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Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19

Posted by Land Link on Mar 18, 2020 6:28:56 PM


In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world. WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society, including businesses and employers, must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.

How COVID-19 Spreads

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales, they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19, they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with age. People over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.

Keeping Transportation Professionals Safe at Work

The Transportation Intermediaries Association has created a reference guide for its members to share with their customers to limit and prevent the likelihood of being exposed to this virus. Shippers, receivers, and truck drivers that are in personal contact (as they facilitate the movement of freight) need to be aware of – and take – necessary steps in order to minimize and prevent the spread of COVID-19. As an industry, we are in this together and we all need to look out for one another. If you are a shipper or receiver, consider providing truck drivers with a bottle of hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes to keep them healthy (and keep our nation’s freight moving).

The Centers for Disease & Prevention (CDC) also recommends following 6 key steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which TIA has summarized in a downloadable PDF.

Land Link Traffic Services will continue our 24 hour service throughout this crisis. Please feel free to contact us 732.899.4242 or through this website.

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Topics: Transportation News, Shipping News, Industry Trends

Develop a Strategy to Combat Dimensional Pricing

Posted by Land Link on Mar 11, 2020 10:00:00 AM

The debate over whether density-based pricing will succeed in toppling the traditional National Motor Freight Classification’s (NMFC) based pricing in the LTL industry is an ongoing debate. Carriers are pushing for dimensional pricing to combat the profitability of lightweight shipments. This is the basis of the argument. Under the NMFC classification density was taken into consideration as was packaging and commodity but it was largely based upon weight. Back in the day, carriers in a battle over business after deregulation, were offering FAK (Freight All Kinds ) tariffs to get the business. This strategy ultimately led to unprofitable operation ratios, subpar delivery performance and ultimately the bankruptcy of some major carriers. Jevic Transportation of Delanco, NJ is the first one that comes to my mind. Interestingly New Century transport, which was founded by Jevic‘s founder, adopted a similar strategy ending in the exact same fate. Considering this history and the recent high-profile bankruptcies of other major national freight carriers in recent years, one would have to conclude the days of beating up the carrier on rates is over. Unlike in the past, the LTL industry today has a massive volume of smaller shipments. There is also the challenge of completing same-day deliveries or time definite deliveries. Likewise, these shipments are not always of consistent size and density, making it difficult for LTL shippers to sustain profitability.

Today, if you want dependable service, you’re going to have to pay for it. Let’s see if we can help you avoid some of the pitfalls to come.

Dimensional Pricing

There is no secret to dimensional pricing. It’s really a simple equation; L x W x H / 139. It could be argued that the ecommerce boom started all this controversy overweight vs size. Ecommerce shippers have millions of items in inventory and a finite amount of box sizes. I’ve been personally amazed at the box size of some items I’ve received. It didn’t take long for the parcel carriers to figure that their trucks were dimming out before weighing out. This may have been the catalyst for dimensional pricing. It wasn’t long before the LTL carriers arrived at the same conclusion. They were charging by pound through diluted tariffs, not by the room the pallet actually occupied.

FedEx Freight, XPO Logistics, and other LTL carriers have been installing equipment that can scan a palletized shipment and, combined with scales, provide the cubic dimensions and weight needed to check the shipment classification. The consensus among LTL industry executives is that the current classification system is on its way out. The reality is that LTL carriers sell space in a trailer. Using the dimensions of a pallet identifies precisely how much space that shipment will require, thereby providing accurate real estate pricing.

Shippers Prepare

Many shippers believe dimensional pricing amounts to a rate increase, and the number of shipments, they say, are re-billed once they go through a dimensioner, supporting their contention. It can also be argued the shippers are finally being charged an accurate rate. Shippers who are not prepared to invest in equipment to measure their shipments’ dimensional weight will have to adopt strict packaging protocols to package their freight in a uniform method as to avoid a dimensional pricing situation.

