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What Is Intelligent Automation in the Logistics Industry?

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What Is Intelligent Automation in the Logistics Industry?

Intelligent automation (IA) is a relatively new trend that combines two technologies. Intelligent automation in the logistics industry is still in its early stages. Still, people who explore how to apply it now will be well-positioned to deploy it to support their operations. Here’s a closer look at IA and how logistics professionals could use it. 

What Is Intelligent Automation?

The definition of intelligent automation varies slightly across sources. However, it typically combines artificial intelligence (AI) with robotic process automation (RPA). 

IBM’s intelligent automation definition includes a third component along with those two. It adds business process management (BPM), which concerns automating workflows to make them more consistent and agile. 

Here are some examples of the types of technologies or use cases within those three categories: 

Artificial Intelligence

  • Machine learning
  • Advanced algorithms

Robotic Process Automation

  • Attended RPA (User triggers robotic software to start or stop a task)
  • Unattended RPA (Able to operate with no human involvement)
  • Hybrid RPA (A combination that leverages automation and human knowledge)

Business Process Management

  • Compliance and risk management 
  • Procurement
  • Customer data
  • Contracts 

IBM’s definition of intelligent automation stresses that AI is the most critical component since it acts as the “decision engine” for intelligent automation. Advanced AI algorithms can also enable RPA tools and software to handle more complex tasks. 

What Are the Benefits of Intelligent Automation in the Logistics Industry? 

Logistics leaders and executives elsewhere can expect numerous payoffs by deploying IA in their organizations. Improved productivity is one of the main benefits since people can often do their jobs more efficiently and with fewer errors. Relatedly, employees can use more streamlined processes to get the desired results faster. Such advantages may be most noticeable when performing tasks like processing invoices. IA can do most of the formerly manual work, allowing humans to focus on higher-value tasks. 

IA can also make it easier for logistics leaders to comply with state and national regulations. It promotes better record-keeping by reducing duplication, typos and other things that could contribute to inaccuracies. For example, the IA tool could have built-in checks to flag documents lacking the required information or are otherwise insufficient for required regulations.

Intelligent automation in the logistics industry could also result in more-efficient deliveries, especially since many major brands already use some components of IA to deliver goods faster. Walmart’s Express Delivery service, available for more than 150,000 items, uses AI algorithms to accelerate delivery. People get their products within two hours. Humans must oversee route planning, but IA could send customers emails to tell them when to expect their orders. 

Intelligent automation in the logistics industry can also improve customer experiences. One possibility is through chatbots, which can answer straightforward questions as efficiently as humans. A business process automation (BPA) element might help categorize which types of queries people most commonly have. Leaders could eventually rely on that data to improve help documentation on a company’s website. 

How Have Logistics Companies Used Intelligent Automation?

It’s still not commonplace for people to use intelligent automation in the logistics industry. Many have one or two of the required elements for IA, but not yet all three. However, many are at least pursuing other kinds of automation. One of the advantages is that it makes labor shortages more manageable and results in a safer working environment. IA and additional types of automation can also help company leaders ensure their employees can do their best work. 

Ron Finemore Transport, a logistics company operating in Australia, used intelligent automation to improve how an existing transportation management system (TMS) worked. Before making that change, employees had to manually update the TMS with data from a secondary telematics system. The main benefit of the TMS was that it gave customers real-time data on truck locations. However, workers’ productivity suffered due to the need to input information by hand. 

The implemented IA solution featured artificial intelligence bots that put details about each truck’s real-time location into a centralized data warehouse. They then matched that information to specific routes in the TMS. 

Another case involved logistics company and freight forwarder Davies Turner. Company officials wanted to use automation to reduce the manual labor associated with answering customer queries. Replying to them often took an especially long time because it involved going to the websites of third-party logistics providers to input parcel-tracking information. 

The company pursued automation by launching more than 520 software robots to process customer questions. The bots eventually handled more than 30,000 pieces of data or files per week and about 7,500 executions per day. 

These early efforts highlight potential gains even when companies don’t use full IA solutions. Many decision-makers, especially those new to automation and other advanced technologies, may wish to deploy one component of IA before using a solution featuring all three. 

Deciding When and Where to Utilize Intelligent Automation for Logistics

It’s not easy to figure out the most appropriate ways to rely on intelligent automation for logistics. However, identifying feasible use cases will become easier as more company executives take the plunge by working with the technology. 

For now, logistics professionals can start by identifying the biggest weaknesses and challenges within their supply chains and operations. How might automation make the company more resilient and able to overcome obstacles? 

Many decision-makers initially balk at the prospect of using intelligent automation in logistics, often because of the costs involved and the time required to alter processes. However, they should try to have a long-term viewpoint and recognize how the lack of IA in the workflow could make their companies less able to compete in the marketplace. 

It’s also worth remembering that not every process is a good automation candidate. Any task with many variabilities or requiring extensive knowledge is too much for current automation technology to handle. Today’s commercial options work best when applied to repetitive work requiring no creativity or advanced knowledge. 

Finally, it’s often easiest to utilize intelligent automation by working with a specialty service provider, ideally one with experience assisting people at other logistics firms. They can help clients avoid pitfalls and develop solutions most appropriate for their short- and long-term needs and expectations.

Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry. 

 

friedman footprint relationship

8 Ways to Improve Supplier Relationship Management

It’s easy to enter into a business relationship casually. It’s a bit harder to nurture that connection and help it grow. These days, in a climate of geopolitical upset and intense global competition, suppliers and their clients want associations built to last. 

In other words, purely transactional relationships are out the door. If you want stability in an unstable world, you need to invest in your supplier connections and build a business coalition that can weather the storm. Whether you’re a buying agent or a supplier representative yourself, here’s a quick guide on investing in, managing and improving your supplier relationship.

Why Is Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) Important?

Consider the current global business environment. With so many variables and unknowns, engaging in business with a new supplier carries an inherently greater risk than working with and growing alongside an existing partner. When both parties have a foundation of trust and a mutual history, they’ll likely be there for each other during difficult times.

How do you know if you need to up your game where SRM is concerned? Here are some of the signs:

  • One or both parties’ needs are no longer being met
  • Communication is no longer clear, complete or timely
  • There are frequent disagreements over service level, pricing, payment windows or quality control
  • Fulfillment has fallen behind agreed-upon performance metrics

The goal of supplier relationship management is deceptively simple: Keep product flowing with as few disruptions as possible, at as low a cost as possible.

