Category Archives: Blog

Trending Transportation Updates: September 2020

Trending Transportation Updates: September 2020

There were many new transportation updates in the shipping industry last month. Check out some of the top stories and transportation updates in September 2020!

DOT Unveils National Strategic Freight Plan

Released on September 3rd, the National Freight Strategic Plan outlines the U.S. Department of Transportation’s vision and goals for America’s multimodal freight system and highlights strategies to achieve those goals. Created after consulting with freight experts in and out of government, the DOT will use this plan to inform individual states and guide national freight policy.

While not yet fully implemented, the plan examines the role of technology and the need for improved infrastructure to support America’s large and vital freight industry. You can read the report on the U.S. DOT website here.

New Representation of Truck Drivers in FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that the new commercial driver subcommittee, consisting of 20-25 truck drivers, has been set up to notify the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC)about truck driving operations and rules violations. The purpose of the committee is to obtain new viewpoints amongst different areas of the driver community.

“The Department of Transportation and this administration believe in listening to our drivers and hearing their concerns directly. We know that many of the solutions to the challenges we face don’t come from Washington — they come from the hardworking men and women who are behind the wheel all over our nation. This new subcommittee to MCSAC will further help us hear from America’s commercial drivers,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck said. Read more here.

Hurricane Sally Hits Gulf Shores, Disrupts Commercial Traffic

On September 16th, hurricane Sally crashed Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sporting severe winds of more than 100 mph, it brought with it massive floods and rain that destroyed homes, brought down trees, and ground freight traffic in the area to a halt. At several ports, ship-to-shore operations were delayed, including Mobile, Alabama; Biloxi, Gulfport, and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Pensacola, Florida; and the Venice Port complex in Louisiana. The Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans are open with restrictions. More information and updates can be found here.

How to Ship HVAC Systems & Equipment

How to Ship HVAC Systems And Equipment

What is HVAC and what does it stand for?

HVAC is an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. The term encompasses all products and services related to the industry. Climate control systems and equipment are crucial for houses, facilities, and businesses around the world.

While the demand for HVAC products can fluctuate seasonally, it always remains high. Regardless of the time of the year, people are always looking to make their room temperatures cooler or warmer and control humidity. HVAC equipment have a complex supply chain that must stay functioning.

How to ship HVAC equipment

There are many steps involved in the process of transporting heating and air conditioning systems from the manufacturer to the final consumer. Transportation and shipping are important parts of the HVAC business.

1. Transporting HVAC equipment

To avoid equipment damage, it is important to consider proper freight packaging. The best way to secure your products is by using cardboards, boxes, pallets, and crates. These tools conveniently secure freight and prevent damage.

Usually, pallets or crates are shrink-wrapped to prevent any movement. It is crucial to understand how to package your equipment because it is the shipper’s duty to prepare it for shipping.

2. Shipping HVAC equipment

When choosing a way to ship HVAC equipment, there are many options to consider: rail, aircraft, truck, etc. If you are shipping products inside of the US, the most suitable way to ship is by truck.

From many available transportation modes and types of truck trailers, full truckload shipping in a dry van truck will work best. It has the capacity and protection to haul this type of equipment.

Ultimately, using a reliable third-party logistics provider (3PL) will take the burden off your shoulders. An experienced 3PL knows every nuance of the freight shipping process and can assist with additional shipping needs like warehouse space, documentation, tracking and tracing a shipment, etc.

Working with a shipping partner also lets access technology for shipment visibility and data analytics. 3PLs also offer competitive shipping rates and extra services like expedited shipping.

3 Reasons Why a TMS is Essential to Your Business

3 Reasons Why a TMS is Essential to Your Business

In today’s business climate, having reliable and robust software solutions for your organization is no longer an option; it is a must-have. Still, many companies underestimate how essential a transportation management system (TMS) is. Under the pressure of the pandemic and challenging market, many companies have struggled to optimize costs. Others are hesitant to invest in new technologies. TMS solutions are irreplaceable tools for navigating through uncertain markets and can significantly reduce costs in the long run.

Why is a TMS essential to your business?

1. Operational efficiency

With a consistent and functional TMS, your company can greatly increase operational efficiency and utilize all available resources to optimize every shipment. TMS solutions allow your organization to easily find and book shipments, giving you access to carriers, lanes, and required equipment to get the job done. This process also documents each shipment, giving you valuable insights into your team’s transportation process, costs, and success rate.

