Monthly Archives: February 2015

Snow Piles on Trucking Delays

Snowstorm

Winter weather is a real concern for transportation in 2015. The devastation caused by snowstorms impact everyone, including truckers, state officials, shippers and others.

Snowstorms dump several feet of snow onto the highways, which inevitably cause delays and closures. Remember last year’s Polar Vortex? That weather caused road delays throughout the United States. And, in November 2014, the greater Buffalo, NY area experienced a major snowstorm, leaving truckers stranded for days. According to the Federal Highway Administration, more that 70% of the nation’s roads are in snowy regions.

Even though there is no avoiding bad winter weather, we can prepare for it.

Severe weather or unexpected weather will likely disrupt the supply chain. As a supplier or retailer, you must think about how to effectively deal with the real challenges that a snowstorm bring carriers. Develop a plan on how to communicate with carriers when weather becomes an x factor.

Be flexible and know your carriers schedule. Talk to carrier and keep lines of communication open. This helps you be proactive if a problem arises. Be realistic and manage the situation as best as you can.

Carriers must also prepare for the severe weather that the winter season brings.

Never underestimate the danger of driving in these dangerous conditions. Some carriers might recommend holding freight, rerouting it or avoiding weather-impacted areas all together. Remember to check the condition of your truck equipment and to stay in constant communication with others about the weather, road conditions and estimated time of arrival.

Remind yourself of safe driving practices by reading our top 10 tips for driving in winter conditions.

 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Snow Removal Video

 

 

Sources:
Transport Topics, “Carriers Prepare for Heavy Snowstorms As States Worry About Removal Costs” (January 5, 2015)

6 Steps to Take When Your Freight is Damaged or Lost

Lost_Stolen

Whether someone orders shoes online or ships tons of industrial equipment, one common problem can happen: the freight can become lost or damaged. The process for finding out who is responsible for damaged freight could take months, and discovering whether freight had been stolen or lost on route can be difficult. Shippers will never be able prevent all instances of lost or stolen cargo, but they can at least ensure that they are compensated for their loss and informed on the details to try and prevent future instances.

What is the most important rule of receiving freight? Do not sign the Bill of Lading before checking your load for damage, concealed damage or missing parts.

Let’s walk through this step-by-step to determine the proper course of action  when something goes wrong with your freight.

1) Take a close look at delivered freight and inspect all details. Pay attention to every part or item; open crates if needed – there could be concealed damages. Determine what exactly is stolen, missing or damaged. Don’t be intimidated by the driver, who can claim he or she is in a hurry for the next route – you have a right to record all details necessary.

2) Write everything down and take photos, if possible. The more documentation, the better. Make notes of damages and shortages on the Bill of Lading and make sure the carrier is aware of the situation as soon as possible. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication and cooperation; carriers can try to salvage, re-deliver or return the freight if damage or shortage statement was passed on quickly enough.

3) Do not refuse a shipment and never discard damaged freight. If shippers get rid of the freight, they may not be paid the full freight claim amount. So keep all freight and packages intact if possible.

4) Fill out the proper freight claim, shipping claim, cargo claim or transportation claim paperwork. It is a legal request to a carrier for financial reimbursement on damaged or lost freight. The freight claim is created to recover costs for the shipper, but not the profit, only the difference between the original value and the damaged value. So, the shipper must determine a reasonable dollar amount for the claim – it is the shipper’s legal obligation to minimize the cost of claim.

The carrier must acknowledge a claim within 30 days of initial filling. Concealed damages and shortages should be reported to the carrier within 10-15 days of receipt of the load.

5) Pay the freight bill as soon as possible. The shipper is still responsible for payment of goods’ transportation, even if there are damaged, lost or stolen freight. The claim will be processed by an insurance company.

