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 Holiday Hiring Trend

Retailers and Carriers are Increasing Labor Ahead of the Holiday Shopping Season

Fall is here and retailers are already preparing to get in the holiday spirit! Many businesses announced their seasonal hiring plans before summer ended. A recent Indeed holiday hiring survey indicates that holiday job searches per million job seekers rose by 11% in comparison to last year. The unemployment rate is holding steady at an unusually low 3.7%, so it should come as no surprise that retailers such as Kohl’s, Famous Footwear and Bath & Body Works are scrambling to fill open positions pre-holiday season.

Deloitte’s annual holiday retail projections anticipates that e-commerce sales revenue will fall between $144 billion and $149, an increase from last year’s $126.4 billion spent online. Total retail sales are expected to land somewhere between 4.5% and 5.0% for the period (up from 2018’s 3.1%). The combination of open full-time positions and an increase in money spent makes it critical that seasonal employees are hired before the first holiday hits.

Retailers aren’t the only ones gearing up for holiday season. Both FedEx and UPS have made announcements regarding seasonal hires. FedEx plans on adding 55,000 workers to its already expansive staff of 450,000. Majority of workers added will contribute to the FedEx Ground network.  UPS is set to hire 100,000 seasonal workers to combat the holiday shipping rush. They’re expecting daily package deliveries to nearly double compared to their average 20 million per day. Long-term positions with UPS aren’t out of the question – 35% of people hired for seasonal jobs over the last 3 years have been made permanent employees.

Companies everywhere are struggling to identify the best method to successfully navigate the incoming holiday season. An easy solution to reduce operational inefficiencies is implementing a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS). Through utilizing a cloud-based TMS, companies can lower usage costs, have greater flexibility and experience a rapid return-on-investment (ROI). A cloud-based TMS gives all businesses complete supply chain visibility, saving them time and helping them provide better customer service.

A cloud-based TMS connects users with other shippers, carriers, brokers, freight marketplaces and 3PLs in the network. Users can streamline manual processes and manage all of their shipping functions within a single system. This simplified process creates opportunity for users to earn more while saving time.

No matter how you approach it, pre-holiday season is here and shoppers are ready!

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!

Kuebix Returns Shipping

How E-Commerce is Changing Returns

The growing popularity of e-commerce has led to exponential growth in number of returns. While they have always been an integral part of shopping, online orders are significantly increasing their presence in the retail and e-commerce industries.

E-commerce platform Yotpo reported that 88% of fashion shoppers surveyed have returned fashion items purchased online in the past year. Of those shoppers, 51% have returned between $50 and $500 worth of merchandise. Consumers often order the same product in multiple sizes or a few options with the intention of only keeping one.

Consumers are making more subjective and less-predictable purchases online. Fit and quality are the top two reasons for returns. When looking at an article of clothing online, it’s often hard to tell how it will look and what size is best. The number of returns is expected to increase steadily with the volume of online orders. Businesses are starting to think of ways to make returns an opportunity for profit rather than a traditional expense.

Many retailers are starting to accept the returns of their competitors. Nordstrom recently announced it will now be taking returns from other stores including its competitors Macy’s and Kohl’s. Popular retail stores are starting to realize that returns don’t have to be viewed as a negative. The origin of the return doesn’t diminish Nordstrom’s opportunity to sell to incoming customers.

Kohl’s recently launched a similar program in which it accepts returns for Amazon orders. Amazon’s popularity is often seen as a threat and this unique approach allowed Kohl’s to use it to their advantage. Their pilot stores in Chicago and Los Angeles saw a 9% increase in new customers and an 8% increase in revenue at participating locations. In response, Kohl’s launched the program worldwide. Returns are providing retail stores losing business to e-commerce a second chance at drawing in customers and selling their products.

Happy Returns, a relatively new startup, is offering to ease the operational burden of returns. The company processes, evaluates and batches returns together at several return bars. Consumers are able to make their return in-person and receive an instant refund. Through implementing Happy Returns businesses can stabilize the cost of their returns and easily receive and process them.

