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Blockchain and Smart Contracts are Redefining Commerce and the Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Oct 3, 2018 2:24:42 PM

At its core, blockchain is attractive for global trade professionals because it can be used to create a completely secure record of every step in a given business process. Whether one speaks of applications related to finance, operations or logistics, blockchain’s ability to execute encrypted actions that include identification of the parties, authentication of a transaction and the time-stamping of blocks in a chain has a truly universal appeal. In this weeks blog we're going to explore blockchain technology in the supply chain and how this technology has changed international commerce. Blockchains have their problems, but they are rated undeniably faster, cheaper, and more secure than traditional systems, which is why banks and governments are turning to them. Blockchain offers the greatest potential for international trade when three factors are present: a contractual agreement, clearly defined rules that govern the agreement and finally, a transaction that involves a monetary exchange. All of these are managed by smart contracts within the blockchain.

Smart Contracts

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Topics: Industry Trends, Supply Chain Management

Managing Supply Chain Risk

Posted by Land Link on Sep 26, 2018 5:02:38 PM

There's always a little risk involved in any decision. That's where the fun, and profit, begin. The trick, of course, is when, how much and how dangerous. When do you take the risk, what is your level of commitment and what is the downside? Taking and managing risk in today's supply chain market is simply the cost of doing business in a competitive market. Knowing how to manage that risk is becoming increasingly important. 

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Shipping News

Prepare Your Supply Chain for the Holiday Season

Posted by Land Link on Sep 19, 2018 5:03:01 PM

Capacity is already being strained by Halloween candy and costumes. Thanksgiving will follow and finally, the most disruptive holiday, Christmas. Supply chain planners need to consider the effect these holidays will have on capacity and lead times. The rise of e-commerce and the growing “instant gratification” consumer mentality has only exacerbated the need for early and thoughtful peak season preparation. The year-over-year growth of e-commerce continues, and according to the National Retail Federation, the industry will see 8-12% growth this year. This might not sound like much of a difference, but the multi-year compounding effect over the last decade has forced retailers to significantly revamp processes in their warehouses around the world. To facilitate seamless end-to-end omnichannel sales through the biggest shopping season of the year, retailers and manufacturers need to ready their distribution centers well in advance to keep ahead of the holiday rush. To master the busy holiday season, retailers must plan and prepare in order to prosper. Shippers will have to adapt to the demanding market and put even more effort into prepared supply chain planning in order to provide effective customer service and remain profitable. Holiday logistics will be stressful and frustrating, but here are a few tips to help you get through this busy time and mitigate issues during the holiday shipping season.

Take A Look At Last Year

Examine conditions from the previous year's activity. Revenue numbers notwithstanding your customer demand should be similar. What is likely to not be similar is availability and rates. A budget review is a good idea. You may need a reserve fund to cover rising shipping costs this year. Come up with the key points to take into consideration this year to avoid repeating last year’s mistakes.

Adjust your Lead Time As Much A Possible

Lead time planning may be tough since it largely depends upon your customers. Educating your customers on the challenges of shipping during the holiday season is a good idea. 24 hours could make all the difference. Too much inventory is a risky proposition but perhaps the use of predictive analysis using previous years data may justify inventory increases and put you one step ahead of the completion. The culmination of some of these small steps may get you and your customers through the rest of this year relatively unscathed.

Plan for Increased Staffing Needs

Do you plan to add additional shifts do you plan to run during peak holiday logistics season How many temp workers will you need and at what skill levels. It’s best to answer staffing questions early. Demand for qualified temp workers will be high. If you want to attract and keep your workers happy, you should also think about some sort of incentive plan including sign on and performance bonuses for workers who thrive during a very active time.

To keep your supply chain running smoothly subscribe to our blog or contact us www.Land-Link.com.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Logistics News

Next Gen Supply Chain: Look to the Cloud

Posted by Land Link on Sep 6, 2018 4:31:33 PM

Wrapping up our technology series we're going to take a look at cloud computing and how it integrates all the supply chain technologies we've been discussing. Cloud computing has been around for a while but growing in popularity and integration. All data will eventually reside in the cloud. Let’s be sure we understand what the cloud is. The cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. Most cloud services can be accessed through a Web browser like Firefox or Google Chrome, and some companies offer dedicated mobile apps. No longer will you load programs on your computer from a CD. The advantage of the cloud is that you can access your information on any device with an Internet connection. It’s what allows you to make edits to various files on your home computer, and then continue where you left off from the office or wherever. The cloud also makes collaboration on the same document possible among several viewers.

