New Articles

How A Hybrid Model Can Help Retailers Survive The Online-Shopping Trend

How A Hybrid Model Can Help Retailers Survive The Online-Shopping Trend

With shoppers finding much of what they want online, the future of the brick-and-mortar store can seem bleak.

Such major retailers as J.C. Penney, Lowe’s, Gap and Family Dollar, among many others, have announced plans to close at least some stores across the United States this year.

Is it possible, though, that an answer for what’s troubling retailers these days could be a hybrid model that marries digital with an in-store experience? Already some are trying such an approach, as when Amazon opened a Black Friday pop-up store in Madrid where customers could browse, scan the QR code to learn more about any item that drew their interest, and instantly make a purchase online.

“This no-pressure concept is becoming increasingly popular as today’s customer strongly rejects any hard-sell tactics,” says J.J. Delgado (www.jjdelgado.xyz), a former Amazon marketing manager in Europe who led the largest sales day in the company’s history.

“Instead, they favor an environment that allows them to make their own choices based on all the information that is available to them.”

Retailers have been facing a sea change in their customers’ shopping habits for some time now. A recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that some stores are handling the problem by cutting the number of employees and reducing the amount of training they give employees. But the three Wharton School of Business professors who wrote the article conclude that approach is counterproductive.

In Delgado’s view, retailers can’t waste time lamenting what was. They need to adapt to what is.

“The future of shopping is not in decline, it is evolving,” he says.

Delgado offers a few suggestions on how a hybrid of digital with brick-and-mortar can work for retailers determined to survive in the digital marketplace:

The customer must experience something they can’t online. Shopping has become a multi-sensorial experience that goes much further than a mere retail transaction, Delgado says. It is about replacing the traditional shopping experience and putting the customer at the center of the whole retail process. “The customer wants authenticity and something of real value, not just monetary value but emotional value,” he says.

Store staff must provide the human connection not available online. “That human connection is the store’s trump card and they must play it right,” Delgado says. “Maximizing that connection and combining it with online connectivity is fundamental to creating the ideal hybrid experience.”

Companies must seek innovative ways to manage their new reality. The changing retail landscape is paving the way for deals between manufacturers, retailers and delivery companies to create ‘mashups’ that allow them to combine their strengths and combat their weaknesses, Delgado says.

“Amazon is the main player in this game, as we have seen with their acquisition of Whole Foods Market,” he says, “but many others are following suit.”

One example is the clothing chain Zara. The chain’s London store features interactive mirrors and high-tech facilities, and combines traditional shopping areas with online areas where customers can scan QR codes and make orders that in many cases are instantly delivered to the store on the same day.

“Some see the digital transformation as the cause for store closures, but it’s very possible that this same digital transformation also could provide the solution to retail woes,” Delgado says. “It is clear that we will soon see more hybrid-retail strategies as retailers seek ways of consolidating their online and offline presence to deliver a seamless customer experience.”


About J.J. Delgado

J.J. Delgado, co-author of Think Video: Smart Video Marketing & #Influencing (www.jjdelgado.xyz), is a professional speaker and digital-marketing expert. He is a former employee of Amazon who led the largest international-sales day in the company’s history. In addition, he was recognized as one of the Top 15 unofficial LinkedIn influencers of 2018. He has helped drive the growth of many organizations, including Amazon, Burger King, Pepsi, Hertz, Ford, Liberty Mutual and others.












automation

Automation Won’t Destroy Trade – It Might Even Boost It

Alarm bells are ringing

Many industry observers are sounding alarms about the looming impact of automation, robots and 3D printing, which they fear will destroy jobsdisrupt value chains and maybe even reduce the need for international trade. Developing countries are particularly concerned because trade has been an avenue to economic development and growth for them. But a recent report released by the World Bank shows that the data and evidence don’t support the hype. Instead, automation, robots and 3D printing might actually increase trade as trade costs continue to fall.

Some business analysts have warned that automation and robots could disrupt and shorten global supply chains. The thinking behind the concern is that, if a computer can design it and a 3D printer can make it, then we won’t need to source it from countries abroad that have more abundant low-cost labor than we do. Instead, companies will drastically shorten their value chains, which could reduce international trade.

The anxieties have gotten the attention of development economists and developing countries. Trade and economic growth go hand-in-hand, both in economic theory and in practice. Multiple studies have shown that firms in developing countries that participate in global value chains outperform their local peers that solely focus on domestic markets. If robots eliminate the need for global value chains, this important avenue for economic development could be threatened.

Anxiety over automation may be overblown

Scare tactics about economic change are attractive because they get our attention. About 15 years ago, we saw headlines about “white collar outsourcing” (once attorneys were added to the list of jobs that could be moved offshore, the panic even spread into boardrooms). Some lawmakers called for restrictions on offshoring, and some of those calls are still alive today. But the mass exodus of white collar jobs did not occur.