Returns are creating an opportunity for additional revenue and providing a simpler solution to receiving and processing. Businesses driving profit through returns can also benefit from implementing technology into the operational side of their supply chains. A transportation management system (TMS) gives shippers complete visibility through their supply chain with real-time information on the locations of their shipments.

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!

New Trends in Sustainable Packaging May Shake Up E-Commerce Shipping - Kuebix TMS

New Trends in Sustainable Packaging May Shake Up E-Commerce Shipping

Almost every online order fulfilled means another cardboard box shipped to a consumer. It should come as no surprise that cardboard boxes are contributing an unprecedented amount to overall cardboard waste. As environmental concerns grow, companies are beginning to look for sustainable alternatives to ship their products.

Why Cardboard Has Been a Popular Choice for Retailers

The classic cardboard box has dominated the shipping industry since 1890. Retail stores are filled with products encased in dyed paper and plastic packages, but it’s cardboard boxes that got them there. Cardboard boxes started out plain and practical to play their part in the supply chain. However, the rise of e-commerce changed the perspective of companies. Cardboard boxes quickly became an opportunity for establishing a brand.

Popular businesses that support online shopping including Amazon and Target started incorporating their brand name and even playful images or slogans onto their cardboard boxes. These new designs were created with the intention of making an impression on consumers and representing the brand’s purpose to those who didn’t come face-to-face with their store.

New Options for More Sustainable Packaging

Companies are presently being challenged to come up with an environmentally friendly alternative to shipping product in cardboard boxes that still represents their brand. 3M, a manufacturing company operating out of Minnesota, has redesigned bubble wrap to contribute to this change. Their effort is geared towards reducing the amount of packaging needed to ship smaller items. Plastic envelopes lined with bubble wrap are perceived as a better alternative to boxes because they take up less space. Even though the packages are smaller, these envelopes are limited to specific sizes that are sometimes too big for what’s being shipped.

To eliminate these barriers associated with making smarter shipping choices, 3M released its Flex & Seal Shipping Rolls. The material is a padded envelope that is sold on a roll instead of assembled packages. The new design gives consumers the ability to personalize the size of their envelopes to an appropriate size for what they’re shipping. Eliminating the use of oversized envelopes and unnecessary cardboard boxes with Flex & Seal Shipping Rolls will drastically reduce the waste oversized packaging creates.

Happy Returns, a consumer retail and e-commerce return service, is taking a different approach by eliminating boxes and single-use packaging altogether. The company is adopting the use of totes made of recycled plastic to reduce the cardboard waste they create by packaging and shipping return items for consumers. The new reusable container will minimize the amount of cardboard required for return shipments by 73% in weight and 92% in area.

Happy Returns and 3M are frontrunners in the effort to reduce packaging waste. E-commerce businesses and retail stores dependent on online sales will follow suit as environmental concerns continue to grow. The next time you order something online, be sure to keep your eye out for a more sustainable form of packaging upon delivery!

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!

FedEx’s Breakup with Amazon Draws Battle Lines in the Fight for Shipping - Kuebix TMS

FedEx’s Breakup with Amazon Draws Battle Lines in the Fight for Shipping

FedEx is breaking up with Amazon as the e-commerce giant continues to make waves in the shipping industry. The carrier announced that it will choose not to renew its ground freight contract with Amazon for any final mile delivery, effective September 2019. This comes only 2 months after FedEx announced that it would end Express air shipments with the e-commerce company. Amazon made up roughly 1.3% of FedEx’s total sales in 2018.

According to spokespeople from both companies, the breakup is amicable, an Amazon operations executive even tweeting “we wish them nothing but the best, conscious uncoupling at its finest.” But this conscious uncoupling goes deeper than a simple business incompatibility.

Here’s what you need to know about why FedEx and Amazon have officially parted ways.