The ability to double stack pallets is a prime example. Under dimensional pricing a pallet that cannot be double stacked will be billed at 2 pallet spaces since the pallet will essentially occupy the air above it. To date, much of the use of dimensional pricing has been limited to W & I procedures at truck terminals. However, by capturing more and more dimensional shipment data, LTL carriers are laying the data foundation needed for the expanded use of dimensional pricing.

Our supply chain managers at Land Link Traffic Services can help with packaging strategies, supply chain management techniques to maximize lane and weight balancing strategies and overall shipment planning protocols to maximize your freight spend in this more expensive environment. Finally, the Coronavirus will certainly cause some challenging strain on the supply chain. Don’t wander through this uncharted territory alone. Contact us today for a supply chain consultation.  

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Coronavius is a Growing Threat to the Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Mar 4, 2020 2:59:10 PM


The recent effects of Tariffs on the supply chain may pale in comparison to the potential aftermath of SARS-CoV-2. This virus has the potential to cause an economic shock unlike those that led to recessions in the recent past; the oil spike in 1991 that hit consumer wallets or the credit crunch in 2008 that seized up lending markets. The coronavirus has severely disrupted nearly every link in the global supply chain, from raw materials to components to finished goods, which could lead to curtailed production, product shortages, and financial stress across a range of industries. How manufacturing delays ripple through the economy isn’t so straightforward, however. The multi-level nature of raw material procurement for any large manufacturer creates a potentially large field of collateral damage in the event of supply chain disruption. One missing part for the widget from that line halts production and delays everything behind it for unknown time period. This may be an excellent opportunity to consider contingency planning. 

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Topics: Transportation News, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Leveraging Your Transportation Provider Relationship To Gain Market Share

Posted by Land Link on Feb 26, 2020 9:00:41 AM


It’s no secret, in any business relationship, that the easier the relationship between customer and provider the more smoothly things run. In a shipper/provider relationship this is particularly important. The intricacies of logistics can be very challenging given the nature of all the moving parts; desirability of lanes, pickup and delivery restrictions, equipment availability and all the issues that can happen on the way to a 1000 mile delivery.  We have discussed the importance of becoming a preferred shipper in previous blogs. The impact of carrier relations on your supply chain is more important now than ever. Several factors are putting pressure on carrier/shipper relationships and performance. Fluctuating fuel costs, capacity issues, driver shortages, and carriers that abruptly go out of business can all take a toll on a shipper’s ability to get the right products to the right customer within the right time frame. Take the time to make some manageable changes to your supply chain protocols to improve operations, moral and overall supply chain efficiency.

Some Easy Fixes

There needs to be a culture shift in vendor relations, particularly when it comes to carriers. Historically, truckers have been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to, for example, driver accommodation and respect for one’s time. A reasonably comfortable waiting area for the driver is an inexpensive and easily implemented enhancement to the driver experience. Minimizing loading time is also an easy, low cost, improvement to loading and unloading dock protocol. 

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Trucking Regulation Tweaks for 2020

Posted by Land Link on Feb 18, 2020 11:03:27 AM


The federal government has proposed long-awaited changes to the hours-of-service rules that would increase truck drivers’ flexibility while on duty.
FMCSA’s newly proposed HOS rule offers five main revisions to the existing HOS rules, which are based on extensive public comments shared with the agency since last year. The adjustments would happen in five areas:

1. Flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without interruption for at least 30 minutes; and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not-driving status, rather than off-duty.

2. Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of at least two consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.

3. Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes but not more than three hours that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

4. Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

5. Changing to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent commercial operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.

