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Using Data to Establish Accurate Pricing and Operational Efficiencies

Posted by Land Link on Mar 13, 2019 10:48:55 AM

The right pricing strategy is a critical component that companies can’t afford to overlook and is one of the most important aspects of maintaining profitability. In the manufacturer-distributor-customer value chain, one of the manufacturers most pressing challenges is being able to mark up prices in a way that helps maintain profitability while not pricing that customer out of the market. This balance is getting harder to achieve in the current B2B business environment, where the next competitor, price comparison or huge online retailer is literally one mouse click or screen tap away. 

Focused on serving their customers while maintaining healthy profit margins, manufacturers have to effectively balance the cost of manufacturing with the company's profit goals.  Goals that are hard to attain if the company isn’t using solid pricing strategies.

Integrating Data Your Pricing Strategy

As data continues to proliferate right along with the number of technology tools to help harness that data, companies are learning how to leverage that information across multiple departments for maximum success. Accurate data can more precisely reflect the cost of manufacturing by considering critical issues such as seasonal raw materials fluctuations, capital equipment depreciation and labor concerns.  Manufacturers should be generating these cost equations on a monthly basis to forecast cost fluctuations and react in plenty of time to adjust pricing. 

Gain an Edge on the Competition

Even those manufacturers that think they have the pricing game under control will surely face a new competitor, get hit with a new market trend or face another economic challenge in the near future. Look what Uber did to the taxi business.  Manufacturers of the future will also understand that effectively engaging customers requires true innovation in executing the value chain. Traditional approaches to inventory, logistics, pricing and rebates will be reimagined through the application of advanced analytics and technology innovations.  Given the importance of data, analytics and technology to both engaging customers and executing the value chain manufacturers will also need to leverage IT to truly energize, not just enable, their business. 

Data management is central to keeping track of your costs throughout the manufacturing process. If data is properly recorded and accessible to every link in the chain, managers can touch base with their product at every stage, helping maximize efficiency, address problems quickly, and improve customer satisfaction.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

The Internet of Things (IoT) is Increasing its Footprint in the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Process

Posted by Land Link on Feb 28, 2019 10:19:13 AM

Digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving transformation across the entire manufacturing process by disrupting all aspects of production, from research and development to engineering and design, factory operations, and sales and support. Ultimately these technologies will increase efficiency in the manufacturing process, reduce costs and reduce the product time to market.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

The Big Retailers Relying On Technology

Posted by Land Link on Feb 20, 2019 8:19:14 AM

A new generation of shopping options through e-Commerce and m-Commerce (mobile commerce) has made supply chain management a vital area of concern for many businesses. It is particularly critical for manufacturing companies, which are heavily dependent on the supply chain partners to deliver their products. With an increasing emphasis on technological advancements, as well as the changes in customer expectations, the need for integrated supply management has become increasingly important. In the retail environment particularly, where the margins are thin, technology is the key component between profit and loss. And in this market, the sharks are circling.

Wal-Mart Is Making Hi-Tech Moves

This July, a Walmart supply chain first is coming to Colton, California. A newly built, 340,000-square-foot high-tech consolidation center will be the first in Walmart’s supply chain to receive, sort and ship freight. This automated technology will enable three times more volume to flow throughout the center and helps Walmart deliver the right product to the right store, so customers can find the products they need.

Amazon Started This Fight

Back in 2005, Amazon launched its Amazon Prime service. Customers, paying an annual membership fee, received guaranteed two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of products. In fact, the introduction of two-day delivery was the game changer and established the dominance of Amazon in the online retail industry. When many other retailers started to catch up with that strategy by offering their own free two-day shipping, Amazon tipped the playing surface by offering a one-hour delivery with its Amazon Prime Now service. The fight now seems who can deliver product faster. The rub, however, is it has to be done at a profit.

The Latest Wal-Mart Approach

A massive Walmart-owned center, which will open in July with 150 full-time associates, can move three times as many cases. It will grow to employ more than 600 associates by 2021. With the combined might of people and world-class logistic technology, this facility will be the most efficient consolidation center in Walmart’s supply chain. Walmart continues to expand its portfolio of high-tech distribution centers. In October, Walmart announced that it had broken ground on a tech-enabled perishable grocery distribution center in Shafter, California.

