Veterans Day 2019 - Supply Chain

The Supply Chain Wouldn’t be the Same Without Veterans

Veterans Day is an opportunity for everyone in the United States to take a moment to stand together in respect for all those who have served our country. Each year, Veterans Day (formerly called Armistice Day) falls on November 11th, the day that World War I ended. It’s a chance for all of us to reflect on the courage and sacrifices our veterans have made, and a time to honor the contributions veterans make every day in the private sector even after they leave the military.

Top Industries Veterans Join After the Military

Some of the top industries that veterans join after their service include the information technology sector, manufacturing, and the transportation & warehousing industry according to Military.com’s list of the top ten career paths for veterans. In particular, veterans play a crucial role in keeping the supply chain running smoothly.

According to TruckerNews, “There are almost 22 million veterans of the U.S. armed services in this country, according to the Census Bureau. About 9 million of them are part of this country’s workforce and about 11 percent of them work in the trucking and affiliated industries.” This means that nearly 1 million supply chain professionals in the U.S.A. are veterans!

Why Veterans Make Ideal Supply Chain Professionals

One of the reasons that so many veterans join the supply chain industry after leaving the armed forces is their proven experience. Being a logistics professional takes a level of dedication and hard work that can be difficult to be gained places other than the military. Additionally, veterans often have hands-on experience transporting, tracking and delivering goods; experience which can translate seamlessly into virtually any logistics position.

Many carriers, 3PLs, suppliers and warehouses make a point of hiring veterans because of these characteristics and because veterans are known to learn quickly, work effectively under pressure and think innovatively when solving problems. There are many programs that actively recruit military veterans to join their corps and many others which can help get veterans the training they need when transitioning from the military to the private sector.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that you are likely to run into veterans in all types of supply chain career paths. Whether they become the truckers that keep our economies moving and our communities functioning, they’re handling logistics and tracking in a team setting in an office, or working in warehousing and demand planning, veterans are in an invaluable part of the supply chain industry.

Thank You for Your Service

Veterans Day is a day to remember the sacrifice and bravery of our country’s veterans and a time to acknowledge the important roles veterans play even after they leave the military. To all those who have served our country, and all who continue to serve, Happy Veterans Day!

3 Times Social Media Upended the Food & Beverage Supply Chain

3 Times Social Media Upended the Food & Beverage Supply Chain

Social media has changed every industry and the supply chain hasn’t escaped unscathed. In fact, social media has been behind some of the biggest, and most well-publicized, disruptions in the supply chain over recent years. It’s a question of supply and demand. In the past, forecasters were able to rely on historical data to approximate how much of a certain product would be needed. Now, viral videos, tweets, and even memes can throw off those calculations severely by influencing customer expectations.

This phenomenon is particularly apparent for food and beverage supply chains that deal with hundreds of thousands of sales each week of products with short shelf lives. Huge upticks in sales on a particular product can disrupt production and test the agility of procurement and logistics teams to keep up. Below are three examples of times social media upended the food & beverage supply chain.

Starbucks Gets An Unexpected Endorsement

Early in 2019, Starbucks’ Cloud Macchiato got an endorsement on Twitter by Ariana Grande, a wildly popular singer, songwriter and actress. Grande tweeted about how much she loved the new iced drink and her fans, self-proclaimed Arianators, rushed to their local Starbucks locations to purchase their own.

Senior Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer at Starbucks, Kelly Bengston, recalled how the company hadn’t counted on the huge popularity of the drink brought about by Grande’s social media followers and fans. Speaking in regards to the increase in demand, Benston said, “It creates an amazing opportunity to test how agile your teams are… How do you get to business? How can you move it from store to store?”

The challenge for Starbucks lay in judging how much product was needed to satisfy fans while the Tweet was trending on social media while not overbuying to the point where there was wasted product. It’s a delicate balancing act that forecasting cannot fully take into account.

Rick & Morty Joke Presents McDonald’s With an Opportunity

Disney’s Mulan was released more than 20 years ago. To promote the release of the movie, which takes place in Han dynasty China, McDonald’s added Szechuan Sauce as a condiment option for their Chicken McNuggets. The sauce was a limited release and had been largely forgotten until 2017 when social media would resurrect it and disrupt McDonald’s supply chain.

After an episode of Adult Swim’s popular show Rick and Morty referenced the long-forgotten dipping sauce, the joke was turned into a meme that went viral across the internet. To capitalize on the social media presence, McDonald’s decided to bring the sauce back for a one-day promotion in limited quantities at certain locations. Fans purportedly drove across state lines and even from Canada to get their own Szechuan sauce experience.

Unfortunately, the popularity of the promotion vastly outweighed the amount of Szechuan sauce packets distributed to McDonald’s locations and thousands of fans missed out on the opportunity to participate in the “pop-culture phenomenon.” Furious fans took once again to social media to expound upon their disappointment and urge McDonald’s to bring back the sauce in a larger release.

