6 Best Practices for Successful Last-Mile Delivery

By Contributing Author | 04/29/2019 | 6:56 AM

By Gilad David Maayan

Gilad guest blog image 4.25.19

While there is no certain way to create a successful last-mile delivery strategy, this article proposes creating a strategy that meets specific consumer needs. By following a blueprint designed to balance consumer needs with the resources of the company, you can create standard procedures that can withstand fickle trends and unplanned changes.

What Is Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery is the final step required to fulfill an order. The length of the road doesn’t matter—It can be a mile, three feet, or across states. As long as this path takes the order to its final destination—to the end consumer—the delivery is recognized as a last-mile delivery.

Why Does Last-Mile Delivery Matters

Last-mile delivery is responsible for creating a lasting customer experience. If end consumers receive their order in a timely, efficient, convenient, and cordial way—last-mile delivery can result in positive customer experience. If important consumer expectations aren’t met, last-mile delivery will result in negative customer experience.

In a time when one customer can instantly spread their dissatisfaction with a global network of people, one bad review can turn into a massive virus of bad PR that infects prospective customers across the Internet and beyond. Once the damage is done, fixing the reputation of the company might be expensive and time-consuming. In the meanwhile, the company suffers from a decrease in sales and monetary loss.

How Last-Mile Delivery Influences Consumers

Nothing can ruin the customer experience quite like last-mile delivery. Nowadays, if a website is slow to load, a consumer can move on to another one. If they insist on staying because they’re emotionally attached to the product, they can tinker with a poorly-designed website until they finally press that desired buy button. But if something gets in the way between this product and the consumer? There would be hell to pay.

Consumers develop an emotional connection to brands and products even before they make a purchase. Once a product is bought, it becomes a possession of the consumer. While possession has always granted people certain rights, the digital revolution has tipped the scales towards instant gratification.

Now, as soon as money is exchanged, consumers expect to receive their physical order almost as fast as a digital order. Any last-mile delivery delay or inconvenience might cause a visceral emotional reaction that can send the consumer on a borderless ranting spree. Thus, negative last-mile delivery usually translates into bad PR—online and offline—and damaged bottom lines.

Six Consumers Expectations in Last-Mile Delivery

The overall experience of last-mile delivery can be broken down into six factors. Each of the following factors represents a need the consumer expects to be met during last-mile delivery.


Consumers expect to be offered a variety of delivery methods even before they order the product. The variety of the available delivery methods influences the decision to purchase a product, and consumers have shown a distinct preference towards the most convenient delivery method.

It is important to note that ultimate convenience relies more on customization rather than speed. One consumer may benefit from one-day delivery because they need the product urgently. Another consumer may want to time the delivery to two days hence in preparation for a planned house party.

The key goal here is to provide consumers with a variety of delivery options needed to help them incorporate the delivery into their time, rather than the other way around. You can do that by running last-mile delivery in-house, managing your own warehouse and drivers fleet. Or you can partner with a third-party provider.


Consumers expect fast and prompt deliveries. A prompt delivery means providing the consumer with their order on time without delays. Research indicates that failure to deliver on this promise can cause the consumer deep emotional distress. If you’re running your own fleet, you can use technological solutions such as route navigation optimization to ensure your drivers are always prompt.

While fast can be a subjective term and needs to be defined individually by each company, there are certain standards companies need to meet in order to compete in the market. Companies like Amazon have become world leaders in last-mile delivery and standardized fast delivery options such as two-days, one-day, and same-day delivery.

If you don’t have the resources to provide fast delivery in-house, you can take advantage of the available last-mile delivery services offered by third-party providers. Many third-party delivery providers offer end-to-end solutions that should cover all your last-mile needs. You can also incorporate a variety of third-party solutions into your delivery infrastructure. Be sure to make sure all the tech tools you choose can integrate seamlessly into your system.


People are often prompted not to judge a book by its cover. However, most of the time people do exactly that. Consumers, like any human being, are subjective to universal signals. We see an envelope icon and we understand it represents emails. We see an old man dressed in red and we recognize him as Santa Claus. We see a woman figure over a door and understand it designates the room beyond as the ladies’ room.

People are naturally visual and see the world in symbols. The way a package is designed and packed often tells a consumer a lot about what they’re getting. At the branding level, appealing package design can spell luxury or high quality. A branded package design can hint or tell a consumer what type of product they can find inside.

Done right, the package design can create a connection between consumer and brand that may even lead to saving the package. However, a package doesn’t have to be branded to meet consumer expectations. It does need to be properly packed to show care for the product and care for the consumer expenses. Receiving a product in a squished package tells the consumer you don’t care enough to protect the product the consumer spent hard-earned money on.