Amazon’s Bid to Transform the Shipping Industry

It’s no secret that Amazon has ushered in an era or super-fast, super-convenient online shopping. The company has become the #1 e-commerce platform, bringing in close to $232 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 net sales. By promising Prime members free, 2-day shipping on thousands of items, Amazon has built consumer loyalty and changed the way shoppers think about shipping. Customer expectations have changed and 2-day, or even faster, delivery is now expected. In fact, Amazon plans to make 1-day delivery standard for Prime members in 2020.

Amazon

In order to meet these pie-in-the-sky delivery promises, Amazon has decided that a ‘go-it-alone’ strategy is needed for their logistics operations. Instead of solely relying on established parcel carriers like FedEx, UPS, or the United States Postal Service (USPS), the company is increasingly developing their own shipping networks. This includes building out their own fleet to fulfill final mile deliveries. Most recently, Amazon announced that they will pay their employees $10,000 and 3 months’ pay to quit and start their own Amazon delivery service.

In addition to expanding their ground fleet operations, Amazon has also added hundreds of fulfilment centers to its logistics network, announced its groundbreaking drone delivery program, and added next-day air capacity with leased jets. It’s not surprising that FedEx feels the need to distance itself from a company that appears to be stepping into their territory. The company is taking short-term pain over the possibility of continuing a potentially damaging relationship long-term.

FedEx Bets On Wal-Mart and Other E-Commerce Businesses

Amazon officially surpassed Wal-Mart as the world’s largest retailer earlier in 2019. That isn’t to say that Wal-Mart doesn’t pose a threat to Amazon’s monopoly in the e-commerce world. Wal-Mart has some 2.2 million workers, a number roughly 4 times the number Amazon employs. It also already owns a vast amount of real estate, strategically dispersed across the USA. Not to mention that Wal-Mart owns one of the largest private fleets in America. By building upon this base, Wal-Mart has ramped up efforts to compete with Amazon in the e-commerce sector. This includes plans to roll out a 1-day delivery program that shoppers can take advantage of without any membership fees.

Parcel and E-commerce

FedEx appears to be betting on Wal-Mart as Amazon’s primary rival in the fast and free online shopping industry. According to the founder of SJ Consulting Group, a company providing data and advice to logistics companies, the decision to sever ties with Amazon is a way for FedEx to “get Walmart to realize that they’re not working with Walmart’s biggest competitor and to have Walmart make FedEx their primary carrier.

To make up for the short-term loss of 1.3% of their business, FedEx also announced in May that they would begin seven-day ground freight services at the beginning of 2020. This move will likely make them an even more desirable carrier for companies like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and other retailers in the e-commerce space.

The Future of Final Mile

The breakup of Amazon and FedEx is just another example of the battle lines being drawn between Amazon and the rest of the retail industry. As companies seek to differentiate themselves from the e-commerce behemoth, changes as small as choosing a different carrier can be important. FedEx appears to already be taking steps to compete against Amazon’s 2-day and 1-day delivery promise. The future of final mile delivery is still uncertain, but the main competitors are just now entering the ring.

Grocery Food Supply Chain Kuebix TMS

Rising Consumer Expectations are Prompting Change in Food Supply Chains

The food industry is no stranger to steadily rising consumer expectations and standards. It’s becoming increasingly normal for consumers to shop for food in a variety of ways. Whether they stop at the grocery store to grab a frozen pizza on their commute home, order delivery upon arrival, or subscribe to a delivery service, there’s no shortage of ways consumers are shopping for food. Customer loyalty also seems to be a thing of the past, with many shoppers jumping from brand to brand and flavor to flavor as the mood takes them. For food suppliers, this means getting their products into the hands of their customers whenever and wherever they want, making supply chain operations increasingly complex.

The “Food Anywhere” Trend

Supermarket prepared food departments have seen double-digit sales growth in recent years, and food delivery is expected to grow 12% every year for the next five years. This aligns with the food anywhere trend, which challenges traditional ideas about availability and requires suppliers to conform to consumers’ notion that food should be able to be enjoyed anywhere at their convenience. Now, consumers expect to be able to purchase some traditional groceries at their local pharmacy, have pre-portioned meal kits delivered to their doorways, or order online for pickup at the location of their choice. Regardless of location, consumers expect their food to maintain the same quality and taste. Achieving this standard while keeping products in stock can be quite challenging for many food manufacturers.

