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Improve Efficiency on the Dock with an Electric Trailer Dolly

By Contributing Author | 02/27/2019 | 8:57 AM

By Dawn Felker, Senior Sales Engineer, DJ Products Inc.

At a typical distribution or manufacturing center, shunting trailers from one spot to another takes up a significant amount of time and labor during the work day. In fact, this activity can account for a substantial portion of a yard’s operating budget and can create significant inefficiencies.

To outsiders, that may sound like an odd statement—why would such an apparently simple activity lead to so much hassle? A lot of it has to do with driver availability and the difficulty of maintaining the right equipment to do the job.

That’s why keeping an electric trailer dolly on site can go a long way toward boosting your yard’s efficiency – unlike other outdated, expensive, and time-consuming trailer-shunting “solutions.”

Traditional Ways of Moving Trailers

Legally, if your driver ever needs to leave your trailer lot, a standard yard truck can be operated only by an individual who possesses a valid Commercial Driver's License (CDL). For yard managers, this makes the act of moving a single trailer significantly more challenging. It’s not possible for just any available employee to shunt a trailer. Other solutions are available, but unfortunately - most of them have serious drawbacks.

  • Relying on inbound truckers: A lot of sites depend on inbound truckers to help them with trailer-shunting responsibilities while they’re on the premises. But this isn’t a reliable solution. You have to wait for the truckers to arrive—which means that your trailers may sit on the dock or in your yard, which can keep dock doors plugged for hours. All that idle time can have a detrimental effect on your yard’s efficiency and your bottom line.
  • Using a third-party shunting service: Another option is to hire a third-party company to dispatch a driver to your yard. Not only does this require advanced planning, but these services can be costly. In fact, many shunting companies charge around $100-$200 per trailer or require a minimum time commitment (e.g., three or four hours).
  • Keeping a semi-tractor on site– This may sound like a convenient solution… until you factor in the maintenance costs associated with these vehicles. Diesel maintenance expenses are no joke, and you can expect these expenditures to increase as the vehicle ages.
  • Keeping a licensed truck driver on the payroll - Having a licensed full-time driver will eliminate your dependence on outsiders – but at a steep cost. CDL drivers are in high demand and without a lot of effort, OTR drivers can find a job paying over $70,000/year or more. You’ll have to pay a competitive wage to keep that driver around. Do you have the budget for a skilled driver who could easily make a good salary elsewhere? For a lot of yard managers, the answer is no.

How an Electric Trailer Dolly Can Help

Remember all those costly, inefficient practices you just read about above? With the right electric trailer dolly, they’ll become a distance memory. 

  • At a moment’s notice: With an electric trailer dolly on-site, you have access to a means to move trailers quickly and easily at any time – by just about anyone. That’s right, no CDL required.  
  • Reduced maintenance costs: In addition, an electric trailer dolly eliminates the pricey maintenance demands of a diesel powered semi-tractor. Battery power is less expensive for you and friendlier for the environment.
  • Size does matter: The compact size of a trailer dolly will also work to your benefit. Compared with yard trucks, an electric trailer dolly is much easier to maneuver through crowded yards, and less likely to cause costly damage to trucks, buildings, and property. Smaller, battery-powered trailer movers are capable of tighter turns and more precise operator control.
  • Forward-facing operation: A related benefit that is offered by many trailer dollies is forward-facing operation, which removes the dangers and challenges involved with backing a trailer into tight spaces or narrow loading dock.

Any yard manager owes it to themselves to consider adding an electric trailer dolly to their operation. You’ll soon find that adding one to your site will change the way you think about shunting trailers altogether. Instead of worrying about who can do it, how much it will cost, and when the trailer will get moved, with a little bit of training, just about anyone on staff will be able to move trailers in and out of the docks. This will help your keep your yard operations running smoothly and profitably.  

 

Picture1Dawn Felker is a Senior Sales Engineer at DJ Products, Inc., a manufacturer of power tuggers and trailer movers, including the TrailerCaddy Terminal Tractor. This vehicle, powered by a 48-volt battery system, can move loaded and empty trailers, and can be operated by almost any employee – no CDL required. Dawn has 15 years of experience specializing in helping manufacturing and transportation companies improve efficiency with products such as the TrailerCaddy. Dawn can be reached via email at dawn.felker@djproducts.com. Find out more about the trailer moving products that DJ Products manufactures by clicking here.

Green is the New Gold: The upcoming electric revolution that will shake the logistics industry

By Contributing Author | 02/08/2019 | 5:22 AM

By Andrew Edwards, Process Assistant, Amazon.com

Paris is burning. The protests, known collectively as the “Yellow Vest Movement,” are in response to the new fuel tax in France that has caused gas prices to surge. The protests have now even begun to spill over into other European countries that also have rising fuel taxes due to the Paris Climate Accord. In the business world the protests shine a light on the rising costs of fuel worldwide and the battle against them. Some are looking at Tesla’s Electric Semi as the answer while others are looking at other electric modes of transportation. One thing is for sure though – green is the new gold.

Fuel taxes are no new thing, and certainly not just a European phenomenon. In the United States the first state fuel tax was enacted in Oregon in 1919, and a federal fuel tax went into effect in 1932 with its last increase being in 1993. The effects of the state and federal fuel taxes are different thought. While the federal fuel tax is an excise tax that is paid at the time of manufacture, state fuel use taxes are paid by the end-user styled as a “Highway Tax” which is paid based on the calculated amount of fuel used while passing through that particular state. This makes electric commercial vehicles all that more appealing. The questions going forward are how will states enact fuel taxes on vehicles that don’t use fossil fuels? And how many companies will buy into this new logic?

