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Supplying War: Military Logistics

“The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.” – Sun Tzu

Logistics and supply are one of the most essential functions for any military, modern or historical. Operational logistics for a military refer to the set of activities carried out in order to satisfy the needs of those involved. This includes food, transportation, war materials, medical services, and much more.

Dawn of War

Since the first recorded war in history took place in Mesopotamia, there has always been a need to supply the troops fighting it. Some of the first kings and generals had two simple choices for supply chain management when they chose to send their army out on a campaign.

The first method was simple, bring what you need however you can. Pack animals, wagons, and ships were the leading means of transport in antiquity. This has one major fault in that bringing supplies on a campaign leads to long lines of ‘baggage’ following the army. Movement is slowed and the supply train becomes a prime target for enemy forces.

Option two was the practice of foraging and looting supplies, primarily fodder. This method was efficient but by no means perfect. No guarantee on supplies could lead to a very unsettled army and too much pilfering could lead to a very unhappy populace in the surrounding countryside. Nothing spurs an armed insurgency better than an occupying army raiding civilian food stores and warehouses.

An Age of Empires

As the size of armies grew and the scope of conflicts greatly increased so did the need for supplies. Alexander the Great’s army of 65,000 men required 195,000 pounds of grain and 325,000 pounds a water every single day. Following in the footsteps of Alexander, the Romans needed to master supply chain management to ease the burden of their massive empire. The Romans saw the importance of supply and created a highly sophisticated logistical system that allowed them to provision large armies at long distances. The reach and organization of the Roman Legions were unparalleled in the ancient world. 

Supply chain management for an army remained relatively unchanged up until the 16th and 17th century when the logistics of overseas campaigns nearly bankrupted the Spanish Empire on several occasions. A new world to explore meant logistics needed to change again. Reforms would highlight the next era of military logistics as armies continued to grow.

Over the Hills and Far Away

The global wars that started to arise in the 17th century posed a multitude of new problems for military logisticians. Supplying a fighting force overseas in a hostile country was a monumental task for the technology at the time. Even after reforming processes the sheer scale of the operations needed was sometimes too much for a nation.

The British faced a horrendous supply situation during the American Revolutionary War. A 3,000-mile journey between ports in Ireland and the colonies was a massive undertaking in its own right. The distance coupled with bad weather, American privateers, and food going bad hampered the British at every turn. Foraging and using the colonies for supplies only further enraged the populace and embroiled the cause that the British were fighting. Ultimately it can be said that supply chain management was a major factor in the British loss.

Major reforms followed the defeat just as the dawn of a new force in military logistics came to power, and his name was Napoleon Bonaparte. Before him, military supply was based on contracts with private companies, looting, and requisition. Logistics became a major internal function of the Grande Armée and was extremely successful during the Ulm campaign in 1805. France’s German allies turned entire towns into supply depots ready for the dedicated supply personal of Bonaparte’s imperial army. Despite early successes at Ulm and Austerlitz, the French mastery of supply and logistics faltered under the British blockade and in the face of guerrilla warfare in the Peninsular War in Spain. 

The next major advance came in the form of a new transportation method, railroads. Rail transport greatly expanded an armies mobility and reach. The American Civil war was a hallmark moment for military logistics. Railways were used to great effect, but they became yet another target for guerrillas and raiders. Men, weapons, and supplies could now be moved across vast distances in a very short amount of time compared to traditional methods. The Prussian use of railways during the Franco-Prussian War is often cited as a prime example of logistic modernizations where the Germanic army crushed the French Empire in a very short period of conflict.

Industrialized and Mechanized Warfare

The turn of the century and the beginning of the Great War led to yet another shift in military logistics. Conscription led to absolutely massive armies numbering in the millions and battlefronts that spanned an entire continent. Industrialized firepower such as massed artillery, machine guns, and airplanes led to an increased demand in munitions. Most logistics strategies during the war relied on 19th-century techniques.

The First World War saw the capabilities of rail and horse-drawn supply stretched to their limits. The German Army had an initially successful spring offensive in 1918 devolve into utter failure when the logistics failed to keep up with the army’s advance over the destroyed landscape. The failure of Operation Micahel was the final nail in the coffin for the Central Powers.