Rising to the challenge, McDonald’s announced that it would ship some 20 million Szechuan sauce packets to stores in late February 2018. This curbed the social media debacle and ended with McDonald’s being able to satisfy their customers and earn back loyalty. Even though the Szechuan sauce joke in Rick and Morty was just a throw-away joke, it had real-world supply chain implications when it hit social media.

Twitter Feud Sparks a Run on Chicken Sandwiches

More recently, a Twitter feud between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A sparked a social media controversy about which retailer sold the better chicken sandwich. The controversy began in August 2019 when Popeyes introduced a new chicken sandwich item onto its menu. The sandwich was an instant success, even being ranked by Business Insider as the No. 1 fried-chicken sandwich. This prompted Chick-fil-A to tweet “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the <3 for the original.” Popeyes quote-tweeted it directly, adding “…y’all good?” and igniting a flurry of tweets by chicken sandwich fans nationwide.

Due to the huge social media attention it was receiving, Popeyes sold out of its new menu item in just two weeks after it was introduced. Supplying enough buns for all the chicken sandwiches the company was selling was a main issue. In a creative supply chain move, Popeyes launched a campaign called “Bring Your Own Bun” so that more sandwiches could be sold. The program encouraged guests to order the three-piece chicken tenders off the menu then construct the sandwich themselves.

Popeyes has announced that the sandwich would be returning to its 150 Popeyes locations in early November this year. In order to keep up with the production of the hugely popularized sandwich, Popeyes is adding an additional 400 employees. Up to two people per store will be solely designated to making the sought-after menu item going forward.

Can Supply Chains Stay Ahead of Social Media Trends?

Social media’s influence across the supply chain is a new frontier for most companies. It can be a challenge to react to unexpected endorsements (or negative comments) in a productive way. These stories about Starbucks, McDonalds and Popeyes can act as examples of how to handle demand shifts for other food and beverage supply chain companies. By seizing the opportunity to promote their brands, these companies were able to restructure their supply chains by increasing production, altering logistics, communicating with customers, and even adding staff. The key is to stay informed on social media trends and not be afraid to be flexible in the face of social media’s influence on customers.

Kuebix TMS Fall Seasonal Products

Seasonal Flavors Like Pumpkin Spice Add Complexity to Supply Chains Before the Holidays

October is almost here and with it comes seasonal favorites such as apple cider, candy corn and pumpkin spice. With every brand that tries to stay on this theme comes additional supply chain complexities. The chaos of keeping up with consumer demand is already heating up despite holiday season still being a month away!

Data from Grubhub shows the three most popular months for pumpkin and pumpkin-spice-flavored dishes are October, November and September, respectively. Other flavors such as apple cinnamon, pear and maple grow in popularity around this time as well. The five states with the highest number of pumpkin-related orders are California, Oregon, Washington, Ohio and Utah.

While the most common forms of pumpkin treats are baked goods like cakes and cookies, nonconventional businesses are getting in the spirit as well. Spam launched its own Pumpkin Spice Spam this year and sold out within seven hours. Last year Buffalo Wild Wings offered customers a limited-edition pumpkin ale sauce to accompany their infamous chicken wings.

The most challenging part of pre-holiday season is making sure that inventory is in the right place at the right time. Companies who struggle with this face out-of-stocks and missed chances for sales. It can be difficult to predict which seasonal products will resonate with consumers and drive business. It’s important to be able to move product efficiently and minimize operational delays.

Visibility throughout the supply chain also allows shippers to provide accurate and real-time information to retailers and customers alike. Retailers will have accurate information about when they will be restocking and consumers will know when they can expect to receive their product. This additional information allows retailers to provide better customer service and leaves pre-holiday shoppers more satisfied.

Implementing technology into supply chains creates a smoother shipping process for all involved and provides complete visibility throughout the supply chain. Transportation management systems (TMS) eliminate operational inefficiencies while providing benefits to all parties. Customers, suppliers and carriers can collaborate on a singular platform with real-time tracking information and side-by-side rate comparisons to save time and money. This is especially important as retailers and distributors gear up for the busy holiday season and start introducing seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice flavors to store shelves!

Bahamas - Hurricane Dorian Supply Chain Kuebix

Hurricane Dorian Threatens Supply Chains Needed for Recovery

When Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane this past Sunday, it left devastation in its wake. The storm brought with it high winds and extreme flood waters that would rip off roofs and ruin houses. Adding to the destructive nature of the storm was its slow movement up the coast. Instead of traveling quickly over several areas, Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas, traveling at a mere 1 mph at times. This left buildings and infrastructure along its path to be relentlessly pummeled for up to 12 hours at a time.