The secret has gotten out, though. Vehicle manufacturers realize that commercial electric vehicles are a sure bet for companies wanting to save money on fuel as well as wanting to lower their carbon footprint. On November 16, 2017, Tesla unveiled the prototype of their groundbreaking Tesla Semi with the first pre-orders coming in that very same day. This Class 8 tractor will run solely on electricity and will be backed up by a nationwide network of solar powered “Mega-Chargers” which will also be set up by Tesla. Tesla is not alone in the race for an Electric Semi’s, though. Plans for electric trucks have also been announced by companies such as Daimler/Freightliner and the new startup Nikola Motors, the latter of which already has its first pre-order from Anhauser-Busch.

This green revolution is not just happening on land, though. In December 2017 China’s Guangzhou shipyard launched the very first all-electric cargo ship – a 230 foot long vessel with a 2400 kWh lithium-ion battery to power it. Just like the fierce competition to push the world’s first electric Semi’s the battle in the ship building field is heating up among companies as well. In the Netherlands shipbuilder Port-Liner has received a €7million subsidy from the European Union to build what it calls “Tesla Ships” which it says will be capable of carrying 280 containers – with the goal of replacing over the road transport in the country. Another contender is a collaboration between Yara International (a Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer) and Kongsberg Group (a military and autonomous technology developer) to build the Yara Birkeland – a ship which will be able to carry 120 containers and be autonomous as well as being electric. Yara has also stated that their end goal is to reduce the number of over the road vehicles they operate.

Lest we forget, the race to build electric trucks and ships is not just about the cost savings, but about climate impact. There is a push among companies, particularly in the logistics field, to lower their carbon footprint with each company vying for the lowest emissions. UPS in the past two years has added more than 700 compressed natural gas vehicles to its fleet, spending more than $90million. Not to be outdone in the green arms race Amazon.com has spent over $1billion on green initiatives including using wind power for Amazon web services and 100% solar fulfillment centers in the United Kingdom. What is apparent is though there is a fierce debate over the impacts of climate change and global warming, companies want to reduce the effects of smog on large cities.

We are seeing the very beginnings of the green revolution, in some places boiling down to actual revolts. The protests in Europe highlight the fact that there will be a large price for the continued use of ever smaller reserves of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the fight among companies has been to have the first or greatest green technology on land, sea, and now even air with aircraft such as the Boeing Fuel Cell Demonstrator. One thing this abundantly clear though – the field of Logistics will be the forefront and the battleground of this upcoming revolution.

 

Andrew Edwards is a Process Assistant at Amazon.com as well as a Logistics & Operations Management student at We

The Benefits of Web-Interfacing Technology in Truck Weighing Applications

By Contributing Author | 01/29/2019 | 7:25 AM

By Derrick Mashaney, Director of Product Development, Fairbanks Scales

One of the main challenges of truck weighing is keeping track of and properly utilizing scale data. There are numerous reasons to keep track of all the data stored by scales used in weighing on a daily basis, such as for use in invoicing, for monitoring trends over time, and for general convenience, but traditionally, there has not been an efficient, convenient method by which to track scale data. Traditional methods of tracking data are slow, cumbersome, and inexact, and yet the majority of the truck weighing industry still uses these outdated methods. Web-Interfacing technology is the efficient, convenient solution that the truck weighing industry has traditionally lacked.  

Web-interfacing technology is a method of connecting a truck scale or piece of weighing equipment to a computer or tablet via an ethernet connection, be it a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN). Simply put, a web-interfaced weighing instrument can be connected to another connected device on its network, and then accessed via a web-based interface.

Overall Convenience

Web-interfacing technology in truck weighing applications offers numerous benefits, including overall convenience and efficiency.

This technology is convenient because it allows for more or less instant access to full archives of scale data. Stored transaction data and other important information such as customer files and product files to be accessed and edited remotely. The ability to complete these tasks without leaving one’s desk is undoubtedly more convenient than the traditional manual methods of completing the same tasks.

Many organizations still handle their data manually, using methods such as printing out desired data from the scale itself in the form of paper reports or tickets, and then having to keep track of those tickets or printed pages in order to maintain a usable archive of information. This usable archive of tickets and print-outs will still be quite difficult to navigate, and inevitably, tickets are lost and the archive’s usefulness diminishes over time. Archiving data in this way is antiquated and there is no reason for any organization to do so. Real-time data tracking using traditional methods is equally labor-intensive and ineffective. For example, using traditional scale technology and data tracking methods, to find information as simple as the number of transactions made on a given scale for a given month would require halting the scale’s use and then taking down the information manually, such as by going through printed tickets or transaction reports, not to mention having to leave one’s workspace and intrude into the scale house workspace. With web-interfacing technology, the desired information could be accessed near instantly from any computer or device on the network. Rather than having to leave one’s desk and walk to wherever the scale with the desired data is located, and then using some form of the old methods described above to retrieve the desired information, one could, using web-interfacing technology, simply open up the web interface for the desired scale and retrieve the information in seconds.

Even using a more modern method than tracking printed tickets, such as a PC serially connected to a weighing instrument, while slightly faster and more advanced than paper methods, is still wholly inferior to a web-interfaced system. A serial connection requires the connected computer to be within 50-1000 ft (depending on the protocol being used) of the weighing instrument. Web-interfacing technology, however, can be accessed remotely by any computer on the network, so it isn’t nearly as limited in terms of access to weighing instruments. In addition, data transfer via a serial connection is slower than an ethernet connection, and, of course, the serial connection limits data access to the single device that is physically connected at the time. Regardless of the traditional method it is compared to, the time and energy savings possible using web-interfacing technology are large, tangible, and essential.

