Tag Archives: supply chain management

Moving Trading Partners into Digital Supply Chain

It’s 2017, technology is practically everywhere and everyone is digitally connected. Most businesses have adapted to the changes in tech, yet some are still behind.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing! Every business works how they know best and to the best of their means. Digital supply chain is the optimal solution for businesses looking to obtain a game-changing benefit.

Based upon a SCM World study, 77% of companies in early stages of B2B integration processed less than 50% of their transactions digitally.That means there is a remaining 50% or more companies that are currently using traditional methods to exchange information (i.e. email, fax, and phone) instead of utilizing automation. That separation of formats creates a barrier between two parties which will lower total returns and affect projected goals.

So how does a large, digital business connect with a smaller business that is using traditional methods? Well, it’s easier than you think


Utilizing electronic data exchange (EDI) or extended markup language (XML) will yield the highest results by generating and receiving digital transactions between trading partners.

What is EDI? EDI is the computer-computer exchange of business documents in a standard electronic format, typically between business partners. EDI allows the ability to create an automated document process which will save time and money.

It will also improve processing speed, reduce the number of errors, and aid the relationship between partners.

Now, not all business partners have the means to utilize EDI. It may be the case of their IT department not being large enough to manage EDI, or it may be that they don’t have an IT department.

The cost and usage time of using EDI up may be too great if their larger trading partners don’t transact as frequently with them. Nevertheless, if you have a non-EDI partner, there are still options you can use to make digital transactions work effectively.

  • Web Apps. Web apps are very common in today’s solutions, they allow easy access from any computer your partner may use while providing a simple solution to digitization. Web apps can provide common data entry and the ability to review transaction history. The data entry becomes a digital transaction which can be processed automatically and converted to EDI to be processed like other digital transactions. Web apps can reduce errors and provide feedback based uon executed business rules.
  • Web Forms. Web forms are useful for creating data entry when filling out specific documents. They are simple to setup and help by automating the processing. Just like a web app, a web form can be converted into EDI and processed. There are some drawbacks in that there is no feedback given to the user (which a web app can provide).
  • Fax & PDF to EDI. Both Fax and PDF can be converted into EDI which would allow those small partners to continue their normal transaction methods. It would require you to scan the received documents and then convert them into EDI data for processing. This method should be reviewed by an individual to ensure the data is correct, we recommend indicating the required fields.
  • Spreadsheet to EDI. Using Microsoft Excel or a similar software is similar to a web form, it can check for user error and check the data field contents making sure they are filled out and complete. It’s a method that is simple to use as many businesses have access to Excel.

Once you have finalized your best form of data transaction with your trading partner, you can start enjoying the results. You will see:

  • Faster invoice time
  • More responsiveness to unforeseen events
  • Faster inventory turns
  • Reduction in cash to cash cycle time
  • Improvement in successful product launches
  • Improvement in perfect orders


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Why Is Supply Chain Visibility Becoming More Important?

Clear visibility of all processes is important for any business – you cannot run your business efficiently with your eyes closed. Good business runs as a well-oiled machine, and you cannot achieve that without the full visibility – especially when it comes to managing your supply chain.

Of course, supply chain visibility has been important before, but even more so now. What changed?

Supply Chain VisibilityManaging the complexity

Supply chains are becoming more global and complex. It’s much more complicated to manage your extensive supply chain efficiently and ensure smooth day-to-day operations. Losing visibility of the processes will decrease the service level and trigger unexpected issues and extra costs. Staying on top of your complex supply chain from production to the final delivery is crucial.

Beating the competition

The competition is continuously getting tougher, regardless of the industry. While you are struggling to stay ahead of your competitors – so are your customers. Logically, they require higher quality service – faster and more efficient.

The customers are less likely to accept constant delays or issues which result in them letting down their customers and losing the competition. Even if they are an end customer – they are likely to switch to your competitor, who can provide better service. Good supply chain visibility is one of the most important components for ensuring the stable workflow and high service levels.

