Tag Archives: logistics

Supplying Love: Valentine’s Day Logistics

Valentine’s Day for most people means romantic dates with flowers, chocolates and meaningful cards. While the biggest problem on February 14 is pleasing your loved one, logistics managers and suppliers start stressing much earlier to provide you with all of the gift options you need.

Roses are not grown at your florist’s home garden and heart-shaped boxes don’t appear in the store by accident. Before Valentine’s Day, all of Valentine’s gifts travel a long and well-planned out journey thanks to logistics. 

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays in the logistics industry. Just in the U.S. alone, nearly 60% of the population celebrates it. Moreover, considering the emotional meaning of the holiday, failing to deliver gifts on-time is unacceptable. And that’s why logistics makes the show go on by supplying retailers and flower shops.

However, flowers are not the most popular surprise among Valentine’s present buyers. According to the National Retail Federation stats, the top gift option is candy (55%), followed by cards (45.9%) and flowers (35.6%).

Logistics is not just about importing goods from one country to another. After chocolates or flowers are imported, they are forwarded to the importer’s distribution center, where all the items are separated before departing to the retailer’s warehouse. At the retailer’s facility, hundreds of people unpack the boxes, label them, pack them again, and move them to stores. Finally, products are shelved and the gifts are ready for selling. Quite a long journey, right?

Moreover, chocolates and flowers are perishable and require special handling and freeze protection. Chocolate is especially temperature sensitive and can survive neither excess heat nor cold, otherwise, it will spoil and disappoint many people. Special conditions make Valentine’s Day even more complex, yet the delivery deadlines are still met thanks to the logistics and retail industry.

Best Practices for a Robust Warehouse Management

In the fast-changing world of commerce and transportation, the role of warehouses and inventory facilities becomes more and more important.

Why does warehouse management matter?

All forward-looking companies that manufacture or retail goods think about delivering better customer service for their customers. The great service often suggests fast delivery, which includes order fulfillment time combined with transit time. While a lot has been already said about route optimization and faster transits, fulfillment strategy can often be overlooked. Warehouse and inventory management is crucial for faster, efficient order fulfillment. A well-thought out fulfillment strategy and warehouse organization process let companies operate faster and increase productivity.

What is warehouse management? 

Warehouse management is a complex series of activities, steered toward maintaining and reviewing all of the processes within the facility. Warehouse management includes:

  • Setting up the warehouse and inventory
  • Optimizing facility space to fit the maximum volume of products in a properly sorted way
  • Maintaining the required equipment
  • Picking, packing, and shipping orders
  • Control and maintenance of the entire warehouse performance

What are best practices for proper warehouse management?

There are many different ways to improve your warehouses’ operational performance, as well as boost the efficiency of order fulfillment. Here are some tips on technologies and strategies you can use to improve your company’s warehousing:

  1. Make sure you are using the space efficiently. Re-organizations of storage planning are useful, as you can define the misused or extra space in your facility. The more optimized your warehouse space is, the faster the shipping process will be. A great tip is to sort your products in the following way: high-selling ones should be put near the packing section for easy access, and all the other goods should be sorted according to demand.
  2. Use a robust warehouse management system (WMS). This is software for tracking, documenting and keeping everything organized. WMS is an essential tool for any company who wants to take its performance to another level. Choosing a well-oiled management system matters, as it helps simplify the process of order circulation.
  3. Automation. Digitization and new technology are affecting all industries, especially the logistics sector. In a global supply chain, innovations are driving progress and warehouse automation lets companies enhance the operational performance with robotic systems, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Such shifts may be hard to implement and can even disrupt the fulfillment process, but the end result is believed to be worth the efforts. Automation makes operations much faster, eliminates manual tasks and collects data more efficiently.

Final thoughts

After all, a thorough analysis is key. Discuss with your team all of the major drawbacks and pitfalls of your current warehousing strategy, and define a action plan. Who knows, maybe updating your warehouse management strategy will be a major uplift for your business!

What Are Cobots and How Do They Impact Logistics?

Technology is diving deeper inside the logistics sector, and it isn’t limited to just IoT and blockchain. There are many technology applications now available that can significantly benefit the performance of logistics companies. Although most of the innovations are utilized to enhance tracking, data analytics, and digital operations, there are additional fields of the logistics industry where optimization is much needed. The transportation industry is beginning to move away from depending on manual operation, especially in the context of fulfillment, sorting, packing, etc. One of the newer tools created to solve these issues are cobots, also known as collaborative robots.

What are cobots?