The Second World War saw an increase in mechanization with the widespread usage of trucks replacing horse-drawn supply lines. While they require better roadways they are much faster than their animal counterparts. The lack of infrastructure and climate greatly affected the logistics of any troop movements in the North African Campaign, Burma, and elsewhere. Germany’s invasion of the USSR, Operation Barbarossa, lost momentum due to poor logistical planning despite victories on the battlefield.

Air power targeting supply lines, submarines attacking shipping, and the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific Theater made logistical planning a vital part in the Allied victory in the war on all fronts.

Modern military logistics is now a high tech field with predictive forecasting, operations research, and the most efficient means to get the supplies where they need to be. Technology coupled with a global playing field has made the task even larger than before. Military logistics techniques have become widely deployed in the commercial world and vice-versa.

Conflicts, resources, and technology continue to evolve and so will the need to supply armies in the field. Military logistics is a key component in any fighting force on the planet. As often seen throughout history the victor is typically the one that can keep their troops supplied.

 

How to Cut Costs on Last Mile Delivery

The last mile is a key part in a supply chain process, for both B2B and B2C businesses. It leaves the final impression about your company in the customer’s mind, so outlining the right last mile strategy is very important.

What is last mile delivery?

Last mile delivery involves transporting freight from a transportation hub to the customer’s home or company’s warehouse. It is considered the most expensive and inefficient component of shipping and may consume from 20 to 30 percent of general shipping costs. Regardless of your transportation management level, neglecting last mile delivery strategy can disrupt the shipment and lead to unforeseen expenses.

Optimizing last mile delivery can be complicated and difficult for both small and large businesses. This happens because of many circumstances that are very hard to manage, such as recipients that aren’t home/present, delays, and misuse of tracking technologies. There are certain applicable ways to improve the quality and speed of delivery as much as possible.

• Planning. Before seeking a solution, you have to determine the problem. Review your last mile tactics and define the weak spots. It may be an outdated tracking system, poor review of drivers and pickers, and other features that impact the shipping process. Create a plan of actions considering all the elements that require modifications.

• Proper management of human resources. Technology and innovation helps improve company’s performance a lot, but people still do the main job. Humans tend to make mistakes and fall under uncontrollable circumstances, so specific overview will let you define the drawbacks and fix them.

• Implementing real-time tracking and automation. The analysis of shipment transit helps to optimize routes as much as possible and decreases the occurrence of delays. It is also crucial to provide final recipients with access to shipment tracking, as it notifies them approximately when the freight is going to arrive at the destination.

• Seeking innovative solutions. The challenge of tackling last mile delivery has come into the spotlight in recent years. New companies, narrowly specialized in delivering solutions for the final link of shipping, offer different services and strategies that can help businesses optimize the last mile delivery process. Vehicle manufacturers also noticed the problem and focused on creating automated trucks specifically for the last mile delivery. For instance, Renault and Mercedes recently presented autonomous delivery vans, developed for the efficiency of end-to-end shipping.

It becomes more and more important to recognize the role of last mile delivery, so tackling the right strategy might be reasonable for your supply chain efficiency. There are plenty of possibilities to improve the performance and ship the way your customers want. Keep up with the trends and constantly apply new solutions to your businesses practices to help ensure a successful last mile delivery.

Trending Transportation Updates: October 2018

October was full of many significant events, bringing in new advanced developments to the industry. Here are some industry updates from last month!

Uber Announces “Powerloop” and Plans Drone Delivery by 2021

Uber has been extremely active with new projects recently, including the start of Uber Freight in August. The tech start-up has released the launch of “Powerloop,” a trailer rent program that will reduce delay time used on unloading the truck. While the unloading is going to proceed without driver presence, the pool-trailer system lets drivers focus on transporting freight. Along with the Powerloop project, WSJ recently published that Uber is working on a drone delivery program which is planned to be released in 2021. To read more about Uber’s Powerloop, click here.

Rolls Royce Collaborates with Intel for Self-Driven Vessels Project

Rolls Royce recently announced a partnership with tech giant, Intel, for constructing self-operated ships. The project is estimated to start in 2025. For the idea to become a reality, companies need powerful resources and a lot of work to be done. The sea environment is more variable and needs a broader, more flexible scalability of sensors that will be able to collect increased amounts of data from different characteristics. To read more about Rolls Royce and Intel project, please click here.