Safety Remains The Driving Force For Both Sides

Most in the logistics industry consider trucking deregulated. While this perspective is accurate in a financial sense, the truth is trucking is among the most regulated industries in the country. It is important to understand government regulations add significantly to the cost of operations which, of course, is reflected in the rates. Most carrier executives question the depth and breadth of the regulations and how the federal regulators iron out their final rulemaking is critical to fleets’ efficiency and legal use of time. For example, a truck driver has 660 minutes (11 hours) of legal driving time during his or her 14-hour “on duty” time. How those minutes are divvied up not only matters to safety, but it’s a huge factor in both the driver’s compensation and the carrier’s financial wellbeing.  Among the challenges of drafting regulations for the trucking industry is the myriad of equipment types and services offered. Dry van, refrigerated, bulk carriers and other specialty carriers have present different safety concerns. Add to that mix carriers who transport more dangerous commodities such as hazardous materials like chemicals and munitions, fuel and over-dimensional loads and you end up with multiple regulations to cover all possibilities.

Manufacturers Look To Technology for Help

Technology is constantly evolving, particularly for motor vehicles. Self-automated technologies such as automatic braking systems have already appeared in passenger vehicles and are rapidly becoming available for large semi-trucks as well. Safety systems recommended by AAA researchers include:
  • Air disc brakes, which significantly reduce the distance a large truck needs to stop.
  • Automatic emergency braking systems, which engage the brakes if the system detects the truck is about to collide with another vehicle or object.
  • Lane departure warning systems, which detect when a truck drifts from its intended lane and may hit vehicles in neighboring lanes.
  • Onboard video monitoring systems, which monitor the road in front of a truck or the driver’s actions inside the cab to detect when unsafe practices occur.

Some of these systems not only help reduce the risks of truck accidents but may also aid injured victims recover legally afterward. For example, onboard systems can record if the lane departure warnings triggered before the accident, or whether the automatic braking engaged. This can provide evidence that a truck driver was distracted, fatigued, or otherwise impaired behind the wheel. Onboard video monitoring systems are pretty much common these days. They provide a solid picture of what transpired in any incident. They are a welcome e addition to most fleets since they reduce litigation costs and help drivers become more safety conscious. 

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

‍AI and IoT are Ready for Your Warehouse

Posted by Land Link on Feb 12, 2020 3:25:35 PM

Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are making their initial forays into a myriad of warehouse operations. The expected outcome; DCs able to respond dynamically to current supply chain conditions instead of pre-set rules. Look for newfound flexibility and an ability to respond to specific customer demands. The general programming protocol is to minimize human intervention in daily supply chain operations. This should not be news to anyone involved in complicated supply chain systems.

We are at the point where AI and IoT are viable IT applications for the warehouse. Both are powerful new tools that better enable warehouse and distribution center activities to keep pace with rapidly shifting supply chain dynamics. Artificial intelligence systems can learn, over time, the patterns and trends that are most important. It can identify when specific events occur which require human intervention. It can sense security breaches and stop them before they become crises. Simply put, for the IoT to grow to its full potential, it needs the processing power of artificial intelligence.

Integration Into the Supply Chain

AI promises a brave new world of computers that can plan, strategize, evaluate options, calculate probabilities, and make smart decisions. The inter-connectivity and dual reliance of both systems is evident in the automotive applications currently being tested. Repetitive daily environments are best suited for early stage AI learning and IoT experiences at this stage in the application. An example is a typical commercial bus route. The travel route is planned and timed out as are the stops. IoT applications including sensors, video cameras and time keeping technology all gather data throughout the daily route. This data is the basis upon which AI evaluates and electronically digests the information. It is through the digestion process that AI basically learns the particular details of the route like staying on time, the average number of passengers per stop, and, in fact, the unpredictable events like traffic and weather delays. It is through this repetitive experience that AI will eventually be able to maximize the efficiency of the route by anticipating daily events along the route based upon historical data.

The same inference can be applied to a route for a commercial delivery unit whether it be a truck, plane, train or any other conveyance unit. In this example the desired result is the same. To maximize efficiency by learning the route and experiencing every possible condition which may affect it so contingency plans can be implemented in real time to maintain the integrity of the delivery. The benefit of this technology application will become evident once driver less technology is fully implemented.

