VPSI Case Study - Kuebix

How One Company Emphasizes Customer Service While Expanding Distribution

For 60 years, Veterinary and Poultry Supply, Inc. (VPSI) has been a family owned and operated business headquartered in Goshen, IN with branches throughout the Midwest. The company distributes a wide variety of animal health and nutritional products for poultry, cattle, swine, horses, sheep, goats, deer and even small animals. As their business began to expand regionally, VPSI turned to Kuebix TMS to help manage new carrier relationships and an increased number of orders.

Thad Stuteville, Sales Support & Customer Service at VPSI, has been with the company for 16 years and has seen the company’s growth first-hand with the addition of a Premium Orange Label Calf Milk Replacer. During the implementation of Kuebix TMS, Stuteville was pleased with the support and usability of the platform.

“When we first started with Kuebix I just loved it, it’s so simple to use. If I have any questions I can call and get an answer right away! We have more than one user on the system. When they were on-boarded, I honestly expected to hear a lot back. But they were able to jump right in!” – Thad Stuteville, Sales Support and Customer Service

In the past, VPSI relied on their sales team to hand-deliver the majority of their products to customers. VPSI places a heavy emphasis on customer service and knows the importance of retaining those relationships. Even as the business grows past the sales team’s ability to hand-deliver all orders, VPSI is strengthening its supply chain with the addition of competitive parcel rates from a variety of carriers who value customer experience as much as they do. Kuebix is making it easier for the company to manage these new relationships, free up time for the sales team and ensure customer satisfaction.

“The easiest part of changing our delivery model was working with Kuebix! It was more than I expected from a system. It’s simple.”

Melinda Burton, Branch Manager at VPSI Mentone, is a daily user of Kuebix TMS. As an increased number of orders continue to come in across the Midwest and even further afield, Burton has been able to leverage Kuebix to connect carriers, compare rates and book shipments. It’s meant scaling the business all while completely revolutionizing their logistics processes.
Now, VPSI can manage orders and make deliveries to customers all over. VPSI is growing its new calf milk replacer and continues to offer farm, stable, feed store and other livestock businesses the high level of support they deserve.

Read the full case study here: https://www.kuebix.com/resources/vpsi-strengthens-supply-chain-with-the-help-of-kuebix-tms

Preparing for the Holidays Supply Chain - Kuebix

It’s Almost October – Time to Get Ready for the Holidays!

Companies are getting ready for the holiday season – hiring additional workers, renting warehouse space, adding more drivers or contracting with additional carriers, and putting stock on shelves.

We are lucky this year as there is an extra shopping day this holiday season because Thanksgiving comes earlier in the month compared to last year. Most people will shop about 42 days in advance of the holiday, while others wait for deals around Black Friday. BestBlackFriday.com predicts that with the biggest shopping day being earlier than usual, deals will be launched earlier than ever. Regardless of when customers will shop, NetElixir predicts that online revenue will grow by 15 percent over last year. Based on this analysis, Amazon is expected to account for 40 percent of holiday sales.  Deloitte says holiday sales could reach $1.1 trillion.

Both UPS and FedEx are hiring extra workers to keep up with the added demand for order fulfillment in the age of e-commerce. In fact, UPS will use over 100,000 seasonal staffers to support its anticipated package volume increase from November through next January. FedEx will hire close to 55,000 workers for the holiday season.

Retailers need to focus on their omnichannel transportation strategies to overcome any issues from tariffs or the rise in demand. One strategy is to make sure you have inventory in the right locations at the right time so you can avoid out-of-stocks. Not having products in stock means loss of revenues. That is why it is important to have visibility of inventory from end-to-end so that you can fill orders from stores or distribution centers. Companies can utilize inventory positioning to ensure SKUs are in the right store or distribution center at the right time to fulfill customer orders when they want them.

Another strategy to overcome seasonal issues is to provide customers with the best experience and best service. Customers that order from Amazon know where their orders are at all times. Using technology, retailers can provide this same experience by tracking shipments in real-time and alerting customers if orders will be delayed. Good customer service leads to strong customer satisfaction and sets you apart from the competition.

Being proactive to give order forecasts to carriers will entice them to provide scarce capacity to your business. If carriers can better plan their asset utilization because they know when shippers will need trucks, everybody wins. Cooperation and collaboration among trading partners yield better access to capacity which can improve on-time delivery percentages.

Getting orders to their final destination will take a scalable, flexible transportation platform and large carrier network. Kuebix TMS can help retailers get their supply chains ready for the holiday season.

Blockchain - Kuebix

Blockchain – What Does it Mean for Supply Chains?

Blockchain is all the buzz in many industry communications today. It promises to significantly improve business processes, especially for global businesses, which work across different countries, entities and supply chain partners. Each blockchain enabled supply chain can span hundreds of locations with hundreds of product variables with hundreds of operations involved, making them quite complex.

As complexity grows, visibility and transparency suffer. With manufacturing globalized, multiple suppliers located in various countries and a wide range of transportation modes, transparency goes out the window and it gets harder to know the true cost to serve customers, let alone where and how a product is made.

This is where blockchain will transform the supply chain.

Blockchain will unify digital data by recording each transaction. Blockchain is a distributed, digital ledger that can be used for agreements, contracts, tracking, payment, trade, etc. In an article in Forbes, blockchain is further explained: “Since every transaction is recorded on a block and across multiple copies of the ledger that are distributed over many nodes (computers), it is highly transparent. It’s also highly secure since every block links to the one before it and after it. There is not one central authority over the blockchain, and it’s extremely efficient and scalable. Ultimately, blockchain can increase the efficiency and transparency of supply chains and positively impact everything from warehousing to delivery to payment.”

Let’s look at the three things blockchain brings to the supply chain.

Distributed Ledger – A virtual, distributed and permanent record of hundreds of business transactions between supply chain partners. Because blockchain is decentralized, data is resilient and more uniform, helping to standardize the way companies access and store important information and documents.

Smart Contracts – Blockchain supports the automated execution of terms, conditions and business rules, which make up the smart contract, and can automatically enforce the T&Cs between trading partners. With this capability, the ability to substitute a product for another could not occur because non-compliant transactions are not allowed.

Linking Physical Items – With blockchain, data is entered once and represented the same way across all transactions, such as a product description which will remain the same throughout the whole supply chain. Early adopters are supporting the use of GS1 Standards in blockchain to achieve serialization and ensure the systems interoperability that leads to unified commerce.

Another standard, Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS), has the ability to transmit granular product details and identify individual physical events as products move through the supply chain. In conjunction with blockchain, EPCIS gives transparency to a customer, letting them know exactly where their product was made and what it is made of.

Many businesses are looking into blockchain for their supply chains, but others feel the technology is in its infancy, so they are waiting to see what will happen. It has promise – with the ability to track secure transactions throughout the supply chain, creating a permanent history of a product, from manufacturing to end user.

The ROI Trifecta - Kuebix TMS

The ROI Trifecta and Your TMS

Transportation Management Systems (TMS), like many types of software, have varying degrees of success when implemented. A TMS should greatly improve any shipper’s transportation operation and reduce the cost of freight, but it’s important to evaluate how its speed of implementation, user experience, and adaptability are going to impact ROI before committing.

In order to choose the right transportation management system, it is crucial that companies focus on usability and total cost of ownership. Too often, enterprise software implementations take far too long and the technology is too difficult to use in production due to non-intuitive user interfaces. A TMS should focus its efforts on fast implementations and usability to drive rapid ROI for customers.

According to Gartner’s recently released Critical Capabilities for Transportation Management Systems, companies should “Select flexible public cloud platforms that speed up implementation, improve ROI and provide wider transportation networks.” But understanding where to start can be a huge hurdle for many companies new to the TMS space. The best place to start is with the ROI Trifecta; user experience, speed of implementation, and adaptability.

User Experience

The experience of the user is of utmost importance. It doesn’t matter whether the TMS has every “bell and whistle” available. If the interface is impossible to navigate the software will likely “sit on the shelf.” Great user experience makes it easier to train teams, successfully leverage money-saving features and avoid wasting-time misusing the system. ROI cannot be generated successfully if users reject the new system because it’s more complicated than their old processes.

Speed of Implementation

Implementation processes should be fast and smooth, meaning that it’s easy to connect carrier rates, integrate with ERP systems like SAP, NetSuite, etc. and transfer financial data back to their financial system. TMS platforms need to work directly out-of-the-box with the ability to configure the application to the customer’s needs. If the implementation takes months, or even years, that’s valuable time and money going down the drain even as the company’s requirements change, rendering the solution unusable. Customers need to look carefully at the track record of their supplier’s ability to implement quickly.

Adaptability

Even if initial integration has been completed smoothly, it’s important that tools for ongoing configuration are available to provide users the adaptability they need. “Gartner research finds that particularly more complex TMS buyers place more emphasis on technical architecture and especially the adaptability of the TMSs they are considering.” Users should be able to easily add carriers and tariffs, create their own customized reports and bring on new users, etc. Without adaptability, ROI is hampered whenever the company’s needs change.

Before taking the plunge and committing to a TMS, companies should evaluate all the options available to them and determine which platforms have the best ROI Trifecta. A recipe of user experience, speed of implementation and adaptability results in a TMS which can provide optimal ROI.

Read Gartner’s recently released Critical Capabilities for Transportation Management Systems (Need Gartner subscription to read full document) to see how high Kuebix ranks for usability, implementation and adaptability.

AI ML Predictive Analytics

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Predictive Analytics – What’s Best for My Business?

Transportation management processes create data, and lots of it, from transactions among carriers and shippers. It’s what you do with this data that can revolutionize your business. Some businesses use data from TMSs to improve efficiencies in transport processes and performance of transport partners.

Many people are confused about the differences between predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Predictive analytics uses data to help you understand possible future events by analyzing the past. It uses a variety of statistical techniques, including machine learning and predictive modeling, along with current and historical statistics to predict future outcomes, which may be customer behaviors or market changes.

TMSs can provide predictive analytics to give you the immediate intelligence you need to make better logistics decisions every day. Whether it’s holding your carriers accountable through carrier scorecards, managing your yards and docks more efficiently, or simply ensuring that you are paying the lowest rates for the best service, predictive analytics gives you the information you need to make decisions that will be real game-changers for your business.

In a recent article in Forbes, Machine Learning (ML) is described as making it “possible to discover patterns in supply chain data by relying on algorithms that quickly pinpoint the most influential factors to a supply networks’ success, while constantly learning in the process.”

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a system designed to act with intelligence; Machine Learning is a system designed to use information and learn from it, creating a decision or insight. Machine Learning uses historical data to improve existing processes, define new routes, uncover bottlenecks, discover shipping errors and more. It is adaptive so that the data utilized increases efficiencies while providing value to shippers and carriers for things like pricing models.

Bill Cassidy in the JOC says to “think of AI as Machine Learning on steroids. It functions through an ongoing series of algorithms and internet-connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), to make data-based decisions before shippers overlook something.” AI can help to better manage freight bills by automating audit and payment processes to uncover billing and compliance issues, for which it can then trigger chargebacks to carriers.

With AI, you can proactively identify potential disruptions, such as changes in weather patterns that can lead to flooding. Proactively mitigating risk ensures your shipments can be made on time to the right place for the right price.

Predictive analytics, AI and ML may overlap in certain areas, but these technologies can help us to uncover hidden capacity or make important cost-to-serve decisions by viewing carrier rates side-by-side. The bottom line is that technology is making shipping operations smarter for companies of all sizes.

Hurricane Florence - Kuebix

Hurricane Florence has Supply Chains Bracing for Impact

Hurricane Florence is poised to be one of the most disastrous hurricanes to ever hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. It’s currently scheduled to make landfall in South Carolina on Thursday, September 13th. The National Weather Service upgraded Florence to a Category 4 storm, the second most powerful category of hurricane, on Monday at noon EST.

States north of Florida haven’t been hit by a Category 4 storm since the devastating Hurricane Fran in 1996. Hurricane Sandy, one of the most disastrous hurricanes to hit the east coast, was only a Category 3 when it made impact. Residents are now bracing for a storm that is likely to wipe out power, cause major flooding, and tear-apart even well-built buildings.

Supply chains are expecting major disruption due to Hurricane Florence

Residents of east coast states are stocking up and buckling down ahead of Hurricane Florence. Local governments are handing out sand to use in defense of flooding, residents are flocking to grocery stores to stockpile bottled water and non-perishable foods, and emergency supplies such as backup generators and plywood are flying off of hardware store shelves. Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have already declared a state of emergency due to Hurricane Florence.

Ahead of any major weather event, retailers experience huge surges in sales as everyone stockpiles the goods they may need to weather the storm. This causes unforeseen demand spikes and wide-spread out-of-stocks, meaning that retailers need to scramble to keep up with unexpected sales. Many retailers rely on the spot market to find additional capacity as they rush to fill both store orders and online orders. Long before a storm makes landfall, supply chains are already bracing for their impact.

Once Hurricane Florence hits the east coast, all supply chain activity in the hardest hit areas is likely to come to a complete halt. Roads will be flooded or impassible due to debris, airports will be shut down, and transportation workers will be evacuating with their families. Many trucks are likely to get stranded before arriving at their destinations and communication will be critical.

What can companies do to prepare their supply chains?

Preparedness is the key for supply chains to successfully weather a major hurricane like Florence. Companies transporting goods should leverage technology to retain visibility to shipments, find the best carriers and manage an increased number of orders due to a spike in demand. Shippers should closely monitor federal and state announcements and stop sending to zip codes that have been closed to deliveries. Once the storm passes, companies with strong supply chains can aid in emergency distribution and can help with rebuilding efforts.

