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Understanding the ROI of Your Cloud-Based TMS - Nov 2018

As the functionality of transportation management systems (TMS) continues to grow, so does the return on investment (ROI) that comes from using one. However, some users may not fully understand the value offered by their TMS. Without understanding the full potential of the solution, it’s possible that some users may not be reaping all the benefits their TMS has to offer.

Understanding the ROI of Your Cloud-Based TMS

As the functionality of transportation management systems (TMS) continues to grow, so does the return on investment (ROI) that comes from using one. However, some users may not fully understand the value offered by their TMS. Without understanding the full potential of the solution, it’s possible that some users may not be reaping all the benefits their TMS has to offer.

Fortunately, as far as logistics-related software goes, the benefits of TMS solutions are relatively simple to grasp and explain. In this post we’ll show you how your TMS not only pays for itself, but also how it offers a demonstrably positive impact on your bottom line.

Driving Efficiency

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a transportation management system is its ability to easily optimize routes, digitize and minimize paperwork, support regulatory compliance, manage delivery and docking schedules, and more. Before the days of the TMS, these functions were all manually tracked through a series of spreadsheets that needed to be constantly updated with the latest information.

Enter the TMS. Our routes are now time and fuel efficient by default. Bills of lading and other relevant paperwork are generated in seconds. We know immediately if drivers or customers run the risk of legal violations. We can track cargo visibility, confirm deliveries, and perform countless other features at the touch of a button. A quality TMS can integrate with other programs, such as ERP solutions, warehouse management systems, and accounting software.

Tedious administrative tasks that once took a whole department of transportation specialists now happens seamlessly in the cloud—and they largely function automatically. This level of efficiency is a major profit driver for any transportation stakeholder.

Economy of Scale

TMS solutions used to involve large-scale hardware investments and significant development to create a functional proprietary solution. These investments were so prohibitively expensive that only the largest shippers and providers could justify investing in transportation management systems. But those days are gone.

Cloud-based software not only eliminates the need for on-site or rented servers, but it allows users to pick and choose the features they need, and to scale them up and down as necessary. With a cloud-based TMS, the upfront investment merely consists of a monthly or annual subscription fee – a fee that is easily offset by the cost savings users see from the efficiencies discussed above. In addition, implementation time typically occurs within weeks instead of months.

Instead of trying to break even on the costs surrounding a TMS implementation, cloud-based solutions allow shippers and logistics providers to realize savings that quickly and drastically outpace any initial or ongoing investment. As such, the width of the ROI window is now much wider than it was at the dawn of TMS technology.

Business Intelligence

In a business landscape obsessed with data, the TMS realm does not disappoint. Shippers and logistics providers can track a wide range of data under the umbrella of one solution, including (but not limited to):

  •  Deadhead/backhaul percentages
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Driver performance
  • Carrier performance
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Freight charges
  • On-time delivery percentages
  • Equipment utilization
  • Freight payment
  • Route optimization

 The useable data gathered by a TMS is nearly limitless. Shippers and logistics providers can lean heavily on this data as they seek to identify areas for improvement.

Getting Started

To fully recognize the ROI provided by a TMS, new users should conduct an audit and establish a baseline for later reference. Consult with your logistics software provider to see which areas you can expect to see demonstrable improvement, so you can make an informed comparison about your TMS performance and the ROI that it brings to the table.

360data, a member of the WSI family of companies, offers more than 50 years of experience in the logistics technology sector. Our solutions offer seamless integration with other popular B2B software, helping you to leverage maximum ROI from all your technology. To keep up to date with the latest in logistics technology trends, be sure to keep tabs on our blog and follow us on Twitter.

If you have questions about our suite of solutions, or about the ROI offered by our transportation management system, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to Make Your Warehouse Driver-Friendly - Nov 2018

The American trucking industry is facing a driver shortage that’s expected to reach 50,000 open driver positions in 2018, according to the American Trucking Associations. While the obvious answer to this is to hire more drivers, the industry is losing drivers to retirement or career changes faster than they can hire them.

How to Make Your Warehouse Driver-Friendly

The American trucking industry is facing a driver shortage that’s expected to reach 50,000 open driver positions in 2018, according to the American Trucking Associations. While the obvious answer to this is to hire more drivers, the industry is losing drivers to retirement or career changes faster than they can hire them. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help ease the tension on your carriers and increase capacity, however.

Ensuring that your warehouse or distribution operation is driver-friendly can help drivers and the carriers they work for optimize their time, which in turn will help them offer additional capacity. When capacity is limited, carriers will take notice of which clients work to help them get the most out of their drivers. In turn, the carrier should show their appreciation by keeping you at the top of the list when additional capacity becomes available.