Transporting food to local vendors for distribution is just as complicated as keeping up with all the final mile options consumers have come to expect. Trucking companies with food-grade truck assets must conform to extensive rules and regulations that ensure food is transported safely from one point to another. Even the smallest misstep can lead to degradation in the quality of the food and render products unsellable. Potential roadblocks to take into consideration include the distance being traveled, the temperature within the truck itself and the risk of cross-contamination depending on what products are being transported together. Drivers need to be aware of FDA, USDA, and DOT regulations in order to ensure products arrive at their destinations in a sellable and safe condition.

Healthier Alternatives

Manufacturers of prepared foods are struggling to meet demands for fewer, healthier ingredients while maintaining the same taste and texture customers expect. This can cause issues in the longevity of prepared foods, leaving products with shorter shelf-lives all while consumers are requiring more variety.  

However, change does come with reward – 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for a “clean label” product. Some food manufacturers have turned to individual quick freezing technology (IQF) to help achieve this standard while still retaining longer shelf-lives. This is a process that is growing in popularity because it flash-freezes products and preserves their nutritional value. The ice crystals created from IQF are small enough that they don’t rupture the cell walls of the products, extending shelf life and reducing food waste because consumers can cook in portions and keep unused leftovers frozen. This may be a compromise for food manufacturers and consumers who demand options, accessibility and health from their food.

Meeting Consumer Expectations With Technology

Food manufacturers have complex supply chains with many unique characteristics: tight margins, fresh products that may spoil, expiration dates on products, complicated inbound requirements and more. Getting the right volume of products at the right time, and at the right location, is no easy task. Visibility into and control of supply chain processes will allow food suppliers to address these challenges while meeting business goals. 

The best way to handle the complexity of transporting such intricately manufactured products is by using technology that provides complete visibility and control of supply chain processes like Kuebix TMS.  Food and beverage companies can use Kuebix TMS to seamlessly rate, book and track their freight. Through the direct integration of purchase orders from ERP systems into the TMS, companies can save time and improve order accuracy, ensuring that their customers’ growing expectations are met.

Green Supply Chain Fuel Types Kuebix TMS

5 Alternative Fuels that Will Reenergize the Transportation Industry

The transportation industry relies heavily on diesel to help it successfully transport products from manufacturers to consumers via trucks worldwide. Technology has been instrumental in reducing the number of empty miles driven, and finding an alternative fuel source is the next step for eco-conscious companies.  As concerns about the longevity of fossil fuels grow, the search for a more sustainable fuel is intensifying.

There are more than 222 million licensed drivers in the U.S. today and the amount of fuel needed to power their vehicles is astronomical. The transportation of people and goods accounts for about 25% of all energy consumption worldwide. Gasoline is a byproduct of fossil fuels, of which the earth has a limited supply. The discovery of an alternative to gasoline is vital to preserving our modern way of life and avoid running out of fuel altogether.

Fortunately, scientists and engineers are already tackling this problem. The switch toward alternative forms of fuel is still in its infancy, but researchers are working tirelessly to create cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. Below are just five potential forms of less harmful and more sustainable fuel that have the potential to replace gasoline and introduce a new wave of cleaner, more efficient vehicles:

Electric

There are currently three types of electric cars: battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). According to The Guardian, there are already over 3 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the road today. Electric cars are known to be environmentally and economically friendly as they drastically reduce harmful emissions and save users all of the money they would have spent on fuel.

However, electric vehicles are restricted to a specific number of miles they can drive before they need a recharge (the average is about 100 miles). Outside of major cities charging stations are difficult to come by, making electric vehicles less than ideal for lengthier trips. In order for electric trucks to become a viable option for the supply chain, a solution to the limited range needs to be found. Once electric vehicles are able to carry heavy loads for longer stretches of road, the logistics industry will have a new, viable option for shipping.