The Traits Defining Successful Final Mile Shipping

The Traits Defining Successful Final Mile Shipping

The growth of online shopping has resulted in an increased demand for final mile shipping. Retailers who can deliver their products to customers as promised and with excellent customer experiences are gaining market share and creating loyal customers. However, final mile shipping isn’t simply about moving orders from the distribution center or mixing center to the customer’s doorstep. It’s about providing an experience which will keep customers coming back for more. If it isn’t enough to simply get the product to the customer, what traits make for the most successful final mile shipping operations?

Speed of delivery – In the past, ordering a product from a magazine or online and receiving it within 4 – 6 weeks was the norm. Modern consumers no longer accept such a long delivery period. Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping guarantee sets a high bar for retailers who must now compete with this standard. 2-day shipping has become an industry expectation, though some shoppers will settle for 3 – 5 day shipping. Others will even pay a premium for same-day or next-day delivery of their orders.

Successful final mile shipping operations are putting an emphasis on promising and delivering goods fast. There are a number of ways to speed up the supply chain, and most of them require implementing technology. Many retailers are leveraging TMSs to optimize their delivery routes, consolidate orders and streamline operations at the dock. Others are sourcing warehousing space within city centers to reduce the total number of miles traveled. Still others are letting customers pick-up their online orders at designated locations such as grocery stores or lockers in public places.

Visibility – Visibility to orders has taken on a whole new meaning in the recent years. Merely confirming that an order has been received and supplying a delivery timeframe no longer meets customer expectations. Instead, shoppers expect to be able to track their goods through every step of the supply chain. This means being able to identify where the item was warehoused, what shipping service was used for transport, and when carrier changes occur en route. And all of these steps in the process must be trackable for the customer in real-time.

Until recently, providing Amazon-like visibility has been a challenge for smaller retailers hoping to give their customers access to order statuses in real-time. An API Integration to a TMS platform helps retailers track shipments down to the SKU level. With that information automatically received from the TMS, retailers can provide their customers alerts and updates regarding their orders. This tracking ability helps retailers answer questions like ‘when can I expect my order,’ ‘where is my order now’ and ‘what is causing a delay in shipment.’

Flexibility – Current consumers expect that their shopping experience will fit their needs. There are a myriad of ways consumers like to shop, whether that be online, from an app, in a store, or otherwise. Customers also expect to be able to receive their purchases when they want and how they want. This means offering them flexible delivery options such as in-store pick-up, delivery to their doorstep or at a designated drop off location. It also means letting them choose the cost and service type that best fits their budget and needs.

Retailers can provide their customers the ability to flexibly customize their delivery preferences when ordering. This can be achieved with the help of a TMS which connects selected carriers “behind the scenes” to provide accurate rate quotes directly to the customer based on their order specification. This means that when a customer is ordering from a retailer’s website, they can see pricing and speed of delivery for different service types. To win customers and gain market share, retailers must provide consumers with delivery options to meet their individual needs.

Perfecting final mile delivery is a hot topic for retailers hoping to capitalize on e-commerce’s growing importance in consumer shopping. Without offering fast, flexible and trackable shipping options, retailers may find that their customers go elsewhere. With the help of technology like Kuebix TMS, retailers can gain detailed tracking information on shipments, compare carrier rates and modes and optimize their supply chains for speed of delivery.

Parcel and E-commerce Blog

Growth in Parcel Shipments Puts Pressure on E-Commerce Companies

E-commerce is steadily becoming a key player in the world of consumer shopping. This means that parcel shipment volumes are increasing to keep up with online order numbers. Instead of heading to a big-box store or the local mall, consumers are shopping online for everything from toothbrushes to TVs. Physical shopping carts are becoming digital and free shipping and returns are becoming standard.

Offering free shipping and returns is changing the game for many e-commerce shippers. Without additional fees to order online, customer experience is improved. Additionally, e-commerce shoppers often purchase a single item and have it delivered to their doorstep. This means more parcel shipments are transported as consumers turn to e-commerce platforms to do their everyday shopping.

According to Pitney Bowes, a global technology company providing commerce solutions that power billions of transactions, “Parcel volume globally grew 17 percent last year to 74.4 billion parcels, up from 63.6 billion in 2016.” This staggering growth is putting pressure on companies to keep up with an increased number of parcel shipments. By the end of 2018, it’s forecasted that there will be a 20% increase seen in the total number of parcels shipped globally.

What does this mean for companies shipping parcel?