Increased Efficiency

In addition to and as a result of offering the kind of convenience described above, web-interfacing technology in weighing also makes the operation of a weighing business more efficient. Rather than keeping track of and navigating physical files of scale data, as many organizations using traditional methods do, web-interfaced scale data is digitally stored as a CSV file, which can be saved, edited, and disseminated much faster and more easily than a printed ticket or piece of paper. Additionally, CSV files are easily imported into a variety of spreadsheet programs and applications, which allows for the data to be easily manipulated and configured in any number of desired ways, such as looking at metrics like high volume customers for the prior month, data regarding particular products, or total transactions for any set period of time.

One example of how web-interfacing technology makes businesses more efficient overall is invoicing. Invoicing under a web-interfaced system is more efficient than it would be using standard methods because important data used to set prices for services can be accessed in real-time as those services are being performed, i.e. the total weight of a delivery might determine the price. Rather than having to take down the weight manually after the delivery has been completed, that information is instantly accessible as soon as the truck drives off the scale.

This increased efficiency in invoicing could carry over into other areas of the business. For example, imagine a rock quarry delivering stone to a job. These kinds of jobs are often paid by the ton. Using web-interfacing technology, the quarry can easily track the process on the job based on the percentage of the total weight ordered that has been delivered to the customer at any given point in time. Each time a truck is weighed and departs with a load for the customer, that information would be instantly accessible to managers at the quarry, who can then use that information immediately to inform how they prioritize all jobs at hand and how they can best allocate resources to them. For instance, if the stone delivery job is behind, managers would know this in real-time, and could send more trucks or come up with other solutions to complete the job on time.

Maintenance is also more efficient under a web-interfacing scale system. For example, Fairbanks Scales’ system can be maintained through the web-interface. Fairbanks technicians can log-in to the network on-site using their device and perform diagnostic checks, troubleshooting procedures, or even calibration processes on any connected scale or piece of weighing equipment. Being able to perform these tasks via the web interface makes the tasks much easier and faster to perform, so fixing or recalibrating a troublesome scale is no longer a significant endeavor.

Easy to Implement, Yet Underutilized

Despite the advantages of web-interfacing technology, very few in the truck weighing industry utilize the technology. There are no real barriers to entry for using such technology. Most businesses already operate on a local area network or wide area network, and if not, setting up a stand-alone, private network between a device and a scale is easy and inexpensive.

In short, web-interfacing technology is essential to running an efficient truck-weighing business, offering remote and instant access to all scale-related data that could be needed in any situation. Such technology greatly increases the convenience and speed with which numerous tasks involving stored scale information can be performed, and as such, its importance should not be overlooked.

 

Derrick Mashaney is the Director of Product Development at Fairbanks Scales, a company that provides scaling technology and web-interfacing technology as a standard part of all of their truck weighing instruments. The exact specifications of their scales vary from application to application and model to model, but the effect that web-interfacing technology has on the ease of access to those scales’ data is universal. 

How the Latest Government Shutdown Affects Today’s Transportation Professionals

By Contributing Author | 01/25/2019 | 7:13 PM

By Jason Craig – Director, Government Affairs, C.H. Robinson

 

Whenever a government shutdown happens, there are bound to be areas of disruption within our industry. As it currently stands, the December 2018 shutdown is only a partial closing.

Yet, issues are already apparent—including some significant problems that cannot be resolved until the shutdown is over. If the shutdown extends longer term, more supply chain professionals may be affected.

While the government shut down most directly affects the thousands of employees not receiving paychecks, others are beginning to feel the effects too. During times of uncertainty, many people choose to slow spending and wait. It’s likely that this behavior could affect our entire economy if the shutdown continues.

Department of Energy and fuel surcharges

Many supply chain professionals routinely rely on Washington every week when they review and use the weekly diesel price average. Published by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to adjust contract rates for fuel surcharges, this rate plays an important role in trucking.

On September 21, 2018, after President Trump signed a bill funding energy and water related portions of the federal government, the Department of Energy received funding for 2019. Accordingly, this area of the government is still operating during the shutdown.

Department of Transportation and future rulemaking

Even more directly related to our business, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) did not receive funding for 2019. Yet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently open as it was funded through the Highway Trust Fund. A long-term shutdown may delay the high-level approvals required for rulemakings from the Federal Motor Carrier Administration around new hours of service (HOS) proposals.

Customs clearance process and delays

The customs clearance process is feeling the immediate impact of a longer-term shutdown. Often, cross-border freight requires approval from partner agencies—the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to name a few—beyond just Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

While many CBP employees are required to report to work, CBP will not be funded during the shutdown. Accordingly, certain processes may be held up during the shutdown, including duty refunds, Post Summary Corrections, and Duty Drawback claim refunds. While hard working customs officers are essential personnel, the closing of these partner agencies may cause significant delays at borders and other related requests to go unprocessed.

Changes to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS)

The CBP updated their electronic version before year end and accordingly, tariffs are being filed correctly. Alternately, the International Trade Commission has not yet published a 2019 version of the HTS.

Certain private HTS resources have the updated tariff for their subscribers, yet there appear to be updates to certain Unit of Measure that were not previously announced (e.g., grams now to be reported as gm instead of g; hundreds is now reported as HUN). We’re also seeing that certain changes not implemented by January 1, 2019, cannot be claimed until the shutdown is over. Talk to your import expert if any of these changes directly affect your business.

Staffing at various locations is limited

The quota desk continues to work openings. The next opening is for the specialty sugar quota on January 23, 2019. They will issue a CSMS message prior to the opening.

There are many reports that other locations are not operating at full staff. Expect delays while contacts are tracked down to assist when necessary. Overtime is allowed but ports will be cautious and prudent in allowing it as the overtime budget for the coming year is unknown.

What’s next?

The longer the government shutdown lasts, the more disruptions supply chain professionals will notice. As the shutdown continues, more cross-border freight delays will occur as well as some ancillary impact that motor carriers may see while the U.S. DOT is down.

