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In the New Normal Supply Chain, Firms Must Pivot Quickly

supply chain

In the New Normal Supply Chain, Firms Must Pivot Quickly

What will our supply chains look like after the impact of the pandemic has turned from an all-hands-on-deck crisis to some sort of new normal? Will either demand or supply patterns return to pre-COVID-19 levels? And should that happen, will it be in carefully managed phases, or more rapidly?

Many consumer-market experts speculate that we may find some of the changes in consumer buying—such as increased adoption of food home delivery or stocking cupboards with monthly visits to large-format stores—habit-forming, even after restaurants, hotels and fast-food outlets are once again operating at max capacity.

To imagine the future, we can look at what’s happening in the present crisis—astonishing, even heroic acts of supply chain flexibility.

-An industrial gases company pivoted so it was able to deliver a month’s worth of desperately needed medical oxygen in three days.

-A chain of currently shuttered department stores has loaned its distribution facilities and assets to a supermarket chain under pressure to keep food shelves full, as far more of us than usual eat three meals a day at home.

-A plastics molding company designed, developed and distributed a foldable, portable intubation shield within weeks.

These businesses have something in common—they have been able to use data and industry-specific software solutions to quickly adapt to shifting fulfilment and delivery operations, often over and over.

The need for flexibility in making and distributing goods is and will be, most obviously on show at the delivery end, where goods and services reach the point of purchase or consumption. Today’s newly responsive, efficient supply chain needs to stretch all the way to the supermarket shelf or patient’s bedside.

That won’t be possible without the ability to access and analyze extraordinarily detailed data about delivery operations. For distribution companies, this will be the key to competing and winning in a post-COVID-19 business landscape, where the ability to pivot quickly will be most prized.

What’s absolutely crucial is that companies can quickly model multiple potential new distribution strategies before they make actual changes. When granular-level information about what was delivered where and when yesterday is fed into delivery-planning software, it can help supply chain executives run myriad what-if scenarios to determine what resources to deploy tomorrow. What inventory, trucks and drivers would be required if sales volume dropped 50 percent, or doubled? What if orders are fulfilled out of a different distribution center?

Purpose-built route planning software like Aptean’s answers these and other questions in a matter of minutes—a superpower we are all going to need in the future. For example, it means a retailer can pivot quickly and easily, back and forth between replenishing outlets and delivering to homes, or rapidly increase service to demand hotspots. Regarding the “new normal” in delivery operations, the only certainty will be uncertainty. The ability to deftly manage this unpredictability will be a huge competitive advantage.

And yet, for a large number of businesses, delivery operations remain hampered by a lack of visibility or fine-tuned control. Too many rely on rudimentary distribution planning tools, or even paper-based systems to plan and assess their delivery operations. This means they are caught flat-footed when circumstances demand rapid change. Worse, the critical information about particular customer needs and demands too often resides in the head or heads of delivery planning staff, and becomes unavailable when those workers go sick or leave.

We need to pay heed to the lessons we’re learning during this challenge. The supply chain, like the virus, is global, but its effects are ultimately felt in individual businesses and homes. For companies reliant on delivery operations, if management of the final mile wasn’t a strategic imperative before COVID-19, it is now. It’s time to wake up to that reality and build delivery capabilities that are more flexible, more collaborative and, above all, data-smart.

To learn more about how to automate your route planning, contact info@aptean.com.

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Nicole O’Rourke has 25 years of success in building strategic marketing organizations and is responsible for leading Aptean’s global marketing and communications efforts as Chief Marketing Officer. She previously held the position of Senior Vice President and CMO for Manhattan Associates. Before that, she served as CMO at Covance Inc., and in senior strategic marketing roles at Aetna and Johnson & Johnson. O’Rourke holds a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Cornell University. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia, near Aptean’s global headquarters. Nicole can be contacted directly on LinkedIn or via info@aptean.com.

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

supply chain employee

Supply Chain Employee Engagement – 5 Benefits for your Business

Whether you operate out of a small warehouse or work as an international shipping company, employee engagement can be pivotal for your business’ ongoing success. According to Inbound Logistics, 85% of employees have reported that they feel disengaged from their jobs around the globe. However, those that feel engaged have reported 41% lower absenteeism, 24% less turnover and 70% fewer safety accidents on the job.

In terms of employee management, Forbes published a report which stated that 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing employee feedback and engagement is crucial. Likewise, 89% of workers whose companies engage its employees are likely to recommend them as good workplaces to their friends and associates.

These numbers showcase that supply chain employee engagement factors into your business’ performance far more than it might seem at first glance. The way you treat your employees will have ripple effects on your overall output, brand reputation, and the subsequent bottom line as a direct result. Let’s take a closer look at why supply chain employee management matters so much, as well as the practical benefits of implementing it going forward.

