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Parcel Deliveries Clogging Up City Streets

Posted by Land Link on Oct 30, 2019 1:37:40 PM

The boom in online stores is increasing the demand for parcel delivery services, particularly in the big cities. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are experiencing serious traffic issues due to the amount of parcel delivery vans clogging the city streets. Add to this the number of ride share drivers in any metropolitan area daily and it is easy to see how things are getting congested.

Consumers today are spending less time in local stores and more time online, buying not only retail items but also groceries from Peapod, office supplies from Postmates and whatever they need from Amazon. According to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, it’s estimated that, on average, every person in the U.S. generates demand for roughly 60 tons of freight each year. In 2010, the United States Post Service overtook both FedEx and UPS as the largest parcel-delivery service in the country and delivered 3.1 billion packages nationwide. Last year, the USPS delivered more than 5.1 billion packages. The growth in e-commerce is fueling a rise in the number of delivery vehicles box trucks, smaller vans and cars alike on city streets.

While truck traffic currently represents about 7% of urban traffic in American cities, it bears a disproportionate congestion cost of $28 billion, or about 17 percent of the total U.S. congestion costs in wasted hours and gas. Cities, struggling to keep up with the deluge of delivery drivers, are seeing their curb space and streets overtaken by delivery vehicles, to say nothing of the bonus pollution and road wear produced thanks to a deluge of Amazon Prime orders.

The problem, really, is that we now live in a world where the brick-and-mortar stores are only one part of the retail equation and, as many a “retail apocalypse” story is warning, they are a shrinking part. Demand is being driven by people in their individual homes and apartments ordering smaller amounts of goods with higher frequency: groceries one day, several items from Amazon the next. As more goods are ordered, more delivery trucks are dispatched on narrow city streets. Often, the box trucks will double-park in a two-lane street if there’s no loading zone to pull into, snarling traffic behind them.

Many American cities are also playing catch-up as they try to understand these new urban delivery challenges and systems. That’s due in part to the failures of urban planning and the nature of the trucking business. While matters of public policy like public transit, bike lanes and walkability fall within the purview of planning boards and municipal departments of transportation, freight has always been a purely private-sector enterprise. Cities don’t have reliable data on the number of delivery trucks coursing through their streets; let alone planning for them.

Looking For Solutions

Cities can’t just ticket their way out of the delivery-truck problem. For big commercial delivery companies, parking fines are just part of the cost of doing business. UPS paid New York City $18.7 million in parking fines in 2006. In 2011 in Washington, D.C., UPS alone received just shy of 32,000 tickets.

If enhanced enforcement isn’t the answer, diverting delivery traffic might be. Seattle is taking an inventory of all the remaining alley space in the city. Instead of letting developers extend housing lots into the alleys, they might be used to accommodate some of the incoming delivery traffic.

Delivery companies are also experimenting with ways to reduce their impact. Late last year, UPS introduced its first “eBike” deliveries in Portland, Oregon. The goal is twofold: Reduce carbon emissions while putting a delivery vehicle on the road small enough to take advantage of curb space. UPS is also integrating across its U.S. routes its new big-data tool, On-Road Integrated Optimization Navigation (ORION). As a UPS driver travels their route, ORION works in the background considering up to 200,000 possible routes before picking the most optimal route for a driver to take to reduce the overall time spent driving around from delivery to delivery. The next generation is going to be a real-time tool taking traffic into account.

UPS currently uses drones to help drivers in rural delivery locations. It’s unclear how practical drone delivery can be in a metropolitan area considering the risk of personal injury, theft and inaccurate consignee deliveries. The solution to the congestion problem will likely come from many angles over the coming years. We simply were not prepared for the online purchasing boom and have never caught up.

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

Emerging Warehouse Automation Technologies

Posted by Land Link on Oct 23, 2019 9:48:03 AM


Those in the logistics business have recently speculated as to the direction of technology as it relates to warehousing and distribution advancements. The pace at which technology is advancing is exciting and a little frightening at the same time. The applications seem almost endless and keeping up on the technology can be a daunting task. Let’s take a look at a few emerging technologies in warehouse automation.