Here are a few suggestions for making your facility a driver-friendly one:

  • Drop and hook. If drivers don’t have to wait in line to load and unload, they can knock countless hours off their daily schedule—especially at very busy facilities. In drop-and-hook operations, truckers can enter your yard, drop their trailer in a designated spot, then pick up a new trailer and be on their way without the need to chock their tires and wait. With Hours-of-Service regulations limiting the time drivers can spend behind the wheel, this can mean the difference between stopping for the night or getting several hours into the next delivery before pulling over.

  • Dock door appointments. If you don’t have the yard space for a drop and hook operation, you can schedule dock door appointments or specific delivery windows for each load. Without a clear appointment time, you risk multiple drivers showing up at the same time, which can cause significant lines and delays for both the driver and the loading dock crew. Implementing appointments or delivery windows can help you to optimize the loads coming in and out, and drivers can plan their rest breaks accordingly to save time. Do your best to make sure wait times are never longer than an hour.

  • Trucker lounges. Drivers – especially over-the-road drivers – spend countless hours in the cab. Oftentimes they must sleep in their truck. Needless to say, the opportunity to stretch their legs does not go unnoticed. In the unfortunate event that a driver has a long wait, having a place to cool off and relax can make the experience far less frustrating. Consider putting in amenities such as comfortable couches or cots for naps, free internet access, water coolers, vending machines, and bathrooms, to ensure that the driver will have everything they need to be comfortable as they wait. Available restrooms, sleeping areas, and food can also help drivers synchronize their rest periods with the wait at your facility. Larger scale investments might include gym equipment, showers, or nap pods.

  • Upgrade your technology. Delays can be avoided in many cases simply by optimizing deliveries with technology. Integrating your transportation management system with your carriers can help you collaborate to track loads, predict deliveries, and optimize routes to ensure that waits at the dock are kept to a minimum. Using technology to streamline your processes also helps avoid short lead times and adjust delivery windows should drivers be delayed by traffic or other factors.

  • Create a truck detention policy. Establish regulations for your facility about delays. This policy should include a maximum wait time, and any truck that is delayed longer than that amount of time should be a cause for investigation by management. This will enable you to get truckers in and out on time, and identify and address the issues that cause delays at your warehouse in the first place.

  • Provide backhaul. When trucks move empty, the carriers aren’t making money. A comprehensive backhaul program that guarantees two-way loads will keep carriers happy, while also ensuring that dunnage gets out of your facility and where it needs to go. It’s a win-win for any operation.

Instituting these practices in your warehouse or distribution facility will make you a preferred client for all the carriers you partner with. The trucking shortage is going to get bigger before it turns around, and trucking capacity will continue to ebb and flow for the foreseeable future. When capacity is tight, being a preferred client with a driver-friendly facility can mean the difference between moving your cargo and having it stuck in your warehouse waiting for a driver.

5 Ways to Optimize Your Supply Chain - Oct 2018

At a time when trucking capacity is scarce, unpredictable new tariffs are affecting imports, and many suppliers are pushed to capacity, shippers must take advantage of every conceivable way to optimize their supply chains. Through a focus on optimization, supply chain stakeholders can take steps to mitigate volatility and the ever-increasing costs associated with their shipments.

5 Ways to Optimize Your Supply Chain

 At a time when trucking capacity is scarce, unpredictable new tariffs are affecting imports, and many suppliers are pushed to capacity, shippers must take advantage of every conceivable way to optimize their supply chains. Through a focus on optimization, supply chain stakeholders can take steps to mitigate volatility and the ever-increasing costs associated with their shipments.

To help our customers and other shippers determine key areas of focus for optimization, we’ve compiled the following list of pain points where most supply chains can tighten up operations.

1. Route Optimization

With modern transportation management systems (TMS), optimizing delivery routes has become easier than ever before, and the ability to take advantage of these solutions has become affordable even for small and medium shippers. Affordable cloud-based TMS evens the playing field, allowing transportation planners to easily plan efficient routes that save on fuel and – perhaps more importantly in the midst of a capacity crunch – driver hours.

Knocking five or ten minutes off each stop may not seem like a big deal, but if you multiply that by 10 or more stops it can give your drivers significant wiggle room while also decreasing overall delivery costs.

2. Load Consolidation

It can be tempting to ship out product piecemeal to make sure it gets to the end user or store shelf as quickly as possible, but this manner of shipping is highly ineffective in terms of cost. Simply put, shipping full truckloads is cheaper.

If your operation only has small shipments, infrequent loads, or slow production times, consider partnering with a third-party logistics provider so your partial loads can be consolidated with those of other shippers on the same lane. The long-term cost savings driven by consolidation will offer a demonstrable positive impact on your transportation budget.

3. Use Multiple Modes

With the amount of trucks that we see hustling goods back and forth each day, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are other methods to get cargo from Point A to Point B. If capacity is hard to come by on your lane, check out other transportation modes that are going to the same place.