Ethanol

Ethanol fuel consists of the same alcohol that is in most cocktails. It originates from plant matter including algae, trees and corn. Ethanol fuel is renewable and much better for the environment than gasoline as it produces less carbon dioxide, hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen emissions.

The production of ethanol can support farmers and create agricultural job opportunities. Ethanol production can also be domestic, which helps reduce dependence on foreign oil. Gasoline is often blended with a high percentage of ethanol to create a cleaner-burning fuel because of its higher octane levels.

A transition to fuel made only of ethanol would be simpler than other options because newer trucks are consistently manufactured with the ability to burn ethanol-mixed gas and wouldn’t have a problem burning pure ethanol. Since many gas stations are already selling a blend of gas with ethanol in it, potential infrastructure problems are not as likely if the industry ever makes the switch.

The point of concern with transitioning shipping entirely to ethanol fuel is the effect it would have on crop prices. Utilizing crops as fuel rather than as food would drastically increase the price of corn and other produce. In order to have ethanol completely replace gasoline, a significant amount of the world’s forests and free spaces would have to be dedicated to farmland.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats and can be used before cooking or recycled even after use in cooking. It is non-toxic, biodegradable and emits less harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Biodiesel can work in any diesel engine, making for an easy integration into the transportation industry.

Although there are many positives to biodiesel fuel, it still presents its fair share of challenges. For one, it is much less powerful than regular diesel and gasoline fuels. Biodiesel is reportedly 10% weaker than traditionally used fuel types. The storage of biodiesel fuel can also cause some major problems over time. When it’s stationary for an extended period of time, biodiesel tends to thicken which can clog filters and create corrosion.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a popular and highly innovative alternative to gasoline. Fuel cell vehicles are technically considered electric vehicles, but they rely on a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity rather than a traditional battery. These cars are similar to gasoline and diesel vehicles as they are refueled in the same conventional manner and share the same long-distance driving range, allowing them to drive further and faster than battery-powered electric vehicles.

A vehicle with a fuel cell and electric motor running on hydrogen can be two to three times more efficient than gasoline. These vehicles discharge zero harmful emissions, only water. Hydrogen fuel can be produced domestically from nuclear power, natural gas, biomass and renewable powers like wind and solar energy.

The biggest problem associated with hydrogen fuel is cost. The fuel cells required to power hydrogen-fueled cars are very expensive, and there are very few gas stations that currently offer hydrogen as fuel. Should the transportation industry ever decide to make the switch to hydrogen-powered trucks, the eventual ROI could make it worth it.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel mostly comprised of methane. This alternative to traditional fuels can be produced domestically and is less expensive than gasoline. Natural gas could cut back on greenhouse gas emissions by 10% as well.

The reason natural gas hasn’t supplanted gasoline as the preferred fuel type is because of the limited number of vehicles on the market with the capability to utilize it. Making trucks natural gas-friendly would be a very costly investment for the trucking industry. There are very few fueling stations that provide natural gas and it provides fewer miles-per-tank than vehicles running on gasoline or diesel.

92% of the U.S. transportation sector uses petroleum products such as gasoline or diesel for fuel. These resources won’t last forever and soon we will have to find a new way to fuel our cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. Our economies are powered by supply chains, and whatever fuel becomes the fuel of choice in the future will have to work for the supply chain industry, not only for personal drivers. While some alternative fuels are already being implemented, research is still being done to develop a fuel that is truly sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly.

hurricane supply chain kuebix

Preparing Your Supply Chains for Hurricane Season

If you live or work anywhere along the eastern seaboard of the United States, you know the panicked feeling when you hear on the news that a major hurricane is approaching. Even if you believe that the hurricane won’t hit your town, hurricanes are unpredictable by nature. Grocery stores run low on stock as people rush in to purchase as much water, food and emergency products to prepare for the damage as they can. So what happens to companies with freight to ship and customers to supply? Businesses in hurricane-prone areas and those that ship to those areas are at risk of lost revenue and major damage if they don’t take the proper precautions ahead of a storm.