Cobots are devices whose main role is to assist human employees with manual tasks. Cobots are mainly used for sorting and packing orders, handling heavy and dangerous freight, and other manual warehousing tasks. The main purpose of cobots is not to replace human jobs, but to help them with execution and live up to their name of helping cooperating safely with people.

What are the opportunities and benefits of using cobots?

Many giant retailers like Amazon have already been utilizing cobots for a long time. In 2012, the company acquired Kiva Systems, a provider of mobile robotics fulfillment systems. According to the IDC report, at the end of 2018, nearly 45% of 200 of the world’s largest e-commerce companies have been deploying robotic technology. This means that the cobots market is about to accelerate in the next few years and has some comprehensive benefits to offer businesses.

  • Performing repetitive tasks, which increases general productivity. Some of the simplest tasks can be fully executed by cobots. Robotic assistance can help escalate processes drastically as the cobot can be taught to perform a certain task quickly without errors. According to Forbes, bots from 6 River Systems increase the pick-to-cart rate from 90 units per hour to 200 units per hour. Robots can also be particularly useful in sorting freight or parcels of different sizes and types, as the implemented pattern allows them to do so.
  • Reducing costs. Naturally, you don’t need to pay robots for work except for the investment to buy the robotic technology. However, the payoff won’t make you wait for a long time. WDP states that the average cost recovery period for part-automation is between 1.6 and 1.7 years. If production speeds up and the error rate decreases, it ultimately results in a higher profit.
  • No place for error. One of the most comprehensive benefits of cobots is their resistance to making mistakes compared to humans. Machines are faster at performing repetitive manual tasks and are less prone to errors.
  • Handling heavy loads. There are different types of cobots, and some of them can assist in picking up or handling heavy or dangerous freight, therefore helping prevent human injuries.

Ultimately, robotic devices are becoming a part of the logistics industry. Companies like have successfully deployed cobots and have boosted their productivity at their logistics facility. The growing awareness of collaborative systems means they certainly have a bright future and real, rewarding benefits.

What is Specialized Shipping?

The global economy is rapidly developing, facing new challenges every day. One of the constant challenges is the demand for a convenient shipping service, and specialized shipping is not an exception. Specialized shipping is usually used in industrial businesses like oil and gas, mining, metal manufacturing and more. In most cases, these industries require special freight handling because shipments are either too big, heavy or need services that regular shipping companies do not provide.

Logistics serves hundreds of different industries, from the grocery and retail industry to the mining industry. Each type of shipment normally has specific requirements, but there are some objects that are shipped that fall into the category of “specialized freight.” Usually, specialized freight includes mining equipment, large metal details, oilfield exploration machinery, agriculture equipment and more. Specialized freight involves goods that are large in size, weight, dimensions, or demand special handling services during transit. Specialized shipping services allow companies with specialized freight and equipment to move freight safely and efficiently.

How is specialized freight transported?

Shipping specific materials requires different transportation modes and customized vehicles. These vehicles combine dry van, refrigerated shipping, flatbed trucks, side kit trailers, lowboys, step deck, and double deck trailers. If shipping involves chemicals, hazardous materials, or temperature-sensitive freight, the trailers must be accustomed to those specifications. Some of the loads also require an escort service.

How to choose a shipping provider for your specialized shipping needs?

One of the hardest parts in arranging proper shipments for bulky equipment or supplies is finding a professional logistics partner. Here are some key features of an adequate specialized shipping provider:

  • Thorough experience in the supply chain and logistics industry is crucial for logistics companies to understand your business needs clearly and provide proper solutions.
  • An extensive network of carriers plays a significant role in preserving the capacity for your loads to ensure the shipment process runs smoothly.
  • The variety of services has to be wide enough to provide solutions, from specialized trucks and hazardous materials shipping to escort services.
  • Make sure your logistics partner uses advanced technology, like a transportation management system (TMS), so freight management and visibility are at the highest level.
  • The expert team has to be skilled and experienced enough to estimate your needs and implement the right solutions.

The construction and mining sectors are constantly expanding, so having a specialized shipping provider is crucial for the industry’s growth. Here at PLS Logistics Services, we have more than two decades of experience in moving freight like mining, metal and oilfield equipment and supplies. Our company will provide you with a full range of specialized shipping services, regardless of the challenges you are facing.

 

A Look into 2019 Logistics

A Look into 2019 Logistics

2018 has brought some major changes to the logistics industry. We can expect to see a continued focus on technology and innovations, which will bring the most significant changes in the upcoming year.

The Influence of Big Data Will Grow

Companies try to incorporate IT resources into their supply chain to increase productivity, efficiency, and safety, and this trend will continue to grow in 2019. Technology allows small and midsize businesses to compete with larger players and take their performance to the next level. Apart from blockchain, big data is estimated to play the most significant role in improving logistics and supply chain management. The deployment of big data and data-centered innovations like IoT has already gained significant popularity within the industry. Data analysis and proper interpretation enable logistics managers to figure out gaps in the supply chain and implement working strategies to boost the company’s performance. Big data deployment is a huge step towards reaching freight visibility and understanding how to eliminate waste from the supply chain. In combination with IoT, it allows companies to track and analyze freight conditions, truck characteristics and other important measures that impact transportation. The experts forecast almost a three times growth in connected devices usage from 2018 and estimate it to reach 75 billion. This means the Internet of Things and big data will become game changers in the logistics industry in 2019. Apart from big data and IoT, other technology like blockchain and AI will also invade the transportation industry.

The Driver Shortage and Capacity C May Become a Permanent Problem

In 2018, there has been a lot of talk about the capacity crunch and issue of the driver shortage. There’s no wonder that shortage problem is still in effect as the demand for drivers increases and the core of trucking workforce plans to retire in 10-15 years. According to the World Bank of Data, the United States’ import and export traffic almost doubled between the years 2000 and 2016, but the number of truck drivers didn’t. As the global economy is growing faster, the problem of the shortage will become permanent despite the fact that solutions are coming to help. Driverless trucks and new technology for route optimization will roll into 2019 to eliminate the pain from the capacity crunch and shortage.

Improved Payment Systems and Cybersecurity

In the new age of digitalization, logistics companies need to provide more flexibility and transparency into payment systems. Blockchain technology and the usage of cryptocurrency lets companies simplify the process of sending and receiving payments and provide protection for online transactions. Increased attention to cyber security is another predicted trend in the industry for 2019. As digitalization continues to effect various industries and businesses, it is especially important for logistics and transportation companies to steer towards increased safety of their databases and websites. The devastating ransomware in Maersk in 2017 has shown that even industry giants are in jeopardy of cyber attacks.

Consolidation Among Companies

Competition between companies becomes fiercer every year. In 2018, many shipping giants have joined forces and formed the alliances, and the rate of consolidation will be even higher in throughout 2019. The trend of consolidation is especially popular among ocean shipping companies. For instance, A.P. Moller Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and Ocean Network Express (ONE) recently confirmed their plan to set a global association. The main point of merging is to balance prices on the market and let smaller businesses operate.

To sum it up, 2019 will be a year full of technology and optimization. Improved supply chain and inventory management, data analysis, technology, better freight visibility and a focus on cyber security will be the main game changers in the logistics industry.

Looking Back: A Recap of Logistics in 2018

2018 is coming to the end, and we are taking the time to look back on the most relevant news and notable events that took place throughout the year. 2018 was a busy year and has shaped the logistics and supply chain industry in many ways.

Technology

This year has proved that AI, IoT, blockchain and digitalization will only keep expanding and changing the way logistics is done. One of the most interesting topics in supply chain management was the blockchain, causing numerous discussions on its impact on industry. In fact, since the big players have switched to blockchain-enabled supply chain management, it is safe to say blockchain will stay here for a long, long time. The primary consolidation of logistics companies that utilize the blockchain is centered in the Blockchain in Transport Alliance. The organization was started in August 2017 and quickly became the main conglomerate of progressive logistics and supply chain companies. Such industry giants like UPS, Penske, FedEx, Uber Freight and Evans are already the members of the tech community.

The same is going on with AI and the Internet of Things, and this means that technology is not the future – it is the present. Industry players like DHL actively develop and implement AI innovations into their company’s performance, from mobile apps to tracking technologies that collect and analyze data.

Ultimately, 2018 has proved that digitalization is not a replacement of humans by robots and technology, but rather a big step towards progress and increase of supply chain efficiency.

Driver Shortage and Capacity

The issues of the tight truck capacity and driver shortage have been on everyone’s mind for a long time. In 2018, economic growth and intense developments in the retail industry have put even more pressure on logistics managers. However, the dilemma is slowly unraveling itself. According to the data by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gross of domestic product rate increased by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2018 and added in 4.2% in the second quarter. The high pressure and driver shortage caused carriers to revise drivers’ salary, and it resulted in remarkable growth. According to the American Trucking Association, the average salary for the truck driver has risen to $53,000, which is $7,000 (15%) more from the last survey in 2013. As for private fleet truckers, the pay rise reached 18%. In a nutshell, 2018 has shown that modern logistics solutions are able to deal with global problems in the industry.