6) Keep all necessary documents:

  • A copy of the bill of lading
  • A copy of the freight bill (paid)
  • A copy of the invoice showing the amount paid for the goods
  • A copy of the packing slip
  • A standard claim form or a letter identifying the shipment and the claim amount
  • Photos of the damage

While it seems quite fair to get compensation for damaged or lost freight, it is more important to gather as much information and evidence as possible to avoid further improper load handling. Having an expert who can manage all of a shipper’s claims and paperwork is a great option to save money, time and peace-of-mind. Partnering with a 3PL, like PLS Logistics Services, eliminates the hassle of dealing with lost or stolen goods.  We make sure your shipment is delivered on time, every time. 

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PLS Logistics Services Continues to Grow, Opening Office in Philadelphia

New office to bring 150 new jobs to Philadelphia

PLS Logistics Services (“PLS”), a leading provider of third party logistics solutions and freight brokerage services, announced today that it has opened a new branch office in Philadelphia. This is PLS’ eighth office nationwide, and was opened to meet the needs of PLS’ expanding regional client base.

The office opened Monday February 23, 2015, with an initial team of 31 employees, 18 who were previously located at other successful PLS offices across the country, and 13 new hires from the Philadelphia area. Located at Constitution Place, Suite 1200, 325-41 Chestnut Street, the office is expected to create over 250 jobs in the greater Philadelphia area over the next three years.

“PLS continues to experience rapid growth and we are excited to announce the opening of our new branch office in Philadelphia,” says Greg Burns, PLS’ Chairman, President and CEO. “By adding new employees in the area, we will be able to tap into the strong sales talent in the Philadelphia market.”

PLS chose the Philadelphia location because of its access to quality professional talent, which is the key to PLS’ growth and expansion strategy. Interested candidates can apply immediately at http://plslogistics.com/careers or contact Minda Muenzer-White at mwhite@plslogistics.com or 724-814-5202. Prior logistics industry experience is not required, as employees receive extensive training and support.

About PLS

PLS Logistics Services is a leading provider of logistics management, brokerage and technology services for shippers across all industries. PLS handles millions of loads annually across all major freight modes: flatbed, van, LTL, rail and barge, air and ocean. The PLS carrier network consists of over 15,000 trucking companies along with Class-1 railroads and major barge companies. To learn more, visit www.plslogistics.com or call (724) 814-5100.

What Carriers Look for in Shippers

Carrier

Starting last year, demand for shipping outpaced capacity, making it easier for carriers to find quality shippers. Carriers are working hard to operate more efficiently and cope with the driver shortage. Even with substantial demand growth, most asset based trucking companies are not ready to add capacity; they are concerned about regulations, recruiting new drivers and rising trailer costs. With these tough circumstances, how can shippers change their business processes to be carrier-friendly and get their freight hauled?

1) Promote Driver Productivity and Reduce Dwells
Nothing influences driver productivity more than quick loads, unloads and release from dwells. To be a carrier-friendly shipper, provide quick and efficient loads to keep the driver moving.  Carriers also prefer 24/7 facilities and “drop-trailer” programs. Drop-trailer programs enable drivers to drop trailers at the shipper’s yard and take off, leaving the shipper responsible for loading and unloading. This program helps drivers spend more time on revenue generating activity – hauling – and frees them from long waiting times.

2) Fair Rates and Payment Terms
Fair rates are a crucial component for carriers when selecting shippers. Accessorial fees and fuel surcharge also affect the selection. Developing a market fuel program, with the help of a qualified 3PL partner, could help shippers attract carriers. In addition to prices and surcharges, payment delays could further a carrier’s reluctance to a partnership. Preferred shippers do all they can to provide payment within eight days (most carrier expenses’ term) or 30 days (industry standard).

3) Driver Treatment
Don’t be surprised if a carrier chooses a lower-paying shipper over you, just because they provide restrooms and coffee for drivers. Driver-friendly facilities could include vending machines, convenient parking spaces, equipment to refill tires, comfortable restrooms and even free beverages. When a driver has to spend several hours waiting for a load, he/she needs a place to take a break, and it’s a real challenge for the driver if there isn’t parking or a place to relax. If a driver enjoys his/her experience at the shipper’s facility, it can have lasting effects.