Work closely with your supply chain team or bring in skilled logistics experts to keep you up to date about what the shut

The Importance of Data Visualization in Logistics

By Contributing Author | 01/23/2019 | 11:52 AM

By Carolyn Nowaske, Senior Account Executive, iDashboards

Logistics is all about efficiency. In order to make sure your business is firing on all cylinders, you need to track and understand huge amounts of data. And it doesn’t stop there; you need the right tools to turn that data into actionable information. You need a plan. This is where data visualization comes into play.

By creating scorecards and reporting that compile and display data in a singular, easy-to-understand place, you can see how your business stacks up against its most important KPIs. With a data visualization plan in place, you can transform virtually unlimited amounts of information into tangible and effective improvement strategies.

Data visualization on the psychological level

Did you know that data visualization is psychological? It’s true! As a general principle, seeing data in the form of a chart or graph is better than trying to understand spreadsheets or reports. Your data tells a story, and the most effective medium is a picture book. It might sound simple, but the psychological benefits of data visualization go far beyond the pretty colors and stylish graphs. It’s all about the way our brains process and understand information.

Pre-Attentive and Attentive Processing

Pre-attentive processing is the secret sauce of data visualization. It’s what makes pictures (such as graphs and charts) easier to absorb than Excel spreadsheets. Imagine a poster filled with blue squares. Somewhere on that poster is a cluster of red squares. At a glance, your brain will automatically identify these unique elements. In other words, you don’t have to actively think about finding a discrepancy; your brain does it for you. That’s the beauty of pre-attentive processing.

On the flipside, attentive processing requires concentration. A word search, for example, requires attentive processing because you have to actively search for the information (or letters) you want to find. Data visualization allows you to maximize pre-attentive processing so your brain can skip the line and get right to the good stuff: the story within the data.

How data visualization improves KPI reporting and monitoring

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the backbone of business intelligence. They are (or should be) the strongest indicator of whether or not your business is successful. If your KPIs are on track, your business is too. This isn’t to say you should only track one or two performance indicators, but simply that your KPIs should reflect the overarching goals of your logistics business. Once you understand what those metrics are, you can build additional data visualization for smaller, supporting metrics.

Data visualization improves performance monitoring for several reasons. First, it saves time. Time is money, especially for logistics experts, so any tool that helps you streamline reporting is a good thing. Here are a few ways data visualization can speed up the data reporting process:

  • Provide instant reporting (no lag time)
  • Is available to stakeholders at every level, even on-the-go
  • Viewable from multiple devices (computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.)

Turning information into useful information

Most importantly, data visualization bridges the gap between “what information do we have?” and “how can this information help us become more efficient?” When you send a static paper report out, the data is instantly outdated. It’s also easy for important information to get lost or buried. By integrating dashboards that are easy to understand (thanks to pre-attentive processing), your reporting can eliminate the middleman and help you spend more time using data and less time trying to understand it.

There are several practical ways to accomplish this on your dashboard:

  • Proximity: Pair related metrics next to each other. By doing so, you can more easily spot trends and patterns that share a causal relationship. The number of deliveries within a given month and the average number of minutes it takes to unload shipments, for example, could relate to each other in ways you didn’t notice before.
  • Choose the right charts: Not all graphs are created equally. In fact, specific types of data visualization are best suited for specific metrics. If you want to track the number of deliveries in a specific region throughout the month of January, a pie chart probably isn’t your best option. If you want to know the percentage of deliveries that included no broken merchandise, however, a pie chart might provide the best, at-a-glance view of the data you need.
  • Use drilldowns: Drilldowns are like reports within reports. To avoid cluttering up your dashboard with every possible piece of information your business needs, try displaying the most important metrics on the front page. Then, give users the ability to choose their path of analysis. Whether they drill down to charts, other dashboards, or external URLs, they will have immediate access to the answers they need. In short, drilldowns are the best way visualize data that supports your larger objectives.

Which key performance indicators should you visualize?

Picking the right KPIs will shape the way you view your business’ success. In other words, knowing what metrics to pay attention to is a vital step in the data visualization process. In the world of logistics, some common and useful metrics include:

Solutions_Laptop_T&L

  • Shipping and Delivery Times
  • Order Accuracy
  • Transportation and Warehousing Costs
  • Warehouse Capacity
  • Number of Shipments
  • Inventory Accuracy and Turnover
  • Inventory to Sales Ratio
  • Percentage of Damaged Goods
  • Driver Safety and Incident Metrics

Before you design and launch your logistics dashboard, take these metrics into consideration and prioritize them. Scrutinize the implications of each data set and pair them with related metrics, then begin compiling a storyboard to visualize what you want your dashboard to look like. Additionally, keep in mind that – just like your goals – your dashboard can change over time. If you want to focus on one specific area of improvement, focus on that in your dashboard. If a metric doesn’t seem to give actionable insights, remove it. Your dashboard is a work in progress, just like your processes.

 

Carolyn Nowaske (iDashboards)Carolyn Nowaske is a Senior Account Executive at iDashboards. She has over 10 years of experience in IT software and solutions. She is responsible for new business growth, specializing in the transportation & logistics sector. Outside of work, she enjoys quality time spent with her family.

A day on, not a day off

By DC Velocity | 01/21/2019 | 4:54 AM

By Kathy Fulton, Executive Director, American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN)

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’"
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Montgomery, Ala., 1957

Martin Luther King Jr. statueIf you’ve ever viewed my Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you already know that I’m a fan of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because I frequently use his quotes.

That’s been especially true since I had the chance to visit his memorial in Washington, D.C., a few years ago. (If you’ve never visited, I urge you to do so—once the partial government shutdown ends, of course.) The memorial is inscribed with many excerpts from his speeches and writings—and even though all were written more than 50 years ago, they still serve as powerful and timeless directives to love and serve others. They certainly serve as motivators for me.