Walmart to Expand 2-day Shipping and Open the High-Tech Distribution Center

Walmart announced the plan to expand its 2-day shipping to a wide range of various items. Walmart will also be adding the new option of return delivery, which is when the customer will be able to return the purchased product to any brick-and-mortar store, and Walmart will deliver it to the primary seller. Another notable addition that’s about to start functioning soon is Walmart’s newest distribution center for fresh and frozen groceries. The facility will serve almost 200 stores and will be located in California. To read more about Walmart innovations, please click here.

Hurricane Michael Hits Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael swept through the Florida panhandle region in early October as a category 4 hurricane, which is one of the worst hurricanes since 1969. The areas that were affected by the storm experience substantial flooding and damages. At least 36 people died as a result of the hurricane, and many were left without homes or their belongings. To read more about the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, click here.

How to Navigate the Driver Shortage

Why is the drivers’ shortage happening?

According to the survey by American Trucking Association, the driver’s shortage could reach 175,000 drivers by 2024, which is almost five times more than 2014 rate. These forecasts can soon become a reality, as the average age of American truck driver is 55 years. It is easy to figure out that in a matter of 10-15 years, the old generation of truckers will retire, and carriers will have to deal with a disastrous situation, as recruiting young talents is a challenge.

How to deal with the problem?

There are two main challenges in truckers’ recruitment: to decrease leaving rates among truckers and to attract young ones. For the first category, the answer is simple: give the drivers what they want. Usually, they don’t want a lot: simple things like competitive salary, less stress, and comfortable working conditions. To conquer the new generation of drivers, companies have to change their recruiting strategy.

  • Decrease the hauls time. These are primary and evident things that everyone wants to receive for doing a hard job. But roots of the driver’s deficit problem lay deeper than the layer of monetary reward. Changes involve personal approach and attention to important life events, like birthdays and anniversaries. Mere modifications like giving truckers extra time at home will increase efficiency and loyalty to the employer.
  • Provide comfortable equipment. No one wants to drive an old, run-down truck that has lots of issues. If you want the driver to spend a long time on the road, make the route enjoyable. Modern, spare, clean restrooms and small kitchens are vital for staying sane while driving long distances. Sleep deprivation is among the most painful troubles in a trucker’s job. Nutrition matters as well. Short break time prompts drivers to eat junk food, high in fat and sugar. Matching this with an inactive lifestyle will result in a collection of serious health problems and possible weight gain. Investing in the health of truckers will lead to enduring partnerships and can reasonably diminish the shortage.
  • Eliminate side responsibilities. Turns out that drivers are often involved in the time-consuming processes that are not in their direct competence. Equipping the trucks with smart devices like GPS and hands-off control will not only save shippers and drivers from time-consuming processes, but will also increase the safety during the route, as the driver is not distracted and can focus on the trail. Automation of the freight tracking process will also be a major step towards route optimization. If the driver goes to Chicago, you can update him with load offers ahead of arriving, so he doesn’t have to run an empty truck to the start point to receive a new order.

At the end of the day, better results require major changes. An update of all of the strategies that involve truckers can be a useful solution for decreasing the shortage. Optimizing the system, reducing the haul time, raising the payment, providing new equipment, and changing the approach towards drivers’ off-work life altogether will create a principal difference in the current situation.

The Importance of Customer Service in the Logistics Industry

In today’s global economy, customers set the bar of what is considered quality service or what is a good brand. In any business, a customer’s experience determines the reputation of the company, and the logistics industry is not an exception.

The bigger your business is, the more complex your supply chain gets. It can be hard to maintain perfect customer service because everyone involved in the shipping process is constantly affecting a company’s reputation through customer experience. In client service, it’s impossible to be perfect, but it is possible to be better and provide your customers with the best service possible. Customers want to have a smooth, easy experience when working with a company. It is up to the company on how good that service can be delivered.