Rail transload has become a popular option as trucking capacity continues to get tighter and the driver shortage grows larger. Remember that trucking and rail do not have to be mutually exclusive, and it’s often far easier to find short haul capacity on the other end of the track.

 4. Shipment Leveling

The traditional method for avoiding stockouts on in-demand inventory is simply to carry large amounts of that inventory. However, this method is expensive and largely unnecessary in most cases. Using Lean principles, manufacturers and distributors have teamed up to keep high-demand product in stock using smaller frequent shipments rather than placing large, cumbersome orders that take up valuable warehouse space.

Forecasting is a wonderful tool but is by no means a perfect one. By using shipment leveling, inventory can be easily scaled up or down based on demand. By fulfilling demand in this way, recipients aren’t left with high volumes of unsold SKUs to store—or worse, to dispose of if there is a sudden shift in market demand.

 5. Proper Product Labeling

If you’re wondering what labeling has to do with your supply chain, the answer is: Everything. Labels don’t just display your product’s varied regulatory compliance, expiration dates, and branding. Bar codes, RFID labels, and other labeling technologies have become a crucial factor in supply chain visibility.

To drive supply chain optimization, labeling should be integrated with other supply chain technology systems, such as TMS, warehouse management systems, yard management systems, inventory management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, and more. Labels facilitate everything from shipment to storage to returns, and an effective enterprise labeling solution is key to an optimized supply chain.

 Ask the Supply Chain Optimization Professionals

These are only some of the areas you can focus on to improve efficiency across your supply chain. At WSI Logistics, we’ve been helping organizations optimize their supply chains for more than 50 years, and we’re happy to help you identify and address any pain points within your operation.

To learn more about WSI Logistics, make sure to read our blog and follow us on Twitter. To see how we can support your supply chain optimization efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

WSI Logistics Succeeds at Emergency Response in Allentown - Oct 2018

Among the services offered at WSI’s facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, employees move a range of potentially hazardous chemicals in support of bulk chemical transfer and chemical handling operations for clients. At WSI, employee safety comes before all else, and there are a range of processes in place to make sure that leaks and spills are handled quickly and efficiently to minimize risks to personnel.

WSI Logistics Succeeds at Emergency Response in Allentown

Among the services offered at WSI’s facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, employees move a range of potentially hazardous chemicals in support of bulk chemical transfer and chemical handling operations for clients. At WSI, employee safety comes before all else, and there are a range of processes in place to make sure that leaks and spills are handled quickly and efficiently to minimize risks to personnel.

The spill response plan was recently tested at Allentown to give employees practical experience at cleaning up hazardous material. Spill drills are conducted annually at each WSI site that stores and handles chemicals.

 “The main purpose of the drill is to not only test each employee’s knowledge, but also to test our response plan,” says Scott Buber, director of operations for WSI. “Each employee plays a vital role in the plan—whether they are a first responder or simply evacuating the building and heading towards the rally point. Our plan was created to ensure we keep our employees, contractors, and environment safe; as well as to mitigate the identified hazards in or around our facility.”

The Spill Drill

The drill was unannounced and occurred just after the Allentown team completed a week’s worth of mandatory chemical training. While employees may suspect a drill is coming, they are not aware of the exact time or nature of the event. In preparation, they go through regular training, including an eight-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) course.

 For this year’s drill, managers used a mixture of household chemicals to simulate a hazardous chemical spill, and the staff sprang into action. When the facility’s alarm went off, manager trainee Owen Stauber gathered his team and instructed them to don their personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes chemical-resistant Tyvek suits, gloves, and respirators. Once the staff was ready to safely address the spill, they took the following action:

  • Two employees, employing the buddy system, entered the chemical release zone and reported the situation via radio to Owen—who was now the designated Incident Commander.
  • The simulated product was a chemical called Startex Fix DS 100. Owen pulled the product SDS, using the steps within to properly guide his team through proper clean-up for this specific chemical.
  • Using the spill response kit, salvage drum, and appropriate PPE to isolate the spill – a drum that appeared to have tipped from a bottom rack, and a pool of liquid on the warehouse floor of the general storage area.
  • The first responders laid out absorbent socks around the puddle to ensure it did not spread any further. Following the SDS, Owen told the responders that the product did not require neutralization, at which point the team covered the spill in absorbent material.
  • The chemical-soaked material was transferred to a recovery drum and moved into a safe disposal area, at which point the All Clear alarm was sounded.

 After-Action Review

The Allentown staff was able to successfully clean up the spill, while also gaining practical experience beyond their standard classroom training. During the After-Action Review, employees made the following recommendations to make clean-up even more efficient in the future:

  •  Communication. Keep response team radios on a separate channel from the general warehouse. Team must speak clearly and concisely to drive efficiency.
  • Attentiveness. Response team must keep an eye on each other’s PPE. One Tyvek suit tore during the operation, and the team also recommended keeping gloves tucked under Tyvek sleeves – possibly with duct tape – to increase safety.
  • Personal Protective Equipment. The team recommended having PPE prepared in advance—sorted by proper size for and stored in an easily accessible place for each employee to improve overall reaction speed.
  • Leadership. Besides the Incident Commander, the team also recommended designating a secondary leader within the spill zone to assign tasks and maintain organization at the spill site.

 Safety First

Unannounced drills like the one at Allentown help our staff gain practical insight into emergency response, and the recommendations offered by those involved help us to continually improve our processes and procedures.

 Offering a quick and safe response to chemical spills is part of WSI Logistics’ larger commitment to employee safety and environmental stewardship. We’re proud of our Allentown staff for successful completion of another annual drill, and we remain confident that they can handle a real emergency with professionalism and distinction.

 

 

All TMS are Not Created Equal: Four Tips for TMS Buyers - Sep 2018

Transportation Management Software (TMS) was once considered a solution for gigantic retailers or large CPG brands, but that’s no longer the case. Shippers and intermediaries of all sizes can benefit greatly from the increased functionality and simplified processes offered by a TMS.

All TMS are Not Created Equal: Four Tips for TMS Buyers

Transportation Management Software (TMS) was once considered a solution for gigantic retailers or large CPG brands, but that’s no longer the case. Shippers and intermediaries of all sizes can benefit greatly from the increased functionality and simplified processes offered by a TMS.

In the age of the digital supply chain, TMS has become a necessity for shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers alike—but not all models are made the same. While many Tier 1 TMS solutions offer similar benefits and functionality, the costs and customer service levels between them often vary wildly. Then, of course, there are the slew of outdated TMS solutions still for sale on the market that can no longer handle the needs of a modern supply chain.

What to Look for in a TMS

Despite the changing needs and constantly increasing pace of the supply chain sector, however, many stakeholders still hesitate to make a TMS investment. Many who need a TMS continue to think that they can’t afford one, and because of this, some logistics professionals are still clicking through pages on spreadsheets and faxing bills of lading, while others are simply struggling with outdated and unsupported TMS solutions that have been outgrown by their organization.

Whatever category you fall into, here are four factors to consider when shopping for a TMS:

1. Cost. Prices between TMS solutions run a pretty wide range and account for a variety of factors. Some may want a flat fee while others will have recurring or cost-per-transaction models. The key to evaluating pricing models lies as much with the buyer as with the seller. Go into your search knowing what services you need and what you can afford.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have to go broke on the up-front investment. The days of on-site legacy supply chain solutions are behind us. It’s no longer worth investing in large, up-front hardware investments and software customizations for a TMS when Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service subscriptions can offer the same options at a fraction of the price. Also, make sure to consider where your business will be in five or ten years, and choose a solution that can be scaled later without breaking the bank.

2. Functionality. Most TMS providers will promise a similar set of functions and capabilities. Much like cost, however, the question of functionality is a loaded one. You can’t just account for what you need right now, but also what you expect to need over the next few years at a minimum. The biggest advantage of modern Cloud-hosted solutions is that they can scale and grow with you far more easily than an on-site hosted solution will.

 If you have other B2B software, then you must be sure that your new TMS will integrate properly with those solutions. The best software will also be wholly customizable, because every operation has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that need to be accounted for. As far as the basics go, however, you’ll also want to make sure that you can track carrier performance, access the best real-time rates, have real-time visibility of your shipments, and have access to carriers within all the transportation modes that you use.

3. Implementation. You’re not shopping for a new TMS because you want to streamline your transportation operations next year or the year after. Most likely, if you’re looking for a new TMS, it’s because you’re already having problems and you want a solution as soon as possible.

To that end, make sure that you choose a provider that can provide full implementation in weeks or months. There’s no sense in risking operational downtime on something that’s supposed to be streamlining your operation. A quality TMS provider will respect your operation and have the expertise to integrate their solution into it as quickly as possible.

4. Customer service. The best products in the world aren’t worth anything at all if they aren’t supported by a great team. Your software provider shouldn’t just be that vendor you buy solutions from now and then—they should be a partner. When you invest in a solution from a true partner, that partner will invest in you in return by always being there to answer questions, address problems, or tweak the solution as needed.

Ask around about the software vendors you’re considering. Look for case studies and online reviews. Make sure you won’t be forgotten among larger competitors, or swindled into buying upgrades or services you don’t need.

 Learn More

Shippers are currently faced with tight capacity across modes. Without a state-of-the-art TMS to provide up-to-the-minute information on carrier availability and rates, shippers and logistics providers alike may find themselves hemorrhaging money from their transportation budgets.

