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E-Commerce Logistics and Supply Chains: Journey to the Future

supply

E-Commerce Logistics and Supply Chains: Journey to the Future

The transition of commerce to an electronic format is a well-established and economically sound process which is in its prime. Shopping and paying online has already become an integral part of modern life. Conversion of e-commerce platforms is more than 7% versus just 3% in the retail sector. But how has the transformation of e-commerce affected logistics?

The transportation of products remains a physical process that cannot be realized through the Internet. However, electronic administration of logistics processes is available now, and advanced technologies help optimize the product movement along the supply chain. How does this all happen and what are the current trends – let’s understand.

Why Classic Logistics Has Become Obsolete

The answer is simple: needs are growing.

If we immediately exclude the possibility that a business delivers goods on its own without involving third parties, then, in any case, there is some company in the chain between the brand and the consumer. With its help, goods get into the hands of buyers from different cities and countries.

But if earlier, in most cases, it was a matter of delivering the product to stores and other retail structures, now everything is much more sophisticated. Buyers may request delivery to their nearest post office, special pick-up point, or even directly to their home. This required a qualitative change in storage conditions and technologies used.

Reasons for the Rapid Development of Logistics

In order to take their place under the sun in a trading niche, brands choose the most effective methods. This is what is most appreciated by any buyer – a wide range of products and short delivery time: who would want to wait for their goods for several months? The same goes for digital commerce. Therefore, you should not be fooled, for example, a case of Photza digital photo retouching service, when they reduced the delivery time from 3 days to 2 and began to send ready-made photos not only through your personal account on the website, but also duplicated by email link to Dropbox, increased conversion by 17.3%.

A good example of successful adapting to new realities is Amazon. By activating 50 picking warehouses throughout the United States, this giant got the opportunity to promise customers next-day delivery. With the help of a special code (SKU), each item was designated, then it arrived at the distribution center, and was ready to be further piece-picked for individual orders.

The closer the inventory to the buyer, the faster the delivery. Other retailers and businesses quickly realized this and began to deploy new capacities, using both internal departments and shared resources managed by third-party partners.

New Trends and Their Impact on Logistics

Implementation of Digitalization

This is a crucial thing that makes sense to mention. Advanced technologies, the ability to create and use customized software adapted for each business and its logistic model, electronic databases and much more allowed many brands to reach a new level.

Digitalization not only accelerates work, but it also provides greater stability and sustainability in the implementation of supply chains. With its help, brands can check the availability of products in any storehouse at any time, request information on the latest deliveries as well as the status of different orders, manage inventory and pre-compile optimal routes.

The Same-Day Delivery

The question of how to speed up the process of getting the product into the hands of the buyer continues to occupy the minds of brands. The most relevant category of goods for delivery on the same day is, of course, food. One can also include consumables here. Short-lived commodities do not stand the test of time, therefore, special conditions must be provided for them. And this is not a whim of the client or the quirk of the manufacturer, but an urgent need.

Moreover, there is a certain relationship between service and money, which people consider appropriate to pay for it. This balance should be carefully calculated and taken into account. It is also interesting that more than 60% of clients are willing to pay more in order to receive the goods on the same day or at least the next day. If the brand has the opportunity to fulfill this desire, then we can say that it is already one step ahead of its other less savvy competitors.

To reduce the cost of delivery and ensure its optimization, platforms such as Uber implement market models that analyze and compare supply and demand. For example, they select available couriers and orders received in real time and, by appointing a courier to deliver a product, seek to minimize the average travel time. The whole system is fully automated: large amounts of money were invested to ensure its correct functioning. Notably, they fully paid off, because as a result, the organization has received a platform that provides stable and trouble-free operation.

The scheme of working with local couriers is gaining momentum, and in the near future, many large retailers are expected to switch to it. This is convenient and, as indicated above, requires the greatest cost only at the initial stage of implementation. With the correct formulation of the problem and the determination of the goals pursued, success will not be long in coming: it remains only to maintain the system and periodically update it. No one wants to be left overboard as an outdated option.

Couriers Robots

Delivery of goods by robots is also not as far away as it might seem. Starship Technologies is already launching its standalone food delivery robots in Tempe. Self-guided robotic vehicles can carry orders weighing up to 40 pounds over a distance of 3 miles. Autonomous navigation is provided by a 360-degree camera, which makes a robot an absolutely independent counterpart to couriers, reducing labor costs by more than 70%. Bots work best in urban centers.

There is no information about possible obstacles to their movement yet. In addition, such machines encounter far fewer legal barriers than their unlucky colleagues – drones.