Why Supply Chain Employee Engagement Matters

Let’s look at why supply chain employee engagement is pivotal before we move on to the benefits of active communication with your employees. Supply chain management is an industry with a flat vertical curve when it comes to warehouse and storage management employees. The HR structure typically isn’t built with vertical advancement and career development in mind (apart from mandatory hard skill development).

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pay closer attention to your employees, their feedback, opinions, suggestions and personal goals. Tyler Jonas, Head of HR at Top Essay Writing spoke recently: “All employees have equal rights for engagement. You don’t have to offer elaborate rewards, position advancements or paycheck bumps to make your employees happy. Sometimes all it takes is to open a line of communication and discuss what can be done to make the work environment more enjoyable for everyone.”

Some of the common complaints and bottlenecks which hinder supply chain employees’ performance include:

-Lack of hands-on leadership and coordination from managerial staff

-High focus on supply chain ROI instead of employee wellbeing

-Poor health coverage and off days management

-Undefined employee advancement systems

Benefits of Supply Chain Employee Engagement

Let’s assume that you’ve rooted out the above-mentioned bottlenecks in your company’s supply chain management – what happens next? As you can see, the complaints most employees have in terms of engagement are not irrational – they are simply absent from the supply chain management pipeline. If you decide to pursue to correct these shortcomings, you will effectively gain a plethora of benefits in regards to your employees, including the following:

1. More Efficient Coworker Communication

Supply chain employees who are satisfied with their work methodology and engagement are far more likely to cooperate and coordinate efficiently among themselves. This will come as a natural outcome of better communication with the upper management and their efforts to make the work environment more appealing.

Aim to emancipate your employees to cooperate autonomously. Let them know that you value their opinions, experience and expertise – delegate certain decisions to their discretion to facilitate coworker communication. Once that happens, your employees will feel free to communicate their thoughts and concerns for the benefit of your company as a whole.

2. Higher Employee Retention

A major point of concern for the supply chain management sector lies in employee retention and how to entice people to renew their contracts regularly. As we’ve mentioned previously, employees who don’t feel valued or engaged by the company will likely seek greener pastures. This will leave you with a roster of employees who are there simply because they have no other option at the moment.

Such a scenario can quickly lead to a toxic work environment which will reflect poorly on your overall quality of service and brand reputation. You can avoid both points by investing time and resources into establishing a communication channel with your employees proactively rather than reactively. Don’t wait for things to go bad in your supply chain management department before opening a dialogue – increase your retention rates early on.

3. Better Productivity & Morale

Coworkers who are satisfied with the way they are being treated by the upper management will subsequently perform better in their daily work routines. This same rule applies to supply chain management as well as other industries which naturally involve a more hands-off approach from the management.

Regardless, engaging your staff frequently and communicating about what works and doesn’t in the company will help gain a lot of points in your favor. This will inevitably raise the morale and energy in your staff, leading to further improvements in productivity and their sense of belonging in the company.

4. Lowered Margin for Errors

Shipping errors and supply chain mistakes, in general, are something you want to mitigate as much as possible in your company. While mistakes are bound to happen even in the best-maintained companies, their frequency will speak volumes of how you treat your employees. Dissatisfied employees who lack any faith in their managerial staff are likely to make accidental mistakes simply because they lack the morale to do otherwise.

These mistakes can cost your company tremendously in terms of reputation, resources, time and B2B partners if they persist. However, by introducing a communication channel with your supply chain employees early on, you will effectively lower the margin for error significantly. Employees will pay far closer attention to their work and do their utmost to avoid mistakes simply because their managerial staff cares about them more.

5. Healthy Coworker Competition

Lastly, a major benefit of engaging your supply chain employees goes back to their internal communication. More specifically, employees who are simply happy with their work environment are likely to develop internal camaraderie and healthy competition among coworkers.

This will raise your staff’s morale significantly and ensure that people are more satisfied with their place in your company due to consistent vertical communication. Remember that while your B2B networking may be efficient, ground-level operations still depend on the efficacy and dedication of your supply chain employees. Facilitating a healthy coworker competition and emancipating your staff through it will bring about a plethora of improvements in your supply chain pipeline.

Parts of a Whole (Conclusion)

A company consists of numerous departments which all rely on one another to make the company viable on the market. As such, paying closer attention to your employees in supply chain management will allow the company to thrive internally. Besides the obvious increase in productivity, this will also improve your reputation on the market and make your company more attractive to future employees. Meet your staff halfway and establish a meaningful dialogue – you will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at ClassyEssay, Studyker and Subjecto. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.

costs

5 Ways to Reduce Transportation Costs Efficiently in 2020

The turbulent economy has lately made it difficult for field service and transportation businesses to thrive. The industry is morphing into an intricate space, meaning that it has become critical to gain an in-depth understanding of your transportation costs and how you can mitigate the rising expenses to improve your profit margin and keep your head above water.

There are many reasons why your transportation logistics costs are skyrocketing. For example, a lack of planning and transparency or bad decision making can lead to increased overall costs, failed delivery or appointment targets, unhappy customers, and ultimately a loss of business.