Next Gen Supply Chain and the Cloud

Of all the NextGen supply chain technologies, the cloud will be integral. Blockchain, IOT, AI and the digital supply chain will all require cloud computing. In fact some say that the cloud will be the most impactful NextGen technology in the supply chain for the foreseeable future based entirely on its use as a backbone of data interchanges. Industry analysts suggest Amazon’s newfound profitability and efficiency to the effectiveness of its cloud services. In the supply chain application, basically, the cloud centralizes data and offers multiple entities access to that data, decreasing costs and speeding supply chain velocity while adding data security. As with any shared data system, there are security concerns to address. That's where our blockchain technology is implemented. We add is some Internet of Things technology in case we want to share data with other machines and some Artificial Intelligence to teach the machines how to execute their operations more efficiently each time. There is another fundamental shift in the supply chain, and elsewhere for that matter, fueling cloud adoption. Quite simply, companies are starting to treat data as an asset. Furthermore, the value of data only increases as it is accessible across enterprises. As the value of that data increases the responsibility of Transportation companies will increase as we will be among those sharing the data. Logistics professionals will need to reinforce their internal data security network to ensure data integrity or face possibly significant financial liability. While most will agree that we aren’t there yet, the direction is clear. Look to the cloud.

Integration Means Advantage

Companies that take advantage of the latest technology and trends made possible by the cloud will be better positioned to adopt newer technologies that are on the horizon. By staying on the leading edge of technology adoption, you'll level the playing field with larger competitors and be poised for success moving into 2018. This is as true with Logistics companies as with any other service provider. Make the commitment this year to be ready to implement these technologies in 2018. You won't need them all. For more information subscribe to our blog or contact us today at www.land-link.com.

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Topics: Logistics News, Technology

Technologies Reshaping the Global Digital Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Aug 29, 2018 11:13:02 AM

In our ongoing technology series, we have concentrated on the Informational and analytical innovation applications which are reshaping supply chain technology as we know it. Namely Blockchain technology, IoT, ( The Internet of Things ), supply chain digitization and 3-D printing. These technologies are the breakthrough software applications which are fueling supporting technologies, some of which we're going to explore today. So let's examine some of the applications that are more hardware based like drones, driver-less vehicles, robotics, smart glasses and augmented reality.

Drone Delivery

Drone delivery offers some significant promise in final mile delivery challenges in particular. But it is not without its' hurdles. Refer back to our March 8th blog post for a quick review. Today, these physical innovations do not yet have a clear business case for large-scale rollout. Nevertheless, hosts of companies are experimenting with them to understand their potential and how their business can change for the better when these technologies are successfully adopted. Drone delivery is hampered by distance and weight limitations, as well as security and delivery confirmation challenges. That being said, drone delivery, with an adequate reception system can have a significant effect on improving final mile delivery and reducing the associated costs. As e-commerce continues to advance, the need for a more viable solution to the problem of delivery in heavily congested and confined urban areas is of global importance. It is estimated that 5 billion people will live in urban areas by 2030. As a result, last mile delivery will become increasingly difficult in urban areas across many global locations.

Driver-less Vehicles

The hurdles for driver-less trucking have mainly dealt with public acceptance and legal issues pertaining to the transition to driver-less trucks. While technology and innovation move at a swift pace, indeed regulatory and infrastructure changes will lag a few years behind.
We may still be a long way away from a future where trucks and ships will be controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) alone. But even so, preparing for a future that is more reliant upon autonomous vehicles should remain a priority for corporations that employ vast fleets across multiple geographic regions. Failure to plan for this eventual inevitability would be a mistake for players in the logistics industry. Driver-less technology will not replace the truck driver. It is expected to ease the driver shortage by increasing the efficiency of the existing driver fleet and improve overall driver safety.

Robotics In The Supply Chain

Just like drone and driver-less technologies robotics applications are limited in their scope of use. Limitations aside; autonomous robots are already bringing innovation to the supply chain and delivering significant value, chiefly because they can help:

• Improve speed and accuracy of routine operations, particularly in warehousing and manufacturing.
• Add efficiency through side-by-side work with humans.
• Reduce the risk of employee injury in dangerous environments.

In addition to these benefits, robotics is a source of reliable labor, high quality, virtually mistake-free, job performance and significant cost savings over humans. With robotic mobility improvements and AI, advancements robotics is expected to play a significant role in the future of global supply chain logistics.

