Category Archives: Blog

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.

How Does Technology Help Reduce LTL Costs?

Technology has made a huge impact in the shipping industry and can help companies reduce costs and save time when managing their supply chain. If you learn how technology can benefit your shipping needs, you can integrate and improve your shipping strategy.

LTL shipping is a great resource for smaller companies to use when they want to try and save money on both frequent and sporadic shipments. There are many ways to reduce LTL shipping costs, and technology seems to be the best solution for this purpose.

Among well-known innovations, transportation management systems (TMS) are vital for collecting data and proper decision-making. It allows you to gather and organize all the information about the shipping process, therefore allowing you to analyze and make the right conclusions about your companies shipping efforts. It might not seem evident, but proper forecasting and effective decisions can save shippers lots of money. A TMS is a universal, multi-functional tool that can upgrade the company’s performance to a higher level.

Outsourcing to a third-party logistics service can be very beneficial, as they offer helpful services and possess a wide range of automation tools. Many businesses don’t want to spend time and money maintaining their own transportation management, and instead choose to work with a 3PL provider that can help take the burden off of the company’s shoulders.

Another trend in LTL shipping is real-time visibility of shipments. Because of the excessive growth of e-commerce and its impact toward the logistics industry, the definition of excellent service is expanding. Shipment visibility keeps customers aware of the freight location and notifies them quickly about the circumstances that require immediate feedback.

As quality customer service depends on speed and quick feedback, the future of LTL shipping is heading towards automation. While GPS and hands-off devices are nothing new, the Internet of Things (IoT) still spreads confusion. IoT means connecting various items to digital devices that gather data, such as temperature, humidity, speed, and other characteristics. Such operations make the shipping process faster and easy to operate, so you can immediately react to updates on the shipment. Mobile apps simplify the transportation process for shippers and carriers as well.

Taking into account all the benefits business can get from utilizing new technologies, it is a must to stay updated on new industry trends. Applying some of the mentioned technologies can reduce costs and increase efficiency.

What is Green Logistics?

Today, brand image plays a noble role in a company’s presence, so it is crucial for companies to move from the traditional corporate model to a sustainability-focused business model. As companies aim to be more customer-oriented, there is a need to respond to your audience’s wants and needs. Customers become more interested not only in your product, but in your company’s philosophy, values, and concerns. It is essential for companies to help the surrounding environment and put in effort to help combat the world’s global issues in any way that they can.

One of the industries main concerns is green logistics – a trend that became extremely widespread in recent time.

What is green logistics?

Green logistics includes a company’s effort of lowering emissions, implementing more sustainable operations processes and reducing environmental pollution. There is a variety of solutions that companies can apply to be greener, from simple to very advanced, progressive actions. The environmental issues in the world are only getting worse, and it is now more important than ever for companies to get involved and help out however they can.

How going green can reduce your supply chain costs?

An eco-friendly strategy can allow a company to remain focused on bringing in profit while helping the environment. A sustainability approach can help companies have better brand representation and fewer expenses. Integrating current processes and strategies to be more “green” and environmentally friendly can help companies increase efficiency and possibly decrease costs.

  • Pool distribution. Pool distribution helps reduce the wasted use of trucks and helps save costs. Pooling means consolidation of shipments from a single shipper that is collected altogether and then dropped off at one point (normally at the shipper’s distribution center). Benefits of using such an approach are evident. Gathering shipments with the same route lets you save costs on fuel, reduce human labor expenses, and efficiently use truck capacity.
  • Optimize packaging materials. One of the best ways to make shipments more “eco-friendly” is picking recyclable packaging materials. However, the point is not only in the package itself, but in the way you use it. Optimizing the way shipments are packed is a great consideration not only for the environment, but for a company’s budget as well.
  • Implementing energy management systems. An energy management system is a set of tools used to track, control and optimize the generation and use of energy. Such solutions works best for warehouses and can significantly reduce the expenses on transmission systems performance.
  • Efficient use of warehouses space. Pollution and inefficient use of resources are often associated with trucks, but things such as warehouse space management play an influential role in environmental awareness as well. The point of optimizing warehouses is using less capacity, packaging materials, and maintenance resources for the same amount of assets. The benefits of optimizing warehouses helps companies save costs on electricity, create more space for new items, and have better management.

Whether you are taking small steps forward a greener policy or planning major changes, green logistics is a successful decision. Green logistics works to improve your brand ideology and eliminate waste from your companies supply chain.

A Look into the 2018 Holiday Shipping Season

The holiday season remains one of the busiest times for retailers, and each year, the volume of shipments continues to grow. E-commerce continues to make advancements for supply chain needs and service requirements, making it harder to compete with big companies like Amazon. This year, e-commerce sales are estimated to obtain 52 percent of total orders made during the season.

Here are some key trends to look for this year during the holiday season:

Optimizing mobile applications

Almost all consumers have smart phones with access to mobile applications. It is essential to provide your customer with a convenient way to use your mobile application so that they can easily carry out their supply chain function or make purchases online. As more people are shopping on their mobile device, your mobile version should be as polished as the website. If customers can make purchases through your app, make sure that the checkout process runs smoothly and that the site will handle technical obstacles during the peak days of sellouts.