Collaborative Robots Infiltrate Human Interaction

Collaborative robots may be described as round one of the robotic invasions into warehouse operations. In this round, robots are introduced to work alongside, and in collaboration with, humans in the day-to-day operations of the warehouse and distribution centers. Last summer, Forbes gave smart cobots, otherwise known as ‘collaborative robots,’ the illustrious title of “the future of work”. It’s a declaration that struck a chord with many, perhaps because the idea of warehouse associates working alongside robots is a simpler image to accept than a fully automated operation in which robots replace living, breathing human workers.

While cobots are quite flexible when it comes to application, the most talked about are the picking and packing variety currently being used by Amazon. Cobots are a no-brainer for large warehouses owned by multichannel retailers who have the extra capital to invest in the technology. These lightweight robots can be programmed quickly and controlled remotely, require just a few hours of set-up time, are often mobile, and, as far as we know, are safer than many of their stagnant, bolted-down competitors.   Cobots will likely give way to the next generation of robot which will largely replace humans if not entirely.

On-Demand Warehousing

On-demand warehousing has been around for a while.  Now it has become more sophisticated in both space design and geographical placement all based upon big data.  Warehousing and DC centers need to be placed in strategic locations to meet the incredible delivery demands of today's consumers. Terabytes of data are being analyzed to decide exactly where to build strategic on-demand warehousing offering flexible utilization terms and easy highway access. Users want flexible warehouse space and supplier contracts that allow manufacturers to take advantage of the service as they scale and remove the services as they downsize. Third-party firms are offering up smart warehouses to manufacturers and suppliers at a fraction of the cost for the businesses to make the investments themselves. This means that even the most modest of startups can benefit from the use of the latest automated technologies, giving emerging businesses the opportunity to compete with the big guys on fulfillment time and accuracy.

Advanced Inventory Scanning Techniques

Fully automated warehouses  have been a hot topic as of late. Trailblazing companies, like Aquifi, have already found a way to automate the task of bar code and label scanning, eliminating the need for handheld scanning tools and the people who operate them. This technology is accomplished through a sophisticated smart dimensioning and 3D identification function that processes a warehouse’s items with more precision than ever before. It’s big news for operations that take advantage of tried and true asset tagging and bar coding. While these materials will not be replaced, the very scanners, and the people who use them, may soon be deemed obsolete.

3D Printing

3D printing has been around for a few years now.  It utilizes the 3rd dimension to not print, but build a particular item.  Most 3D applications are designed for simple replacement parts made out of basic materials. As printers become more sophisticated, the applications have expanded. The sneaker industry is just one example of 3D printing technology application. In the old days, making a customized piece of footwear meant a disruption in the everyday processing of the manufacturer’s movements and a much higher price tag for the customer. Ever since sneaker behemoth, Adidas, invested in 3D printing powerhouse Carbon, the once-fabled affordable customized sneaker is now a reality. In fact, consumers are so completely on board with this 3D-printed footwear option that Adidas is projected to sell millions of units in 2019 alone.

3D printing is also a powerful tool for plenty of other manufacturers, particularly those who are in the positions to take advantage of additive manufacturing according to the operation’s precise needs. This is a big win for manufacturers, as it reduces material waste and shortens processing time in one fell swoop. As technology continues to evolve, so does the variety find in the world’s smartest, most cutting-edge warehouses. Always pay attention to emerging automation technologies and the companies who are making them a reality. These are the very actors who will be dictating how we manufacture, distribute and consume goods in the years to come.