Smart Glasses in the Warehouse

The benefits of smart glasses applications extend beyond the manufacturing plant floor and into virtually any hands-on task within the enterprise. Now, a growing number of distribution centers are beginning to roll out smart glass pilots in their warehouses. Thus far, the most popular logistics application is “vision picking,” whereby visual cues and directions for order fulfillment are projected into the user’s field of view. By receiving hands-free, digital information, warehouse workers can eliminate the need for RFID/laser barcode scanners and paper documents to be more productive. DHL recently completed a pilot program utilizing smart glasses yielding impressive results. The smart glasses provide visual displays of order picking instructions along with information on where items are located and where they need to be placed on a cart, freeing pickers' hands of paper instructions and allowing them to work more efficiently and comfortably. The international trials have shown an average improvement of productivity by 15 percent and higher accuracy rates. The user-friendly and intuitive solution has also halved on-boarding and training times.

Augmented Reality

Before we begin to discuss AR lets try to understand it. Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user's environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it. Everyone knows the yellow first down line that would appear on our television sets during NFL games. That is an example of augmented reality. Adding computer-generated content to a background that is real. The applications in Logistics and transportation are real as well. Warehouse employees typically perform multiple actions when managing an order. They must locate the correct product, scan it, and deliver it to the loading dock. However, emerging computer vision and machine learning solutions can identify where a product is located and whether it is the correct product at a much faster pace than could otherwise be achieved by a human. If used correctly, such technology has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of warehousing operations.

To stay informed on these cutting-edge technologies subscribe to our blog www.Land-Link.com. As always, we welcome any chance to address your specific logistics questions with you.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Logistics News

3-D Printing. What Is It And How Will It Affect Supply Chain Logistics?

Posted by Land Link on Aug 22, 2018 3:39:59 PM

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, 3D Printing

The Digital Supply Chain Defined

Posted by Land Link on Aug 15, 2018 4:25:36 PM

This article is yet another dose of enlightenment on our technology series to keep our clients informed on the pace and direction of supply chain industry standards. Previously we have discussed the importance and applications of Blockchain technologies and IoT (the Internet of Things) in logistics and supply chain management. These technologies are transforming the way we do business. To stay up to date and competitive we must stay informed. The issue is most of this stuff is so new and so dynamically changing that keeping up is a challenge for most of us from the old school way we’ve been managing transportation for decades. We have some catching up to do in a hurry.

Digital Supply Chain Defined

I always insist my readers have a firm understanding of our discussion topic. To that end; A Digital Supply chain is defined as A digital supply chain is a supply chain whose foundation is built on Web-enabled capabilities. Many supply chains use a mix of paper-based and IT-enabled processes. A true digital supply chain goes far beyond this hybrid model to fully capitalize on connectivity, system integration and the information-producing capabilities of "smart" components.

Digital Supply Chain 101

Ultimately, virtually every aspect of business will be transformed through the vertical integration of research and development, manufacturing, marketing and sales, and other internal operations, and new business models based on today’s advances. In effect, we are evolving toward the complete digital ecosystem. If you recall from our blogs on Blockchain technology and IoT. The common thread of these and other emerging technologies in the web-based component which allows for inter-connectivity and sharing of real-time information. The days of fax transitions and telephone calls are all but extinct. Email may survive but will likely be phased out in favor of peer to peer communication. Peer to peer communication is a direct connection between users operating on a shared platform bypassing the delay of email or analog communication.

What To Expect

So, the race is on. Companies across industries are already investing heavily to develop their own versions of the DSC. According to a recent PwC study on the rise of Industry 4.0, a third of the more than 2,000 respondents say their companies have started to digitize their supply chains, and fully 72 percent expect to have done so five years from now.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Big Data, Technology

IoT Technology in the Supply Chain and Logistics

Posted by Land Link on Aug 8, 2018 12:53:59 PM

In keeping with our Supply Chain Technology series, we want to discuss in this article the applications and benefits of IoT technology in the supply chain and logistics functions. So, let's begin with a firm understanding of what the "Internet of Things" is. 

Let's start with understanding a few things:

High speed, broadband internet has become the standard, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing. All these things are creating a "perfect storm" for the IoT. Simply put, IoT is the concept of basically connecting any device to the Internet. Devices can also be interconnected to communicate with each other via the internet. This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. If it has an on and off switch, then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices, some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion. The IoT is a giant network of connected "things," things in this explanation include people. The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things. In the very near future, you will have to think of little more than setting your alarm clock. After that, all your devices will know to start the coffee, preheat the oven, turn on CNN for the morning financial news...whatever we used to do manually will all be done for us through IoT. The reality is that the IoT allows for virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we can't even think of or fully understand the impact of today.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Supply Chain Management

Blockchain Technology is Poised to Transform Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Posted by Land Link on Aug 2, 2018 1:52:04 PM

We've been talking a lot about emerging technologies like Blockchain, IOT, (The Internet of Things) and a worldwide digital supply chain. Change is coming, and it's best we prepare. So, in a several part series, we're going to delve deeper into these technologies to explain the technology and offer some real-world applications in logistics and supply chain management. We'll start the first part of our series by taking a close look at Blockchain Technology.