The Power of Social Media

While marketing and link building strategies allow the brand to improve its online visibility, social networks dominate in matters of instant communication with customers. Clarification of address details, obtaining prompt feedback and providing the information requested by customers optimize logistics processes from a coordinating point of view.

SaaS Options to Streamline Supply Chains

Manual supply chain management with modern production volumes nowadays seems almost impossible; to say the least, then certainly both an outdated and inefficient method. Therefore, many businesses resort to various software-as-a-service supply management options.

This process became especially popular after the entry of cloud computing into the game. It made available timely informational and structural updates and created easy ways to manage infrastructure costs.

Advanced Product Tracking Scheme

The use of GPS has become another milestone in the history of an e-commercial boom. With its help, it became possible to track the location of the goods at any stage of their journey, whether it be moving to a regional storehouse or last-mile delivery. Moreover, tracking is a useful option for customers: they can clearly imagine and assume how much they have left to wait for their goods.

In the event of an unforeseen situation, brands can immediately detect problems and take all necessary measures to restore the procedure for transporting products to the buyer.

In the End

Modern problems require modern solutions. Therefore, in parallel with the new e-commerce opportunities, up-to-date options appear that handle the transportation of small and large goods equally well. Digitalization has given a significant impetus to the growth of new capabilities. Timely delivery at a price that satisfies the customer is what businesses strive for by updating their logistics models.

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Marie Barnes is a Marketing Communication Manager at LinksManagement, where you can buy real backlinks, and is a writer for gearyoda. She is an enthusiastic blogger interested in writing about technology, social media, work, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs.

wayfair decision

How the U.S. Supreme Court Wayfair Decision Affects Small Business

The Wayfair Case

In 1992, the Supreme Court, in a case referred to as “Quill,” ruled that the lack of substantial physical presence in a state is sufficient grounds to exempt a business from having to collect and remit sales or sellers use taxes to a state.

This precedent protected small businesses from “burdensome” administrative processes that would have interfered with and limited interstate commerce.

The “Quill” case ruling laid down the law that ruled our land until June 21st, 2018.

On that day, the current Supreme Court reversed the “Quill” decision in a new case referred to as Wayfair.

Economic Nexus

Economic nexus, as established in the Wayfair case, was defined as $100,000 or 200 transactions per year shipped to South Dakota residents or companies as the threshold for requiring an out of state company to be subject to sales and use tax collection.

In the 2018 Wayfair decision, the Supreme Court said states could require companies with an “economic nexus” to their state to collect sales and use taxes.

The potential to encumber small businesses who sell outside of their home state by forcing them to track and comply with a different set of sales tax laws for each state is a very real burden.

Non-compliance can result in penalties and back taxes.

Compliance

Without an automated solution, managing compliance could be a full-time job due to the complexities of state tax regulations.

This may include navigating 10,000 plus sales tax jurisdictions across the country, many of which are amorphous and do not conform to city or county boundaries, or zip codes.

Compliance may require using different tax bases (taxable product categories, i.e., clothing, food items, etc.) in each state (except for the SST member states who agree to standard taxability within their state).

Another obstacle can be figuring out all the arcane rules related to taxability of handling, shipping and certain product usage rules that also vary from state to state.

Learning to use each state’s portal to report and pay sales and use taxes (even as these are being changed to keep up with reporting changes) could prove to be challenging.

Compliance could require monitoring sales tax changes across the same 10,000 plus jurisdictions and tracking their own sales dollars and transaction counts by state.

Tracking the different thresholds of each state on how soon they must begin collecting sales and use tax after hitting that state’s threshold amount (believe it or not at least one state expects tax on the first transaction after the threshold is reached) can provide even more complexity.

Resellers & Exemption Certificates

I’ll share a story that I recently heard from a former state sales tax auditor.

He found that many distributors do not do a good job of administering the resale exemption certificates issued by the state that the reseller’s customers reside in.

And if that certificate was not properly filled out and signed, he would then disallow the exemption and all that revenue would be declared taxable.

In addition, penalties and interest would be added on top of the uncollected tax.

Since every state has its own forms for resale certificates and its own rules for renewal of certificates (or not), administration is not a small task. And unfortunately, a task that is sometimes not given the importance it deserves until an audit is coming.

You Have Options

It would be much better to prepare before the states start their hunt for revenue so you can formulate a plan, rather than wait.

We suggest first and foremost if you get a letter from another state asking you to provide information to them, call your lawyer and your sales-tax-specialist accountant immediately, and before you provide any information discuss your situation and your options.

In addition to planning to handle these new requirements, we encourage small business owners to build your infrastructure and prepare your data so that you can handle this.

