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The Solution Leading Supply Chains into the Future

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The Solution Leading Supply Chains into the Future

As supply chains have become increasingly opaque as a result of growing global transport and competition, a simultaneous need for increased transparency and efficiency has developed in order to meet increasing regulatory requirements. 

To date, the solution has been simple: Scan it. 

Warehouses, transport vehicles, shipping centers, workers, and end-users have historically relied on manual scanners to determine what items are where, how quickly they’re moving, and when they’re due at their final destination. 

It’s undeniable: scanning is ubiquitous for supply chain management. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution. As the labor market tightens, technological advances mean that retailers can implement new tech to change the fundamental ways the market operates. 

Is it time for a supply chain technology revolution? 

Scanning has been transformative for many businesses and retailers. It was demonstrably superior to the old, paper-and-pencil method of tracking inventory, which is why billions are spent each year on radio frequency identification (RFID) readers — a market still growing at almost 10 percent a year. Even more is spent on barcode readers. 

Despite this, there is a downside to scanning, which leads us to our primary question: Is the supply chain industry ready for a new solution? 

Millions of scanners are in use everyday, though they rely on the a human’s ability to work effectively and with a 100% accuracy rate.  

All of this is happening at a time when supply chains are growing more complicated, not less. In the U.S. alone, companies ship 59 million parcels each day, a number expected to rise to 110 million by 2027. The contents of these millions of parcels end up in people’s homes, in business inventory, or on retailers’ shelves—provided they don’t get lost along the way. 

No wonder businesses are looking for solutions that allow them to better track products – from manufacturer, to distributor, to retailer, to customer.

Scanners have been a solution, but they are not the end game.  We need a tracking technology with more accuracy and precision that eliminates manual scanning – and the inevitable human error. 

So we need to pose this essential question:  Is reliance on millions of scanners the best use of human resources? Or is today’s tracking technology, long established, merely yesterday’s step towards a more innovative solution.   

The ‘Scan It’ to ‘Sense It’ Evolution

With a better, more ubiquitous, and low-cost tracking solution, companies won’t need to invest the billions of dollars into scanners or the infrastructure required to use them. Workers can be redeployed in ways that add value to their business. Additionally, 100-percent automation means supply chain and inventory tracking errors can be virtually eliminated.

The ambient Internet of Things (IoT) is the solution we’ve been looking for. 

Ambient IoT is an innovative evolution from scanning culture, and whether you know it or not, companies are already reaping the benefits.

The Tech Fueling Ambient IoT 

Ambient IoT technology combines inexpensive, self-powered, stamp-sized compute devices (called IoT Pixels) that are affixed to products and packaging.  These devices harvest energy from standards-based Bluetooth wireless communications; and cloud-based data collection and analytics. 

With this revolution in place, workers don’t need to scan anything, virtually eliminating human error from inventory operations and freeing them to add value in other ways. Ambient IoT Pixels communicate via an established mesh of existing wireless devices, such as smartphones and wireless access points, or through easily deployed, off-the-shelf, standardized gateways installed in retail stores, warehouses, delivery trucks, and more. 

What’s more, scanning goods provides data at just a point in time. The ambient IoT provides continuous information in real-time, tracking goods and inventory as they move through warehouse, shipping infrastructure, and the entire supply chain.  Wherever things are, Ambient IoT is. 

Moreover, ambient IoT technology includes sensors for monitoring conditions like temperature and humidity.  Importantly, it also enables carbon footprint calculations in the moment, versus the current after-the-fact solutions. 

Not only does better product tracking make companies more efficient and successful, it makes it fast and efficient for them to comply with a growing number of government traceability regulations. In the U.S., for example, the Food Safety and Modernization Act’s Rule 204 (FSMA 204), requires companies to track food products through the supply chain and share data with the Food and Drug Administration. For small and large companies, this means either a lot more scanning, or a golden opportunity to use ambient IoT for automated, real-time, end-to-end compliance.  

No matter how you look at it, industries are reaching an inflection point in their supply chains where complete visibility will become a necessity – from an ROI, regulatory, and investor perspective. 

Automation Helps Workers, Too

As companies reach the inflection point described above: an opportunity arises: do they continue to invest in a scanning infrastructure and attempt to hire all the workers required to execute? Or is it more effective to embrace ambient IoT technology and invest in re-allocated labor to help grow the business?

With ambient IoT, that decision just became a whole lot easier. 

With both a lower labor and infrastructure cost, the technology works simply due to its integration into the environment. Additionally, the tech requires no added training or human intervention. 

In a 2022 study, Harvard Business Review identified the perks and pitfalls of warehouse automation technologies.  HBR experts wrote, “Automation could make workers’ jobs safer and more meaningful,” in reference to technologies that minimize time spent in sprawling warehouses.  They noted that tools that “enable workers to do their jobs better,” could lead to better results. 

Interestingly, the researchers dispelled the myth that automation was at odds with worker satisfaction.  

With scanning as our primary inventory tool, businesses have cracked the code to digitalization, but not yet automation. With this critical distinction in mind, we must recognize that only ambient IoT holds the key to true automation. With the new technology, companies can track all of their goods, all of the time, allowing their employees to focus on positive and profitable customer experiences. 