In the long run, having a dedicated transportation management system allows you to analyze spending, operational gaps, inventory, and much more. Using this information, your team can make data-driven decisions to improve cash flow and overall productivity.

2. Better customer service

TMS solutions can also support customer service efforts by giving you greater order fulfillment and control over the last steps of the delivery process. Last-mile delivery has become a priority as many organizations revamp their supply chains.

The advanced functionality of a TMS helps:

  • Optimize order fulfillment
  • Provide transparent and accessible tracking
  • Efficiently consolidate shipments to make your customers happier

3. Save time & money

Naturally, improved operational efficiency, data-driven decisions, and enhanced customer service can result in significant cost savings. TMS solutions can also drastically reduce the amount of manual labor and human error in your transportation department, letting go of all the risk and none of the reward.

While creating a TMS solution from scratch is a pricey endeavor, you can always use an innovative, established partner like PLS! With TMS solutions that complement our track record as an effective 3PL, PLS can provide TMS solutions that will make your bottom line and customers smile. Check out our TMS solutions here!

How To Overcome The 3 Key Challenges Of Chemical Supply Chain

Chemicals production is a multi-million dollar industry with a complex supply chain ecosystem. It is one of the largest industries with a global impact and more than $5 trillion annual sales and supplying nutrition, agriculture, construction, and many other industries. The chemical market is experiencing many transformations right now, and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Companies face many challenges in the chemical supply chain and will have to adopt new strategies to excel in operational efficiency.

There’s no surprise that the chemical industry is a complex one and requires high operational productivity. It is always under regulatory control due to the nature of its products, so it was always a challenge to sustain all the parts of the end-to-end chemical supply chain. Now, with an unstable market, pressuring customer demands, digitalization, and industry consolidation, some chemical companies are crippling under the pressure.

What are the key challenges of the chemical supply chain?

Demand uncertainty

One of the complexities in the chemical supply chain is the increasing customer demands in terms of speed and service, and the general uncertainty in terms of supply and demand at the market. One of the things going on in the chemical business right now is commoditization, which implies a customer having multiple suppliers to get the product from. Adding the natural complexity of the chemical supply chain to the equation, companies have a hard time creating a forecast and keeping track of all the little fluctuations, affecting the different parts of the value chain.

Emerging technologies

It may sound ridiculous to mark digitalization as a challenge in our time, but for the heavy, global industries as chemicals, the transition is long and challenging. What’s more, new technologies and regulations put a strain on the rigid functioning machine of the industry, making it even harder to incorporate flexibility and adopt these new technologies, and, therefore, improve service.

Industry consolidation and growing competition

Intensifying competition means slower growth and fewer possibilities for many companies. While western markets are oversaturated with chemical companies, the focus shifts to Asia and the Middle East. Because of the overcapacity, smaller players are merging with larger ones to avoid bankruptcy.

Stay on track with PLS

We have extensive experience with industrial businesses, including chemical companies, and will take care of your supply chain needs with the focus of reducing supply chain costs. Learn more about our solutions here!

How Mining Supply Chains Work In Uncertain Times

The metals and mining industry are very intricate. These are the industries that make risk management their priority, and everything in their supply chains is driven by advanced planning and a strategic approach. However, even in such well-prepared industrial branches of the global economy, there is a tight interdependence on external factors. Mining supply chains rely on many fluctuating factors, that are (or at least turned out to be in recent times) vulnerable to unpredictable economic conditions.

How did recent events change the way mining supply chains function?

Efficient transportation, workforce, and other supply chains are irreplaceable parts of the mining industry, and all of these aspects were affected by the pandemic. Another thing to keep in mind that the value of a mine is very high in terms of market share. So, if a couple of copper mines are closed, this can account for the large piece of global production. Essentially, this greatly affects supply chains where copper is in demand. This is what happened during the pandemic. During April, steel and copper mining went down. The majority of copper mines in South America were closed because of the quarantine measures, or because the workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

The supply chain experts say that the mining industry is stronger than it seems in terms of crisis management and risk management. According to statistics, it would take more than 6 months of strict lockdowns to really hit the industry. The thing that mining and every other industry right now should worry about is the market demand and customer behavior, which eventually won’t be the same as before the pandemic. The unpredictable nature of the crisis is the most challenging part even for such an organized industry as mining.railroad and mining

Ultimately, mining companies should now focus on supply chain resiliency and flexibility and adjust to the new ways of functioning. While many companies try to cut costs or hinder their previous production levels, using a reliable supply chain partner can make the transition as smooth as possible.