So, what should you do instead to reduce transportation costs? Well, here are five important things you should consider doing.

#1 Provide Your Drivers with Well-Optimized Routes

A bad route can make all your route planning efforts be in vain and your entire route could be a mess if you’re planning routes using a pen and paper. Poor routes also mean that your drivers will spend more time on the road being stuck in traffic and traveling longer distances which will skyrocket the fuel usage and expenses. When you add the overtime costs of your drivers spending more time than estimated on the road, the transportation costs look even worse.

So, instead, ensure you always provide 100% accurate and well-optimized routes to your drivers.

You can do this with an advanced technology solution, such as a route planner, which will automate the route planning process and make logistics management seamless. Such software will plan accurate routes while factoring in traffic, weather conditions, sunrise/sunset times, one-ways, avoidance zones, weight and load capacity, and more, within a minute. In this way, your vehicles will never run empty and your drivers will have balanced workloads and better routes. They’ll ultimately make more stops without you spending more on fuel.

#2 Monitor Your Drivers

Planning optimized routes may be the most important step, but it won’t have any impact on your costs if your field reps or drivers don’t follow it. They may make personal stops, idle vehicles for too long, brake frequently, or even accelerate harshly to make up for delayed deliveries or appointments. All such actions will inevitably lead to increased fuel expenses. Bad driving behavior can even lead to excessive fuel usage or cause road mishaps which means that the damage costs will also add up.

Therefore, you should track your drivers and vehicles and see what the drivers do on the road. To do this, you can use a GPS tracker to monitor your vehicles in real-time and set up speed alerts to get notified as soon as a driver speeds. A tracker can even help you protect your vehicles from theft.

Also, if you go for a route optimization software that comes with GPS tracking, you’ll get the best of both worlds: you’ll be able to plan routes and track the drivers’ progress.

#3 Educate and Reward Your Field Reps

Drivers and field reps are the most important stakeholders in transportation and you cannot reduce costs without their 100% involvement, even with the best process in place. So, let them know why it is important for the business to save on fuel costs as well as how they can contribute in keeping the expenses down. Then, reward them for fuel-efficient driving which will boost their morale and commitment to saving more.

route optimizer will go a long way in helping you with this. Its reporting and analytics feature will give you the data you need to identify every fuel expenditure which you can then use to provide feedback to your drivers about their performance.

#4 Ensure Regular Vehicle Maintenance

One vehicle breakdown can jeopardize your entire plan and the downtime costs can vary from $448 to $760 per vehicle per day. Can you afford that?

Therefore, you should have a preventive maintenance program in place because regular vehicle inspections and maintenance will prevent breakdowns and keep your vehicles in optimal shape to provide better mileage and save you money. Also, you must change air filters, replace spark plugs, and change the oil and oil filters in regular intervals. Here are six vehicle maintenance tips you should be following.

The reporting and analytics feature of a route planner we discussed above will also be useful here. It provides critical data, such as the total distance traveled, total stops, and the fuel used, which will help you identify when vehicles require maintenance. For example, if a vehicle needs maintenance every 2,000 miles, you can easily predict how soon it may need maintenance again.

#5 Focus on Reducing Failed Deliveries

Every failed delivery will put a dent in your profits. Your drivers may show up on time but it will still be for naught if the customer is unavailable. Such a missed customer will not only jeopardize your other deliveries or appointments but will also cost you more as your drivers need to go to that stop again.

One of the best ways to improve first-time delivery success is allowing your customers to choose their preferred delivery windows. This will ensure that someone will indeed be available at the location when the driver shows up.

You can also allow your customers to track their package delivery statuses or notify them when their packages are nearby. For example, Route4Me offers customer notifications and alerts feature that does just that. It also comes with a customer portal feature that helps customers monitor their own package delivery progress. You can even set access restrictions, depending on how much information you want to reveal regarding the visit, including custom fields, driver identities, and estimated arrival times.

So, what’s your strategy for reducing logistics costs? Do you have any other cost savings methods to add?

home

THE GREAT DISTANCES TRAVELED SO YOU CAN STAY AT HOME

Baking queries are popping up all over Google, which reported that a top trending search was “how to make banana bread.”

As millions of people across the United States are ordered to stay at home and shelter in place, many have found they have a surplus of free time on their hands that was once filled with commuting, socializing and generally being somewhere other than their house or apartment. So what to do? Of course there is enough content on online streaming and gaming services to keep us enthralled for many lifetimes, but a lot of people are trying to make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt by using the time to learn a new skill, create something, or better themselves.

The activities we are filling our time with while confined to our homes show just how monumentally global our influences, choices and opportunities really are. While restricted to our small slices of the world we have the opportunity to cook food using ingredients and make things with materials that have traveled huge distances. And we can learn the skills and practices that are part of cultures thousands of miles removed from our own, all thanks to trade – both historical and present.

Globally-Inspired Baking

Whipping up delicious baked goods is comforting and rewarding. Little is more satisfying than making your own bread from scratch – it’s the nearest most of us will come to alchemy, and it’s utterly delicious. In fact, so many Americans are turning to this source of comfort that flour and yeast are running low and producers are fighting to keep up with demand.

Bread isn’t the only option available for home chefs. Trade provides a gateway to international culinary influences, allowing us to import the knowledge of grandmothers the world over. A few simple ingredients such as flour, yeast, fat and sugar (but beware the tariffs!) are all you need to make authentic Italian pasta, fluffy Chinese steamed buns or mouthwatering Colombian arepas. A quick Internet search will help you find family recipes to master yourself.

If you fancy something a little sweeter, how about a plate of fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies – what could be more American? With cocoa beans imported from West Africa and vanilla pods from Mexico and Madagascar, you can again credit international trade with bringing you the ingredients to craft culinary magic. And for classic banana bread, your bananas are probably from Ecuador, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Colombia or Guatemala, and their complex trade story goes much further.

Knitting Together Cultures

Time at home has also reignited interest in creative outlets like painting, writing and crafting. Knitting, crochet and embroidery are some of the most popular activities we’ve been picking up to keep our hands busy, serving both as something to do and a great way to help calm anxious minds. Although only to be used when there is no other option, generous crafters in some communities are helping out by sewing homemade masks, reminiscent of the wartime “knit your bit” movement to get socks and warm clothing to front-line troops.

knitting and sewing

If you’re looking to knit up something cozy during isolation, wool from the animals of the world has you covered. The alpacas and vicunas of the Andean Highlands of Peru are a valued source of soft and squishy wool, and in South Africa Angora goats (originally from Turkey) are farmed and shorn for Mohair. And of course, humble sheep the world over offer up their coats. The many different breeds from places such as the Falklands, Spain, Australia, or the UK produce a huge variety of wool for our handmade sweaters, hats and scarfs.

Thanks to trade and innovation, numerous plant-based yarns are also available, beyond the obvious cotton. Great for crafting light and airy creations, they include materials such as raffia made from the fibers of raffia palms native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. You could also pick up yarn made from wonder-plant hemp, whose top producers include China and Canada, or yarn made from Australian eucalyptus, sustainably and ethically sourced.

Staying Healthy Inside

The closures of gyms and fitness studios and the stresses of staying cooped up mean people are trying to find ways to stay fit and healthy while they isolate, including exercising at home and experimenting with healthy foods.

Though you can no longer take a spin class or use the elliptical at your local gym, workouts that can be done at home have seen a surge in popularity, and many group fitness classes are trying to transition to providing virtual content. Many of these fitness classes and practices originally came to the United States from abroad.

Yoga mats have seen a spike in popularity on Amazon as people turn to the ancient Indian discipline to find their inner peace amidst the turmoil. One in three Americans have tried yoga at some point, and that statistic seems likely to increase even further. Perennial favorite Pilates is another way people are trying to stay healthy. It is now practiced worldwide but was originally brought to North America by German immigrant Joseph Pilates.

Young mother doing yoga with 3-years girl in front of window. Downward facing dog asana

Another way to combat the negative effects of social distancing and lack of variety is to seek out healthy foods to consume, like superfood products that claim to boost immunity or calm anxiety.

Thanks to international trade we now have access to all kinds of foods that can help us fuel and feel better. One of these is Japanese Matcha, a green tea powder made from tea primarily grown in two regions in Japan that has been a prominent part of culture there for centuries. Purported benefits include boosting brain function and helping to protect the liver and heart health. Once almost solely enjoyed in Japan, it is now available across the United States, and even at Starbucks and Dunkin’. Another popular superfood is turmeric, U.S. imports of which have surged in recent years from $2.5 million to $35 million between 2001 and 2017. It has been enjoyed in India for over 4,500 years for its ability to fend off illness but now it’s available in any grocery store to add to a home-cooked curry or to use in a turmeric latte.

International Trade Helping Our Domestic Lives

Having to distance yourself from friends and loved ones and stop doing activities you enjoy is undoubtedly tough. However, we can be thankful for – and find pleasure in – what we can still do, thanks to international trade and a globalized world.

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Alice Calder received her MA in Applied Economics at GMU. Originally from the UK, where she received her BA in Philosophy and Political Economy from the University of Exeter, living and working internationally sparked her interest in trade issues as well as the intersection of economics and culture.

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

breakbulk europe

Breakbulk Europe Moves to September

Breakbulk Europe, the world’s largest event for the project cargo and breakbulk industry, has been postponed until September in light of the global novel coronavirus pandemic. The event will now take place at Messe Bremen in Bremen, Germany, from 29 September to 1 October 2020.

“We have been closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 not only in Germany, but across the world, and have decided to move the event to September to ensure the safety of our customers,” stated Nick Davison, Portfolio Director for Breakbulk and CWEIME events, Hyve Group. “We know that this is the most important gathering for the breakbulk and project cargo industry and we want to be sure our customers can meet in a safe environment. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the global supply chain and bringing the industry to Breakbulk Europe will provide an opportunity for leaders to discuss the best way forward.”