Armada Supply Chain Solutions Unveils State-of-the-Art Logistics Hub in Dallas to Propel Industry Growth

Armada Supply Chain Solutions Expands Reach with Inauguration of Dallas Logistics Hub

Armada, a prominent provider of logistics solutions catering to the food industry, is thrilled to announce the official opening of its latest warehouse facility situated at 101 Enterprise Drive in Flower Mound, Texas. This cutting-edge Hub signifies a strategic move for Armada, enhancing its capacity, efficiency, and overall service to clients and the market. Spanning an impressive 465,000 square feet, the facility boasts three distinct temperature zones, making it an ideal space to support Armada’s flourishing business.

John Burke, the CEO of Armada, expresses his enthusiasm, stating, “The unveiling of our new Dallas Hub Center is the culmination of years of meticulous planning and hard work. As we consistently invest in infrastructure, the Dallas Hub stands not only as a physical space but also as a symbol of our unwavering commitment to innovation and industry growth. Armada’s resilience and our dedicated team will furnish both existing and future clients with the essential framework for success.”

The facility includes 357,069 square feet of ambient space, equipped with 72 dock doors to facilitate seamless operations. The temperature-controlled section comprises 33,678 square feet of refrigerated space and a 54,630 square foot freezer, complemented by a 16,723 square foot cool dock and 16 dock doors. Maintaining food-grade standards and Merieux NutriSciences approval, the facility employs Kargo optical reader verification for shipping and receiving, coupled with a narrow-aisle layout to optimize operational efficiencies.

The Dallas Hub aligns seamlessly with Armada’s existing facilities in Greencastle, PA, Romeoville, IL, and East Point, GA, all of similar size. Representing a significant milestone for Armada, the new hub is poised to offer enhanced flexibility and reliability to clients. Moreover, the operational expansion brings about the creation of 70 new jobs in the region.

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Rising Supply Chain Returns Prompt Online Retailers to Adopt Tech Solutions and Tailored Policies

E-commerce customer returns due to supply chain snafus have more than  doubled since 2022, according to Altman Solon’s 2023 E-Commerce Store-to-Door survey. The survey  underscores the importance of getting returns right by using new technologies and smart returns  policies, especially with frequent online shoppers (“Super Shoppers”) saying they make purchasing  decisions based on a company’s returns policy.  

The survey shows that 25% of shoppers returned packages due to damage compared to 11% in 2022,  while 17% of shoppers returned packages because the wrong product was delivered compared to 8%  last year. 

“While some returns are inevitable, retailers can make significant progress in reducing them by limiting  unforced errors related to the supply chain,” said Altman Solon Partner Patrick Marshall. “This means  investing in augmented reality and other visual packing aids to reduce mistakes, in addition to integrating  robotics, optical image recognition matching/validating solutions, and other warehouse technologies to  ensure package accuracy and fidelity.” 

The survey also explores the specific return preferences of different types of consumers, including super,  general, urban, rural, and suburban shoppers. Super shoppers are more than twice as likely (22%) to  make a return at a locker than general shoppers (9%). Home pick-up returns have a low “most used” rate  (6%) among general shoppers, but 19% of general shoppers prefer home pick-up, revealing opportunities  for retailers that encourage this option. However, respondents identified printing return mailing labels as  the second most common obstacle, so including pre-printed labels is critical to fostering home pick-up  options. 

“These days, retailers need to know not just what their customers want to buy, but also how they want  to send it back,” said Altman Solon Director Derek Powell. “Like they do with consumer buying habits,  online retailers need to use data analysis and AI to create returns policies that attract and retain more  customers.” 

The survey also identified ways for firms to reduce costs during the returns process through omni channel returns and inventory turnover, consolidating returns orders, and raising revenues through fees  to offset expensive return options. 

“Retailers don’t always seek out efficiencies in returns to the same degree they do when shipping their  products out,” said Altman Solon Director Suhaib Rangoonwala. ““But there are significant opportunities  for cost savings in processing returns and carrying inventory, as well as ways to increase turnover. The  long-term goal is to nudge consumers to return options that are cheaper and more efficient, which will  create a smoother process for retailers and customers alike.”

Other key survey results include: 

  • 25% of Super Shoppers return up to 25% of orders 
  • the frequency of general shoppers who return packages within a week has nearly tripled since  2022 (23% to 67%) 

Altman Solon’s 2023 Store-to-Door Supply Chain Survey polled nearly 450 U.S. consumers to explore  online purchasing habits across consumer segments. Other insights from the survey can be found here. 

Altman Solon is the world’s largest strategy consulting firm focused exclusively on the Telecommunications, Media,  and Technology (TMT) industries. We work with market leaders, challenger brands, and investors across TMT  sectors. We support our corporate clients in identifying, developing, and implementing company strategies, new  market entry approaches, digital innovation, and global M&A. We help our investor clients understand markets,  conduct due diligence, and make high-stakes decisions with confidence. 

Altman Solon has an extensive international reach with offices in Boston, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan,  Munich, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Warsaw, and Zurich, with successful projects  completed across the globe in more than 100 countries.

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Managing Landed Costs in the Global Supply Chain logistics

Navigating the Logistics Landscape: Harnessing the Power of Alerts and Notifications

In the fast-paced world of logistics, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for ensuring seamless operations and satisfied customers. One of the key elements that can significantly enhance the efficiency of logistics management is the strategic use of alerts and notifications. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of seamless logistics and explore how feature-rich alerts and notifications can be a game-changer for your organization.

Alerts: Tailoring Notifications to Your Needs

Alerts play a pivotal role in keeping all stakeholders informed about critical events throughout the order lifecycle. The flexibility of alert profiles allows organizations to customize their notification preferences based on specific needs. By defining different alert preferences for the organization, branches, and shippers, logistics managers can ensure that relevant information reaches the right people at the right time.