Early Areas of Implementation

AI can significantly improve business operations by leveraging the tremendous amount of data generated by sensors monitoring the production and movement of products using IoT. The result is referred to as AIIOT, which is the merging of AI and IoT to manage inventory, logistics, and suppliers with a higher level of awareness and precision. The supply chain is one area that can benefit the most from streamlining since it has a direct influence on profitability and customer satisfaction.

There are already several implementations of AI and machine learning where supply chain efficiency is improved:

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Topics: Transportation News, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Technology Has Driven 3rd Party Involvement in the Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Feb 6, 2020 9:11:51 AM

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Topics: Transportation News, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Technology Trends For 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Land Link on Jan 30, 2020 9:24:07 AM


There is little doubt that technology has transformed the Logistics business in the last several years. Will we ever get to fast enough or efficient enough? It's not likely. Under pressure exerted by demand for instant gratification, new tech-first logistics providers are beginning to pervade the fulfillment environment. Without the autonomous hardware that promises to supersede traditional road transportation, they are instead leveraging digital tools to improve the performance of manually executed deliveries and reduce lead times from days to hours, with 24 being today’s bargain-basement service level. These companies, through the use of customer-integrated business platforms, mobile technology, and crowd-sourcing, are finding ways to pick orders within minutes of receiving them, dispatch deliveries on-demand, and bring buyer’s purchases to them in time-frames of two hours or even less.  How are logistics professional going to keep this pace?  Here are some technology trends that may be worth a look as we enter 2020 and beyond.

Robotics

Given the energy and investment in robotics in our space, suggesting that there will be a robotics trend in 2020 is pretty obvious. After all the pilots and promises, what seems to be happening is that robot solution providers, and the end user community, are realizing that there is no one size fits all robotic applications. Quite the opposite is true. The customization is proving so complicated due to the advanced operations of the robots that the programming and engineering has become problematically complicated. Robotic applications are a very customized solution depending upon the product line, distribution protocols and warehouse volume parameters. The challenge, in addition to the design, will be the management system that can bring the components in synchronicity with the rest of the automation. The difficulty seems to be that there is no standardization among the robotic providers. Each have their own standards, communication protocols and capabilities. Someone will have to figure all of that out as robots proliferate. The next generation robots will not just be tasked with simply, repetitive and mundane projects as were the first generation. The robots of today will be much more complicated providing a wide range of services. As you increase the tasks you increase both the software and hardware configurations necessary to support the project. These ambitious goal will certainly be a challenge to the engineers and programmers.

Edge Computing is a distributed computing paradigm which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth. In layma 's terms it puts the entire computer in your handheld or mobile device. Not all that long ago, we saw the wireless revolution in the warehouse as barcode scanners, mobile printers, voice headsets and the like were decoupled from the computers that controlled them. That enabled the mobile worker, who could take a device to the point at which the work was being done. But those tools were essentially dumb terminals, the computing power and analytics were back somewhere else. Edge computing changes that. It puts computing power and analytics down on the floor, enabling truly real-time decision making and real optimization of the associate pushing a cart or driving a lift truck. Edge computing simply provides serious computing power to handheld and mobile devices throughout the warehouse enabling the user to have much more computing power at the point of use.

Logistics Safety

Ever since the eCommerce boom, the race has been on to deliver products faster with the fewest errors possible. In 2019, we saw the race for faster delivery hit a few bottlenecks, both legal and physical. The ability of tools such as drones to fly freely ran up against privacy laws. Delivery technology appeared to have reached a limit short of asking drivers to speed and forgo sleep.

The way we know these bottlenecks became serious was seen through companies suddenly making logistics safety their priority. With greater connectivity and more robust data, concerns over logistics safety and cyber-security came to the forefront. Customer data faced new challenges, and enhanced data richness gave drivers and fulfillment professionals new corners to cut, posing a challenge to safety. Technology appears to be introducing logistics solutions at a greater rate than federal, state and local governments can digest them.

Looking Forward: Order Fulfillment Optimization Logistics Trends for 2020

In 2020, you can expect to see many of the above trends continue to develop since they are still massively useful.