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John Miller is President of Passport Software, Inc., a leading provider of accounting, manufacturing, distribution and business software solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. Founded in 1983, Passport Software’s goal is to help clients with the effective use of technology in order to focus on profitability and improving their business processes.

This article was originally published in smallbizclub.com. Republished with permission.

amazon's

What Logistics and Warehouse Businesses Should Learn From Amazon’s Mistakes During the Pandemic

Amazon has dominated the COVID-19 news because of its ability to get some medical supplies and the reliance of people on ecommerce to protect them as they shop. It’s been a good time for the company’s financials, with significant increases in sales and secure positioning for its other services.

Unfortunately for Amazon, it was also in the news because of product mishaps, fulfillment concerns, worker illnesses, and poor handling of concerns. What the brand did, and didn’t do, can be a useful guide for smaller warehouse and logistics companies to follow.

The best lessons are from Amazon’s mistakes because few 3PLs and service companies are big enough to survive similar mishaps.

Take care of your partners

Amazon faced a tough situation, just like all of us. We all got some things wrong. The hope is that they won’t turn into long-standing issues. For Amazon, it’s unclear if that’s the case, but the thing with the most significant potential for prolonged harm is how it communicated and worked with its partners.

The biggest misstep from a partner standpoint would be when it announced a halt to accepting shipments from some third-party sellers and gave little guidance on what this meant. Sellers flooded Amazon’s forums to ask questions, and rumors spread just as fast as valid answers. People were upset, scared for their businesses, and frustrated that Amazon might not be a viable marketplace in the future.

While Amazon did eventually move back to allowing all third-party shipments for its FBA program, some harm has been done. Companies are looking at moving to do their own fulfillment — which was rewarded by the Amazon AI at some points during the pandemic — to prevent any future move from Amazon bringing an entire small business to a halt.

Amazon may be trying to tackle some of that relationship harm with efforts like waiving some storage fees or supporting more fulfillment operations. Still, it’s unclear how much harm happened.

Diversify and simplify when you can

An estimated one-third of top Amazon sellers are in China. It is believed to source some of its own products from China, and many of its smaller sellers also get products or drop-ship directly from the region. The spread of the pandemic and closure of factories, as well as shipping issues, then hit Amazon and its sellers quite hard.

Different points at the supply chain all ran out of goods or production capabilities, which started limiting what was available and hurt revenue for everyone involved. Diversifying sources and partners, both in goods and location, could have mitigated some of this risk.

Logistics professionals should look at regional needs and concerns right now. Identify where your product lines could struggle and if there are potential replacements for materials. If you’re a 3PL or providing other warehouse services, consider expanding to multiple locations. This can help you get goods to the end-customer faster as well as protecting fulfillment operations during COVID and similar black swan events.

Safeguarding people is just the minimum

At least seven of Amazon’s employees have died from the coronavirus, and the company has been very unclear about how many others have become ill. There is a new lawsuit by employees around the company’s contact tracing and potential exposure of employees — worth noting that the lawsuit doesn’t seek damages, just an injunction forcing Amazon to follow public health standards.

Throughout the pandemic, Amazon has taken heat for how it has treated its workers. This covered safety equipment and protections, sick leave and sending people home, and how it responded to labor demands. And, much of the anger is deserved.

The pandemic is scary and should be taken seriously. It was Amazon’s responsibility to make its employees feel like they were taken care of and protected.

Hopefully, this has served as a wakeup call for logistics and warehouse businesses. Your people matter, far beyond just what they contribute to the health of your business. There’s also a good chance your business will be judged by how you treat your teams. The world now makes much of this information public, too, if you need that extra layer of fear to get going and ensure your teams are safe, protected, and following the right policies.

Protect long-term customers and your business model

Consumers are spending more money on Amazon and shopping more often, largely due to the pandemic, but they’re not as happy about it. People saying they were either “very” or “extremely” satisfied with Amazon’s service fell from 73% to 64% from June 2019 to now.

The biggest frustrations have been delays in shipping and unavailable products. People view that they’re paying for the service, and its interrupted supply chain is still creating waves. Prime shoppers aren’t able to get the fast, two-day shipping on all purchases, despite being the most lucrative customers. Amazon has actually seen a decline in customer satisfaction over the last five years, according to that same report.

Growing discontent is a threat. Logistics and warehouse businesses don’t have the size of Amazon or the weight to throw around. If your customers aren’t getting what they’re paying for, they’ll move on to another service provider. The same is true if you’re late, damaging goods, or getting orders wrong. There are few real alternatives to Amazon, but there are many alternatives to all of us.