ELD Mandate

In April, the grace period for carriers to switch to electronic logging devices (ELDs) has ended. As 2018 is coming to the end, we can finally make some conclusions about how the new rule influenced the trucking industry. The new technology definitely created more sustainability and visibility into data, but caused many problems among the trucking community. A survey by Cortex stated that 33% of carriers admitted difficulties with retaining drivers due to the strict hours of service policy. Nevertheless, experts believe the innovation is going to strengthen the usage of data and optimize the industry in general.

 

 

Autonomous vehicles

The talk of autonomous vehicles was very prominent in 2018. At the very start of 2018, the US Department of Transportation formed a policy to remove barriers of autonomous vehicles deployment. Now it’s safe to say one thing: autonomous vehicles will keep rolling into the industry, but they certainly won’t replace truck drivers. Self-driven trucks would rather be the start of the new age of logistics, and will organically fit and improve the existing trucking environment.

Important Events

2018 was full of many significant events. Let’s go back to our previous monthly report blogs and outtake the most important events from the logistics industry that occurred the latest year:

  • The United States and Mexico reached an agreement on key NAFTA issues including auto rules and access to the Mexican energy sector
  • Ocean shipping giants, A.P. Moller Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and Ocean Network Express (ONE), confirmed their plan to set a global association
  • Rolls Royce collaborated with Intel for a self-driven vessels project
  • Uber announced “Powerloop” and plans on drone delivery

To read more about what happened in 2018, check our Trending Transportation updates blogs.

To sum it up, 2018 was a big year for the logistics industry, holding victories, losses, and lots of transformation. Logistics and supply chain management will continue to develop throughout 2019 to change the industry.

The Logistics of Christmas: All About Christmas Tree Shipping

Some things never change – and neither does the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree. Christmas trees are a cozy, warm association with family time, delicious food, snowy weather and joyful Christmas music.

Many people will go out and cut down their own Christmas tree or buy an artificial tree at the store for their home. In the rush of the holiday season, many people don’t think about how large volumes of Christmas trees are harvested, sold and transported.

Here are some interesting facts about the logistics behind the beloved Christmas tree:

  • Every year, nearly 25-30 million trees are sold across the United States and placed in homes.
  • There are 15,000 specialized farms for growing Christmas trees based in every state, and most are located in the Northern States, such as Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, New York and Virginia.
  • There are many different names for Christmas trees, including fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar.
  • In 2017, $27.4 million of real trees were purchased compared to $21.1 million of fake ones. The total revenue of selling Christmas trees reached $2 billion in 2017.
  • Amazon announced they will start shipping Christmas trees this year.

How are Christmas trees shipped?

Real plants require special shipping conditions, which can make their transportation rather complicated. Usually, trees are moved in dry vans or refrigerated trucks with temperature control. Christmas trees are not recommended for shipping with several pickup/unloading stops, and long distances should be avoided as well. Plants are sensitive to wind, temperature shifts, and other climate factors, so flatbed shipping should be avoided.

In general, the main goal while moving firs and pines is to deliver them as fast as possible, based on the required environmental conditions. These trees like a cold climate and humidity, so they should be put in water as soon as possible.

It may be complicated to arrange Christmas tree shipping, as many carriers refuse to take responsibility and deal with these difficulties. Our shipping services with refrigerated and specialized shipping, in particular, can let you transport Christmas trees safely and on-time.

How to Optimize Your Oil and Gas Supply Chain

The oil and gas industry are an irreplaceable part of people’s lives: it warms houses and offices, fuels cars and other vehicles and makes the world go around. It is incredible how many processes depend on energy supplies. The logistics behind the oil and gas industry has many moving parts. Logistics providers help companies maintain the efficiency of their supply chains to help keep projects and shipments in order. Oil and gas industry can be complicated when it comes to logistics due to shipping items like bulky equipment, hazardous supplies, and strict delivery deadlines. Although it can be complicated, there are many ways to optimize an energy supply chain.

Due to constant changes in the transportation and logistics industry, it is even more important to be up-to-date with shifts and adjustments during energy services shipments. Here are some strategies that will help optimize your business:

Analyze

The first step of solving a problem is to define it. Run through all of your operations and use an expert help detect where you could possibly reduce costs, eliminate waste and increase productivity. Further investigation will give you a clear image of your company’s current situation, letting you make profitable decisions.

Use advanced technologies

Staying up to date with new technology innovations is essential for the progress of oil and gas logistics. Supply chain technology, such as transportation management systems (TMS) is an online system for companies to use for data storage and analysis. A TMS allows companies to save time, money and gain visibility into their supply chain processes. A robust TMS lets you see details and get insights about any part of the shipment. It is an excellent solution for oil and gas companies to use when managing their shipments and moving important loads from one location to the next.

Remain flexible

The energy services industry is a very fast-paced environment and experiences new shipment modifications all the time. Government regulations, including the import/export laws, drilling policies, and environmental regulations are vital things to track to renew offers for your customers and to function correctly.

Use effective communication

Getting feedback from your customers, suppliers and business partners will help you understand which parts of your operations are working well and which ones are going poorly. Be as transparent as possible on your shipments needs to ensure all involved parties understand goals clearly and work towards reaching them.

Working with experts and outsourcing energy logistics services is a smart decision for the companies who want to focus on their core goals and keep their supply chain running smoothly. We understand how critical time and precision is for oil and gas transportation, and offer customers various solutions for problems of any level of complexity.

How Blockchain Impacts the Logistics Industry

There are many new technologies affecting the logistics industry, and one of the most promising among new technology is blockchain. Blockchain can be used successfully in many different industries that have nothing to do with cryptocurrency. Technology like blockchain is believed to dramatically change company’s supply chains and save billions of costs on operations.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital register with advanced encryption mechanisms that lets companies track and record transactions and securely store data, making it almost impossible to steal, delete or change information. Every transaction or record is a single block, and after verification, it becomes a part of the sequence. This technology allows companies to keep every transaction, documentation and any manipulation made on an object in one place. This allows companies to have complete transparency on every single action or data unit, as well as protection from ransomware and cyber attacks.

How can blockchain be used for supply chain needs?

A supply chain is a very complex structure with hundreds of transactions and modes of communication involved. Verifying and maintaining information that flows through the supply chain can be time-consuming and expensive. Blockchain technology allows companies to immediately verify and lock each data unit, which supplies robust protection against data stealing, deleting or unwanted modifications. In a nutshell, blockchain provides transparency on every transaction and manages the data in a systemized and easily accessible way. Any manufacturer, auditor or supplier can access required data or payment in no time, which makes operations processes much faster and more efficient. The difference in supply chain performance could potentially be incredible after the blockchain contribution, as it drastically reduces extra interactions, increases data security and authenticity, apart from significant time and cost savings.

How it affects the logistics industry?

Apart from supply chain needs, blockchain can be utilized for many other needs of the logistics industry. Temperature-sensitive shipments often suffer from delays and temperature deviations, and lots of them may become damaged during transit. It happens because of poor temperature tracking, customs delays and more. Blockchain can help solve these problems, as it allows fast access to any data and transaction on a certain shipment. When combined with connected devices (Internet of Things), the data from trackers is transmitted to the blockchain, where it is stored and used for analysis.

In conclusion, blockchain is one of the most up-and-coming innovations to grow, develop and enhance the performance of the logistics industry. Companies that invest in such technologies would certainly be ahead of the competitors and will save a significant amount of money.

Trending Transportation Updates: November 2018

There were many new and exciting developments throughout the transportation and shipping industry during this month. Check out some of the top stories that made headlines during November!

Largest Ocean Carriers Announced a Formation of Industry Association

The ocean shipping giants, A.P. Moller Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and Ocean Network Express (ONE), recently confirmed their plan to set a global association in their announcement. The organization will be a non-profit, and all of the ocean carriers will be invited to join when it is officially established. The main purpose of this decision is to smooth the shipping processes and create common standards inside the industry. According to the release, it will help the industry gain more transparency, and easily implement new technologies. To read more about new association, click here.

Walmart Will Open an AI Lab in One of its New York Stores

The retail giant announced its plan to create an Intelligence Retail Lab right in Levittown, New York. Walmart executives claim developing AI technologies and applications will help them proactively improve the customer’s experience and business performance by identifying which products are in low demand, and replace them effectively. To read more about the AI lab, click here.

Amazon is Building an Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville

In its latest press release, Amazon revealed that a new supply chain hub is about to open in Nashville, Tennessee. The facility will handle more than 5,000 employees and costs $230 million in investments. Apart from the Center of Excellence, the retailer will also open two new headquarters in New York City and Virginia. To read more about center in Nashville, click here.

California Fire Impacts Thousands, Including Logistics Workers and Truckers

Three wildfires caused an enormous amount of fatalities and property damage in Northern and Central California and have continued to impact supply chain performance in the affected areas. Smoke areas endanger truck drivers and workers because of hazards and bad road visibility. When the largest burning began, a huge Amazon warehouse with 2,000 employees in Sacramento, CA, was closed because of the health damage due to hazardous gas emissions. To read more about California’s fire impact, click here.