So why in the world am I writing about Dr. King, besides the obvious fact that each year around this time we recognize his work with a holiday? Because in addition to choosing the third Monday of each January to honor him, Congress also designated that day as a national day of service and appointed the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to be responsible for it.

CNCS calls this holiday a “day on, not a day off,” and notes that “[t]he MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King's vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’"

So in the spirit of a “day on” (because days off in logistics and disaster response are rare), we’d like to present you with a quick request: Won’t you consider registering to volunteer with ALAN in some form or fashion?

We have many individual roles available, so there’s sure to be one that fits your interest. For example, we need logistics coordinators; liaisons to work with our non-profit partners; transportation, warehousing, and material handling subject-matter experts; fundraisers; marketing and communications professionals; policy experts; process improvement specialists; and more. (When you sign up, you can tell us what skills you have to offer.)

We also have numerous ways to get your company involved. So if your business is interested in learning how you can donate your logistics services or expertise (before, during, or after disaster), we invite you to submit your information here. The needs you offer to fill can be as simple as storing or transporting a few pallets one time, or as complex as donating dedicated equipment for a few days, weeks, or months to support a response. But wow, can your help ever make a difference. And by the way, it’s important to point out that filling out the form will really only commit you to be on ALAN’s radar screen. It’s a way to let us know that you’re a group we can call upon when disasters hit—not an ironclad commitment to donate in-kind services each and every time. If we call you with a specific request and the timing isn’t right for you, we’ll completely understand. We’ll just keep your name on the list for the next request!

Prefer to provide financial support? We also have a role for you, because we welcome one-time and sustaining donations of any amount. More information is available on our website, or contact us and we’ll give you a call to discuss your interest.

Dr. King, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, proclaimed, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

Taking a page from his book, I have the audacity to believe that well-coordinated supply chain activities hold the key to solving the challenges wrought by disasters. No one affected by disaster, regardless of the size of the storm, or their location or social status, should go hungry, or without hydration, medical care, or shelter—especially not when the supply chain community has the resources to deliver what is needed.

I hope you’ll join us in that dream—and make 2019 a year filled with service to others

Holiday Shipping Strategies to Maximize Profits and Earn Customer Loyalty

By Contributing Author | 12/14/2018 | 3:56 PM

By Robert Gilbreath, Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Partnerships, ShipStation.

Internet Retailer predicts U.S. shoppers will spend $119.99 billion online during the 2018 holiday shopping season. This is a dramatic 15.5 percent increase over last year. Consumer confidence is at its highest point in 18 years, meaning spending is up. This is all great news for e-commerce merchants!

Of course higher sales lead to more shipments. That's why a streamlined shipping process is critical. Follow these tips for stress-free holiday shipping, more profits, and happy customers.

Save Money on Shipping

Shipping costs can make or break your profitability. Take these steps to save money on shipping:

  • Use the most cost-effective shipping carriers for each shipment. You may need to use a combination of carriers.
  • Offer free shipping with order minimums, or on products with higher margins.
  • Verify addresses to prevent resending of shipments.
  • Package any breakable items carefully to reduce returns or customer complaints.
  • Save time (and time is money) by requesting pickups from shipping carriers.

Create a Plan for Weather Delays

Weather delays are inevitable during the holidays. We’ve already seen huge climate hurdles this year due to wildfires, snow storms, hurricanes and more. Thankfully, with a little thinking ahead, you can avoid most package delays. First, add extra time to your expected shipping delivery date. If there is a weather delay, the padded time provides a buffer, giving you more time to make things work. If the delay is long, consider a token of goodwill. This could be a discount or free product. Mother Nature is not your fault, but small gestures show your customers you care.

Watch the weather each day. Fortunately, the USPS and FedEx both post regular updates about shipping delays. You can also use filters in your shipping software to sort orders by their destination. Process orders with longer transit times first, and still try to get them to customers on time.

Heed Shipping Deadlines and Communicate Them Clearly

20181214_holiday_shipping2

Post your shipping deadlines prominently on your website so customers understand delivery expectations. Use this shipping deadlines infographic to determine your holiday cutoff dates. Pad delivery cutoffs with sufficient time to pack orders and manage weather delays.

Send Shipments Quickly

Speedy delivery of online purchases is very important to most buyers. Given buyers’ expectations of efficient shipping, are you optimized for shipping speed? Here’s how to do it:

  • Buy plenty of shipping supplies. Slowing shipments because you ran out of labels or tape means lost revenue.
  • Make sure your physical shipping stations are organized for efficiency.
  • Ship orders the same day when possible.
  • Pack a surplus of frequently-ordered items ahead of the holiday crush.

Provide Shipment Tracking

When a customer purchases a gift, he or she wants to make sure that the item gets to its destination. That’s where tracking comes in. In a recent survey, 88% of consumers say the ability to track shipments in real-time is important.

20181214_holiday_shipping3

Tracking should include items ordered and a link to see real-time shipping details. You can also include additional helpful information, such as your return policy, social media links, contact information, website links and more. Tracking is easy to do with shipping software. Learn about ShipStation’s branded shipment tracking options, here.

Make Your Holiday Season Better

Shipping matters. It’s the connecting point between your great product and loyal customers. Use the most cost-effective shipping methods, anticipate weather delays, and organize your physical shipping stations for speed. Communicate deadlines to customers clearly, get packages out the door quickly, and provide easy tracking. If you get shipping and delivery right, your 2018 holiday customers will become lifetime customers. Isn’t that what every retailer wants?

 

20181214_gilbreathRobert Gilbreath is the Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Partnerships at ShipStation. He joined ShipStation in 2013 and has led the marketing efforts through the company’s rapid growth before and after being acquired by Stamps.com in 2014. Prior to ShipStation, Gilbreath was Vice President of E-commerce at Calendars.com, an Internet Retailer Top 500 website. He cut his teeth online via selling items on eBay as well as building websites for various organizations and businesses.