That’s perhaps the most important lesson in all of this for the logistics profession. Amazon needs to learn it before a genuine rival rises to compete, but it’s a good focus for warehouses starting today.

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Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

Global Trade Magazine Opens Nominations for 8th Annual “Americas 50 Leading 3PLs”

Global Trade Magazine has officially kicked-off its 8th annual “America’s Top 50 Leading 3PLs” nominations. This year’s selected nominees will showcase the most competitive movers and shakers transforming domestic and international logistics, exceeding client expectations while maintaining an exemplary company profile with competitive solutions.

Following last year’s focus on “needs-based” and “high demand” categories, the 2020 feature will spotlight specialty industries including E-commerce/Omni-Channel, Temperature-Controlled, Hazmat, Distribution, Freight Forwarding, and much more.

“It’s a measure of the quickly growing/changing/evolving global marketplace that arguably the most critical industry serving it, Third Party Logistic Providers (3PLs), continues to grow, change and evolve at a dizzying pace,” explained former senior editor Steve Lowery.

Global Trade Magazine will determine the final 50 nominations based on industry reputation, outstanding operational excellence, game-changing initiatives, disruptive technology solutions, and unmatched levels of innovation. This list showcases leading companies while providing a comprehensive list for businesses seeking new partnership opportunities.

“It’s easy to say that one must move faster, deliver services quicker, be more innovative and have organizational agility to flex with the world, but it takes something quite different to lead the cultural transformation that is required to make these goals a reality,” said Rich Bolte, CEO of BDP.

“Leadership will have to change as well. Leaders will be measured by their ability to innovate and create potential disruptions. The old paradigm of measuring only performance and execution has changed.”

To see a complete list of recipients, please visit globaltrademag.com to view the current issue.

Nominations are currently open and will be accepted through August 15 at 5 p.m. CST.

CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE YOUR 3PL

How Technology can Improve your Logistics Operations

Like most other industries, the logistics industry faces a gradual transformation towards adapting to the internet age. The advent of new technologies invalidates age-old approaches and processes, creating the need for modernization. And with the logistics industry being as massive as it is, it’s understandable that it can be notably lucrative. Between risk mitigation and automation, there are many ways in which adaptive technology can benefit this $4 trillion industry. With that said, let us explore just how technology can improve your logistics operation.

The significance of efficiency

Before delving into specifics, it is vital to note the undisputed value of efficiency in the logistics industry.

As mentioned before, this 4$ trillion industry is massive, and its interconnectivity with other industries is apparent. Thus, efficient logistics operations can yield considerable productivity gains across the board. Not only can they provide a competitive advantage, but they can also guarantee better overall operation cohesion. Logistics software can greatly enhance one’s control and oversight of supply chains, increasing response times to potential disruptions. After all, customers of all industries value a swift delivery of goods and services, as well as quality customer support. Such software can augment all of those aspects, ensuring that potential challenges are easier to overcome.

Shipment Tracking Systems and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A technology that has already caught on, albeit to varying degrees, is shipment tracking. As customers would previously be unaware of their order’s status, shipment tracking systems have rectified this somewhat. With 24/7 access to shipment status information, customers can rest assured that their order is indeed underway. Some tracking systems even offer additional information and shipment notifications for additional insights and convenience. This solution can indeed improve your logistics too, no less than customer experience. Constant monitoring can save your time and money, as well as unclog your customer service channels.

Likewise, on the front of cargo management, RFID technology has also seen use in recent years. In essence, RFID tags or sensors allow companies to keep track of their inventory. Both labor-saving and cost-effective, RFID tags are often used in distribution warehouses as a means of monitoring containers. Such industries as the apparel industry are also using RFID technology for tracking purposes, with very notable success. Should you be contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, RFID solutions could be a reasonable step to take.

Automation and robotics

On the subject of warehouse optimization, then, technology has provided another asset; automation. Naturally, automation can yield many benefits to many industries, but logistics is unquestionably one of them. From increased performance to reduced labor costs, automation is undoubtedly a valuable asset.

Automation offers to improve operational efficiency in machines, and has already seen effective use in such trade hubs as Holland’s Port of Rotterdam. Namely, its use of fully-automated terminals allows it to reap the aforementioned benefits in terms of unloading cargo. It’s estimated that this approach increases overall productivity by as much as 30 percent – a very notable net benefit.

Similarly, robots have facilitated the rapid growth of online sales across many industries. While they are quite dissimilar from automation in many regards, they too can automate operations and thus decrease labor costs. Most notably, as far as e-commerce is concerned, Amazon has been innovative in this front. Its use of Kiva robots has reduced the company’s expenses by as much as 20 percent. A notable feat, enough so that other companies also seek to employ robots in their warehouses.

Drones and autonomous vehicles

In much the same way as automation and robotics, technology has provided logistics companies with drones and autonomous vehicles. Similar in function, both can be fine examples of how technology can improve your logistics operation.

Drones have seen surges in functionality in recent times, elevated from a niche solution to one with potentially global applications. This development was understandably followed by an array of eager high-profile adopters, such as UPS. A potential innovation in terms of product delivery indeed, drones can expand delivery options to both urban and rural areas. More fortunately still, their nature allows them to also improve logistics, by removing the factor of human error.

Likewise, autonomous vehicles can offer similar convenience. In part due to relatively lower regulations and easier testing, self-driving vehicles have been an accessible technological advancement for many logistics operations. Of course, it’s notable that this technology is currently mostly limited to warehouse management, such as autonomous forklifts and trucks. However, with rapid advancements, it may not be long before autonomous trucks can traverse the world’s highways. Both in their current and potential future forms, autonomous vehicles can quite possibly be a massive asset to any company.

Conclusion

As technology makes rapid strides, one can realistically expect vast logistics optimization potential. From warehouse management and monitoring to shipment tracking and delivery, the possibilities seem endless. When contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, both the present and the future hold much promise. And as supply chains expand and grow, it will be vital to adapt to such technologies to remain competitive.

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James Clarkson is a freelance web designer and author. He often writes analyses of the shipping and moving industries, and of the SEO needs of both. He’s a frequent writer for Verified Movers, as well as other companies.

covid

Post-COVID Logistics: Retooling for the Future

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across global economies and businesses, but for the supply chain and logistics industry, challenges go beyond the present and threaten the future of operations and business continuity. These challenges redefine what prediction could look like for the logistics industry and what considerations should be taken to keep the supply chain moving.

Global Trade had the opportunity to speak with business owner and author of “The GOP’s Lost Decade: An Inside View of Why Washington Doesn’t Work,” Jim Renacci on what changes the industry can anticipate as the current health crisis continues to change the pace for global business.

What planning measures will logistics players need to consider in a post-COVID environment?

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way manufacturers/logistic players will need to review their supply chain management post-COVID-19 and access their supply chain vulnerabilities. The crisis has demonstrated that reliance on sourcing from two geographic areas could pose a risk.

During the crisis, while supplies became unavailable, many companies were forced to start looking for new supply chains as many of their overseas suppliers had to limit or reduce shipments significantly. Post-COVID planning will include asking current suppliers to take on more and different product lines. It is already happening with many current business relationships. Also, the reliability of the supply chain…. over cost…. will be more of a priority.

In what ways have supply chain players supported their customers and consumers during the crisis?

Manufacturers/supply chain players are supporting their customers by shifting and increasing supply chain needs where possible. In many instances, secondary suppliers have started adding product lines where possible. With any crisis, opportunities will be there for the business that can move quickly and adapt to change.

How will the manufacturing site selection process shift in a post-COVID world? 

Manufacturing site selection processes in a post-COVID world should include seeking locations within the US and other countries that have access to highly trained engineers, top tier R&D, access to advanced manufacturing technologies as well as private and public institutions and universities. Site selection should also include countries that offer a competitive investment package as more and more countries post-COVID will be looking to entice companies to locate or relocate inside their jurisdictions.

In what ways can logistics players use the disruption from COVID-19 to benefit their operations in the future?

Current disruption due to COVID-19 will allow companies to reassess their vulnerabilities but also their strengths. With these disruptions, companies can retool for the future. They can adjust for their weaknesses and benefit from their strengths.

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Jim Renacci is the author of The GOP’s Lost Decade: An Inside View of Why Washington Doesn’t Work. He is also an experienced business owner who created more than 1,500 jobs and employed over 3,000 people across the Buckeye State before running for Congress in 2010. Jim represented Ohio’s 16th District in the House of Representatives for four terms. He is also the chairman of Ohio’s Future Foundation, a policy and action-oriented organization whose goal is to move the state forward.

small businesses

U.S. Metros With the Most Small Businesses Per Capita

Small businesses across the United States face dire circumstances following the COVID-19 outbreak. While each individual small business might seem inconsequential to the broader economy, in aggregate, these firms are critical to the country’s financial well-being.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees makeup approximately 95 percent of American business establishments and employ 40 percent of private sector workers. These 7.4 million small businesses (or 2.27 per 100 residents) also account for roughly a third of total private sector payroll.

