adapt their operations to support reusable pallets, totes and other packaging. By incorporating these types of solutions, they can cut costs, decrease system downtime, optimize freight, reduce waste and decrease product damage to meet the supply chain revolution head on.

The new supply chain must be reusable …

More than anything, CPG supply chain professionals should look to reusability as a source of sustainable, measurable returns. Reusable packaging allows companies to store, move and distribute product within a single operation or entire supply chain, offering flexibility that single-use packaging cannot offer. By design, it is ideal for both closed-loop environments and well-managed open-loop systems, with reverse logistics in place to return empty containers and pallets for re-use.

In addition to versatility, reusable packaging is available in a variety of forms that meet demanding supply chain needs. Pallets, hand-held containers, bins, boxes, totes, bulk containers and protective dunnage are revolutionizing the longevity of material handling while reducing packaging waste and costs. These containers also provide a crucial advantage over single-use storage systems: standardized sizes that ensure more product per packaging and more packaging per truck load, resulting in more efficient transportation and cost savings.

… because reusability means repeatability….

In the supply chain, reusability can equal repeatability, which is good for plant operations and distribution centers that are eager to reduce variability. In fact, reusable packaging can have approximately 18 times the life span of limited-use packaging. Testing done at the Virginia Tech Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design found that a 40-by-48-inch plastic pallet can complete a 10-step handling sequence up to 200 times without failure, while a 40-by-48-inch whitewood stringer pallet failed after approximately 11 cycles. In addition to reusability, reusable packaging is standardized, meaning better interface with automation, easier warehousing, more accurate picking and better truck utilization.

Automated picking systems work best with standardized reusable packaging. Single-use boxes made from limited-use materials such as corrugated can tear, become wet or get crushed, making it difficult for automated systems to properly move product along the supply chain. Plastic boxes hold their shape over time, so sensors and equipment can get consistent reads that ensure movement through the system without jams or delays.

In warehousing and distribution center environments, standardized packaging stacks and racks more efficiently to save on floor space. Automated or manual picking and fulfillment rates rise with standard totes and hoppers. Furthermore, combining mobility and reusable packaging will take precedence at distribution and fulfillment centers by seamlessly connecting the picking and delivery stages of the supply chain. The mobility of carts and pallets can accelerate picking, improve order accuracy and meet omnichannel fulfillment demands.

When it comes to distribution and when packed on trucks, standardized reusable packaging can mean more product per shipment, as well as quick unload at its destination, which reduces driver dwell time. Mobile reusable packaging increases efficiency during delivery as loads can be rolled off the truck and placed directly in the aisle, eliminating down-stacking and increasing one-touch merchandising and replenishing speeds.

The supply chain is the ideal place for reusables, with known return loops. With trusted supply chain partners, packaging is easily returned for replenishment. Additionally, packaging management services are available for the cleaning, tracking and managing of these packaging assets, so CPGs can focus on their core business.

… which leads to sustainable results …

It’s true that sustainability solutions have become buzzwords in many industries, and they impact the CPG supply chain as well. However — unlike other industries — making the transition to reusable packaging in the supply chain business isn’t simply environmentally friendly, but it’s also good for growth and consumer confidence, which will lift sales.

For instance, reusable packaging offers easy cleanability and, unlike other materials, does not absorb water, odors or bacteria. At the end of its service life, it is recovered, recycled and reprocessed into usable packaging again, without going into the solid waste stream. Lastly, these products come in a wide variety of colors and offer various identification options, ensuring their success in warehouses and retail environments alike. These advantages are aesthetically pleasing and address cleanability requirements while also increasing the service life of totes and pallets to more than 200 trips throughout the supply chain.

… and ultimately creates supply chain success and consumer loyalty

Arguably, no reaction to the changing CPG supply chain — not investing in the needs of tomorrow — could limit success. As reusable packaging in the CPG industry increases, so should reusable packaging throughout the supply chain. Considering both will help implement sustainability throughout an entire business. In a world where automation, e-commerce, omnichannel delivery and food safety tactics are simultaneously becoming more and more complex, single-use storage containers and delivery systems aren’t going to cut it.

