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Battered But Not Broken

Supply chain and logistics industries learn valuable lessons as a result of COVID-19
By Grant Cameron

The COVID-19 crisis struck the world like a perfect storm. The clouds gathered quickly and in a matter of months shook the traditionally- solid pillars of the global food supply chain, changing the industry forever.

Grocery stores were under pressure to keep the shelves stocked as people turned away from the food service sector and prepared their meals at home. In the early days of the pandemic, panic-buying by consumers emptied some supermarket shelves and retailers had to impose limits on certain purchases.

Closure of restaurants, bars and cafes added to the mix. And to complicate matters, the supply chain was threatened by temporary closures of meat-packing plants due to workers testing positive for the virus.

Transportation and food distribution networks had their own logistical problems. At the outset, with restaurants and rest stops closed, many long-haul truckers did not have adequate access to food or facilities.

While the full impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s food supply chain will be the subject of study for some time to come, the crisis did expose vulnerabilities and raise concerns about the resilience of the system.

“A crisis tends to expose the vulnerabilities of organizations and their supply chains,” explains Jim Kilpatrick, global supply chain and network operations leader at Deloitte Consulting in Toronto.

“Most organizations were not prepared for a crisis of this magnitude. While some organizations had developed general supply chain risk management strategies and business continuity plans, very few had a playbook to respond to the risks presented by COVID-19.”

Most companies discovered that their supply chains were not as resilient as they thought, says Kilpatrick.

“Very few companies had end-to-end supply chain visibility, from source to consumer, to anticipate supply chain disruptions and proactively manage them. Visibility to direct-only suppliers proved to be insufficient as many disruptions were caused by issues with their suppliers’ suppliers.”

Meanwhile, he notes, very few companies had the inventory buffers to absorb the significant swings in demand and supply availability seen during the crisis.

“This will lead many organizations to rethink their supply chain footprint, inventory strategies and technologies that can enable broader supply chain visibility — with more of a balanced view and understanding of the trade-offs between resiliency and efficiency.”

Kilpatrick, a professional engineer who has led several global supply chain transformation programs, says the biggest challenge in the early days was getting food products into markets that were effectively shut down.

The Canadian lobster industry, for example, had significant supply destined for China, where prices are generally at a premium, yet no way to get the product into that marketplace given the shutdowns, he says.

On the home front, Canadians began stockpiling consumer staples that led to logistical challenges to keep the retail shelves stocked.

“As the crisis grew in Canada, and consumers were asked to self-isolate, we saw a significant surge in e-commerce and home delivery. Most food companies and grocery retailers were not prepared for this massive surge in on-line volume and needed to quickly respond. Most organizations were able to respond sufficiently with manual and labour-intensive processes, which met the demand but at a relatively high cost.”

Transportation and logistics companies were also under pressure to keep products moving while the rest of the world shut down.

“It’s been a challenge for sure,” says Don Fleming, vice-president of operations at 3PL Links, which specializes in moving freight such as food and beverages from international destinations or across Canada. “The first two months were very tough. It was mostly the unknown and not knowing which clients were able to continue.”

There were also questions around how businesses were going to operate and how paperwork would be processed. In the beginning, companies were introducing various technologies so drivers could avoid exchanging paperwork and remain safe while moving loads, but the platforms were often very different.

With so many shippers and receivers in the mix, 3PL decided to share best practices and platforms and send out information to its network.

“Our sales reps and I were calling around asking what the procedures were looking like and what they were noticing and what was working well, and then we started sharing that with our client base and they started sharing it with theirs — their shippers and receivers and suppliers, so that worked really well.

“The handheld partners quickly went to no-touch so it took a couple of weeks before receivers and clients adapted,” says Fleming. “We were sending out communications saying, ‘Listen, here’s what your solution is and here’s what it has to look like for quite some time and please let us know if you have any issues.’”

Fleming figures a third of 3PL’s clients are now using no-touch systems. “They’re okay with having a handheld and not getting a piece of paper and sending an invoice with a screenshot. We were told things would never change but you have to.” The trucking industry, a key link in the supply chain for grocery stores and food suppliers, was particularly affected by the pandemic.

Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association which represents more than 320 companies, says drivers and dispatchers had a number of logistical hurdles to overcome, more so in the early days when rest areas were closed or limiting service and drivers couldn’t find sanitary supplies.

Provinces also had different rules, he says, and trucking companies had a lot of questions. Drivers often called to find out if they needed to isolate.

“It was fast and furious at first but we were quickly identified as essential workers which settled things down somewhat. Communication with government and our members was key.”

The association launched a #thankatrucker campaign across Canada aimed at helping restaurants, people and communities recognize the importance of trucking, and Picard says the response was amazing.

On the logistical side of things, paperwork was perhaps the biggest headache for truck drivers, notes Picard, but many carriers have now moved to electronic documents to avoid risk of contamination. Much of the paperwork at the borders has also been eliminated so drivers have less personal contact with officers.

Dave Earl, president and CEO of the British Columbia Trucking Association, says the closure of restaurants and washrooms made life difficult for truckers in the early days but the industry stepped up and by the middle of April the situation had stabilized.

The safety of drivers was and remains the principle challenge, he says. The association has been working with customers to reinforce the importance of protecting drivers.

“We are asking drivers to travel to areas where the virus is very prominent, to interact with customers, and deliver the goods we all rely on. Drivers not only have to be protected, they have to be confident they have the ability to work safely and not bring the virus home to their families.”

Earl says both the supply chain and logistics industries have learned valuable lesson from the COVID crisis.

“The economic web that we operate in is extremely complex and fragile. It’s not just about moving goods, it’s taking care of the people who do the work.”

5 Ways a Third Party Logistics (3PL) partner can help you unlock the potential of your supply chain

If you’re moving goods from point A to point B, you know all too well that supply chain costs account for a huge proportion of operational expenditures. Not surprisingly, they’re always under scrutiny. And for good reason. There are almost always ways to boost efficiency, streamline processes, and extract waste.

That’s where a Third Party Logistics (3PL) partner that integrates closely with your organization can be a game-changer. Case in point – 3PL Links focuses on building close personal relationships with its customers.

As a result, the company knows its client’s businesses like its own and understands the market conditions impacting them. With this insight, the right 3PL partner can recommend strategies for increasing agility, cutting costs, and improving efficiencies.

5 ways a 3PL partner can help you transform your supply chain:

1. Consolidating shipments & optimizing timelines
A good 3PL works with you to consolidate shipments, either within your organization or with another company with complementary shipments. Consolidating shipments, tuning timelines, and occasionally re-routing shipments can reduce moves – and dramatically reduce costs and improve delivery times.

2. Finding the perfect transport method for every shipment
One of the biggest mistakes some companies make is using one shipping method they’re comfortable or familiar with.

Whether it’s by vehicle, plane, train, or container ship, the transport mode that’s right for one shipment isn’t ideal for another. Each method has pros and cons. Air is the fastest long-range shipping option. It’s also more vulnerable to delays from adverse travel or weather conditions. It’s also usually the costliest option.

On the other hand, trains are less expensive. They’re the fastest method of ground transportation – but not as fast as air. And with either air and train, you still have to use trucks to get products to the final destination.

Likewise, there are pros and cons to vehicle and marine shipping solutions. An experienced 3PL can select the best solution for every shipment to help you save money and get your products to their destinations in the most efficient way.

3. Optimizing delivery routes to drive efficiency
When you work with a 3PL partner, you can tap into efficiencies that aren’t available otherwise because they have insight and expertise most companies don’t. That goes beyond choosing the best transportation mode. It includes optimizing routes and carriers especially if you move goods across borders.

For example, the most direct route isn’t always the most cost-effective or even right for your time frame. A 3PL routinely assesses and optimizes available routes and negotiates volume rates with select carriers. They have the visibility into the networks and constantly monitor every variable to customize the right solution for each unique shipment. Bottom line: If you’re flexible about transportation modes, routes and carriers, you can save a lot of money.