To accommodate the new dates for Breakbulk Europe, Breakbulk Americas has been postponed to later in 2020. A new date will be announced shortly.

Meanwhile, Breakbulk Events & Media has launched BreakbulkONE, a weekly newsletter and web portal for industry updates around the effects and responses to the crisis. “Breakbulk events have built a reputation for hosting leaders across the industrial supply chain at the event conferences where they share insights and business strategies,” Leslie Meredith, Breakbulk’s Marketing and Media Director said. “We wanted to extend this support to provide a platform for industry members to share their own news by tapping into the resources of our media team who runs Breakbulk Newswire and Breakbulk magazine. We hope this also reinforces the feeling that our industry is a unified one and that we can find better solutions together.”

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About Breakbulk Europe

Breakbulk Europe has become the global hub for the industrial project supply chain, including the world’s foremost manufacturers, oil & gas companies, EPCs, carriers, ports, logistics firms, specialized transporters and related service providers. This year’s event is expected to bring together around 10,000 professionals from more than 120 countries. To request exhibiting and sponsorship information and to register for the event, visit europe.breakbulk.com.

Breakbulk Europe is one of four Breakbulk global events, along with Breakbulk Asia in Shanghai, 3-4 Aug. 2020, Breakbulk Americas in Houston, 29 Sept.-1 Oct. 2020 and Breakbulk Middle East in Dubai, 9-10 Feb. 2021.

About Hyve Group plc
Hyve Group plc is a next-generation FTSE 250 global events business whose purpose is to create unmissable events, where customers from all corners of the globe share extraordinary moments and shape industry innovation. Hyve Group plc was announced as the new brand name of ITE Group plc in September 2019, following its significant transformation under the Transformation and Growth (TAG) programme. Our vision is to create the world’s leading portfolio of content-driven, must-attend events delivering an outstanding experience and ROI for our customers.

Press contact: Leslie Meredith, Marketing & Media Director Breakbulk Events & Media

E: Leslie.Meredith@breakbulk.com

T: +1 801 201 5971

eaglerail

THE EAGLERAIL HAS LANDED: CEO MIKE WYCHOCKI PUSHES A “NO BRAINER” WHEN IT COMES TO MOVING SHIPPING CONTAINERS AT CONGESTED PORTS

It’s amazing where new logistics solutions come from. They are usually born by veteran shippers with visions on how to improve an existing operation. Or it can be a customer or customers seeking help in conquering a specific challenge that eventually resonates throughout the industry.

Then there is the inception of Chicago-based EagleRail Container Logistics’ signature solution. It can be traced to a pitch meeting for a new monorail in Brazil that was attended by a port authority official who was there more as a cheerleader than a participant.

Watching a Chicago marketing man’s PowerPoint presentation about his company’s passenger monorail system to local leaders in São Paulo eight years ago, the port representative, Jose Newton Gama, marveled at how the magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains holding people would be suspended under overhead tracks.

Then the Brazilian known by friends as Newton raised his hand.

“Excuse me?” he asked the Americano. “Could your system be adapted to hold shipping containers?”

That had never occurred to project designers, whose monorail cars for passengers are much lighter than would be required for cargo containers hauled by ships, trucks and freight trains. But the marketing man shared Gama’s question with his colleagues in the Windy City, and that planted the seed that eventually bore EagleRail Container Logistics.

Chief Executive Officer Mike Wychocki was an early investor who eventually bought out that marketing man, but the first EagleRail system is named “Newton” after the Brazilian who now sits on the company’s board of advisors. “He’s a great guy,” says Wychocki during a recent phone interview. “Newton is our biggest cheerleader.”

Wychocki’s no slouch with the pom-poms himself, having pitched EagleRail at 40 ports in 20 countries over the past five years. His company, which has offices around the world, is developing its first prototype in China, and studies are underway at six ports as EagleRail sets about raising $20 million in capital. (The window for small investments had just closed when Wychocki was interviewed. His company has since shifted its focus to large investors.)

The way ports have operated for decades left no need for a system like EagleRail’s. Big ships dock, cranes remove containers stacked on their decks and each box is then moved onto the back of a flatbed truck that either hauls it to a distribution center or an intermodal yard. Until recent years, no one really thought of disrupting the process because, as Wychocki puts it, “you could always find cheaper truck drivers.”

However, truck driver shortages, port-area air pollution and congestion caused by the time it takes to load and unload ever-larger ships have prompted serious soul searching when it comes to short hauls. Expanding the size of ports is often not an option due to the cities that have grown to surround them. This has led to the creation of large container parks for trucks and/or freight trains within a few miles of ports, but getting boxes to those remains problematic—at a time when megaships are only making matters more difficult.