Configuring Alert Profiles:

The ability to create distinct alert profiles for different stages of the order lifecycle provides a granular level of control. For instance, organizations can define which event updates trigger an alert, specify the recipients, choose the communication channel, and craft a tailored message. This level of customization ensures that each stakeholder receives pertinent information without unnecessary noise.

Example Scenario:

Consider a scenario where some shippers prefer their customers to be alerted upon order delivery, while others do not. With alert profiles, logistics managers can effortlessly create one profile with the ‘Order Delivered’ alert enabled and another with it disabled. These profiles can then be linked to corresponding shippers, ensuring a personalized and efficient communication strategy.

Notifications: Empowering Proactive Communication

While alerts are automated responses to specific events, notifications provide logistics managers with a manual messaging tool. The delivery notification module becomes invaluable when there is a need to inform specific customers about operational issues, address customer care requests, or request address updates for accurate geocoding.

Use Cases for Notifications:

The Notifications module proves its worth in various scenarios, including addressing customer care requests, informing customers about operational challenges, and ensuring accurate geocoding through address updates. The manual control offered by notifications allows for a more proactive and personalized communication approach.

Three Types of Alert Profiles:

  • Organization Alert Profiles:
  • If an order doesn’t have any branch or shipper alert profile associated with it, the alert settings configured in the organization alert profile would apply. This ensures a consistent and standardized approach to notifications across the organization.
  • Shipper Alert Profiles:
  • For logistics managers dealing with multiple shippers, configuring shipper alert profiles becomes essential. This allows for the customization of alerts related to orders, fleet, and trips associated with specific shippers, tailoring the communication to each shipper’s preferences.
  • Branch Alert Profiles:
  • Branch alert profiles enable logistics managers to configure alerts for orders, fleet, and trips associated with carrier branches. This decentralized approach ensures that alerts are tailored to the specific needs and operational challenges of individual branches.

Let’s see how harnessing the power of alerts and notifications can transform the way logistics businesses operate.

The Need for Real-Time Information:

Logistics is a dynamic industry where real-time information is crucial. Delays, road closures, and unforeseen events can disrupt the most well-planned routes. To navigate this ever-changing landscape, logistics companies are increasingly turning to alerts and notifications. These tools provide up-to-the-minute information, enabling businesses to make informed decisions and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Optimizing Routes for Efficiency:

One of the primary benefits of alerts and notifications in logistics is the ability to optimize routes for efficiency. By receiving alerts about traffic conditions, weather events, or other potential delays, logistics managers can reroute vehicles in real-time. This not only reduces the risk of late deliveries but also helps in minimizing fuel consumption and overall operational costs.

Enhancing Customer Experience:

In the age of e-commerce, customer expectations for fast and reliable deliveries are higher than ever. Alerts and notifications play a crucial role in enhancing the customer experience by providing transparency and communication. Customers appreciate being informed about the status of their shipments, including estimated delivery times and any potential delays. This level of communication builds trust and loyalty, essential elements for the success of any logistics business.

Inventory Management and Supply Chain Visibility:

Effective logistics management goes beyond the transportation of goods; it involves optimizing the entire supply chain. Alerts and notifications can be integrated into inventory management systems, providing real-time updates on stock levels, order fulfillment, and potential supply chain disruptions. This level of visibility enables businesses to proactively address issues, prevent stockouts, and streamline overall supply chain operations.

Mitigating Risks and Ensuring Compliance:

The logistics industry is not without its risks, from security concerns to regulatory compliance. Alerts and notifications serve as valuable tools for risk management by providing immediate alerts in case of security breaches, theft, or other incidents. Additionally, these tools can help ensure compliance with regulations and industry standards, reducing the risk of fines or other penalties.

Choosing the Right Technology:

To fully harness the power of alerts and notifications, logistics companies must invest in the right technology. Advanced tracking systems, IoT devices, and integrated software solutions are essential components of a robust logistics management system. By choosing the right technology, businesses can create a seamless and interconnected network that allows for efficient communication and decision-making.

Enhancing Customer Experience through Branding Profiles:

The crucial skill of adjusting and providing an outstanding experience cannot be overstated. Particularly during special events such as holidays and Black Friday sales, customer expectations reach new heights. Our tailored branding profiles are crafted for these occasions, guaranteeing a smooth and branded encounter that creates a lasting impact.


Navigating Logistics with Precision

In conclusion, leveraging the power of alerts and notifications in logistics management can lead to a more streamlined and efficient operation. The ability to tailor communication based on specific events, stakeholders, and organizational units empowers logistics managers to stay in control and provide a superior customer experience. As the logistics landscape continues to evolve, incorporating these feature-rich tools will be instrumental in staying ahead of the curve and achieving operational excellence.

Author Bio

Matt Murdock works for a leading SAAS-based platform called LogiNext Solutions. Where he helps businesses optimize their logistics operations and improve their delivery performance. With a passion for innovation and technology, Matt is always looking for new ways to streamline logistics processes and enhance customer experiences. In his free time, he enjoys writing blogs based on his experience in the logistics industry. Happy reading!


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54% Container Logistics Pros do not Believe Shifting Container Production Away from China will Ease Supply Chain Woes

The global shipping industry is currently grappling with a complex challenge that revolves around a crucial element – shipping containers. The real issue at hand is not the geographical concentration of container production but rather the efficient positioning of the global container pool. 