Instead, by investing in innovative, reusable supply chain solutions such as reusable packaging that embrace the principles of mobility, ease of use, sustainability and more, companies can meet the challenge of increasing demand head-on, ensuring future growth, customer confidence and continuous improvement.

To learn more, visit www.orbiscorporation.com.

How Reusable Packaging Benefits a Tight Labor Market

By Contributing Author | 11/13/2019 | 10:22 AM

By Justin Hermsen, ORBIS Corporation


The “Amazon effect” can be seen in all parts of the supply chain, but much of the pressure is placed on warehouse managers struggling to find skilled labor to fulfill the mass amount of online orders. A recent report from CBREstates e-commerce is creating demand for an additional 452,000 warehouse and distribution workers in 2018-19.

Between today’s tight labor market and the growing volume of e-commerce sales, automation is becoming an increasingly appealing way for the industry to reduce costs, increase speed, improve pick accuracy and to fulfill demanding high-turnover jobs.

Automated systems are highly independent, but they can’t move goods through the supply chain alone. To best reap automation’s benefits, it’s important to remember that automated equipment is constantly interacting with packaging to get products from point A to point B. This packaging is just as important to business success as the equipment itself; however, many companies are still using wood pallets or fiber corrugated boxes, which can be dimensionally inconsistent and can cause costly system downtime.

The packaging industry, in particular, has played a key role in the automation boom. It is creating innovative solutions, such as reusable plastic packaging, which include features that make moving through commonly used automated systems easier, repeatable and more effective. Reusable packaging provides a consistent and reliable solution for an automated system’s precise needs, making automation as productive and efficient as it was intended to be.

Reusable totes, bulk containers and pallets are used to safely and efficiently move, store and distribute product along different points of the supply chain and ultimately to its destination. Of its many advantages, the following three benefits of reusable packaging are most significant to automation:

  1. Standardized size ensures operation consistency.The standardized dimensions of reusable packaging mean it will consistently move through the system without jams, reducing costly stops and delays in production. This is significant, as organizations can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars when an automated system is stopped. The smooth, contoured surfaces of reusable packaging, including reusable pallets and totes, are free of nails and loose corrugated flaps, preventing any halts within a high-speed automated system.

Reusable packaging is dimensionally consistent for repeat performance in automation. By design, reusable         packaging products are easy to handle and interface effortlessly with all types of high-speed automated equipment. In fact, some products are specially designed to be "hands-free" and solely handled by robots or conveyors.

  1. Plastic doesn’t shed system-interfering debris. Plastic packaging doesn’t create dust and other debris that can build up in the automated system and cause jams — leading to costly shutdowns. The smooth design of reusable plastic packaging makes it free from protruding nails, loose boards and staples that are common with alternative pallets, for example, and can interfere with high-speed automated systems.
  1. Design features that accommodate multiple automation types. Reusable packaging offers design features and capabilities to optimize fully or partially automated systems. These features include molded-in lifting tabs; dividability; flat label areas that can be read by sensors; smooth exteriors; and reinforced bottoms, upper rims and bumpers to travel seamlessly through high-speed systems.

With the wide range of reusable packaging solutions for automated systems, companies should consider a third-party packaging partner that can customize a solution for your automated system to meet your functional needs. A third-party partner can help audit your current system and help initiate new thinking or out-of-the-box solutions to help you identify packaging that aligns with the application and the way your system operates.

Considering the tight labor market and influx of e-commerce sales, the automation boom doesn’t seem to be quieting down any time soon, and the technology will continue to play a greater role in supply chains. The packaging used to carry goods throughout supply chain systems will have a greater significance too. Automating and optimizing supply chains can create competitive advantages for companies that can successfully implement them with the correct systems. As you design your automated system and advance your supply chain capabilities, explore what reusable packaging can do to make your system run as smooth as possible.


High_Quality-Justin_editJustin Hermsen is a national account manager at ORBIS Corporation, an international leader in reusable packaging. Justin works closely with today's world-class CPGs to analyze their supply chain and implement reusable packaging programs, using a combination of products and packaging management services, including asset management and on-site implementation support.