How are Businesses Affected?

In the logistics industry, it is safe to say that every aspect of the business, especially transportation and shipping, is highly affected by a hurricane. Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes are catastrophic and can wipe out houses, buildings, and infrastructure like highways and local roads which are needed for shipping. Ports are especially affected since they are right on the coast where the majority of a hurricane’s power will break. Major flooding, debris and downed wires make it next to impossible for businesses to be able to move shipments in and out of certain areas that were affected.

When Category 4 Hurricane Florence hit the east coast on September 18, 2018, many roads and rail connections were affected which remained shut down even after the impact. This eventually resulted in a halt of shipments and deliveries being made on time, or at all. Grocery store shelves remained unstocked, bottled water was hard to come by and other necessary emergency products were only slowly supplied to those most in need of them.

Businesses in areas that are at risk of hurricanes must prepare in advance for the possibility of a natural disaster. This is the best way to fully recover from the impact and supply their customers during and immediately following the storm.

What Can Businesses Do to Prepare Their Supply Chains for a Hurricane?

With any business in the path of a hurricane, preparedness is key. Companies in the past have lost market share due to their lack of preparation and failure to completely recover after a natural disaster. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about 40% of companies are not able to return back to normal operations following the impact of a disaster.

However, there are a number of ways that businesses can prepare for impact. A few ideas to protect your supply chain include:

  • • Identifying if you are in an area at-risk of dangerous weather impacts. While this may seem easy and obvious, many businesses surprisingly fail to keep that in mind when deciding on the best location to operate their business. Simply knowing that your business can be in danger of hurricanes is an easy gateway to finding the right tools to prepare and recover.
  • • Gaining complete visibility to your supply chain operations. If you have total visibility over your supply chain operations, your company will be best-positioned to react to a hurricane or other natural disaster. Knowing where your shipments are, being able to quickly rate and book with the best carriers and being able to track orders in real-time will give you an edge when a wrong decision can result in them never arriving. Companies can gain this level of visibility by implementing transportation management technology ahead of time.
  • • Have an insurance plan. Not only can insurance provide protection against loss, it can save a lot of money that would have to be paid to restore damages. Flood insurance may be a great option, or even a requirement, for businesses located in high-risk areas.
  • • Have reliable back-up partners. Having back-up partners can be very helpful because companies are able to move product via drop trailer to locations that are outside of harm’s way when a hurricane is approaching. There is a possibility that availability can be limited, so it’s crucial to have these conversations with your partners far in advance. Truckload spot markets like Kuebix Community Load Match give shippers an easy path to find and book reliable spot volume quickly.
  • • Learning from the past can prevent problems in the future. Data and analytics can help businesses keep track of their supply chain operations (how well or poorly they performed) during a storm. Being able to see what shipped, when, how long it took and for what cost helps businesses strategically plan for the next time a hurricane hits.

 What Happens in the Aftermath of a Storm?

In the case of extreme devastation, helping families and people in need is a top priority. While supply chain managers need to make sure their employees are all safe and well, they also need to work for a speedy recovery of their business. According to the Olin Business School, redundancy and operational flexibility are important processes of dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Since these disasters are frequently unpredictable, it is better to be safe than sorry and have a back-up plan to conquer the difficulties that the disaster can cause. With hurricane season upon us, remember to stay informed of weather events, leverage technology to retain visibility to your supply chain and have back-up plans in place ahead of time. With these tools, your company will be able to weather the storm!

Hours of Service Changes Lessening - Kuebix

U.S. Department of Transportation Planning to Relax Hours of Service Rules

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is reportedly planning to relax what some consider to be restrictive hours of service (HoS) rules. These current HoS regulations were put into effect in July of 2013, roughly 6 years ago, and have been a heated topic of discussion ever since.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the Transportation Department, the current hours of service regulations for property-carrying drivers include:

  •      • 11-Hour Driving Limit – May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  •      • 14-Hour Limit – May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  •      • Rest Breaks – May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. Does not apply to drivers using either of the short-haul exceptions in 395.1(e). [49 CFR 397.5 mandatory “in attendance” time may be included in break if no other duties performed]
  •      • 60/70-Hour Limit – May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Though the specifics of the plan to relax the HoS regulations are still unknown, it’s anticipated that the 11-hour driving limit will be the initial change. The requirement for drivers to take a 30-minute break during an 8-hour shift, as well as the requirement for an uninterrupted 10 hour period between shifts, may also be changed.