Efficiency is the primary strategy of achieving any goal in the western world. Modern consumers often manage busy lives, juggling multiple tasks and priorities. To handle all of their responsibilities at home and at work, consumers need to be efficient. People continuously look for productivity tools to help improve every aspect of their life.

Today’s consumers are tech-savvy—and that includes almost every generation alive. From baby boomers and their overshadowed generation X siblings, the notorious millennials and their responsible generation Y counterparts, and the generation Y children who were born into a connected world and can’t even imagine life without technology as a source of instant gratification. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t use technology to become more efficient.

While receiving an order is often regarded as a fun activity, many consumers don’t have the time nor patience for an inefficient delivery experience. Consumers want to know their order is on its way and will arrive promptly. Integrating with tech solution such as last mile tracking can infuse transparency into the last leg of the delivery and inform consumers of the location of their order in real-time. Efficient delivery experience translates into a positive customer experience.


In brick and mortar shops, sales representatives are the face of the brand. In e-commerce and delivery-oriented businesses, the delivery drivers serve as the face of the brand. In both cases, consumers expect, at minimum, a cordial treatment from the personnel that hand over the product. While the delivery drivers don’t have to be smiling rays of sunshine, they should present a standard of a professional manner as defined by the company.

Companies that manage an in-house last-mile delivery operation can dictate the standard manner all drivers must adopt and every aspect of the handoff—from the type of outfit, where to park the vehicle, how to greet the customer, and how to present the order. Tech-savvy companies can also give their customers the ability to rank the drivers and their satisfaction with the delivery.

However, companies that rely on third-party providers have less control over this aspect, if at all. As a service, last-mile delivery often comes at a fixed model with zero customization options. That means relying on the provider to manage their drivers properly. You will have no authority or power over the drivers and no way of implementing any changes for the better. If the driver, for example, throws your carefully packaged order over a fence, you will not be able to prevent this driver from continually ruining your reputation.


Since the invention of 24/7/7 live customer service via chats, consumers expect instant gratification on the communication level. Time has become the number one commodity, a priceless resource that should be used and prioritized to maximum capacity. Not because time is money but because time is living.

No one wants to waste their lives waiting for a customer service representative. No company wants to appear so slow in its service as to be compared to a sloth. Implementing smart technology solutions can help improve all levels of communications in last-mile delivery operations. Improved channels of communications can serve as an open channel for delivering efficient service that promotes a positive customer experience.

Incorporate Consumer Expectations into Your Last-Mile Delivery Strategy

It is possible to operate a business without a strategy or plan. You can wing it, and the success of the venture will rely on your intuition. However, creating a strategy and a plan can help ensure you take steps in the right direction. With a plan, nothing is vague or mysterious. You have pre-defined goals to follow and specific measurements with which to count your success.

When you create your strategy, you can incorporate as many of the delivery expectations as possible. For most companies, it is nearly impossible to achieve the highest level of quality in all delivery expectations. A strategy can help you evaluate the capabilities of your business and define the minimum and maximum level of delivery quality you can achieve.

Once you have a roadmap ready, you can opt to create your own in-house delivery operation, delegate the responsibility to a third-party provider, or implement the strengths of both delivery models into a hybrid strategy—a unique delivery infrastructure modeled to fit your business DNA.


Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Oracle, Zend, CheckPoint and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

Warehouse Spring Cleaning Checklist for Safety and Efficiency

By Contributing Author | 04/23/2019 | 11:07 AM

By Don Connolly, Manager, Floor Cleaning Equipment & Commercial Products, Nitco


Spring has officially sprung, and with the changing of the seasons comes an annual tradition—spring cleaning. Most people associate this chore with home improvements, but this is a wonderful opportunity to take a look at cleaning and reworking your warehouse.

Undertaking such a project can sound daunting, but a spring cleaning is also a chance to assess warehouse safety and streamline your workflow. Many warehouses also use this time to implement a regularly scheduled maintenance program to sustain the progress made during warehouse and equipment spring cleaning.

No matter what tasks you tackle—re-evaluating your fleet needs or updating your janitorial schedules and policies—there are four key areas that you should make sure you include on your spring cleaning checklist.

1. Aisles, parking lots, loading dock ramps, yard ramps

All of these locations in and around a warehouse are where people and vehicles travel, making their cleanliness of the utmost importance. For equipment safety and employee safety, these areas should always be kept clean and clear of debris and clutter.

This also means, unfortunately, that these are high-use areas, making them more difficult to clean. One option is to utilize flooring cleaning equipment that saves you manpower hours and can be scheduled to run at times that don’t disrupt efficiency and workflows.