Green Trucking Now: How Route Optimization Immediately Cuts Miles, Emissions, Congestion and Costs

By Contributing Author | 09/05/2019 | 7:40 AM

By William Salter, CEO, Paragon Software Systems

Advanced route planning boosts companies’ green trucking strategies without waiting for expensive new trucks, while saving money too.

The trucking industry needs to raise its game when it comes to sustainability. Medium- and heavy-duty trucks produce 23% of all transportation emissions in the U.S., even though they only make up 5% of all vehicles on the road, according to the EPA. That’s why there’s a buzz about what newly-efficient engines, trucks that run on alternative fuels, and even Uber Freight, can do to help the industry go greener.

For most, these are solutions some way off in the future, as they require substantial capital investment and/or operational changes. Implementing truck route optimization software, on the other hand, is something that can move the needle on green right away, because it applies to the trucks you have now.

Here’s how.

More efficient routes mean fewer miles driven, less time on the road. 

The first principle of sustainability when it comes to hauling freight by truck is to burn less fuel. And the easiest way to do that is to drive fewer miles in less time. With advanced truck route optimization software, routes are planned and executed using sophisticated algorithms that cut unnecessary fuel usage down to the bone. It also means you’re saving money every day, by using your existing equipment more efficiently. That might be a lot more attractive than shelling out nearly $400,000 in the short term for a brand new hydrogen-powered truck.

Route optimization is about more than simply finding the shortest way of going from A to B to C to D on a multi-stop delivery trip, although that is the first order of business. It enables (and may even proactively suggest) other strategies and practices that save fuel and emissions.

These include:

Delivering on time. Turning up on time reduces the chances that drivers will be left idling in line and burning unnecessary fuel while picking up a load or at the point of delivery, since they’ve turned up when the customer is ready to receive them. It also means drivers can fit more deliveries into a day, because they deliver faster, and can quickly be on their way to the next delivery.

Dropping off heavy items first. The heavier an item is, the more fuel it takes to haul a mile. Truck route optimization software can factor in the weight of each delivery and ensure that the heaviest item(s) are delivered first, to minimize fuel consumption, even if that means driving a few extra miles.

Identifying backhaul opportunities. Uber Freight touts as one of its promises, “No more deadhead miles.” But this is something you can achieve yourself. Advanced route optimization software uses the power of computing to crunch unimaginably complex possibilities and scenarios, including identifying opportunities to pick up another load on the way back to the depot, or move loads between DCs on the way to a delivery. Another opportunity to save miles and fuel.

Supporting carbon-reducing strategy changes. Route optimization software also gives you a powerful strategic tool to assess carbon-reduction strategies.  You can run what-if scenarios before changing a thing or spending a dime, to see if alterations will have the desired green result. What if you consolidated two delivery regions, or split one into two? What if you changed the delivery schedule to a customer? What if you deployed a different fleet mix?

The biggest prize: fewer trucks

Green trucking doesn’t just mean more efficiently-deployed trucks; it means fewer trucks, too – on the road and in your depot. According to the National Private Truck Council, more than a quarter of U.S. trucks are driving around empty. Even when they're not empty, truck trailers are 36 percent under-utilized, according to Department of Transport statistics.

Reducing inefficiencies in truck routing means you need fewer trucks to complete the same number of deliveries. That decreases road-congestion, cuts air pollution and saves you money via lower capital costs and maintenance charges.

Even if you have decided to invest in greener trucks, route optimization software will make sure they run as efficiently as possible by driving the least miles and time.

Any way you look at it, advanced route optimization software offers not only sustainable freight practices but substantial savings in transportation costs as well, right off the bat. Implementation can be achieved in weeks, and ROI is usually measured in months. Whatever your opinion on climate change, that’s an attractive proposition.


Will Salter (Paragon)Will Salter is CEO of Paragon Software Systems, which offers routìng and scheduling software to companies operating delivery fleets in over 60 countries. Since taking on the role of CEO in 2002, Will has remained focused on the transportation industry’s need to squeeze the maximum value out of assets and resources.