If you are striving to build long-term relationships with your customers and gain their loyalty, you should consider shifting from product-oriented strategy to customer-focused one. Here are some useful tips on how to take customer service to the next level:

  1. Choose the tools and partners accurately. No matter what strategies and technologies you use, there is always a human factor present. That’s the reason why choosing partners properly will enhance your customers’ experience. If you are outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL provider, make sure they have skilled and professional brokers and a network of experienced and reviewed carriers. Such services offer logistics management from A to Z and will take most of the hassle away. But as you select a key link in your logistics, you should invest time researching how to pick the best third-party logistics provider.
  2. Transparency and personal approach. Try to make the process as easy as possible for the customer. Supply chain visibility will reduce the time your client’s spending on shipping, therefore improving the overall experience they get from working with you. Transparency involves not only shipment tracking but also the option to compare available prices, services and understand how they work without any trouble. The more personalized approach you provide, the higher your chances are to retain customers. Send tracking updates and reports to customer to keep them in the loop, ranging from shipment transits to weather reminders. This strengthens your company’s credibility and simplifies the process for your customers.
  3. Establish the last mile delivery. This is a final and crucial element in the transportation process and obviously demands more concentration. The last stage of delivery is the most vulnerable to mistakes or damages that may occur due to different reasons. To reduce the likelihood of such circumstances, assure that everything goes the way it should.
  4. Provide feedback. No matter what issue took place, the response should be swift and intended to solve the customer’s problem, or at least to figure out what is the issue. Businesses should invest more in their staff training to reduce the chance of errors while interacting with customers. Solving problems that occurred on behalf of your company can make a big difference in a customer’s experience with your company. Many 3PL companies provide customer service and can help their customers simplify this complicated process.
  5. Technology & analysis. Don’t underestimate the power of data: new technologies let businesses track every step of the customer, existing or potential. Knowing the deep insights of your audience leads to better performance, updated strategies, and better service. Such innovations like transportation management systems, tracking devices and CRM systems let businesses study customer’s behavior and improve marketing strategies. So, researching and analyzing big data is the best way to achieve a better understanding of customers’ demands.

After all, you can reach your goals and improve the service when you are always up to date with new technologies and industry renovations.

What to do When Your Freight is Lost

In the logistics industry, no matter how hard you try to maintain the best service and utilize the most progressive technologies, problems can still happen to your freight during a shipment.

Companies may not be able to always control when accidents happen or prevent them from happening, but they can control how the accidents and problems are dealt with when they occur. A lot of things can happen to your freight while it is in transit: damage, stolen, lost, missing pieces, etc. Losing freight can be very frustrating and cause a lot of stress on both the shipper and shipping company, but don’t panic. Here is a brief guide on what to do when freight is lost:

1) Contact your shipping company. There is a slight chance that your cargo is delayed instead of completely lost. Unfortunately, delays can be common in the transportation business and occur due to many different reasons. The logistics provider is the first facility you should get in touch with. If you are working with third-party logistics service (3PLs), they will reach out to the carrier for you and help to solve a lot of additional issues.

2) Write down all the details about your shipment. For fast and efficient search, you have to provide the company with a detailed description of the transported goods, including size, color, labeling information, etc. You have to collect all the required paperwork as well. Documentation includes a bill of lading, freight bill, claim form and insurances. The more declarations you have, the higher the chance is to get a refund in the case when cargo is lost.

3) Fill a freight claim. If you are sure that freight is lost, the next round is to fill the cargo claim – a legal request to a carrier on the missing shipment. You will have to specify the list of missing items and their value, including invoices. The shipping company has 30 days to render a decision.

There are two possible outcomes after claiming the freight damage. Once a claim is filed, carriers can accept the claim, settle or deny it. In the case of a claim rejection, the shipping company will equip you with the declining reason and all of the pertinent information.

Life is not perfect – all of us know that. Accidents may happen during your shipments, and when those accidents do happen, you should be prepared and know the proper steps to take whenever your freight may get lost during transit.

3PL Trends That Are Shaping the Logistics Industry

Third-party logistics providers already make a big impact in the transportation industry today. According to surveys, the amount of 3PLs users is growing and has reached 81 percent for domestic transportation in 2018. There is no surprise that fast and convenient shipping is a must for a company’s success. As demands for delivery rates and customer service rise every day, efficient transportation management becomes crucial to stay in the game.