Trending Transportation Updates: August 2020

There were many new transportation updates in the shipping industry last month. Check out some of the top stories and transportation updates in August 2020!

Trending Transportation Updates: August 2020

USPS starts agency reloading after losing $2.2 billion

The U.S. postal service announced the reloading of its internal structure and processes, shifting operational focus. After losing $2.2 billion over the last quarter, the USPS has decided it’s time to change. The service will now be focusing on the following industries:

  • Retail and delivery operations
  • Logistics and processing operations
  • Commerce and business solutions

Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General and CEO, commented: “To reach our full potential we need to be even better at everything we do well now, but we also need to recognize our issues and urgently embrace the changes required to unleash the full range of possibilities, and we need to start yesterday”. To read more, click here.

Meteorologists predict rough hurricane season for the rest of 2020

The Colorado State University (CSU) Department of Atmospheric Sciences is warning drivers and carriers about the worsening of the Atlantic hurricane forecast. According to the estimate, the total number of hurricanes will reach 12 (2 already happened), storms – 24 (9 already happened), with 5 of them being of Category 3 or higher. To read more, click here.

U.S. Coast Guard to put regulations on autonomous vessels

As autonomous vessels enter the commercial and economic landscape of the U.S. freight shipping industry, the U.S. Coast Guard, the largest naval control, has sent a request for information, consisting of 16 questions to assess the potential, safety measures, and exploitation consequences. “Highly automated and autonomous vessels have the potential to improve safety in the maritime system, where it is estimated that 75% of accidents are caused, at least in part, by human error,” the RFI says. To read more, click here.

The Benefits Of Attending A Supply Chain Conference

Industry conferences can often be overlooked, especially in the virtual world we are in right now, but they can give a great return on investment. You might think that attending conferences can be expensive, or as an employee, you might think you don’t have much to do at the event. However, a supply chain conference can be incredibly rewarding, if you choose the right events and the right people to attend.

For your business, attending a supply chain conference can mean anything from gaining new contacts, landing customers, or acquiring valuable insights that you can later convert into your organization practice. The key is to recognize both the short-term and long-term benefits of attending a conference and select the right attendees.

Here are the key reasons to attend a supply chain conference:

Industry insights

A good conference is a place where hundreds or thousands of industry leaders gather. The main point of the event is to share specific industry knowledge that you might not get anywhere else. There are multiple options to get really valuable insights, including industry trends, interesting cases, specific changes of the top tier companies, market fluctuations, forecasts, etc. The conference speakers are industry leaders, who will share their knowledge, opinions, and experience. The educational value of attending an industry conference is great for any business.

Networking

Apart from gaining knowledge and diving into expert opinions on industry hot topics, the supply chain conference offers communication. It is an excellent way to meet professionals in your field and make new contacts. The supply chain is an extremely vast area of business, so you will be able to meet vendors, suppliers, transportation companies, and supply chain professionals. Networking can bring valuable job contacts and acquire potential customers. Participation in a supply chain conference will greatly impact your brand image and will present your company as a leading company in the industry.

Professional growth

One of the basic points of attending a supply chain conference is bringing back knowledge and transforming it into a strategy. This way, you can grow professionally as an employee and as a company, once theories are successfully converted to practical steps and actions. You will also be more likely to outplay your competitors on many fronts with gathered industry insights and applied knowledge.

This year, PLS is a proud sponsor of the virtual American Supply Chain Summit! To learn more about the conference, click here.

LCL Freight Shipping: What Is It And When Do You Use It?

What is LCL shipping?

LCL shipping is sea freight shipping that requires only partial use of shipping containers. This means your shipment will be located in the container with several other shipments, and the cost of transportation will be split between the shippers.

What does LCL stand for in shipping?

LCL stands for less-than-container shipping. Similar to less-than-truckload, this shipping option uses the same principle, just in container shipping over the sea.

What is the difference between LCL and FCL shipping?

The main difference between LCL and FCL is that with full container shipping, you are exclusively provided with the entire container for your freight, while in less than container shipping, you share the space with other shippers. These two shipping methods differ in pricing because LCL costs more per cubic meter than FCL.