Amazon Sets The Pace

I have to recuse myself of my opinion to some degree since Philadelphia was in the running for an Amazon Distribution Center Headquarters. Sadly, we didn't make the cut. There is one thing I have to admire about Amazon. Management may have adopted the Bill Bellecheck game plan of logistics protocol. They seem to have designed the playbook of online retail from order to fulfillment to the final mile. When Amazon made its official selection for the locations of its second headquarters, it was hardly a surprise to anyone following the lengthy HQ2 saga. But tucked into the announcement were tidbits we didn’t know, including information on what it took for the two sites to win out over the dozens of other bids.

How To Keep Up With The Competition

Target is lagging a distant third in the giant race for a retail giant of the world. The only strategy for small to mid-size retailers to break into this market is to be lean. Operational efficiencies will be crucial for anyone to be competitive. To keep up with your competition subscribe to our blog, or better yet, join the Land-Link.com client family and let us show you what a lean supply chain looks like.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Autonomy Is Taking Over The Warehouse

Posted by Land Link on Feb 7, 2019 12:51:48 AM

Automating simple, routine processes frees up workers for other tasks and reduces human error. A common reaction to the increase of automation is the fear of being replaced—but a more optimistic outlook sees robots enhancing human productivity through collaboration, rather than outright replacement.

Skilled workers are in high demand, so it’s important to make the most of the talent you have. Why waste an experienced employee’s valuable time hunting for tools or checking inventory?
ROBi, which stands for Robotically Optimized and Balanced inventory, aims to solve this problem by automating inventory and routine cycle counts to save time and enhance accuracy in automotive manufacturing and warehouse environments.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Uber Freight May Be On Life Support

Posted by Land Link on Jan 30, 2019 5:19:08 PM

Uber Corp continues to operate at a loss. The company lost $4.5 billion in 2017, up from $2.8 billion the year before. Uber reported a loss of $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter on revenues of $2.2 billion. Uber freight has yet to turn a profit. Their parcel division, Uber Rush, is rumored to close in June. The driverless truck division has suspended testing. According to Eric Meyhofer, Head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, “We’ve decided to stop development on our self-driving truck program and move forward exclusively with cars." Meanwhile, Uber's head of freight trucking, Lior Ron, who was also working on autonomous-vehicle technology, is leaving the company.

Uber freight is facing the same challenges as established freight brokers; driver availability. Equipment demand is at historic highs. Carriers and owner operators are able to maximize their revenue in this tight market. Responsible shippers are compelled to stay with established carriers and pay higher rates than chance their freight and brand equity riding with an unknown and unproven carrier. The Uber platform is little more than a bidding platform with shipments going to the lowest bidder. Uber freight would be a useful option for carriers shipping low value, durable freight, with little concern about brand equity. There is little history provided to shippers for Uber freight drivers other than insurance and authority. And it's unclear how much vetting is done on the carriers or owner operator. Uber shippers are trading off higher risk for lower freight rates. Most responsible shippers cannot afford to take this level of risk with their products and associated liability.

Uber may be concentrating on its main business; passenger transportation. Uber has decided to redeploy the engineering teams involved in the self-driving truck project to work inside of Uber's autonomous passenger car business. This shouldn't be a shock. Uber is the dominant leader in the on-demand passenger market and not a huge player in the trucking freight market. With Uber planning one of the largest tech IPOs since Facebook, they must have a compelling story to tell investors about how they plan to maintain their position in the passenger vehicle segment and not be lapped by other players with more compelling technology.

Uber's track record in the autonomous passenger segment is not stellar. They have higher incident rates than other companies, measured in Miles per Intervention. Miles per Intervention is a stat published by Pitchbook showing how often autonomous vehicle's computers require a human to take over. Uber ranks far behind Waymo and Cruise. Waymo is best-in-class with 5,600 miles per intervention. Uber is just 13 miles per intervention. GM's Cruise has better stats, with 1,250 miles per intervention, nearly 100x better than Uber.

Without perfecting or at least improving self driving technology Uber's entire market share is at stake.