Proponents of Lessening HoS Regulations

The Associated Press reported that “Interest groups that represent motor carriers and truck drivers have lobbied for revisions they say would make the rigid “hours of service” rules more flexible.” In the article, a truck driver by the name of Lucson Francois was required to pull over and rest for 10 hours a mere 5 minutes from his home in Pennsylvania. Groups like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) cite examples like this for why regulations on the trucking industry should be lessened.

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.

Opposition to Lessening HoS Regulations

On the opposite side of the debate are safety groups that emphasize highway and road safety. In a recent Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the FMCSA, it was discovered that there were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a startling 10% increase over 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 automobile crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. It’s widely believed that these numbers are underestimated, however, based on the difficulty of determining which accidents were fatigue related.

Groups like the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of insurance companies and consumer, public health and safety groups, believe that the industry is putting revenue before the safety of those on the road. Stating that the current 11-hour shift maximum is already “exceedingly liberal in our estimation.”

The ELD Mandate

The deadline to comply with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate in December 2017 made the HoS restrictions harder to flout. With trucking companies now required to monitor driving time electronically, there is no wiggle room for drivers like Francois to add 5 undocumented minutes to their driving time in order to reach their destination. Some groups see this as a positive, others see it as a negative.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, a balance between safety and efficiency needs to be made for the industry to prosper. The industry is currently feeling a slight lessening of the driver shortage widely reported on in 2018, which may help regulators reach their decisions. In the meantime, it’s up to shippers and carriers to plan ahead as efficiently as possible so that their drivers don’t get stuck at the side of the road.

Kuebix TMS Half Year Predictions

2019 Transportation & Supply Chain Half Year Review – Where Are We Now?

At the end of 2018, we made some predictions about what 2019 would look like for the transportation and supply chain industries. With the half-year mark around the corner, it’s time to review those predictions and see which have proven to be accurate and which trends will continue to be important during the second half of 2019.

Prediction: Big changes—and a more holistic, organization-wide approach—to global supply chain strategies.

This trend continues to be true for many companies, especially those in the manufacturing industry. Companies are placing even more emphasis on their global supply chains to meaningfully impact their companies’ bottom lines. Ongoing tariff wars and the associated uncertainty/repercussions have meant that top-level executives are balancing their financials more carefully and managing risk from volatile markets. American companies importing raw materials, parts, or finished goods from China will face their newest hurdle on July 6, 2019, when a 25% tariff goes into effect on $34 billion of Chinese goods.

Prediction: More intense focus on data analytics in supply chains.

Data analytics continues to play a key role for supply chain professionals looking to examine, analyze and interpret data related to supplier risk, tariff risk, logistics costs or manufacturing costs. Being able to accurately analyze data and efficiently leverage the findings is an important investment for any growing business. According to Forbes contributor Yasaman Kazemi, “Data, as opposed to capital, is useless without the tools that allow organizations to order, understand, and gain deeper insights from it.” More companies are implementing advanced technology in their supply chains such as transportation management systems (TMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), and enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) to help manage an increase in data.

Prediction: China’s expanding global reach and economic power.

China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) investments in the Middle East and Africa and infrastructure investments in modes including rail lines, roads, ports, bridges and even schools are helping the country continue to outpace other countries’ economic expansion as they build long-term economic ties and trading partners. In the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest forecast it expects that China’s economy will grow by 6.3% in 2019, up 0.1% over its last prediction. Though this number is impressive, it was announced in May that this is the lowest China’s growth has been in 17 years. Contributing to this slow-down are the continuing trade wars and ongoing concerns about intellectual property rights violations. China has remained unsuccessful in the intensifying negotiations to repeal the ban on Huawei, the world’s largest telecom supplier and second largest phone manufacturer. With a lifting of these bans in the United States, China would be able to gain market presence in an important industry they have dominated in other countries around the world.