Once you’ve completed this season’s cleaning of aisles, parking lots, ramps, and loading docks, consider creating a year-round cleaning schedule to save you valuable time come next spring. This is also a great time to re-evaluate whether you’re using the ideal vehicles for the tasks performed in and around your aisles, parking lots, loading dock ramps, yard ramps.

2. Machine maintenance and replacement

This is probably part of your regularly scheduled processes, but an extra-thorough cleaning and tune-up of machinery and equipment is a must for warehouse spring cleaning. Check batteries, gas lines, brake lines, wind shields, and more, and ensure they are working properly and up to code. If needed, give them a tune-up or schedule a professional company to come service your equipment.

Once you’ve cleaned and assessed your fleet, replace any parts or machines that need it. Tires are a commonly overlooked item but are vital for maximizing efficiency. If entire pieces of equipment need replacing, check out new, used and lease options from dealers. Used equipment from NITCO can be an excellent long-term investment that saves you thousands of dollars.

3. Shelving

It can’t be avoided: Idle inventory collects dust in any warehouse. After you clean up shelving, boxes and your product, implement a rotation schedule. Turning boxes will reduce mess and dust buildup over time, saving you lots of cleaning time and money on ruined goods.

To do this effectively, start by making sure you have the right equipment for the job. Forklifts and materials handling equipment run the gamut, so check the options at your disposal. The shelving used to store your goods is also important, both for accessibility and safety. Try the 80/20 rule: keep the 20% of inventory that gets the most touches in an easy-to-access zone, as this is what your employees will be picking 80% of the time.

4. Spring-cleaning your processes

Now that you’ve made your warehouse and equipment spotless, it’s time to spring clean your processes! This is the perfect opportunity to evaluate and re-evaluate your operations to see where improvements can be made.

Take a big-picture look at the functionality of your business. Are your aisles set up in the most efficient way possible? Could you add or subtract shelving solutions to maximize your space and employee productivity? Could a barcode system to streamline inventory processes be a valuable upgrade? Maybe a new stretch-wrap system could make your pallet processing even faster.

One innovation many are exploring is warehouse automation. What used to be an ambitious undertaking is now easier than ever, with user-friendly equipment that can impact and improve nearly every area of warehouse operations.


Don Connolly (Nitco)Don Connolly is the Floor Cleaning Equipment Department Manager for NITCO. Don has been in the industry for 38 years and has experience is all aspects of floor care. He has worked for both manufacturers and dealers of floor cleaning equipment in his career that gives him a unique perspective on floor cleaning. When not working Don spends his time outdoors and camping with his family.

Brexit: The Never-Ending Merry Go Round For the UK and the EU

By Contributing Author | 04/16/2019 | 6:58 AM

By Guy Courtin, Vice President, Industry & Solution Strategy, Retail and Fashion, Infor


The past few years have had their fair share of global disruptions and unexpected events – for example, the US presidential elections in 2016, the “gilets jaune” protests in France, and of course the vote by the British people to leave the European Union. Three years ago, the people of England voted to leave the European Union, setting a deadline of March 29, 2019. However, after three years of non-stop failed negotiations, Britain still does not have a plan and faces the danger of a “hard Brexit.” The current administration of Theresa May has gone to great lengths to try to establish an agreement on what Brexit will look like, even offering her resignation once an agreement is finalized. However, not even this desperate move has yielded the results wanted.

This has led to uncertainty among many British and European citizens and raised questions as to how this changing relationship between world powers will affect the lives of all involved. And for the supply chain – a great connector of businesses and trade across global boundaries – the various Brexit scenarios have already begun to paint a picture of a difficult path ahead.

The European Union was started post World War II, in large part to secure peace on a continent that suffered two global wars. By creating a unified market, the belief was peace and prosperity via a common market would trump any temptations of military aggression. To a large degree, the European Union achieved these goals. However, the openness of the union also created some misplaced fears and misgivings. A growing fear related to the free movement of people across borders and a swing back to nationalism as individual countries felt they gave up greater fiscal and monetary freedoms by being in the union. These points can be debated at length, but for many the benefits outweighed the negatives. But the perceived fear of a wave of refugees pouring over open borders, the belief that Brussels was exerting too much influence in domestic policies within the UK, and a political gamble by then Prime Minister David Cameron, led to the infamous referendum on June 23rd, 2016.

The slim margin for Brexit – 51.9 percent voting in favor versus 48.1 percent against led to announcement the UK would leave the EU by March 2019. What has transpired since that vote has sent shock waves throughout the global community. While the ultimate outcome remains a mystery, Brexit is already having a major impact on supply chains.


What Happens to the Flow of Inventory?