For the latest Logistics and Transportation technology news, subscribe to our blog http://www.Land-Link.com/blog.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Update: Automation in the Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Nov 29, 2018 9:18:34 AM

We have long anticipated the introduction of robotics into the supply chain. We have predicted the potential of such technology to help businesses keep pace with distribution challenges and consumer demand for convenience and variety. However, while robotics technology has now arrived in many sectors of life, it is yet to truly revolutionize the logistics environment.

You might expect these updates to come quarterly or perhaps more spread out. The rate of technological advancements in the supply chain industry is coming fast having profoundly far-reaching results. These supply chain evolutions have a significant effect on the Gross National Product, which is an estimate of total value of all the final products and services turned out in a given period by the means of production owned by a country's residents. The national and regional manufacturing statistics are also affected by the efficiency within which supply chains operate. Finally, supply chain technology plays a significant role in national and international military operation. The next time you're concerned about your next Amazon shipment consider these, largely unconsidered, daily challenges by supply chain professionals.

Driver-less Trucks

While today’s trucks generally operate only up to eight or nine hours a day because drivers are required to rest, automation has the possibility to double or triple productivity by having the wheels rolling nearly around the clock without an active driver needed at all times.

Many analysts project that trucks with empty cabs and a computer at the wheel will travel on U.S. highways in as little as two years with no escort or safety driver in sight now that the Trump administration has signaled its willingness to let tractor-trailers to become truly driver-less. The U.S. Department of Transportation last month announced that it will "no longer assume" that the driver of a commercial truck is human, and the agency will even adopt the definitions of driver and operator to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may, in fact, include an automated system. The release of the new guidelines will almost certainly accelerate the testing process and ramp up the competition between companies that have logged tens of thousands of miles in testing to prepare truly driver-less trucks for the open road. With the legislation last month, the Department of Transportation sent a strong signal that it plans to take a hands-off approach to regulate driverless trucks; one the agency also indicated it plans to make official through a formal rule-making process that will almost certainly pre-empt any state measures, such as those in California that prohibit driver-less trucks altogether. The Trump administration has made it very clear that when it comes to commerce in this country the attitude is "Laissez Faire"; a Latin phrase to suggest that issues of commerce be decided by those it affects. That seems to be the perceived interstate and international logistics environment; that there is a political commitment from U.S. DOT to help facilitate interstate commercial trucking and that the agency will be able to pre-empt state laws when necessary. There is, understandably, concern from the public and environmental and safety advocates regarding the seemingly unimpeded progress of driver-less trucks. I'm not sure I want 80,000 # of the truck behind me doing 80 MPH with no one at the wheel. The acceptance will come but it will be slow and undoubtedly at a financial and personal cost.

Automation and Robotics in the Warehouse

It seems clear that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” robots will be working in our parcel sorting hubs, distribution centers, and delivery vans. With an improved price/performance ratio, the adoption of robotic solutions is likely to intensify over the next five years. The business leaders of the future need to understand this technology, look on it as an opportunity rather than a threat, and start planning for the day when it provides a viable solution to ever-growing pressures on the supply chain. Having a strong understanding and appreciation of computer programming, I have argued that robotic and automation applications have a significant benefit to not only the supply chain process but any industry that demonstrates the need for personnel to execute basic and repetitive operations. These tasks are perfectly suited for robots. And with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, the robots can measurably improve upon their performance over time. They learn the task and are programmed to do it faster once the steps in the task have been mastered...but not before. AI concentrates on 100% accuracy before increasing the speed of operations. I've tried to share this philosophy with my golfing partners who like to play from the blue tees without ever shooting par from the white tees.

What to Expect

Looking ahead, supply chain leaders should prepare their processes and infrastructure to embrace new technology and its ability to harness more data than ever before. While we have seen great progress in this area, the development of regulatory framework around robotics in the workplace and in ‘public’ spaces, rather than behind the scenes, will be the main factor to determine how quickly and to what degree robots and automation are incorporated into logistics.

The successful businesses of the future will be those which are able to adapt to the accelerated change in sourcing, production, and distribution that we are seeing today, and are agile and flexible enough to take advantage of new technologies. To ensure your company is in the race and not on the porch contact us today for a no-obligation review of your current Supply Chain protocols.