Analyzing, Anticipating and Reducing Cost

We have covered the importance of supply chain analysis in previous blogs – it’s a must-have tool to anticipate potential risks and make data-driven, evaluated and objective decision. Quality analysis is impossible without the supply chain visibility. The current market is getting more fast-paced and staying ahead of the game is the best way to ensure your business is successful. Moreover, it gives you an opportunity to pinpoint the inefficiencies which lead to extra costs and make your operations more cost-effective.

Implementing and investing into your supply chain visibility might seem overwhelming at first, but it is absolutely crucial to the success of your business and will pay off and help you keep your business ahead of your competitors in the fast-paced and rapidly developing markets.

Read more: Why Shippers Love Supply Chain Visibility, 5 Secrets to Master Supply Chain Visibility, How this Company Grew Visibility with a 3PL Partnership 

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5 Benefits a 3PL Can Offer Smaller Businesses

Are you a small business owner? Then you know that sometimes you can be overwhelmed with all the orders and the urgent need to meet all the delivery requirements, whether it’s the material needed for production or a final delivery to your customer. That’s where a 3PL small business shipping can help.

3PL small business

Hiring someone specifically to manage your transportation needs doesn’t seem cost-efficient, but handling your supply chain is becoming more troublesome and overwhelming – and takes too much time which could’ve been spent on growing your business. Often, you’ll find yourself spending more money than you would with outsourcing. That’s where third-party logistics services can come to the rescue!

There are a number of benefits a 3PL small business shipping can offer you:


Shipping may only be a part of your business, but it’s a 3PL specialty. They have seen it all and know what they are doing, whether it’s the rates or the most efficient mode of transportation. A 3PL can help you fulfill the orders more accurately and avoid possible mistakes which may trigger delays and extra charges.


Are you shipping a lot of LTL? While your 3PL might be partnering up with the same LTL carriers you’re used to, they might be able to offer you better rates. A large 3PL has a buying power a smaller business doesn’t have this leverage (just imagine how much freight a 3PL ships daily!), which provides an opportunity to negotiate better rates. This also applies to full truckloads.


Any 3PL ships an impressive number of loads non-stop and daily. They are screening and adding new carriers to their base every day. A 3PL can find a carrier for your shipments much faster, will be responsible for checking their safety and minimize your risks of giving your freight to someone who has no intention of delivering it.


The main reason we all partner up with any third-party service providers. A 3PL will provide you the service you need – from tracking loads and reporting to resolving issues in transit. They will focus on your needs and strive to provide the service you expect to maintain the business.

Saving your time!

Most importantly, a 3PL will handle your shipping and free up the time to focus on sales and development. Instead of spending the whole day trying to arrange transportation and handle the issues that inevitably arise – you can contact your 3PL and let them handle it while you are working on growing your business.

Still looking for a perfect 3PL for your business? We can help.

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Read next: 8 Steps to an Optimal 3PL Experience, Opinions on Outsourcing, 3PL Focus on Adding Value

How Supply Chain Analysis Keeps Your Business on Top

Managing a supply chain is all fun and games until you bring efficiency and profitability into the mix.  No matter how good the product is, a poorly-managed supply chain will give your business no chance at real success.

A supply chain is a complex network of multiple elements, each having its own characteristics and priorities. These elements must work in sync with one another to produce results while keeping costs down and increasing customer satisfaction.

Managing this complex structure efficiently is crucial for the overall success of the company. Staying on top of the constantly changing market, customer demand and their expectations can be a challenging task.

Taking an analytical approach to supply chain management helps businesses shape their decisions and ensure long-term benefits

Get smarter and optimize processes

Proper supply chain analytics determines a set of metrics and KPI’s which are used to evaluate historical data, identify and eliminate major process disruptions.

Changes and improvements based on this data increase overall efficiency and lead to cost optimization and higher customer satisfaction rate as a result of a more reliable and consistent supply chain.

It’s all about the dataiStock-522303674.jpg

Analytical data determines unbiased trends and predictions, which trigger evaluated decisions backed-up by the quantitative and proven data. Decisions based on the objective analytical results help shape the company strategy. Any strategy capable of ensuring long-term goals and success should be responsive and able to adapt to the fluctuating market and demand.