According to Container xChange’s recent survey, 54% of container logistics professionals did not believe that shifting container production away from China would improve the supply chain.

Container xChange surveyed around 1500 supply chain professionals to gauge container logistics and supply chain professionals’ sentiment around shifting container production away from China. The survey also delved into concerns about potential cost implications stemming from shifting container production. A significant 51% of respondents anticipated that such a transition could result in increased costs in the shipping industry, indicating a strong concern about the financial aspect of the change.

“In the global trade landscape, it’s not where containers are produced that matters but rather where they are repositioned at the right place and the right time. This challenge is further exacerbated by factors such as supply chain disruptions, labor strikes, COVID-19, and the unforgettable incident in the Suez Canal.” Added Christian Roeloffs, cofounder and CEO, Container xChange, an online global container logistics platform. 

Recent years have seen a notable shift in container production, with countries like Vietnam and India aspiring to reduce reliance on China, the giant in container manufacturing. 

The Challenge of Container Repositioning

A surplus of containers has become a growing concern. The container industry experienced a 13% boost in capacity in 2021 due to various supply chain issues, increasing transit times. However, the shorter transit times that followed and fluctuating demand left the industry with an excess of 13 million containers globally in the spring of 2023. To make things more complicated, this surplus has led to a drop in container rates, and there’s a cost attached to it – about $0.5 to $1 per TEU per day for regular containers, and potentially more for specialized containers like reefers and chemical tanks.

What’s even more telling is that data from Drewry shows that the production of 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) plummeted by a staggering 71% from 1.06 million to 306,000 between the first quarter of 2022 and the same period in the following year. The push to diversify container production away from China doesn’t provide a clear picture of how much capacity will shift away from the Chinese giant.

“There was a significant discussion about container scarcity during the pandemic, but it had nothing to do with any geopolitical underlying reasons. The only reason, in my view, would be geopolitical risk management — i.e., you want to hedge yourself against a black swan event where trade relationships with China are sanctioned or the like. 

The numbers don’t lie. While diversifying container production away from China might seem like a great idea, we need to tread carefully. The surplus of containers and the complexities of repositioning containers raise concerns about the effectiveness of this strategy in addressing global supply chain challenges.”, said Christian Roeloffs, Co-Founder and CEO, Container xChange.

China’s Iron Grip as Container Pool Surge to Unprecedented Levels

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in container production, with countries like Vietnam and India seeking to reduce their reliance on China, the dominant player in container manufacturing. To better understand this landscape, let’s delve into the numbers. In 2021, China produced a staggering 7.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a substantial increase from the average annual production in the previous decade, which stood at just 2.6 million TEUs. This places China at the forefront of container production, contributing to more than 95% of the world’s containers.

China’s advantage doesn’t stop at scale; they have a bustling export market, ensuring immediate utilization of their containers. In contrast, containers produced outside China often face skepticism due to quality concerns and higher costs. For instance, an Indian container can cost around Rs 1.46 lakh per box, while a Chinese container is considerably cheaper, at just Rs 75,000 each.

New Contenders

Vietnam has emerged as a strong contender in this shift, with the capacity to manufacture a significant chunk of the world’s steel boxes. India is also stepping up to the plate, looking to diversify the container production landscape. But there’s a catch. 

Containers produced outside China often face scepticism due to concerns about their quality. These non-Chinese containers may also come with a higher price tag, primarily because they can’t leverage China’s massive scale to keep costs down. When we look at the cost, it’s quite a difference. An Indian container can cost around Rs 1.46 lakh per box, while a Chinese one is a lot cheaper, at just Rs 75,000 each.

Moreover, the immediate demand for containers in China, driven by a significant export volume, adds to its appeal. New build containers in China, especially when produced in large quantities, offer more attractive economies of scale compared to Vietnam and India. The industry’s skepticism about how this transition will unfold is grounded in these considerations.

While India and Vietnam do present certain advantages, such as the ability to produce smaller batches and customize containers, the extent to which production will shift to India and China remains uncertain. 

In addition, China’s unique advantage, immediate domestic demand, is not something others can replicate. This means that containers produced in places like Vietnam and India may not find as many immediate takers.

While the idea of diversifying production sources is intriguing, it’s important to recognize the challenges involved.

The changing dynamics of container production are a crucial development in the shipping industry. The desire to reduce dependence on China is understandable, but it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully. The industry must navigate the tricky waters of an oversupplied market and the intricacies of container repositioning.

The current market is flooded with an abundance of shipping containers, well-equipped to meet the short-term surge in demand. This presents a unique opportunity to address persistent issues that have plagued the shipping industry for years.

Now is the time to rectify problems such as the inefficiencies in repositioning containers, ensuring the quality and reliability of containers produced outside dominant markets, and the implementation of robust, localized supply chain strategies.

In the long run, as demand rebounds, countries must ensure their supply chain strategies are effective, localized, and responsive to the demand hotspots, rather than focusing solely on container production. Finding a balanced and sustainable path forward is essential for the future of global trade and logistics.


Draper Associates Makes Strategic Investment in Logic, Revolutionizing Logistics with Automation

Draper Associates, a prominent venture capital firm, has announced a strategic investment in Logic, an innovative logistics automation company leading the charge in reshaping the industry. This investment positions Logic to advance its vision of achieving fully autonomous supply chains through the integration of digital twins, artificial intelligence, and cost-effective robotics.