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Topics: Logistics Business, 3D Printing, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Economic Health Checkup

Posted by Land Link on Oct 8, 2019 11:48:03 AM


There have been rumblings throughout the industry of a potential recession or economic slow down. The transportation industry has historically been an excellent barometer of the overall economic health of our manufacturing sectors. If you manufacturer it, you must ship it. Therefore, the logistics sector has significant foresight into the health of manufacturing both domestically and internationally. Third quarter numbers are not in just yet so we'll take a look at quarters one and two as well as some speculation about the rest of the year to make a somewhat educated guess as to what we might expect for the remainder of 2019 and 2020.

Hard Asset Allocation

The trucking business is asset heavy; meaning, it takes a lot of money to be in this business. The average cost of a standard tractor is about $120,000. Add sleeping accommodations brings you to $150,000. Trailers can run between $20,000 and $50,000 depending upon their additional goodies. Carriers of any significant size generally add 10 plus power units and twice that in trailers when making such an asset upgrade. There is typically millions of dollars in asset purchases at risk every year and estimating demand for transportation services is a critical science for the success of any asset based logistics organization. Over or under asset commitment and utilization can literally make or break a company so let's take a look at current conditions and see if we can project just how many trucks we should buy this year.

Macro View Of The Economy

While the US economy continues to stand on relatively firm ground, GDP growth has converged to its long-run trend of about 2%. Consumer spending growth is holding up, fueled by low unemployment and rising wages. In contrast, business spending and investment are not providing much support to GDP. Additionally, net exports are and will continue to be a drag on overall growth while the US dollar remains strong and imports outpace exports. It is likely that some of these drags will be offset by stimulus, including increased federal non-defense government spending and monetary easing.

GNP Predictions For 2020

Gross national product (GNP) is a broad measure of a nation's total economic activity. GNP is the value of all finished goods and services produced in a country in one year. As previously stated, we in the trucking business get a sneak preview of the developing GNP through industry demand. The demand boom of the last two years seems to hang on even as new truck orders slow. The trucks keep coming as if searching for the lost freight market of 2018. US Class 8 truck registrations lept 29.1% in the first five months of 2019, according to IHS Markit, the parent company of JOC.com. Those trucks simply add to an already overflowing pool of capacity that is improving shipper pricing leverage.

As the third quarter rolls toward trucking’s autumn peak season, “a lot of carriers are going to be more stingy with capital expenditure and adding capacity,” Dan Van Alstine, president and chief operating officer of Ruan, a dedicated trucking and logistics company, said at the recent SMC3 2019 Connections Conference in Colorado Springs. The benefactors of the current environment may be the owner/operators who own their own equipment and pay their own operating expenses.  As you might imagine, those costs can be staggering for a small business owner when it costs $500 just to fill your gas tank..

Dependence On Owner/Operators

Owner/operators have historically been the filler for carriers to maintain an acceptable level of capacity for both equipment and drivers. We'll see just how far out carriers are willing to walk on the ledge of financial commitment going into 2020. It's potentially a pivotal year. The current administration is under some significant pressure to keep the economic fire stoked so carriers can maintain asset funding. The first and second quarters of 2020 should be very telling as to the general health of our domestic manufacturing base.

What To Expect

According to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on June 19, 2019, U.S. GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.1% in 2019 from 3% in 2018. It is expected to be 2% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021. The projected slowdown in 2019 and beyond is a side effect of the trade war, a key component of Trump's economic policies.

The unemployment rate will average 3.6% in 2019. It will increase slightly to 3.7% in 2020 and 3.8% in 2021. That's lower than the Fed's 6.7% target but former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted a lot of workers are part-time and would prefer full-time work. Also, most job growth is in low-paying retail and food service industries. Some people have been out of work for so long that they'll never be able to return to the high-paying jobs they used to have. Structural unemployment (unemployment resulting from industrial reorganization, typically due to technological change, rather than fluctuations in supply or demand.) has increased.

We will be monitoring these economic indicators over the next 12 months very closely.  To stay informed on this topic and others in our industry, subscribe to our blog.