Prediction: “King Consumer” and ever-faster delivery of e-commerce orders.

This particular trend has been all over headlines throughout the first half of 2019. The most important announcement came in April with Amazon’s announcement that they will be transitioning from a 2-day shipping guarantee for their Prime members to a 1-day shipping guarantee. This is a lofty goal, but one most consumers will willingly benefit from, steadily driving shoppers away from Amazon’s competition. In a bid to keep pace with Amazon’s exceptional service, Wal-Mart has announced that they will begin an unlimited grocery delivery program that will have couriers physically entering customers’ homes to deliver their groceries. Both Wal-Mart and Target have made moves to bolster their same-day and 1-day delivery programs.

Prediction: Intensified technological disruption and innovation.

As we approach the end of the second quarter of 2019, transportation companies are becoming more accustomed to new technology like the federally mandated requirement to have ELDs equipped in trucks. Some carriers and companies with private fleets are even beginning to leverage technologies like virtual reality to ease the cost and time expenditures associated with training drivers to get their CDLs. Other companies are installing RFID tags and other tracking software on pallets or even individual goods to improve their supply chain visibility. USPS and other delivery companies have begun trial runs with autonomous trucks, still, others have begun investing in electric vehicles and even drone technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT) and the sharing economy continue to make headlines for the supply chain industry and we don’t expect this trend to slow down any time soon.


The first half of 2019 has progressed much as anticipated, though not always in the specific ways we expect. Technology that couldn’t have been dreamed of 20 years ago has continued to play an important role for transportation and supply chain companies. New trials, beta technologies, and promises to consumers for 2020 are well underway. Moreover, the global conversation about trade, especially with China, continues to be front and center. Shippers, suppliers, carriers, and every other supply chain stakeholder are looking for new and more efficient ways to conduct their businesses. Whether that’s by leveraging data analytics, the IoT, or a revolutionary fleet of vehicles, there will surely be many exciting trends to look forward to as the second half of 2019 begins.

One way companies can find efficiencies for their supply chains in the face of these trends is to leverage Kuebix Community Load Match, a truckload spot market within Kuebix TMS that connects shippers with a vast ecosystem of truckload carriers.

kuebix shipping containers homes

How Shipping Containers are Helping the Homeless

When most people think of shipping containers, they think of exactly what’s in the name: shipping. Formally known as an integral part of virtually any product moving across a supply chain, shipping containers keep products safe from external forces like weather and theft. However, recent advancements have been made to use shipping containers to solve an ongoing issue unrelated to their conventional use.

In Cardiff, Wales, shipping containers are being transformed into homes. It may sound questionable, but shipping container homes have proven to be a cost-effective solution to the ever-present struggle of providing proper housing to people in need. The new homes are also easy to relocate whether it’s an individual unit or an entire group. Cardiff Council paid for thirteen containers featuring amenities such as solar panels and sprinkler systems.

shipping container homes cardiff

The project consists of two different variations of shipping container homes to meet the needs of a variety of household sizes. Seven of the thirteen homes are going to be two-bedroom homes made of a 40 foot and a 20 foot container, while the remaining six one-bedroom homes will be comprised of a singular 40 foot container. The two-bedroom homes are geared towards homeless families with children and will all have direct access to a fenced garden so that the children have a proper, safe place to play. One-bedroom homes will feature a roof terrace and a front door.

Perhaps the most notable features of the new designs are their energy efficient operations and ability to transport with ease to meet demand. If there are certain areas that begin to develop a higher volume of people in need of temporary housing solutions, moving the containers will save time and money in comparison to building new housing solutions.

Communities consisting of shipping container homes are already up and running in Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham. Shipping containers are already used internationally, so it will be interesting to see if this new take on providing temporary housing will extend beyond the United Kingdom if it is met with success.