4. Harnessing technology to automate processes
When it comes to cutting costs, data and technology are your best allies. Many companies waste time and money on man-hours sending and tracking shipments

That’s where a 3PL can help. With access to state-of-the-art software, they can help you consolidate shipments and add transparency to your supply chain. They can automate supply chain operations, especially if you ship across borders or use multiple shipping modes – all with end-to-end visibility.

That might mean resolving issues in real time. Improving billing accuracy. Consolidating invoices from various modes with complete backup and accountability. With a 3PL partner, you can count on the accuracy and immediacy of the data, freeing you to focus man-hours where they really count.

5. Help you track and manage inventory in real time
Do you know exactly how much product you have this minute? Can you fill your next order in time – without keeping excess inventory on hand that increases your storage costs? Will you have to pay a premium to ship express?

You can’t make informed inventory decisions for your business if you don’t have access to up-to-the-minute, accurate data.

This is where a 3PL partner shines. A good partner can assess your inventory requirements and storage methods and identify opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Are you storing or reporting data manually? A 3PL partner offer the tools, processes, and programs you need – for instant, accurate inventory reporting and measurable time savings.

It all adds up to significant savings in time and money …

Just about every business can benefit from the best practices 3PL providers bring to the table, whatever your industry. They have the resources, knowledge, and experience you need to expand your reach. These 5 suggestions are just the start.

Looking for clarity or insight into where you can streamline your processes, consolidate supply chain steps or reduce operational and administrative costs? Consider a 3PL partner — like 3PL Links — with the experience and expertise to help you help you compete smarter and maximize your investment.

Covid-19 Announcement

To our Valued Customers,

3PL Links is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and wanted to take this opportunity to share with our customers the preparation and precautions that we are taking as a company.

• 3PL Links has the necessary equipment and IT infrastructure for our employees to telecommute and perform their duties as they would normally within the office. 3PL Links currently has employees that telecommute, in addition to more company-wide telecommuting that has been executed in the past as needed for weather conditions and other emergencies.

• 3PL Links has continued to take all sanitary and health precautions within the office per Health Canada recommendations.

• 3PL Links is currently suspending all non-essential travel, monitoring all future employee travel and taking appropriate precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our team members, customers, vendors and our community at large.

The health and safety of our team members has been and will continue to remain a top priority of 3PL Links. With that in mind and the precautionary measures put in place, 3PL Links is prepared to continue to execute our customers’ shipments to the highest standards possible and to offer surge capacity and capacity solutions through our intermodal, truckload and LTL capabilities. Please feel free to reach out to your 3PL representative for any further questions, concerns and to provide any needed assistance. We sincerely appreciate your continued business and support.

Sincerely,
Walter Grossi, President
and Your 3PL Links Team.

International Shipping Solutions

Many companies manufacture and source materials from outside their borders and overseas. Consequently, controlling costs remains a high priority for firms involved in global trade and international shipping. One critical factor that companies make a strategic decision to monitor more closely concerns logistic management.

Logistics covers all activities associated with the procurement transportation, cross-border shipping logistics services to and from Mexico, overseas freight shipping, transshipment and storage of goods.

Depending on the industry, supply chain logistics can comprise 5 to 50% of the product’s total landed cost.

Issues affecting logistics costs

Companies consistently encounter a variety of challenges that affect logistic costs. Issues may include high fuel prices and port delays, which increase transportation fees. Transportation costs rates high on the list for most enterprises because it makes up as much as 50% of all logistic costs.

Inventory carrying costs also has a significant impact, comprising more than 21% of total costs, according to Hofstra University. Companies incur the following expenses when holding goods in inventory:

  • Capital costs
  • Warehousing
  • Insurance
  • Taxation
  • Depreciation

In addition, management must take under consideration labor costs, which involve the physical handling of products— receiving and processing customer orders, labeling, packaging, and customer service.

Furthermore, complicated international trade laws and security concerns may also lengthen delivery times and increase warehousing expenses.

Three tips for reducing costs

There are multiple approaches firms can take to reduce their supply chain logistic costs.

Here are three of the most common solutions:

1 Accurate cost of overseas sourcing

Companies who have lived in surprise supply chains must work harder to ascertain the true cost of sourcing overseas. This includes accurately calculating freight, to the, brokerage, and inventory carrying costs. Management must also factor in other such as the cost of flying personnel overseas. Gaining an accurate understanding of the true total landed cost and total impact to the operations can help you make better comparisons when it comes to domestic procurement. Sourcing from the United States to a Canadian plant, distribution center, or customer may provide a more cost-effective alternative than sourcing from Asia.

2 Cost-efficient compliance processing

Transportation companies understand the value of implementing software solutions that automates the trade compliance process. These applications speed up the cycle time for many tasks routinely performed manually, such as document preparation and evaluation.  Software can also eliminate common mistakes associated with manual responsibilities, improve internal controls, and enhance overall operational efficiency. Companies that automate compliance processes experience fewer delays at border crossings, which is improve on-time delivery. Firms can also maintain adequate inventory levels, increase customer satisfaction, and avoid costly penalties and fines.

3 Minimize express shipping costs

When some companies encounter a supply-chain issue that causes a delay, many will panic and approve an express global cargo shipping solution—the highest cost service level—for the product order. Control expedited overseas freight shipping costs or other international shipping expense by calculating the amount of goods the customer requires immediately and ship only that amount at the express service level. Transport the balance of the goods using the standard service level and lower cost.

Third-party logistics management

Increasingly, smart businesses make the strategic decision to combat high logistics costs by partnering with global logistics experts. These firms function as consultant, brokers, and logistics managers. Companies that require Canada to Mexico transportation, international shipping, or other logistics services can take advantage of the buying power of third-party logistics firms. 3PL Links can provide warehousing and distribution services & solutions throughout Canada, US and Mexico.

They can not only reduce their international sea shipping costs and other global cargo shipping expenses, but benefit from a single point of contact for their logistics needs.

3PL Links can take care of your cross-border shipping requirements to and from Mexico. Our Logistics division can cover all activities that are related to the procurement of transportation from Canada to Mexico or the other way around.  We can navigate the complexities of the various free trade agreements and time consuming paperwork and administrative processes that involve shipping freight to or from Mexico. Whether you’re shipping a full truckload, or  require LTL shipping, we can make sure that your freight is delivered to its destination safely and securely.

4 Ways Effective 3PL Can Help Pharma Comply With Health Canada Regulations

When it comes to logistics in the pharmaceutical industry, the two biggest factors are security and traceability. Drug manufacturers have to deal with the risk of counterfeiting, contamination and shortages during distribution, which may compromise the quality of the products.

How Working With 3PLs Can Make Compliance Easier For Drug Manufacturers In Canada

As such, it is important that manufacturers in Canada work with a logistics service provider that upholds the same standards for regulatory compliance as them. To become a reliable and effective partner in the healthcare supply chain, 3PL has been employing a number of strategies that help pharma comply with Health Canada regulations.

Here are some reasons to work with third party logistics (3PL) providers:

  1. Best-in-class technology for products that require special handling – refrigeration

    Third party logistics providers have different shipping specialties. Those that focus on medications naturally have the scale to invest in cutting edge, specialised equipment to ensure that your medical products are compliantly handled from the loading to unloading.

    Wholesalers looking to handle the shipping by themselves would have to invest in validated coolers and similar materials that increase the cost of shipment. 3PL providers, on the other hand, have dedicated, refrigerated trucks that ensure consistency in the handling of the cooled products without incurring extra costs beyond normal cooling operations.

    Furthermore, multiple customers can take advantage of the refrigerated truck technology in a single trip to enjoy further savings through economies of scale.

  2. Commitment to continual technology and infrastructure investments

    Smaller manufacturers typically find that outsourcing their 3PL needs is much easier and cost effective than setting up the necessary infrastructure, facilities, and processes; hiring staff to run the operations; and managing relationships with customers. However, mid-sized and larger manufacturers that have the resources to handle the different aspects of the supply chain may prefer to handle logistics in-house. Such a move is actually logical if they have the scale that increases ROI.

    But these manufacturers may still find that outsourcing to 3PL is not such a bad idea if they look beyond recouping their initial investment. For instance, as the manufacturer introduces new products, they will be required to also increase manpower, improve capacity and boost the capabilities of the resources, which may involve investing in refrigeration and other expensive special handling procedures.

    The continual investment process will also include adjusting infrastructure and technology as need be to comply with the constantly evolving support pedigree, track-and-trace, and government product integrity requirements.

    3PLs that specialise in health products are committed to the continual investments needed to remain compliant with the evolving Health Canada regulations, including licensing requirements and regulations.

    Generally, 3PLs handling medical products have the necessary plans, resources, and processes in place to ensure that they can adhere to the constantly evolving product serialisation and pedigree regulations. This includes having quality IT infrastructure to not only ensure compliance with guidelines on electronics records, but also to quickly and efficiently provide the relevant bodies with information that validates the vendor’s chain of custody and proper product handling throughout the supply chain.

  3. Appropriate regulatory expertise

    When looking to commercialise a product, poor navigation of the regulatory arena can hinder its success. Fortunately, 3PLs in the health sector are familiar with regulatory issues, and are adequately equipped with industry know-how and expertise to evade the particularly troublesome ones.

    It is important to work with a 3PL provider who has a proven cGMP expertise; solid and long-term relationships with the regulatory agencies; and the appropriate equipment and systems to continually validate and report that your product has been compliantly handled through the entire chain of custody.

    When you work with a third party logistics provider, compared to working alone, you get instant access to their resources, relationships and expertise in healthcare logistics, which you can leverage to protect yourself from having to handle all the intimidating particulars of product-specific licensing necessities.

  4. Compliant product disposal/destruction and other headaches

    As mentioned in other points above, good 3PL providers in the health industry are familiar with just about every possible scenario you may encounter in the supply chain.

    The providers will be available to guide you during overwhelming times, such as product recalls or peak ordering periods. They can quickly scale up the workforce to safely and efficiently handle new tasks, and even take care of otherwise daunting tasks such ensuring compliant product destruction or disposal.

Final note

Many countries seem to be taking the multi-client distribution facility approach, where pharmaceutical companies consolidate their distribution. Besides the convenience and cost savings that this model offers, it also suggests that the industry is putting more trust in the ability of third party logistics providers to handle inventory distribution, regulatory compliance and other aspects of the supply chain.

At a time when drug manufacturers are looking for ways to access new markets while remaining nimble, cost efficient and also compliant to the changing industry guidelines, it seems like the most rational solution is to create partnerships with highly knowledgeable and connected 3PLs, and leverage the already established networks.

Why cost effective and dependable delivery is essential to the food industry

The perils of food and dairy logistics are rather obvious for those in the industry: Mess up any one factor and a truckload of perishables may easily become a huge pile of waste. Depending on the size of your business, any challenges arising in the delivery of produce between you and your suppliers may mean huge losses, customer dissatisfaction and problems with customer retention and brand loyalty.

Delivery In The Food industry - Essentials

Choosing the right third party logistics company can help you avoid common pitfalls, while keeping your operations compliant with the necessary government regulations and cutting your production costs. Here is how dependable and cost effective delivery can help your business:

  1. Reduced risk of spoilage, contamination, and recalls

    For temperature-sensitive items, a variation in temperature by just a few degrees could mean a trip to the landfill instead of your business. Fish begins to rot; milk turns sour; lettuce freezes; and candy melts. In some cases, the products may become contaminated with no outward signs, leading to a product recall.

    A dependable 3PL provider knows the right technology is needed to ensure that your products remain in the ideal environment throughout the supply chain. This means working with regional temperature controlled distribution centres – and close monitoring at the warehouse, dock, and during transport to ensure the products maintain optimal quality from start to finish. If the temperature slips below or above the optimum range, the system alerts the experts for the problem to be corrected.

  2. Increase your margins

    Marketing food products is considered a low-margin business. In order to maximise your profits, you should minimise production costs. To make your operation lean and efficient, you need to get rid of sub-optimised delivery routes, unproductive employees, obsolete refrigeration systems that draw excess power and other measures.

    To optimise the supply chain,you need a 3PL provider who is capable of providing smooth, efficient warehouse and transportation efforts at the minimal cost. This can be achieved through:

    • Multi-vendor consolidation: Where multiple businesses handing the same produce combine freight to reduce cost of retail delivery
    • Integrated storage and delivery: Where the logistics provider combines warehousing services with their own delivery fleet to save time and cost of coordinating with external carriers
    • Intermodal service: Where the provider offers multiple freight options for optimal efficiency – sea, rail and road, for example.
  3. Better management of product shelf-life

    The nature of food products is such that they have an expiry date, and every business seeks to maximise the shelf life of each food item. But there are many different ways to achieve this including expiration date, code date, best used by date, LIFO, FIFO, FEFO, etc. If you get it wrong, you will be wasting space in the warehouse with products that your customers won’t be interested in.

    Instead, you can work with a 3PL provider that uses a sophisticated warehouse management system that supports a wide array of picking methodologies. This system should be capable of producing images of the remaining shelf life of products in your warehouse, sends alerts for products that are within a predetermined number of days of its expiration date, or list products in order of the oldest code dates so they can be removed first.

    Ideally, your products should be moving fast enough, but this is a good precautionary measure.

Basically, working with a 3PL provider who is experienced with food-grade products will help eliminate delays, wastages, and losses that could arise due to simple mistakes in the supply chain.

How The Winter Holidays Will Impact Warehouses And The Supply Chain

While many retailers are better versed in meeting in-store customer needs, experts argue that they have many challenges when it comes to handling digital operations, more specifically with regards to warehousing. This trend is particularly troublesome during the winter holidays season when the company’s distribution centre is handling 2 to 5 times the typical workload.

Tips To Improve Inventory Management For The Peak Holiday Season

Experts say that most businesses make more than 20 per cent of their annual revenue during this season – but when service failures occur during peak shipping days, it poses a major supply-chain risk that not only translates to the delayed release of customer shipments, but also poor inventory management resulting in stockouts.

According to a recent survey, 75 per cent of in store consumers experienced stock-outs last year, and 38 per cent claiming that it was a common occurrence. The incidence of stock-outs for online shoppers was slightly less at 63 per cent, but resulted in the harshest consequences. While 58 per cent of brick-and-mortar store incidents translated to lost sales with customers skipping the purchase or taking their business elsewhere, 65 per cent of online shopping stock-out incidents resulted in the shopper pressing the delete button and completely abandoning the sale

Effect on the retailer

Stock-outs are evidently damaging to current sales, but the impact can be more even more devastating to your brand and future business activities. Forcing your customers to seek a product – that you have run off – from a competitor diminishes their loyalty.

In fact, the survey mentioned above found that 38 per cent of consumers blame the retailer for stock-outs, irrespective of the cause. Retailers, in turn, express their frustration to the manufacturers and suppliers, creating more pressure and strained relationships for performance.

The problem is further compounded by omni-channel consumers who buy online and return the item in-store, which means that retailers should have products both at the shop and in the warehouse, in the right quantities and at the right time.

How retailers can address supply chain challenges

To address these challenges, retailers are trying creative distribution strategies that not only improve forecasts within conventional channel silos, but also facilitate inventory movement across multiple shopping channels.

For instance, some retailers have opted to fill their online orders directly from their store, while others are filling their in-store and ecommerce replenishment orders from a single distribution centre.