Understanding and improving your order picking

By Contributing Author | 07/30/2019 | 1:18 PM

By: Shannon Curtis, order pickers product manager, and Erica Moyer, pallet truck and stacker product manager, The Raymond Corporation; Shawn Turner, corporate warehouse product manager, Carolina Handling, LLC

According to a dairy industry case study, 55% of warehouse operating costs and 70% of operating time go toward order picking. The cost of mispicking or short shipment has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, operational costs and future revenue potential. Industry challenges like the shortage of warehouse space and skilled workers — as well as the demand for increased productivity, quicker order fulfillment and SKU growth, all while maintaining a focus on keeping overall costs low — are creating tremendous pressure within warehouses and distribution centers.

Order picking should be quick and easy, no matter how large or small your picks are per day. Reducing the time from 15 seconds to 10 seconds per pick makes a big difference. There are several order picking methods available: traditional, semi-automated and fully automated order picking.

What is order picking?

Order picking is the process of locating and pulling product from your warehouse inventory to fulfill a customer order. From there, product is packed and shipped, eventually being put in the customer’s hands. While this process may sound simple, it is often more complicated than many people believe. How do you ensure you’re picking a product in the most efficient and productive way? How do you keep up with the ever-evolving challenges in the supply chain?


Operators pick, replenish and let-down items within their specified work zone for their approved operating equipment. Manual machines allow access to low-level and high-velocity product placement. As a general rule, employees should not pick, pack or handle items larger than themselves (40 to 80 pounds is ideal) and operate within best practices.

Retail and businesses selling fast-moving consumer goods with high SKU counts tend to benefit from traditional order picking methods. Traditional picking systems provide verifiable accuracy without expensive equipment and massive investments.

Within the traditional order picking approach, there are several picking methods. The most common ones include:

  • Paper picking: Paper-based order picking, or label processing, relies on selectors to perform picks based on paper pick lists, put-away labels, printed Value Added Service (VAS) instructions and other paper documents. Paper or label processing is thought of as a good fit for smaller operations with relatively straightforward transaction requirements.
  • Single order picking: The selector is provided one order at a time and then goes through the warehouse to find each item on the pick list before completing the order. Route optimization is not typically provided.
  • Batch picking:The selector picks multiple orders at a time. The picking environment allows the selector to pick SKUs required for multiple orders at a time. This minimizes travel time and increases picking efficiencies.
  • Zone picking method: This divides the warehouse into several zones and assigns selectors to only work within a specific zone. Each zone can use its own type of technology and storage system, depending on what would work best for the SKUs and storage technology used in that location.However, it does have a low pick ratio.
  • Wave picking method: This method is most commonly used when there are a large number of SKUs and a high ratio of similar-looking packages. It allows for all products to be picked from what appears to be random locations. A sorter brings common items of the same order together to the packing area.


Semi-automated pick options work alongside traditional order picking methods to increase picking efficiencies.

  • Voice picking: This voice-directed picking system allows the selectors to work hands-free. The warehouse management system (WMS) sends the voice pick receiver the pick list. The order selector is directed by the voice pick receiver on where to go, what part to pick and how many pieces to pick for each customer order. The operator will verbally confirm his/her pick location with a phase such as “check digit” and confirm the pick quantity and customer with a verbal command such as “2, Alpha.”
  • RF scanning: This method involves a wireless handheld device that uses a radio frequency wireless network to communicate with the WMS. The WMS sends the pick list to the scanning terminal. Once the selector has picked an item against the pick list and has scanned the barcode, it sends a message back to the WMS for pick verification. Once the selector has completed his/her pick list the WMS will send the next pick list to the selector.
  • Pick-to-light technologies: This method utilizes colored LED lights to indicate which products are ready to be picked or placed throughout the warehouse, allowing operators to move quickly and confidently from one location to the next with easy-to-follow visual cues. Pick-to-light is traditionally used in conjunction with scanning or voice picking solutions.


Automated order picking follows the process of placing, picking and retrieving items from their specified storage areas by using systems that integrate software with equipment and work alongside WMS/Warehouse Control System (WCS). Automated picking is seen to be more productive and efficient as it eliminates or reduces the need for manual labor. It can also be more precise as the WMS integration reduces the chance of human error.

Due to the efficiency and adaptability, automated order picking methods are great for businesses in a wide variety of industries. As with the traditional order picking approach, there are a variety of automated picking methods:

  • Zone picking: Each order picker is assigned to a specific zone and will only pull product from that area. The shipping container will move through the zones via a conveyor belt.
  • Automated case picking: This approach uses an automated crane to pick up heavy or large cases. The crane can transport, lift, store, replenish and pick. This method allows for much higher shelving and better use of warehouse space.
  • Pallet picking: This method combines pallet conveyors, automated cranes and sorting systems. Ideal for businesses that mainly receive and ship palletized products and cases, pallet picking ensures product is safely moved and warehouse space is used efficiently.
  • Batch picking:The selectorremains in one location while horizontal and vertical carousels deliver the required SKUs to the worker.

Whether you opt for a traditional, semi-automated or fully automated approach to order picking, each method offers benefits for your warehouse. As a general best practice, establish goals and tracking systems for stockouts and misplaced items to help avoid wasting time and effort by picking. Additionally, grouping items with similar SKUs in the same area will help reduce picking time and ensure the space can handle high-volume activity. Finally, it is important to optimize. Whether it is selecting the right container for product or choosing between traditional, semi-automated or fully automated methods, identifying and addressing your specific needs keeps the warehouse running efficiently and productively.

As your business evolves and grows, your order picking process should, too. Check in regularly with warehouse managers and workers to see how your current system is working and if there’s room for improvement.


Warehouse Productivity is Declining: Blame it on E-commerce

By Contributing Author | 06/04/2019 | 5:38 AM

By Ryan Birtwell, Chief Operating Officer, Lucas Systems


Productivity dropped by 7.6 percent in the warehousing and storage industry last year, according to a news release issued May 23 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Digging deeper into the numbers shows that the government figures don’t paint an accurate picture of what is happening in the warehousing and distribution space. In fact, the apparent decline in productivity is a function of the increasing share of ecommerce orders flowing out of warehouses and DCs, rather than a true reflection of labor productivity rates. Here’s why.

Everyone involved in distribution understands that it takes more labor to pick and ship 25 pieces for individual consumers than it does to pick one case of 25 for a single store. So as ecommerce increases as a percent of total retail sales, each picking is increasing as a percent of DC activity. Therefore, the number of labor hours required to ship the same value of goods is increasing. And that’s exactly how BLS measures productivity: output per labor hour.

In contrast to the BLS measure of productivity, warehouse productivity measured in lines picked per hour is steadily rising as DCs adapt their processes and invest in new technologies to address the ecommerce transition. On the one hand, more and more DCs are adopting proven productivity tools like voice picking or slotting. For example, voice picking usage has increased to 25 percent over the last decade, according to last year’s WERC DC Measures Survey.

Beyond the tried and true technologies, warehouses and DCs are starting to benefit from a raft of new technologies including automated mobile robots (AMRs) and other digital automation solutions such as machine learning and math-based work optimization engines and planning tools. These new technology investments are dramatically increasing warehouse productivity in lines per hour. But they will not be enough to make up for the growing demand for workers to pick, pack and ship orders. (Lucas will be discussing how these robotic and digital tools address productivity challenges in an upcoming webinar).

By our estimates, the growth in ecommerce sales—from roughly 5.8% of total retail sales in 2013 to 10.2% today—is driving a 10% annual increase in demand for warehouse labor (this is consistent with the BLS figures). Through 2021, ecommerce is expected to account for 13.7% of retail sales, further driving demand for workers.

Even if AMRs reduce total labor requirements by 10 percent (as predicted by Gartner), the industry will still need 20 percent more workers in 2021 than it employs today. At most, automation (robotic and digital) is providing a brake on employment growth. Warehouse and DC operators will continue to add jobs at a steady clip for the foreseeable future, even as they adopt technology to make every worker (and manager) more productive.

NOTE: The BLS labor and productivity data is for companies whose primary activity is listed as warehousing and storage services, NAICS industry code 493 (and sub-categories), essentially third party logistics companies. Although the data do not cover the warehousing and distribution operations of companies whose primary business activity is retail, ecommerce, or wholesale distribution, the 3PL industry is a good representation for the wider warehousing and distribution space. The ecommerce affect outlined here is being experienced across virtually every industry that distributes goods, including retail, manufacturing and traditional B2B distribution.


New M&R Software Innovations Keep Fleet Managers In Check

By Contributing Author | 06/03/2019 | 11:06 AM

By Matt Hendrix, senior director of fleet services, Fleet Advantage


Over the last twelve to twenty-four months, it seems as though topics such as autonomous driving and ELD mandates have flooded the news headlines for the fleet transportation industry. And deservedly so, these are no doubt topical, important issues. However, in running your fleet day-to-day, understanding the evolution of maintenance and repair (M&R) issues continues to be right up there in level of importance.

M&R is critical because it significantly impacts every type of operation and having improper management of M&R can drastically erode profits from the bottom line, and the older the truck, the costlier it gets.

According to a recent report on lifecycle strategy, M&R costs on a 2012 sleeper model-year total $23,100, compared with $2,070 on a new, 2019 model-year truck, providing a savings of $21,030. 

A shorter lifecycle produces long-term savings beyond the first-year. When fleets adopt a three-year lifecycle for their trucks, replacing with new technology in year four, they realize a savings of $42,830 in M&R calculated in years four through seven when compared to a fleet driving the same truck for the full seven years.

More Trucks Equals More M&R Challenges

More fleet managers are realizing these numbers, and they’re now placing a higher emphasis on M&R strategies. According to a recent survey, 40% of respondents listed M&R as their top motivating factor for acquiring new trucks. However, the survey shows that costs are not the only concern fleets have regarding maintenance; 26.7% also believe a safe, well-maintained truck is most beneficial in driver recruitment and retention – critical since the driver shortage remains a difficult issue for many fleet and transportation companies.

This issue will only grow in the coming years, as fleets look to either replace trucks or add to their mix to handle more demand for the economy. FTR reports North American Class-8 orders for October continued to surge, registering at 43,000 that month.  ACT Research’s numbers show 43,600 Class 8 trucks in October.

With the demand for shipping and transporting goods remaining healthy, and more trucks coming online in the coming months, how can innovative software and data analytics help fleets and transportation companies better manage M&R activities?

Innovative M&R Software Resources

Today’s leading M&R software now enables private fleets and for-hire carriers to leverage intuitive dashboards instead of complicated spreadsheets and allows users to create their own custom view with the information that interests them most: vehicle performance for fleet managers, M&R data for repair personnel, and even custom financial models for the C-level.

Innovations in M&R software now allow fleets to manage their entire operations, with views on everything from operational costs, M&R data, replacement vehicle savings, vehicle servicing and histories; and these software platforms are now mobile-responsive for on-the-go fleet management.

Today’s new M&R software can track expenses for a fleet in every aspect of the truck’s requirements, such as expenditures that include tires, tubes, liners and valves; preventative maintenance measures; brakes; expendable items; exhaust systems; fuel systems; and more.

Heavy-duty trucks must be well-maintained throughout the year and be prepared for all weather patterns. It’s important to take every precaution necessary, particularly with M&R to ensure the safety of drivers operating the trucks as well as other motorists on the roads. As such, it would be wise for fleets and for-hire carriers to pay particularly close attention to the latest software innovations that leverage fleet utilization data and analytics to track all M&R activity to help ensure each truck is operating at a premium level. This will not only ensure safety for all on the road, it will significantly help the bottom line as well.


Matt Hendrix (Fleet Advantage)Matt Hendrix, CTP is the Senior Director of Fleet Services at Fleet Advantage, which just recently unveiled its ATLAAS Unified fleet management software with key M&R performance metrics and tracking. Matt has over 20 years of mechanical, operational and fleet management experience and provides fleet monitoring, technical expertise and oversees compliance for Fleet Advantage clients. For more information visit www.FleetAdvantage.com











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.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to [email protected].


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital