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Reliability Matters

Hurricane Harvey Flooded Us, But Couldn’t Drown Our WSI Spirit - Mar 2018

If there’s one thing Gulf states know how to weather, it’s hurricanes. WSI’s Baytown, Texas, facility, operated for Covestro – located just outside Houston – is no exception.

Hurricane Harvey Flooded Us, But Couldn’t Drown Our WSI Spirit

If there’s one thing Gulf states know how to weather, it’s hurricanes. WSI’s Baytown, Texas, facility, operated for Covestro – located just outside Houston – is no exception. When a Category Four hurricane comes knocking, however, there’s not much businesses can do but batten down the hatches and wait to see how bad it gets.

 

Hurricane Harvey tied with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina for the costliest hurricane, according to data from the National Hurricane Center, coming in at about $125 billion in damage. Even worse, 88 people were killed in hurricane-related events, thousands were displaced from their homes, and more than 13 million people were impacted in some way across the Southeastern United States.

 

The Calm Before the Storm

When the first hints of wind and rain made landfall a few hours down the coast in Rockport on August 24th, 2017, operations were still running normally for the Baytown site. The hurricane moved back out into the Gulf briefly on August 25th, and site manager Sam Rivera contacted Covestro to suggest a suspension of second shift operations before it came back.   Around 2 a.m., on Saturday, August 26th, Rivera woke up to a lull in the storm. “I thought I made a very bad call to close operations,” he said. As it turns out, however, he made the right call. Later that day, Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi (about 210 miles west) and brought with it a torrent of rain and wind. As the storm bore down on Baytown, leaders from Covestro and WSI agreed to suspend operations until further notice.

Under the Weather

Facilities remained closed through August 31st, during which time the Houston area saw more than 50 inches of rain. The surrounding area was under more than three feet of water, but fortunately the warehouses storing Covestro’s products sat on higher ground and remained dry. Fortunately, using 24-hour video surveillance, WSI personnel could monitor all of the buildings for flooding and leaks without actually being on site.

 

WSI’s employees, however, didn’t fair as well as the company’s buildings. More than 60 percent of Baytown’s staff were severely impacted due to the flooding. Five staff members lost their cars, and four lost their homes entirely. Many more were trapped by flood waters that held steady at four or five feet, closing most of the major highways (and cutting off access to WSI).

 

On September 1st, Covestro asked if there was any way WSI could get any personnel to the site to cover some emergency orders. Sam Rivera began calling around to see if anyone could make it in.  “On the fifth day, Covestro said ‘hey Sam, these customers are literally out of stock. We cannot supply the material from any other location. Can you bring anyone in to the site?’ Out of 38 people, we managed to find five people who had the capability to come to work,” Rivera said.

 

That’s not to say that travelling into work was easy. Craig Humphrey, assistant manager of the Baytown facility, was able to get his truck and fishing boat near enough to one flood-trapped employee’s house to pick him up. Pedro Hernandez, a material handler, was more than glad to come to work – he had been trapped by water for days.  “To me, that was a huge deal,” Rivera said. “Craig picking an employee up in a power boat. His house was totally surrounded by water. He was on a little node of land – his house wasn’t compromised, but he couldn’t go anywhere.”

Rivera, Humphrey, Hernandez, and two other material handlers managed to make it safely in and worked for nearly 12 hours to meet the needs of their customer. They completed about a dozen emergency loads before shutting down for the day.

 

As the waters finally began to recede, WSI employees who could get to work safely staffed two skeleton shifts and were able to restore regular shipments to Covestro’s customers, full operations were restored on September 5th.

 

Coming in Out of the Rain

While employees were glad to be back at work, there were still many challenges outside of the distribution center. Homes were damaged or destroyed, vehicles weren’t operational, some were without power, and many were concerned about how they would find the resources to rebuild.

 Luckily WSI isn’t the type of company that hangs its employees out to dry. Just as workers showed dedication to WSI and Covestro by coming in to address emergency stock-outs, WSI felt a similar sense of responsibility for its employees. Billy Vance, director of operations for WSI, teamed up with Sam Rivera and Craig Humphrey to measure the impact of the hurricane on each employee. They began interviewing employees to understand each individual situation.

 

“We prioritized money to staff and their families that were displaced from their homes and had out-of-pocket expenses for their hotel stays,” Rivera said. “Also, our focus remained on staff that had lost their homes and transportation to high water until FEMA, Red Cross, and insurance companies could help with coverage. Most employees suffered some type of home damage, so we provided money to help cover food or materials purchases in the interim.”

 

Bob Schroeder, CEO of WSI, donated $10,000 to help the Baytown staff with emergency needs and supplies. Within 48 hours of passing the virtual hat, the company also raised an additional $10,000 from other WSI employees around the country. One of WSI’s clients also decided to help out.

 

Far from Baytown, Texas, up in Portland,  Oregon , WSI runs a distribution and returns operation for furniture retailer Simpli Home. Part of that operation involves processing returns that have damaged packaging but are otherwise unharmed. Simpli Home donated a 53-foot trailer full of furniture to help WSI workers to replace what had been lost to flooding, and offered additional products at cost.

 

Most members of the WSI family who were affected by Hurricane Harvey have fully recovered or are well on their way toward recovery. When tragedy strikes, true character is revealed.  For WSIs’ staff that means dedication to their families, the customer and WSI.   We here at WSI are proud to know each of these amazing people, and to call them our family.

 

WSI Demonstrates Commitment to Safety & Sustainability with Responsible Care Certification - Mar 2018

WSI takes pride in helping to reduce the release of hazardous materials into the environment, improving worker and facility safety, and driving energy efficiency across their operations.

WSI Demonstrates Commitment to Safety & Sustainability with Responsible Care Certification

WSI* received its Responsible Care certification from the American Chemistry Council for its warehouse facility in Baytown, Texas, while the company’s overall chemical unit passed its recertification for the program. Certification was originally obtained in 2013 and the company is one of the few warehouse providers to commit to the program.

 

For more than 30 years, Responsible Care members and partners have demonstrated a commitment to environmental, health, safety, and security standards well above what is required by law. As a Responsible Care partner, WSI continues to take pride in joining chemical industry stakeholders in 68 economies around the world who take responsibility for reducing the release of hazardous materials into the environment, improving worker and facility safety, and driving energy efficiency across their operations.

 

Responsible Care – A Way of Life

Some programs exist that allow companies to showcase their sustainability or safety credentials with a one-time analysis, fee, or a handful of promises that require limited follow-through—but Responsible Care is not so easy. A partner can’t pass recertification through luck or last minute preparation. WSI upheld its certification because adopting Responsible Care principles back in 2013 meant making permanent changes to the way the company operates.

 

“There’s a whole qualification process to be a Responsible Care partner, but once you get it, the fact that there are going to be regular audits means you can’t simply take a deep breath, wipe your brow off, and say ‘okay, I’ve got the certificate hung on the wall, now I can go back to doing what I was doing,’” says Bill Lindeke, vice president of operations for WSI. “I think what makes Responsible Care very valuable is that people who are certified must keep up with it. They do what’s advertised, they do what they say they’re going to do, and they do it regularly. We didn’t have to cram for the test, because we’re doing it day in and day out. The Responsible Care designation is not something you buy for 500 bucks in exchange for a certificate. This is real stuff for serious people,” he adds.

 

While Responsible Care ensures WSI can have the best positive impact on the environment, it also contributes to making WSI a great place to work. One of the program’s primary principles involves providing a safe work environment well above and beyond what OSHA and other safety regulations and standards require.

 

“Responsible Care, it’s a way of life here,” says Sam Rivera, manager of the Baytown facility. “We’ve not had a lost-time accident specific to our warehouses going on six years. Expectations are: You walk through the door, you operate safely, and when you go home, you go home with all your digits.”

 

A Commitment to Excellence

With recertification under its belt, WSI expects to be a Responsible Care Partner for a long time to come. The company’s success relies on a commitment from employees at all levels of operation.

 

“We have senior management involvement to make sure that this program is successful,” says Tanya Rogers, environmental, health, safety, and sustainability manager at WSI. “One thing about Responsible Care versus other programs—it’s a very top-down approach. It starts with senior management. It shows their commitment and it’s filtered all the way down.”


From the outside looking in, being a Responsible Care partner means that other stakeholders in the chemical industry can trust that WSI operates at a level above and beyond the average chemical handler.

 

“The reason we signed up to do this is so we can better service Responsible Care members—the manufacturers,” says Rogers. “By being a partner in this industry – this community – our customers know that we meet the ACC requirements, and we will go above and beyond regulatory requirements and service requirements to follow all the protocols.”

To view WSI’s signed commitment to Responsible Care’s Guiding Principles, click here.

*Responsible Care certified sites include Warehouse Specialists, LLCs chemical operations and Material Logistics & Services, LLC sites which are collectively referred to as “WSI” in this post.   

How a 3PL Can Help You During a Capacity Crisis - Mar 2018

The reasons vary, but one thing is for certain: Capacity crises are cyclical.

How a 3PL Can Help You During a Capacity Crisis

Transportation, logistics, and supply chain professionals have seen several intense capacity problems over the past decade, and will see several more over the next ten years. Since experienced transportation professionals know that another shortage is always on the horizon, however, that gives shippers time to prepare.

 

Have no doubts—the next capacity crisis is coming. The shortage of drivers in the trucking sector neared 50,000 at the end of 2017, according to estimates by the American Trucking Associations. On top of that, the deadline for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s mandate to implement Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) came and went in December 2017. The ELD mandate creates a safer work environment for truckers, but has also caused delays, parking problems, and technical issues that will snowball into capacity shortages. Other problems that caused a short crisis in 2017, such as aging fleets, still need to be addressed by many carriers. Meanwhile, manufacturing boosts in several areas continue to drive up freight volumes.

 

There’s No Need to Fear – Your 3PL is Here

Sure, that all sounds very scary, but it is possible to get ahead of the next crisis. By using a third-party logistics (3PL) partner, you can shrug off some of that burden when the next capacity crunch comes calling. Here are four ways your 3PL can provide capacity when you’re struggling to find it on your own:

 1.      Established Relationships. A successful 3PL thrives in part due to the partnerships and relationships that they have built over the years. Your 3PL should have well-established relationships with many carriers across every sector in which they operate. When space becomes short, your logistics provider can leverage those relationships to keep your cargo moving.

 2.      Multiple Modes. A good 3PL’s carrier network extends beyond the highway. While trucking capacity may be at a premium, they should also have rail, air, and water carrier networks to fall back on, ensuring that your shipments reach their destination on time.

 3.      Purchasing Power. When capacity gets tight, it may be hard to attract the attention of a carrier on your own. 3PLs, however, aren’t just handling your shipment. Logistics providers buy capacity the way you might buy toilet paper at Sam’s Club or Costco—in bulk. These larger purchases attract carriers, and discounts from large buys lower average rates for shipment stakeholders.

 4.      Latest Technology. While many shippers cannot afford the latest and greatest supply chain technology, 3PLs must stay updated to remain competitive. For small and medium shippers, a logistics provider may be the most affordable way to gain access to Transportation Management Systems or other valuable logistics technology. 

 

No Time Like the Present

If you intend to use a 3PL to lower the risks you may face from a capacity crisis, don’t wait. Much in the way individual carriers will dole out capacity to their loyal customers before granting space to new ones, logistics providers also may struggle to find space for your shipments last minute.

 

Finding a 3PL now will ensure you can access the capacity you need when the next capacity shortage rears its ugly head. While you wait for the next crunch, you can enjoy the expertise, savings, and continuous improvement that a quality 3PL provides.  

WSI provides a wide range of innovative supply chain solutions and boasts a global transportation network that can help you meet the challenges of the next capacity shortage.  Contact us to see how we can help.

WSI Facility Manager Jim Sikorski Demonstrates Commitment With Over 35 Years At WSI - Feb 2018

Jim Sikorski works as the manager for five WSI facilities across Central Wisconsin, including warehouses in Stevens Point, Plover, and Wisconsin Rapids. He’s been in this role for a decade, but he’s been with the company much longer

WSI Facility Manager Jim Sikorski Demonstrates Commitment With Over 35 Years At WSI

As part of our ongoing effort to acknowledge, thank, and highlight hardworking and loyal employees that embody WSI’s vision of absolute reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to the community, and dedication to the balance between work and life, we would like to recognize Jim Sikorski.

Jim Sikorski works as the manager for five WSI facilities across Central Wisconsin, including warehouses in Stevens Point, Plover, and Wisconsin Rapids. He’s been in this role for a decade, but he’s been with the company much longer. He began as a part-time employee at the Plover warehouse back in 1981, and spent five years in that role until he was offered a management position. When the Stevens Point location opened, he was asked to lead that facility as well. After the retirement of the Wisconsin Rapids-area manager in 2008, Jim took over those additional three facilities.

“I worked five years part-time with WSI when I thought it was my last day,” Jim says. “I needed a full-time job and was expecting that Friday would be my last. I walked into the office and someone was there. It was Bob Schroeder. He asked me if my name was Jim, and if I could run the warehouse. I said yes, and I went from part-time worker to manager. Thirty-seven years later, I’m working for same company. It must’ve been great omen, Bob showing up that day that I thought was my last.”

When someone spends several decades with the same company, it’s obvious they love their work. Jim is no exception. As a manager and leader across WSI’s Central Wisconsin operation, he carries the responsibility of training and supervising a varied workforce. As a hands-on manager, he finds this type of engagement with his employees rewarding, and enjoys rolling up his sleeves.

“I love teaching employees – teaching them all the skills and procedures it takes to perform the tasks we need to achieve, and watching the results,” Jim says.

Juggling multiple facilities can be taxing on a manager, but Jim is up to the responsibility. The varied requirements of the role keep him on his toes, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love the variety of the job. I like the challenges of working with several warehouses and around 40 employees. I get bored easily, so when things are constantly changing I feel right at home. I’m a competitor and I love challenges,” Jim says.

When it comes to the future of the company, Jim wants to continue providing a positive environment for his employees. He’s also excited about WSI’s research into new tools and processes to increase accuracy and productivity, which will further improve the company’s ability to serve their customers.

Outside of work, Jim enjoys tending to his lawn: “If you’re a weed, you’re dead in my yard,” he says. He also loves hunting and fishing, and takes an annual trip to Canada to pursue those passions. He also travels to the Dakotas to hunt geese with three of his buddies several times per year.

Jim is also excited about his growing family. He has two grown children, one granddaughter, and he’s expecting a grandson very soon.

Jim’s dedication to WSI, his flexibility in taking on different roles and responsibilities, his active lifestyle, and his positivity are inspiring. Thank you for your continued service, Jim!

Exploring the Buzz About Blockchain and the Supply Chain - Jan 2018

While blockchain has been a buzzword since the first time Bitcoin made the news, shipping stakeholders not directly involved with technology development may not know exactly what it is or how it works.

Exploring the Buzz About Blockchain and the Supply Chain

Supply chain and logistics professionals have long turned to technology such as Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to increase the efficiency and security surrounding shipments, transactions, and relationships. Combined with technology such as GPS and RFID, TMS software can track shipments through nearly every touch point and give shippers piece of mind.

But what if we could do more? What if the supply chain transparency shippers and consumers have come to expect could extend beyond logistics providers to suppliers in every tier? What if we could guarantee that no stakeholder could alter information about products and materials? What if we were 100 percent sure that every item on the invoice originated where the supplier says it did?

Blockchain technology promises security and transparency at this level, according to experts. Financial firms have been experimenting with blockchain solutions for a few years now with marked success, and the technology has now garnered the attention of supply chain professionals. In the logistics technology world, developers have realized that a blockchain transaction does not have to be financial. Instead, it can be a delivery or a check-in, a verification of an industry certification, a source location for materials and supplies.

How Does It Work?

 While blockchain has been a buzzword since the first time Bitcoin made the news, shipping stakeholders not directly involved with technology development may not know exactly what it is or how it works.

 “Blockchain is a technology that can allow authenticated data communication between each player in a supply chain without the intermediation of a trusted central organization,” according to ”Using Blockchain to Drive Supply Chain Innovation,” a new whitepaper from Deloitte.

 For the layman, information – touch points, financial transactions, supplier/shipper data, etc. – gets stored in “blocks,” which make up a digital ledger. The information in these blocks then gets verified by stakeholders or network users, known as “miners.” Each block links to the next, and to the next, creating a chain: thus, blockchain. To alter or change this information in any way involves a nearly insurmountable amount of work from multiple stakeholders at multiple access points, meaning that any one participant cannot alter data after it has been added to a block.

Blockchain in the Supply Chain

 Blockchain technology isn’t widespread enough in the logistics realm yet to support any sort of unified effort for development, so it will likely be several years before any sort of standard is agreed upon for supply chain use. Deloitte lists the following potential benefits blockchain may have for the supply chain: 

  • Increased material traceability
  • Reduced counterfeiting
  • Improved visibility/compliance over vendors
  • Less paperwork/administrative costs

Many pilot programs are already showing promising results. Blockchain technology has been tested to track tuna from ocean to fork, reduce the flow of counterfeit drugs in the pharmaceutical supply chain, and stop the spread of conflict diamonds. Given it’s potential, it’s likely that blockchain will become a staple of logistics technology over the next decade.

That’s not to say that current TMS or other software solution will be replaced or become obsolete. More accurately, the technology we trust today to help manage the supply chain will be augmented with blockchain to become even more secure, more efficient, and more visible. For the time being, just make sure that you use logistics and technology providers who are aware of blockchain technology and its disruptive potential.

 “In the news blockchain is just Bitcoin,” says Joe La Chapell, manager of information technology for WSI. “But the underlying technology is really exciting. I think it’s going to add a lot of value to existing supply chain technologies and to the customers that use it. For those that are interested in authentication, chemicals, drugs, the gray market – anything that can be interceded or manipulated from a supply chain standpoint – it’ll add value.”

Disruptive technologies come and go, but in the case of blockchain, we’re confident it’s here to stay. WSI works every day to prepare for the changes blockchain will bring to supply chain management. When the future arrives, we’ll be ready. Will you?

More Blog Entries

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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