How Last Mile Delivery Affects the Supply Chain

By Contributing Author | 11/26/2018 | 11:47 AM

By Inbal Axelrod, co-founder and CMO, MyRouteOnline

 

Thanks to the globalization brought about by connectivity and other technologies, it’s become easier than ever to ship products from one end of the world to the other. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges to overcome when it comes to international or even local shipping, though. In fact, there’s still one last wild, untamed territory for shipping and delivery companies or for retailers that rely on these companies: getting that order delivery through the last mile.

What “Last Mile Delivery” Means

For the most part, shipping products have never been quicker or more cost-effective. The impact of high-speed freight rail networks and large-scale international container ships means that products can leave their point of origin and arrive at a distribution center in practically no time at all. However, when it comes to moving those products out of a distribution center and out for delivery to a consumer, either in a B2B or a B2C scenario, shipping systems become much less efficient.

Out of the entirety of the cost of shipping an item, this distance between the distribution center and the final destination — which has become known as the “last mile” — makes up around 28% of a shipping company’s expenditure. This is seen as a major problem for shippers and for both brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce sellers, not just for the increased cost but the lack of efficiency in ensuring that customers receive their orders as quickly as possible.

The Lack of Last Mile Security

The traditionally high cost and low efficiency of last mile delivery have long been a thorn in the side of anyone whose business relies on order fulfillment on a large scale. Finding better consumer delivery options is an especially important goal for many shipping companies and those that use them; with the number of deliveries that are made on a daily basis in the US to houses where the occupants are at work, the opportunity for theft is very high. In fact, 23 million Americans experienced package theft right from their front doors in 2016 alone.

Such a major problem cannot go unresolved. Consumers need to feel safe in ordering from e-commerce sites and having their packages delivered to their front doors. If last mile delivery providers can’t offer proper package security to these consumers, e-commerce sites that rely on package delivery could see a major negative impact if the trend continues, even though e-commerce delivery has distinct advantages for consumers when it comes to not having to shop in a physical storefront.

Finding Answers for the Problem

There are a number of ways to answer last mile delivery problems when it comes to security. Some of these, such as installing an electronic lockbox on your front porch, place the onus on the consumer when it comes to purchasing and maintaining the lockbox as well as ensuring that last mile delivery companies have the proper access code to deposit packages while no one is home. However, there are other options that last mile delivery companies have taken upon themselves to exercise.

In order to address the problem, some companies have given consumers the option to have their packages shipped to a secure location, such as the ship-to-store option that many large retail chains now offer. The UPS Store network, meanwhile, offers mailbox service similar to the PO boxes at your local US Post Office. E-commerce giant Amazon, often thought of as the industry leader when it comes to last mile delivery, also has their Amazon Locker kiosk system that provides security and automation for package delivery.

Quicker, Better Tracked Deliveries

Whether you’re making urban deliveries or your fleet of trucks is out in the suburbs, you can help solve last-mile delivery problems by incorporating the use of route planning software. Route planners help shorten delivery wait times by using state-of-the-art algorithms that analyze historical road traffic data before picking routes for your delivery trucks that are the most efficient. Because there’s fewer backtracking, delivery fleets spend much less on fuel, which further helps cut the cost of last mile delivery.

Additional benefits to integrated route planning are the ability to provide much more robust package tracking for consumers. Knowing when you can expect your delivery sometimes makes it easier to have someone return home to secure the package in order to prevent it from being stolen. In some cases, consumers can even choose the desired delivery window at checkout. The software then factors that request into its route planning and does its best to accommodate the consumer.

The Final Word on Last Mile Delivery

Sometimes it takes different applications of technology to make better and quicker last mile deliveries. In many ways, urban locations have some major advantages, as there are many opportunities to have packages delivered to a local store or a secure site for pickup. China-based e-tailer Alibaba is even testing its ability to deliver tea to customers in Beijing via drone in just an hour, just as Amazon is striving to shorten delivery times in metropolitan areas as well.

For consumers who don’t want to install an expensive lockbox on their front porch or brave the outside world to pick up their package from a store or other site, there is still hope. Using technology to provide better package tracking options to consumers or to make routing package delivery as quick and efficient as possible ensures that consumers of all stripes, whether they live in an urban setting or in a more suburban or even rural one, can benefit from the technologies being used today to make last-mile delivery faster and less expensive for everyone.

 

Inbal Axelrod is the co-founder and CMO at MyRouteOnline, a multiple stop route planner that helps make our world greener. Individuals visiting multiple locations can plan their routes online, optimize their route, and spend less fuel and time on the road. This means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, a reduced carbon footprint, and better air quality. Inbal can be reached at inbal@myrouteonline.com 

Top Warehouse Organization Mistakes

By Contributing Author | 11/19/2018 | 12:40 PM

By Chicago Tag & Label

There’s more to organization than alphabetical order, especially when it comes to logistics. A well-maintained supply chain requires a complex system to ensure that components, assets and products are where they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately, anything so complicated includes numerous opportunities for mistakes. Managers and other logistics professionals need to be on the lookout for these slip-ups and work to remove them from their processes. The reward for their diligence will be boosted productivity and maximized profitability.

Whether the result of neglect, ignorance or poor implementation, missteps in the warehouse environment can have a devastating effect on the entire operation. Fortunately, the majority of these issues can be avoided as long as those in charge know what to look for and how to correct whatever problems they find. For example, a common blunder is a failure to automate as much as possible. This opens the possibility for human errors that could be entirely preventable. By investing in the right software, warehouses can eliminate this source of worry.