The World Bank is a multilateral development agency that makes grants and loans to support capital projects and economic growth in the poorest countries. Anything that reduces the need for trade and global value chains would hit those developing countries hard, putting the automation concerns squarely on the World Bank’s radar.

In its annual World Development Report, the latest released on October 8, the World Bank does not take a definitive stance on the overall effects of automation, and it does not make any bold predictions. But it does make one thing clear: The anxiety over automation hindering trade is not supported by the data and evidence. In fact, the authors show that sectors with the largest increases in automation have also been those with the largest increases in trade. Yep, that’s right: We’re experiencing the opposite phenomenon to what so many are worried about.

Automation actually helping to expand trade

Specifically, the report shows that the percentage change in imports of parts from developing countries from 1995 to 2015 is higher in industries that are more automated. Agriculture and textiles are among the least-automated industries and have the smallest change. Metal, rubber and plastics, and automotive sectors have the highest rates of automation and the largest increases in trade.

Automation in industrial countries has boosted imports from developing countries

Why? Because automation, like robotic assembly and 3D printing, leads to an expansion in output and demand for material inputs. Automation can also lead to the creation of new tasks. So while it brings labor market adjustment pains — like technology and progress always do — automation will not necessarily reduce trade or shorten global value chains.

Meanwhile, investments in digital technologies continue to lower the costs of coordinating across long distances. These lower trade costs are expected to promote trade and lead to a continued expansion of global value chains, particularly for developing countries.

The big picture

Here’s the big picture: Change is the one thing in the economy you can count on. Improvements in how we make things and advanced production technologies are likely to continue, and workers and firms that adapt and embrace these changes are likely to outperform those that do not. But a wide-sweeping elimination of trade and global value chains due to automation and robots? Don’t believe the hype.

_______________________________________________________

The original version of this article was published in The Hill.

ChristineMcDaniel

Christine McDaniel a former senior economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers and deputy assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

This article also appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

maker

The Maker Movement can Flourish Thanks to Trade

The Maker Movement

Life is pretty cushy. We long ago stopped having to make everything we need: forging tools, handcrafting shoes from hides and weaving textiles for clothing. Manufacturers eventually specialized where they had comparative advantage and produced at scale. Specialization led to more trade in goods and services. Today, anything we need can be obtained at the push of a computer button from almost anywhere in the world.

While much attention is being paid to the potential for new technologies to displace manufacturing workers, there’s an interesting phenomenon afoot. Bits and bytes are bringing us back to our “maker” roots by making information and technologies more accessible to everyone. The smallest inventors and producers can integrate into globally distributed production chains and sell into global markets. Basically, trade is providing us the luxury of producing again at a small scale, and it’s the art of inventing nimbly and producing small that just might help us stay globally competitive.

Re-Making our Workforce

“Makerspaces,” TechShops and FabLabs are popping up in cities all over the country and they are playing an increasingly vital role in education, workforce development, entrepreneurship and even revolutionizing advanced manufacturing.

Memberships give hobbyists, tinkerers, students and entrepreneurs alike access to tools, machines and materials to gain experience with 3D printing, CAD/CAM, electronics, robotics, plastics and composites, fabrication, welding, coding and programming, woodworking and more. Students and young workers can be exposed to industrial careers in a relatively low-cost, low-risk environment, picking up skills in weeks — not months and years. They can create portfolios to demonstrate competency in the skills employers require.

By partnering with local colleges and employers, training in Makerspaces can culminate in recognized and portable credentials that prove mastery of a specific skill or set of equipment, enabling companies to develop talent pipelines with less direct investment. Meanwhile, students are not just gaining experience working with materials and machines. They are also putting math and measurement into practice, reading blueprints, and using design software — the knowledge skills associated with modern manufacturing and foundational competencies for a wide variety of jobs that lie in between traditional “blue collar” and executive levels.

TradeVistas- Maker movement graphic

Small Batch Production

“Making” can create new pathways to working at established manufacturing companies, but it is also spawning a resurgence of custom fabricators who are positioned for small-batch or on-demand manufacturing. The current trend of “niche consumerism” is responding to demand for tailored products in small lots, even by the big brands.

Makers can iterate quickly in response to consumer feedback or engage in rapid prototyping to optimize product design. Makers can offer these services to larger firms or they can leverage the resources of Makerspaces to keep costs down and retain control during product development, iteration and initial production of their own invention. The difficulty of communicating well with manufacturers or visiting facilities in China is a common refrain for small entrepreneurs.

Reverse Engineering

Makers and Makerspaces are attracting the attention of major corporations. GE and National Instruments were among the first to emulate Makerspaces to support open innovation on their corporate campuses. Ford Motor Company worked with a company called TechShop to build a world-class Makerspace for Detroit, becoming the facility’s anchor tenant. Affording their engineers the opportunity to cross-pollinate with other inventors and have a freer hand in direct and more rapid prototyping, Ford says that within one year, the company doubled the number of patents the company produced.

Large companies recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere, from hobbyists to amateur scientists and roboticists. Some Makerspaces cater more to small designers and inventors, but others are more like modern-day Edison workshops hosting sophisticated “experiments” employing biotechnology, nanotechnology and additive manufacturing. As such, they have become ecosystems of innovation where individuals, small businesses and large corporations can come together to incubate and accelerate ideas in a decentralized and agile network — emulating the same set of activities and interactions that were once only housed inside the corporation.

Manufacturing Renaissance?

Putting compact versions of industrial tools in the hands of millions more people means that inventors can get a “minimum viable product” out in the world faster and at much lower cost. Small and growing manufacturers can take smaller bets on the market with lower volume commitments or put a wider variety of products out for testing consumer preferences.

Specialty manufacturers that can re-tool quickly are filling an increasingly important role offering “manufacturing-as-a-service.” The Maker Movement encourages innovation through co-creation and crowdsourced designs, rapid prototyping and experimentation with new production processes. Maker facilities enable micro-factories that can service orders from anywhere in the world. Some notable inventions in Makerspaces have even transformed commerce itself. For example, millions of small businesses now use Square to take payments.

Join the Movement

Makers aren’t likely to replace mass production anytime soon, but they are an important source for training the next generation of inventors and manufacturing workers. Makerspaces are poised to drive real economic benefits for cities that embrace and support them. For example, the Brooklyn Navy Yard brings together makers, artisans, and manufacturers. The more than 10,000 people working within the complex generate some $390 million in economic output, supporting an estimated $2 billion in indirect earnings and an additional 15,500 jobs in 2011. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development, it’s a model producing similar results from across the country from Chicago to Minden, Nevada.

The famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has supported a TechShop in Pittsburgh and provides membership for thousands of veterans. With funding from the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO and Carnegie Mellon University partnered with TechShop Pittsburgh to create apprenticeship programs for workers and to encourage startups to manufacture locally. As Brooking’s Mark Muro has written, the Maker Movement is “a deeply American source of decentralized creativity for rebuilding America’s thinning manufacturing ecosystems…hacking the new industrial revolution one town at a time.”

#Thankstrade

Makers are able to access the materials and tools they need because of trade. Take the 3D printer, for example. The global market for 3D printers, plastics and related services have exploded in recent years. And perhaps one could even be so bold as to say that it’s the expansion of global trade that affords us the opportunity to rediscover and reinvent the art of “making” itself, which could in turn profoundly impact what we make and what we trade.

_________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

production

The Countries Leading the Way in the Future of Production

The First Industrial Revolution dates back to the 18th century, with the manufacturing and production process evolving significantly to improve efficiency. Since then, the world has gone through a series of changes with the present-day seeing us in full swing of the world’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Using data from the World Economic Forum’s ‘Readiness for the Future of Production’ report, RS Components have taken a look at the countries that are leading the way when it comes to driving production forward. The six main drivers are ‘Technology & Innovation’, ‘Human Capital’, ‘Global Trade & Investment’, ‘Institutional Framework’, ‘Sustainable Resources’, and ‘Demand Environment’. See how each country compares when it comes to being ready to produce more products, technologies, and goods here.

The 21st century is a truly digital age, with technology now intertwined and cemented into both our personal and professional lives. Over the last two decades, in particular, technology has become increasingly advanced and has seen the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Complicated and impressive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, and quantum computing have all emerged and are being used across the globe in a variety of industries, businesses and processes.

As a result of the new technological age, the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of production levels have improved astronomically, with less room for human error as machinery takes over, making production levels much faster and hassle-free.  

With the rise of these advancements, it is important for countries and businesses across all industries to be tapping into these changes to keep up with the future of production. But which countries are leading the way?

RS Components have produced a graphic analyzing data from the World Economic Forum’s Readiness for the Future of Production report, to reveal the countries leading the way when it comes to driving production forward. With each country analyzed by a series of metrics including global trade and investment, institutional framework, sustainable resources, demand environment, and emerging technologies, the top 10 countries leading production levels forward have been scored out of 10.

The top 10 countries driving the future of production include:

The US takes the crown as the leading country in the world driving the future of production forward. Scoring at the top of the leaderboard across all metrics excluding Sustainable Resources and Institutional Framework, the US holds an overall score of 8.16 out of 10. The US is renowned for its innovation and holds an advanced, connected and secure technological platform that allows production to drive forward in the most efficient way possible.