E-Commerce companies have dedicated a lot of resources to provide the best customer experience possible through digital transformation efforts. Often, however, final mile logistics are left out of these digital strategies. To overlook how shipping impacts the customer’s experience is a mistake. If a product is delivered late, to the wrong location, or with an inferior service, the customer’s experience with a brand can be tarnished.

Integrating shipping into the customer experience strategy is essential for shippers to set themselves up for success delivering an increased number of parcels. It can be complex for businesses of any size to implement a parcel shipment strategy. Smaller businesses have limited time to review shipping options and don’t have the flexibility to overspend on parcel costs. Larger businesses are presented with the challenge of managing a complex array of parcel shipments leaving multiple facilities with various shipping costs. They are under pressure to lower costs all while delivering superior customer service.

How can e-commerce companies keep up?

E-commerce companies need to use technology to streamline their shipping processes to be able to handle increased parcel shipments. Here are three ways that leveraging technology can improve parcel shipping processes.

•   Compare rates – By leveraging a transportation management system, shippers can compare rates side-by-side. Service types can be evaluated as well. A customer who doesn’t need a product tomorrow might be a good candidate for a less expensive, though slower, parcel delivery option. By staying on top of carriers’ different service options, shippers with increased parcel volume can keep costs down. With API integrations, a shippers e-commerce website can be directly integrated with the TMS, allowing customers to choose the delivery option which best fits their needs.

•   Get Tracking Information – In the digital age, customers expect that they will have full visibility to their orders. Delivery tracking and delivery confirmation are a must. Technology can provide the level of visibility now expected by customers consumers used to tracking from e-commerce giants like Amazon. Customers can then better manage their inbound freight, and internal stakeholders always have the information they need at their fingertips to address customer concerns.

•   Auto-Populate Order Information – More parcels to ship means more paperwork, right? Wrong. With the help of an order integration between an ERP system and a TMS, order information automatically populates and is ready for booking. This means fewer manual errors, less time spent rekeying order line items and happier customers who receive their products as ordered. Integrating purchase orders directly from an ERP system facilitates the rapid creation of shipments and ensures 100% order accuracy.

Online shopping is quickly becoming a norm for consumers, but it means that retailers need to incorporate smart parcel shipment strategies into their user experience plans. With the help of technology, keeping up with an increased parcel shipment volume is not only attainable but can positively impact the bottom line of e-commerce companies!

Manufacturing Tariffs Kuebix

What Happens Now? Tariffs Impacting Manufacturing

The US government introduced tariffs as a way to help the US compete more equally on a global basis. The idea is to increase the cost of imported goods so that American manufacturers can compete more effectively. The problem is that most US manufacturers rely on imported parts to support their own production. In addition to the US imposing tariffs on foreign goods, countries have reciprocated and imposed tariffs on US exports.

Rising trade tensions between the United States and the rest of the world could cost the global economy $430B the International Monetary Fund has warned. Whether these tariffs escalate into a global trade war or not, they are affecting an increasing number of industries over the rest of the year and into next. Manufacturers need to look into dynamic supply chain strategies to survive in the changing environment.

The steel and aluminum tariffs have been felt across industries that are dependent on these products, including automotive, construction, machinery, appliances and beverages. The automotive industry comprises over 25% of the total US steel consumption and 40% of the aluminum. Some companies are responding by moving operations offshore or to the Southeastern US, where the cost of living and labor is much less compared to the rest of the country.

Now the US government is talking about imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of goods from China. Last week over 400 companies spoke at the United States Trade Representative hearing, saying that the tariffs would hurt their business, primarily because, “The US is no longer equipped to produce many materials that they depend on for their products. The rise of global supply chains has shifted the bulk of manufacturing and production outside the United States, leaving companies no choice but to rely on foreign materials, including those from China.”

If US manufacturers increase prices, foreign competitors gain a leg up. So, US producers have a choice – raise prices and lose market share or keep pricing consistent, but lose profitability. What can these companies do?

The answer is to look at other areas of the supply chain for cost savings, such as transportation processes. Using a transportation management system that allows transportation bids to be reviewed side-by-side helps shippers pick the best carrier for their needs. With this knowledge, shippers can work on establishing great relationships with their carriers. By communicating early via technology, and leveraging tracking capabilities, shippers can give carriers the information they need to better plan routes. These measures can lead to becoming a preferred shipper, which opens up access to scare capacity.

Preferred shippers can negotiate better rates, which will keep process down to offset the price increase of tariffed goods. By leveraging data collected across the supply chain to monitor the performance of partners, shippers can optimize pricing and mitigate risk.

Hours of Service Changes - Kuebix

New Hours of Service Regulations

Truck drivers, trade associations and shippers have petitioned to make changes to the Hours of Service (HoS) rules. Their goal is to create more flexibility for drivers when faced with traffic congestion, bad weather and dock delays without affecting their available drive time. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has put a spotlight on the HoS rules, especially when a delay caused by weather or traffic eats into the amount of time a driver is recorded driving. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said members believe current HoS rules force them to be on the road when they are tired, during busy travel times, and in adverse weather or road conditions.

On August 23, FMCSA announced an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that will consider changes to four areas of the current hours of service regulations:

     •     Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on duty to 14 hours on duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers

     •     Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions

     •     Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving

     •     Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment

The petitioners are also requesting that truck drivers subject to HoS regulations be allowed a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours, as long as the driver is off-duty – a rest break that would effectively stop their continuous 14-hour work clock.

FMCSA is petitioning comments to the suggested changes and will submit a final review to the White House within the next 9 months. Changes could be issued to the current rules within the next 21 months.

According to the Journal of Commerce, these changes will affect everyone in the industry involved in the movement of goods saying, “If the number of hours that drivers can spend on the road is shortened, either by cutting back the maximum driving time from 11 to 10 hours, which is one suggestion, or by tightening up the rules so that they have to take a certain amount of break time, that they have to finish their daily duties within 13 hours, which is the new proposal, or lengthening the restart period they have to go through before going to work again. What that means at the end of the day is that they are driving fewer miles.”

The JOC suggests that this will force logistics operators to re-evaluate their carrier networks and look at ways to make routes shorter or put more truckload freight onto intermodal rail. Transportation executives must use robust technology to help them find capacity, especially since long-haul drivers will be harder to find if these new rules go into effect.

Transportation management systems with a global logistics network connecting thousands of carriers and shippers can help find capacity. Kuebix TMS connects parcel, LTL, full truckload, rail, ocean and air carriers, making it easy to compare rates side-by-side and secure the best carrier with the right service for the job. In an age of tight capacity, fewer drivers and more regulations, companies that use a TMS will enhance the customer experience and gain efficiencies and profitability.

Mini Robotic Warehouse Grocery

The Tiny Grocery Movement

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Tiny House Movement, where people of all ages are downsizing the space they live in to simplify their existence and to live with less. So in a recent Fast Company article called, “What if your grocery orders were prepared in a tiny robot warehouse?“, I couldn’t help but visualize tiny robots with tiny shopping carts wheeling up and down tiny aisles in a tiny grocery store.

While that is not what this article is about, it did touch on the theme of “downsizing” of grocery store fulfillment centers. Consumers could place grocery orders at their local supermarket, which would house a miniature robotic warehouse in which the food orders would be picked and packed and ready in as little as thirty minutes. These mini-fulfillment centers are heavily automated to quickly assemble orders for either delivery or customer pickup.

Robots with shuttle bins of merchandise will be sent to human order packers tasked with assembling the items in the bins to fill customer orders. Since the robots are created to handle smaller items, humans can handle bulky items by hand. This concept is more efficient than the typical process, where order pickers fill baskets of items for an order from the same grocery shelves as in-store shoppers. The average order is assembled in less than 15 minutes typically.

Mini-fulfillment centers are easier to build than a traditional full-scale warehouse. Shelves and the robots can be installed in less than 3 months, while big distribution centers can take years to complete. Costs for equipment is much lower, too, while material handling equipment for a larger DC can be in the tens of millions.

Since the mini-fulfillment centers are often located within or next to grocery stores, the final mile is taken care of. Consumers can simply pick up their orders at the store. If customers opt-in for home delivery, delivery areas are typically within a few miles. This new “tiny movement” is very cost effective for grocers, helping them to lower cost to serve, streamline operations and improve the customer experience.

Is this the future of the grocery store?

The grocery store is changing. With thin margins, high fixed costs, changing consumer tastes and growing competition from big box retailers, the grocery industry has to innovate in order to be more profitable. Shopping experiences have changed as more shoppers buy groceries online with various delivery options, ranging from pick-up in store, lock boxes or other designations, or choosing same day delivery to home.

Grocery stores are using innovative transportation management processes to lower costs and streamline logistics for inbound and outbound deliveries. Since many food products have short expiration dates, getting these products to the consumer long before expiration helps to grow profits.

Check out the Kuebix Inbound Management white paper to better understand how to manage costs within inbound shipping.

Kuebix Automotive Industry Trends

5 Ways Technology is Changing the Automotive Industry

Technology is changing the automotive industry faster than anyone could have predicted. The driver shortage, capacity crisis, price of fuel, and many other factors are putting pressure on companies to innovate and begin commercializing futuristic technologies. Some of these technological trends are already disrupting the automotive industry. Here are a five ways technology is already beginning to shape this industry.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The concept of the IoT has been around for several years now, and many of us have become accustomed to the idea. The IoT involves “everything being connected to everything.” Imagine your smartwatch knowing when you’ve risen from bed and immediately telling your coffee pot to start brewing. This concept is shaping our everyday lives. These are three uses of the IoT for the automotive industry:

•      Usage Based Insurance (UBI)

•      Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

•      In-Vehicle Health Monitoring

These three technologies involve connecting cars and trucks to the cloud to gather big data about their state-of-being and actions. Devices within vehicles can collect information on driving times, the health of the vehicle and safety of operations. Usage Based Insurance, also known as automotive telematics insurance, monitor vehicle use to more accurately assess risk. Factors that can be monitored include miles driven, driver behavior, and vehicle type.

Similarly, electronic logging devices are now in widespread use following the 2017 ELD Mandate enforcing the federal Hours-of-Service (HoS) regulation. With onboard computers, truckers’ time driven is monitored to ensure they are complying with the law.

Automotive biometric identification systems are being developed to help companies and individuals monitor the health of drivers. Expected to be commercialized by 2025, technologies to monitor heart rates, fatigue, and distracted driving are being developed. These technologies could go a long way to preventing accidents on the road, as well as improve insurance premiums.

Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X)

Technology to connect vehicles with each other, the cloud, and any other obstacle on the road is being developed. Connecting Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) is the passing of information back and forth between the vehicle and an entity on the road. This could be a traffic light, crosswalk, or detour sign. Other forms of this technology include connecting Vehicle-to-Cloud (V2C), Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) and Vehicle-to-Grid) among others. These technologies are expected to improve safety on the road as well as driving efficiency.

One branch of this technology that is expected to hit the road long before V2X is perfected is a technology called Driver Assisted Truck Platooning (DATP). This technology is designed to relieve the strain of the driver shortage by enabling one driver to “drive” several vehicles in parade formation at once. The driver would simply operate a single truck at the head of the “platoon” and one or more similar trucks would connect with the lead truck to follow along behind autonomously. This has the potential to reduce carbon emissions as well as save costs as driver wages continue to rise.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles, known colloquially as self-driving cars, are expected to be seen on the roads in 2020, with many of the largest names in the automotive industry competing to be the first to commercialize the technology. There’s no doubt that the autonomous vehicle revolution will transform our lives. The benefits seem endless, increased safety, lower fuel emissions and more productive time for people being transported on the vehicle.

Autonomous cars and trucks will be made possible by Artificial Intelligence (AI), an area of computer science working to create machines which can react and interact with humans and other unknown factors. Self-driving cars can’t only react to speed limits and pre-determined conditions on the road, they will need to account for things like pedestrians, fallen trees, and weather conditions. Right now, most tests of self-driving cars are being conducted in areas without harsh weather or pedestrians.

By 2040, it’s estimated that the autonomous vehicle industry will be a $3.6 trillion opportunity. Producers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of cars and trucks will face steep competition amongst themselves to carve out a place in the new industry. For those companies that succeed in getting a foothold in the autonomous vehicle market, this trend is likely to be a gold mine.

Electrification

Though it may come as a surprise, the first successful electric vehicle in the United States hit the road in 1890 in Des Moines, Iowa. Of course, the vehicle didn’t hold as much potential as fossil fuel vehicles and wasn’t widely adopted by the public. Not until the late 1990’s did electric vehicles make a come-back with the mass-production of the Toyota Prius.

Two decades later, electric vehicles are becoming more and more common. Some are hybrid models, capable of using traditional fuel sources and electricity while some are solely reliant on electricity. These plug-in electric vehicles reduce carbon emissions and can save the operator money. With an increasingly environmentally conscious customer base, electric cars are likely to continue to grow in popularity.

Wind and solar farms are making electric vehicles more sustainable, and once purchased, more economical. It will be up to manufacturers to make sure that their products’ initial cost doesn’t diminish expected ROI. Creating lasting vehicles that can deliver cost savings through reduced fuel consumption will make companies and individuals more likely to adopt the new technology.

Optimization

The final trend poised to revolutionize the automotive industry is Optimization. By leveraging big data collected from tracking devices and analyzed by intelligent software, companies are able to view and automatically consolidate their routes like never before. Optimizing routes and consolidating goods being transported will lead to reduced miles driven and more money saved. It will also have a direct impact on the capacity crisis as assets are more fully utilized.

Using technology, a taxi company with a fleet of passenger cars can plan the most direct routes between patrons and anticipate peak hours ahead of time. Fleet owners can combine shipments being delivered to the same location in order to remove an unnecessary truck from the road. And a shipper in Pennsylvania can find capacity on the best route up to Maine.