Contingency planning and risk evaluation

Evaluating risks and their potential impact on the business is one of the main purposes of analytics. It’s aimed at forecasting and anticipating changes which can cause financial losses and service disruptions. Being prepared and having contingency plans in place helps a business to keep its balance and avoid negative impact.

Did someone say sales boost?

Our end goal is to sell products to generate revenue. Efficient, profitable sales and business development efforts are a must-have for any successful business.

Analyzing the patterns and the underlying reasons for redundant stock or underdeveloped markets and applying this data to accurate forecasting contribute to more targeted and thus effective sales and development strategies.

Continuous improvement

Underperforming suppliers, production disruptions, delivery delays, and any other negative factors tend to pile up and cost businesses a fortune. Investing in the supply chain analysis helps to optimize processes and raise service standards continuously.

Efficient and flexible supply chain, synchronized with the current demand and expectations, ensures customer satisfaction and loyalty, and well as stable growth and overall profitability.

Proper supply chain analysis can help businesses stay ahead of the market fluctuation, maximize their profit, and increase the service level while keeping costs down and minimizing risks.

Need help optimizing your supply chain analytics? Contact us.


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4 Ways to Maximize Your Logistics Professionals

With the continuous evolvement of global supply chains, there is a greater emphasis on investing in experienced logistics and supply chain managers. This industry movement has caused 4 key trends in logistics and supply chain education and career development for managers to look out for.

1. Look for a holistic Supply Chain education that includes transportation

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in professionals enrolled in master’s supply chain programs. However, most of these programs are focused on the broader logistics and supply chain management areas, while lacking in the transportation segment. This is attributed to the common fallacy that you can’t truly “teach” transportation.

Schools such as Penn State University have added courses on transportation in recent years to begin bridging that gap. While there can be an improvement on the transportation front, professionals agree that universities do a respectable job at creating current, relevant curriculums for the ever-changing supply chain industry.

2. Millennials: Check yes to hands-on experience

Millennials are the future of most businesses today, especially in the logistics and supply chain management industry. With such a large growth, it is more important to understand how to train these professionals for the best return on your investment in the individual. Companies should use a combination of theory and hands-on experience when training the newest decision makers in their firms. It has been tested and proven that hands-on experience improves retention and performance in individuals. By using this combination of teaching, companies can better train the next generation of logistics and supply chain professionals.

3. Compensation hikes, especially for e-commerceiStock-579259240.jpg

Driven by the continuous growth of e-commerce, there are increasing demands facing logistics managers. Not surprisingly, this added responsibility is pushing up industry salaries.

Logistics Management released its 33rd Annual Salary Survey conducted by Peerless Research Group; this found a $10,000 increase in income for individuals who have been in their current e-commerce position for 3-5 years. This rising compensation trend is something every logistics and supply chain hiring manager should be aware when it comes time to hire more professionals.

4. Opening C-suite opportunities for logistics and supply chain managers

As the supply chain is growing in importance and relevance, more supply chain and logistics managers are filling C-suite and boardroom chairs. Company focus on the bottom line makes for a persistent need to cut costs and save money, which is where supply chain and logistics professionals come into play. These professionals also add value to a company with their innovation on the product and efficiency front.

By understanding and following these 4 trends, companies can maximize their return on investment of employee hires. To learn more about how PLS Logistics Services runs our business, follow the link below.

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4 Supply Chain Issues That Are Hugely Costing Your Business

Managing your supply chain is a part of your everyday business. What some professionals don’t know is that there are hidden costs in your processes that often go unaccounted for, and can result in your business losing track of your actual costs.

Free Shipping

In this day and age, free shipping is an expectation of customers. But as shippers, we understand that there’s no such thing as free shipping.

Not surprisingly, larger retailers, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, can offer free shipping easier than smaller retailers. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon spends an estimated $4-5 per package while an average business can spend around $7-8 for ground delivery.