As safety became an issue in 2019, companies have turned to delivery experience enhancement. These are Order Fulfillment optimization methods that help alleviate the customer’s “gotta-have-it-now” anxiety; a need that I struggle to understand even today. These methods of order experience enhancement are all about letting the customer in on the shipping process. One massively effective way we can enhance customer experience is simply by raising the transparency of the shipping process. When it comes to improving customer experience, this is done with customer-facing APIs. API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” APIs give individuals and companies the power to add functionality to a website, application, platform, or software without having to actually write the programming code.

This is accomplished by integrating the API code into a company's existing code. We encounter APIs all the time online. If you’ve ever bought something from an online retailer, for example, then you’ve almost certainly interacted with an API. Most online retailers process payments using APIs from Stripe or PayPal.

‍Other APIs you’ve likely run into include the Google Maps API on sites like Yelp, and the “Sign in with Facebook” API which allows you to log in to a website using your Facebook credentials. Be careful of that ease of login using social media or other websites. You're giving up some security.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Fixing Our Country's Crumbling Infrastructure

Posted by Land Link on Jan 23, 2020 11:59:15 AM

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Transportation News, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Retailers Are Feeling The Pain In The Profit Line For Free Return Policy

Posted by Land Link on Jan 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Retailers are offering the most aggressive return policies in history but at what cost. Returns can be a disease,  aggressively attacking profit margins, gutting conversion rates, and ultimately threatening your business. In the U.S. alone, Statista estimates return deliveries will cost $550 billion by 2020, 75.2% more than four years prior. Worse, that number doesn’t include restocking expenses nor inventory losses. Nailing down exact numbers on return rates is notoriously difficult, but compiled data from separate sources paints a bleak portrait, especially for online retailers. The fierce competition among online retailers has forced the price margins so low that they cannot support the cost of these return policies.

In response, businesses are adding workers, increasing warehouse space, and establishing separate departments to handle reverse logistics. Returns are the new normal and central to customer experience but they don’t have to be a plague. In fact, how you deal with returns, before and after purchase, can differentiate your brand, create a competitive advantage and even make you more profitable.

Such generous return policies are an invitation for abuse. People are waiting months to return items rendering them useless to the retailer if the item is seasonal. Also, you have people using a particular product and carefully repackaging the item. The ends result is the same; the item is either not available to resell or it is not in sellable condition. Either way your looking at liquidation value for those items.

Some in the industry that created the monster are trying to put it back in its cage. They’re taking baby steps; not providing pre-paid mailing labels, requiring a receipt unless an unwanted item is carried to a store but also threatening to cut off serial returners, the most troublesome of the offenders.

These offenders are indeed a cause for concern among online retailers. Last year, $369 billion in merchandise, or 10% of total retail sales, was returned in the U.S., according to a study by research firm Appriss, up from $260 billion in previous years. The holiday season, of course, is the one to dread in the returns departments. United Parcel Service Inc. expected to handle more than 1 million such packages every day, reaching a peak of 1.9 million on Jan. 2, which would be a 26% increase from the 2019 high point.

How Retailers Are Dealing with Serial Returners

Habitual returners fall into two distinct types:

The Wardrober

People who buy items to wear once and have no intention of keeping them afterward. The Wardrober may not be able to afford the item or are taking advantage of overly lenient policies.

The Fitting Roomer

People who replicate the brick-and-mortar experience at home by purchasing different sizes and colors of the same item, pick their favorite, and return the rest.

In late 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon had begun banning shoppers — i.e., closing their accounts — who “made too many returns.” While extreme, such actions are often necessitated by the first type of habitual returner. Last year, Amazon also unveiled Prime Wardrobe which is free to members but limited to 3-8 items per order with a seven-day window to return before getting charged.

Retailers are now tracking serial returners and threatening harsh action. The bigger problem is the big retailers have made returns far too easy for shoppers. Trying now to pull back on that ease of shopping experience may backfire. It will be interesting to see the changes for the next holiday season.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Logistics News, Industry Trends