Proper organization is critical for warehouse efficiency and employee morale. For more ideas about how to have the most organized, effective facility possible, see the accompanying guide.

 

Top 10 Warehouse Organizational Mistakes created by Chicago Tag & Label.

The Impact of AI and IoT on the Manufacturing Job Market

By Contributing Author | 11/16/2018 | 6:50 AM

By Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging, Material Handling & Food Processing, Direct Recruiters Inc.

 

Dependent upon your perspective, the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) invokes one of two opinions: One, eventually the machines will rule the world. Or two, you appreciate the benefits of modern technology.

But either way, one thing is certain: The human workforce relinquishes a bit of responsibility with each technological advancement. The late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking assumed technology would eventually cause our demise. He theorized that it “could spell the end of the human race.” Without a doubt, artificial intelligence coupled with the Internet of things (IoT) devices will impact not just the manufacturing sector, but every industry within the job market.

These technologies, once considered science fiction, are integrated into many aspects of our daily lives. Modern manufacturing is programmed to rely on software and smart devices. And smart phones have been an integral part of industrial engineering for over a decade. Modern technologies are changing the way we work and live. Notions aside, we can agree that AI and IoT will transform every sector.

Definition of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Before we go any further into our discussion, let’s define these two terms: Artificial intelligence and internet of things. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been defined as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”

As pointed out by Bernard Marr earlier this year, AI is traditionally utilized for one of three purposes:

  1. To build systems that think exactly like humans do (“strong AI”)
  2. To allow systems to work without figuring out how human reasoning works (“weak AI”)
  3. To use human reasoning as a model but not necessarily the end goal

Companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Facebook utilize machine learning to improve customer experience. We see technologies such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Maps, seamlessly interwoven into our daily lives to provide a more efficient lifestyle. On the other hand, manufacturing plants are utilizing robots and machine learning to optimize their operations on the factory floor.

Definition of Internet of Things (IoT)

In the past few years there’s been increasing buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) along with some confusion. Jacob Morgan provides a concise definition: “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).”

With the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi, connecting devices to an Internet connection has become quite simple. And now, practical appliances such as your television, coffee maker, and refrigerator can all be a part of the IoT. However, the practical implication of IoT technology goes far beyond the home. Within the next two years, it’s projected there will be 4 IoT devices for every human being—that’s more than 24 billion IoT devices across the globe.

The appeal of AI and IoT

The President of the Future of Life Institute, Max Tegmark, once said, “Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before—as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.“

As AI and IoT technologies are adopted, there’s a responsibility to ensure they remain beneficial to enterprise and humanity as a whole. So far, the result has led to efficient manufacturing processes. We’re able to accomplish more in less time and with fewer resources. And in general, today’s workforce has benefited from these efficiencies. Now employees have instant access to needed information. Connected networks have provided automated manufacturing processes that were previously slow and even dangerous to the human workforce.

But at the same time, machine learning could result in a negative impact on employment as a whole. Several years ago, in an article titled “Will Robots Steal Your Job?” Farhad Manjoo imagined this potential.

At this moment, there's someone training for your job. He may not be as smart as you are—in fact, he could be quite stupid—but what he lacks in intelligence he makes up for in drive, reliability, consistency, and price. He's willing to work for longer hours, and he's capable of doing better work, at a much lower wage. He doesn't ask for health or retirement benefits, he doesn't take sick days, and he doesn't goof off when he's on the clock.

The ramifications of AI and IoT

The long-term implications of these technologies are still uncertain. Whether the impact is positive or negative, manufacturing is sure to feel the result.

Workers are no longer competing solely with a human workforce. Even some of the most skilled workers could potentially lose their jobs to a machine. Every day computers are becoming more efficient with processing human problem-solving skills. As a result, machine learning is set to disrupt nearly every role.

Additional security measures need to be considered. As we become more connected within the workplace, employees are exposed to new threats. Data breaches impact the organization and the employees within. Software that serves to help the company personnel can also provide opportunities to malicious threats.

Increasing wages are one of the most obvious economic benefits to employees. However, increasing wages have led to the development of automation. We’re already seeing workers being replaced by machines. So far, many of the affected jobs have been low-paying ones that require little experience or education. However, machine learning will allow technology to replace even technical jobs. Further into his 2011 article, Farhad Manjoo noted that even attorneys could be susceptible to AI’s impact.

However, nearly in the same breath, Manjoo notes that technology sometimes replaces workers in the short run. Then, over time, technological improvements lead to economic growth. We can all agree with him when he says, “Economic growth improves prospects for workers across a range of industries.”

In spite of economic growth, there’s a cautionary tale we should be aware of. When we become dependent on technology, we often lose the skills that technology has replaced. We’re already seeing the impact smart phones have had on simple memorization. Science proves that an unused muscles leads to atrophy. Few of us can recount a phone number without relying on the use of our phone.

Working alongside AI and IoT

To a certain degree, we all fear the unknown. Despite the growing optimism, there’s a certain amount of skepticism that follows. What function will be automated? What position will be replaced by a machine?

These are legitimate concerns within the manufacturing industry. Research on the impact of AI within the workforce presents two polarizing viewpoints. It’s seen as extremely beneficial in efficiency. But at the same time it’s believed to be the biggest employment disruption since the last Industrial Revolution.

Recently Georgios Petropoulos, an industrial organization researcher, outlined what roles he believes to be most directly impacted. He argues that mid-level jobs requiring routine manual skills are at risk. “In the long run, initial labor displacement effects of jobs with routinized manual or cognitive skills, as in previous industrial revolutions, will be compensated for by the growth in non-routine jobs at the high and low end of the economy.”