Offer free shipping

Many retailers are offering free shipping to customers during the holiday season to produce more sales and customer loyalty. When shopping for the holidays, many customers are more likely to shop at places that offer free shipping deals instead of companies that do not. The companies that are offering free shipping should prepare for the holiday season in advance and have all of their shipments in before the big shopping days arrive to ensure they have enough product for the volume of orders they will be receiving.

Focus on supply chain efficiency

Handling the stress of the holiday season can be challenging. Businesses need to control and monitoring their supply chain at every stage of operations to make sure all the processes run smoothly. Reviewing warehouses, reading over contracts with 3PL providers or fleet owners can help companies run a successful, organized supply chain during the busiest season.

Extensive sales period

Extending the sales period is a popular and efficient way to take the pressure off of the company and logistics providers, as the general volume of orders is pushed back and given more time. In addition, elongated selling time means more purchases. According to statistics and experts forecast, the period between Thanksgiving and the end of Cyber Monday week represents 37 percent of the total U.S. holiday retail sales.

Every year, the preparation process for the holiday shipping season becomes more complex. New technology and solutions are constantly being developed to help companies overcome the peak season. A proper analysis, research, and preparation in advance will do a lot in reaching aspired goals.

The Logistics Behind Black Friday

The holiday season is a tough time for retailers and the transportation industry, and the time between Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be the peak period of the rush. Large volumes of e-commerce purchases are putting more and more pressure on businesses and their logistics managers every year. Today we will look at how the crazy shopping day known as Black Friday came about to change the holiday shopping season forever.

What is the origin of Black Friday?

There are many stories about how Black Friday got its name, but the main story says the origin of the term “Black Friday” came from 1960’s retailers’ slang. After Thanksgiving, the stores went from being “in red,” which meant having no money, to being “in black,” which implied making a profit. Black Friday also stands for the extreme rush caused by the beginning of the shopping season.

Interesting facts about Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Usually, buyers and retailers do not see the details of a company’s logistics and supply chain processes, but there is a huge engine running behind the scenes to keep companies organized and keep shipments coming in and out properly. The journey a package takes from a warehouse to your front door is far more complex than you may think. In honor of Black Friday later this week, here are some interesting facts and insights about the busiest shopping day of the year:

  • Almost 74 percent of Americans plan to spend big on Black Friday sales in 2018.
  • The average purchase amount is estimated to be $483, which equals $90.14 billion of total expenses between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Surprisingly, men will spend twice as much as women, reaching an average $626.44 for men compared with $342.50 for women.
  • To handle the mass amount of shipments and demand, UPS and FedEx are hiring 95,000 and 50,000 people accordingly as additional workforce.
  • On average, 6 people deal with a package directly before it reaches its final destination.
  • Since 2006, 7 deaths and 98 injuries occurred during Black Friday shopping.
  • Most companies start holiday preparation in the summer or even earlier.
  • The most wanted objects for gifts or personal purchase are gift cards, clothes, electronics, and jewelry.
  • Almost 52 percent of Americans have said they regret their purchases during Black Friday, and nearly 30 percent end up returning items they bought.
  • In 2017, Amazon took 54.9 percent of all online transactions during Black Friday.
  • People shop online more than in stores during Black Friday.

As the competition among logistics companies and retailers becomes fiercer every year, it is important to analyze the data and watch the trends to stay relevant and competitive. If you are a large company that needs help with your Black Friday shipment preparation, reach out to a third party logistics provider like PLS today to let us move your loads for you!

How to Help Prevent Distracted Truck Drivers

Cell phones and different technology gadgets play a significant role in our daily lives. Almost all vital actions involve attention to a screen, and driving is no exception. According to a distracted driving survey, 88 percent of drivers are using their phones on the road. Along with high cell phone use, there are many other factors that are also distracting drivers from the road.

The issue of distracted drivers becomes worse every year, as there are several different types of distractions. A driver can be confused by both internal and external factors, and the distractions can be anything that involves taking eyes off the road or at least one hand off the wheel. Whether its holding food or beverages, billboards outside, smoking, using a cell phone or reaching out for an object, all of these things are considered a distraction. Other common causes of distraction while on the road is fatigue, daydreaming and other cognitive reasons. As truckers spend long hours on the road, they increase their chances of being more exhausted and prone to more distractions.

The National Highway Transportation Administration reports 28 percent of vehicular crashes involved distracted driving. The problem of distracted drivers is very prominent in today’s society, and should get more recognition to help reduce the risk of truck driver accidents due to distractions.

How to Reduce the Occurrence of Distracted Driving?

Institutions like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have already established penalties to bring attention to distracted driving in CMVs to resolve the problem. There is a $2,750 fine for drivers caught using cell phones and up to $11,000 for the fleet owners. Using hand-held devices and providing better resting conditions for drivers may improve the driving situation along with encouraging drivers not to use the phone while driving.

For fixing the problem, both drivers and carriers should make efforts to change the situation. Using a cell phone on the road increases the possibility of crash 20 times, and puts other people on the road in danger too. Supervision and hands-off devices for can help improve safe navigation, as well as consider reducing shifts for the truckers to avoid exhaustion. The new ELD mandate has made an effort to help truck drivers’ conditions by limiting the amount of hours a truck is allowed to drive, along with other regulations to help with driver safety.

There are many small things that drivers can do to become less distracted on the road. New technological advancements are constantly improving trucker technology, making it easier to use driver technology on the road without becoming too distracted. It will be interesting to see what new advancements are made in the comings years to continue to help improve trucker safety and prevent distracted driving.

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.