4) Technology
A proper TMS provides an efficient procedure for transportation options and offers capabilities valued by carriers. For example, integrated with yard management, a TMS can define dwell time and help reduce it. Using such technology helps shippers automate and standardize communication and business processes with carriers, which reduces labor time and possible data errors. TMS serves as a great repository of all shipping data, available both for shipper and carrier. Embracing technology will lead to seamless, integrated management, making it easier for a carrier to work with you. 

5) Consistent and Predictable Schedules
Carriers won’t be excited to work with shippers who are dependent on seasonal shipping volumes. Year-round consistency is an advantage for shippers. Shippers should work with carriers to find their empty miles and help use them with maximum efficiency. For example, ordering longer hauls on the end of the work week will create more driving time during the weekend. Shippers also contribute to driver’s retention by creating predictable schedules and reliable payment terms.

6) Flexible Contracts and Communication
Carrier-friendly shippers use flexible and fair contracts, to support its business and the carrier’s business. There is no such thing as too much communication in a partnership. First, shippers need to share long-term strategies, plans and supply chain initiatives with the carrier to achieve its target. Good shippers ask questions to understand the carrier’s best practices, geography and hours. This provides the shipper flexibility and knowledge on a carrier’s capacity plus where and when they are available to take loads. Communication leads to mutual trust and an efficient partnership.

Even if it’s not possible for shippers to guarantee year-round shipping volumes or popular destinations, these 6 factors could give a shipper undeniable advantages. If you’re looking for the best carriers and rates, contact PLS Logistics experts. 

What to Read Next?

Supply Chain Visibility

 

Visibility into the supply chain is a fundamental part of implementing improvements.  Identifying inefficiencies is the first step to increasing delivery speed, accuracy and reducing transportation costs.  For many supply chains, growing global operations, big data and demanding customer expectations all strain logistics functions, making visibility more important than ever.  Transportation costs continue to rise for most companies.  Visibility presents a great opportunity for significant cost savings.   Full visibility into the supply chain improves all business operations and can provide a competitive advantage.  

Visibility_Infographic_-_with_Logo

Continue Reading: How to Lower Transportation Spend with Big Data

Why Use a Freight Broker?

SalesRep-1

A freight broker can be a tremendous asset to organizations looking to secure carriers specific to their needs quickly and cost effectively.  Freight brokers are essentially personal freight managers for organizations, working hard to find you the best carrier at the best price to move your freight.  This allows you to focus on other critical aspects of your business, optimizing productivity and providing you with a competitive advantage.  

Freight brokers have already done all of the legwork to develop relationships with thousands of carriers across all modes, providing you access to capacity at a moments’ notice.  You have access to a large network of carriers without engaging in any new relationships or contracts.  In addition, freight brokers can leverage their overall freight spend with their carrier network to secure competitive rates for your shipments.

At PLS Logistics Services, our dedicated and experienced team of freight brokers partner with shippers to provide insight and cost savings throughout their supply chain. Our freight brokers’ sole responsibility to ensure that your shipments are delivered on time, every time, providing you with peace of mind and allowing you to focus on your core responsibilities. 

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Get a free, no obligation freight quote and let us show you how valuable a freight broker can be to your business.  Click here to get started.

If you are interested in becoming a freight broker at PLS, click here.

Benchmarking Your Supply Chain

Benchmark

Have you ever considered the best way to identify strengths and weaknesses in your company’s supply chain management? Or, have you focused on how to prioritize opportunities in improving supply chain components? For supply chain managers, it can be challenging to set a market strategy and tactical goals because there could be too much information that is poorly organized or has no reference points.  This is where benchmarking comes into play. Benchmarking measures the performance of company’s supply chain by considering quantity, value and time. Benchmarking formulates a tangible measure of the efficiency of main processes in the supply chain and serves to create a solid foundation of an organization’s performance. It also measures the impact of each improvement made by managers subject to proper measurement indicators.

Based on different purposes and outcomes, benchmarking can be divided into qualitative and quantitative. 

Qualitative benchmarking uses best practices of competitors or similar organizations and their data on successful techniques for improving supply chain performance.   It analyzes differences in strategies and practices in order to find fitting opportunities.

Quantitative benchmarking consists of KPIs (key performance indicators), estimation and analysis. Business metrics such as inventory turnover, revenue and profit are usually used – however, any custom KPI could work. Quantitative benchmarking examines the supply chain by gathering data on performance and not practice.

After data and standards are projected, one can note which processes should be improved. Main areas for benchmarking and improving in supply chain management are:

  •  productivity
  •  warehouse management and inventory accuracy
  •  shipping/receiving accuracy
  •  storage density
  •  quality control

There are several levels of benchmarking:

1) Internal – benchmarking on a tactical level with the main focus on operations. It allows companies with multiple facilities, divisions or branches to compare and contrast the ways in which processes perform. For example, compare three different warehouses within one organization.

2) External – deliberate level of benchmarking that takes a company outside its own industry and exposes it to different methods and techniques. This type of benchmarking often requires hiring a consulting firm to perform proper research.

3) Competitive – compares a company’s operational performance against competitors’. Obviously, it is unlikely for competitors to share their specific knowledge on best industry practices, so using industry-standard metrics could be an option.

Benchmarking the supply chain helps organizations determine their relevant performance and amend operations to stay competitive. Although the process of benchmarking could consume a lot of time, effort and resources, it provides a company with unique knowledge on business activity, perspectives, opportunities and weaknesses.

For more information, download PLS Logistics ebook, Logistics Management Best Practices.

How to Set Up a BYOD Policy

BYOD

Smartphones and tablets are embedded into every aspect of our life; think about how personal devices can change – or, have already changed working environments and communication processes in companies. The hype over the BYOD (bring your own device) trend started years ago, yet it yields questions and predictions.  Gartner forecasts that by 2017, half of employers will require workers to supply their own device at work. Whether it’s good or bad for business, it’s happening – and logistics companies better be prepared for the changes.

Pros for BYOD:

1) Eliminates hardware costs. Since employees use their own devices, there is no need to buy corporate ones.

2) Offers flexibility and mobility for employees, with the opportunity to work at anytime from anywhere. Employees can access corporate email and sign in to the company’s infrastructure from private devices, plus they can log-in during non-traditional business hours.

3) Keeps employees in constant contact with each other, partners and clients. Helps create an unbroken supply chain. Faster communication and mobile applications help workers do initial operations like track assets and execute transactions from their devices.

4) Creates advantage over specialized devices and PCs. Operation systems are simple and user-friendly, devices are provided with backup function, voice recognition, full keyboard capability, digital cameras. A lot of mobile applications and software offer specific functions for logistics, like barcode scanning and/or delivery tracking.

However, letting workers bring their personal devices to workplace could cause pretty serious security concerns and control issues.

Cons for BYOD:

1) Issues in protecting data. A company has limited access to private devices and the different platforms/OS. Lost or stolen devices could be a real threat for company’s security, so some companies might consider a remote-wiping capability for their BYOD policy. It’s difficult to keep confidential information safe when the worker leaves company or changes position.

2) The merge of personal and professional allows workers to have constant access to private contacts, social media and game apps, which distract from work. Blackberry and Samsung provide different containers for personal and work data on their devices, but other devices don’t have this feature.

3) Too delicate for on-field conditions like DCs and warehouses. Extreme temperatures, bad weather, high damage possibility is not friendly environment for consumer-grade devices. 

Companies should create a BYOD policy that provides a competitive advantage and improvement in productivity. Employees can bring their devices to workplace anyway, so why not be proactive and provide proper security tools for everyone. The BYOD policy should at least adjust what devices will be permitted, what the security plan is and what apps and software is acceptable.

For more supply chain management solutions, reach out to an expert at PLS Logistics. Our experienced team can offer you custom solutions, cost savings and a reliable network of carriers for all of your unique business needs.