What Is a Blockchain

The blockchain is a breakthrough technology that is expected to alter most industries in the coming years. Whether you work in the financial world, healthcare or any other sector, you will probably face the consequences yourself soon enough. But what is this thing you’re going to face? The technology has been the driving force behind the Bitcoin craze. It is precisely the authenticity aspect of the technology that is most valuable and provided validity and auditable confirmation to the valid value of products like Bitcoin. It gives investors a comfort level, perhaps to a degree like never.

So, in layman's terms lets look at an international shipment as an example to demonstrate the blockchain application. The blockchain is a distributed database existing on multiple computers at the same time. By "distributed" it means that all parties have access to the shipment details of our example shipment. To understand what a block is, in our example, it may be the origination documentation, customs forms, bill of lading, etc. The "Blockchain" is constantly growing as new sets of recordings, or ‘blocks,’ are added to it. So, again using our example, the next block might contain details on the sailing date, cargo vessel, and container ID. Each block includes specific information, a timestamp and a link to the previous block, so they form a chain. So, you might imagine the next "block" would contain details of the destination port, offloading time and warehouse location. The next block would likely include information on the cartage agent, truck number, driver ID, etc. And finally, the last block would contain details on the final delivery including proof of delivery signatures and time stamps. The heightened level of security and impervious nature of the technology to fraud is what blockchain offers to transactional business like ours and just about every other industry. The database is not managed by anybody; instead, everyone in the network gets a copy of the whole database. Old blocks are preserved forever, and new blocks are added to the ledger irreversibly, making it impossible to manipulate by faking documents, transactions, and other information. So, blockchain is independent, transparent, and secure. The advantages of such a distributed ledger are apparent: being it cost and risk reduction, data security, or transactions transparency, companies from most industries can surely benefit from this new technology.

So now that we have a clear understanding of blockchain technology let's examine some Logistics and Supply Chain applications that are emerging today.

Shipping and Receiving Functions

Cargo companies across the world, especially those that support international delivery, recognize the benefits of the blockchain technology. The technology can allow the company to track each item while simplifying the existing logistics process. Maersk, the world’s biggest operator of shipping containers, has already experimented with blockchain. They along with Dutch Customs and US Department of Homeland Security used the technology to keep tabs on the movement of their cargo across international borders. Maersk has now teamed up with IBM to develop highly secure logistic systems that will alter the global trade landscape for good.

The system is expected to save billions of dollars for companies engaged in freight transportation by replacing existing logistic processes. It will help to reduce errors, improve delivery times and enable detection of fraud while lowering costs incurred.

Invoice Paperwork and Payments

A significant challenge in logistics is developing efficient and secure systems for invoicing and payments. For decades shippers have extended payment terms by insisting on receiving original proof of delivery receipts for example. Blockchain will eliminate the need for such documentation. Tallysticks has developed a platform, launching in September, based on blockchain that can handle invoicing and payments for logistic and other businesses. Based on smart contracts, it automatically sanctions a payment corresponding to an invoice. Visa has also jumped on the blockchain bandwagon and has launched its B2B Connect payment service. It aims to simplify payments across international borders while ensuring security and transparency. It also provides that a system that prevents frauds and minimizes errors is in place without involving a middleman.

Inventory Tracking

Blockchain technology can be used to build an efficient system that allows different companies to keep track of their products even at micro levels. Multiple food retailing companies have partnered with IBM to develop a system based on blockchain that allows tracking of food items. The alliance includes Walmart, Nestle, and Unilever to name a few. The technology will enable the company to backtrack individual food items back to the farm. Walmart has successfully experimented twice with the blockchain. It tracked pork in China and mangoes in Mexico to their origins. This accurate tracking ability is of importance in recall situations threatening public health.

How will tracking a fruit or meat product be useful? Roll back to the E. coli outbreak in the U.S. ten years ago wherein spinach infected with the microorganism spread the disease. If a similar incident occurs in the future, it will be easy to identify the infected batches of the commodity. There will be no need to destroy the whole stock, only the infected ones. Time is of the essence for managing such incidents and limiting the damage to both the public health and the corporations brand value.