Consequently, smaller businesses are struggling to meet free shipping expectations while maintaining margins. Most companies seem to be simply eating the cost. According to Kurt Salmon, only 10% of online retailers charged a shipping fee during the 2015 peak holiday season. This trend does not seem to be going away anytime soon. As eCommerce continues to grow, free shipping is an expectation, not a luxury.

Supply Chain Efficiency

Damaged Shipments

“Unsaleable” shipments account for an average of .83% of gross sales, according to Deloitte research. Damaged shipments account for about half of unsaleable goods, which can reach as much as $7.5 billion annually.

Causes of damage can be rooted in package design, improperly loaded pallets, poorly applied shrink-wrap, and other additional in-transit factors.

Regardless of the cause, claims processes, potential customer relationship damage, and costs of the product(s) are all costly. To help diminish these potential costs, it is important for shippers to have a plan in place to alert the customer and replace the shipment as quickly as possible.

Regulatory and Compliance Costs

In the past 9 years, the U.S. trucking industry had to adapt to 600 more federal regulations, according to Inbound Logistics. These heavy regulations affect everything from emissions, hours-of-service, to electronic record keeping.

With all these regulations, there are compliance costs incurred. Unsurprisingly, most of these costs are passed along to shippers.

Another hidden cost passed along to shippers is traffic congestion. Forbes Magazine reports, that congestion costs the trucking industry almost $50 billion annually and 728 million hours.


It seems like a no-brainer, but inefficiency can be a huge ball and chain to a supply chain. McKinsey & Company examined over 40 companies worldwide and found dozens of “slightly suboptimal processes and the lack of a lean mindset” that were wasting money on inefficient processes.

These inefficiencies include the design of the warehouse. In many cases, warehouses need reconfiguration to meet today’s technology-driven industry. In some cases, companies can save up to 50% of pallet picking time with a simple redesign of their warehouses.

Another inefficiency found was excess packaging costs, stemming from something as simple as small items packed in large boxes filled with packing peanuts.

By understanding and acting upon the hidden costs in your supply chain, your company can better focus on the bottom line of increasing revenue, cutting costs, and maintaining quality.

Click Here for Logistics Management Best Practices White Paper



The Future of Supply Chain Has Arrived: A Look at the Sentient Supply Chain

A new term to describe a supply chain that is all-seeing, real-time, productive, optimized, and cognitive has recently emerged. The “sentient supply chain” refers to a supply chain that’s nodes communicate 24/7.

This supply chain has been compared to a network of autonomous vehicles by SC professionals. Autonomous vehicles are designed to analyze infinite amounts of real-time data flawlessly while operating. Part of their appeal is also the promise of reduced accidents and more efficiency on the roads. If the world were only comprised of self-driving vehicles, all cars would be communicating with each other in real-time, all the time.

A system of these sentient vehicles wouldn’t just analyze data about risks and actions within its own area, but also in their immediate vicinity. They’d take in the larger view to optimize a route, and this includes looking ahead in time.


If all of these gains were applied to an organization’s supply chain, think of how unstoppable it would be.

Supply chain leaders have spent their life’s work trying to facilitate communication between each node of the supply chain in order to better manage it. Of course, the systems they’ve created have driven value and changed the supply chain for the better, but there is still much room for improvement.

The rise of the omni-channel has pushed businesses’ supply chains to great new limits. Now, more than ever, companies need them to perform like highly intelligent, orchestrated, optimized autonomous systems, like that of self-driving vehicles. Modern supply chains need to be predictive and prescriptive in order to survive in this market.

Traditionalists favor the reactive supply chain. That is, a supply chain where variability is +/- 5 days, service level is 95%, and buffer stock requirements are 10 days.

Innovators stand behind the live supply chain, where variability is +/- 48 hours, service level is 98%, and buffer stock requirements are 5 days.

However, futurists are fully committed to the predictive supply chain. Its variability is the lowest of the three, at +/- 2 hours, so is its service level, at 99.5%, and so is its buffer stock requirement, at 2 days.

When conveyances, suppliers, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and stores all understand what each other is doing in real-time, what they plan to do and when, what external factors are like, and they have an advanced algorithm-learning machine, you have a sentient supply chain.