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Topics: Technology, Big Data

UPS Warns A Possible Strike As Teamsters Eye Coming Vote

Posted by Land Link on Nov 7, 2018 6:20:34 PM

The Teamsters union is threatening a strike over the terms of this years contract. As of October 25, the Teamsters National Freight Negotiating committee has received its last best offer from UPS freight. Voting on the contract will be happening throughout this week starting November 7. The previous contract was rejected on October 5th. There is a 30-day extension of the current contract which will expire on November 12th. The negotiating committee demanded:

1) tighter restrictions and limits on subcontracting and rail usage;
2) higher wage increases that are not split;
3) earning protection for city drivers when they perform dock work;
4) elimination of the new qualifiers for pension and vacation benefits; and
5) a week’s worth of vacation pay for all classifications based on 1/52 of the prior year’s earnings.

The negotiating committee has determined that the LBFO does not sufficiently address the issues raised by the members. Nevertheless, because of the company’s insistence that there is no more money to be had and in order to allow its members to make an informed decision on a question that will affect them and their family, the negotiating committee decided to submit the LBFO for acceptance or rejection. a strike has already been authorized. While a strike is a last resort, if the members reject this final offer from the company there will be no other options and there will be a strike at a time and location(s) determined by the negotiating committee.

The Repercussions of A UPS Strike

Two decades ago, 187,000 employees at UPS walked off the job for 16 days. As of Wednesday, the company’s union workers, now numbering 260,000, are threatening to do so again. The walkout on Aug. 4, 1997, led to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for UPS. It was, at the time, one of the biggest nationwide strikes the country had ever seen. It was a different time, though. The strike impacted consumers differently than it would today since business owners saw the most direct effects, often unable to restock shelves. The consequences of a strike today may be much more severe than that of 20 years ago. The online community, from both a seller and purchaser viewpoint, will be dramatically affected. When we think online retailing we have to think about Amazon. They will be the barometer for the effects of a UPS strike on the economy and international commerce.

Amazon’s tight relationship with UPS is supplemented by one with the U.S. Postal Service. Should UPS be unable to deliver customer packages, it’s possible the retailer will lean heavier on the USPS. Trump, though, is no fan of that relationship, attacking Amazon in a series of tweets earlier this year, saying the company wasn’t paying enough to ship packages. Experts have disputed this position, saying Amazon and other online retailers have helped stanch the post office’s declining cash flow. Still, a weakened Amazon could bring another round of Trump attacks. Or, worse, inaction.

President Bill Clinton refused to stop the 1997 strike, even though he did have the legal power to do so under the Taft-Hartley Act. But Labor Secretary Alexis Herman strongly urged the two sides to stay at the negotiating table for 80 hours of talks in a five-day period. That pressure is credited as one of the reasons the strike didn’t last long. The LTL Strike of 1994 Crippled interstate commerce for weeks. I was a seasoned Transportation manager during the strike of 94. It involved the teamster drivers employed by some 20 plus common carries. LTL comprises the bulk of freight shipments domestically so the impact was huge. There was a mad scramble to consolidate shipments by carriers nationwide who were not experienced in consolidating small LTL shipments; typically 2-4 pallets. Equipment availability was severely impacted as was delivery schedules and rates. It was a bad time for shippers as they had to look toward truckload and expedited carriers to get their freight delivered. To make matters worse, the mid 90's began the JIT ( Just In Time )inventory system. Simply defined, It was a cost-saving measure to reduce inventory carrying costs started by the automotive industry. It was an effective business philosophy but relied heavily on tightly defined pickup and delivery windows. The significantly devastating downside of such a philosophy is definitely any type of work stoppage.

How Do Protect Your Business From A UPS Strike

It is not likely to happen but fortune smiles on those prepared. Asset availability is going to be the biggest issue. Given the timeframe of the potential threat, there is no time to go through the steps to get set up with additional providers. This is a time when an established 3PL can offer valuable alternatives quickly. In the event of a strike, contact Land Link Traffic Services to help your business get your product delivered. Visit us today www.Land-Link.com.

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Topics: Shipping News, Industry Trends, Technology

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: Shipping News, Industry Trends, Technology

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: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology