Monthly Archives: April 2015

4 Keys to Improving Your Omni-Channel Strategy

Omni_Channel__Graphic

Retailers are struggling to keep pace in the highly competitive omni-channel environment. Consumer desires for immediate delivery and personalized service are an ongoing challenge. Many shippers aren’t able to support a productive, efficient supply chain.

 Many turn to a third-party logistics (3PL) partner, who will find solutions to transportation challenges, logistics questions and supply chain disruptions. 3PL companies have the necessary resources for building a sustainable omni-channel supply chain: time, expert knowledge, experience and capital expenditures.

Here are 4 areas of the supply chain where outsourcing to a 3PL will bring noticeable advancement:

1) Inventory Consolidation Across All Channels
3PL companies provide a responsive transportation management system. TMS software enhances inventory visibility across all channels and locations, plus helps build a consistent return policy that includes proper reverse logistics processes. Retailers are able to see widespread fulfillment needs and lower inventory carrying costs.

2) Value-Added Services
3PL partners are able to find improvements in the supply chain. Things like delivery method, equipment optimization, packaging, labeling, freight bundling and more are all analyzed to find the most efficient practice. These solutions are aimed to improve customer service, cut transportation costs and simplify operations.

3) Effective Transportation
In omni-channel supply chain management, there are multiple ways to deliver products from the DC to the retail store and to the final customer. 3PL companies find the fastest and most cost-efficient transportation mode and route for each load, using its relationship with numerous transport companies to the shipper’s advantage.

4) Advanced Data Analysis
Data, provided by 3PL technology, can add significant strategic value. Logistics providers are able to determine who is ordering which product and by what channel, how demand varies with time, and what method of delivery is the most appreciated by consumers. Using this data, retailers can forecast demand and create new delivery options or value-added services.

The latest Capgemini Annual Third-Party Logistics Study shows that shipper-3PL relationships continue to grow as the omni-channel retailing landscape opens up. Outsourcing to a 3PL provider doesn’t mean loss of control– it means growing profits and customer loyalty by providing consistent, positive shopper experiences.

If you want to know how a 3PL partner can help your company enhance its omni-channel supply chain, contact a freight agent at PLS Logistics experts.

Want to learn more about achieving omni channel success? Check out our on The Keys to Omni Channel Success.

6 Key Benefits of Inbound Freight Management

InboundFreight

Transportation accounts for almost 50% of an average company’s logistics costs. Shippers can gain more control of these costs when they choose to make inbound freight management a supply chain priority. With inbound vendor management, attention is focused on shipment integrity, customer satisfaction and tracking information. Choosing to manage inbound freight gives shippers a chance to improve reliability, gain visibility and reduce costs.

Companies with imports should gain control of transportation in order to track shipment status and create better inventory management. Typically, inbound shipments are in the vendor’s hands, limiting visibility and control over cost.  Optimization of inbound freight starts with gaining control, however, management of inbound materials can be a complicated process, as internal operational changes are often required.

Successful control of inventory movement is linked to use of a transportation management system (TMS). Using a TMS, companies increase supply chain visibility, as they have access to real-time data that can be shared across internal and external sources. Using this information, a company can identify weaknesses in its inbound freight such as inefficient receiving processes, lack of notice to interruptions and unproductive labor. This part of the supply chain also provides opportunities for result-producing solutions to typical problem areas such as lead time, dock scheduling and/or shipment/carrier consolidation.

Outsourcing your inbound freight management to a logistics solutions provider will yield increased profitability, production and administrative support. With inbound freight management as a part of your transportation strategy, you’ll see results like:

  • Better inventory management, lower inventory levels, reduced carrying costs
  • Improved on-time deliveries
  • Less handling and damage, efficient receiving
  • Proactive notification of disruptions
  • Administrative efficiency
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Contact an Inbound Logistics Expert today to learn how PLS can help your business analyze big data from a transportation management system and find new solutions for supply chain management.

Do you manage and monitor inbound freight? Leave a comment about your experience on this overlooked part of the supply chain!