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

UPS Is Granted FAA License

Posted by Land Link on Oct 2, 2019 1:52:20 PM

UPS announced this week that it is the first to receive the official nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a full “drone airline,” which will allow it to expand its current small drone delivery service pilots into a country-wide network. Obviously, it’s a huge win for UPS Flight Forward, which is the dedicated UPS subsidiary the company announced it had formed earlier this year to focus entirely on building out the company’s drone delivery business. There’s still a lot left to do before you can expect UPS drones to be a regular fixture, or even at all visible in the lives of the average American.

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

Integrating Robotic Technology in Your Organization

Posted by Land Link on Jun 19, 2019 12:25:16 PM

Robotic applications in the manufacturing process is nothing new but until recently has been limited to simple repetitive processes. The implementation of more sophisticated robotic applications is well on its way in many commercial and retail environments. Self-driving forklifts and pic-and-pack robots are common in warehouses worldwide. Inside Amazon's warehouse in southern New Jersey, U.S., it isn't uncommon to find giant beetle-like robots moving around busily with vertical shelves stacked on them. In retail environments, Lowes is testing customer service robots that cruise the isles to direct and escort customers to what they seek. Walmart has two types of robots supporting inventory management, including shelf scanners and fast unloaders, machines which automatically scan and sort items unloaded from trucks based on priority and department. As robots increasingly move from warehouses to shop fronts, embedding Artificial Intelligence (AI) in them will allow retailers to dramatically transform their customer interactions. While a basic sensor-based robot can bring customers what they are looking for, an AI-led robot can offer personalized product recommendations. The robot's advice is invariably driven by analytical insights gleaned by combining data, such as customers' age and location, with their purchase histories. From logistics and supply chains to back-office operations, store operations, merchandising, sales and marketing, customer-facing experiences, and robotics can drive innovation and help boost top and bottom-line outcomes. Online retailers are developing systems that are user-individualized for customers at the front-end and business users at the back-end.

Making A Smooth Integration In The Workplace

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology

You Can Now Hail A Helicopter From Your Smartphone

Posted by Land Link on Jun 12, 2019 12:22:05 PM

The Transportation industry has evolved dramatically in the last several years all thanks to the smartphone. Without it Uber and Lyft would not exist, nor would Uber Freight. It seems now you can request a Uber helicopter in New York City. Uber is adding regular helicopter air service to the heaviest users of its platform with Uber Copter; a new service line launched this month that will provide on-demand transportation from Lower Manhattan to JFK airport for, on average, between $200 and $225 per person, which includes car service to and from the helipad at each end. A ground transportation ride to the same destination is less than half the helicopter ride but the convenience and thrill may be worth it. Given the NYC traffic it may be worth the extra fare to not miss your flight. Plus, this isn’t something just anyone can access: It’s reserved for Platinum and Diamond members of Uber’s Rewards program, which means you’ll have to already be dropping a lot of cash on rides to even qualify for whirligig service. If you qualify, the rides are available either on-demand, or bookable up to five days ahead of time. Each helicopter has room for up to five passengers. In time the service will be available to anyone. The depths of service which technology has opened up is truly staggering.

Safety Is Always A concern

In the non asset world of transportation providers, we all depend upon equipment providers. Vetting these providers on behalf of our shippers is a primary responsibility. This is only one of the values of contracting with a 3Pl. A helicopter crashed this week in NYC which had previously dropped off passengers. The weather turned foggy over Manhattan that morning. Turns out the pilot did not have the required certificate that would have allowed him to legally fly when the visibility was less than 3 miles and where he could use the instruments on his chopper to guide him through the gloom and rain that enveloped the city. So the question here is who is vetting these helicopter pilots, weather private or for Uber. I question whether Uber, which is a mere child in the transportation industry at 7 years old, is schooled in the transportation vetting process which is necessary to provide safe cargo and personal conveyance in both inter and intra state transportation. It seems technology is setting such a pace that safety cannot keep up. Speed and convenience seems to have taken a back seat to safety.