Supply Chains Prepare for Valentine’s Day Demand

ValentinesHeart

Love is in the air! Or, in the case of many suppliers and retailers, on a freight truck. That’s right, all of the thoughtful gifts that you receive this Valentine’s Day made their way to your home through a complex, well-planned supply chain. With seasonal demand, suppliers, carriers and retailers must work together to optimize logistics to make your Valentine’s Day special.

61% of American consumers celebrate Valentine’s Day and overlook the control supply chains have on the holiday (and every other day). Nearly 70% of all freight moved in the US is on trucks, meaning that your Valentine’s Day would not be so lovely without committed carrier networks and drivers. We rely on trucking to ship tons of goods; from agricultural items and food products to coal and petroleum.

Even your favorite Valentine’s Day gifts, like candy and flowers, get to you through complex logistics strategy. Flowers face an especially challenging delivery schedule since they are delicate and perishable. Since they are alive, they must be shipped in a refrigerated trailer, and remain at specific temperatures while held in distribution warehouses. The over 24,000 florists nationwide must prepare for Valentine’s Day weeks in advance as to not leave consumers broken hearted and flowerless.

Having a plan in place so that goods are at their destination on time is extremely important during a seasonal surge in demand like Valentine’s Day. One day lost in the Valentine’s Day supply chain could cost a retailer, supplier or carrier money and their reputation. In case of interruptions, an organization should be able to offer customers visibility and awareness.

At PLS, we work with carriers and shippers to make sure products arrive at their destination on time. Our logistics services follow the transfer of goods and information between resources and looks for opportunities to create better efficiency in a supply chain. Our end-to-end solution for freight management will be custom engineered to fix your business needs.

If you’re interested in how PLS can benefit your transportation spend and business needs, contact us today.

Discover Your Competitive Advantage

 

Outsourcing

According to Capgemini’s 2014 study, 72% of shippers are increasing their outsourced logistic services this year and 78% of third party logistics providers (3PLs) have declared an increase in outsourcing among their shippers. What are the main advantages of outsourcing and why does this trend continue to grow among all types and sizes of shippers? Let’s take a look at the central reasons for hiring a 3PL and the various levels of outsourcing that a shipper should consider.

Outsourcing to a 3PL provides a competitive advantage for most companies. Typical benefits include greater flexibility, operational efficiency and better customer service. Most companies outsource to:

     1) Acquire experts, knowledge and resources that are not available internally
     2) Let company management focus on core competencies
     3) Cut costs and enhance operations

Outsourced logistic activities can be divided into two main categories; execution activities and activities of planning and control.

 

Execution Activities

Level 1. Warehousing and Transportation. This level is based on transactions and implies no long-term contracts between 3PL and shipper.

Level 2. Value-Added Activities. Includes distribution as a part of final processing, packaging and labeling. Outsourcing on a long term basis with negotiated 1-year or less contract.

Activities of Planning and Control

Level 3. Management of Inventory and Transport. Consists of scheduling and route planning, event control, stock control, sales forecast, inventory visibility, backorder capability and fulfillment, order-entry management etc. Third party provider offers customized solutions for customer.

Level 4. Distribution Network Management Outsourcing. On this level, the 3PL becomes a partner in supply chain management. They restructure and make changes in the client’s whole supply chain. This means strategic outsourcing based on long-term relationship.

 

Most third party logistics providers can cover several levels of outsourcing, but for shippers with regular shipments and supply chain management focus, 3PLs with strategic levels of outsourcing will be the best choice. However, it is important to understand that common and routine activities from Level 1 and 2 are obligatory for a 3PL to deliver a customized and efficient solution. Capgemini research shows that this year’s most frequently outsourced logistics activities were transactional, operational and repetitive activities, including international transportation, warehousing and freight forwarding. Shippers often underestimate the strategic possibilities of 3PLs, especially when it comes to analytic and IT services.

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Contact PLS Logistics for more information about customized solutions for your business.