Unfortunately, research shows that small businesses and their workers are particularly vulnerable during recessions and other periods of economic hardship. A recent survey conducted by the New York Fed found that even prior to the pandemic, 64 percent of small businesses faced financial challenges in the preceding 12 months. The same survey reported that a two-month loss of revenue would cause 86 percent of firms to take a serious financial action, such as using the owner’s personal savings, taking out a loan, or cutting staff salaries.

Moreover, small businesses in some industries have a larger economic impact than others. Among small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, those in accommodation, food services, and retail trade—coincidentally, the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19—employ the most workers. These industries, combined, account for more than 16 million employees and $362 billion in annual payroll.

Like the businesses themselves, small business employees are also more financially vulnerable than their large-firm counterparts. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that fewer small business employees have access to retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, life insurance, or disability insurance. Troublingly, only half of employees in small businesses have health insurance through their company and only two-thirds have paid sick leave.

While small businesses are a critical component of the national economy, some parts of the country depend more on small businesses than others. To find the metropolitan areas with the most small businesses, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review website for workers’ compensation insurance and construction software, analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked each location according to the number of small businesses per 100 residents. Researchers also included statistics on the total number of small businesses, the number of retail, accommodation, and food service businesses, and the share of workers who are self-employed. For the analysis, small businesses were defined as those employing fewer than 50 workers.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, locations were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000-999,999 residents), and small metros (less than 350,000 residents).

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the most small businesses per capita:

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-with-the-most-small-businesses

food sector

Food Sector Faces Multipronged Consequences of COVID-19 Outbreak

Brick and mortar, as well as online food chains, are facing the wrath of the current COVID-19 outbreak. The worldwide supply chain includes distribution, packaging, as well as sourcing of raw materials. Lockdowns are disrupting the transportation of packaged foods, prepared foods, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Before the pandemic, the major growth drivers were growing consumption of ready-to-eat convenience foods among on-the-go consumers.

Shifting lifestyle patterns, rising per capita income, and a growing population have been the prominent growth-enhancing factors associated with the food sector prior to the outbreak. However, shutdowns of restaurants and quick service facilities due to lockdowns have hindered the growth of the food & beverage industry to a large extent.

Online Food Orders Surge as Offline Food Chains Struggle to Cope with COVID-19

In view of the dual nature of the food industry, the impact of COVID-19 is multifaceted on online and offline food chains. The offline food chain comprises of cafes and restaurants that have been shut down across the globe. However, online food deliveries remain operational in most of the regions. The packaged food industry, in particular, is witnessing prolific demand for milk products and shelf-stable foods. As consumers hurry to fill their pantries, the demand is projected to surge even further. Almost every region of the world has been affected by the coronavirus crisis, namely, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and the rest of the world. An example of how supply chains were gravely affected is derived from Coca Cola Co.

The carbonated beverage giant, sources raw material from China where the outbreak surfaced in early December of 2019. During the initial days of the pandemic, the company faced a great deal of difficulty in managing the frontend of its supply chain. The production, supply, and export of raw materials from China were delayed due to which the company now solely relies on its suppliers in the US for sourcing sucralose. The major companies in the food & beverages industry affected by coronavirus outbreak include Subway Restaurants Inc., Starbucks Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Papa John’s International Inc., McDonald’s Corp., KFC Corp., International Dairy Queen Inc., Dunkin’ Donuts LLC, Domino’s Pizza, Inc., and Burger King Corp. For instance, Starbucks had to shut down about 2,000 outlets in mainland China after the pandemic began to spread like wildfire.

Livelihoods and Lives at Risk from COVID-19 Pandemic

The looming food crisis amid trade disruptions, quarantines, and border closures continues to endanger both livelihoods and lives worldwide. The huge imbalance between supply and demand resulted from economic shock in the midst of the widespread shutdown of businesses. The uncertainty surrounding the eventual retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the crisis. Fast and effective measures are required to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable food supply chain.

Nutritious and diverse food sources are in short supply in the wake of the global health crisis. Furthermore, greater food insecurity is prevalent in regions hit hard by COVID-19 such as Spain, Italy, and the US. However, there is still the need for anyone to panic about the food crisis as the world has adequate stock of it. The only problem is making it accessible to every section of the society amid strict lockdown.

What Has the World Learned from History?

The 2007-2008 food crisis offered the world some important lessons which can be utilized to avoid letting a health crisis turn into an indispensable food crisis. Policymakers worldwide are intent on not repeating their mistakes of the past. As the measures tighten around the pandemic, it will be even more challenging to prevent the downfall of the global food system. Logistics bottlenecks are a major challenge facing the globe at present. The global food industry is certainly strained in terms of transport and accessibility.