In reality, many variables feed into this mission. There are several ways to strengthen supplier relationships and management:

  • Improve transparency of the supply chain and boost visibility of value partners
  • Establish greater control over, and clearer expectations for, all business communication
  • Increase mutual awareness of business risks and industry-specific challenges
  • Streamline back-office functions wherever possible, including through automation

Suppliers and buyers have several opportunities for strengthening their ties, whether through the addition of value-adding technology or simply recommitting to clearer and more frequent communication.

1. Provide Updates Routinely

The explosion of remote work over the last few years has put traditional communication channels and habits to the test. These days, it’s best to over-communicate — especially in distance-based relationships.

Keeping partners informed is a low-effort way to build trust and confidence in your brand and ultimately strengthen working relationships.

2. Understand Your Partners’ Goals

One of the things that can turn relationships of any type sour is a lack of understanding and empathy for what the other party is experiencing.

The goal of supplier relationships is to be fruitful and long-lasting. It must be more than cold and transactional — your partners’ goals, wins and logistics challenges must mirror yours. You each must know what makes the other tick and understand the peculiarities of their industry to serve them best.

3. Complete a Supply Chain Risk Assessment

It’s time for some trust-fall exercises — figuratively speaking. One of the most important pieces in the supplier relationship management mosaic is understanding weak points in the value chain. Life keeps teaching us that disruptions can come from any direction and threaten business stability.

Work with your business partners to conduct supply-chain audits. Remember to account for compliance risks as well, as the regulatory landscape changes frequently.

Completing this process together will help you identify weak points and bottlenecks that could threaten productivity and help you set plans in motion to comply with future regulations. It may also reveal low-hanging fruit for process improvements.

4. Invest in Supplier Relationship Management Software

Buyers and suppliers have no shortage of options when it comes to supplier relationship management software. The advantage of SRM software is that it coalesces all relevant stakeholder data from the buyer and supplier into a central platform and a single “source of truth” for both parties.

One of the chief pitfalls of managing relationships this complex is wrangling ever-larger databases of quotes, contracts, compliance documents and risk assessments. The right software selection can make it substantially easier and surface insights that might’ve stayed hidden otherwise.

5. Use Software to Automate Purchasing

Technology provides many tools that streamline the buyer-supplier relationship as well. Procurement software is another example. It uses machine learning (ML) to analyze trends from purchasing departments and automatically generate alerts or purchase orders.

The right automation solution takes the pain out of every fulfillment process by creating and sending invoices, matching delivery methods to orders, and approving or rejecting new purchases based on current needs and trends.

6. Explore Blockchain Supply-Chain Solutions

Blockchain as a foundational technology could prove more consequential than any of the products built atop it, including Bitcoin. At a glance, blockchain’s immutable distributed ledger technology doesn’t sound terribly exciting. However, its implications for suppliers and buyers run deep. One of the many ways it improves on traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is the ability to embed far more data into records of custody.

Studies show that ERP provides inventory tools that can unearth expired goods in warehouses. However, meaningful action cannot be taken without a detailed record of why those items aren’t salable. Blockchain provides information about materials and products throughout their life cycles, including their origin, market conditions at the time of manufacture and the status of shelf rotation.

7. Think About Outsourcing Your Relationship Management

It might feel as though outsourcing SRM defeats the purpose of nurturing a relationship in the first place. However, the benefits could be considerable — especially for younger organizations.

Many of us have experienced that first day as the new kid at an unfamiliar school. Who can you trust? Who are the troublemakers? Who’s likely to become a fast friend? Outsourcing your relationship management to a third party gives you access to industry-specific experience and helps you find friends and partners worth trusting and keeping around. Moreover, outsourcing this time-intensive task may save your organization money starting on day one.

8. Unify Around a Shared Mission

Modern supply-chain management can’t be purely transactional anymore. This entire conversation is about making business relationships more closely resemble human ones. Some form of value will always be exchanged — but what’s the relationship built on?

That foundation is typically corporate responsibility. There are many value-focused trade and industrial organizations today, from the Reshoring Initiative to the California Green Business Network. The goal is to help participants find fruitful, mutually beneficial business relationships built on a shared corporate mission.

The strongest relationships are always built on shared values — and research says customers want to see strong corporate citizenship, too. If and when times get tough, you want to find yourself surrounded by people and groups focused on something more than themselves.

Building Relationships Makes Business More Human

Peter Kraljic turned in an essay to Harvard Business Review in the early ‘80s called “Purchasing Must Become Supply Management.” He seemed to foresee the importance relationship management would come to have in the supply chain in the not-too-distant future.

You should have some ideas now for better managing your supplier relationships. These days, with so many variables beyond your control, you want partnerships that stand the test of time.

 

truckload truck

Save Money on Fuel By Fixing Semi-Truck Vibration Problems 

Anyone who’s sat behind the wheel of a car or truck — regardless of the vehicle’s size — and felt the steering wheel shake as they drove understands the fundamental problem of vibration. Vibrations on trucks — in addition to making the driver’s hands go numb — can cause various issues.

Drivers may struggle with low fuel mileage, excessive wear on moving parts and even premature breakdowns. How can reducing or eliminating semi-truck vibration problems help trucking companies save money in the long run?

Orders of Vibration

Vibrations on trucks can appear in many different forms, but most are in one of three orders. The orders of vibration indicate how many shakes the driver feels per revolution of the drive shaft. First-order vibrations mean a single shake per rotation, with second-order vibrations indicating two shakes.

Most of these vibration orders are tied directly to the drive shaft. First-order vibrations could indicate the truck has drive axle or drive shaft problems or something connected to and rotating at the same speed as the drive shaft is out of balance. More frequent shakes could indicate more significant issues.

Second-order vibrations often indicate issues with the vehicle trim height, the powertrain mounts or the U-joints. Problems with the drive shaft — such as twists, improper angles or damage — could cause second-order vibrations.

Third-order vibrations on trucks — where the driver experiences three or more shakes per rotation of the drive shaft — usually indicate significant issues. They should address such a vibration as soon as possible.

Drivers will be the first line of detection regarding vibration since they spend the most time in the driver’s seat. Companies concerned about vibration could also consider adding fleet telematic sensors to their trucks designed to detect shakes that might be out of the ordinary. Vibrations don’t always occur at consistent intensity, so catching them can be challenging for those only relying on driver reports. These sensors can fill in the information gaps and make it easier to spot minor problems before they sideline the truck.

Common Causes of Semi-Truck Vibration Problems

There are a host of different things that can cause semi-truck vibration problems and troubleshooting starts with determining the source of the vibrations. Feeling them in the steering wheel usually indicates an issue in the front of the vehicle. If the truck is moving from side to side — also called a lateral movement — it could mean problems in the front. Vibration in the seat or radial ‘hopping’ style movements indicate issues in the back.