Renowned venture capitalist and Draper Associates founder Tim Draper expressed his enthusiasm for supporting Logic and its groundbreaking logistics approach. Draper sees Logic’s combination of digital twins, AI, and affordable robotics as a game-changer, paving the way for fully automated supply chains. Tim Draper stated, “Thrilled to back Logic, pioneers in reshaping logistics. Their blend of digital twins, AI, and cost-effective robotics is a game-changer, setting the stage for fully automated supply chains. Proud to support Logic as they create a path to dark warehouses and integrated, intermodal transportation.”

Logic’s Founder & CEO, Michael Santora, expressed deep gratitude for Tim Draper and Draper Associates’ support, highlighting the legendary investor’s endorsement as a powerful validation of the transformative impact Logic is making in the logistics world.

The investment from Draper Associates will provide the fuel needed for Logic’s growth and expedite the development of their innovative solutions. Logic is on track to significantly impact the logistics industry by enhancing efficiency, reducing costs, minimizing emissions, and ushering in a new era of automation.

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Futureproofing Your Supply Chain: How Air Freight Can Support Your Business Amidst Disruption

Boats, planes, trains, trucks – when you start to add up all the global freight transportation options available and factor in constantly changing economic and geopolitical elements, it can be difficult to predict which will be the best mode for your freight. Having access to and knowledge of various options is critical for businesses who want to maintain a dynamic supply chain. Recently, the global air freight market has gained recognition for its benefits of speed and agility in the wake of disruptions.

An excellent example of this happened in 2020 when the demand for global air freight took off out of the necessity to move PPE, medical equipment, and other just-in-time inventory amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With fewer commercial planes flying passengers and therefore less belly capacity, airlines were able to quickly increase capacity through cargo planes and businesses were able to capitalize on the speed of air freight.  

The outlook for air freight, however, hasn’t been so sunny over the last few years. In 2023, as supply chains finally started to iron out following years of expensive delays and disruptions, the demand for air freight dropped as business returned to ocean shipping as consumer behavior shifted and many looked to recoup costs after paying premium transportation costs during the pandemic. 

As new disruptions arise in 2023, however, the role of air freight remains an important option for a robust supply chain. For the first time in months, the demand for air freight has grown. Not because air freight is a direct cost-saving option, but because it is largely able to avoid disruptions other transportation options cannot. As businesses work to futureproof their supply chain from major delays and inventory shortages, as well as complex geopolitical factors, this trend towards using air freight to diversify your supply chain is likely to continue into 2024.

Here are 3 factors contributing to the growth of air freight into 2024:

Expanding Nearshoring Opportunities

After a few years of rollercoaster-like supply chain conditions, many businesses are recognizing the benefits of having their manufacturing operations closer to the products’ final destination or customer. Nearshoring, reshoring or friend-shoring has become increasingly popular as businesses are shaking off the damages caused by past and ongoing disruptions including labor issues at ports on the West Coast, mis-forecasted inventory and other supply chain delays. 

The transition of nearshoring, however, doesn’t just happen in the blink of an eye – it can often be rocky. As businesses adjust to completely new supply chains, air is used frequently to keep up with inventory as moving supplier components can be more difficult than just relocating manufacturing facilities. While it might not be the most affordable option long term, air freight is a popular mode for supporting businesses who are looking to quickly nearshore their operations. 

Congestion at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Several factors, including technology issues at customs, increased border security, and crossing closures created congestion and a backlog of shipments at the U.S.-Mexico border at the start of this fall. For some routes, these disruptions added nearly 15 hours to transit times, causing many to pivot to air freight to avoid delays at the border. 

For one industry in particular – automotive manufacturing – these delays plus recent strike activity created the perfect storm of disruption. The automotive industry has historically relied on just-in-time inventory management to drive efficiency, so delays can have detrimental effects on production. Many C.H. Robinson automotive customers looking to transport goods out of Mexico to mitigate further supply chain risks from strike activity, for example, were able to secure air charters in as little as a few hours. Air remains a major player even when strikes end as manufacturers  get caught up on production and suppliers need to ship inventory quickly to avoid a line-down situation. Air freight allows businesses to keep goods moving when other modes aren’t working efficiently enough. 

While the congestion has waned from the disruptions mentioned above, the growing demand and volume for U.S.-Mexico cross-border shipping through nearshoring and other trade incentives that make the countries an attractive option for many companies, could lead to more consistent congestion or bottlenecks in 2024.  

Holidays and Increased Retail Activity

While often more expensive, air freight is also a critical tool for specific industries and during certain times of the year. For example, medical equipment, electronics and trend-driven retail industries leverage air freight as they cannot afford major delays in the supply chain due to their timeliness.  

While consumer spending isn’t as high as it was during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains high given the current economic outlook. Many predicted that there wouldn’t be a peak holiday season in 2023, and while it is mellow compared to the last few years, it is forecasting similarly to what we experienced before the pandemic. 

Electronics, for example, typically has a few major new product drops throughout the year. With these new devices, consumers typically need additional accessories like cases or chargers. Air is used for these goods to ensure they can arrive on time with the new technology. Additionally, as fashion trends evolve, brands cannot afford delays as the marketability of their goods relies on timely trends or fads. As ocean carriers use blank sailings to adjust to lower demand, air is far more reliable and mitigates the risk of last-minute delays. To keep up with this demand for quick-turn consumer goods, air freight will remain a good option in 2024 for those who can’t afford to miss their window of opportunity. 