To stay informed on the emerging technologies that are affecting our industry register to receive our weekly blog. For specific information on how your company can benefit from these emerging technologies contact one of our Logistics professionals today www.Land-Link.com.

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Topics: Technology, Logistics News, Supply Chain Management

Freight Trends to Watch with the Busy Holiday Season Looming

Posted by Land Link on Jul 25, 2018 3:08:58 PM

The transportation industry is enjoying a strong year that has the potential to be even stronger than the previous one. DAT reports a particularly robust year in shipping in 2017, especially in the second half. Based on what we have seen in the industry during that time, here are a few trends to watch for in the freight transportation industry for the remainder of 2018 as we approach the busy holiday shipping season.

The Capacity Crunch Will Continue

There is little reason to expect any relief in the ongoing equipment availability issue. Particularly when approaching the 3rd and 4th quarter holiday shipping demands. A significant contributor to the capacity crunch continues to be the driver shortage. Interest in a truck driving career by the younger generation is just not keeping up with the retiring rate of older drivers. The work is difficult. It involves working long hours, driving long distances, being away from family for long periods of time and less-than-ideal pay. Fewer drivers mean fewer trucks on the road to haul this increase in freight, which, in turn, drives up the rates because of the premium placed on securing a truck.

Another major factor is government regulation. The ELD mandate went into effect December 18. It essentially requires all motor carriers to install electronic devices in their trucks that will automatically track drivers’ hours of service. By law, drivers are only allowed to drive for 11 hours with a mandatory, continuous rest period of 10 hours, daily. This regulation is expensive for carriers to implement, particularly on large fleets. Training drivers to use it can be extremely time consuming and compliance is slow to reach 100%. The reduced driver hours, cost of implementation and general driver acceptance all affect the cost of operation. Which, of course, will be absorbed in the carrier rate structure.

Rates Remain Strong

Given the good health of the economy, specifically the freight economy, it comes as no surprise to see the LTL market having a healthy 2018. Basking in what one trucking executive called a “robust, bright” market, LTL carriers are planning expansion in 2018, coupled with continuing increases in LTL trucking rates. Several publicly owned LTL carriers will add terminals, trucks, trailers, and employees to their operations this year, as industrial and e-commerce freight demand fills more pallets. Higher rates will certainly bolster bottom lines at trucking companies with historically tight profit margins. And as freight demand increases, LTL carriers have stuck to the pricing discipline that helped them improve those margins and begin to expand operations or reinvest in their businesses in 2018, adding new equipment and hiring employees.

Shippers and Carriers Need to Adjust to the New Normal

Both shippers and carriers will have to be flexible in this new shipping environment. Most individuals generally only change behaviors if they can no longer deal with less-than-ideal situations. With that, it will be interesting to see how shippers, especially the ones that have a reputation for not being driver friendly, change their behaviors. Carriers will be looking to do business with "Preferred Shippers." Read our previous post on how to become just that in the eyes of your carriers. On the carrier side, if supply and demand stay relatively status quo, you will see carriers act more selectively with the business they handle. Carriers are taking significant increases for a specific business or flat-out refusing to work with shippers that are no longer a strategic choice for them. The days of taking your carrier and their drivers for granted may be over for good.

Technology May Disrupt The Status Quo

The freight industry is in the middle of a storm, with technology giving conventional processes a makeover and making it more efficient and transparent to the players in the market. Cutting-edge technological ideas have been mushrooming in the freight hauling space, with major corporations and startups tussling for a share of the market.

The freight economy is one of the largest markets in the United States, with over $700 billion in revenue every year and employing 8.7 million people in the industry. This provides an incentive for companies to cash in and it was inevitable that technology would be adapted to fit the market needs. And here we stand at the crossroads of innovation, with the impact of technology looking to change the facade of freight hauling forever. With the current market growth and capacity issues, it’s highly probable that more shippers will become willing to embrace any new technology or app that provides them with a truck. And carriers will be more than willing to embrace it if they feel those platforms can offer them higher and faster paying the freight. Having the experience and industry expertise to disseminate the dependability of the new approach and the integrity of the service provider can spell the difference between a successful experience and utter disaster. 

So, as we approach some of the busiest shipping months of the year in a market that can be challenging during high demand, it is useful to do some proactive contingency planning. Perhaps a combination of several discipline changes may be in order. In markets like this one, the counsel of a qualified Logistics professional can be a wise investment. Contact one of our Logistics experts www.Land-Link.com today for a no-obligation review of your current supply chain protocols. Be prepared for what may be a tumultuous freight market ahead.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Shipping News, Reducing Freight Rates