Drivers and mechanics will also need to determine when the vibration occurs. Is the truck vibrating while accelerating or climbing an upward grade or do the problems worsen when the driver applies the brakes or makes a turn?

Sometimes, the causes of vibrations on trucks are simple. An unbalanced tire or a loose lug nut might sound like a small problem, but when dealing with a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, minor issues become magnified. Take the time to check the alignment and balance on each tire.

Vibration when drivers press the clutch pedal or shift gears could indicate an issue with the gearbox or the shifter. The clutch assembly might be worn out or the maintenance team might just need to pull it out and clean it. While it might not seem connected, it could also indicate issues with the starter motor, which could leave the truck stranded on the side of the road if it fails.

If vibrations occur during acceleration or when driving uphill, inspect the transmission, torque converter and driveline. The brakes might be the culprit if it happens when slowing or stopping. Unbalanced or out-of-round brake discs or drums can cause the tires to shake whenever the brakes are depressed. Suspected brake issues should be addressed as soon as possible because they also represent a significant safety concern. Shaking while accelerating could also be the fault of the truck’s suspension, which merits inspection.

If drivers are dealing with vibrations during turns, it could indicate loose front-end parts. If the vehicle only vibrates when carrying a load, it could indicate issues with the cargo, such as balancing. Drivers should avoid idling their trucks for long periods, but vibrations while idling could indicate a timing or misfire issue with the engine that will need the maintenance crew. This list is not exhaustive but may help troubleshoot semi-truck vibration problems. 

Effects of Vibrations on Trucks and Drivers

Vibrations on trucks are more than just a minor inconvenience. Long-term exposure to full-body vibration for drivers can cause various health problems. 50% of surveyed truck drivers reported experiencing low back pain, while more than 30% reported issues with the neck and shoulders. Knee, wrist or forearm, ankle, feet and leg pain round out the report.

Vibration syndrome — caused by prolonged exposure to perpetual vibration — can negatively impact circulation. Symptoms can occur quickly and studies show patients can develop advanced symptoms in less than a year.

These vibrations aren’t good for the trucks, either. Excessive vibrations on trucks cause unnecessary wear and tear, leaving owners and companies footing the bill for increased maintenance and repairs. Choosing to ignore the problem or not addressing it quickly enough could lead to equipment failure.

Many of the signs of wear might not be visible on a cursory inspection, but drivers will begin to feel the effects. Excessive wear can reduce fuel economy, leaving them to pay more at the pump. By getting rid of semi-truck vibration problems, drivers can experience improved fuel efficiency because it uses less energy.

Reduce Costs by Saving Money on Fuel

There are a million and one things that can cause semi-truck vibration problems and ignoring them won’t make them go away. Driving a truck that vibrates badly can cause injuries to the drivers and costly damage in the long run.

Addressing vibrations on trucks might seem like a hassle, but it will prevent these small problems from causing larger ones or causing equipment failure that leaves the vehicle and its cargo stranded on the side of the road.

 

industries cybersecurity

Why Do Truckers Need to Care About Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a rising threat across all industries. Trucking may not seem like the most technologically advanced sector, so many truckers may feel like cybercrime isn’t a relevant risk for them. Despite these preconceptions, all trucking sector workers should take cybersecurity seriously.

Truck fleets today are becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies. As this trend increases, cybersecurity will only become more important for the industry. Here’s why.

Cyberattacks Can Cause Major Damage

One of the biggest reasons to care about cybersecurity is because of how damaging cyberattacks can be. Small and medium-sized businesses pay $38,000 on average to recover from an attack and enterprises pay $551,000. That’s just the direct costs, too. Indirect losses and expenses total $8,000 for SMBs and $69,000 for enterprises.

As fleets become more reliant on digital technologies, data will be worth more, causing these costs to rise. That trend is already well underway, so truckers must take these risks seriously now.

Monetary losses aren’t the only way that breaches can cause damage in the trucking industry, either. The nation’s supply chains rely on trucking, so any disruption to fleet operations could cause widespread delays and complications. As connected vehicles appear in fleets, cybercriminals could even endanger people’s lives by hacking into internet-connected trucks.

Attacks in the Trucking Industry Are Rising

In addition to being destructive, cybersecurity incidents are also becoming more common. Cybercrime has steadily risen over the past few years and the transportation and logistics sector is becoming an increasingly popular target.

Shipping companies like FedEx and Maersk have lost millions to cybersecurity breaches. Cybercriminals know these businesses perform critical services and face high standards, so they can potentially profit more from a successful attack. Because most cybercrime is financially motivated, this chance at a bigger payday attracts more cybercriminals.

Hackers also like to target the trucking industry because it’s largely vulnerable. Fleets are rapidly digitizing but aren’t accustomed to protecting this kind of technology. As a result, cybercriminals have a higher chance of success, encouraging them to target more of these businesses.

Most Breaches Come From Employee Error

Truckers should also care about cybersecurity because they’re often responsible for successful attacks, not their technological defenses. This issue is the same across industries. Users are always a digital environment’s weakest link because, no matter how advanced technical protections are, someone with inside access can get past them.

While “insider threats” sound insidious, most of these incidents are just a matter of well-meaning employees making mistakes. Workers may use a weak password, making it easy to hack into sensitive information. Alternatively, they could fall for phishing, giving away important data or access to someone pretending to be a trustworthy source.

Technical safeguards are important, but they’re insufficient by themselves. When 95% of cybersecurity incidents involve human error, awareness and careful action from employees are just as, if not more, crucial.

How to Improve Trucker Cybersecurity

These trends make it clear: Truckers need to take cybersecurity seriously. Fleets that recognize this and want to improve their security posture can follow these steps.

Train All Employees Regularly

Given how much human error plays into breaches, employee training is one of the most important steps in trucker cybersecurity. All truckers and other workers in the organization should receive regular training going over the best security practices and threats to watch out for.

Emails are one of the most prevalent methods for online scams in this industry, so email security deserves special attention. Managers or IT staff should go over how to spot phishing emails and similar scams, as well as the consequences of falling for these schemes. Holding regular refresher courses and testing workers’ knowledge will help cement these ideas and good habits.

Limit Access Privileges

Even with regular cybersecurity training, good employees can still make mistakes. Consequently, trucking companies should limit their users’ access privileges as much as possible. If no one person can access everything, one breached account will have less impact.

Each user, device, and application should only be able to access what they need for their job. This concept, called the principle of least privilege, will minimize the damage if the business suffers a successful attack. Considering how common cybercrime is becoming, that’s an essential measure.

Practice Strong Password Management

Limiting access privileges is just half of a two-part process. If users aren’t who they say they are, restricting access to different accounts won’t do much. Consequently, truckers must also practice strong password management to prevent criminals from breaking into their accounts.

Truckers should use long, unique passwords with multiple character types to make them stronger against brute-force attacks. It’s also important to change passwords regularly, just in case one leaks in a data breach. Truckers should also turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever available, as it stops 99.9% of attacks, according to some experts.

Keep Everything Up-to-Date

Another important security step for truckers is to update all devices regularly. Devices like telematics systems and internet of things (IoT) trackers are becoming increasingly popular, but these can quickly give hackers a way in if fleets aren’t careful.

Cybercrime is always evolving, so software developers need to create new defenses and fix vulnerabilities continually to stay safe. Keeping everything updated ensures devices have the latest of these security protections. Truck fleets should also install anti-malware software and keep it up-to-date.

Have a Recovery Plan

Finally, it’s important to realize that no cybersecurity system is 100% effective. These attacks are too common and too potentially damaging for truckers to assume they’ll never suffer a successful attack. Companies need a formal recovery plan in case something goes wrong.

This recovery plan should include creating backups of crucial data and systems and a communication game plan. Truckers should also rehearse this plan regularly so everyone knows what to do in the event of a breach.

Cybersecurity Is Crucial for Trucking Companies Today

Cybercrime can affect anyone in any kind of company. While it may not seem like it at first, cybersecurity is crucial for truckers and the businesses they work for. Learning why to take security seriously is the first step toward better protection. If more truckers can realize these threats, the industry can become a safer place.

Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.

 

winter

6 Steps to Prepare Your Warehouse for Winter

Logistics professionals and fleet owners can prepare for winter easily with these warehouse winterizing tips. It can be challenging to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities with so much to keep track of every year. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Managers can take basic steps to ensure they effectively prep their facility for cold weather. 

Anyone planning to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities should start early. The first step to successfully winterizing a warehouse is plenty of advanced planning. 

This will ensure personnel have the supplies they need and a safe workspace when winter comes. Plus, adequate planning makes this season much less stressful. Here are some key steps to include in any warehouse winterizing process. 

1. Check Window and Door Seals

One of the first steps any logistics professional, fleet manager or warehouse operator should take to winterize their facilities is checking seals. Door and window seals are one of the main ways cold air leaks into buildings. This can cripple HVAC performance in the winter by letting warm air out and cool air in, creating drafts and causing unnecessarily high heating costs. 

There are a few ways to find air leaks in a warehouse, including visual inspection, a blower test and a building pressurization check. Some people prefer to hire an outside expert, but this can also be done independently. 

Identified leaks will need to be resealed with caulking or weatherstripping. The whole process can take several days, given the size of the average warehouse, so managers should leave plenty of time for seal checks before winter hits. 

2. Do an HVAC Tuneup

A high-performance HVAC system is crucial in cold weather. Managers should schedule time for a thorough tuneup to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities. Changing air filters is important year-around. Warehouse HVAC systems need an in-depth checkup that goes well beyond the filter. 

This process should include checking for signs of mold or moisture buildup, which can pose a serious health hazard. Any exterior components, such as outdoor-facing vents, should be checked for signs of rust or damage. 

Additionally, the HVAC system will also benefit from an overall cleaning. Debris buildup in vents or shafts should be removed, both indoors and outdoors. Finally, while AC won’t be needed when it gets cold out, this is also a good time to clean up evaporator coils and drainage lines to minimize the amount of moisture or contaminants in the system. 

3. Service Air Compressors and Water Tanks

Logistics professionals should also set aside time to service all air compressor units and water tanks around the warehouse. This equipment can suffer from condensation buildup and may be at risk of freezing at low temperatures. Warehouse managers must ensure everything is in the best condition possible to prepare for winter. 

Luckily, it is easy and straightforward to service both types of tanks. Air compressor winterizing requires checking the weatherstripping and insulation for leaks or damage. A general servicing and cleanup is also a good idea. Pay special attention to any signs of excess condensation or moisture in the tank. 

Water tanks require a similar process. In addition to inspecting the tank for signs of damage, rust or leaks, they also need a pipe check. Pipes can eventually corrode, so a thorough inspection of the lines connected to tanks is required. It’s vital to ensure there are no signs of mold forming anywhere. 

4. Prepare Slip Prevention Gear

Slip prevention is one of the easiest steps to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities, but it’s often forgotten until the snow begins to fall. Facilities should stock up on salt well in advance. Waiting until winter can lead to higher prices and less availability. 

Additionally, the warehouse interior must be made ready for wet weather. Management should install mats at all doors and entryways to minimize liquid tracked in from outside. It may also be worth considering getting a mat or textured coating installed on any sleek floors in work areas. Floor coatings aren’t strictly necessary to prepare for winter, but they can help prevent employees from slipping. 

In addition to preventing falls and slips, protective coatings can also keep surfaces around the warehouse from getting moisture damage and improve overall durability. This could be helpful in areas such as aisles with particularly high foot and forklift traffic. 

5. Do a Drainage Checkup

A drainage checkup is critical to successfully prepare for winter. The last thing anyone wants in their warehouse is a leak right when snow hits. This is easy to prevent ahead of time, though. A drainage check involves inspecting the warehouse’s pipes, gutters and roof. All debris should be cleared away, such as leaves and sticks. It may also be a good idea to clean out gutters at the end of fall, after leaves have stopped dropping off nearby trees. 

Everything should be thoroughly inspected for damage, leaks and rust. The roof should also be checked for any areas where water is building up or leaks are forming. Water buildup tends to be a bigger problem with flat roofs, which may need repairs to address any puddling and prevent water damage. A complete drainage check can be complicated, so an outside expert may be necessary for this step. 

6. Arrange for Snow Removal

Finally, make sure to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities for the entire season by arranging snow removal ahead of time. Some larger warehouses may already have a facility maintenance crew with adequate equipment, in which case this step won’t be necessary. 

For those who do not have professional snow removal services on hand, it is a good idea to get in touch with local pros before winter hits. Parking lots and loading docks must remain clear of snow for any warehouse to operate successfully in winter. Contacting providers in advance will ensure managers get the best rates and know what to expect. 

In the worst-case scenario, if a bad storm hits, the warehouse or logistics manager can make a response plan with an informed estimate for when the snow will be cleared out. 

Prepare for Winter Like a Pro and Winterize Warehouse Equipment the Right Way

Anyone looking to winterize warehouse equipment and facilities must start with a clear action plan. These steps and tips provide an easy starting point that can help professionals prepare for winter. Facilities won’t slow down with the change of seasons if they are properly prepared.

 

E-commerce

5 Reasons Why E-Commerce Brands Need a 3PL Provider

Online shopping is a force to be reckoned with. Between 2019 and 2022, worldwide e-commerce grew from 15% to an estimated 22% of all retail sales. With e-commerce potentially exceeding $1 trillion by the end of 2022, online retailers are wondering how to stake their claim, make themselves truly competitive and continue to grow into new markets.

The answer may lie with third-party logistics (3PL) providers. E-commerce 3PL is a growing trend among online retailers looking to scale, keep themselves competitive, and insulate themselves against the current risks and upheavals in retail and logistics.

What Is E-Commerce 3PL?

Not every company has the same logistics needs, and consequently, not every 3PL offers the same service packages. The potential workflows and specializations brands might outsource to an e-commerce 3PL company include:

  • Order picking and fulfillment
  • Distribution and general logistics
  • Stowing, storage and warehousing (including cold-chain storage)
  • Transportation (including last-mile delivery)
  • Reverse logistics (for customer returns, warranty claims, etc.)

Companies should find a reliable partner to carry out some or all of these functions. Here are some other ways modern e-retail brands could dramatically improve their competitiveness, earnings and rate of innovation by turning to e-commerce 3PL providers.

1. It Promotes Innovation

Adopting 3PL services is increasingly a matter of competitiveness. One study showed that 89% of brands improved their operations’ effectiveness after signing on with a 3PL partner. In the same survey, 73% of adoptees said these services introduced innovations into their logistics processes.

3PL companies live, breathe and dream logistics. It stands to reason that these service providers have ideas and technologies to commit to logistics operations that brands don’t have since it’s not their core focus.

These partners provide value-adding innovations to logistics, but they also support innovation in other ways. Losing the burden of planning, building and supporting logistics infrastructure lets brands thrive thanks to a renewed focus on core objectives.

2. The Digital Economy Is Always On

There may be a learning curve for brands that transition from a solely brick-and-mortar existence to the world of e-commerce. Gone are customers filing in neatly during business hours. People can now shop anytime from any place and expect service that matches their timezone and lifestyle.

Third-party logistics often doesn’t sleep, either. A 3PL company can do the work brands can’t do during hours when teams are working on expanding and innovating or after regular business hours.

If the digital economy never sleeps, logistics infrastructure can’t afford to blink, either.

3. Brands Need an Omnichannel Approach

One of the reasons for having this conversation at all is the sheer diversification of the e-commerce world. Manufacturers and retailers could get by with one-size-fits-all logistics systems in the years of shopping exclusively in brick-and-mortar shops. They could afford to be rigid in their approach because there was a limited number of points of sale and minimal potential touchpoints with consumers.

The internet has rendered this model archaic. The consumer experience is now omnichannel, meaning e-commerce brands need logistics support that meets customers wherever they are, no matter the channel they use to do their shopping.

3PL companies can provide the required technologies and segmented approach, including support for diversification in service levels — like various shipping speeds or subscription-based models.

4. Ensure the Ability to Scale and Pivot

One of the reasons why 3PL is a perfect fit for e-commerce is because retail is diverse, dynamic and sometimes unpredictable. Retailers and online brands may find their audience, inventory or geographic markets changing rapidly and often. What better way to insulate one’s brand against these paroxysms than to outsource the processes most likely to be affected by them — fulfillment and logistics?

The transportation, logistics and warehousing systems used by 3PL companies are created from the bottom up for diverse clientele. They are designed to be flexible and meet various and ever-changing needs.

Diversifying and strategizing the placement of available inventory is another closely related benefit of e-commerce 3PLs. Brands can rapidly expand their footprint — and potential clientele — by leveraging existing warehouse execution systems, strategic locations, data centers and support facilities, and other infrastructure elements.

5. Minimize Financial Outlays for New Technology

The worldwide e-commerce fulfillment services and technologies market was worth $18.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by almost 10% per year between 2022 and 2030. One of the reasons for the rapid expansion in this sector is the equally rapid proliferation of new fulfillment technologies.

Newer e-commerce brands that want to credibly do business with more mature companies must leverage emerging technologies. This includes automated order picking, collaborative robots, advanced software for organizing and prioritizing customer orders, and perhaps fleet-tracking technology for monitoring freight and managing dock traffic.

All these technologies require e-commerce brands to invest time and money. Hiring an e-commerce 3PL company with access to cutting-edge fulfillment technologies could be a savvy move that saves finances and effort over time.

Is E-Commerce 3PL the Right Choice?

There may be many other reasons to choose 3PL solutions that might be more relevant to a company’s brand, products and business model. For example, someone considering offering refrigerated or frozen products for home delivery may want to build their own cold-chain storage infrastructure or purchase access to mature, scalable infrastructure instead.

Companies must put themselves in consumers’ shoes, too. The biggest names in retail and e-commerce have set high expectations for order fulfillment. Some customers expect certain purchases to arrive in two days or less as an industry standard. Businesses should ensure they’re materially prepared to answer the call of the market but they don’t necessarily have to own the materials that make that possible.

Companies must create and ship the best products in the industry. It’s not necessarily in their knowledge base to deliver lightning-fast delivery, on top of all their other responsibilities. Brands that commit to building and maintaining their own warehousing, logistics and fulfillment systems are diluting their efforts and taking focus from their core offerings.

However, those are exactly the sorts of things 3PL partners can add to a value chain, leaving companies to focus their innovative energies where they’re needed.

 

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More Brands Are Choosing Air Cargo to Reduce Shipping Costs

Shipping items by air is not the least expensive option. Still, air freight popularity has recently been rising because company representatives realize it’s sometimes the most economical option in the long run to reduce shipping costs. Other methods are more expensive than before, and delays are more likely to occur due to port congestion. Here’s a closer look at why many decision-makers realize air cargo is the way to go. 

Efforts to Reduce Shipping Costs Align With Other Goals

A vital factor to remember is that logistics leaders have more in mind than shipping costs when they outline their priorities. They understandably want to get goods to their destinations as efficiently as possible but recognize that might mean paying more for air cargo. 

A July 2022 article from Financial Times mentioned Levi Strauss, Lululemon Athletica and Gap as some of the fashion brands that have recently relied on air cargo. Some of those businesses spent several million on it, cutting into their profit margins. However, some company leaders deemed the expense worthwhile, especially since other transportation methods are often slower and less reliable. 

Those downsides are particularly problematic for industries such as fast fashion, which depend on getting the latest styles quickly and keeping them in stock for eager buyers. The air freight popularity is also easier to justify when the products shipped are essential for business. Brady, a manufacturer of technical and safety equipment, was another company reported to have recently sent some of its critical components by air. 

Examples like these illustrate why logistics leaders must weigh shipping prices alongside all other aspects. Going with a lower-priced option might keep things within budget in one regard, but it could make costs balloon elsewhere. 

That could happen if the items are delayed too long and are hotly anticipated products that must arrive by specific deadlines. Amazon has guaranteed delivery dates for some products and will refund all shipping costs if they don’t come on time. It’s easy to imagine how much such mishaps would cost if they involve products purchased by thousands of consumers. In those cases, the expenses span beyond the financial into the reputational. 

Fewer Unknown Variables Bolster Air Freight Popularity

The people who work hard to ensure items arrive on time have no choice but to remain calm and adaptable when faced with factors outside their control. There’s no way to eliminate those things. However, one advantage of air freight is that it usually enables more predictability than other shipping methods. That’s because there are generally fewer prolonged uncontrollable variables defining what happens to goods sent by air. 

Road construction can last for months, resulting in long-term traffic congestion. However, most air cargo-related delays only last for a few hours at most. Even if they occur, the overall impact is less disruptive. 

Pilots often have more options for how they handle bad weather, too. Some can fly above storms, mitigating most of the adverse effects. That’s not always the case with sea cargo, where wave swells could result in lost containers. Similarly, truck drivers must often pull over and wait until storms pass. 

That said, logistics leaders still must plan for what happens once the flown goods leave the planes that carried them. One expert in the logistics-as-a-service industry said 5 million packages cannot be delivered per day due to a lack of capacity

Route planning apps, micro-distribution centers and drones are some of the avenues company leaders pursue to get parcels to their destinations. Such solutions will have to help fill in the gaps for now because building more warehouses takes time and financial resources. 

Logistics Professionals Can Reduce Shipping Costs With Air Cargo’s Increased Flexibility

A World Bank report examined the potential for air cargo options to help landlocked and developing nations achieve a competitive advantage. It clarified that sending things by air typically costs 12-16 times that of ocean freight. Similarly, the prices are usually four to five times costlier than moving products over land.

However, the analysis cautioned that some things must happen first for the nations in question to maximize the benefits they experience from an increase in air freight. For example, they must enhance airport operations and make it easier for foreign planes to arrive and depart. If that happens, these countries could open new shipping opportunities. 

The report explained how some manufacturers will make deals for shorter production timelines if air freight is a transportation option. Air freight also allows supply chain diversification. In some cases, initial orders of products arrive by sea. Then, once it becomes clear the items are in higher-than-expected demand, the replenishments can come by air. Such arrangements can reduce shipping costs by giving logistics professionals more options and flexibility. 

Amazon Banking on the Air Cargo Boom

Amazon is among the companies where getting products to customers on time is a top priority. That’s likely one of the reasons for the company’s increased investments in its air cargo division. DePaul University researchers investigated the matter. They confirmed the e-commerce giant has stepped up its flight activity by 14.3% since August 2021. 

The company has centered much of its expansion in the European market, thanks in part to its Irish partner, ASL. The collaboration, along with a larger network of planes used by but not registered to the company, allowed Amazon to have at least 38 flights daily in that part of the world. That number was up from eight flights daily in August 2021. 

However, there’s good news for the United States market, too, the DePaul University team found. Their data indicated Amazon’s air cargo network is now within 100 miles of where 73% of the U.S. population lives. 

The researchers also clarified that the e-commerce giant primarily uses air cargo to move goods between its warehouses and distribution centers. It still needs road transportation to get products to people’s doorsteps. However, Amazon’s increased investments mean company leaders need not worry if the overall air freight popularity wanes. They can control more factors in-house, which could reduce shipping costs. 

Even so, Amazon does not yet have an airline operating certificate and still relies heavily on contractors. However, it purchased minority equity stakes in Atlas Air and ATGS, signaling its ongoing commitment to moving products by air when possible. 

Will the Air Freight Popularity Last?

It’s too early to say whether the current air freight popularity in the industry will persist in the long term. Much depends on whether prices remain relatively affordable or trend upward. Plus, the extent that people can reduce shipping costs by sending things by air largely depends on the particular items transported and any relevant aspects surrounding those goods. 

However, logistics experts should take those things into account. After evaluating such factors, they’ll be in a good position to decide the most appropriate ways to ship products.

About Author

Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.

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How Will Rising Freight and Container Prices Impact Shipping Rates?

The headlines are full of news about how freight prices are becoming more difficult for logistics professionals and people in similar positions to manage. In many cases, there are knock-on effects for consumers who realize the things they used to buy regularly without issue are becoming progressively less affordable.

The rising container prices put extra strain on company representatives who notice how the ballooning costs impact shipping rates. Here is a closer look at this complex situation.

The Situation Will Impact Shipping Rates for the Long Term

People anxiously hoping for some relief from the current state of freight prices are probably out of luck. At least, that’s what the executives at numerous shipping companies expect. The specifics vary slightly in how long they think rising container prices will persist. However, the news isn’t good across the board.

One executive said people at his company anticipate this situation continuing until at least the first quarter of 2023. Another leader said people would have to get used to a new normal for the shipping industry, featuring more uncertainty, higher shipping costs and longer timeframes for goods in transit.

Some of the executives recommended charterers sign longer contracts with ship owners so the agreements would last longer. More specifically, they might stay valid for several years instead of remaining in effect for months. Agreeing to those extended contracts tackles the price volatility issue and helps logistics professionals rest assured regarding availability.

Numerous factors impact shipping rates and most are out of the direct control of the people they affect. However, some business leaders have responded to the matter by trying to do more business with local suppliers. When goods don’t have to travel as far and aren’t going across international borders, freight prices should be lower and it’s less likely the shipments will experience significant delays.

Logistics Professionals Will See Increased Freight Prices in Various Forms

Some people may get frustrated and feel there’s no rhyme or reason for the rising container prices. But, shipping companies have always based their rates on various factors. For example, courier rates are covering many of the least expensive parts of the shipping process. However, they can still represent a substantial amount when added together.

Many shipping providers also calculate export surcharges that customers must pay. After citing challenges associated with increasing costs for fuel, logistics and more, some have raised those by several hundred dollars.

People also must account for the overhead expenses that keep shipments moving from one stage to the next. Since multiple parties are often involved, the total costs can go up as executives from each company cope with their own progressively climbing prices.

The specific impact shipping rates have on business customers also depends on which methods those parties use to get the goods to their destination. Sea and air are the two main channels for international shipments. The rates for each option fluctuate frequently based on demand.

For example, when more customers want space on a ship, the rising container prices will mean people have to pay more to secure their spots. Those who can’t afford the growing costs will have no choice but to look for other options.

Some companies also charge lesser-known fees to seal or clean the containers customers use. However, as these rates increase, many providers post associated updates on their websites. Even though the information doesn’t negate the fact that freight prices went up, it gives customers time to adjust their budgets wherever possible, potentially mitigating some of the adverse effects.

Customers and Business Owners Alike Will Experience the Effects of Rising Container Prices

When people read about the current logistics landscape, it’s not always easy for them to grasp how the soaring freight prices will affect individual business owners and consumers. Most who purchase things at their favorite shops never think about rising container prices and may have a passing interest in what’s happening based on glancing at the day’s headlines. However, they’ll almost certainly notice the effects.

One thing to remember is the freight issues have already been disrupting timelines and budgets for months. Consider the experience of one seller of holiday goods. He said he paid as much as $22,000 per container during the 2021 holiday season. However, it was only $3,500 the year before that. When faced with such gigantic increases, many business decision-makers have no choice but to pass the costs onto consumers.

Inflation is a much-discussed topic these days and researchers found a direct link between inflation rates and freight prices. They took data from 143 countries while conducting the study. The results showed that when freight rates double, there is a 0.7 percentage rate increase in inflation.

When the researchers published the outcomes in March 2022, they concluded that the impact shipping rates have on inflation could result in an increase of about 1.5% throughout 2022.

They also noted that their research occurred before the Ukraine invasion but believed the issue would worsen global inflation. Various mainstream news outlets have also analyzed the ongoing supply chain issues. They found containers were often stuck at ports or quickly snatched up by the parties with the most financial resources to devote to the matter.

Some retailers also reprioritized what they sent through certain methods due to the rising container prices. For example, having soft items shipped often meant they could fit more per shipment.

Since some items take longer to arrive, customers also have to deal with the reality that they may not get the products in time for events like kids’ birthdays or religious holidays. The problem also affects manufacturers who need parts to build the most in-demand items.

Be as Transparent as Possible About Rising Freight Costs

It is now easier to see the impact shipping rates have on various parts of the supply chain. People familiar with the issue often warn there’s no end in sight.

If that’s the case, the best thing affected parties can do is try to control as many factors within their sphere of influence. Additionally, constant contact with customers about rate increases or delays will ensure everyone has the most accurate and up-to-date information.

 

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Why Are More Warehouses Relying on Electric Lifts?

Electric forklifts are taking over the warehousing industry. Benefits include longer life spans, fewer emissions and inexpensive repair costs, so it’s no surprise that many warehouses are turning to them to increase operational efficiency.

The world will need over 2.3 billion square feet of new warehousing space by the time 2035 rolls around. Due to this ever-expanding demand, finding ways to improve safety and efficiency is integral to the industry’s continued success.

Here’s why more warehouses are relying on electric lifts to power their operations.

What Are Electric Forklifts?

Rather than running on liquid fuel, like a diesel forklift, an electric lift runs on electricity. The power source is a battery, which has two functions — primarily to run the machine and secondarily as a counterweight to stabilize it.

There are two types of batteries for electric lifts:

Benefits of Electric Forklifts for Warehouses

Using an electric forklift has many advantages for warehouse operations. E-commerce businesses are growing every day, and demand is increasing, so reliability is integral to a company’s success.

Labor is the highest operating cost for most warehouses, so finding reliable solutions that increase worker productivity and operational efficiency is paramount. Battery-operated or electric forklifts have become an increasingly popular solution to improve operations.

The benefits of electric forklifts include:

1. Long Battery Life

An electric lift has a long battery life that can prevent unnecessary stops and delays in operations. Lead acid and lithium-ion batteries last longer in regular use situations and operate more efficiently than other power sources.

Heavier loads may cause electric forklifts to lose their battery power more quickly, but the batteries also allow for quick recharges or replacements. Workers can quickly and easily change the battery or charge an electric forklift during downtime when it loses power.  

2. Simple Maintenance

Electric forklifts have much simpler maintenance needs than their gas or diesel counterparts. Warehouses can benefit from streamlining their forklift maintenance routine because these machines have fewer parts.

Simpler maintenance also means workers can more easily perform everyday upkeep tasks like charging and changing batteries. This leads to greater productivity, as machines see less downtime and people can get back to work more quickly.

3. Quiet Operation

Warehouses are loud places, but too much noise can impact the efficiency and safety of workers on the floor. Electric forklift trucks are much quieter than diesel or gas-powered lifts because they do not have a loud intake or exhaust system.

Electric lifts are much safer to work with and won’t impact the health or hearing of individuals who operate them as much as other types of forklifts.

4. Low Center of Gravity

The stability of a forklift is paramount to its efficiency and safety. When lifting heavy loads, forklifts should remain stable on the ground to protect the driver and other surrounding workers and reduce damage to merchandise.

Electric forklifts are often more stable and reliable than other lift trucks due to their lower center of gravity and the stability provided by a heavy battery pack. This also lets workers know safety is of the utmost importance to the company, boosting morale.

5. Less Vibration and Operator Fatigue 

Vibration fatigue happens to equipment that undergoes significant vibrations for long periods. Certain frequencies and magnitudes can cause a crack in the machinery, which can grow and lead to eventual equipment failure. 

Electric lifts have less vibration than other kinds, so the equipment is more stable and less likely to crack or break.

Vibrations can also lead to operator fatigue and serious workplace injuries. Sitting on a vibrating machine for a long period can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), which leads to irreversible vascular and sensorineural damage and severe health consequences.

Electric lifts have fewer vibrations than other machinery, so they can ensure the safety and health of operators and reduce instances of HAVS in warehouses.

6. Inexpensive Repairs

Repair costs can accumulate, especially for warehouses that need many forklifts and machines. Fortunately, electric lifts have relatively inexpensive repair costs because there are fewer parts that have the potential to break or fail. This cost savings can really add up over time.

7. Fewer Emissions

The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) dictates that warehouses cannot have a carbon monoxide content of more than 50 parts per million as an 8-hour average. Warehouses that use diesel or gas-powered forklifts and other machinery must monitor carbon levels continuously to ensure they stay in compliance.

Fortunately, electric forklifts do not have a significant amount of emissions, meaning a safer environment for workers and operators.

Electric vs. Diesel Forklifts

Why are warehouses increasingly choosing electric forklifts over diesel? Increasing fuel prices are only part of the answer. The diesel vs. electric forklift debate has been ongoing, but electric is coming out on top due to the lower cost of ownership and longer life cycle.

Electric forklifts have a much longer life span compared to diesel lifts — they can last up to 12 years, while diesel versions only last for eight years. Additionally, electric machines result in more cost savings for warehouse operations, as they have lower maintenance requirements and fewer parts that need to be replaced.

Diesel forklifts are more suitable for outdoor tasks and can often sustain a higher load capacity than electric versions. Still, the long-term benefits of electric lifts mean more warehouses are relying on them.

Electric Lifts Are Changing Warehouse Operations

The benefits of electric forklifts and other technology help workers complete tasks more efficiently as warehouse needs grow. Many industries are introducing automation technology and even robotics into their operations, and are therefore more open to advancements. 

Technology will only become more important in warehouse operations, so keep an eye out for how new advancements are changing the industry.

Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.

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Why Is It a Good Time to Switch to Sustainable Logistics Practices?

Company decision-makers pursue various strategies to improve sustainability efforts. They might launch employee recycling programs, perform energy audits, or install eco-friendly lights and faucets. Those are all practical and widely used options. However, now is an excellent time to also look at possibilities in sustainable logistics. 

Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Options Abound

Not long ago, using electric and hybrid vehicles for a fleet was still a relatively niche idea. Now, many of the world’s largest and most reputable companies are investing in them. FedEx and UPS use electric cargo bikes on some of their routes.

Oatly, the brand behind the original and largest oat drink company, recently expanded its North American fleet with heavy-duty electric trucks. Also, lawmakers associated with the U.S. House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee want the Army to test hybrid and all-electric tactical vehicles as part of a previously announced climate plan. 

Attempts to improve sustainability may involve using fully or semi-autonomous vehicles, too. One particularly prominent trend in last-mile deliveries involves pods that operators control remotely or supervise while walking a short distance away. 

The main takeaway from these newsworthy examples is that decision-makers have plenty of current use cases to study if they’re interested in utilizing electric or hybrid vehicles for sustainable logistics and still need encouragement. They can also decide they’ll proceed gradually by launching a small trial and measuring the return on investment. 

C-Suite Members Are Ready for Sustainable Logistics Practices

Another reason why it’s a good time to look at ways to improve sustainability efforts through logistics changes is that supply chain executives are increasingly on board with the idea. Making significant organizational changes can be extremely challenging if people in power aren’t open to them. 

A 2022 IBM survey polled chief supply chain officers (CSCO) to determine their thoughts on modernization initiatives that increase companies’ resilience. About 66% saw sustainability as a core business value element. Additionally, 51% were willing to sacrifice an average of 5% in annual profits to improve eco-friendly outcomes. 

The most popular sustainability intention, cited by 47% of respondents, was to pursue full life cycle designs and uncover opportunities to reduce waste and pursue reuse. About 44% mentioned improving the energy efficiency of their products and services. 

When decision-makers are ready to turn intention into action, a good starting point is to consider the statistics associated with certain proposed changes. For example, some providers of sustainable barrier packaging provide environmental footprint and global warming impact data to aid comparisons against similar products. 

Despite the IBM study’s results, leaders in a particular organization may still have doubts about embracing sustainable logistics options. However, when they realize that more of their peers recognize the necessity of operating more sustainably, they should become more open-minded and at least willing to explore the possibilities. 

Vehicle Telematics Solutions Improve Sustainability Efforts and More

A fleet manager doesn’t necessarily need to invest in electric or hybrid vehicles to see a meaningful change in sustainability. Another, also widely accessible, option is to install telematics systems on an existing fleet. It’s a great time to start using them because the products are widely available now. That means decision-makers have plenty of options when it comes to the brands and types they might choose to meet their needs. 

Such solutions help fleet managers become more aware of what’s happening with their vehicles at any time. One way to apply telematics to improve sustainability efforts is to monitor fuel consumption, which can occur for individual cars or more broadly. Managers can then become more aware of overall performance and when it may be time to schedule maintenance appointments or budget for replacements.

Statistics also indicate that driver behavior influences up to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Moreover, every gallon of unnecessary diesel burned generates 22.1 pounds of CO2 emissions. It’s also worth pointing out that efforts to break operators’ bad habits create advantages beyond sustainability. Most notably, they can make drivers safer and reduce accident rates, helping a fleet company’s bottom line. 

Perhaps, through various types of coaching, a driver breaks their habits of fast braking and accelerating. Doing that can cause gas mileage improvements and cut emissions. It may reduce the chances of accidents. 

Many vehicle telematics platforms also offer route planning. Those capabilities can drastically reduce the stop-and-go driving and time spent idling that can waste gas and raise emissions. It will likely take some time and trial and error for fleet company leaders to figure out how vehicle telematics offerings fit into their overall sustainability strategies. However, as these examples show, they can have numerous positive impacts that help the planet and more.

Ongoing Research Helps People Improve Sustainability Logistics

Now is also an opportune time for logistics company decision-makers to invest in sustainability because there’s so much helpful guidance and research available to help them make the most effective choices. 

Consider the recent research that compared recycled corrugated packages with reusable ones made from plastic. One takeaway was that corrugated board systems outperformed reusable plastics in 10 of 15 categories, including climate change impact. 

Another finding was that plastic crates must reach a rotation rate of at least 63 to surpass the climate change impact of corrugated boxes. However, a life cycle analysis indicated that those containers are only reused two dozen times. 

Of course, any attempts to improve sustainability efforts should also be examined from the perspective of operations at individual logistics companies. Decisions about things like which materials to use depend on various factors, including budget and corporate leaders’ willingness to change. 

People must also remember that it usually takes time to see and monitor the effects of any change, whether enacted for sustainability reasons or otherwise. That’s why it’s important to set specific metrics to track and timeframes for when desired improvements should ideally become evident. 

Commit to the Switch

These are only some of the many reasons company leaders increasingly realize now is the time to explore sustainable logistics options and see which ones might work best. Local and national legislators continually set climate-related targets and stress that reaching them requires sustainable changes from everyone. This information can help logistics professionals feel confident about doing things differently to support a more sustainable future.