Building Contingency Plans

Since 2020, supply chain professionals have collectively learned that while air may cost more initially, the potential savings from avoiding delays and inventory shortages make it a worthwhile investment and key element of any contingency planning and diversification strategy. While we can’t predict the future, we know disruptions and unforeseen factors are inevitable. Understanding supply chain solutions like air freight is a critical way to prepare for the unknown and futureproof your business as we move into 2024.  


Bolloré Logistics Enhances Supply Chain Visibility with Winddle Collaboration

Bolloré Logistics, a key player in logistics and international transport, has joined forces with Winddle, a collaborative platform for supply chain management, to elevate its purchase order (PO) management services. The partnership aims to optimize transport operations through integrated management of product orders and enhanced collaboration with suppliers.

In the overseas transport sector, end-to-end visibility is crucial to ensure seamless operations. Winddle’s collaborative platform facilitates the coordination of inbound operations and provides comprehensive visibility at both the purchase/sales order and product/SKU levels. This collaborative approach allows shippers, suppliers, and carriers to work on a common basis, streamlining data entry and centralizing documents. By gaining visibility over goods delivery forecasts submitted by suppliers, Bolloré Logistics can anticipate transport flows more effectively and enhance overall coordination.

Nathalie Léger, Global VP for the Beauty and Luxury Goods sectors at Bolloré Logistics, highlights Winddle’s flexibility in integrating with Bolloré Logistics’ Transport Management Systems (TMS) and responding to various customer Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The integration of PO management with transport visibility enhances Bolloré Logistics’ ability to understand the overall performance of its supply chain. Winddle provides indicators at the product, purchase order, or sales order level, offering insights into forecasts, monitoring dates, costs, and environmental impact. The collaboration enables better prioritization of product flows during transport capacity constraints and facilitates quick and effective communication in case of transport delays.

Bolloré Logistics has successfully implemented Winddle’s solution for a French luxury cosmetics brand, replacing a PO management system based on shared files. The platform, onboarded in just three months, has over 80 users monitoring thousands of shipments per year collaboratively. The project has streamlined daily collaboration between the cosmetics brand and Bolloré Logistics, offering a reliable tool for coordinating supplier and transport performance.

Building on the success of the initial deployment, Bolloré Logistics plans to integrate Winddle modules for automated, predictive calculation of unit approach costs, transport costs, and invoice reconciliation. This strategic move opens up exciting prospects for ongoing optimization of transport operations.

Packaging in Supply Chain Management Market: Future Scope, Demands and Projected Industry Growths to 2032

At one-point, numerous businesses perceived packaging to fulfil two fundamental roles within supply chain management.

Packaging is vital in protecting products during transportation, ensuring that items reach their destination safely and without damage. This function is crucial in maintaining product quality and reducing potential losses or returns due to transportation mishaps.

Another essential function of packaging within supply chain management is optimizing space utilization on delivery vehicles. By efficiently arranging products within the packaging, companies can ensure that the correct quantity of items is shipped to distribution centers, fulfillment centers, retailers, and customers. This optimization helps reduce wasted space, leading to more efficient transportation and ultimately saving fuel and transportation costs. Businesses can enhance their logistical operations and improve overall supply chain efficiency by maximizing available space.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of modern business, cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions have revolutionized packaging options across diverse industries such as aerospace, food, beverage, pet care, and paints & coatings. As a result, companies have gained valuable insights into the immense opportunities presented by packaging materials. 

The significance of packaging in the supply chain has transcended its traditional purpose, now encompassing critical aspects like environmental protection, product traceability, seamless item handling, efficient distribution, and the potential to boost marketing campaigns. These multifaceted factors can be classified into three primary packaging functions: flow optimization, marketing, and environmental sustainability.

Ensuring customers remember your product long after the purchase is of utmost significance to businesses striving to attract new customers and cultivate unwavering loyalty throughout their company’s lifespan. While marketing efforts towards existing customers, such as email campaigns and newsletters, are essential, packaging emerges as a potent tool for captivating and retaining customers, ultimately bolstering sales. The lasting impact of well-crafted packaging can leave a lasting impression on consumers, reinforcing brand recognition and fostering a positive perception of the product, thus encouraging repeat purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. As a result, businesses must recognize the strategic value of packaging as a vital component in their customer engagement and retention strategies, enhancing the overall customer experience and ensuring sustained success in the market.

Optimization Trends: Redefining Packaging Procurement’s Supply Chain

In response to the post-COVID-19 complexities, disruptions, and evolving regulations, businesses have adopted a proactive approach to enhancing their supply chain management. This entails end-to-end oversight, encompassing sourcing, storage, manufacturing, and shipping raw materials or goods. Supply chain management now involves a holistic view, including product design, engineering, sourcing, logistics, and robust tracking mechanisms. An essential component of this optimization is the strategic procurement of packaging materials. This section will provide valuable insights into the progressive trends shaping supply chain and packaging procurement, showcasing the positive developments in these vital business aspects.

1. Circular Economy Strategies

As environmental awareness continues to surge, businesses are investing significantly in circularity – a sustainable approach to supply chain management to minimize resource consumption, waste generation, and CO2 emissions. Circular practices involve maximizing the reuse of seemingly wasteful materials, returns, and byproducts. As the demand for environmentally conscious products grows, businesses are expected to adopt more eco-friendly supply chain processes, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.

Sustainable packaging presents a significant opportunity for e-retailers to optimize their supply chains, attract customers, and foster customer loyalty. Numerous studies have demonstrated that consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability in their purchasing decisions. According to the CGS 2019 US Consumer Sustainability Survey, 71% of respondents identified sustainability as a crucial factor, and 46% of them were willing to pay a premium of up to 26% for products that are deemed sustainable. Embracing eco-friendly packaging solutions can be a powerful differentiator for e-retailers, catering to the growing demand for environmentally conscious products and driving customer engagement and satisfaction.

  • Instance, PVH, the parent company of the renowned brand Calvin Klein, has pioneered by becoming the first apparel retailer to join the How2Recycle Initiative. Demonstrating its dedication to environmental stewardship, PVH has set ambitious goals to ensure that all its packaging comprises 100% sustainable and ethically sourced materials by 2025. PVH has already made substantial progress, with 75% of their packaging being recyclable. This achievement has resulted in significant positive impacts, notably saving over 200 tons of plastic from being used annually. By aligning with the How2Recycle Initiative and pursuing sustainable packaging practices, PVH is making significant strides toward reducing its environmental footprint, setting a noteworthy example for the fashion industry, and contributing to a more sustainable future.
  • Instance, Vela Bags, created by Seaman Paper, represent a breakthrough in sustainable packaging solutions for the apparel industry. These transparent biodegradable paper bags offer an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic poly bags, addressing the pressing concern of plastic waste pollution.
  • Instance, Ombraz, a prominent eyewear brand, sets itself apart by demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability. They not only provide their sunglasses in recyclable packaging, but they have also forged a meaningful partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects. For each pair of sunglasses they sell, Ombraz takes the initiative to plant an impressive 20 mangrove trees. This environmentally conscious approach showcases their dedication to offsetting their ecological footprint and contributing positively to the environment. Combining stylish eyewear with impactful reforestation efforts, Ombraz has positioned itself as a socially responsible leader in the eyewear industry.
  1. Supply Chain Customization Trends

The global business landscape is undergoing significant complexity due to rapid technological advancements. Many supply chains need to be more active and contribute effectively to an organization’s profitability or performance. Consequently, companies are actively seeking innovative approaches to optimize this critical aspect of their operations.

  1. Centralized Packaging Distribution for Efficiency

Last-mile delivery is a critical challenge in supply chain management, encompassing the final stretch of a product’s journey from the distribution center to the customer’s doorstep. Among the various supply chain models, centralized distribution is a popular approach familiar to most businesses. In this model, operations are centralized at a single location, and for multiple delivery locations, hubs may be strategically placed to handle different time zones or specific product lines. 

  1. The Benefits of Outsourced Packaging Procurement

Outsourcing packaging procurement is a strategic move that enables companies to build resilient supply chains. The choice of packaging materials directly impacts brand value, profitability, and customer experience for businesses. Multiple factors, including material type, printing and design, and logistics requirements influence packaging costs. By entrusting packaging procurement to external experts, companies can accelerate their time-to-market and reduce operational expenses while maintaining high-quality standards.

Sustainable Packaging Strategies: Enhancing Environmental Responsibility in the Supply Chain

Undoubtedly, embracing even minor changes in packaging design towards sustainability can yield substantial and far-reaching benefits for businesses and the environment. By adopting eco-friendly practices and materials, companies can effectively contribute to resource conservation and alleviate the environmental impact.

In the world of packaging, there is no definitive end point where we can claim perfection. The key lies in acknowledging that change is an inherent part of the process. As a responsible business owner, it becomes essential to consistently evaluate and improve packaging efforts. Embracing smart packaging entails constantly assessing consumer trends and adapting to the prevailing conditions in supply chain management. This proactive approach ensures your packaging stays relevant and aligned with evolving market demands. By remaining open to innovation and being receptive to new opportunities, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge in the dynamic world of packaging solutions.

The following are a few strategies that can improve supply chain packaging sustainability:

Packaging Weight:

  • By implementing intelligent weight and mass reduction techniques in packaging design, businesses can achieve significant cost savings in logistics operations. Maintaining the structural integrity of the packaging while reducing its weight allows for lower fuel consumption during transportation and enables better storage space utilization. 
  • The reduced weight of the packaging materials translates to lighter shipments, leading to decreased fuel consumption for trucks, ships, or airplanes involved in the transportation process. As a result, logistics-related expenses, such as fuel costs, are effectively minimized, contributing to overall cost optimization for the supply chain.

Single-Source Materials:

  • Indeed, while a see-through plastic window may serve marketing purposes by showcasing the product, it often lacks sustainability value when concealed within an opaque container. To promote environmental consciousness, businesses should explore alternatives for mixed-material packaging, especially in consumer-packaged goods (CPG).

Minimal Packaging:

  • Adopting efficient and effective packaging practices aligns with lean manufacturing principles and positively impacts a company’s reputation as an environmentally conscious and authentic sustainability partner.
  • Efficient packaging design optimizes resources and minimizes waste, consistent with lean manufacturing principles, which aim to eliminate non-value-added activities and achieve operational efficiency. By streamlining the packaging process and using materials more judiciously, businesses can reduce costs, enhance productivity, and contribute to a leaner supply chain. 