But rather than worrying about the what-ifs, manufacturers should embrace the positive implications that AI and IoT can provide. Working alongside AI and IoT will lead to the following:

  • First, manufacturing stands to benefit from a productivity perspective. Artificial intelligence will be able to reduce, and eventually eliminate, customary data collection. This will free up employees to engage in the more rewarding aspects of their jobs. Rather than viewing AI as an employment threat, it should be seen as an opportunity for more efficient manufacturing.  

  • Second, working alongside these technological advancements will demand new security and data-collection protocols. As IoT devices are further adopted, there will be more opportunities for outside threats. The idea may sound silly, but an integrated smart home could potentially be hacked through television providing access to someone’s personal records.

    In today’s interconnected world, companies need to provide trust alongside innovation. Within manufacturing, AI and IoT will continue to expedite processes, create efficiencies, and eliminate the potential for human error. But without the appropriate security protocols, employees could be exposed to identity theft or other harmful data collection. Implementing these technologies will demand an employer protect customer and personnel information. If employed effectively, manufacturers can gain faster insights, improve decision-making, and develop more efficient processes while avoiding the negative consequences.

  • Third, the adoption of AI and IoT will require the employee to evolve. A robot may not replace you, but the reality is that these technologies will disrupt current roles. Just as we saw with the previous Industrial Revolution, new technology results in a labor market shift.

These trends have caused some to worry, but as one economist stated: “Since the dawn of the industrial age, a recurrent fear has been that technological change will spawn mass unemployment. Neoclassical economists predicted that this would not happen, because people would find other jobs, albeit possibly after a long period of painful adjustment. By and large, that prediction has proven to be correct.”

Within manufacturing, and across the board, these technologies call for change. Employees must be willing to adapt and further develop their skills. It could even require learning new skills. The rise of technology demands that education become an ongoing process.

No matter how advanced technology becomes, there will always be a human element. AI still has a long way to go when it comes to assessing human emotion. And industry relies on human connection. In this rapidly changing environment, employees must never overlook the importance of maintaining personal connections—those traits that separate us from the machines.

In summary

The full magnitude of these technologies’ impact on the labor market is still to be determined. The Digital Revolution will require ongoing reliance on AI and IoT technologies.

The inevitable impact of automation on all industries is certain. But with these modern advancements comes the potential for efficient manufacturing. Organizations and employees must be willing to embrace these technologies to ensure progress into the future.

 

Shepard  Cherie (Direct Recruiters)Cherie Shepard is director of packaging, material handling & processing for Direct Recruiters. For over 10 years she has helped identify exceptional sales, sales management, and engineering candidates and bring them together with her clients assisting both to navigate complex hiring needs. Cherie is committed to performance, quality, and positive results. To stay current with industry news and trends, she routinely travels to trade shows and networking opportunities to meet with industry leaders.

Choosing the right battery and charger combination is complicated, but key for your bottom line

By Contributing Author | 11/14/2018 | 6:02 AM

By Harold Vanasse, Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Power Americas for EnerSys

 

Historically, selecting the right battery and charger combination for a lift truck fleet was accomplished by hand. That is, it was done by manual formulas and quick back-of-the-envelope estimates. While those practices were prone to errors, they were used because more exacting methods were not yet available.

High-frequency chargers weren’t available either, limiting charger choices to “conventional” ferroresonant chargers for most battery types, and Silicon-Controlled Rectifier (SCR) chargers for sealed, Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries. But with the introduction of high frequency chargers that enable opportunity and fast charging, things got much more complicated – and potentially higher priced.

Potential pitfalls of poor choices

Pairing the wrong battery and charger can negatively impact a facility’s bottom line in several ways. Attempting to opportunity charge a battery with a conventional charging unit can shorten battery life severely – as much as 50% in cases where batteries are also chronically under-watered. Having to replace an entire lift truck battery fleet twice as quickly as anticipated can be a huge hidden cost.

Similarly, selecting a battery and charger combination based on price alone could cost an operation thousands of dollars over time. If it’s not the most efficient option for the application and warehouse environment, a facility could easily rack up battery operating costs that could have been avoided with a better choice.

For example, do you run a multi-shift operation that would run more cost-effectively with an opportunity or fast charging regime? Do you operate on two or fewer shifts, in which case the conventional “8/8/8” charging schedule might be fine? How much time (and money) does your team spend on battery maintenance, and would a virtually maintenance-free battery help you reduce those costs? Is your facility open five or six days or a full seven-day week? What is the average ambient temperature of your facility? What about the incoming power source from your local utility?

Technology to the rescue

All of those factors matter when picking the right battery and charger combination. Fortunately, material handling operations need no longer rely on overly simplified hand calculations to get it right. Today, thanks to advances in battery monitoring equipment and modeling software, there are sophisticated ways to determine the ideal combination for a given situation.

An on-site power assessment, usually conducted by a battery/charger dealer or manufacturer, offers one very effective option. Lift truck batteries are outfitted with sensors that capture operating data, which is then tracked and interpreted by monitoring system software over several weeks. Factors such as amp hour usage, idle time, charging routines and more are analyzed to determine the best battery/charger fit for the operation. 

Advanced application and sizing software offers another tailored option. In this case, the battery/charger dealer or manufacturer will ask the facility for a range of information, including battery compartment size in the lift truck, minimum battery weight requirements, the actual lifting applications, the number of shifts, and much more. With this approach a facility can assess their needs virtually and cost-effectively.

The bottom line? Determining the ideal battery and charger combination is complicated and will never be a one-size-fits-all proposition. The good news is that today, there are sophisticated tools available to get the job done with more precision than ever before, which will ultimately help operations boost efficiency and cut operating costs.

About Harold Vanasse

Harold Vanasse is Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Power Americas for EnerSys, the global leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications. While serving in a variety of roles in the battery industry over the past 20+ years, Vanasse has been influential in bringing innovative solutions to the material handling industry.

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 feedback@dcvelocity.com.



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