Depending on the distance between your store and warehouse, retailers may need the services of a third party logistics provider. When your inventory is moving fast during the holidays, these tips will help ensure good relations with your suppliers, logistics provider, and customers:

  1. Good forecasting accuracy

    One way to ensure that orders are always available in the right quantities and at the right time is by making realistic projections for order volumes and calls by hour, day, week or month in advance to give the provider enough time to plan accordingly.

    You will need historical data from last year, as well as any changes in the current year that are likely to impact your sales or orders, to be able to make accurate estimates of the increase in number of calls or sales for the season. This information will allow your third party logistics vendor to prepare appropriately for different days or peak hours during the holiday season.

  2. Keeping the 3PL Vendor up to date on purchase orders

    As a retailer, you should be in constant communication with your suppliers and third party logistics vendors, informing them of any changes on purchase orders in a timely manner.

    For instance, informing them of advance shipping notices (ASNs) as soon as they arise, or any other changes in regard to the expected receipt items, quantities, or dates on purchase orders, will give the 3PL provider enough time to prepare adequately and deliver the item within your service level standard, as your customers have become accustomed.

  3. Allowing room for flexibility with your carrier

    While you may be able to accurately project sales at different times of the year using data from previous years, you cannot always plan adequately for impulse purchases during the end of year festivities.

    More often than not, your logistics service provider will be required to make last-minute, just-in-time deliveries to your brick-and-mortar store to avoid stock-outs of a certain product. To accommodate such unforeseen incidents, you should develop a network with your 3PL vendor that allows for flexibility and can adequately handle last-minute orders.

    For such unplanned deliveries, it’s important to establish clear guidelines up front, especially regarding extra charges for fulfilment of the delivery.

Final note

With these tips, you can improve your inventory management for the peak holiday season, effectively increasing your sales and customer loyalty. However, to optimise your omnichannel strategy year round, it is critical to invest in software that can help you to better manage data and workflow in the supply chain by providing specific data for customer preference, inventory visibility, and logistics optimisation.

Will The Sharing Economy Change The Face Of The 3PL Industry?

The remarkable growth of some of the biggest players in the sharing economy, most notably Uber and Airbnb – which have a collective worth of over $50 billion – is expected to disrupt different industries to some extent, in this case the taxi and hospitality industry, respectively.

Impact Of The Sharing Economy On The Supply Chain

Unlike traditional businesses that take years to create networks of both intellectual and physical assets on a national or international level, business that use the sharing economy strategy are built on consumer resources.

The fact that businesses like Uber don’t own any of the assets means that they don’t have to allocate their returns to asset acquisition, maintenance, or disposal, which makes scaling so much easier. Just to emphasise this point, Uber is currently available in 55 plus countries, and has recently ventured into business delivery fulfilment and food delivery – all in 7 years.

There are some new ventures that are trying to apply the sharing economy concept in the warehousing and logistics landscape. Flexe, for instance, is using the Airbnb model of renting extra space for short-term storage/warehousing purposes.

Disruption or Destruction

For product shipping, established businesses in the industry like FedEx and UPS build large and extensive networks to enjoy economies of scale and growth. This is a $1.25 trillion industry, which means that the logistics sector contributes 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP. This industry is large enough to accommodate new entrants in the space – whether they are multi-million or even billion dollar businesses, but the big players will still feel an impact.

One company applying the economy sharing model in logistics is Flexport. This company operates as a freight forwarder, navigating the assortment of shipping options that a client faces when shipping merchandise across borders.

In the conventional setting, the trader would have to find reliable shippers, sign multiple contracts, and go through a pile of paper documents. Flexport’s model seeks to simplify this process, so that shipping merchandise oversea is as simple as hiring an Uber and paying just what you owe.

The company offers a platform where different carriers display their services, allowing traders to manipulate different variables from the comfort of their home or office until they find a suitable arrangement. Shipping businesses also benefit from listing on the platform. They can respond faster to demand by easily changing rates and timelines to fill out lighter schedules, allowing them to convert excess resources into revenue.

Flexport has reported remarkable growth in its first two years, with the founder claiming 25 per cent revenue growth per month, as more customers learn and appreciate the transparency and simplicity offered by the platform.

At the local level, where customers don’t have to rely on third party logistics services when they need to haul something, Uber, Flexport, or Flexe can have a dramatic impact on the way business is done. Third party logistics businesses will have no option but to get listed on these services and compete for customers.

On the other hand, the appeal of third party logistics is in efficiency, reputation, and credibility, which will take time to be established with a Flexport business model. Timing is a critical factor in logistics especially at the local and regional level, where third party logistics excels.

The most likely scenario is startups like Flexport becoming platforms for conventional shippers and third party logistics companies to plan routes and combine trips for optimisation, essentially replacing the current logistics software systems.

How To Improve Workflow At A Construction Site

When it comes to the construction industry, the workflow factor is important because it will impact your bottom line for better or for worse.

Improve Construction Site Workflow

You need the sort of tools and strategies that will help you to optimize construction site workflow so that you can focus on what you do best without having to be concerned with issues relating to materials logistics. The right third-party solution will ensure that your materials are delivered on schedule, are stored in a secure location off-site until you need them and are safely delivered to your site when you require them. Whether you’re working on a hotel project south of the border or a recreational center across town, workflow matters.

So read on to learn more about how to improve construction site workflow. You might be surprised at how much benefit you can get by simply making a few prudent changes to how you oversee your project.

Understand project risk/complexity issue

Keeping on top of workflow at a construction site can become a monumental task if you have to manage one project team, let alone multiple project teams – with each team accountable to stakeholders. While it is technically feasible for different teams to do their own workflow management at the construction site, such a strategy is prone to breakdown. The reason for this is that any mistakes made when different teams do their own workflow management on the same site could result in serious mistakes that lead to anything from cost overruns to increased work to compensate for lost time. So, if there are multiple teams or even if there’s only one one, it’s important that they all work together to ensure that everyone adheres to an agreed upon workflow process. When all parties understand the project scope and complexity, they can complete the project on time and on budget.

Single platform

One way to keep everyone at the construction site on the same page is to use a single platform that can automate management of the project workflow. Using a centralized platform will ensure that all parties know exactly what they are responsible for and will help to keep all parties on track.

Garbage and debris removal and disposal

Nothing clutters a construction site and impedes the work process as much as debris and garbage that is left on the site. In order to avoid this scenario, companies can either hire a third party to take care of the removal and disposal of garbage and debris or do it themselves in a responsible manner. This will definitely improve workflow at a construction site.

Storage / warehousing solution

Garbage and debris can clutter a site – and so can equipment and materials needed for the project. You can improve workflow at your construction site by reaching out to a third party service provider that offers storage and warehousing solutions. With such options, you’ll be able to to keep your equipment and materials in a safe location when they’re not needed. For instance, you might not require certain equipment or materials during the early stages of construction projects, so having somewhere to keep them securely stored until they’re needed will provide precious space and facilitate the orderly accomplishment of the project.

On-site delivery

When it comes to getting projects done on time, you want equipment and materials delivered to the construction site on time. You can improve workflow at your construction site, therefore, by ensuring that products you need are available as needed. This will save you precious time and allow you to dedicate your energy to completing the construction project on time. Signing up with the right third party will ensure that there are no delays attributable to late deliveries.

Mobile

With the widespread use of mobile devices such as smartphone and tablets, you can benefit by incorporating this sort of technology into your plans. For instance, project managers could use their mobile devices to find information relating to, among other things, contract information, project milestones and project updates. Essentially, any member of your team could use mobile devices logged into the cloud to more efficiently carry out their respective duties.

You can definitely improve workflow at construction sites with the above tips. Anything that impedes workflow can delay projects, which in turn can lead to unexpected additional expenses that you might have to shoulder. There are many things that can go wrong if you don’t plan accordingly – that’s why third-party logistics is crucial to construction site workflow. You’ll be able to focus on your core competencies while the third party helps to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. So put the aforementioned recommendations into practice, and you’ll be able to improve workflow and complete your construction projects.

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