The WSI Wire

Reliability Matters

WSI CSR Leanne Zellner is an Expert with Chemical Accounts - Jun 2018

As part of our ongoing effort to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many 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 Leanne Zellner.

WSI CSR Leanne Zellner is an Expert with Chemical Accounts

Leanne is a Client Services Representative for WSI’s chemical accounts in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She’s been working with the Allentown office for 22 years. She was hired in 1996, and was the first person hired to work at that location.

Prior to working with WSI, Leanne spent several years with Exel Logistics (formerly Trammel Crow Distribution Warehouse) in several roles, including human resources/payroll, customer service, order processing, carrier routing, and shipping and receiving. This combined experienced left her well-suited to handle the varying supply chain needs of WSI’s clients.

“When I started working here 22 years ago, I worked with several different paper roll accounts and gradually incorporated some of the smaller chemical accounts in to my daily schedule over the years,” Leanne says. “Eventually, I took over and have worked with all the chemical accounts since March of 2013.”

Leanne has been with WSI for more than two decades because she enjoys coming to work every day and helping customers meet goals and overcome problems. She excels at flexibility, and her positive attitude is contagious to both her co-workers and her customers.

“I enjoy many things about my job, but mostly my daily interaction with co-workers and interactions with my customers. I am constantly learning new things, and I get to help others,” Leanne says.

 WSI prides itself on providing employees with a great work/life balance. As such, Leanne enjoys an active life outside of the office that’s full of hobbies. She enjoys gardening, crafts, and travelling around to find good deals on antiques at yard sales. She doesn’t do these things alone. She shares these hobbies with her family and friends.

Leanne especially values time spent with her family. She has two children. Her daughter Alyssa is grown and moved out, but her son David still lives at home. Leanne also has a granddaughter.

 

WSI CSR Leanne Zellner is an Expert with Chemical Accounts
“My overall favorite thing to do is to spend as much time as possible with my granddaughter Willow!” Leanne says.

Leanne Zellner’s dedication to WSI, her willingness to grow and adapt with the changing needs of the company, her active lifestyle, and her fulfilled home life are inspiring to all of us here at WSI. Thank you for your continued service, Leanne!

We Must Find a Way to Pay for Transportation Infrastructure - May 2018

U.S. transportation infrastructure is in bad shape, and logistics professionals are left wondering how much longer it can support the needs of the American supply chain. Government officials have spent years kicking the can down the road, but now the road is crumbling away.

We Must Find a Way to Pay for Transportation Infrastructure

American infrastructure scored a D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Report Card. The nation’s deteriorating infrastructure will result in more than $7 trillion in lost business sales and nearly $4 trillion in GDP losses by 2025, according to the ASCE report. The Department of Transportation identified an $836 billion backlog in infrastructure projects in a report released in 2017. That amount doesn’t include any new projects or maintenance needs that will arise moving forward.

 

Spend Money to Make Money

There’s an old saying: You have to spend money to make money. This is also true for our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The pending losses predicted by the ASCE can only be avoided by spending the money we’ve been refusing to spend for the last few decades.

 

President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan would be great—in theory. That amount of funding would cover the backlog of projects reported by the DOT and leave enough left over for new initiatives. However, as the bill stands now, the federal government would only fund $200 billion of that $1.5 trillion amount, leaving the rest in the laps of state and local governments and/or private investors.

 

Local and state spending is fine for local and state projects, but our nation’s economy relies on a functioning interstate transportation network to move people and cargo between destinations. With trillions of dollars in lost business revenue and the health of our GDP at stake, it’s important that the federal government take a leadership role in funding projects that impact the health of the national economy.

 

WSI joins with the American Trucking Associations and other stakeholders that support additional funding for infrastructure projects. While President Donald Trump endorsed the idea of a 25-cent gas tax hike, the plan died in Congress. Additional sources of user derived funding such as a higher fuel taxes must be revisited before the country’s infrastructure issues can be addressed. Without a new source of revenue, the roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure our industry needs to operate will continue to deteriorate.

 

Failure to Act

While it seemed for a while that President Trump’s plan might see some bipartisan support and long-awaited action on U.S. infrastructure would be taken, the infrastructure bill has since been set aside. Congress has told the media they have too much to do and won’t get to the bill until after the 2018 mid-term elections. In addition, the author of the infrastructure plan, DJ Gribbin, left the White House staff in April 2018, suggesting that little action will be seen on this issue from the executive branch either.

 

As a nation, we can no longer afford to let political games and rivalries stall action on this important issue. Infrastructure has long been used as a bargaining chip in partisan politics, but there’s not any time left for business as usual. It’s up to politicians at all ends of the spectrum to set aside their differences and find a way to fund our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. The health of our economy depends on it.