So far food supply has been sufficient thereby disruptions have been minimal. However, the production of high-value commodities such as vegetables and fruits has declined. Hence, governments, especially in India, aim to restart the agriculture activities in parts during the harvest season.

What Does the Immediate Future Hold for Food Sector?

The food supply chain disruption is expected to continue through at least May 2020 as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. Movement restrictions will continue for at least two more months in various parts of world, which is why minimizing bottlenecks will remain crucial for major manufacturers in the food industry. Agricultural production, on the other hand, will be affected by a shortage of veterinary medicines, fertilizers, and other inputs. Moreover, demand for seafood products and fresh produce will continue to decline in view of less grocery shopping and closure of restaurants. In particular, aquaculture and agriculture sectors are among the most adversely affected by the pandemic. Canned seafood and other frozen food products will be on the other hand in demand. The suspension of school meals in emerging nations in India is another area facing the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak.

One thing is certain: the poorest sections of the society including the migrant workers will be the worst affected by the pandemic. In India, migrant workers are terrified of dying from hunger even before the pandemic can strike. Feeding millions of poor families is a daunting task being faced by the government of India. Individuals continue to contribute their part to help the vulnerable ones. However, feeding them every day requires uninterrupted production and supply of essential food items. The food sector in developing nations will thus certainly face greater strain over the entire system in the foreseeable future.

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Nandini is a senior research consultant working with Future Market Insights (FMI), a global market research and consulting firm. She has been serving clients across Food & Beverages, Pharma, and Chemical domains. Currently leading FMI’s Food & Beverages division, Nandini handles research projects in various sub-sectors, viz. Food Ingredients, Food Innovation, and Beverages. The insights presented in this article are based on FMI’s research findings on Impact of COVID-19 on Food Sector Industry of Future Market Insights

food supply chain

Reusable Plastics: The Unsung Heroes Of The Food Supply Chain

When you think of plastic, you probably think of piles of landfill products that don’t decompose organically, and as a result, end up languishing in the ground leaching toxic chemicals into the soil.

Modern technology has meant that plastics are more than just the straws you put in your milkshake or the wrapper on your lunchtime snack. Today’s plastics come in all shapes and sizes, including reusable, durable products used across the food supply chain market.

These products make food supply chain management more cost and time-efficient, allowing consumers to enjoy fresh, delicious produce and products quickly, and at a price they can afford.

Growing And Harvesting

In the early stages of food production, agricultural reusable plastic containers are used to grow fruits and vegetables in a safe and sanitary environment. Plastic trays are used to grow seedlings, and these are often watered using reusable plastic irrigation systems. Greenhouse covers, also made from reusable plastic, make growing plants that need climate-controlled housing, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits, safe and hygienic.

When it comes to harvesting product, plastic containers make it easier for farmers to store and transport their crops safely. Cardboard or wooden pallets can be hard to sanitize and are prone to absorbing moisture, while plastic is non-porous and can easily be cleaned after each use.

Processing and Distributing

Processing fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables and other crops, involves sorting them ready to be shipped off for use in various products such as ready meals, sauces and canned goods. Some will be sold whole, but the majority will meet customers in various different forms, so they are sorted and stored in a selection of reusable plastic food handling containers, such as IBCs, prior to being distributed to factories and stores.

Distribution is the part of the supply chain where single-use plastics get involved. The products can be transported on plastic pallets and crates, which are reusable, but they are delivered to customers in single-use packaging. As DeMaso of Lipman Family Farms explains:

“Single-use plastic is hard to get rid of when sending to consumers in the produce industry. We need to make sure food safety and sanitation are on-point, so we’re not trading contaminants. Disposable plastic is a problem, [so] it’s a matter of making sure we are using as little as possible.”

Making the Food Supply Chain More Sustainable

As this article highlights, the main issue the food supply chain faces when it comes to sustainability is its reliance at the end of the process on single-use plastic packaging. Justin Bean, the Business Development and Sales Manager at Reusable Transport Packaging, believes that reusable food packaging is the future, and that food producers should embrace it throughout their supply chain. This approach will help to reduce the food supply chain’s reliance on single-use plastics.

“Farmers still spend a lot of money on single-use corrugated and or single-use plastics for distribution to retailers. Our pay per use or milkman model allows users to cut out single-use packaging waste, save money, and use a better RTP (Reusable Transport Package).”

A move towards reusable plastic packaging throughout the food supply chain will allow the market to reduce its impact on the environment and still keep food fresh and affordable. It’s safe to say that these revolutionary products are the future of the food supply chain.