You’ve read the word “automation” many times now, but know this: the sentient supply chain does not mean that all actions will be 100% automated. It will still require strict determination of which decisions can be machine-made and which need to be left to the supply chain professionals.

The value of this futuristic business process is in its ability to quickly analyze massive amounts of data in real-time, and to apply advanced algorithms to that data in order to produce wildly intelligent insights. Within the complex global supply chain, humans simply cannot do this.

Sentient supply chains can track the real-time movement of ocean shipments, trucks, n-tier suppliers, even consumer behavior, and more. Though it is early in adoption, its capabilities are undeniable, and futurist supply chain professionals believe it will take the world by storm soon.

Read next: What Supply Chain Efficiency Will Mean in 2020

Download eBook  How Transportation Benefits from Big Data

Why Shippers Love Supply Chain Visibility

Visibility refers to understanding what goes on between the start and end of a process. With supply chain visibility, companies can analyze data and evaluate suppliers, processes, and prices.

Read the PLS Case Study: How this Company Gained Visibility with a 3PL Partnership

Supply chain visibility, brilliantly compared to a pipeline by Merrill Douglas in Inbound Logistics: You turn a faucet based on demand. Then, product flows through a network of pipes, all uniting in one channel that delivers the goods you and your customers need. Now, imagine those pipes are made of glass and you’re watching the supply chain move. Is it getting clogged? Is one pipe slowing the process? There’s highway construction slowing down the truck? That explains it, that is supply chain visibility. 

The more you see and know, the more you can apply that knowledge to improving processes. Visibility provides shippers insight into arrival dates, freight conditions, delivery performance, inventory, inbound freight activity, labor management, consolidation options, and even sustainability.

With insight into so many important functions of the supply chains, shippers are then able to moderate lead-time, mitigate risk and reduce costs.

5 Facts about Supply Chain Visibility

  1. Transportation accounts for almost 50% of the average company’s logistics costs.
  2. 79% of companies rank visibility “very important” to value creation
  3. 40% of shippers admit they lack visibility across the extended supply chain.
  4. 85% indicate they plan to increase their current level of end-to-end supply chain visibility.
  5. 71% of 3PLs said the greatest value data provides is improving process quality and performance.

What to Read Next: Infographic: Supply Chain Visibility

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3 Global Supply Chain Issues Affecting Your Bottom Line

Large and even medium-sized, companies that are strictly domestic are becoming increasingly less common. Today, the clear majority of enterprise-class companies are global because the benefits of low-cost sourcing into other countries and selling into new foreign markets cannot be passed up.

However, despite overcoming the challenge of becoming global, many companies are still operating under sub-standard global processes and technologies adapted from domestic operations. Two examples of this are global transportation and supply chain visibility. (Read more: 5 Secrets to Master Supply Chain Visibility)

Companies are learning that it’s not enough to track goods at home; supply chain managers must monitor their global shipments and compensate for the added challenges of moving goods internationally.

To avoid losing money because of the wrong international shipping processes, ask yourself these questions:

Do we over-rely on expedited shipping?Expedited.jpg

For some shippers with time-sensitive and perishable products, expedited shipping is an absolute must. Other organizations, however, use expedited shipping to do damage control when another area of the supply chain has failed.

Overusing expedited transportation can quickly result in profit loss, especially when it’s used as a compensation tool for supply chain failure.

Instead, supply chain managers should adjust their supply chains to allow for extra transport hours while still meeting customer demand. This way, shippers can reduce unsustainable shipping costs without sacrificing customer service.

Better planning and supply chain visibility can reduce expedited freight use by 15-20% annually. This change will translate into significant monetary savings for global companies.

Are we incurring demurrage and detention fines often?

Demurrage refers to transportation delays caused by the late pickup of cargo, and detention relates to the late return of equipment, such as empty containers. Demurrage and detention fees are charged by the transportation asset provider for the time that its equipment is unavailable or idle. These fees are only charged when the unavailability is not the provider’s own fault.

Although there is normally a grace period for demurrage and detention fees, depending on location, these fees can reach hundreds of dollars per container, per day. Needless to say, they add up quickly.