There is a boiling competition between 3PL providers to stay ahead of trends on the market and in the industry. As big players like Amazon set the shipping standards higher and higher, third-party logistics services must apply smart technologies and follow the trends to keep moving forward. Here are the main trends that 3PLs should focus on to in order to enhance their service and capabilities:

1. Value-added services and transparency. One of the most influential and enduring trends in 3PLs’ future is efficient communication with clients. No business today survives only on a good product or technology — customer service is vital for building brand identity and obtaining loyal partners. Unorganized and complicated transportation management is reasonably outdated, so transparency and value-added services will become more prevalent in the upcoming years. Free audits, forecasts, list of available services, and freight visibility will increase customers’ confidence level, giving you a primary advantage over the competitors.

2. Analytics and automation. Year after year, it becomes more relevant and needed, and 3PLs need to invest in new technologies to keep an eye on insights and have more accountability and information for boosting sales. New technology helps bring more consistency to the supply chain, and automation is essential for operating the logistics process. The decrease of labor-intensive tasks and cut of manual work involvement causes faster and more efficient production. 3PLs should utilize technologies that will fill in the current gaps in the chain, from transportation management systems to self-driven vehicles.

3. Investing in the last-mile delivery. We all have to confess that shipping giants like UPS and Amazon are setting the trends for the industry. At this point, they have already developed specialized services for quick and reliable delivery directly to the customer. Last-mile delivery is the final element of the shipping process that leaves a certain impression about the shipping provider in the customers mind. Even if someone else failed, you are responsible for the consequences and customers’ experience. Investing in better service and technology to improve the last step of shipping is vital.

There is no doubt that 3PLs are in demand, but this also means an increase in the competition. As technology continues to advance and companies integrate their shipping process and supply chains, new trends will come into focus throughout 2019 and into the future.

5 Reasons a Small Business Can Benefit From a 3PL

In the age of Amazon, the only thing that is growing faster than the e-commerce sector is customers’ demands. Once a shipment is scheduled or an item is purchased, the customer is constantly looking for updates on the shipment, no matter if it’s an individual shipper or a large corporation. There is no surprise that companies who provide the fastest and cheapest shipping have a significant advantage over competitors. New technologies are taking over the world, and the world wants you to be as fast and convenient as possible.

Customer satisfaction is the main priority for most businesses. Quality and shipment speed are crucial to the customer’s experience and worrying about customer service while managing a whole supply chain is not an easy thing to do. And the cherry on top of it all is, you can’t really maintain everything at the highest level all by yourself.small business front

This is the point where third-party logistics services come in to help save you from a bundle of unwanted work. 3PLs act as the middleman service that takes on all the processes of shipping. They provide all the infrastructure, systems, data and equipment you need to have successful shipments. Building a strong relationship with your 3PL is crucial to a successful supply chain. In a nutshell, you focus on your core specialization while a 3PL provider takes care of your logistics until the last part of the delivery.

Here are the main reasons why small businesses should outsource to a third-party logistics service:

  1. It’s saves you time. If you are a small business owner, you have probably spent a lot of time setting up your businesses shipping to find the right carriers, keep track of all of the paperwork, and handle the freight. This can be very stressful and time consuming for business owners. Outsourcing your company’s logistics can give you more time to focus on your business.
  2. It can save you money. Brokers can provide you with the lowest prices to help save your business money on shipments. Moreover, you just pay for space and time that you use. For example, less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping allows you to share the truck with other users, but to pay only for the space your freight takes up inside of the truck.
  3. It helps ensure customer service. Maintaining the supply chain requires a lot of attention to details. This can cause distractions and may not always bring your customers the positive experience they want to have. 3PLs arrange the cooperation with qualified drivers and carriers, who go through regular reviews, to help ensure your shipments are handled with care and are properly taken care of. Picking the right provider is a good investment for your business.
  4. It provides you with resources. At a first glance, the transportation and shipping process may look like moving an object from A to B. In reality, it’s a complex chain of operations that demand lots of special bulky and pricey equipment. Third-party logistics services save the situation and bring all the needed equipment to complete every single order, no matter how big it is.
  5. It gives you a network. Constantly communicating with all the people involved in the supply chain may be overwhelming. Brokers already have a developed network of professional suppliers and will choose the most relevant to match your requirements.

 

If you are considering outsourcing your logistics, read more about the first steps in outsourcing your businesses transportation management.

Digital vs. Human: Will Online Services Replace Freight Brokers?