Now, Hurricane Dorian has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane. While this still poses a threat to the states of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, weather forecasters hope that the storm will blow itself out over the Atlantic without additional destruction in the United States. However, many islands and coastal communities have been evacuated and transportation and supply chains have ground to a halt as Americans prepare for a potential disaster to rival that seen in the Bahamas.

In addition to individuals preparing for the storm, many businesses are also feeling the direct effect of Dorian. Manufacturers and suppliers located in the southeast have been preparing for the impact for more than a week. This means rushed production, rushed delivery and around the clock monitoring of the storm’s trajectory. Many businesses are in a state of unknown paralysis as they’re unable to open business back up until the threat of Dorian is over.

Getting the labor force back to work will also be a challenge when Dorian finally passes later this week. Families are displaced across the country, many homes will be uninhabitable, and communities will still be picking up the pieces. Roads are likely to be dangerous or impassible as well, adding to concerns about shipping necessary products. Some aid organizations are choosing to deliver supplies like food and water by helicopter to areas already impacted since extensive debris litters roads and makes ground transportation impossible.

Hurricane Dorian’s Destruction

  •      •     Five confirmed deaths, though this number is anticipated to rise as rescue efforts persist
  •      •     Storm surges between 12 – 18 feet hit Grand Bahama Island, causing extensive flooding
  •      •     An estimated 13,000 homes have been completely destroyed or rendered uninhabitable (approximately 45% of all homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco)
  •      •     Winds reaching upwards of 185 mph
  •      •     60,000 – 62,000 people will need to be provided with food and water according to the Red Cross
  •      •     Airports are closed – Hurricane Dorian has caused more than 1,300 flights to be canceled within, as well as into and out of, the US.
  •      •     Several Florida ports have closed including Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Jaxport, Port of Tampa Bay and the Port of Palm Beach

The recovery efforts in the Bahamas will undoubtedly be extensive. Many nodes of the supply chain were broken or stalled by Dorian and need to be fixed before recovery efforts can truly move forward. These are a few of the ways that the government and private organizations are working to keep supplies flowing and the supply chain operational:

  •      •     The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expanded its Hours of Service regulations suspension to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  •      •     Police in Florida are escorting gas trucks in order to keep fuel moving to areas in need
  •      •     Highway authorities are reversing lanes to make room for evacuees
  •      •     More than 5,000 national guardsmen and 2,700 active-duty personnel have been deployed or positioned to respond in 24 hours or less

“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” said Prime Minister Hubert A. Minnis said at a news conference late on September 2, 2019. “Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders.”

While the world watches to see the final results of Hurricane Dorian’s destruction, supply chain and logistics professionals work tirelessly to get things back to normal. Food, safe water, medical supplies, fuel, and just about every other necessity rely on the supply chain.

Kuebix TMS Sustainability Meat Alternative Labor Day

What’s Your Burger Made of This Labor Day Weekend?

Beef burgers have been a summer barbecuing staple for generations of Americans. From Memorial Day to Labor Day families and friends will gather to share this favorite food in backyards across the country, not to mention year-long at many popular fast-food chains. The traditional beef burger is changing, however. Now, when you head to your neighborhood BBQ this weekend, you may find yourself with a wider selection of burger patty options than you expected.

Meat-free options, health-conscious choices, and other patty alternatives are currently trending with consumers. The $90B global meat market is facing disruption unlike anything it’s seen before, with new fake-meat products entering the market every day and consumers branching out from traditional beef products.

Here are a number of popular beef patty alternatives that you may find at your Labor Day barbeque this year.

Beef patty alternatives:

  • •     Fake-meat patties (Beyond Meat, the Impossible Burger, etc.)
  • •     Veggie burgers (MorningStar, Gardein, Dr. Praegers, etc.)
  • •     Mushroom burgers
  • •     Homemade black bean burgers

Why Are Beef Patty Alternatives So Popular?

According to FAIRR, a global network of investors addressing ESG issues in protein supply chains, “Alternative proteins, which include plant-based substitutes for animal-based foods, are expected to capture 10% of the meat market in 15 years and are now worth around $19.5 billion.” It’s easy to see that beef patty alternatives are popular, but the question still remains, why?

Sustainability

Consumers continue to place a heavy emphasis on sustainability, with 68% of US internet users citing product sustainability as an important factor when making a purchase. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that livestock supply chains account for 14.5% of all global anthropogenic GHG emissions, a number which includes the burning of fossil fuels worldwide. Many consumers are searching for a more sustainable way to continue to enjoy burgers without contributing as highly to global emissions.

Changing Diets

Changing diets are having an impact as well. You’ve probably heard about diet trends like Paleo, Low-Carb, Vegan, Vegetarian, Keto, and Low-FODMAP. These and many other diet types play a role in consumers desire for patty alternatives. Some diets focus on weight-loss, reduced-sodium content, eating more “whole” foods, eliminating allergies, improving digestion, and adhering to religious or personal ethics. Consumers are becoming used to having more options to choose from to fit their lifestyles and the burger industry is only the latest industry to see a great diversifying of products.

What Does This Mean for the Supply Chain?

Many large brands are jumping on the meat-alternative bandwagon, and this doesn’t just include burgers! Most recently, Burger King, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts announced that they would be adding fake-meat products to their menus. Now, you can get a vegetarian Whopper, vegan fried chicken or a plant-based sausage breakfast sandwich. Conagra’s Gardein meat-alternative unit saw its share of the meat alternative market rise to 11% in 2018 from 6% in 2013. Not wanting to be left out of this lucrative market, Nestle is launching its own plant-based Awesome Burger this fall.

The surge in popularity of meat alternatives is having both positive and negative effects on the supply chain. In the short term, manufacturers are facing issues with production. In May, the Impossible Burger’s creator, Impossible Foods, was forced to hire a third shift for its production line and begin building a second line to double supply. Many brands have signed new contracts with food service companies which they may not be able to fully supply at first.

Some grocery chains are also struggling with where to shelve fake-meat products. Some have shelved Impossible Burgers and other meat-like options in the meat aisle, much to the confusion of some. Others are creating or expanding their vegetarian and vegan sections to accommodate new products. These short term problems are expected to slacken as production lines boost output, procurement teams become accustomed to a new category, and retailers adjust their offerings.

In the long term, meat-alternatives promise to be easier for supply chains. This starts with a reduction in the need for livestock which require their own complex supply chains to function. In general, plant-based products have fewer touch-points compared with meat-based products, meaning logistics teams will have fewer points to manage. Patties will also be easier to transport and have higher levels of food safety. Once the initial hurdle of transforming supply chains to accommodate new SKUs and product types is complete, this promises to be a new, lucrative industry for food manufacturers to compete within.

So, if you get to the grill this weekend and see more options than just the standard American beef patty, pick the one that works best for you and remember to have a great Labor Day weekend!

Kuebix Subscription Box Supply Chain

Subscription Boxes are Changing Supply Chains

Subscription boxes are captivating the attention of consumers all over the globe. They satisfy almost every want and need imaginable (cheese, wine and beer, razors, clothes and makeup, etc.) in an innovative and entertaining way. Box subscribers typically pay a monthly fee for a box that is either ‘curated’ for them, meaning they have no control over what’s inside, or one that is based on their responses to a series of questions. 

While the process of signing up and receiving a package monthly is simple for consumers, the supply chain side of subscription boxes is a different story. Traditional e-commerce calls for shipping unique orders from individual customers off as they are received. With subscription boxes, companies have to send up to hundreds of thousands of nearly (if not completely) identical orders within a tight timeframe.

Entrepreneurs adopting this business model often fulfill orders in their homes until their subscriber count outgrows their available space. Options for completing orders of a larger size are dependent on the type of subscription. The popular choice is outsourcing fulfillment and inventory to a third-party logistics company (3PL). Businesses selling monthly subscriptions of alcoholic beverages have to deal with extensive industry subscriptions that can make outsourcing complicated. Conversely, businesses selling feminine hygiene products have no choice but to outsource in order to ensure that they are filling orders in an FDA-compliant factory

Subscription boxes “don’t change what consumers want, subscriptions get consumers to look at existing products in a new way,” explains Forbes. The element of surprise makes subscription boxes exciting, but they can easily lose subscribers if their products disappoint. Technology has been essential in helping the subscription box industry understand what their customers want from them through questionnaires and discussion forums. Boxes that are ‘curated’ are the safer approach because consumers know exactly what they are signing up for. Those that are at least partially customized face greater risk because they have to convince consumers that they want what’s inside.

Many subscription services offer free returns or even encourage subscribers to only “keep what they want.” Popular subscription boxes like Stich Fix, a fashion box, let buyers try the items on in the comfort of their own home before deciding what to buy and what to return. This means return labels need to be pre-printed and included with every box. Keeping track of which returns belong with which orders puts additional pressure on retailers.

Grocery and meal subscription boxes have also risen in popularity, with varieties to fit every schedule, diet and need. Companies offering subscription services on refrigerated products face the challenge of timing, as they need to keep products fresh in special cooler-like packaging. Knowing ahead of time the total number of orders is helpful for logistics professionals, but juggling thousands of individualized orders presents a new challenge for an industry that traditionally only shipped to grocery stores.

Beyond helping gage customer interest, technology plays a huge part in keeping the unique supply chain of subscription boxes organized. Adopting a transportation management systems (TMS) can help parcel shippers gain visibility over their supply chains. Detailed tracking information makes it easier for companies to ensure that their subscription boxes are being delivered on time. Not to mention keep subscribers informed as they eagerly await the arrival of their next subscription box!

Kuebix Green Environment TMS

Making Your Supply Chain Green Doesn’t Have to Cost You Green

The transportation industry has a notoriously significant impact on the environment. Conventional vehicles and trucks release large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide, all of which are harmful to the environment and those inhabiting it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, freight trucks contribute the second highest amount of pollutants into the atmosphere. Fortunately, there are changes that can be made throughout the supply chain to reduce the environmental footprint of the transportation industry as a whole.

One of the easiest changes to make in order to lessen a company’s impact is to implement a transportation management system (TMS). Beyond simplifying the process of supply chain management, a TMS gives companies an opportunity to transition into greener, more eco-friendly habits.

Optimize Your Truck Routes

Through the use of transportation management systems, logistics professionals are able to see all of their options for each load and make the most efficient decision possible. Shippers are able to transport as many loads as possible by optimally combining LTL shipments, all while driving the fewest number of miles. This significantly reduces the amount of fuel needed for everyday operations.

In terms of reducing a company’s environmental footprint, the mode of transportation selected is equally as important as the length of the route. Traditional methods make it difficult to simultaneously compare LTL, FTL, ground freight pricing and parcel rates for each individual order. Transportation management systems make this tedious task simple, allowing shippers to view rates for every possible mode of transportation on a single screen. This ensures that shippers are picking the least expensive and best suited mode possible, often saving space on trucks for other orders and reducing the number of trips necessary for delivery.

Reduce Supply Chain Waste

Traditional methods often leave logistics professionals battling a copious amount of forms and files. With technology, companies are able to replace paper with a single, cloud-based platform to hold all of their information. Transitioning to a TMS significantly reduces paper waste and saves money, simplifying processes so they can be done faster and leave less room for error.

Additionally, the transportation industry often falls victim to truckers having to idle at gates or while waiting for an open dock in a yard. All of these momentary breaks while trucks are still running unnecessarily burns fuel and emits harmful gasses into the environment. Robust transportation management systems support or have incorporated supply chain technology such as yard management systems (YMS), which give shippers better control over what happens once their truck reaches a yard. These systems combine features like gate check and dock scheduling to streamline yard operations. Through speeding up the process of loading and unloading, less fuel is burned idling, helping both the company and the environment.

The Perfect Match

When it comes to taking steps towards reducing the environmental footprint of your supply chain, integrating a TMS into your current business model is an obvious choice. Here at Kuebix TMS we offer a free version of our system, meaning that any size company can take advantage of transportation management technology. With a TMS, companies can speed up traditionally time-consuming manual processes, gain better visibility to their supply chain, optimize routes and loads more efficiently, and reduce inefficiencies in yards. All of these combine to lessen transportation’s harmful negative impact on the environment.

 

Final Mile Kuebix

The High Costs of Final-Mile Delivery

The final mile of delivery is said to be the most expensive portion of the equation. BI Intelligence equates the share of the total cost of shipping for the last mile at 53 percent of delivery costs overall.

It is costly because it has a larger human element than the other segments of transportation with drivers going door-to-door to drop off packages. In an urban environment, the distance between deliveries can be a couple of flights of stairs, but in a rural scenario, drivers may have to drive miles and miles before they get to their next drop-off point.

If the last-mile delivery experience is poor, such as a package arrives damaged or is left out in the rain, then this can have a negative impact on a company’s brand. Sometimes deliveries have to be made several times because the recipient was not at home and the delivery requires a signature; this hikes up the delivery costs even more.

In some instances, the final mile delivery is the first personal contact between the consumer and the product. If the delivery is poor, then the brand is affected. Was the driver late? Is the packaging damaged? Was the delivery person rude? With customer expectations so high, a lot is at stake if a delivery goes awry.

The last-mile is expensive, inefficient and risky (for a firm’s reputation) – yet people want that “Amazon Experience” where they can track their package via a mobile phone app, with alerts if the package will be delayed and notices when a package has arrived. This type of transparency requires visibility and real-time tracking of orders.

Says Business Insider, “The costs and inefficiencies of the last mile problem have only been further compounded by the continuous rise of e-commerce in US retail sales, which has dramatically increased the number of parcels delivered each day, as well as raised customer expectations to include not just fast, but also free, delivery.” In other words, the issues surrounding the last mile are not going away.

So, what can you do?

Companies can ensure that their organization has complete visibility to any delivery delays, exceptions or missed appointments with the use of technology. Whether a company is delivering to a residence or business; utilizing owner operators or asset-based fleets; or is delivering a unique one-time shipment with a rate from the spot market, a transportation management system can help.

women in supply chain kuebix

Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Look at Women in Supply Chain

In recent years, women have become increasingly integral in all things supply chain, an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated. A survey published by Gartner in 2018, however, shows “sustained strong representation of women in the senior-most ranks of supply chain organizations relative to other functions.” This study was conducted in partnership with an executive women’s networking group that focuses on advancing women’s supply chain leadership in the U.S. called AWESOME.