Singapore ranks as the second country driving the future of production and the UK sits at fourth place with a score of 7.84. Singapore sits as one of the world’s leading chemical manufacturing sites, with over 100 global petroleum, petrochemical and specialty chemical companies situated on 12 square miles of land. Singapore today sits as the world’s fifth-largest refinery export hub and amongst the top 10 global chemical hubs by export volume. Involved in these systems includes advancements in manufacturing from robots, to predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. Singapore, like the US, is a key driver in testing, experimenting and trialing the latest technologies. In addition, manufacturing continues to contribute around 20% to Singapore’s GDP.

The importance of having the right technological foundations 

In order for production levels to thrive, it is crucial that technological foundations are cemented in supply chains across the globe. For example, in a warehouse, the speed and availability of the internet is crucial when the Internet of Things is being adopted on the factory floor. In addition, it is also greatly important for businesses and industries to have strong, connected cybersecurity systems to ensure digital security is maintained to a high standard. Having the technological foundations of this, like the US, allows the nation to drive forward technologies to increase production levels.

In addition, in order to ensure these new innovations are implemented effectively, it is crucial that employees have a good understanding of the technology they are interacting with on a daily basis, as the skills required of workers will evolve with the new advancements.

Combined, industries and countries will be able to adapt rapidly emerging technologies into their production lives, which will have a global impact on both businesses and consumers across the world.

digital

Digital Collaboration: Get ahead, fast.

Recently at a conference for freight forwarders everyone jointly agreed: if you’re the fastest to quote, you win the customer. What astonished me was what I heard in a conversation afterwards! “We are working in shifts now, 16 hours per day, to make sure we can quote fast and win new deals,” said one of the present forwarders. I was surprised that putting in more hours to send emails back and forth is a better solution for shipping companies than digitizing collaboration and automating tasks. The banking system solved this issue years ago with the introduction of the SWIFT system: a standardized banking system that enables companies which had never worked with each other before to transfer money on a global scale at no risk. 

In shipping, we’re still way behind the curve. The newly formed Digital Container Shipping Association has taken the first timid steps to promote data standards in shipping because they believe in close collaboration between the different stakeholders. The underlying rationale for this collaboration is typically 2-fold: (a) Margins are still depressed due to overcapacity and (b) customers demand more and more streamlined services. Although costs for technology are consistently decreasing, our industry is generally considered to have been slow to adopt digital approaches. Of course, companies collaborate across company borders, mostly through emails and networks; but isn’t it extremely inefficient and unscalable, especially in times where this could be automated to be done within seconds instead of days? 

What holds SMEs back from digital collaboration? 

We have noticed that especially small and medium-sized companies are either stuck in their traditional mindset or simply don’t know how to start with digital collaboration. Why is that so and how do companies overcome this conundrum? 

Companies are afraid to share their data 

People have to overcome their traditional industry mindset first, as a highly competitive attitude makes collaboration with competitors exceedingly difficult. Most companies don’t want to share their data because they think it’s their secret and crucial for their business – but most “data” is non-sensitive. Consider container movements, position updates forecasts and contact information of local agents. Of course, crucial information about e.g., my commercial terms with my vendors should not be openly shared! However, sharing operational data means exchanging information that you can leverage to increase service offerings, internal processes and ultimately create quotations in less time. 

Even if companies are willing to collaborate, they don’t know how to get started 

Lack of existing data standards, limited capacity or scary data security questions – the list of potential challenges of data sharing is long (as for every new project!) and only a limited number of people in logistics have “been there, done that”. 

However, in the end, it comes down to what you want to achieve/solve in the first place: How do you get your customers love working with you? How do you create quotations in less time to win more business? We suggest defining your most important targets and metrics first, and reverse engineer a good solution from there. 

Now: How can you get started? 

To get started with data sharing, finding out what you want in the first place is only the beginning of a long journey. To make it a little bit easier for you, try to answer the questions below for your own business (take a screenshot or copy into a word doc): 

-What are my main pain points?

-What is particularly crucial for my customers?  

-What data describes the problem the best? 

-How well is my data organized? 

-What data is non-sensitive? 

-What additional data do I need? 

-Who has it? How can I get that data? 

-Who (of my partners) would need my data to become better? 

-Does it make sense to work with them? 

-What integrations and/or technology would that require? 

There is no one-size-fits all solution as you can see! It’s about you and your specific business model. Only after you’re able to answer these questions you can think about the next steps: design use-cases/MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), and test setups and data integrations. 

With missing IT capabilities or resources, building integrations can oftentimes be hard because you need to manage numerous data standards and interfaces. In most cases, a 3rd party technology provider can help you as a connector in the industry. Such technology companies can not only translate different data formats into one language, but they also anonymize data to increase trust and reduce perceived risks for you: You still own your data and it is 100% up to you what part of your data you want to share to reach a certain goal. Moreover, working with 3rd party technology providers has another advantage for you: they help you develop a proof of concept at low costs! 