How Much Risk Are You Willing To Take?

With the convenience of transactions comes risk. Sure you can hail a car, a helicopter, or who knows, even a boat to transport you or your loved ones. But how much do you know about who is picking up your precious cargo? It is also possible to hail a truck to transport your freight through Uber or several other apps...same question applies. Are you seriously going to trust your brand equity to some trucker you assume has been professionally vetted? While all of these conveniences have their acceptable levels of risk you must consider your options when the stakes are high. When you need a quick ride downtown or your late for the airport and want to take a helicopter ride that's your risk. But when you freight shipment is of high value or the client satisfaction is of great importance you need to consider everyone's risk. That's when you need to go with the experienced and proven freight transportation providers like Land Link Traffic Systems. We will provide the most reliable assets available and track the shipment throughout its journey. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Give us a call today for more information. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Topics: Transportation News, Industry Trends, Technology

Technology Is Transforming Our Business

Posted by Land Link on Jun 6, 2019 4:03:59 PM

The transportation and logistics industry are currently going through some major transformations. The current metamorphosis is creating opportunities as well as challenges. Successful shippers are looking for ways to adjust to the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. The economy, labor, and I believe, most dramatic, is the technology component which will be the game changer. Astonishingly what seemed like an unrealistic idea ten years ago, today, is now plausible because of technology. From robotics to radio frequency identification technology to block chain applications, the possibilities are intriguing to say the least. The challenge for supply chain professionals is how to stay current on these applications and how they can give your business the competitive edge that often makes the difference between black and red on the financial statements. Here are a few key areas in which every supply chain professional should have a firm understanding.

Economic Forecasts

Everyone is enjoying a robust economic environment at home even with the Trump administrations tariff threats. The domestic manufacturing economic forecast is a practical place to start in planning your logistics budget both operationally and financially. It's not all about the dollars.  Shippers need to assure themselves of available assets to deliver and receive goods.  The driver shortage is real, there are no significant players entering the asset-based transportation industry so capacity issues will be a common challenge. Existing carriers can only add as much capacity as drivers available to operate the equipment. Online retail spending is estimated to increase up to 20-30% over the next 3-4 years. These growth estimates will impact future freight distributions and patterns by creating additional density for retailer’s networks. Crowd sourced delivery options, much like Uber, will become a significant pool of delivery drivers.  Automated trucks will become more increasingly in demand as soon as the technology can be trusted.

The Labor Outlook

Driver positions are not the only area in logistics that are suffering shortages. Qualified warehouse personnel are also in demand. Particularly, as warehouse and distribution centers evolve into a more complex and technology driven environment. There are many reasons why labor is a problem, but two hurdles stand out. First, trucking has historically paid less than other business’ competing for the same potential employee. Second, the nature of the job requires drivers to be away from home in some cases for weeks at a time. As freight volume continues to grow labor will become an even bigger issue. To attract more recruits, some experts have proposed establishing more enticing industry standards such as a higher base pay and a flex time policy. Neither idea has yet to gain much traction. The simple fact is that truck driving as a career does not appeal to today's young people. On the operations side colleges and universities have historically offered somewhat limited programs in logistics as a science. I would expect the training options should improve as demand for these services increases.

Technology and Big Data

There is little doubt that data and the technology which allows us to interpret and leverage that data will be the future of supply chain management. It is well known that many transportation and logistics companies are late adapters of technology. Some are starting to be shut out of contracts if they cannot provide the data and technology required by customers, especially cyber security. Larger customers are adding minimum levels of cyber security to their contracts; this requirement will eventually become SOP.

Many carriers are even more behind in using analytics to make smart operational decisions. They do not understand the competitive edge analytics can give them even the simplest terms like route maximization. Successful shippers are thriving by seeking the guidance of logistics professionals who are trained in and equipped with the latest technology that mitigates risk to their supply chain and brand value. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift in the way transportation and logistics is executed. Adapt accordingly or die.