The cost of LCL vs FCL

The cost of less than container freight shipping is calculated by volume, and priced per cubic meters. While the weight of the shipment also matters, the volume is still key information since sea containers have the capacity to move extremely heavy shipments. Once your LCL shipment reaches a certain volume, which is more than 10 CBM, it is more reasonable to take the entire container because it will most likely cost the same. However, if your shipment is relatively small, LCL will be a more cost-efficient option.

What are the benefits of LCL shipping?

LCL can be a cost-efficient way to move goods, especially long-distance or to other parts of the world. Here are some of the key benefits of LCL shipping:

  • Lower costs if shipment meets volume limits. Sea shipping is also cheaper than air and over-the-road;
  • Available capacity;
  • Ability to ship long-distance;

What are the drawbacks of LCL shipping?

  • Long transit times
  • Freight handling
  • May not be the best option for high-volume shipments

When should you use LCL freight shipping?

Ultimately, it all depends on your business needs. If you need to ship heavy, low-volume freight that is not fragile and time-sensitive over the sea, LCL can be a beneficial option for you.

Supply Chain Strategy: 3 Options For Better Management

A strategy is a crucial part of any business, and it is even more important when thinking about a complex system like a supply chain. The term ‘strategy’ is often confused with what it’s not, or is considered to be a vaguely-meaning fancy word. However, businesses with a well-thought-out, long-term strategy reach and exceed their goals and are better at surviving turbulent times, compared to short-sighted management techniques.

What is a supply chain management strategy?

Supply chain management strategy is a set of decisions, choices, and ways of management that bring the most efficiency at a lower cost and protect the company from certain risks. Strategy in supply chain management involves deciding on supply chain structure, working models, suppliers, level of agility, products and locations, partners, transportation strategy, and more.

3 options to include in your supply chain management strategy:

1. Predictable planning

One of the key aspects of efficiency in supply chain management is demand-driven decision making. Bringing predictability into your supply chain can boost profitability and lower manufacturing costs. Predictable planning means investing in talents and technology to enhance analysis and data-driven conclusions that will allow you to forecast changes in demand and trace key trends in the market.

2. Agility and resilience

Recent events have shown that you cannot predict certain things, and market conditions are changing too fast. That’s why the most prominent strategy for modern businesses is building resilience and flexibility throughout their supply chains. This includes a variety of suppliers and partners, agile inventory, better cooperation between parts of the supply chain, and more. Rigid structures are fading away because flexibility lets you adopt new strategies faster, and survive shuffles in the market.

3. Integration

In order for a supply chain to be resilient, it has to be integrated. From production to retail, cross-cooperation in the supply chains is the cornerstone of efficiency. The more transparent and accessible operations and interactions within the entire structure are, the easier it is to see gaps and quickly fix arising issues.

Trending Transportation Updates: July 2020

There were many new transportation updates in the shipping industry last month. Check out some of the top stories and transportation updates in July 2020!

Trending Transportation Updates: July 2020

Food supply chain under pressure as Americans shift eating habits

Over recent months, there has been a significant surge across food supply chains with a rising demand for organic products, fresh produce, dairy, and grains. Such an increase is linked to the shift in eating habits of Americans. In a few months, the way people shop and the cook has changed greatly: Americans are cooking at home more, bulk-purchasing, buying more healthy and organic food, and eating smaller sized portions. Supply chain experts say this habit may become a permanent buying pattern. To read more, click here.

Navistar starts selling autonomous trucks in 2024

In partnership with self-driving technology mogul TuSimple, Navistar is to present a new product to the market in 2024. Driverless semi-trucks will operate on diesel and the driver cabin will look like the sleeper cab. The autonomous hardware will be located behind the cabin. “We’re not talking about partnering on demonstrations. We’re talking about Navistar and TuSimple bringing a product to market that anyone can walk into a dealer or call their national account representative and say, ‘I’d like to order [autonomous] trucks.” said Chris Gutierrez, the Navistar chief engineer for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. To read more, click here.

EPA offers aircraft emission standards for the first time

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency announced for the first time the proposal for greenhouse gas emission regulations for commercial aircraft. The offer is to use a fuel efficiency-based metric installed by ICAO that works as a substitute for regulating carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. “This GHG proposal will formalize technological improvements to the airplane certification process that until now were purely voluntary. The proposed rule helps U.S. companies manufacture airplanes and airplane engines that are accepted by airlines around the world,” the U.S. EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler commented. To read more, click here.