Systems Analyst Kevin Fugate Keeps Our Technology Running Smoothly - May 2018

With experience ranging from NORAD to the Northland, WSI systems analyst Kevin Fugate has managed diverse database systems including military intelligence, ERP, Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and sophisticated disaster recovery environments.

Systems Analyst Kevin Fugate Keeps Our Technology Running Smoothly

As part of our ongoing effort to acknowledge, thank, and highlight a few of the many 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 Kevin Fugate.

Kevin Fugate works as a systems analyst for WSI. In this role, Kevin works with the backend servers, storage, and databases for the 360data transportation management system (TMS), and our warehouse management system (WMS), the Oracle-powered EnterpriseOne from J.D. Edwards. Kevin specializes in Unix and Linux operating systems, which those solutions run on. With the exception of a short gap between 2005 and 2008, Kevin has been with WSI’s IT department since 1999.

Before Kevin began his career with WSI, Kevin served in the United States Air Force as a Communications and Systems Switching Analyst for more than a decade. His diverse range of assignments included North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), South Korea’s Osan Air Base, and the Joint Intelligence Center at Pearl Harbor.

“The military is known for making old technology work for a long time, and these locations weren’t any different,” Kevin says. “Luckily, I was there for the upgrades at each location. This allowed me to get my hands on equipment made from the 70s up to the bleeding edge in 2000—something I wouldn’t have been able to do in the private sector. After leaving the military, I was hired at WSI to administrate the back-end systems for our previous ERP system, Foursite.”

Kevin enjoys many things about his job, but the team he gets to work with every day is at the top of the list. Between his co-workers and the requirements of the job, there’s rarely a dull moment.

“This is one of the best groups I’ve worked with,” Kevin says. “We’re a mature group that works well together; a team that’s willing to do what it takes to please our customers. We have a great range of skills and are always looking for new technologies to help push WSI. In our department, there aren’t any sandboxes. Our developers work directly with our database administrator, and you’ll see systems guys brainstorming with the network team. It’s an open environment, and if you want to learn more about another area in IT, you’re encouraged to do so.”  You can’t say our IT department is stressful or stress-free, as that’s what you allow it to be, but there is always plenty to do. The management team in IT knows this, and does its best to promote balance and recognizes that family life, personal goals, and health are all equally important.”

Currently, Kevin is working to build a disaster recovery/high-availability environment with near real-time failover capability. This means that backup equipment would automatically take over in the event of a system failure almost immediately, limiting downtime generated by such an event. He’s also invested in integrating the latest and greatest new technologies into WSI’s operation, and hopes to get out to the company’s warehouses and other facilities to meet the people he regularly works with face-to-face

Systems Analyst Kevin Fugate Keeps Our Technology Running Smoothly

When he’s not exploring new technology solutions or building fail-safes into WSI’s equipment, Kevin enjoys learning new things. This could mean taking classes, reading a book, or watching videos on YouTube. This passion for learning culminated in a Master’s degree, which he received in May 2017. With the completion of his graduate studies, he’s using his new free time to restore a 1958 Ford tractor and upgrade his 1978 Yamaha XS650 motorcycle.

 

“Hunting is also a passion, both gun and bow, with turkey and deer seasons being my favorite. When time schedules permit, I like doing the simple things with my family – going to movies or out to eat,” Kevin says.

Kevin’s family includes a wife, two daughters, a son, and a dog named Duke. His eldest daughter lives in Chicago, while his younger daughter lives at home and attends the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. His son lives at home as well (and so does Duke). 

Here at WSI, we’re awed every day by employees like Kevin Fugate, whose service to his country, dedication to our company and customers, many active hobbies, and loving family life inspire all of us. Thank you, Kevin, for being part of the WSI family.

Rail transload offers cost effective solutions to truck shortage - May 2018

Both shippers and retailers are turning to third-party logistics providers to transport freight via rail, particularly for items loaded, shipped and stored in large volumes, like products ranging from paper rolls to canned green beans.

Rail transload offers cost effective solutions to truck shortage

Due to changing customer demands, like instant product distribution, a low tolerance for damage and the need for largely varied inventory in single railcars, 3PL-coordinated rail shipping is more attractive than ever. In spite of the potential highway infrastructure investment ahead, rail will continue to compete with truck lines in many freight categories.

Similarly, railroads continue to invest significant resources in their own infrastructure to balance the underinvestment by the government in our nation’s highways.