With the help of tracking devices and big data, companies will be able to analyze and make strategic changes to their vehicles in order to get the most out of their assets. This level of optimization will change the automotive industry as vehicles and shipments become “smarter” with the help of technology.

Learn more about Kuebix‘s Order and Route Optimizer here.

Customer Service Kuebix Transportation

Importance of Customer Service in Transportation Operations

Good customer service is a must in any business that wants to not only survive but thrive within its industry. Good customer service means customer satisfaction. Ever been to a restaurant and the server never came to bring you a menu? Or have you waited in line for a bank teller only to have them close their window when it was your turn? These experiences left a bad taste in my mouth and it was all because the business lacked good customer service. Business should make customer service a company priority.

By providing good customer service in the logistics operation, such as the ability to track shipments and alert customers if their orders will be delayed, you will increase customer satisfaction. Tracking deliveries in real-time and communicating any issues which arise, alerts customers to problems and gives them time to make adjustments, such as finding an alternative source. Superior customer satisfaction and service sets your business apart from the competition and ensures customer loyalty.

Good customer service equates to a greater customer experience while they do business with your company. Poor customer service will drive people away from your brand. If a customer uses social media to inform others of your poor customer service, it can damage your brand’s reputation, which is hard to recover. However, an apology goes a long way. If something goes wrong, such as an order arrives late or a product is broken, quickly acknowledging the error and replacing the defective merchandise along with sending a sincere apology will deter any complaints and shows that your company cares for their customers. Showing you care through good customer service will do your business and your brand a world of good.

Showing respect, sending apologies, acknowledging errors and quickly fixing problems is what makes for good customer service. Improving efficiencies, such as in return processes and inbound shipments, will speed operations and deliveries to help you satisfy time-sensitive customers. Focuses externally on customers, putting their relationship first, helps to ensure customers will feel valued and want to continue working with your company.

In logistics operations, shippers establish KPIs to measure the performance of their carriers, such as the percentage of missed and on-time deliveries, loading and unloading times, truck turnaround times, etc. Using the performance data and actionable reports from a TMS, you can collaborate with carriers to identify how to address any issues that have arisen, especially issues that affect customer service. Focusing on improving your operations using KPI measurements and reporting keeps transport costs down, while increasing efficiencies, leading to greater customer service.

Since consumers today have heightened expectations about customer service, wanting their orders the same day and to know exactly when the order will arrive, businesses have to step up their game when it comes to improving customer service. Technology that gives visibility up and down the supply chain is the answer.

Community Load Match Kuebix

Don’t Let Limited Truckload Capacity Threaten Growth

Truckload capacity is at an all-time premium. This means that companies are struggling to retain the current rates they have, let alone add capacity as their businesses grow in the strong economic environment. The “shoe is on the other foot,” as they say, and truck owners are now in control of setting prices and taking their business elsewhere as they see fit. This leaves shippers in a difficult situation, they must either slow their pace of growth or source additional truckload rates.

According to the WSJ “More companies are pointing to rising freight costs as a drag on earnings and growth, as trucking companies raise rates.” In order to continue growing, companies need to source additional truckload rates to ensure they have capacity and are getting the best prices. The solution is technology. With the help of technology like Kuebix Community Load Match, spot quotes for truckload shipments can be easily found and booked.

Community Load Match is making it easier than ever for shippers to access a vast ecosystem of dedicated truckload carriers. Kuebix customers can now leverage a diverse community of brokers to supplement existing capacity with reliable alternatives. As capacity continues to shrink, it becomes more and more difficult to find and book spot rates for truckload shipments. The labor costs associated with calling brokers and carriers to book freight are high as well. Instead of calling and searching online for capacity, Kuebix is meeting the needs of its users by providing a single source to access a huge network of trucks that can provide attractive rates and a new, valuable source for truckload capacity. This saves time, reduces costs and gets freight shipped in an industry where truckload costs are rising, and assets are scarce.

The barrier to entry for Community Load Match is non-existent. The service is free to use for all Kuebix users, including Kuebix Free Shippers. Any user with truckload freight to ship simply enters the specifics of their shipment in Kuebix and posts it to Community Load Match. Within minutes, users begin receiving truckload rates and then can book and manage their shipments directly within the system. Shippers retain control of their operations by choosing the best provider for every truckload shipment. By increasing the available options, shippers are able to ensure all truckload moves are covered by the optimal carrier available.

Truckload capacity is growing more and more scarce, but finding the trucks which are available just got easier. Now, any size company with truckload freight to ship can find more capacity and get better pricing by posting their shipment to Kuebix Community Load Match.