The War for Talent

In another study by Gartner, the Emerging Risks Survey, they identified the talent shortage to be one of the preeminent risks for companies worldwide heading into 2019. Right now, more than 50% of the professional workforce in highly developed markets are comprised of women, and this number is rising. Therefore, industries that do not put an emphasis on attracting, retaining, and advancing women could find themselves at even greater risk from the talent shortage. Research studies have additionally found that more diverse teams perform better and are more innovative.

The Driver Shortage

Initiatives to attract and retain women in supply chain management roles have begun to grow in popularity. Right now, 37% of today’s supply chain workforce are women and that number is expected to trend upward. However, the percentage of women drops significantly for truck drivers. According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 6.2 percent of truck drivers in America are women. With the driver shortage causing issues for just about every company that ships freight, it’s crucial that the industry attract more female drivers to keep up with the demand as Baby Boomers age out of the workforce.

As wages continue to rise on average for truck drivers, there is perhaps only one prominent reason women haven’t flocked to become truck drivers, and that’s the unearned social stigma of driving a truck. Unlike some industries where women may find themselves paid unfairly in comparison with male counterparts, women and men are paid the same as truckers. Many carriers set their drivers’ wages based on mileage or hours driven. This should be a draw for women in the workforce.

Companies with fleets and carriers alike can expand their recruitment efforts to attract more women to overcome this gap. According to the American Trucking Associations, some companies are now paying truckload drivers roughly $53,000 each year and some private fleet drivers make up to $86,000 annually. Many companies are also offering increasingly competitive benefit options including flexible schedules and 401k options.

Women in the Supply Chain

While there is still a ways to go before women are equally represented in the supply chain industry, there are many encouraging signs. Trade show floors are more diverse than ever and women are increasingly enrolling in supply chain educational programs. According to SCM World’s poll of global universities, “women accounted for 37% of students enrolled in university supply chain courses.” Over time, it’s expected that women will have a proportional amount of positions in the supply chain industry.

How Breaking Away from a 3PL Helped One Company Save 30% on their Freight Spend

Hyperline Cabling Systems, a company continuously striving to remain ahead of the curve, was dissatisfied with their third-party logistics provider (3PL) and recognized the need to regain control of their logistics operations by implementing a transportation management system (TMS).

In May of 2017, Hyperline made the switch to Kuebix TMS, making the Kuebix technology their logistics system of choice for their national distribution center in Buford, GA. Since implementation, Hyperline has been able to take control of their own supply chain and benefit from tremendous savings, increased flexibility and visibility, saving about 30% on their freight spend.

Hear what Otis Johnson, Warehouse Manager at Hyperline, has to say in the video below:

Supply Chain Change

The Supply Chain Industry’s Changing, Are You Keeping Up?

It’s no secret that the world is changing at an unprecedented pace, and supply chain professionals are scrambling to keep up. The trends affecting the global marketplace are having an impact on an industry that has relied for years on a very tangible regimen of pickups and drop-offs. As technology continues to shape the world, supply chain executives must keep pace with the trends and incorporate them into daily processes to keep their companies competitive in the new, dynamic environment.

Concepts supply chain executives can leverage:

Machine Learning (ML) & Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Technology isn’t only becoming more widespread, the technology itself is getting better. Have you ever thought about the ads you see on your social media? If not, consider whether the ads appear catered directly to you, odds are a machine has learned your likes and dislikes. Technology now has the ability to ‘learn’ from accumulated data to predict future actions, like your shopping habits. This is particularly important for supply chains which can leverage predictive learning and AI to estimate unloading times, carrier performance, traffic delays, and more.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – The web of everyday objects connected to the internet is becoming more and more commonplace. Wearables (think FitBit) are everywhere, Dash Buttons let us order more detergent when we run low and even our homes are “smart,” letting us control the thermostat from anywhere with the touch of a button. This concept is rapidly being adopted by supply chains. Prominent among them is the ELD Mandate, a federal mandate requiring all trucks to monitor driving time to be compliant with hours of service (HoS) laws. RFID tags are being used more frequently too, letting supply chain professionals digitally track individual containers, pallets or even products.

Blockchain – Bitcoin is the largest example of a company using blockchain, but this concept isn’t only reserved for transferring money over the internet. Broken down into its simplest form, blockchain is a digital ledger that can be used to exchange, track transactions, make payments and sign contracts. It’s highly transparent, extremely efficient and scalable in nature. This new method of exchange is reshaping globalized trade, making it easier to interact with companies and customers abroad. Supply chains can use blockchain to keep better track of their products, deal in foreign currencies without the need of an intermediary and store better data for record keeping.

What do all of these concepts have in common?

Each one of these concepts is rooted in connecting people and processes together more efficiently via technology. All three make it easier for companies to access their customers, forge useful relationships and scale their businesses. One result of employing these connectivity strategies is a Network Effect where “more usage of the product by any user increases the product’s value for other users” (Evergreen). Each layer of connectivity serves to support the other users, building customer loyalty and adding value to the organization.  For supply chain professionals, this can mean providing better customer service, having better on time delivery rates and streamlining tracking and tracing processes.

Supply chain offices deserve their own network to build upon, one where they can find the latest technology to improve their operations and keep up with market trends. The Kuebix Global Logistics Community is serving just that purpose. As a collaborative group of shippers and carriers from around the world, members work together to discover opportunities, foster cost reductions and build trusted-partner relationships.

Kuebix SupplierMAX

The Recipe for an Unbeatable Inbound Freight Management Strategy

Managing inbound freight operations is an ongoing challenge for businesses with large numbers of suppliers. Companies are impacted by the inefficiencies, low levels of visibility and lack of standardization associated with the management of their inbound freight. These problems are exacerbated when companies lack comprehensive strategies for obtaining the lowest possible shipping and unloading costs or a plan to improve the behavior of their suppliers. A complete strategy for inbound freight management needs to encompass the following three aspects; visibility, collaboration and accountability.

Visibility  Although companies control their own destinies on the outbound side of the equation, that level of control dwindles when it comes to inbound freight. In the end, the receiving company does not have full planning and visibility for shipment arrivals and dock reservations. To optimize their inbound, stakeholders can benefit from better visibility of information (e.g., knowing what carrier is being used, exact timing of deliveries, how much manpower is in the DC to load/unload shipments, etc.), real-time data sharing and the knowledge that everyone is working toward a common goal.

Collaboration  By using a comprehensive inbound freight plan based on a collaborative ecosystem of shippers, suppliers and carriers, companies can effectively establish a dynamic rating and unloading allowance program. As companies work in partnership with their suppliers to determine the most cost-effective method to handle each shipment – customer pick-up (CPU) or vendor controlled (VDS), the goal should be to reduce overall shipping costs. By giving suppliers choices, they’ll be able to pick the most effective service and billing procedure. Convert inbound shipments from VDS to CPU shipments only when it’s feasible, and then establish preferred rates with a select group of carriers to handle those inbound shipments at the lowest possible cost and best service type. Use a standard routing guide to establish a set of mandatory carriers that will be used for all VDS and CPU shipments. This will enable LTL pricing improvements, superior service levels and maximize opportunities for LTL consolidation.

Accountability  While companies can’t always control what their suppliers do or the efficiency of suppliers’ systems, they can implement Vendor Inbound Compliance Standards (VICS) to help improve supplier behavior. A comprehensive set of compliance procedures will establish rules and processes that must be followed by suppliers when making deliveries. These accountability levels should also extend to the company’s own supply chain/logistics department and procurement group, both of which play a role in ensuring that products get quickly from their origin to the distribution center (DC). The goal? Improve supplier behavior so that their inefficiencies are not wasting time and money at the DC. It’s also important that a company’s inbound strategy includes leveraging detailed analytics to measure the results of the program and take action where necessary to improve service with suppliers and carriers.

By following this general recipe, companies can work with specialists in inbound freight to develop an unbeatable inbound freight management strategy. But knowing what to do and being able to do it effectively are two entirely different hurdles companies need to jump. It’s for that reason Kuebix has developed SupplierMAX, a program where companies can leverage Kuebix’s technology and logistics experts to manage all or a portion of their inbound freight program. SupplierMAX improves supplier behavior and increases the efficiency of warehouses and distribution centers by incorporating a series of comprehensive strategies to improve inbound operations. To learn more about this program, click HERE to read the SupplierMAX press release in full.

Imported Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

“My business is booming,” said one of our clients in the steel and metal industry. Another commented that “my business is through the roof!” We weren’t sure why until we asked, “What’s the big deal?”

It appears that steel and aluminum manufacturers, producers and distributors are enjoying a boost in revenues thanks to the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum that Trump is imposing. As a result, many of the companies that rely on metals affected by these tariffs aren’t sure what will happen, so they are stocking up on raw materials, parts and components.

The new tariffs will impose a 25 percent price increase on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum to protect national economic security, effective March 23. The plan has been widely criticized by government officials and corporate America who feel the tariffs will cost U.S. jobs, raise consumer prices and hit American manufacturers.

Other countries are threatening trade wars. The EU has warned it will impose a 25 percent tariff on the $3.5 billion of American goods that it imports. Trump’s next move is to impose tariffs on up to $60 million of Chinese imports of technology, telecommunications and apparel.