Technology and digital innovations are making a significant impact on every industry. With all of the new advancements being made, there is a constant hanging question: will the new digital optimization tools replace human jobs? Depending on the industry, the answers may differ, but recent years have shown that nothing major is taking place yet. There is no doubt that digitalization is changing our lives and the process of running the business, but it definitely won’t do all the work.

Transport management systems and online services are in high demand in the logistics industry. Digital freight services simplify a company’s process of shipping and can give an impressive boost to the company’s revenue. The main concept of different online brokerage services is to not worry about communicating with anyone when booking your load. Many businesses prefer this option because they can handle all of their shipping through a self-service shipping option that makes their shipping process easier while saving them time and money. The online system automates the process and immediately gives you a list of the most suitable options to match your requirements.
digitalization
So how can online brokerage apps can make booking a shipment easier? When using an online brokerage service, you don’t have to communicate with people directly and have a possibility to book the cargo 24/7. Tracking is visible at any time as well, so you don’t have to spend time worrying about your shipment. You can instantly compare all the available opportunities, see a transparent range of prices, and decide what fits your expectations better. Online brokerage services usually offer a broad spectrum of services, including LTL shipping, small business shipping, intermodal, large parcels and other, so you can easily find exactly what you are searching for.

Shippers are not the only ones who benefit from using digital freight apps. Every carrier is in charge to choose the best option to work with and provide the customer with all the necessary information directly and in real time. This allows them to close the deals faster, shorten the time used on negotiations and to make a better profit. At the same time, shippers can compare the prices and book a shipment using the best shipping option. Using new online services can cut down on paperwork and can be beneficial to everyone involved.

With the disruption of Uber Freight and alike services into the trucking industry, lots of companies are beginning to worry about the possibility of technologies replacing freight brokers. Will the apps push the classic brokerage service out of the industry needs? Probably not. Despite the fears, innovations are helping to simplify human’s job and not to conquer it.

Keeping up with innovative solutions is essential for the success of every logistics company. PLS Logistics is committed to staying up-to-date on new technology to offer our customers the best rate and service possible.

Why Cybersecurity is Important to Your Supply Chain

As digitalization takes over the world, there is a raging demand for transferring loads of data to cloud storage. The transportation industry is no exception, considering the exponential growth of the e-commerce sector. Logistics companies and businesses are constantly working to stay ahead of new industry trends and technology but may often overlook one important aspect that is becoming a crucial part of the logistics industry – cybersecurity. ­

The consequences of cyber attacks on a business can be devastating: taking data into hostage for a money refund, digital infections that can immediately destroy all information, breaking the supply chain and causing money loss. Many logistics companies should consider shifting their focus towards data security to provide their customers with the safest transportation solution.

 

Although it is impossible to provide 100 percent protection against digital threats, there are many different ways companies can significantly raise the state of their cybersecurity. Not all of the cases of cyber attacks occur due to crime. A survey by the 2013 Trustwave Global Security Report says that 25% of digital infections turn out to be unintentional and can be caused by employees, suppliers, system errors, or other internal factors. Accordingly, intensification of cybersecurity doesn’t mean investing in IT alone. Companies should take a step in developing high-quality risk management strategies and train their employees to identify potential threats and avoid these types of situations. Companies can take precautions to help ensure their data safety:iStock-865460022

  • · Employee training. Working staff must be highly aware of what potential cyber interfering looks like. Opening suspicious attachments from unknown users, answering uncertain emails and phone calls, inserting untested USB memory sticks – every employee should keep an eye out and watch their own actions carefully.
  • · Software and firewalls. Using only tested, up-to-date software with a strong security system that provides password safety, a complex chain of authentication and user control will help aid in a company’s data protection. Regular data back-ups to external servers is also a great strategy to help save data in the case of a cyber attack.
  • Investing in a cybersecurity expert. According to Gartner Survey, only 65 percent of companies have a cybersecurity specialist. Bringing on a skilled technician to constantly test software and protection systems can keep the company ahead of possible cyber-attacks.
  • · Risk management. Implementing long-term, well-operated strategies to reduce the possibility of malware invasion is crucial in a company’s cyber security plan.

In the end, no one is 100% safe from possible hacker attacks. If your company hasn’t developed a plan to help ensure cybersecurity, you should consider doing so to protect the company as a whole.

 

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