“There is an old saying that ports are where old trucks go to die,” says Wychocki, who ticks off as problems associated with that mode of moving containers pollution, maintenance and fuel costs, as well as the issues of public safety because some drivers essentially live inside of their vehicles, which can attract prostitution and leave behind litter and human waste. Adding even more of these dirty trucks would necessitate more road building, which only adds to environmental concerns.

With ground space at ports a constantly shrinking commodity, tunneling underground may be viewed as an option. But Wychocki points out that many ports have emerged on unstable ground like backfill, and water, power and sewer lines are usually below what’s under the streets beyond port gates. The idea of a hyperloop has been bandied about, but it would require emptying shipping containers at the port, loading the contents into smaller boxes, sending those through to another yard, and then repacking the shipping containers on the other side. “That defeats the whole point” of relieving port congestion, the EagleRail CEO says.

Ah, but every port has unused air space, which is what Wychocki’s company seeks to exploit. “If an Amazon warehouse can lift and shuttle packages robotically,” he says, “why not do the same with a 60,000-pound package? Go to a warehouse. See how Amazon works with packages. They use overhead light rails. It’s an obvious idea, so obvious. It’s a no brainer when you think about it.”

Yes, Amazon also uses drones, but can you imagine the size it would have to be to carry a 60,000-pound shipping container? Wychocki sees a suspended container track as an extension of the cranes on every loading dock worldwide, which is why EagleRail systems are also all-electric and composed of the same crane hardware to avoid snags when it comes to replacing parts.

However, Wychocki is quick to note EagleRail is not a total solution when it comes to port congestion. He calculates that among the short-haul trucks leaving a port, 50 percent are going to 500 different locations, many of which are different states away, while the other half is bound for just a couple nearby destinations. EagleRail is geared toward the latter, and the problem with getting containers to them “is not technological; it’s who controls the five kilometers between the port and the intermodal facility,” he says.

Lifting equipment at ports “is exactly the same in all 200 countries,” he adds. “The part that is not the same is the back end. What is the port’s configuration? Where do the roads come in? What we do is form a consortium and build it with each local player, such as the port authority, the road authority, the national rail company, the power company. Getting everyone involved helps get procurement and environmental rights of way.”

He concedes that getting everyone on board “varies by location,” but when it comes to environmental concerns “everyone’s kind of wanting to do this because it means fewer trucks, and the power companies would prefer the use of electricity (over burning diesel). It sounds harder than it is to get everyone rowing in the same direction.”

Wychocki points to another bonus with EagleRail: It allows for total control of one’s intermodal yard because containers come and go on the same circular route—all day long. “We take this on as a disruptive business model,” he says, noting that short-haul trucks generally involve the use of data-chain-breaking clipboards and mobile phones. EagleRail systems track containers on them in real-time, rolling in all customs paperwork and billing invoices automatically.

“It’s amazing, I just came from the Port of Rotterdam, where I was a keynote,” Wychocki says. “Even the biggest ports in the world like Antwerp were saying, ‘This is great. Why isn’t anyone else doing it?’”

Actually, EagleRail accidentally created direct competition. Wychocki explains that during the initial design phase, his company worked with a foreign monorail concern whose cars used what were essentially aircraft tires rolling inside a closed channel. Concerns about maintaining a system that would invariably involve frequently changing tires—and thus slowing down operations—caused EagleRail to reject that design in favor of another third-party’s calling for steel-on-steel wheels. The designer with tires is pressing on with its own system and without EagleRail.

“I’m glad we didn’t go that route,” says Wychocki, who nonetheless expects more serious competition once EagleRail systems are up and running. Fortunately for the company, there are plenty of ports bursting at the seams that cannot wait that long. Wychocki says a question he invariably gets after pitching EagleRail is: “Where were you 10 years ago? Usually, there is an urgency.”

That’s why “our goal was to get out of the gate fast, build market share and our brand and create a quasi-franchise network,” says Wychocki, whose business model has EagleRail owning 25 percent of a system while the port and other local entities own the rest.

He estimates that within 10 years, 12 EagleRail systems will be operating. If that sounds like a pipe dream, consider that his company’s newsletter boasts 3,000 subscribers before a system is even up and running. Wychocki does not credit “brilliant marketing” for that keen interest. “It’s because every port’s problems are getting worse. Everyone is squealing about what to do with these giant ships that cannot be unloaded fast enough. They are desperate.”

smart contracts

How to Save Time and Money with Blockchain Smart Contracts

Manufacturing processes are growing increasingly complex — especially as the coronavirus pandemic spreads — in today’s global marketplace. With so many moving parts, it’s becoming more difficult to reliably and efficiently track actions and data along the supply chain. Blockchain-enabled smart contracts are emerging as a solution — one that provides transparency and ensures everyone along the supply chain is following the same set of agreed-upon rules.