Cost of Congestion per Mile of Interstate by Metro Area 

According to the Association of American Railroads’ 2018 report, capital expenditures by U.S. railroads have been over $110 billion the past four years. While oil industry freight expenditures have dried up, it is possible that decisions made by the current administration could renew activity.

WSI, one of North America’s largest privately owned 3PLs with rail-served facilities encompassing over 15 million square feet, transloads a wide variety of products:

  • Paper, pulp & scrap

  • Fresh & canned vegetables

  • Construction steel

  • Lumber

  • Shingles

  • Drywall

  • Aluminum ingots

  • Bulk chemicals & polymers

WSI works with its customers to provide low-cost solutions, whether rail or truck, to get their product to wherever it is needed, at a low cost. Our sophisticated inventory systems, including a railcar-friendly Warehouse Management System (WMS), allow   our customers visibility down to the unit level, similar to truckload and less-than- truckload shipments. For example, our WMS provides our customers visibility of five individual SKUs of shingles, or exact details of lumber sizes in each railcar. This kind of unit-level detail offers customers peace of mind that their products are being tracked with just as much, if not more, accuracy than they would be on a smaller truck trailer.

Rail transload offers cost effective solutions to truck shortage

State of Intermodal

2018 looks to be a strong year for intermodal. The trucking industry continues to face ongoing difficulties to mitigate high driver turnover: federal hours of service rules, the high average age of the American truck driver, and low wages for long hours.

However, despite the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) estimate that the U.S. is short 50,000 truckers as December 2017, truckload volumes rose 8.8 percent in January 2017 compared to January 2016, according to a report from the ATA.

According to the ATA, truckload volume will grow 3.5 percent a year through 2019, then 1.2 percent annually from 2020 to 2025. However, truckload carriers will make greater use of intermodal rail for intermediate- and long-distance hauls. During that same time period, according to the ATA, rail intermodal tonnage will grow 5.5 percent annually through 2019 and 5.1 percent a year through 2025.

Simply put, rail and trucking do not exist in their respective vacuums. Shippers frequently need both a truck and a train to get bulk products to market. Intermodal shipping is often the most cost-effective and efficient method of transport, combining the speed of trucks with the fuel-saving economy of rail.

Costs and Savings

Intermodal options can be cost-competitive with trucking-only transport options, especially on certain days of the week. The sheer amount of product that can fit into one railcar is three to four times that which can fit in a truck trailer, and the railcar in question uses four times less fuel than a big rig.

For instance, if a customer is shipping from Chicago to the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles on either a Thursday or Friday, an intermodal train will get there in time for Monday off-loading onto a local delivery or drayage truck.

“Those intermodal trains are treated by the railroads like unit trains,” said Gene Loiselle, a WSI sales manager. “That’s still a point of focus, and that service is still good. You can take one train from Point A to Point B.”

“Those intermodal trains are treated by the railroads like unit trains,” said Gene Loiselle, a WSI sales manager. “That’s still a point of focus, and that service is still good. You can take one train from Point A to Point B.”

That was the appeal of the railroads for Alan Kirkland, the shipping manager for Atlas Roofing in Allentown, PA.

He used to use truck service to move shingles from a manufacturing location in Hampton, GA, to its warehouse operated by WSI in Allentown. Now, with the help of WSI, Kirkland directs those movements onto a Norfolk Southern train for the 800- mile length of haul to its Allentown warehouse. He sends about four carloads a week, but those shipments can double during busier times of year.

“If I were to put that on a truck, my line haul costs would be double,” Kirkland says. “WSI runs it. They do all the unloading and loading of trucks going out of our Allentown warehouse.”

Transload Expertise

A 3PL’s specific expertise in loading and unloading intermodal shipments is essential for mitigating damage to product; railroads used to be notorious for manhandling and marring lumber and other construction materials. WSI material handlers know how to load and unload railcars of all types, including box, center beam, flat and hopper cars. WSI’s rail-served transload facilities also allow for buffer stock, in the case of shortages or damaged product. And, our experience shows in the numbers: WSI rail-served facilities turn upwards of 20,000 cars a year. Our customers can focus on their core business while we take care of the complex transloading, utilizing our deep understanding of industry-standard rail lead times to schedule pick-ups and deliveries.

Both our transload facilities and WSI’s sister company, WSI Freight Solutions, LLC, maintain strong relationships with truckload carriers and local dray operators, to get the best carrier performance at the lowest rates, keeping costs for our customers low.

With or without the current administration’s additional investment in infrastructure, intermodal shipping and rail transport aren’t going away anytime soon. Take advantage of the cost and environmental savings provided by our wide network of rail-served facilities today!

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.

 

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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