 The 360data TMS offers all the functionality of a Tier 1 TMS, yet remains affordable for small- and medium-sized operations, and can scale with you as your business grows. To learn more about how 360data can help streamline your transportation operation, please contact us.

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This Just In

The Need for Speed in Automated Truck Policy - Dec 2017

In the 1970s, Congress held hearings about whether a personal computer could be trusted not to read user brainwaves – a fine example of how those responsible for regulating technology tend to trip over what they don’t understand.

I recently read that in the 1970s, Congress held hearings and engaged in serious discussions about whether or not a personal computer could be trusted not to read the brainwaves of its users. This is a fine example of how those responsible for regulating technology tend to trip over what they don't understand. That's why I found myself relieved when the American Trucking Associations (ATA) released its proposal for an automated truck policy.

Without input from experts who actually operate in the trenches, disruptive technologies can get regulated right out of existence. Remember Napster? The regulatory hiccups generated by the technology pushed it into the courts, underground, and then out of business. Without an appropriate framework in place for automated trucks, those too could wind up only being a flash in the pan.

The State vs. Federal Dilemma

Fortunately, the ATA has offered up a basis for regulators to use when building a federal policy in regards to automated trucks. One of the key points in their proposal involves empowering the federal government to do the heavy lifting. Automated trucks will primarily support long-distance, interstate commerce, and letting individual states develop their own sets of regulations regarding the technology will only stunt market potential and development.

Don't get me wrong—I'm usually a big proponent of state's rights and using multiple state regulatory models as a trail-and-error playground for new technologies. At this point, however, we can't afford to let mixed regulations stifle a technology that the trucking industry desperately needs.

The ATA projected that the truck driver shortage will hit 50,000 by the end of 2017. Trucking needs automated solutions to provide capacity and meet growing demand, and manufacturers of those solutions can't afford to be tailoring every vehicle based on what region or state it will operate in. Instead, a strong federal policy will provide consistency, which will drive growth in the national market and spur developmental advancements in the technology itself.

The Driver Debate

Anyone who pays attention to the driverless truck issue can tell you that opponents fear the loss of truck driving jobs, but our truck driver shortage will continue to grow. NAFTA renegotiations could force the driver gap to expand even further—and why is it so hard to fill these jobs?

Because driving is hard. It's a rare driver that still enjoys long-haul trucking. The hours are grueling. The time away from friends and family makes it worse. Many long-haul drivers wind up leaving the industry altogether as soon as they find a something that lets them stay at home. The fact is, most drivers would rather operate regional routes, and automated trucks will let them do that. Let the driverless vehicle handle the coast-to-coast route while human truckers do the short hauls and Last Mile.

The benefits of automated technology will help these drivers as well. Better collision warning systems will keep them safe. Better GPS will help them run on time. Trucks that can run long stretches on their own will give them time to do paperwork or eat lunch without losing miles.

At WSI, we're acutely aware that this driver shortage is not sustainable long-term. Every transportation provider knows this. We're also aware that automated trucks could solve this problem entirely within a matter of years. Instead of batting the idea around regulatory agencies for the next five years – Prime Air anyone? – regulators must take ATA's proposal seriously, and use it as a basis for policies that aid in the development and testing of automated vehicles across state lines.

Recent Industry Disruptions Challenge, Improve Retail Logistics and Supply Chain - Aug 2017

American consumers are now living in an era of supply chain domination, in which we sometimes sacrifice privacy for convenience, or a few extra dollars for speed.

American consumers are now living in an era of supply chain domination, in which we sometimes sacrifice pri­vacy for convenience, or a few extra dollars for speed. Amazon drones drop small packages on our doorstep the same day. Meals arrive on urban doorsteps via tiny robots moments after placing the order. Naturally, the retail industry needs to adapt an agile and visible supply chain to fulfill these increasingly complex consumer requests.

In recent weeks, both Walmart and Amazon made waves in the retail industry, though for rather different reasons. Walmart recently narrowed its “must arrive by” date windows and will penalize suppliers, big or small, for early or late product arrival. The retail supply chain needs to up its game to meet these require­ments; the penalties Walmart intends to inflict will sting. Similarly, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods may disrupt the retail industry in a profound way. The initial announcement caused a seismic shift in stock prices and provoked thousands of articles and blog posts about the implications of the deal for the supply chain, brick-and-mortar grocery stores, and small-to-medium-scale organic food producers.

Walmart’s “Must Arrive By” Dates Set Tone for Retail Supply Chain

As consumers make their needs and desires more clearly heard, big-box retailers like Walmart seek to streamline supply chain operations–to have the right product on shelves when the con­sumer wants it. Walmart has turned to a more holistic approach to shopping, integrating its traditional big box retail locations with e-commerce. Walmart aims to stock shelves with product based on just-in-time, lean-minded operations.

And, the retail giant will now require its suppliers, from manu­facturing giants like Unilever to smaller, local producers, to adhere to stringent delivery windows. When product arrives too early or too late at the designated Walmart location, suppliers will incur fines equal to 3 percent of the products’ value. The effort to whip suppliers into shape, with the stated goal of 95% on-time, in-full deliveries, reveals Walmart’s mission to compete directly with Amazon.

Walmart’s rivalry with Amazon is also now reaching toward cleaning up its in-store workings, to provide consumers with a better shopping experience. Notably, after Amazon’s acquisi­tion of Whole Foods, Walmart announced its intention to provide customers with better-located and more aesthetically pleas­ing produce and fresh foods aisles. The compliance squeeze for Walmart’s logistics providers and suppliers is getting ever-tighter. Suppliers and 3PLs that count on Walmart as a client would be wise to shape up and ship out–ideally within the allotted 24-hour window for on-time deliveries.

Amazon and Whole Foods: A Perfect Storm for Grocery Retail Disruption

News that Amazon intends to purchase Whole Foods in the second half of 2017 rocked the retail industry and stock market earlier this summer. The marriage of two retail powerhouses–one e-commerce and the other a traditional brick-and-mortar gro­cery store specializing in organic, locally produced and supplied grocery–inspired scads of think pieces and provoked lots of ques­tions, from those for and against the merger.

Generally, economists see the deal as a positive one for both companies. Whole Foods has been reluctant to embrace digital supply chain technologies, and Amazon can help with that, given its position as a retailer that is really a data and supply chain com­pany. Similarly, Whole Foods provides the cold-chain footprint close to end users that Amazon needs to become a major player in the grocery retail sector. Amazon’s relationship with Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods’ relationship with Instacart could help expand fresh food delivery in an efficient manner. Or the two companies could leave those partnerships by the wayside and focus on enhancing their own complementary synergies in last-mile fresh food delivery.

The potential for cashier-free stores, as currently seen in Amazon’s Seattle, Washington venture, could streamline the grocery-buying process for consumers nationwide. Plus, omni-channel presence would become even more convenient. Consider the possibility of Amazon lockers in every Whole Foods nationwide, to pick up online orders of pillowcases and books, along with your family’s organic carrots and yogurt.

With these recent changes, the potential for retail supply chain disruption is great. 3PL providers must be cognizant of these changes in the supply chain and shifting compliance require­ments to ensure continued profit and high performance for some of their biggest clients.

Need Flexibility? Seek out Full-Service 3PLs - Jul 2017

The retail and supply chain worlds have changed–and are changing–rapidly.

The retail and supply chain worlds have changed–and are changing–rapidly. Soaring end-user consumer demand for same-day delivery of goods and companies’ desire for increased visibility of their supply chains are two instrumental factors in the ever-morphing industrial real estate industry. Companies want and need instant, flexible warehousing options with skilled, efficient labor to handle and ship their products. Despite newcomers to the market, third-party logistics providers with years of experience and myriad service offerings, like distribution, fulfillment, storage, transload, technology and import/export services, can diversify easily.

Specifically, flexible warehousing is all the buzz right now in the warehousing industry, as e-commerce companies and retailers flock to store high-turnover product in spaces for short periods of time. However, despite its new name, “flex warehousing” or “spot warehousing” has existed in the logistics industry for a long time. It simply went by different names. “Public warehousing,” “multi-client space” or “public space” all refer to what clients now know as “flex warehousing.”

This type of warehouse space allows for many clients’ products to be received, handled, stored, and shipped out in a flexible environment, as opposed to dedicated space and labor reserved for only one contract client at a time.

The Inside Scoop on Flex Warehousing

Currently known as the Uber of warehousing, the Seattle, Washington-based Flexe warehousing and fulfillment company recently launched next-day ground delivery service, in addition to its on-demand storage, shipping and delivery services. Describing itself as a supply chain software company, Flexe does not own or operate any warehouse or industrial real estate space. Instead, it builds, executes and maintains software that is then housed within contracted warehouse space around the country. Tenants who need quick space can turn to Flexe to store their goods for the short amount of time needed.

The downside of flex warehousing is the lack of dedicated labor to handle certain, highly sensitive products, such as chemicals, perishable foods and large, easily damaged goods. Seeking out a third-party logistics provider with its own dedicated workforce, as well as a robust and flexible Warehouse Management System software and RFgen scanning capabilities, is still a company’s best option for handling and storing sensitive goods. Logistics services like RF scanning and an Oracle-powered WMS can work in tandem with highly trained, safety-minded material handlers’ skillsets to ensure clients’ needs are met. 3PLs with transportation assets–even a small fleet of trucks–have another leg up on their clients’ need for speed. Even better, a 3PL with logistics software, like its own Transportation Management System and/ or B2B systems integration software, can easily fulfill the needs of a short-term client.

Current 3PLs Already Meeting the Need

3PLs with a focus on logistics management can rest assured that they are competing capably against the new kid on the block. By quickly adapting to various industries and commodities, and responding to client requests with urgency and an extremely high level of customer service quality, a strong 3PL will find it can outlast even the most convenient warehousing options of the 21st century.

WSI is one of the largest 3PLs in the nation, with nearly 15 million square feet nationwide. We serve the chemical, paper, consumer packaged goods, packaging, building materials and electronics industries. In 2016, WSI celebrated its 50th anniversary of providing “Absolute Reliability” to its clients. Our WMS, the Oracle-powered JD Edwards’ EnterpriseOne software, can process inbound and outbound shipment orders for products ranging from t-shirts to bulk plastic pellets. Our experience with seasonal goods, like holiday wrapping paper, Halloween costumes and fishing rods, has made us one of the best in the industry. We can react quickly to retailer, distributor and manufacturer needs, no matter the good. Looking for 50,000 square feet of space for 3 months? We have that. Need 400,000 square feet for 5 years? We can do that, too.

Our sister companies, WSI Transportation, LLC, and 360data, offer personalized transportation and supply chain visibility solutions, respectively.

Whether the client needs transportation brokered or available onsite via one of our trucks, WSI Transportation, LLC can ensure safe, speedy shipment of product.

360data software solutions provide customized TMS and B2B Integrator options for complete supply chain visibility. Visit 360data.com to learn more.

Our focus is on “Absolute Reliability” to the client. That motto instills our organization with an innate flexibility toward changing client demands, for more than 50 years. Contact us today for availability, pricing, transportation and dedicated labor information, or visit our Featured Properties page at wsinc.com/featured-properties.html.

Handle With Care: How to Be the Best At Fulfilling Your Clients' Chemical Handling Needs - Jun 2017

Chemical handling is an important function of a third-party logistics provider.

Chemical handling is an important function of a third-party logistics provider. 

If your firm is looking to source a chemical handling partner or currently han­dles chemicals and wants to perform better, our guide below illuminates some key factors to finding the best fit.

Explain your chemical business thoroughly, so potential providers know their duties.

Allow your incumbent provider and any potential providers in the RFP process to learn as much as they can about your business. A potential provider should demonstrate intimate, near-encyclopedic knowledge of your business, operations, and current and future needs. Be sure to communicate must-do, regularly repeating tasks, current and past lean projects (so the potential providers know about any past inefficiencies and challenges), and a list of future goals. A strong provider should be able to explicitly address how it will be able to resolve challenges and improve your organization’s processes.

Be on the lookout for the kind of top-performing provider that combines integrated teamwork, commitment to delivering absolute reliability to your business, and dedication to going beyond the normal scope of work to best serve the client.

Make sure your provider considers or complies with industry partnerships/memberships: Responsible Care and Operation Clean Sweep.

Responsible Care is the global chemical handling indus­try’s premier environmental and safety initiative, holding many organizations, companies, and non-profits accountable for safe and responsible chemical handling. American Chemistry Council companies are strongly encouraged to participate in Responsible Care initiatives for responsible chemicals handling.

However, for companies like 3PLs, participation in Responsible Care is strictly voluntary. Becoming a Responsible Care Partner entails adhering to Responsible Care commit­ments to improve performance in the fields of environmental protection, occupational safety and health protection, plant safety, product stewardship and logistics, as well as to con­tinuously improve dialog with neighbors and the public, independent from legal requirements. The initiative is global and currently active in 52 countries. Responsible Care is not simply marketing or symbolic.

Joining the Responsible Care initiative as a Partner involves taking a leadership role with chemical manufacturers and distributors to ensure products are handled safely and in sustainable, environmentally friendly ways. If your poten­tial chemical handling provider is committed to safety and health, as well as efficient and sound logistics, it will commit to Responsible Care Partner designation.

Similarly, Operation Clean Sweep, a product stewardship pro­gram of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division and Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), helps to strengthen your provider’s commitment to sustainability. Operation Clean Sweep’s goal is to help every plastic resin handling operation implement good housekeeping, including pellet, flake and powder containment practices. The ultimate goal of OCS is to achieve zero pellet, flake or powder loss. Should your orga­nization handle plastics, your provider’s participation in–or compliance with–Operation Clean Sweep standards is para­mount for good housekeeping, safety and health.

You get what you pay for; beware of the “too-good-to-be-true” price.

After providing your thorough and complete scope of work to the provider, getting to know its labor force and capabilities, and ensuring the provider has all necessary part­nerships in place, the final and most important step is to ensure your price expectations are aligned with the provider.

It is essential to consider what you know about your compa­ny’s current operations. Are you certain the account will require after-hours receiving and shipments? Expect to be charged accordingly, and trust that your provider will spell out its justifi­cation for pricing to the utmost degree in its RFP response.

If a potential provider responds with a lowball pricing offer, be sure to consider your incumbent provider’s strengths and consider the value of their work, including future proposed projects and past performance. A potential low-cost provider that does not know your business well may fail dramatically at delivering high-performance chemical handling. The lowball offer may overlook essential elements of your business, such as the need for same-day bulk transfers or for frequent rela­beling. Accepting a low-cost offer from a provider that is not prepared to take on the workload could end up costing your company more in the long run.

Using these three strategies, your company can gain the knowledge needed to find an expert provider in the chemi­cal handling industry. WSI, one of the nation’s largest 3PLs, has been handling chemicals for decades. We are a current Responsible Care Partner and Operation Clean Sweep partici­pant, handling chemicals for some of the largest distributors and manufacturers in the world.

Working Alongside Robots: No Longer Science Fiction - May 2017

Working alongside robots in warehouses is the way of the present, rather than the way of the future.

Working alongside robots in warehouses is the way of the present, rather than the way of the future.

The recent ProMat and Automate conferences, in Chicago, featured robotics and automated materials handling equipment. “Solve for X,” the theme of the conference, emphasized the need for manufacturers, warehousing and third-party logistics companies to embrace change to stay relevant. Rather than focusing on the technological capabilities of these high-efficiency robots, our team attended ProMat & Automate with an eye toward the changing workforce. As we strolled the aisles, observing robots in demonstration booths, we reflected on the results of the 2017 MHI survey. The
MHI survey, the fourth in a series of annual industry reports developed in conjunction with Deloitte Consulting, focused on “Next-Generation Supply Chains: Digital, On-Demand and Always-On.” The survey received 1,100 responses from manufacturing and supply chain industry leaders. Approximately 80 percent of respondents to the survey said automation will dominate the logistics industry in the
next half decade. Even more relevant, 61 percent of MHI survey respondents indicated that they view robotics and automation of warehouse materials handling equipment as either a disruption or an advantage in the supply chain industry. For comparison’s sake, 39 percent of respondents to the 2015 MHI survey reported this view on robotics and automation.

According to the survey respondents and other research, using current logistics methods in urban areas is unsustainable. Sorting robots that use flights and pushers within a small warehouse footprint, such as in a tight-spaced urban setting, will maximize efficiency. Small unit robots in warehouses, like Amazon’s Kiva robots, and delivery botpods, like Skype founders’ new food delivery venture Starship Technologies, will be key to reducing congestion and gaining efficiencies both inside and outside the warehouse. In addition to well-known retailers like Amazon and Skechers, at Under Armour’s manufacturing facility, humans and robots already work alongside one another, to a much greater extent than at most other manufacturing facilities. Technological disruptions are generally considered positive for industries. However, for those in the materials handling workforce, a robotic disruption could seem  threatening.

We want to help assuage those concerns about potential diminishing warehouse job openings. Instead, warehouse employees should look forward to easier physical labor, less stress and more intellectual stimulation on the job. Robots can take the pressure off of warehouses and 3PLs during seasonal surges. Robots can take shifts during the hottest or coldest parts of the day and drastically reduce the amount of walking humans need to do on a daily basis picking orders throughout the warehouse.

A New York Times Magazine article published the week of Feb. 23, 2017, emphasized that most robots working alongside humans in warehouses are not eerily human-like, but machine-esque. The reporter implied it is less unsettling to work alongside machines than it would be to work alongside animatronic bots. In this observation, the Times addresses and then debunks a common fear: that robots will replace all human workers. Materials handlers should rest assured that there will always be work that needs to be done by humans, namely work that requires observing and anticipating needs in social situations and work that demands emotional intelligence. Customer service situations, like communicating with a major manufacturer about space needs and limitations, inventory shortages or damage, still require abundant human interaction and interference.

Moreover, a Los Angeles Times article published Dec. 4, 2016, points out that, while fewer warehousing jobs are being added for materials handling tasks, the new job positions pay more, due to the higher skill set required to monitor automated lift equipment. In the coming years, new automation technology should create approximately 15 million jobs, according to Forrester, a research firm. With
these new jobs come important consideration factors. For example, lights-out automation would be much more possible with robots, creating a new set of safety considerations, such as creating adaptive zones, complying with new regulations and providing both bots and humans with clear instructions on how to operate within the designated zones.

Has your organization implemented automated lift technologies yet? How much have you saved in operational efficiencies and utility bills? (Automated lift trucks can work in the dark.) The future is now

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