Many businesses feel that a cost increase is on the way and will likely be pushed down through the supply chain to other businesses like beverages and automobiles. Some US companies that use steel and aluminum in their products may reduce production in the US in favor of foreign production where they can avoid cost increases. Other policymakers think that US manufacturers will no longer have to compete with foreign materials and can instead charge higher prices.

Since many aren’t sure what will really happen as a result of the tariffs, they are building up inventory levels, buying raw materials and stocking up on parts to keep ahead of price increases or lack of materials.

Instead of worrying about stocking up on inventory, Kuebix believes that a greater focus on reducing supply chain costs is needed. As transportation is one of the biggest expenses for a company, often up to 40%, ways to lower logistics costs while boosting efficiencies are a must in this uncertain economic environment.

By leveraging Kuebix TMS, retailers and manufacturers can quickly and easily receive better rates for any transportation mode. Our free TMS, Kuebix Shipper, can even be up-and-running the same day, so companies can immediately begin offsetting costs by receiving lower rates. And by upgrading to add modular features to optimize routes and consolidate loads from LTL to FTL where possible, companies can cut down on the total cost of goods and put money back into other needs, such as raw material purchasing.

Logistics professionals uncertain about the future of steel and aluminum imports can improve their companies’ outlook by utilizing technology to cut costs.

2018 Predictions

2018 Supply Chain Predictions

In the book, The Living Supply Chain, the authors argue that, “Speeding up the supply chain is at the root of everything that is good: improved revenue, reduced working capital, higher profitability, and less obsolete inventory. Conversely, slowing down the supply chain is at the root of everything that is bad: working capital write-offs, reduced profitability, and slowing revenues.”

To “speed” up the supply chain is to invest in change and change will come with the digital transformation of the supply chain, which is the major focus for executives in 2018. Much change in the supply chain industry will be due to innovative technologies for digital transformations, along with the recent tax reforms, and the still-current driver shortage/capacity crunch. Digital transformation of the supply chain will change everything – for the better.

These are the innovative technologies that I predict companies must use to undergo this transformation within their supply chains:

Cloud-based technology deployments lower cost of ownership due to not having a large capital expenditure on hardware and upgrades. Cloud-based solutions are ideal for any size business because they can be scaled up as your business grows and are easier to set-up and manage.

Advanced Analytics will support real-time decision making based on data captured across the supply chain. With analytics, businesses can more effectively predict and fill demand. You can also manage relationships with carriers, suppliers and customers while improving processes. Using advanced analytics in a transportation management network to look at historical traffic patterns, you can plan a truck’s route that takes into account time delays for more accurate arrival times.

Tracking and Tracing of raw materials through manufacturing to the end customer must take on Amazon-like capabilities, meaning customers will know where their orders are at any one time, just like when you order from Amazon. With track & trace, you will get deep visibility to SKU-level information from first-mile to last-mile, including the tracking of costs to better monitor transport spend. Communications with customers will be proactive instead of reactive, alerting customers if their order will be late or when it will arrive.

Supply Chain Visibility will make data collected from end-to-end across the supply chain available to all stakeholders, giving them greater control and visibility into what is happening across the enterprise. You can uncover roadblocks within your supply chain that could lead to delays in shipping.

Blockchain will provide interconnectivity between ledgers of supply chain trading partners, enhancing traceability of transaction history. Automating the flow of information among trading partners provides transparency and boosts efficiencies. Blockchain works with cryptocurrency to determine payment amounts, allowing drivers to be paid as they complete parts of their journey. This completely removes the transport broker from the equation, giving drivers access to quicker settlement. However, blockchain is still a technology that needs further development before it can be proved useful to some businesses.

Artificial Intelligence initiatives require specialists who are hard to find, potentially stalling any projects. AI utilizes algorithms to detect patterns in vast volumes of data and interpret their meaning such as predicting whether a carrier will be on-time based on weather conditions and past performance.

Predictive Analytics, often combined with Artificial Intelligence, helps shippers understand, automate and optimize their supply chain processes to gain better efficiencies. Predictive analytics provides shippers with actionable intelligence to guide the decision-making process, helping you to reduce costs and optimize operations. Scorecards on carrier performance can alert shippers on which carriers can better meet their service obligations.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – More devices, from pallets to trucks will have sensors embedded to transmit status and performance data. This real-time information will be used for monitoring everything from equipment health to asset locations to order tracking and more. Advanced analytical systems use the data to uncover trends that lead to performance improvements and cost reductions.

Kuebix TMS is a game-changer for your business in 2018, regardless of the company size because Kuebix offers advanced applications to meet the needs of even the most complex supply chain operations. Kuebix TMS finds the best freight rates for all modes, books and tracks shipments, audits and manages transport finances and utilizes advanced analytics to measure and monitor trends and performance activities. Kuebix TMS offers full tracking and visibility of your freight expense down to the SKU level across every mode and along every step of its journey.