 

Read these posts next:

April Transportation News Round Up

AprilRoundUp

 

We’ve summarized the top 5 transportation and logistics news stories from April – check them out:

  • New CSA App Unpopular with Drivers. FMCSA recently released an app that makes carrier crash data public, without specifying who is at fault. Drivers dislike the CSA app, expressing concerns and frustration with the chance of being penalized even if an accident isn’t their fault.
  • Diesel Prices Hit 5 Year Low. During the week of April 13, cost of on-highway diesel dropped again hitting $3.754/gallon, which marks its lowest price since December 2009. The falling fuel prices doesn’t necessarily change fuel surcharges, though.
  • University of Miami Cuts Distribution Costs. A Professor at UM developed a math model that considers various aspects of distribution costs and offers a structured approach to negotiate rates to give manufacturers more cost-savings.
  • FedEx Intends to Buy TNT Express. To accelerate global growth, FedEx announced its bid for TNT Express – expected to close by June 30. This acquisition could bolster FedEx’s European operations and challenge international competitors.
  • Experts Say Capacity is Getting Better. Shippers want to lock up capacity and are willing to pay 4-6% more. Last year, unexpected supply chain disruptions tightened capacity, but this year, experts say, shows a more balanced atmosphere.

 

What transportation news was important to you this month? Share in the comment section below.

Effects of the Driver Shortage

 electronic-logging-devices

The truckload driver shortage is becoming a serious financial concern for shippers. To attract new drivers, many carriers are improving training, retention and compensation packages. However, they continue to struggle to find the number of drivers necessary to keep up with demand. The driver shortage has a significant impact on the tight over the road capacity that is causing issues for shippers who now have to pay a higher rate to move their freight.

The American Trucking Association estimated that in early 2014, there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. The average age of drivers is 51, and there are more drivers leaving the workforce than entering it.  Young people are more focused on quality of life as they enter the workforce, and being on the road for extended periods of time is not enticing to them.  They are choosing other professions such as construction as an alternative.

Shippers with lean inventories may have to choose between higher upfront transportation costs or the cost of not delivering product to a customer when needed. Equipment costs have been on the rise over the past few years, driver pay is increasing and fuel costs are increasing.  Combine all of that with the shortage of capacity and the carriers have quite a bit of pricing power.  This is all leading to increases shipping costs for the shippers.

If your business is looking to meet consumer demand, but doesn’t want to worry about transportation costs and freight spend, then consider outsourcing your transportation management to a 3PL. A 3PL delivers strategic advantages to your supply chain, including a large, dependable carrier network to improve your bargaining power.

Continue Reading: 3.4 Million Drivers Isn’t Enough

Reverse Logistics: Everything You Need to Know

Reverse_Logistics

What is the meaning and value of reverse logistics within the supply chain? Many people think of reverse logistics as handling customer returns and defective goods; that it is limited to customer service and recycling. However, only 25% of all goods in reverse logistics consist of defective items. It includes managing recalled products, overstocks, fixtures, recyclables, capital assets, end-of-life goods, and assets to be disposed.

Reverse logistics could be described as moving items from their final destination for proper disposal, capturing value purpose, streamlining processes and reducing expenses. At the broadest level, reverse logistics incorporates return management, aftermarket service, repair and recycling activities, refurbishing goods, liquidation, repacking and repurposing.

The 5 main differences between reverse logistics and forward logistics are:

  1. Forecasting is more difficult.
  2. Product quality is not uniform.
  3. Product packaging is often damaged.
  4. There is a more complex product lifecycle.
  5. Visibility is less transparent.

This requires close attention at the senior management level. It also requires an efficient, sustainable approach to resolve each individual item issue.

Reverse_Logistics__Image

Reverse logistics is seen as an expensive challenge, and many companies avoid managing it. Businesses have started paying attention to return management because it affects environmental risk and waste costs. Handling reverse logistics properly leads to maximum value from each good returned and returns have a significant impact on the bottom line. An average retailer’s reverse logistics costs for consumer goods are equal to 8.1% of total sales. In some industries, such as book publishing, catalog retailing and greeting cards, over 20% of all products sold are eventually returned to the vendor.

The main goal of manufacturing and transport of new products is to get the product to the consumer. In reverse logistics, quality, traveled distance and other factors determine the backward path of the product and its final disposition. The time a product has spent moving forward and backward plays a major role; the longer a product stays in the system, the less valuable it becomes. And, of course, already damaged goods and packages will get worse being transported again. Another time-sensitive category of products are goods with technology components; they lose market value with each passing week.  Thus, companies should minimize the time items spend within the system to ensure value.

The ultimate goal of reverse logistics is to provide value to the customer and increase profitability.