Of course, it requires a certain level of commitment, but working with a connector lets you test with a well-defined problem and a limited group of stakeholders to develop a workable solution. For freight forwarders, it could be the integration with a selected list of carriers to enable instant online quotes/ bookings for their customers. For equipment managers it could be integrating their equipment management system with a tracking provider to automatically receive container status updates such as pickups, drop-offs, delay warnings and ETAs. 

Once the proof of concept has been demonstrated, the collaboration could then be expanded by bringing in additional stakeholders or addressing related problems with similar approaches. Being able to create quotations faster is only one challenge – several other topics including internal organization, equipment management or communication with external stakeholders can also be targeted with an open mindset and the courage to test new things. We encourage you to start right now! 

________________________________________________________

Christian Roeloffs is the founder and CEO of Container xChange – an online platform that creates transparency on supply and demand in container logistics. More than 300 container users and owners such as Seaco and Kuehne+Nagel use the neutral online platform to find SOC containers in 2500 locations and identify partners to avoid empty container repositioning. 

Worried about trade wars’ impact on your supply chain? Here are three ways to manage risks.

Companies live in a world now where a tweet about tariffs and trade wars can rattle markets, prompt uncertainty, and question whether supply chains and global operations are positioned to handle the speed, unpredictability, and interconnectedness of the global economy.  The prevalence and threat of trade wars generate pervasive uncertainty across the globe- carrying wide-reaching implications for overall global growth. Increased cost of goods sold from upstream suppliers are squeezing margins and forcing global supply chains to adapt and react mid-stream. Despite a robust US economy, and general stability across global markets, the escalating trade war is increasing prices and making raw materials harder to obtain – threatening the positive trajectory of domestic and international economic activity.

How is this playing out in real time? Let’s look at an example: An automaker may have its engine manufactured in Germany, its transmission in Mexico and its GPS from South Korea with final assembly in the US. Tariffs could force automakers to move production, reducing economies of scale and increasing prices for the end consumer. Processing the resulting number of variables, scenarios, and decision matrices brought on by the trade war is a daunting challenge, to say the least.

Despite these marketplace, competitor and regulatory challenges, digital technologies, such as data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) provides companies with the resources and insights to manage risk and anticipate events. Today’s leading supply chains run on data, monitoring for risk and opportunity, and blend human and digital strategies to make decisions in real time. This is called the cognitive supply chain. It is interconnected, self-learning, predictive, adaptive and intelligent, and it can help leaders react faster to risks outside of their control. As such, here are three approaches that can help leaders manage, anticipate, and address supply chain disruptions.

Leveraging predictive analytics

Data has always been at the center of the supply chain and helps leaders make decisions. With internet of things and the growing number of connected devices, organizations can be more proactive in how they use data to enable insights.

The expanse of datasets, and increasing ease to obtain them, allows proactive organizations to leverage data to help drive their decision structure. The resulting variety of perspectives creates an opportunity to align against broader company goals. For example, how does the planned production schedule of a Swiss supplier affect my organization’s market position in Asia this holiday season? What are the potential risks, and how can they be mitigated? Data availability opens the door to these solutions. Enablers from digital technology provide:

-Digital linkage – integrated sales, production and delivery processes which have seamless flow of information.

-Control tower –visibility of all processes across the internal and external supply chain.

-Centralized collaborative e-hub – a connected ecosystem where all partners interact seamlessly with improved flow of information.

-Integrated lean logistics – applying lean principles to eliminate waste, errors and defects, minimizes lead-time and materials impacted by tariffs.

-Virtual logistics – enable on the fly deployment decisions with new logistics models.

Creating the digital twin

Today’s supply chains have growing complexities with an international network of suppliers and service markets. Efforts to integrate with external partners has led to complicated systems and processes, overwhelming supply chain leaders with data and metrics. Add in the variability of demand, and a supply chain is pushed back on its heels, reacting to demand variability. One uniquely positioned solution is called a “digital twin”.

A digital twin is a model of the supply chain. The foundation is a transparent supply chain strategy, comprised of rules on how to absorb and refine costs, or pass through to customers downstream. A digital twin uses the multi-tier supply chain data to rely upon predictive outcomes and sensory response. Uncertainties such as pending tariffs can be run through “what if” scenarios to understand the service, cost, and risk implications of changes, decisions and unexpected market conditions.

These examples are not intended to be definitive outcomes; alternatively, they allow internal and external supply chain groups the opportunity to setup a plan of action which mitigates service risk while optimizing the collective cost. Organizations must learn the discipline of using “what if” scenarios for their analysis and guide the implementation of both short term and long-term strategies and events.

For example, what is the correct level of holiday inventory investment that should be imported into the United States from China, given the potential tariff increase in the coming months? Which alternatives provide lower risk? Successful organizations will use their digital twin to move up the supplier tiers of a supply chain, and anticipate disruption, and arrange alternative routes and suppliers.

Consider managed services

Continuous investment in technology and talent with the skill and knowledge to use it can be expensive. The process engineering required to maximize ROI, along with the associating change management inevitably strains an organization’s resources. As a result, many organizations have found relief in managed services of their supply chains. It enables companies to focus on their core competencies of products and services, while contracting out the outcome: the best customer service at the optimal cost.

The consolidation of supply chain expertise into a vendor eases the necessary people, process, and technology investment. It allows organizations to shed the strain of daily variability, while maintaining the ability to make decisions and focus on the long term growth of the company. With the increasing pressure on tariffs, organizations will look to these partners to leverage their digital tools and technologies to limit the downstream effect across the supply chain.

Creating a cognitive supply chain is essential for answering the threat trade wars present. International supply chains will continue to become more expensive to maintain and manage. Businesses that are successful in meeting these complexities and adopting digital capabilities will be best equipped for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

_______________________________________________________________

Mike Landry is the supply chain service line leader at Genpact, a global professional services focused on delivering digital transformation.

digital

3 Guiding Principles for Digital Transformation Success

Many companies have adopted digital technology to transform their business. But the transition can be a challenging process, and studies show that digital transformation projects often fail to reach company expectations.
This happens for a variety of reasons, says J. Eduardo Campos, co-founder with his wife, Erica, of Embedded-Knowledge Inc. (www.embedded-knowledge.com) and co-author with her of From Problem Solving to Solution Design: Turning Ideas into Actions.
“It’s often due to ineffective communication between the IT department and business teams,” Campos says. “But overall it really comes down to an inability to problem-solve and a tendency to lose sight of teamwork and the big-picture business plan.
“To have a successful digital transformation depends greatly on employees working together, but too many organizations are siloed, thus hampering the communication and creating obstacles in the process.”
Campos offers three ways company leaders can deal with problems in digital transformation:
Define the essential problem. Campos says digital transformational programs fail when company leaders don’t grasp the root of the problem they hope digital transformation will solve. “Beware of solving the symptoms instead of the problem,” Campos says. “To define the essential problem, you first need to step back, reflect, and clearly define what you are trying to address. Detaching yourself from a problem and trying to see it from a different perspective, you then will have a better view of how things interact with each other. There are often multiple layers to why a problem exists, so ask a series of whys that drill down to the answer.”
Design solutions. Once the problem is identified, setting goals and assessing options come next. ”It’s not unusual to find yourself in a situation where the problems you identified are part of a dynamic environment, affected by constant changes that require you to revisit your goals and options regularly,” Campos says. “This is where technology and software can be very helpful in making sure everything is being tracked appropriately without any information getting lost. in addition to technology, using risk management concepts can be a very effective way to help keep consistency throughout the solution design process.”
Engage stakeholders. Digital transformation often represents a massive change for personnel. Campos says it’s vital for the decision-makers to craft a stakeholder engagement plan that addresses all aspects of a recommended solution. “Clearly identify whom will be impacted by the solution, either positively or negatively, and how to handle stakeholder reactions,” Campos says. “You want them to be willing to commit to your recommendation because they indeed want it, not because you are selling it to them. And when you are influencing the decision-making process, be sure to show your stakeholders your appreciation of varying opinions.”
“Achieving success in digital transformation brings together people, process, and technology,” Campos says. “Many businesses never get far past the launch point of their digital transformation because that triad of people, process and technology isn’t in sync, and problems that could have been solved were not.”
_________________________________________________________
J. Eduardo Campos is co-author with his wife, Erica, of From Problem Solving to Solution Design: Turning Ideas into Actions. Campos spent 13 years at Microsoft, first as a cybersecurity advisor, then leading innovative projects at the highest levels of government in the U.S. and abroad.  His consulting firm, Embedded Knowledge Inc. (www.embedded-knowledge.com), works with organizations and entrepreneurs developing customized business strategies and forming partnerships focused on designing creative solutions to complex problems.

4 Challenges Blockchain Must Overcome To Achieve Mass Appeal

When most people think about blockchain, they likely associate it with Bitcoin or other types of cryptocurrency.

But the blockchain technology introduced a decade ago to serve as a secure database for transactions in the cryptocurrency world has plenty of uses beyond that – and potential for even more. Around the world, blockchain can be or already has been used in such areas as energy, tourism and financial services.

Yet, plenty of people still have little knowledge of this technological breakthrough that could transform how they do business and live their lives. That raises a couple of questions: Is blockchain ready for the masses? And are the masses ready for blockchain?

“Despite renewed investor interest, blockchain technology still needs to evolve to overcome some challenges before adoption reaches people who are not early adopters or who are not very tech savvy,” says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.

Those challenges include:

Interaction with other systems. Blockchain’s growth depends on the technology’s ability to scale and interact with other systems and networks, Bensonoff says. “Right now, blockchain as a service is limited in performance because of slowed transaction processing times and the inability to have various blockchain platforms interact with each other,” he says. Just one way this challenge is being addressed is by developers creating consensus mechanisms, Bensonoff says. Consensus mechanisms refer to how participants in a blockchain network agree that the transactions recorded in the digital ledger are valid. “This mechanism creates a trust and validity in the transaction between participants who aren’t familiar with each other,” he says.

Cost and usability.  The cost of creating and implementing blockchain networks remains a significant barrier, Bensonoff says. One possible solution could be the introduction of cloud-based blockchain technology from tech giants such as IBM, Microsoft and others. “These companies have made cost reduction and scaling the crux of their business offerings,” he says. For blockchain to evolve, the average user experience also needs improvement, Bensonoff says. “The good news is that developers and blockchain companies are catching on, and working to create a more welcoming look and feel for consumers,” he says.

Regulation. If there’s a grey area in the blockchain world, regulation is it, although some states, such as Wyoming, and countries such as Malta, Estonia and Switzerland, are attempting to change that. “In the meantime, this regulatory limbo is affecting adoption, with many waiting for some finality in legislation before they implement their own blockchain solution,” Bensonoff says. As some states pass blockchain bills, hopes are high that others will follow suit, he says.

Privacy. Blockchain’s transparency is one of its strengths – and a weakness. Bensonoff points out that blockchain acts as a public ledger, which is necessary for the technology to provide trust and to verify transactions. But that can make use of blockchain troublesome for some industries, such as healthcare, which needs to protect the privacy of much of its data. Some solutions on the horizon, Bensonoff says, include making use of new developments like stealth addresses, ring-confidential transactions and state channels.

“Blockchain is definitely going to become more useful and more popular,” Kirill says. “But it must overcome these hurdles to get where it needs to be.”

__________________________________________________________

Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com) has over 20 years experience in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation as an advisor and investor in over 20 companies. In the information technology and cloud services space, Kirill founded US Web Hosting while still in college, was co-founder of ComputerSupport.com in 2006, and launched Unigma in 2015. As an innovator in the distributed ledger technology (DLT) space, Kirill launched the crypto startup Caviar in 2017 and has worked to build the blockchain community in Boston by hosting the Boston Crypto Meetup. He also is the founder of the Boston Blockchain Angels, producer and host of The Exchange with KB podcast and leads the Blockchain + AI Rising Angel.co syndicate. Kirill earned a B.S. degree from Connecticut State University, is a graduate of the EO Entrepreneurial Masters at MIT, and holds a number of technical certifications. He has been published or quoted in such national business, blockchain and technology media as Inc., Hacker Noon, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Magazine and CoinTelegraph.

 

freight invoicing

How to Tackle the Freight Invoice Management Obstacles

A freight invoice is a detailed bill which includes information regarding the transportation of a company’s goods from one place to the other, along with the inclusion of the amount of charges, its weight, due dates, complete goods’ description, contact information, and names of both the receiver and the shipper, etc.

On the other hand, logistics is defined as the process of planning, implementing, and controlling the storage and movement of services and goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption within a supply chain, explains a top provider of Invoice Processing Services. The companies which deal with these processes become a part of the logistics industry and handle a few or all of the functions of supply chains as per the logistic requirements of the client.

Past Examples of Invoice Issues

-In recent times, an IT company was overbilled throughout 14 days by an amount of $935,578 owing to the incorrect weight applied by a parcel carrier.

-Auditing helped a national level entertainment retailer in saving around $35,000 from a wrong monthly invoice charge

-A worldwide renowned LED manufacturer had to pay $93,147 more due to incorrect billing currency, but the amount was recovered after the fault was discovered during the auditing process.

Top Freight Invoice Management Obstacles

Multiple Challenges

Managing invoices is extremely hard as a lot of challenges like reconciling contract terms with Bill Of Lading (BOL), invoices’ rating for correct rate selection, decisions about the acceptance of differences in charges, getting invoices resubmitted after making the carriers do corrections, etc. have to be dealt with extreme care. When these challenges are not addressed properly, they lead to errors, which further lead to overcharging, eventually adding to the overall Invoice Processing complexity.

Tedious Information Processing

The processing of information for the invoices is really tiring and tedious in nature. This is the reason employees who process the information for billing, weight, ledgers, data entry, and more commit multiple mistakes and make the final outcome inaccurate and hard to understand.

Bill Entry Issues

The very first concern which the logistics industry has to deal with during invoice management is the efficient functionality of the billing entry process which is defined below:

-Shortage of non-standardized processes and control due to operations which are not centralized for billing entry

-Multiple systems integration

-Due to missing BOL information, incomplete billable items are captured

-Multiple formats for BOL 

-Lost information regarding a customer or local-specific procedures for billing

Refund Management Issues

There are a lot of instances where the goods and services do not land safely at the doorstep of the receivers. In such cases, goods and services are returned back to the suppliers, which involves going through all the invoice processing steps again, which is extremely time-consuming for the owners of the logistics company.

Best Practices to Tackle Invoice Management Obstacles

Must-Include Invoice Listings

-Consignee and consignor names

-Shipment date

-Packages number

-Freight description

-Volume, weight, and measurement of freight

-Total outstanding charges

-Each carrier name engaging in transportation and movement route

-Shipment’s transfer point

-Issuer’s business address and remittance address

Freight Management Controls

It is important to incorporate internal controls which are powerful into the management structure of the freight. An authorization system, duty separations, and internal audits on a periodical basis are one of the most important tasks for managing risks like favoritism and fraud, which have the potential to bring down the overall profitability. 

The main objective is to make sure none of the employees have any chance for concealing and committing any illegal or unethical activity. For example, an employee who has been given the responsibility of getting the estimates should never be made the in charge of making the final freight invoice payment or selection.

Proficient Auditing System

According to a report by ReconLOgistics.com, wrong freight bills appear in about 5-6% of the entire invoices, which can raise the expenses of transportation to a great extent. With a proficient auditing system in place, along with a thorough recalculation and review can save you from overpaying due to inaccuracies in the freight bills. 

Apart from this, normal dealing procedures for lost shipment or damaged dealing, and timely claims reconciliation are an imperative part of a cost-saving management program for the freight.

Outsourcing Payment and Freight Audit

When it comes to finding the best solutions for streamlining the freight invoice management process, Outsource Invoice Processing remains a top favorite amongst the businesses due to its cost-cutting feature, along with the following benefits provided by it:

-Paper routing, filing, and handling elimination

-Centralized system for entire processing functions of the freight invoice

-Eliminating multiple systems and non-uniform processes

-Real-time insights into the invoices

-Latest technology use like artificial intelligence and automation

-Invoices’ long-term archival in the electronic form

-Carrier queries

-Increase cash flow to the maximum levels with timely invoice payments

-Receive correct and detailed accrual files and cost allocation straight into your system

-Gain visibility into operational metrics, invoice status, and payment information

Invoice Automation

Most of the industries have already incorporated the use of automation in a majority of their work processes, and have reaped great benefits in the following forms:

-Faster processing of invoices

-Elimination of costly human errors

-Invoice costs reduction by 80%

-Preventing payments duplicity and maximizing initial incentives for payments

-Enabling enhanced cash flow control and visibility

-Achieving 100% accuracy for invoice entry

Freight Software

Businesses who are trying to manage their freight invoices by themselves can ease their management workload with some of the top freight software mentioned below:

The Magaya Cargo System

This user-friendly software helps in eliminating duplicity of data entry, streamlining shipment workflows, generating Bill Of Lading, etc., along with a fully-integrated system for Invoice Accounting.

A1 Tracker

This software meets the unique business demands of the present scenario, make the working of the logistics systems smooth, and bring the required value to your business.

Freightos

The online platform for global trade management and freight booking, along with providing logistics owners with digital sales tools.

Excalibur WMS

This is a software which is fully integrated for warehouse management, accounting system, and third-party logistics (3PL) service billing.

CargoWise One

A central software system platform for worldwide providers giving logistics services.

Managing the freight invoices is definitely challenging owing to the various complexities in the form of inaccuracies and irregularities in the data and work processes, respectively. These complexities can be brought down greatly with the use of automation, outsourcing, audit systems, etc., eventually streamlining the process of freight invoice management at large, along with saving time and money at the same time.

_________________________________________________________________

Gia Glad holds the position of Business Content Writer at Cogneesol – an outsourcing firm offering finance and accounting services along with other value-added services to the small and mid-sized businesses globally.

Automated Farming Solution Increases Stock Production by 20 Percent

Manual methods are becoming a thing of the past for poultry farmers implementing the CapTemp Farming Solution which provides farmers asset analytics that support impressive stock production increases.

CapTemp Farming Solution, a Portuguese company, provided one farmer with a quick, reliable solution after a recorded 20 percent loss on stock production due to lack of automated and analytics tools providing the insight he needed on farm equipment and livestock.

Once implemented, the farmer was successfully able to improve daily weight gains for improved animal growth, reduce stock mortality rate to zero, as well as reduce energy and feed costs due to better environmental conditions.

Through its partnership with market leaders in pig and poultry equipment, Equiporave Iberica, CapTemp provides farmers a sensor control system solution that collects and reports data on temperature, humidity, and gas parameters within the poultry house. Through this level of visibility, farmers are given the advantage and real-time controls.

Additionally, data logging and redundancy functions provide even more of an advantage through features such as scheduled machine usage. The automated solution also boasts features such as sensors networked to a central alarm system, operators that alert unusual conditions in real-time, and remote monitor operations.

For more information, visit: CapTemp

Source: EIN Presswire