Count on the logistics professionals at Land Link Traffic Systems to navigate your company through what is certain to be some challenging supply chain waters in 2019 and beyond.

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

Leveraging Digital Applications To Open New Markets

Posted by Land Link on May 15, 2019 11:12:14 AM

Digitize Your Communication

In this era of rapid digital transformation, new technologies have opened up opportunities and created challenges, fundamentally transforming customer experiences, operating models and the work environment. Today's transportation providers need to explore their value added viability features to attract new customers and instill confidence in shippers. It has never been more important to provide real time tracking and tracing options for domestic and international shipments.  Shippers basically expect it in this market. Doing it at digital speed is the key. Digitalization is about leveraging technology to create, enable or transform a business process. The basic advantage of digital applications is data compression to improve the speed of transactions. Speed is king in today's logistics world in all facets of execution. Data automation also provides enhanced communication between shipper, consignee and any other interested party. All technologies aside, there is still a strong personal aspect to our business in terms of negotiating contracts, customer service and the commitment of everyone in the organization to be mistake free.

Cloud Technology

Cloud computing is really the internet as we know it today on a commercial scale. Cloud technologies help mitigate the need for physical IT infrastructure, and on-premise support personnel to manage computing capabilities, by running operations across server farms or data centers. Using cloud-based services providers, businesses can leverage IT assets as programmable resources, which are global and scalable on demand. This allows a business to access or lease computing resources and storage power far greater than what it may have been able to access on local infrastructure, while still being able to scale up or down in a cost-efficient manner. Simplicity, affordability and ease of expansion are all enhanced with cloud computing. Enterprise IT is among the fastest growing segment of computing easily set to replace on site systems.

Be Sure Of Your Needs

Everyone wants to utilize the latest technology to remain competitive. The race is on to define the industry’s future. With an estimated US$4.6 trillion of revenues at stake, companies can’t afford to sit back and watch; they need to adapt to changing markets proactively. Before rushing in, consult an industry export to provide the direction and pace of technology applications to stay on point and within budget. Like most other industries, transportation and logistics is currently confronting immense change; and like all change, this brings both risk and opportunity. New technology, new market entrants, new customer expectations, and new business models. There are many ways the sector could develop to meet these challenges, some evolutionary, others more revolutionary. These are indeed interesting times. And its in these times that the council of an expert is vital. For a consultation regarding your current supply chain protocols, please contact us today. To keep informed on these emerging topics and more subscribe to our weekly blog on our site.

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

Kroger Introduces Automated Grocery Delivery In Houston

Posted by Land Link on Apr 24, 2019 4:25:05 PM

The grocery home delivery market is ultra competitive. The big grocery players like Giant, Shop Rite and Wegmans all offer home delivery via manned delivery vehicles. Kroger appears to be first in the autonomous grocery delivery service race. After successful testing last year in Scottsdale Arizona, Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, has launched a self-driving grocery delivery service in Houston, the latest salvo in a massive grocery market that has supermarket chains investing heavily in new technology to win over online shoppers. Company officials this week showcased the first of dozens of autonomous delivery vehicles planned for Houston: Toyota Priuses outfitted with cameras, sensors and self-driving computer software. In today's competitive grocery market, companies are turning to autonomous vehicles, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence to stand out. Kroger is competing with Amazon, Walmart and other businesses to capture consumers who want fast deliveries without hassles. 

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics News, Technology

Automated Vehicle Update; Some Hurdles Remain

Posted by Land Link on Apr 16, 2019 9:55:22 AM

Though field testing for automated vehicles has been relatively successful some hurdles to full implementation remain. Namely, consumer acceptance and comfort in riding in these vehicles. Also, alarming is the idea of an 80,000 lb commercial tractor-trailer rolling down the interstate on autopilot. Additional concerns include who will be servicing these vehicles and the threat of domestic terrorism by system hacking. 

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Topics: Transportation News, Technology