With everyone on the supply chain sharing the same logic and data, manufacturers can automate time-sensitive processes and avoid costly dispute resolutions. Blockchain is on the rise, and Gartner predicts that 30% of manufacturing companies making more than $5 billion in revenue will have invested in blockchain-powered projects by 2023.

Implementing the technology and data infrastructure to convert processes into smart contracts can seem daunting, and companies that don’t hit the $5 billion mark will be slower to catch up.

The fear of failing after the investment can be a serious deterrent. But smart contracts save enough time and money for manufacturers that the costs of waiting might be greater than the upfront investment needed to get started.

The Value of Smart Contracts

The core values of blockchain are transparency and trust, and smart contracts play a pivotal role in providing these benefits. Taken together in a business context, blockchain-based smart contracts make it possible to avoid disputes. A smart contract is software that automates a single trusted version of an agreement between parties. They might rely on one version of data about what’s happening (or has happened) and record the results of the contract, such as funds being transferred in exchange for using a piece of equipment.

Without smart contracts, businesses working together in manufacturing have to maintain separate systems that encode business rules with slight differences. The data they use might also vary from the data other companies use, making it difficult to reconcile any issues. These differences lead to disputes that require significant time and effort to resolve.

The automation and data standards that smart contracts provide allow manufacturers to consider different ways to work with partners along their supply chain. Their partnerships can be based on performance or quality in ways that would have been impossible to implement — much less trust — without the use of blockchain and smart contracts.

How Do Smart Contracts Work?

In a blockchain system, the word “contracts” doesn’t carry the same meaning as legal contracts. Instead, smart contracts are more broadly used to encode logic that often isn’t written explicitly in a contract. Unlike traditional software, they’re used to create business logic that multiple parties can rely on and trust.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of business rules in software systems. In the blockchain world, smart contracts are the business rules shared by the users of the blockchain. Think of blockchain like a shared database: Smart contracts are the rules that define how data can be entered or changed in the shared database. Within the supply chain, smart contracts are typically the rules shared by multiple businesses in the supply chain that are also users of the blockchain system.

For most applications, smart contracts can be executable versions of traditional business contracts, or they might be new logic that coordinates long-running processes and activities across different businesses. They’re trusted because they’re created and housed on a blockchain, which means the code is typically visible to system developers, business analysts, and auditors.

Although smart contracts are triggered by some external event, such as a user’s action or a change in external data (a commodity’s price, for example), the code they run is normally approved in advance by all businesses involved. Currently, businesses are already utilizing blockchain-secured smart contracts for a range of supply chain processes.

For example, some companies combine smart contracts with Internet of Things sensors to record the movement of supplies into a manufacturing facility. Then, they automate payment for those supplies. Others record the operating conditions of a machine to determine if maintenance is required or gauge the condition of manufactured products to ensure standards are met.

Such contracts produce equipment usage records and quality control checks in real-time, and parties on all sides of the contract can trust the data. How we handle everything — from securing supplies to monitoring equipment and manufacturing products — can be improved with the strategic use of blockchain-powered smart contracts.

Being Smart About Which Contracts to Convert

As companies convert more intrabusiness processes into smart contracts, the benefits of doing so grow easier to recognize. Shipments and payment approvals can be verified in real-time, and disputes are eliminated or resolved immediately with no intermediaries. The time and cost savings are substantial.

By using these strategies to determine where to use smart contracts, companies of all sizes have a better chance at reaping the benefits much sooner:

1. Break down costs before the converting starts. The first time a company implements a smart contract, the costs of establishing the blockchain system will be relatively high. These initial costs can often be the biggest deterrent, especially for smaller, less tech-driven companies. Over time, though, the incremental costs of automating smart contracts will go down. Account for this initial cost by taking time to identify the contracts that are currently the most costly to execute.

2. Prioritize external contracts over internal ones. Not every contract needs to be a smart one. In fact, the costs of executing some processes might not justify the investment in automating them. Focus on agreements, contracts, and other expectations that are between the company and another business (or better yet, where more than two businesses are involved), and rule out internal agreements between departments. Because trust is less of an issue, internal disputes can be reconciled relatively easily. Putting them on a blockchain would just be overkill.

3. Focus on contract difficulty — not frequency. Because the goal of automation is to create less work, it’s tempting to go straight for the contracts that are executed most often. Instead, focus on the amount of effort it takes to use each contract rather than how often it’s used. High-frequency contracts might be executed with few or no disputes, whereas low-frequency ones might be costly to manage due to complex and/or unclear terms. These are much better candidates.

4. Start with material sourcing for maximum impact. To know for sure which processes can benefit most from conversion into smart contracts, look for people throughout the organization who deal with reconciliation, quality control, and/or audit support. Also, consider the data used in each transaction. Between both parties, how important is trusting that data? Material sourcing is often ripe for improvement, and trust in data is critical to the relationship between manufacturer and supplier.

The ability to create smart contracts is becoming one of the best-known benefits of using blockchain technology in the manufacturing realm. Investing in the technology might be costly at first, but getting in on the ground floor will be easier if you use it to turn the right processes into irrefutable smart contracts.