A well-planned, customized reverse logistics policy can reduce storage and distribution costs, improve a company’s reputation, satisfy customer needs, and create a more sustainable supply chain. In addition, reverse logistics can be used as a competitive differentiator.

Continue Reading: The Cost of Shipping – What Customers Want

Should Fuel Surcharges Cost Me This Much? Infographic

Fuel prices are constantly fluctuating.  Do your fuel surcharges reflect this?  Don’t know?  This infographic will explain everything you need to know about fuel surcharges and how a 3PL can make sure you’re paying a fair price.

Fuel_Infographic

 

     

 

 

Check out these posts:

 

 

 

 

Top 4 Consumer Shipping Expectations

PeopleEscalator

Consumers have access to more information than ever before, and with various options for online ordering, paying and shipping, customer loyalty is low. Today’s omni-channel era means retailers and shippers must pay close attention to customers’ high expectations. A customer’s experience with a company is greatly impacted by shipping options. Consumers are known to revisit an e-commerce site if the supplier offers low prices, free shipping and/or fast shipping. Today, 86% of buyers will pay more for better customer service, according to a CEI Survey, but only 1% think retailers meet their expectations. So, what are these customer expectations?

  1. Multiple Shipping Options
  2. Free Shipping
  3. Free Returns
  4. Quick, On-Time Delivery

Shipping options are important to 4 out of 5 Americans.
Retailers know the importance of free shipping in the buyer’s journey. Customers demand delivery options. 58 percent of online shoppers admit having an abandoned shopping cart after they found out the shipping costs were higher than expected. Half say they’ve abandoned a shopping cart because shipping wasn’t free. This data proves that retailers must provide cheaper, faster delivery options. While speed is important, it seems that free shipping is preferred to fast shipping: 83% of consumers opt to wait a few more days for delivery if shipping is free.

How Retailers Can Encourage Better Online Shopping Experiences:

  • Customers want free shipping. A retailer doesn’t have to offer free shipping on every purchase, but can create a rule for free shipping on purchases over a certain price point.
  • Customers like fast delivery. However, they don’t want to pay significantly higher costs. Give customers different shipping options so that they can make the best choice based on the circumstance.
  • Customers want free returns. Customers are more likely to complete a purchase if free return shipping or in-store returns are acceptable.
  • Customers don’t want surprises. Notify customers of their delivery status and alert them to any disruptions along the way.

Cultivating customer loyalty is not easy and takes a concerted effort from supply chain managers and company leadership. This task is less complicated with a TMS. With a TMS, shipments can be tracked and routes can be optimized.  A company can deal with high consumer expectations by communicating with customers throughout the process, from fulfillment to shipping to delivery.

One of the more useful functions of a TMS is the ability to analyze carrier performance. Since shipping has become so important to the customer experience, the trucking companies that provide shipping services are very important too.  A shipper can use accurate, real-time data to see which carriers are the fastest, which are the cheapest and which provide the most value. 

This is an area many companies outsource to 3PLs.  Implementation of a TMS is risky and difficult, requiring a heavy investment of time and money.  Logistics companies already know how to use these complicated tools, can leverage lower prices, and can train carriers to haul freight in the most efficient ways possible.  Outsourcing reduces overall transportation cost, produces reliable carriers for the long-term and decreases supply chain disruptions, all while satisfying high customer expectations.

Want to Learn More? Check out these s:

If you’re looking to increase customer loyalty by finding the best carrier for the job, then contact PLS Logistics Services.

 

6 Effects 3D Printing has on Supply Chains

3D_Printing

You’ve heard about the fascinating achievements in 3D printing. Printers can now create customized apparel, personalized make-up and can even be used in medicine. As 3D printing becomes more integrated in manufacturing, it is easy to conclude that logistics should be influenced as well. Has the adjustment process already started?

The number of materials that can be used in 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is growing, and so is the capability of 3D printing hardware. From detailed, customized hearing aid shells to pepperoni pizza for astronauts, 3D printers gradually achieve greater precision and finer resolution at lower costs.

Economists have labeled additive manufacturing the third industrial revolution. All of these advances have brought additive manufacturing to a turning point. In the near future, 3D printing could make massive changes to manufacturing processes and logistics functions:

  • Global Logistics: As the cost of international logistics continues to rise, and 3D printing technology becomes more affordable, manufacturers may shift their facilities back to the USA.. Reducing amounts of overseas manufacturing will decrease the quantity of air and ocean freight, as well as demand for international logistics brokers.
  • Inventory Levels: Additive manufacturing finds its main value in creating customer-specific, complex items. Products are made only when ordered, which means inventory levels will fall and be reduced in warehouses. Since there won’t be a need for high volume production facilities and workers, part of the supply chain will become superfluous.
  • Fulfillment: The made-to-order strategy will also influence the fulfillment process and the role of the retailer. In fact, the entire manufacturer-wholesaler-retailer relationship will change. Since retailers do not need to keep stock of their own, orders can be fulfilled directly through the manufacturer.
  • Stock Location: With 3D printers, service parts for machinery, cars or medical equipment could be produced in a very short time by downloading the design of spare parts and printing them. This will help save costs that are wasted on holding stock of supply products and eliminate a large number of warehouses and stock locations.
  • Transportation Routes: 3D printers, if situated close to end users or strategic markets, will help reduce transportation costs greatly. It will also shorten the length of the supply chain and reduce the negative impact on the environment. Imagine the difference: getting an item’s design online and printing it within a couple hours. Local 3D manufacturing centers enable shippers to deliver faster, so there won’t be delays due to bad weather or transportation failures.
  • Consumer Relationships: The way a consumer relates to companies will continue to evolve with more personalization and fewer mediators. Personalized apparel, furniture and even vehicles will be created and purchased in stores or online. If customers own 3D printers at home, personal products like shoes and cosmetics will be sold online and printed at home. Such changes will help meet customer demand and reduce the cost of doing business.

However, with such rapid development and numerous achievements, 3D printing won’t necessarily bring an end to traditional manufacturing and the modern supply chain. Assembly line production is essential for numerous specialized items. Additive manufacturing is ideal for personalized and complex production, but it cannot keep up with mass production. Traditional manufacturing processes are cheaper, faster and require less labor. Even if 3D printing changes manufacturing, raw materials and food still need to be produced and transported traditionally. These are principal properties 3D printing cannot replace – at least in the near future. 

Continue Reading, 2015 Industry Expectations .

PLS Logistics Services Continues Expansion, Opening Office in Phoenix

New office to bring 200 new jobs to Phoenix
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA – April 8, 2015

PLS Logistics Services (“PLS”), a leading provider of technology enabled supply chain and freight brokerage services, announced today that it has opened a new branch office in Phoenix. This is PLS’ ninth office nationwide, and was opened to meet the needs of PLS’ expanding regional client base.

The office opened Monday April 6, 2015, with an initial team of 13 employees, 6 who were previously located at other successful PLS offices across the country, and 7 new hires from the Phoenix area. Located at 7001 North Scottsdale Road Scottsdale, Arizona the office is expected to create over 200 jobs in the greater Phoenix area over the next three years.

“PLS’ technology driven approach continues to drive growth and we are excited to announce the opening of our new branch office in Phoenix,” 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 Phoenix market.”

PLS chose the Phoenix 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 Katelyn Huntoon at khuntoon@plslogistics.com. 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.

PLS Logistics Services Hires Jon Herberger as Chief Information Officer

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA – April 6, 2015

PLS Logistics Services (“PLS”), a leading provider of technology enabled supply chain and freight brokerage services, today announced that Jon Herberger has joined the company as its Chief Information Officer.

Mr. Herberger most recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Imagitas, a marketing services company that connects marketers with their consumer segments through government communication channels in the US. Before joining Imagitas, he held senior technology management positions at N.E.W. Customer Service Companies Inc. and Electronic Data Systems.

“Jon brings over 20 years of progressive experience managing mission-critical projects and providing strategic, complex IT solutions for business objectives and strategic growth” says Greg Burns, Chairman, President and CEO of PLS Logistics Services. “I am pleased to welcome a seasoned strategic technology executive to the PLS leadership team. Jon will play a critical role in PLS’ future growth as we continue to develop industry leading technology enabled solutions that give our customers a competitive advantage.”
“I am excited to be joining PLS at a time when they are experiencing rapid growth and expansion, driven by their technology. Technology is more critical than ever in supply chain management and PLS’ innovative approach will continue to be a differentiator as they add even more value for customers in the future,” noted Herberger.
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, barge, air and ocean. The PLS carrier network consists of over 15,000 trucking companies, Class-1 railroads and major barge companies. To learn more, visit www.plslogistics.com or call (724) 814-5100.