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Reusable Transport Packaging is a re-seller, master distributor, and custom manufacturer of the broadest range of returnable and reusable plastic packaging available today. We carry thousands of products and boast an inventory that is readily available, with national and international coverage.

quarantine

Surviving and Thriving in Quarantine: 3 Ways Businesses Can Turn Time into Opportunity

At this point, the story is global – businesses in communities around our country and world have shuttered, many at the direction of local, state or national governments as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

But grim as the picture may be today, millions of small business owners around the country need to grapple not just with the challenge of what to do while their operations are closed, but how to prepare for what lies on the other side of this crisis as the world emerges from quarantine and returns to the business.

In pursuit of a silver lining during this trying time, below are three opportunities to turn a quarantine shutdown on its head and help build businesses stronger than ever before.

Explore creative new ways to deliver your product or service – I’ve watched with fascination as many creative businesses have found ways to continue operating through a quarantine. Novel ways to deliver everything from orchestral music to personal training and therapy/addiction treatment have made the rounds as viral social media videos or popular articles. A similar solution may not be realistic for all businesses, but particularly if you deliver personal services (as opposed to hard goods and products that require in-person consumption), taking the time to invest in and perfect your digital delivery right now could pay benefits down the road.

Imagine a local personal trainer that works via in-person training sessions exclusively. These weeks (or months) may force their training sessions with existing clientele to video-conference, but if that trainer is intentional about streamlining their online offering they’ll be able to tap into a national (or international!) new customer base during and even after the quarantine ends.

Embrace any opportunity to explore an alternative delivery method for your businesses’ product or service, and you may reap benefits down the road.

-Take the time to complete bigger tasks you’ve been pushing off – there are some projects that are just hard to do when you are engaged in the full-time business of helping customers and producing a product each day. Large manufacturing facilities at companies like GE, Ford, Boeing, and more understand this as a fact of life – they proactively schedule dedicated plant-shutdown weeks where assembly lines stop completely to create space for large projects that wouldn’t be possible during normal operation.

Businesses of all sizes suddenly have this opportunity. What can you accomplish during your ‘plant shutdown’? Well, for ideas – there are physical changes (rearranging a showroom, gym, or restaurant seating arrangement to allow more functional usage), periodic maintenance (steam your carpets, paint your walls, organize your warehouse) and business tooling/service improvements you can make. Are you paying too much for your website, your payment solution, or your inventory management tools? Not all of these projects require significant investment, and it’s likely that some leg work today could save you money down the road.

Time and elbow grease could upgrade your physical space. Building a beautiful, more flexible site on Squarespace or Wix could reap benefits as customers experience your online storefront for months or years. Explore whether you’re using the best payments solution. What other tools do you use to run your business that you could evaluate right now?

Most businesses get one chance to make these decisions as you start operation, and the switching cost is very high once you’re locked in -mostly because change requires closing your business for some period. The quarantine might have forced the closure – take advantage!

-Build your skills – In my decade of experience working with small businesses (small ecommerce merchants with eBay, cash-flow solutions with Kabbage, and I currently work with Drum, focusing on providing new ways for businesses to market themselves), I’ve learned people start and operate businesses because they believe in their core mission, not because they’re a magical jack-of-all-trades superhuman.

Retailers sell things they love to produce and curate. Restaurateurs create amazing dining experiences. Contractors are able to bring remodels and renovations to life. In an ideal world, entrepreneurs should spend as much of their mental and physical energy on the thing they’re really good at and leave the other elements of a business to others.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality that most business owners live with. There’s always more work to be done than there are hands to do it, and any business owner wears multiple hats – you can’t offload everything. I’m sure there’s a hat every business owner wears that doesn’t fit so well.

If your poorly-fitting hat is marketing-related, maybe a few weeks of couch time is great for pouring over free marketing tutorials (courtesy of LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com). If you struggle with keeping your financials straight and organized, maybe this is a great time to dive headfirst into QuickBooks resources. Even better – leverage the collective power of the internet (particularly Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) to find a subject matter expert. You may find a similarly stir-crazy professional with knowledge you’re looking to develop that’s willing to provide some free/low-cost advice or trade some consulting hours for business services or products.

There are no easy answers – we’re all going to muddle through the next weeks and months together. But business owners are resilient, and they’re resourceful – I’m sure there is no shortage of brilliant ideas floating around. See what these suggestions could do for you, then pay it forward – share your own ideas, whether on social media or directly with your contacts.

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Eric Nalbone is the Head of Marketing for Drum, a company building new ways for businesses to leverage the power of customer and community referrals. He has previously led Marketing for Bellhops, a tech-enabled moving company headquartered in Chattanooga, TN, and held a variety of roles with Kabbage, eBay, and General Electric. Eric resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife and three dogs.