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Alex Rosen is the vice president of business development at Chainyard, a blockchain consulting company focused on delivering production solutions that address financial services, supply chain, transportation, government, and healthcare pain points.

businesses

How Businesses can Weather COVID-19: Start with Empathy to Employees

Major U.S. businesses are adjusting operations, laying off employees or reducing hours in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s uncharted territory for the nation, and companies from large brands to small businesses, like everyone else, are operating without a playbook to deal with an unprecedented public health threat that will also have economic implications. How businesses adjust to the pandemic and respond to this “new normal” is critical to the future of their business.

“The most important part is showing empathy to employees – now more than ever in these uncertain times,” says Ed Mitzen (www.edmitzen.com), founder of a health and wellness marketing agency and ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance.

“While every company is dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to keep in mind that your employees are being affected in more ways than one. Added challenges to daily life now include your partner working next to you, your children being home from school, and having to keep an extra close eye on elderly relatives. In these unusual circumstances, people will notice which companies are treating their employees with empathy and compassion and which are not.”

A business leader’s response during a time like this defines who they are as a leader.

Mitzen thinks this challenging time could be used by business owners to assess their company culture and consider that how they treat employees is central to that culture and vital for business results. He explains how leaders can show empathy to employees, strengthen company culture and drive performance:

Lead with support, not force. “Culture starts at the top, and the best results come when leaders support their people and help them get the most out of life, rather than trying to squeeze them to work harder and harder,” Mitzen says. “People can sacrifice for the job for only so long before they burn out. It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes prioritizing life over work actually improves the work product. Once you hire good people, you don’t have to push them with crazy deadlines to squeeze productivity out of them.”

Build a team of caring people. “Business is a team sport,” Mitzen says. “To have an empathetic culture, you need people who care for each other and work well together. Build teams by looking for people who lead with empathy.  Don’t hire jerks. People who are super-talented but can’t get along with others tend to destroy the team dynamics, and the work product suffers.”

Define a positive culture – and the work. Showing empathy to employees can be an engine generating creativity and productivity. “The internal culture at a company defines the work the company produces,” Mitzen says. “Culture influences who chooses to work for you, how long they stay, and the quality of work they do. And the core of the culture is empathy, starting with employees and extending to customers and the communities that you live in. There’s a strong connection between a healthy work culture, which inspires people, and the work customers are receiving. That kind of company makes sure customers are treated the same way they are being treated.”

“Now more than ever, empathy, kindness and compassion are important values to keep at the forefront of your organization,” Mitzen says. “Business leaders can take the lead in doing the right thing, starting with their employees.”

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Ed Mitzen (www.edmitzen.com) is the ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance and the founder of Fingerpaint, an independent advertising agency grossing $60 million in revenue. A health and wellness marketing entrepreneur for 25 years, Mitzen also built successful firms CHS and Palio Communications. Fingerpaint has been included on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for seven straight years and garnered agency of the year nominations and wins from MM&M, Med Ad News, and PM360. Mitzen was named Industry Person of the Year by Med Ad News in 2016 and a top boss by Digiday in 2017. A graduate of Syracuse University with an MBA from the University of Rochester, Mitzen has written for Fortune, Forbes, HuffPost, and the Wall Street Journal.

nominations

Global Trade Magazine Accepting “Women in Logistics” Nominations

Global Trade Magazine officially opened nominations for its May/June cover story, “Women in Logistics” beginning this week through the end of March. This marks the publication’s second annual feature spotlighting leading female executives reshaping the way companies approach industry disruptions. The ideal candidate has a proven track record of creating long-term solutions impacting various sectors including transportation, warehousing, shipping, and supply chain management.

“As we continue to see a rise in female leaders within the logistics industry, I wanted to take recognition to the next level for female executives fostering positive company culture while displaying exemplary leadership all industry players can learn from,” said Eric Kleinsorge, Publisher and Chairman of Global Trade Magazine. “Last year’s cover story was a huge success. We received a lot of positive feedback from our readers and we’ve already received impressive nominations for this year’s feature.”

Among leading ladies featured in the 2019 issue included Joan Smemoe of RailInc., Jane Kennedy Greene of Kenco, Wendy Buxton of LynnCo Supply Chain Solutions, and Barbara Yeninas and Lisa Aurichio of BSYA. This year’s selected nominees will be selected based on factors including tenure, industry relevance, impact on the industry, the health of relationships with employees, with a high emphasis on their workplace culture approach. Nominations will be limited to one executive per submission and participants can enter their executive of choice until March 31st at 5 p.m.

“I encourage workers from around the globe to take a few minutes and submit female leaders that have changed the way they view leadership and have made a positive impact on their career and industry. It’s important to the evolving culture of global companies to recognize these women for their dedication to the industry and the workers that make success possible,” Kleinsorge concluded.

To submit a nomination, please click here or call (469) 778-2606 for more information.