One of the primary benefits of being part of the EU was the removal of borders from the map. Goods could flow freely between member states. While there were still delays at places such as Calais, they were due in large part to the physical constraints of those ports. Much of the red tape associated with tariffs, customs and border inspections had been removed.

But, what will happen post-Brexit? Goods entering and exiting the UK will most likely be subject to greater controls and inspections. They will have to ensure they meet EU rules and therefore must be under more scrutiny than before. A simple detail such as the pallets needed to move the inventory is in question. However, the UK does not even have enough of the right types of pallets to move goods into the EU. Therefore, this lack of logistical material could create major disruptions in such areas as the food supply chain, where 3 million pallets move between the UK and the EU per month. This ultimately has the potential of creating food shortages post-Brexit.

This issue goes well beyond simply having enough French camembert cheese, Italian olive oil or German sauerkraut for the weeks that come post Brexit. Rather, firms will have to ensure they have enough inventory on hand to keep the store shelves replenished, medicine cabinets stocked, spare parts available for infrastructure – the list goes on and on.

Supply chains will need to plan for worst case scenarios. Ensure enough safety stock to support their UK operations, while also ensuring enough inventory from the UK destined to the EU is in the right locations on the continent. These same supply chains need to also plan for what happens if Brexit goes smoothly and the flow of inventory is not disrupted, but now there is a glut of inventory in different locations. Do you discount? Write off inventory? This has the potential to be planning headache for those responsible for the flow of inventory.


Can Manufacturers Adapt?

Without a doubt, manufacturing will have to undergo changes and adjustments. With open borders and one unified market, companies ranging from Nissan to Airbus have established manufacturing facilities in the UK. With open borders, these firms could look to use the distribution hubs in the UK to get anywhere in Europe, allowing for timeliness in delivery and manufacturing. However, now these firms are forced to rethink these plans. A study found that the investment in UK automotive manufacturing dropped 46.5 percent in 2018 as compare dto the year prior. Nissan has now decided to pull out of Sunderland, due to the referendum, while Airbus has expressed concerns about its desire to stay in the UK if there is a “bad” Brexit.

Manufacturing in the UK has been thrust under a cloud of uncertainty, and until the final decision is made, they will have to hedge on how much they continue to invest in the UK. They also need to consider the increased safety stock in vital raw materials – no one is certain there will not be weeks of delay with the flow of raw materials post Brexit. Additionally, these manufacturers must consider their long-term strategy with regards to servicing the EU and the UK markets.  Do they need to consider moving more manufacturing to mainland Europe? And if so, how do they manage their manufacturing needs to serve two distinct markets?


What Does This Mean for the Future Workforce?

While there will likely be some new rules with regards to the movement of finished goods and raw materials, there is also the question of movement of people. One of the benefits of the open borders in the EU was the lack of working papers and visas needed to work in member nations. By some estimations there are 3 million European nationals working in the UK, while there are 1.3 million UK citizens working in the EU. What will happen to this labor when Brexit takes place?

Industries such as healthcare are already seeing the effects of Brexit – 10,000 nurses quit the year after the referendum while the number of nurses from Europe registered in Britain has dropped by 90 percent. It remains to be seen how this impacts supply chains. As the labor numbers across the board continue to drop, the impact will be felt across all industries and through supply chains.

The question for companies and their supply chains – how will they make up for this shortage? One area of supply chains that are already feeling the impact of labor shortage is with the trucking industry – in the UK there is currently a 35,000-driver shortage. Couple this with a more challenging labor market as well as other EU nations competing for available talent, and you can imagine a serious labor issue in the future for UK based trucking.


Final Thoughts

Brexit has proven to be a major headache for businesses and their supply chains. The fact that the UK wants to leave the EU is not necessarily the most troublesome factor, but rather it is all the unknowns that come along with it. Will it be a “soft” or a “hard” Brexit? What will the relationship look like between the UK and the EU? Will Scotland look to leave the UK?

Any student of politics and history will realize that eventually the system will find a new normal. Businesses and supply chains will figure out how to function in this norm – some will even take advantage of it and reap the benefits. But the main dilemma today is the lack of clarity coming from London. It is the unknowns that will drive supply chains crazy. Until this fog of uncertainty is removed, see supply chain professionals will continue to struggle to determine the best course of action for their businesses.


Guy CourtinGuy Courtin is Vice President of Industry & Solution Strategy for Infor Retail and Fashion, a role in which he also drives thought leadership for the team. Guy has more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech industry, with expertise in the supply chain arena. Prior to Infor, he was a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, covering how digital disruption was impacting supply chains. Previously, Guy was vice president of research for SCM World, where he spearheaded coverage of supply chain service providers.

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:


  • 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


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.


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.

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.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

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

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital