New Articles

Examining the Versatility of Intermodal Transportation in 2024 and Beyond

intermodal global trade

Examining the Versatility of Intermodal Transportation in 2024 and Beyond

Intermodal freight is the future of logistics. Momentum is on its side, poising it to evolve from alternative to standard in the coming years. This news doesn’t surprise the industry because it promises more efficiency and sustainability than traditional long-haul trucking loads. It also meaningfully cuts drayage to reduce costs and is reliable enough to minimize the risk of cargo damage and loss.

Read also: US Intermodal Gains Momentum Amid Trucking Challenges

This freight transportation model isn’t without challenges limiting its potential. For example, it requires substantial capital to build the necessary infrastructure. Intermodal freight relies on the interconnectivity of distinct modes of transport and cranes to transport shipping containers between vehicles. Despite this, logistics interests are betting big on it because of one other, less-talked-about but significant advantage — versatility.

Intermodal Transportation’s Elegant Solutions to Logistical Pain Points

The primary beneficiaries of intermodal transportation are enterprises — especially those operating in retail, manufacturing, agriculture and construction — that move large shipment volumes over vast distances. Domestic shippers in large countries like the United States find immense value in it, and their international counterparts consider it an antidote to the complicated logistical challenges they face in business.

Considering the versatile nature of intermodal freight, it’s fathomable that more shippers would view it as a practical means of carrying their goods for these reasons.

1. Meeting Rising Demand for Goods Quickly

Sector observers estimate the global intermodal transportation market will balloon from $55.3 billion in 2022 to $197.59 billion in 2032, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.2%. E-commerce is the primary catalyst for this rosy projection. When you factor in globalization and sustainability, intermodal freight stands out as the most desirable means of transportation for massive quantities of physical goods from and to anywhere in the world as soon as possible while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Although freight vehicles have dissimilar capacities, containerization renders them interoperable. Planes, marine vessels, trucks and trains have unique strengths that complement and neutralize each other’s limitations. Harnessing intermodal transportation can speed up deliveries to alleviate lengthy lead times whose economic consequences ripple around society.

Take construction as an example. Black swan and geopolitical events have negatively impacted the sector’s supply chains for years, causing contractors to pay more and wait longer for supplies to complete projects.

Imported materials such as timber and steel take four or six times as long to arrive on the jobsite as they used to pre-pandemic. Construction delays can hurt bottom lines, increase idleness, drive up rents and property prices, and undercut homelessness solutions.

Intermodal freight opens a world of possibilities for circumventing global supply chain issues. The logistics industry needs as many alternative transportation methods as possible to move trillions worth of shipments across oceans and enormous landmasses amid various hazards.

2. Increasing Avenues of Cargo Movement

Intermodal freight transportation opens new possibilities for shipping any conceivable item when long-haul trucking is inaccessible in an area. It empowers shippers to book truckers keener on same-day journeys than multi-day hauls.

In the U.S., a single day is usually sufficient to transport a commodity from its point of origin to the nearest rail yard. The country has Class I railroads and short lines running more than 92,000 and 44,000 route miles, respectively, across 49 states and the District of Columbia, totaling about 136,000 route miles. With this extensive infrastructure, intermodal freight allows shippers nationwide to use trucks for pre- and post-haulage only.

3. Mitigating Trucker Shortages

The trucking industry has an impending driver crisis. Older truckers considerably outnumber their younger peers, potentially leaving many commercial freight carriers severely understaffed when they retire. For instance, 29% of American truck drivers are at least 55 years old, whereas only 8% are under 25.

Autonomous vehicles may or may not offset this imminent labor shortage. Moving more cargo by rail and less by road is the safer bet to prepare for this nightmarish logistics scenario.

Intermodal freight can help fleet owners keep employee turnover figures low and soften the blow of acute talent shortages. Long-haul trucking can be a taxing gig because of exhausting schedules. Concentrating on shorter trips can benefit truckers’ overall health and generate more revenue by covering less ground to move more goods in less time and shrinking deadhead miles. This business model can enable commercial freight carriers to offer competitive wages to attract talent.

4. Easing Truck Modernization Transition

Decreasing the need for long-haul trucking lessens fleet owners’ barriers to hitting sustainability targets. Incorporating rail into haulage makes it easier to upgrade to more compact, fuel-efficient vehicles, concentrate on the last leg of the cargo’s journey and reduce carbon footprints.

Rail has superior capacity and fuel efficiency among all freight solutions. It accounts for just 2% of transportation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. When used to move more shipments by weight, freight rail can help the sector’s dirtier segments decarbonize more quickly and move the needle in sustainability.

2024 Intermodal Transportation Trends to Watch Out For

These ongoing trends will shape intermodal freight’s future.

1. Growing Cross-Border Trade

Regional trade growth is outpacing global trade. Rival countries engage in a battle of attrition, imposing restrictions on one another and strategically embracing protectionism. As a result, more nations seek to do more business with friendly neighbors than adversarial partners oceans away. These phenomena are fueling the appetite for intermodal freight.

For instance, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement boosts the economic interdependence of member countries on one another. This newly minted trading bloc gives American farmers alternative markets to sell their products to and prevent themselves from becoming collateral damage in the U.S.-China trade war. Intermodal freight facilitates more cross-border trade within these North American nations.

2. Electric Freight Trains

Rail is becoming greener by the year with the advent of 100% battery-powered heavy-haul locomotives. Although a zero-emission freight train already reached the finish line, the sustainability race continues. It has only strengthened the resolve of more technology companies to explore novel ways to retire diesel-burning trains for a low-carbon future.

3. Greater Supply Chain Visibility

Various innovations ensure better intermodal shipment tracking. More brands are embracing GPS systems and telematics technologies to monitor rail cars more closely, attracting shippers that typically use trucks and diversifying their clientele as they decouple from waning commodities like coal. Cloud-based intermodal software is also gaining steam.

Intermodal Transportation — A Versatile Logistical Remedy

Improving synergy between various freight vehicles makes financial sense on many levels. While logistics professionals still need to work out the model’s kinks to improve service, its bright outlook means the transportation sector has faith in its long-term viability and success.

global trade logistics

8 Game-Changing Moves for Logistics Companies Pursuing Growth in 2024

Every year is a chance for growth, whether a logistics company is an established entity or a small business in the industry. No matter what stage they’re in, the most important thing is making the right decisions to propel them forward rather than backward. 

Read also: 4 Strategies Every Logistics Company Must Start Doing

It might seem like everybody already knows the road to success in 2024. In reality, there’s not a one-and-done solution for all services. Here are some positive moves to influence a business’s chances of making it big.

Enhance Transparency

Logistics companies depend significantly on their patrons, whether they focus on a B2B or B2C model. In 2022, about 60% of consumers think trustworthiness and transparency are the most significant traits of a business worldwide. Thus, establishments that want to thrive in this industry must seek ways to keep transparency.

For example, keep customers updated. Have a mailing list to share the latest pricing and shipping fees. Even weekly newsletters can affect how customers view the company and whether they will be loyal.

If a customer requests a shipment, let them know the status of their delivery. It’s reassuring for people to track where their parcel is, and it impresses them that a logistic business can provide real-time data.

Provide Employee Training

A logistics company only succeeds when its employees are well-trained and knowledgeable about the industry. After all, they are responsible for company processes like sales, marketing, and inventory handling. Businesses should focus on fostering their talents. Look at them as an investment in the company’s long-term success.

One underrated part of employee training is being able to handle different departments. More prominent companies will have dedicated people to their own niches. However, it’s good to have each person expand their range for the future.

Businesses can also offer workshops and one-on-one training sessions with the employees. The industry is always growing, and the workers may not be fully aware of it since they’re focused on work. Give them the knowledge to keep up with the competition. 

Improve Warehousing

Warehousing is one of the most significant facets of logistics. As the company grows, more bulk items will require storage and packaging. To keep up with demand, it’s important to find ways to expand and be more efficient.

For example, an inventory tracking system can empower logistics managers to measure warehouse space and monitor the business’ stocks. This solution can be combined with security measures to keep valuables safe. 

Running a warehouse entails multiple upkeep expenses. Try to see what upgrades may minimize expenditure. For example, fabric buildings are gaining momentum since they don’t have screws or nails, mitigating leaks, rust, and corrosion. On average, repair costs can be as low as $2 per square foot for fabric buildings, while replacement steel is up to $7 per square foot.

Invest in Better Transportation

Transportation has a big impact on logistics companies. To continue growing, businesses must improve their processes of delivering different transports. Having GPS trackers on the company vehicles can ensure everything is moving according to schedule. It also encourages drivers to be more productive.

Another investment that may change the game for logistic companies is self-driving vehicles. Truckers can drive for 12 hours every day but require rest to recuperate. Having autonomous trucks go to and from a destination at every hour of the day can make a big difference.

Granted, self-driving automobiles can be a costly investment. Medium to large-sized businesses can shoulder these potential upgrades. However, it’s best to assess the budget. Only revisit the idea if it seems feasible and growth is steady. 

Implement Lead Generation Strategies

Logistics companies thrive on word of mouth, but relying on that alone can be dangerous. Explore different lead generation strategies to grow the customer base and uplift the business. Have a mix of traditional and digital marketing.

For traditional marketing, events can be greatly beneficial for networking. Host different trade shows or attend conferences and seminars related to logistics. Those discussions can help reel in many potential patrons. 

In terms of digital marketing, SEO is imperative. There are about 8.5 billion Google search queries daily, with the average person performing three to four searches daily. Have a prominent presence through social media. Create a website to attract the searches related to logistics services. 

Integrate Performance Analysis

Some companies make many decisions but fail to track them. That makes it hard to know what’s causing slowdowns or improvements. Instead of letting those efforts go to waste, consider adopting a performance management and analysis process. 

Pick out KPI metrics to keep track of. For example, some logistics companies want to improve delivery performance and rates. Check the number of successful shipments and round up the numbers throughout a period. Compare it later to see whether the business is hitting its mark.

Another key metric to assess is the profit margin. Businesses need to maximize their earnings when making deliveries to have the funds to grow further. Anything below it can cause problems that are difficult to recover from. 

Create a Strong Plan 

If logistics companies lack a strong long-term plan, they should adopt one as soon as possible. Pursuing growth requires a clear timeline and an outline of how to achieve those objectives. Many establishments close their doors early because they fail to achieve this growth. In 2022, new businesses will have a one-year survival rate of 74.4%-78.6%, depending on the location. 

Logistic services are highly survivable if they plan for the years ahead. Create different milestones to reach. Whether it has to do with increasing customer base or boosting delivery capabilities, set a goal to work toward at the end of this year and the ones to come.

The logistics company doesn’t have to shut down if things don’t follow through. Instead, assess the shortcomings and adapt the timeline for the future. Challenges are bound to arise, and professionals can only manage how they will react to such adversities.

Utilize Specialized Technology

Logistics companies should keep up with the times and invest in specialized technology. It’s 2024, and the age of digitization is more prominent than ever, especially with the rise of artificial intelligence. After all, AI can provide robust predictive algorithms and automate repetitive tasks, which saves energy and time for employees. 

Many companies within the industry are already catching up. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about one in four small businesses utilize AI in their processes. Bigger services are likely making their usage the norm, so stay caught up.

Aside from AI, logistics companies can also take advantage of other hands-on technologies. For instance, robotics can easily take over packaging duties. Instead, professionals can direct the workforce towards other company endeavors, maximizing productivity. 

Aiming and Adapting for Growth

Logistics professionals should be detail-oriented and analytical about different factors. Individual changes for each facet may seem subtle, but they all improve the business. Strive for these improvements to increase a company’s overall survival.

global trade industry

How Sustainable Manufacturing Practices Are Shaping Tomorrow’s Auto Industry

Whether people travel for work or vacation, automobiles are integral to modern transportation needs. Commuters have driven anything from the Model T to the Corvette for over a century. Now, the automotive industry is at a critical inflection point regarding sustainability.

Read also: REVEALED: How Do Disruptions in the Supply Chain Affect the Automotive Industry

Manufacturers must be more conscious of the environment or risk regulatory intervention from governing bodies. Here’s a guide to sustainable auto manufacturing and the industry’s evolution.

What Sustainable Practices Are in the Auto Industry?

Automotive manufacturers have implemented environmentally friendly strategies to promote sustainability. Here are five practices automakers use to limit their liability.

1. Renewable Energy

Improving sustainability in the automotive industry begins with the power sources at production plants. Manufacturers can produce fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles (EVs), but the environmental effects remain if the facilities rely on non-renewable resources.

Automakers have recently turned to solar and wind technology to generate power. Last year, Ford opened a solar power plant in Valencia, Spain, intending to produce 10 megawatts by 2024.

2. Modern Materials

Manufacturers used to build cars with steel to make them sturdy, but this approach made them heavier and less fuel-efficient. Modern machines use lighter materials to improve fuel economy while maintaining safety.

For instance, manufacturers have moved away from steel to favor aluminum. This lighter material lets cars consume less fuel and generate fewer emissions. Aluminum is also beneficial because it is more recyclable than steel.

3. Reduced Waste

The EPA said auto manufacturers reduced their waste production by 17% between 2005 and 2020. Recycling has been critical to limiting trash and creating a circular economy.

Modern manufacturers follow the latter’s principles to make their vehicles recyclable and reuse old parts. For example, Stellantis has an end-of-life recycling partnership with Gallo that repurposes steel and plastic from manufacturing.

4. Improved Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is vital for automakers because it determines how efficient their vehicles are once they’ve hit the road. EVs have become more popular, but gas-powered cars still compose 92% of the automobile market. 

Improving the miles per gallon for vehicle lineups has been crucial to manufacturers as governing bodies implement stricter regulations. Modern cars have benefited from more efficient engines, improved transmissions and better aerodynamics.

5. Powerful Batteries

EVs could only last 63 to 94 miles before owners had to recharge the batteries, but evolving technology now gives the average electric car 270 miles of range. 

Thanks to innovations like denser batteries, this increase has been vital for manufacturers to get consumers on board with their EV lineups. The Lucid Air has set the standard for EV batteries, with a 500-mile capacity on a single charge.

How Have Auto Manufacturers Evolved With Sustainability?

While automakers are at the forefront of sustainability innovations, their operations haven’t always been environmentally friendly. Here are five ways auto manufacturers have improved efficiency and reduced waste.

1. Production Efficiency

Production efficiency dates back to the Ford Motor Company and its assembly lines. Through the years, manufacturers have built on these ideals by streamlining and cutting waste wherever necessary. 

Emphasizing efficiency in production lets them create more cars while reducing environmental impact. For instance, Toyota’s assembly lines utilize a just-in-time philosophy to minimize trash, trim costs and limit interruptions when building vehicles.

2. Leveraging Robotics

Robotics has long been a part of auto manufacturing. General Motors (GM) implemented a robotic arm on the assembly line and increased production speed by 67% by the early 1970s. 

The last half-century has further demonstrated the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Modern automotive plants leverage robotics for welding and eliminating dangerous materials. This technology also makes the job safer for employees.

3. Laser Technology

Laser technology has been another critical advancement for assembly lines because it reduces waste and improves efficiency. Factory employees use lasers to increase precision on individual parts, thus saving time and ensuring structural integrity. 

These gadgets reduce the need to touch the car part with a mechanical part and risk harming it. Automotive plants also use light detection and ranging technology to generate 3D models of their vehicles and make safety checks.

4. Crate Motors

Engines only last so long before they can no longer work. Old vehicles remain in garages, backyards and scrapyards because they can’t move anywhere else. How can people breathe life into classic cars and antique cars? Refurbishing with crate motors is an excellent start.

These engines upgrade old vehicles by letting them take advantage of new technology. For example, a collector could revamp an old Porsche by refitting it with an electric motor.

5. Blockchain

Thanks to blockchain technology, increasing supply chain visibility has become more manageable. The innovation enhances transparency by making materials more straightforward to trace, thus bringing more accountability and improved security to the industry.

While a relatively new technology, the blockchain will be integral to the automotive sector’s future. Experts say it will have a nearly 53% CAGR until 2032, reaching a $825 billion value.

What Challenges Do Automakers Face With Sustainability?

Ensuring sustainability brings long-term goals for automakers. However, these five challenges could prevent them from reaching critical benchmarks.

1. Upfront Costs

While investing in EVs and renewable energy is commendable, the price tag is a significant barrier. Manufacturers must invest a lot of capital to pay for solar panels at their plants and expensive batteries for their vehicles. These make cars more expensive and less attainable for consumers.

However, experts say the next few years will alleviate expenses. A Gartner report says electric cars will be cheaper to produce than ICE vehicles by 2027.

2. Intermittent Power

Solar and wind energy present opportunities to use renewables in automotive plants. However, manufacturers must consider the intermittency of these power sources. Cloudy or wind-free days make these technologies counterproductive to a manufacturer’s quota.

Research and development are necessary to make panels and turbines more efficient with energy storage. For instance, high concentrations make a solar panel more energy-dense and viable for large plants.

3. Sustainable Sourcing

Automakers rely on lithium, nickel and cobalt for EV batteries, and their sourcing could make electric cars less sustainable. Mining these metals raises environmental concerns because of their resource usage and CO2 emissions.

The International Energy Agency says EVs use nearly 200kg more minerals than ICE cars, thus depleting resources and harming the environment. Future mining should prioritize pollution reduction and less energy usage.

4. Supply Chain Management

An automaker is only as sustainable as its suppliers. They must be selective and ensure the companies they work with uphold strict environmental standards. Leveraging blockchain technology can be an excellent strategy to enforce sustainable practices.

Issues could arise by relying on businesses that disregard the environment. Manufacturers should audit their supply partners to ensure their vehicles maximize sustainability.

5. Privacy and Security

Connecting vehicles to grids and other cars enhances sustainability through better traffic and grid management. However, this technology opens the door to cyber theft and privacy breaches.

Automakers and EV charging stations store large amounts of data, so they must implement stringent practices to protect this information. The Identify Theft Resource Center says data breaches affected 353 million people, emphasizing the need for strong policies in the auto industry.

Enhancing Sustainability in the Auto Industry

The automotive industry relies on technological advances to increase efficiency and stay ahead. In recent years, manufacturers have prioritized lessening their environmental impact. 

While artificial intelligence and machine learning have made building cars and tracking supplies more efficient, automakers must improve their sustainability with renewable energy and constant innovation.

global trade ship marine container price market

A Closer Look at Life on a Cargo Ship: 7 Realities

The water transportation industry rarely gets the spotlight. That said, delivering freight from country to country is hard work that deserves more recognition. 

Read also: Innovative Strategy Reduces Cargo Ship Emissions by 17.3%

A great number of people contribute to a package’s journey and destination. Here’s a closer look at what to do to get and stay on board a cargo ship.

Applying to Become a Cargo Worker

There are many jobs in the sector, with seaman and material handler as the entry-level roles. It can take some time to climb the ranks and become a senior member of the crew or ship captain. However, some are content with taking on more niche roles such as ship cook or rigger.

Cargo ship jobs usually have fewer educational requirements, with some accepting high school graduates. However, maritime training and certification is key. U.S. companies and sole proprietors must obtain a license from the Federal Maritime Commission to qualify for ocean freight transportation.

Sending in an application does not guarantee landing a role. Logistic jobs may be in demand with the growth of e-commerce and globalization, but most enterprises look for people with experience handling inventory and shipping.

It’s also important to check on one’s health before pushing through with becoming a cargo worker. Unlike shipping roles on land, a crew member will have to face the sights and motions of the sea throughout their career.

Checking Compensation for the Crew

Compensation can vary from role to role. Experience and rank can also play a big part in the salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, water transportation workers had a median pay of $31.22 per hour or $64,930 annually in May 2023. Some shipping businesses offer a premium for overtime work.

Some people receive their pay weekly or monthly, depending on management. However, some crew members need compensation due to unfair employers and rogue manning agents. The International Transport Workers’ Federation recovered over $35 million in wages owed.

Cargo ship workers must be wary of their employers and any payment problems that may arise. Check the agency’s legitimacy by checking its registration and whether it is under an ITF agreement. A claim against brands that have breached those conditions will be easier to process and resolve.

Crew members can connect with the rest of their shipmates to address delays and collect their salaries. However, being wary of acquaintances who will take advantage of the situation and extort money is also essential.

Experiencing the Working Conditions

The sun and the sea are both unpredictable natural elements. Docking at the port and moving the freight onto the boat can already be a taxing experience. Depending on the size of the vessel and the number of crew members working together, the movement can take a while.

Some people may experience muscle soreness with a delayed onset afterward. These aches show up 24 to 72 hours after strenuous activities. However, staff can’t get rest right away, especially when the ship finally sails.

Material handlers need to recheck inventory to ensure nothing is missing. Engineers need to monitor and maintain the motor to keep the ship afloat. The captain and officers must navigate the waters and steer the freight to their destination.

As bigger ships need hands on deck 24/7, someone will always be working. The shift assigned to a worker will typically state their exact hours and when they can rest in their personal quarters.

Living on a Water Vessel

A cargo ship is quite far from a cruise ship, as it is more optimized for transporting different packages. Being in the middle of the ocean makes Wi-Fi connection quite difficult to come across. Even when an email does get out, the captain is in charge of reviewing correspondence.

While it lacks the amenities and entertainment required, most cargo ship workers can find plenty of solace in the endless sky and sea. Taking in the sights in between monitoring the mechanisms and freights can be relaxing.

Most cargo ship organizations provide meals for the crew at specific times of day. Vessels with longer journeys have a limited food supply, so each person gets only one portion. Fresh food is hard to come by after a few months since it will have gone bad already.

For sleeping accommodation, ship crewmates of a higher rank may get their own room and bed. Deckmates and other roles share a cabin and bunk bed with others on the boat. Toilets and a shower room are also for communal use.

Maintaining Gear and Equipment

Cargo ship workers are responsible for a lot of gear and equipment, which isn’t always smooth sailing. For instance, marine freshwater tanks store water for drinking and cooking. These portable liquids should be clean and free of infection. Unfortunately, they are still subject to contamination, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease among the crew.

There’s also the struggle of inclement weather when on board. Whether rain or shine, the boat needs to continue moving forward. The crew must be prepared to move items and evacuate the area if any damage occurs to the hull due to turbulent sailing conditions.

Foul weather gear is recommended since it has a water-repellent finish to protect the material. However, it diminishes after every 20 to 30 uses. Wearing it every day during the rainy season can affect its quality before the ship even gets to its destination.

In those cases, workers have to rewax the area to achieve the waterproof effect again. If the layers are separating from the interior fabric, report to a manager to get a new suit.

Navigating the Work Culture

There is still a stigma that the maritime industry is only for men due to traditional gender roles. However, many female seafarers have created a mark on the industry. For example, Caroline Mayhew became a captain in 1846 after her husband and crew members fell victim to the smallpox epidemic. She was able to steer the vessel to safety.

Numerous modern-day heroines are still pursuing careers on cargo ships. While some crew members are less than respectful towards women and the work culture still needs improvement, the space is slowly changing to become more inclusive. Look for employers focusing on each person’s safety and mental well-being while on the clock.

Managing Personal Time

One key reality about working on a cargo ship is how hard a work-life balance is to achieve. A rating can take around nine months or so. In that time, a crew member can miss a holiday, a loved one’s birthday and other important events.

It’s challenging to manage personal relationships. However, some people do maintain friendships and families while sailing worldwide. Just communicate and set expectations with loved ones before the next venture.

The Truth of Cargo Ship Life

Staying afloat during a cargo ship’s trials and tribulations is challenging and rewarding. Acknowledge the realities and appreciate the people within the field. Those with a newfound respect or admiration for the trade are more than welcome to join.

FSC global trade

What Should Lumber Supply Chain Professionals Know About the FSC?

Lumber supply chain professionals have a significant responsibility to deliver quality wood products to consumers worldwide. 

Many mandatory regulations need to comply as a legal requirement for operations, but companies can take advantage of optional yet beneficial memberships and certifications. 

For example, complying with the FSC and obtaining their endorsement can bolster a brand and its products.

Read also: The Supply Chain is Determined by Value. It’s Time we Recognize the People Driving that

What Is the FSC?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-governmental organization that believes in responsible forest management worldwide. Created in the 1990s, the pioneer group has paved the way for sustainability and became the most trusted forest certification system in the world.

The FSC understands various issues regarding the forest, with environmental conversation at the top. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agricultural expansion is responsible for nearly 90% of global deforestation in 2021. As climate change continues to impact the world, establishments must minimize their environmental influence.

There’s also the responsibility of forest management operations. Each decision and potential outcome can take a great toll on humanity. Aside from being a workplace to many industries, the woodlands are also home to creatures and communities.

The FSC recognizes protecting and regulating forest use requires the cooperation of all individuals. Through the collective effort of multiple staff members and certification holders, it aims to achieve woodland restoration, and respect between communities and consumers.

FSC Certification for the Lumber Industry

FSC endorsement can either be Forest Management Certification or Chain-of-Custody Certification. Forest Management Certification usually indicates the FSC’s trained workers are managing a forest area. Over 500 million forest acres are FSC certified, accounting for 12% of the world’s woodland.

Protected forestry should aim to maintain its biological diversity. While it is possible to source wood from areas without Forest Management Certification, it is imperative to prioritize the health and well-being of the space first. 

The Chain-of-Custody Certification is best for lumber supply chain professionals, as it addresses forest-based product ownership and distribution. It is applicable whether a company produces completed goods or supplies materials for other finished goods.

FSC-certified materials hold a tick-tree logo. Having that trademark on product packaging generally means being a provider or supplier committed to protecting forests and materials sources.

There are many FSC-certified products available. In addition, 56% of global consumers recognize the FSC logo.

Imagine if a consumer wants to whittle soft wood blocks for their project. They search for the materials in bulk and look at two variations. Product A has FSC certification, while Product B doesn’t. Since consumers know FSC materials are more ethically sourced and packaged, they are more inclined to choose Product A. Bearing the logo can be important to boosting sales. 

FSC Objectives and Impact on the Lumber Industry

The lumber industry requires plenty of timber to sustain itself. Wood is in demand for housing construction, art projects and more. However, trees are still relatively limited despite being a renewable resource, as it takes years to grow quality greenery. The World Economic Forum even reported lumber businesses are moving down south for extra resources.

The FSC does not aim to eliminate the total use of forests. Instead, its main objective is to create an environmentally friendly relationship with these parts of the world. This vision can benefit natural resources and those who need them without tipping the balance and contributing to further global warming. 

The FSC’s impact on the lumber industry is profound. Its continuous promotion of environmental stewardship has already connected with many enterprises. Plus, it deters illegal logging or resource use in the long run, upholding the U.S. Lacey Act in the market with its certification.

How the FSC Certification Process and Criteria Look

The three main stages of the FSC certification process revolve around fulfilling requirements, adhering to the application process and being amenable to monitoring during evaluation. Lumber supply chain professionals should commit to each phase to qualify for endorsement.

Requirements

The FSC has three labels, each with specific requirements. For example, the FSC 100 label requires timber sourced from FSC-managed forests. Meanwhile, the FSC Recycled needs wood to be comprised of reclaimed materials.

There’s also the FSC Mix. This label means products combine different materials from responsible sources. These can include materials sourced from FSC-managed forests and recycled products simultaneously.

All still fall under the Chain-of-Custody Certification. This endorsement also requires brands to eliminate child or forced labor. There should also be equal opportunities when it comes to employment and occupation without discrimination.

Process

The first step to achieving endorsement is to seek an independent and FSC-accredited certification body. There are many options for enterprises worldwide. In the U.S., SCS Global Services is a prominent organization that provides sustainable certification of all kinds. However, it is possible to choose other bodies to work with.

The next step is to submit an application to determine whether a company meets the requirements. If a lumber supply chain business is approved, it gets the Chain-of-Custody Certification. Then, it can begin to brand and sell FSC-certified products.

Monitoring

Some lumber supply chain professionals think getting certification means it lasts forever. However, the FSC continues to monitor certified supply chains and conduct an annual audit to act against violating enterprises.

The FSC is utilizing blockchain technology to monitor supply chain problems for maximum efficiency. Essentially, the tech tracks source materials and their movement throughout the world, serving as a compliance check for those with FSC certification.

Blockchain technology also prevents suppliers from falsely claiming FSC verification. Many put the logo on without upholding the organization’s values, so they aim to take strong action against those who harm the FSC’s reputation and claims.

Further FSC Certification Intervention in the Supply Chain

FSC Certification primarily applies to wood on its own. That said, lumber supply chain professionals understand many other industries utilize wood. It is used in construction, furniture, art, paper production and so on.

Back then, the only similarity between FSC Certification and environmental verification programs like Rainforest Alliance’s Supply Chain Certification was that they promoted sustainability in farms and trading. Rainforest Alliance teaches and requires forest protection, and fights deforestation, but they focus more on commodities like chocolate, coffee, tea and more.

Currently, the FSC is exploring that dynamic by expanding its certification program for other industries sourcing from the forest. Aside from the more obvious sectors in which wood is utilized, its influence extends to other creative uses of timber.

For example, man made cellulosic (MMCFs) are fabric fibers made from wood pulp. About 7.2 million tons of MMCFs were created in 2021 for fashion and clothing. As the material relies on these natural resources, companies are encouraged to work with FSC-certified suppliers and prioritize sustainability.

See the Value in FSC Certification

The FSC has a strong mission of protecting the forest and recognizes the importance of working with businesses to achieve this. Lumber supply chain professionals should answer the call. 

Plus, there are multiple benefits to getting certification, such as positioning the brand as an environmental steward, and attracting partners and consumers.

supply chain global trade phishing

Supply Chain Professionals Are at Risk of Spear Phishing: Here’s How to Address It

Supply chain professionals hold plenty of sensitive information about businesses and their beneficiaries. Guarding this data has become more challenging as hackers refine their methods of attacking individuals and organizations. 

While cyberattacks like spear phishing have become more well-developed, security solutions have also scaled up and improved. Employ the right programs and methods to keep the supply chain safe and businesses moving in the right direction.

Read also: The Rising Risk of Cyber Crime in the Supply Chain

How Spear Phishing Happens

Spear phishing occurs in various communication settings, including emails, phone calls and chat-based platforms. Many people know phishing is a cyberattack targeting multiple individuals and companies. Spear phishing involves posing as a reliable authority to extort data through links and manipulation. It’s more effective because these cyberattacks are targeted.

Phishing attacks feature a general script copied and pasted to various individuals. People who use spear phishing seek information about their victims. For example, a spear phishing message will open with a line about what the recipient and the perpetrator have in common. 

Some people may use AI to remove grammatical mistakes and create hyper-realistic messages. They can adapt and impersonate the voice of a colleague or leader in phone calls to lure victims into sharing important information.

The extra time that goes toward identifying viable targets and conducting preliminary research can make spear phishing much more likely to succeed. Social engineering makes it harder to differentiate a real message from a spear phishing one.

The Impact of Spear Phishing

Big companies fall for phishing scams all the time. General Electric released news about a data breach in February 2020 involving Canon. While processing documents involving benefit entitlements, the company discovered that a hacker accessed a Canon email account to tap into employee information.

Spear phishing can trigger a lack of trust between partners in the supply chain. For instance, when people notice that the fleets shipping their goods compromise their data, it can raise uncertainty and doubt about continuing to order or do business with them. 

The results can also have a devastating effect on a company’s finances. About 39% of organizations affected by spear phishing attacks cite direct instances of monetary loss, like transferring cash. Reputational and financial damage can cause closure or bankruptcy. Such an imbalance can cause supply chain problems and eventually affect the economy.

Addressing Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a viable threat. However, it is preventable to a certain degree with the correct methods. 

1. Provide Employee Training

Employees in a supply chain are viable targets for spear phishers. They can access sensitive information like names, addresses, certificates, tax forms and Social Security numbers. Educate them about the dangers of spear phishing and to be more discerning with their communications. 

A spear-phishing attack can be incredibly convincing, especially since the sender pretends to be someone close to the recipient. After gaining trust, the perpetrator will send a request, such as opening an attachment or providing login credentials. Promote confidentiality and suggest reporting the incident so IT can verify it. Discourage taking telephone calls from unknown numbers.

Promoting a low profile on social media platforms is also important. Spear phishing experts will likely sweep public accounts to review targets and their backgrounds. Ask employees to limit posting personal information. They should avoid posting company news or mentioning their employer to deter cyberattackers.

2. Verify Organizations

Working with a new supplier or vendor can be exciting. However, be wary of their background and whether they have ties to cybercrimes. Spear phishing can make companies out of thin air or impersonate legitimate ones.

Verify third-party legitimacy before conducting business. It’s best to hold in-person meetings with an established authority rather than relying on digital communications. 

3. Secure Vehicles

Some logistics businesses look to self-driving trucks because of labor shortages. The trucking industry saw a deficit of 80,000 drivers in late 2021. Autonomous vehicles provide a big advantage in meeting demand and regulating fuel use. However, these preprogrammed systems are susceptible to hacking when cyberattackers gain access.

Some people may use spear phishing to pose as a maintenance specialist or another authority figure to gain access to the self-driving system. Restrict access to these assets. Be vigilant when receiving messages.

4. Conduct Inventory Reviews

Inventory is another vulnerable aspect of the supply chain. Stored products can hold incredible value in quality and quantity. Technological devices also have access to sensitive data, so limits should be placed on who can use them.

It’s also imperative to conduct inventory reviews. Regularly update who has accessed what and which devices are on a company’s network. Audit logs of suspicious activity can uncover a spear phishing attack or another cybercrime. 

5. Improve Order Monitoring

Professionals responsible for order management should look for ways to optimize the processes. Some people coordinate through email to manage things— about 82% of companies saw a higher volume in 2022. However, this entails a higher risk of email-based threats like spear phishing.

Use machine learning-powered email security solutions to filter spear phishing messages from an inbox. Seek unique and protected order monitoring platforms. The ideal system can simplify operations and fulfillment while securing vendor and patron information. 

6. Update Company Security

Company cybersecurity should never be overlooked. Adopt the right policies, such as keeping financial information and passwords secure. Passwords should be changed regularly to avoid data leaks that will compromise the supply chain.

Make sure to verify all email recipients and senders. Use a work email address to make internal communications safer in the long run. For external communications, seek tech specialists who can vet profiles.

It’s also ideal to install up-to-date security software on all work devices. Systems like firewalls and antivirus software can detect spear phishing emails and alert employees. Early identification is key to preventing anything drastic from happening.

7. Create a Contingency Plan

Spear phishing can be incredibly elusive and slip through security. That’s why it’s vital to have a contingency plan. The right processes can offer significant damage control and recovery in the wake of a cyberattack. 

If data is compromised, file a cyber insurance claim to cover the damages. It’s also essential to back up data and change all passwords. Restrict access to prevent more information from leaking. Ensure they’re more secure than previous variations.

Seek assistance from the IT team in charge. These specialists can scan and remove malware and other threats from the system. They can also trace the exact date and time the infiltration happened. Companies should also file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. An investigation can prevent criminals from spear-phishing other businesses and bring them to justice.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also requires public companies to disclose cybersecurity breaches and risk management processes. Details should include the nature of the incident and its material impacts and be submitted within four business days.

Shield Supply Chains From Spear Phishing

Supply chains are vulnerable to spear phishing. Companies should be aware of how it happens and stay on high alert at each step of operations. Effective security is vital to ensuring commerce continues without a hitch and nothing interrupts the process.

warehouse

An Efficient Warehouse Should Incorporate These 8 Design Choices

Running an efficient warehouse is one of the most crucial aspects of business management. It directly impacts bottom lines, as most people will shop elsewhere if the item they need is out of stock at their preferred store. Maintaining accurate inventory and accessing it quickly facilitates quick turnaround times and satisfied clientele. 

Designing a new warehouse is an exciting and daunting task. What should leaders be sure to include to establish and maintain organizational efficacy, employee productivity and inventory accuracy? An efficient warehouse should incorporate the following eight design choices. 

A Customized, Optimized Layout 

Warehouse layout determines how quickly personnel can move inventory from receiving to shipping while accurately fulfilling customer orders. There are three primary methods for organizing warehouse layouts: 

  • U-shaped: The most common layout where shipping and receiving area doors lie parallel to each other on the same end of the store. Benefits of this system include equipment sharing between shipping and receiving and short walk distances for quick in-and-out orders. 
  • I-Shaped: This warehouse design has shipping and receiving areas on opposite ends. It requires two such loading and unloading facilities and twice the equipment. However, it may work best for some high-end operations that handle specialty parts assembly-line style. 
  • L-Shaped: In these warehouse layouts, the shipping and receiving lie on opposite ends but at 90° angles, with the middle of the “L” used for storage. Although it minimizes congestion, this design most often appears on L-shaped buildings out of necessity, as it takes the most space.

A warehouse’s layout helps determine structural needs and potentially reduce costs, so be particular.

The material of the door is also an important consideration. A few options include aluminum and steel — the former of which is lightweight and comparatively less expensive. However, steel is much better at tolerating damage, so usage is a prominent determining factor. 

The best choice depends on each facility’s unique needs.

Storage System Solutions

The right storage system solutions facilitate efficient warehouse workflow. There are two basic types of warehouse storage:

  • Dynamic storage: Best-selling items that move in and out of the warehouse quickly. 
  • Static storage: Longer-term product storage, typically on pallets. 

Managers have multiple methods for storing goods. The right solution depends on the type of business or businesses served, typical item size and type, the type of equipment needed to move it (i.e., forklift), how fragile it is and any other special handling requirements, such as temperature control. Efficient warehouses may use a combination of the following: 

  • Conventional shelves
  • Pallet racks
  • Carton-Flow Racks
  • Longspan Shelving
  • Mobile Racking
  • Drive-in Racking 
  • Cantilever Racking
  • Mezzanines
  • Cold Storage
  • Bins
  • Wire partitions
  • Narrow aisles 

Warehouse Management Technology 

Maintaining accurate inventory and control is the heart of warehouse management. Today’s technology empowers leaders to know what’s on hand, in surplus and running low. Many such systems run continuously to provide real-time data at any time. 

Many warehouses use various levels of management technology, including the following: 

  • Standalone WMS: These systems exist on a single warehouse premise using the firm’s own software.
  • Supply-chain execution modules: These facilitate the flow of goods from production, transportation and delivery, integrating information from the standalone WMS and other portions of the supply chain, such as planes, trains and delivery trucks. 
  • Integrated ERP: These systems tie all aspects of the warehouse business together, including accounting and management, into one financial statement necessary for tax and funding operations. 

Material Handling Equipment 

Warehouse equipment is a lot like Baby Bear’s chair. Too little promotes reliance on manual labor, slowing delivery times and increasing accident rates. Too much creates a cluster that cramps efficiency with unnecessary traffic jams. 

Ordering material handling equipment and designing a warehouse layout must often occur in tandem. For example, it does little good to shift to a very narrow aisle design if the company forklifts won’t squeeze between them. 

Furthermore, the type of equipment order may hinge on factors such as the type of shelving used. Warehouses that frequently move heavy lumber require much different gear than those that primarily stock knick-knacks. 

A Safety-First Mindset 

Protecting worker safety is paramount. Accidents can result in costly fines and compensation claims, and too many harm a company’s reputation while impacting the bottom line. 

Many warehouse accidents occur as a result of violating one of OSHA’s big ten areas that also see the most citations, including:

  • Forklifts
  • Hazard communication
  • Electrical, wiring methods
  • Electrical, system design
  • Guarding floor and wall openings and holes
  • Exits
  • Mechanical power transmission
  • Respiratory protection
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Portable fire extinguishers

Lighting 

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of lighting in warehouse design. Workers must be able to quickly and efficiently locate items, which is significantly harder to do in dim settings. Appropriate lighting is also a safety precaution. If tall shelves block overhead fluorescents, does auxiliary lighting along the aisles pickup the slack? 

Pick-to-light systems offer an innovative way to increase productivity on operator-picked items. These systems operate through a series of light modules mounted on racks and shelving units that illuminate to indicate the location and quantity of items needed. 

According to Hui Shen Tan, a Logistics Automation Solution Provider with Intralogistics 4.0 Solution, such systems integrate with existing WMS to quickly reduce the time it takes for order fulfillment. 

Climate Control and Comfort 

While warehouse management primarily concerns the workspace, it’s equally important to devote time and care to auxiliary spaces that complement operations. This need goes beyond appointing offices and conference rooms for management and team meetings. 

Managing climate control in warehouses creates several safety considerations. Some regions, such as cold storage, require accurate temperature control to safeguard goods like certain chemical mixtures or electronic goods. What about the workers in such areas? Does the warehouse offer proper PPE, such as gloves, to allow them to work in such regions without harm? 

Furthermore, considering ergonomics promotes the longevity and health of your workforce. Warehouse workers are particularly prone to cumulative trauma disorders like arthritis that occur when the human body forces itself into unnatural postures for extended times. Allow adequate space for workers to move and take stretch breaks. Offering onsite yoga might seem a bridge too far, but warehouse management might marvel at what it does for production numbers.

Finally, stories of pee bottles at Amazon warehouses created a PR nightmare. Restrooms should be readily accessible to staff, located at appropriate distances from workstations and cleaned and maintained regularly. Failure to do so creates serious public health risks and creates impossible working conditions for many. 

Data Analysis for Continued Improvements

Even the best WMS with integrated ERP won’t help leaders improve operations if they never schedule time to review the reports. Planning regular times for data analysis and review isn’t technically a physical design choice, but it can improve operational efficiency more than moving shelves or ordering an upgraded forklift. 

Furthermore, go beyond the data — talk to warehouse staff. There could be reasons for production lags of which management remains unaware. Small changes to daily procedures can make a huge difference, as can toxic supervisors. Something as seemingly minor as a reprimand for cellphone use when a worker has a sick child can spark resentment that affects an entire team’s productivity. Upper echelons may have no clue from examining numbers alone. 

Without workers, there is no warehouse, but more people leave bad bosses than jobs. Those who flee often cite a lack of communication and uncommunicative, secretive or inconsiderate behavior as prompting their resignation. Choose leadership roles with care and an eye for interpersonal skills over experience alone. 

Crucial Design Choices for Warehouse Efficiency 

The role of warehouses is to facilitate the efficient storage and delivery of goods from manufacturer to consumer. The right design eases the myriad operations involved in this system, creating a healthy workplace while delighting customers. 

Consider the eight elements above when making crucial design choices for warehouse efficiency. A little mindfulness goes a long way, whether improving an existing structure or starting a new warehouse from scratch. 

ivalua business procurement

10 Innovative Approaches to Enhance Procurement Efficiency in 2024

Optimizing procurement efforts can launch businesses into new realms of success. However, the steps between implementation and increased profits can seem murky even for the most experienced industry professionals. 

Use these tips to enhance procurement efficiency this year with innovative approaches that make finding, negotiating and purchasing goods much more manageable.

1. Consolidate Various Supplier Lists

Suppliers serve different purposes, so procurement leadership teams keep numerous lists. Although it may help keep suppliers organized by the departments they support, it can also make it more challenging to identify issues like maverick spending or overlapping suppliers.

Consolidating the lists into one software platform removes some of the administrative work. Leaders can filter them to get instantaneous answers. Maintaining secondary sourcing lists as purchasing backup options is even easier because procurement experts will keep track of their primary suppliers with less effort.

2. Conduct Frequent Educational Courses

Companies with long-term employees or high turnover positions would benefit from recurring educational courses on procurement processes. Informative videos or quick lectures would help eliminate the risk of human error caused by forgetfulness or communication issues.

Teams could watch a presentation on the current process to understand how to reduce overall procurement costs with existing company software that makes every expenditure visible in a single location. If they don’t use that software feature daily, it could be easier for team members to forget it exists and accidentally overspend because they don’t have the collective data in front of them.

Even a short training session once a quarter would remind team members of the information they need to solve problems in real time, use at-hand technology with confidence and remain as efficient as possible.

3. Work on Supplier Relationships

Negotiation and communication are two foundational parts of any procurement relationship between a company and a supplier. Noting the aspects of each one, such as negotiation patterns, will point leadership teams toward the relationships that need strengthening. 

Efforts like checking in frequently could build the trust or communication necessary for improved conversations regarding their services.

4.  Review Expectations With Suppliers

Leadership teams have expectations for their supply base. They set specific schedules and shipment amounts outside of negotiating purchase points. Procurement could become more efficient by reviewing those expectations with each supplier. 

Industry leaders will gain greater respect from suppliers by showing their dedication to each relationship and improving their workplaces simultaneously. Everyone benefits when suppliers and purchasers know what isn’t working for them and how they could improve their professional arrangements.

5. Remain Open to Solutions of All Sizes

Leadership teams should keep an open mind if supplier shipments still struggle to meet a company’s expectations or needs. Innovative approaches to procurement efficiency come together from new ideas of all sizes. A business may need to communicate with its suppliers earlier when placing orders. Team members could also change how they input them to avoid quantity or item selection errors.

Little details matter when problem-solving issues like these. Procurement experts could make purchase amounts and specifications more evident by arranging the request differently per email or highlighting the data on an order form. The changes would easily catch the supplier’s eye, creating an innovative approach without a total process overhaul.

Organizations can also find procurement solutions by consolidating steps and making tasks easier for employees. For instance, integrating procurement and accounts payable functions produces a single procure-to-pay process. With this strategy, leadership can reduce costs and streamline processes while enhancing procurement visibility. However, professionals should be aware of the implementation required to ensure all stakeholders support the solution. 

6. Use AI to Review Processes

Another innovative solution is to use artificial intelligence (AI) for procurement efficiency. The global procurement market will grow 11.1% through 2030, but only if the experienced professionals leading the way know how to wield advancing industry technology. AI simplifies the learning curve and gets employees on board with the technology of the future.

AI software monitors live data streams during each workday. When granted permissions, it tracks factors like purchasing orders to detect patterns that reveal inefficiencies. Leadership teams don’t have to spend as much energy searching through files and data sets for areas needing improvement when AI presents its findings automatically.

7. Try New Inventory Software

Updated inventory software takes the guesswork out of enhancing procurement efficiencies. Outdated programs could lack helpful tools like AI data analysis. They might also not use communication servers or platforms for daily collaboration with suppliers using newer software.

Installing new inventory management software could provide more accurate data for goods or materials before submitting purchase orders. It depends on what each company already uses compared to their competitors, suppliers and industry software trends. Given that the procurement software market will increase by $4.9 million through 2027, there are new programs available yearly that could solve developing inefficiencies.

8. Formalize the Procurement Process

Companies that have recently experienced growth may need to formalize each team’s procurement process to eliminate recurring errors. The word-of-mouth system that worked for a smaller team may be less effective when 10 or 20 more people join.

Team leaders can formalize the process with step-by-step, accessible outlines during the workday. Printed and digital copies would make each system clear, no matter an employee’s responsibility. Training would also need updates to include the formalized process. These efforts would make things understandable to new hires and those adjusting from previous procurement methods.

9. Strategize Market Analysis

Keeping an eye on local or global market trends is much easier with multiple workers watching assigned statistics. Procurement leaders should work closely with management teams or employees by giving each a specific market sector to watch.

They pay greater attention to a single market because it’s easier to track than numerous sectors. The company would gain more eyes on upcoming changes like the low-code platforms two-thirds of procurement companies already use to implement department-specific code for greater efficiency.

Team leaders could report their findings in weekly or quarterly meetings. Details like possible changes in procurement prices due to market fluctuations or high-demand shipment delays would become apparent long before they disrupted the schedule.

10. Reassess Cost Evaluation

Procurement managers can easily slip into habits where they look for vendors offering the lowest individual product pricing. Although that might work with budgets at the moment, the total acquisition cost might not benefit the company.

Managers could practice factoring in things like the cost of using each item and the financial loss regarding product disposal before finding the price point from a consumer’s perspective. Even if it means purchasing things for more money from different suppliers, overall profits increase when consumers get more competitive final prices. The ultimate sales boost would negate the increased supplier costs, resulting in more efficient budgetary decisions.

Enhance Procurement Efficiency Year-Round

It’s always a good time to reflect on procurement since efficiency is an ongoing process. These innovative approaches make it easier to obtain and maintain information on how to improve. Industry or company leaders should keep an open mind to trying new strategies to improve their purchasing processes, budgets and overall company performance.

break room

How to Renovate Your Break Room for Improved Morale in 2024

Break rooms are essential spaces that provide relaxation amidst hectic work days. When employees enter the break room, they want to recharge and prepare for the rest of the day. 

How a company organizes these areas demonstrates its priorities and how much it values workers. Here’s how businesses should renovate their break rooms to cater to employees in 2024.

Introduce Food Stations

Long days at work mean employees are expending a lot of energy on each shift. Managers can keep their energy levels up by introducing free food stations inside the break room and providing healthy snacks.

Fruit is an excellent option because it provides energy during physical activity and essential vitamins and nutrients. Bananas, pears and nectarines don’t need refrigeration at room temperature. Other terrific break room snack options include nuts, yogurt, tea and coffee. Managers should ask their employees what foods they want to see to ensure the food doesn’t go to waste.

Food energizes employees and free snacks encourage them to come to work and take advantage of the options. A 2023 ezCater study reveals that 67% of hybrid workers would be more willing to work on-site if their company provided free lunch. Logistics professionals should consider providing free lunches to motivate workers and boost morale, especially considering the divide between remote and on-site work.

Ensure Comfortable Seating

Workers need a comfortable resting spot on break to let their bodies relax for a while. Folding chairs and stools might not be sufficient for employees, so companies must invest in comfortable seating around the break room. Leadership designing the break room should place sofas and lounge chairs because they’re among the most accessible and comfortable options for employees. 

The break room should also include plenty of tables and similar structures for employees to eat their food. Placing tables makes it easier for them to eat and reduces messes compared to eating meals from their laps. The tables also serve as a conversation starter when employees sit together and take their minds off work with social time.

Bring in Natural Light

Employees may only briefly be in the break room, but the lighting will impact how relaxed they feel during their stay. Bright overhead lights may cause migraines or overstimulate workers, so the break room should have relaxing lighting options when possible. 

Businesses should introduce natural light by installing windows in the room. Natural light is an accessible way for employees to improve their vitamin D levels and improve their sleep at night. A 2022 Journal of Pineal Research study shows natural light is critical for sleep by preventing circadian clock disruption. Additionally, natural light boosts productivity for workers by straining their eyes less and providing more relaxation. 

Plant Greenery 

Introducing plants to the break room is another great way to add a natural touch. Flowers, cactuses and other plants are aesthetically pleasing and add personality to the break room. Employees will look forward to going to the break room and seeing the plants as they grow and produce lovely smells. 

Companies should find low-maintenance shrubs, such as a bamboo palm or a snake plant, because they’ll survive in low-light conditions. Office plants are also beneficial because of their health benefits. For example, rooms with plants have less mold and dust than areas without any. Other health benefits of break-room plants include reduced anxiety, allergy relief and purified air. 

Choose Relaxing Colors

While it might not seem important, the colors inside a break room significantly impact how employees feel during the time spent there. Managers should choose warm colors for their cabinets, walls and flooring to make employees feel comfortable as if they’re at home. Conversely, cool-toned true whites can be harsh despite being simple colors for decor.

Color choice affects an employee’s mood, so managers should poll their employees to see what colors they want in the break room. A 2020 Association for Psychological Science gives clues for color association after surveying people from 30 countries. For example, 68% of respondents associate red with love, while 52% link yellow with joy. Cheerful colors will put employees in a better mood for the remainder of their day. 

Place a Community Bulletin Board

The break room is a communal space, so managers should make it a spot where workers can gather, socialize and recognize each other’s achievements. Logistics professionals should place a community bulletin board to post announcements and acknowledge workers when it’s time for recognition. 

For example, an employee may reach a work anniversary or show exemplary work in a quarter. The bulletin board can also be a place for employees to post milestones from their personal life. A colleague may announce their engagement, the birth of a child or graduating from school. 

A community bulletin board is excellent for spreading positivity and boosting work morale. Additionally, it allows workers to feel valued and appreciated at work. Research shows 29% of employees don’t receive recognition for their work, so shouting out good work motivates employees and helps them stay engaged.  

Hang Artwork

If managers want to add personality to the break room, hanging artwork is an excellent start. Paintings, drawings, sculptures and other art forms stimulate the brain and bring positivity. 

Designers could hang pictures of serene beaches, snow-capped mountains and other peaceful landscapes to promote tranquility. Research shows artwork positively affects people both physically and mentally. A 2021 BMJ Open study found that artwork reduces stress by aiding systolic blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. 

Another way to boost company morale is to let workers post their artwork throughout the break room. Employees will feel proud to come to work and share their drawings with their colleagues. 

Set Up Games

While break rooms are relaxing, they can also be for fun times throughout the day. Setting up a card and board game station is a wonderful way to spend time and relax while encouraging bonding time with colleagues. Managers should select card and board games that are easy to set up and play on breaks, such as Uno, Monopoly Deal and Trivial Pursuit. 

The board games also provide an opportunity for company-hosted happy hours and game nights. These social events encourage employees to take their minds off work and hang out with colleagues. Setting up these events aids in team bonding and boosts morale.

Renovating the Break Room in 2024

Break rooms are times for relaxing and re-energizing as employees prepare for their next tasks. These rooms should be comfortable spots for people to eat food, socialize and take their minds off work. 

Logistics professionals should survey their colleagues to see what amenities they’d most like to see in the break room to ensure no upgrades go to waste.

supply chain

8 Strategies for Empowering Emerging Talent in the Supply Chain Industry

Some supply chain industry companies need help attracting new talent. Executives can turn this around by making opportunities more appealing to applicants. 

Although improving job-specific details like pay is crucial to future employees, they’ll also appreciate employers who provide training for the workplace and their lives.

1. Make Hours More Flexible

Supply chain management teams should consider letting their teams have flexible hours. Recent research shows that when given the opportunity, 87% of employed adults chose flexible work schedules over those requiring 40 hours in an office each week.

Employees could agree to set their schedules at least a week or two in advance so everyone knows who will be at work and who will be remote during specific dates. It makes modern workplaces more competitive than employers with strictly traditional schedules. 

Supply chain companies can empower their teams to get more joy from their employment by appealing to a broader audience of workers and future hires.

2. Provide Career Growth Plans

Forward momentum is key to retaining employees. No one enjoys feeling stuck in a job. They want to improve their skills and gain promotions as rewards for their efforts. Communication is the best way to ensure this career growth occurs for talent in the supply chain industry.

Management teams could create general growth plans for specific roles within their organization. The employees in those positions can trace their way up the company ladder based on which departments they want to work within as the months and years pass. 

People who see their potential future charted before their eyes will know they have the forward momentum required for a long-term career.

3. Update Teams Regularly on Automation

Researchers with the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health noted that employees of all ages feel worried that automation will replace them, but that anxiety is especially prevalent among young people. They have many years ahead to work, pay their bills, save for retirement and enjoy their jobs. Supply chain employers must communicate their job security with regular updates on the industry’s automation.

Recurring meetings present opportunities to discuss the latest technological updates to work processes and explain why they’re necessary. The core of each gathering should focus on how each employee will remain on the team even with machine-focused optimization. 

People feel empowered when they have job security because they know their efforts won’t become a waste of time.

4. Provide a Scholarship Program

Young people often hear that getting a college education is the best way to secure a comfortable paycheck. However, 75% of people choosing not to attend college are opting out because they can’t afford it. They may feel like they’ll never make a livable wage because they can’t get a degree, but employers can erase that anxiety with scholarship programs.

Scholarship programs are life-changing financially and empowering personally. They show employees they are worth more than paycheck and benefits. Their dreams are worth pursuing, which they may not hear from people or organizations outside the workplace.

One company that hosts a scholarship program recently awarded two women with money to help them through college. As a result, Elayne Blancas received financial support as she worked to become the first in her family to graduate as an engineer. Elizabeth Landers was able to apply to more residencies with the goal of providing healthcare in her home state of Oklahoma. Communities will benefit from their support while the company providing the scholarship creates opportunities for aspiring professionals. 

5. Demonstrate How Their Teams Help the Environment

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) plans are more important to the modern workforce. They demonstrate an employer’s commitment to the planet and their communities through sustainable, compassionate business practices defined in ESG policies.

Research shows that 41% of employees want to work for companies with ESG plans, which includes one in four people in Gen Z. Leadership teams can formulate actionable plans regarding how their supply chain company can improve the planet, give back to its community, support employees and commit itself to the highest ethical business standards.

Publishing these commitments on the company website and posting them around the building reminds team members that everyone wants the same thing. They’ll support their employer more enthusiastically and feel heard, resulting in a desire to stay with the company.

6. Implement Recurring Raise Schedules

The annual inflation rate rises and falls, but it reached a peak of 8% in 2022. It makes everything from groceries to utilities more expensive, which is discouraging for people who aren’t receiving recurring raises.

Some employers don’t promise raises on a specific schedule, but doing so could help retain emerging talent in the supply chain industry. Scheduling an annual raise for each employee — unless their job performance takes a drastic turn for the worse — makes their futures brighter if they stay with the company longer. They know they’ll be able to keep up with the cost of living, providing peace of mind and financial stability.

7. Schedule Individual Growth Meetings

Workplace leaders can always meet with team members one-on-one to plan their futures. These meetings create time to ask big questions like:

  • What does the employee want to do with their career?
  • How do they want to use the skills they’re learning?
  • How would their work feel more fulfilling?

It’s nearly impossible to make these changes without employer support. Management teams could rearrange schedules to allow more study time for ongoing learning or connect employees with in-house mentors so they learn from those they look up to.

When these meetings occur, leaders should record the desired path forward within the company on a shared document. Employees can reflect on their short- and long-term plans to feel empowered and stay with the company longer.

8. Celebrate Everyone’s Successes

Recognition is vital in the workplace. People need to know their employers value their efforts and cheer them on. Pizza parties and gift cards are always options, but financial incentives through bonuses are equally — if not more — essential to employees.

Celebrate them as individuals in private meetings and as teams. Leaders can call out people’s accomplishments so everyone applauds. The widespread recognition bonds employees and makes them feel valued. They’ll continue making an effort to help their supply chain employer, which supports everyone who depends on the company for a living.

Empower Talent in the Supply Chain Industry

Companies should always seek opportunities to work with their team members more effectively. Empowering emerging talent in the supply chain industry with these ideas is an excellent start. They’ll show employees their value, forge stronger relationships and make people want to stay with their employers longer by supporting everyone differently.