Demurrage and detention charges normally occur for a few reasons: planning schedules are out of balance, communication and notification are poor, and/or there are delays in clearing Customs.

If your company incurs these fees, you’re likely not monitoring cargo arrival carefully, or you don’t have a clear understanding of accurate in-transit cycle times.

Real-time visibility and asset management can accelerate and compress the supply chain, providing companies with reduced trailer assets, inventory, and associated carrying costs. An AberdeenGroup study reported that companies that pre-clear their entries with Customs can save 1–3 days, where cargo would otherwise sit at the terminal, and real-time visibility and coordination can help reduce demurrage and detention fees by 25–50%.

Do we have weak communication with trading partners?

Just as customer servCallBack.jpgice reps’ time would be better spent providing real customer service that builds relationships and cultivates repeat business rather than answering trivial questions, purchasing specialists would work more efficiently by utilizing two-way communication with both vendors and shippers.

A small feat, such as the ability to enter information into a system one time and share it across multiple parties, drastically reduces errors and speeds up order fulfillment. According to the AberdeenGroup report, a US-based consumer packaged goods company used a similar SCV solution and reduced their days of inventory in hand by 24% while reducing lead times by 28% and improving on-time customer delivery by as much as 74%.

Moving away from closed systems that require re-keying of data and multiple calls and emails to place orders should be a no-brainer, considering that today’s technology can help facilitate and streamline communication like never before. Customer and supplier portals may free your staff, allowing them to address more strategic initiatives and increase productivity.

What now?

To wrap up your analysis, answer these questions:

  • What is our ratio of standard shipping to expedited shipping?
  • What percentage of our cargo incurs demurrage and detention fees?
  • How many inquiries that we receive per day relate to order status?

From here, you can begin implementing processes that improve efficiency in the areas stated above and decide if improved supply chain visibility and global transportation will produce tangible results for your company.

Click Here for Logistics Management Best Practices White Paper

5 Secrets to Master Supply Chain Visibility

The 3 main goals of supply chain visibility are 1) to reduce business and supply chain threats, 2) to improve performance and service, 3) and to identify inefficiencies and opportunities in the supply chain. 

Supply chain visibility refers to the knowing where products and materials are, at any point in time, in the supply chain. It’s a fundamental part of enhancing logistics functions and results in monetary and time savings. However, supply chain visibility is limited.

41% of E2open survey respondents reported that their supply chain visibility extends as far as tier one relationships with contracted manufacturers. Supply Chain 24/7 supports that result, noting that about only 30% of companies have automated data and event monitoring and/or have optimized process capabilities in place.

According to Jeff Dobbs, executive at Diversified Industrials and partner with KPMG, “obtaining real-time visibility across all tiers in the supply chain can significantly increase speed to market, reduce capital expenditures, and manage risk.” He also mentioned that moving toward a demand-driven supply chain is probably the single most important step a manufacturer can take.

So, how do you create visibility in your supply chain?

By following these 5 steps, you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits of supply chain visibility:

  1. Define what visibility is for your organization.
  2. Work with your partners and suppliers to set expectations of data analysis.
  3. Implement technology and gather necessary information.
  4. Set KPIs.
  5. Analyze data, identify ways to optimize processes and reduce inefficiencies.

Transportation management software is an easy and efficient way to get started as it supports shippers by automating processes, managing data, and monitoring operations.Big_Data_Call_Out_Caitlin.png

We’ve heard enough about creating supply chain visibility, but what are the benefits of it?

  1. Reduce forecasting error and overall costs
  2. Increase data-driven decisions
  3. Boost productivity and efficiency
  4. Improve safety, optimize freight moves
  5. Deliver higher quality products and service

With supply chain visibility, companies can focus on best management practices, specifically in resiliency and efficiency. Real-time data is valuable in order to mitigate risk, notify customers or partners of delays, and drive the ability to make quick decisions. Visibility brings real value to the supply chain, expands operational consistency, creates actionable data, manages processes, and improves performance.

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Click Here for Logistics Management Best Practices White Paper