  • Indeed, compostable and plant-based packaging represents an increasingly favourable marketing alternative. These eco-friendly packaging options, ranging from utensils made from starch to protein-based edible flexible films, offer significant value in their efficient ability to biodegrade and return to the earth. 
  • Compostable packaging materials are designed to break down into natural elements when composted, reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact. Such packaging solutions are derived from renewable plant-based sources, which makes them a sustainable and environmentally responsible choice. 
  • Using plant-based materials in packaging demonstrates a commitment to reducing reliance on non-renewable resources, lowering carbon emissions, and promoting a circular economy. Consumers increasingly recognize the importance of sustainable packaging and often prefer brands that align with their environmental values. 

Waste Controls:

  • Maintaining optimal supply chain efficiency is crucial in controlling all forms of waste. This can be achieved through streamlined physical handling and storage processes and strategic collaborations with environmentally-conscious third-party logistics (3PL) providers that adhere to green logistics practices.


  • Counterfeit products pose a significant threat, particularly in e-commerce, eroding consumer confidence and trust. Implementing a verification method, such as QR codes on labels or tamper-proof packaging, can effectively address this concern and instill a sense of security among customers.  By integrating QR codes on product labels, customers can easily authenticate the product’s legitimacy. Scanning the QR code with their smartphones provides real-time access to essential information about the product’s origin, manufacturing details, and other relevant data, reassuring buyers of its authenticity.
  • Incorporating tamper-proof packaging further reinforces consumer trust. Packaging with tamper-evident features is a visual cue that the product has not been tampered with or compromised during transit, ensuring customers of its integrity. 
    By adopting these verification methods, businesses demonstrate their commitment to protecting consumers from counterfeit products and safeguarding their brand reputation. This transparency and security give customers the confidence they need to make qualified purchases, ultimately fostering loyalty and repeat business. 

Advanced packaging technologies can enhance supply chain resilience and efficiency.

Building a more resilient supply chain necessitates strategic investments in cutting-edge technologies and seamless interconnectivity of digital tools, physical infrastructure, and their underlying data streams, enabling a shift from descriptive to predictive supply chains.

By leveraging advanced technological solutions, businesses can significantly enhance and fortify supply chain efficiency. Prominent examples of such tools include blockchain technology, which offers secure and transparent transaction tracking, and digital twins, which create virtual replicas of physical assets to optimize performance and predict maintenance needs.

  • Instance, Blockchain technology will revolutionize food packaging, enabling the packaging to serve as a gateway to comprehensive product journey information. For instance, Walmart is actively exploring innovative blockchain solutions to ensure the integrity and traceability of its food supply chain.

Advanced processes and technologies like digital twins play a crucial role in strengthening the resilience of supply chains. Digital twins offer significant benefits by simulating the manufacturing process, providing valuable insights into potential pain points and challenges.

Empowering Supply Chains through Hyperautomation: A Solution for Overcoming Challenges and Enhancing Efficiency

Indeed, hyperautomation represents a transformative approach that combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) tools with robotic process automation (RPA) to deliver comprehensive end-to-end automation solutions. By integrating these technologies, hyperautomation takes digitalization automation to a new level, enabling businesses to automate complex and diverse business processes.

Deep learning software, a subset of AI, exhibits human-like intelligence and the ability to discern nuances such as deviation and variation in data. When applied to packaging processes, hyperautomation can bring significant advantages.

Hyperautomation presents a groundbreaking solution that can accurately predict packaging applications, encompassing human inspectors’ flexibility and judgment-based decision-making, leading to defect-free outcomes.

Sun Automation’s focus on the corrugated packaging industry demonstrates how hyperautomation can revolutionize manufacturing processes. By providing corrugated manufacturers with insights into machine performance, hyperautomation enables them to proactively manage operations, minimizing downtime and optimizing maintenance schedules. This level of automation facilitates increased profitability by ensuring optimal machine utilization and reducing costly interruptions.

Importance of Primary Packaging in the Supply Chain

A product’s primary packaging serves critical functions such as preserving the product’s quality, providing essential information, and enhancing the overall customer experience. While reducing weight and conserving materials are necessary to minimize transport costs and waste, these initiatives should not compromise the package’s durability and ease of use.

Finding the right balance between sustainability and functionality is crucial. Packaging should be designed with intentional choices regarding materials, function, and shape, ensuring it meets the specific needs of the product’s intended channels. For instance, certain products may require more protective and robust packaging for long-distance shipping, while others may benefit from a more minimalistic design suitable for retail display.

Flexible packaging offers numerous advantages, such as space-saving and extended shelf life for food products. In brick-and-mortar settings, it can reduce a product’s footprint on store shelves without compromising its visibility. The air space in flexible packaging protects the goods and enhances the product’s visual appeal, making it more attractive to consumers.

When designing primary packaging, the primary focus should always be protecting the product and maintaining its quality. Packaging must be robust enough to safeguard the product during transportation and handling.

The following are a few of the top private and public businesses in the supply chain management field:

  • Tetra Laval
  • Crown Holdings
  • Elopak

Market Segmentations

By Marketing Function

  • QR codes
  • Brand Communication

By Flow Function

  • Distributors
  • Manufacturers
  • Warehouse Managers

By Environment

  • Recycled
  • Reused

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South Carolina Ports and Maritime Allies Launch Holiday Toy Drive for Foster Children

In a heartwarming collaboration, SC Ports has joined forces with the International Longshoreman’s Association, Coalition 18, and the Maritime Association of South Carolina to spread joy to South Carolina foster children this holiday season. The maritime community is rallying partners, businesses, and local residents to contribute to the Maritime Toy Drive, aiming to fill an Evergreen shipping container with toys by December 15. All donations will be distributed to foster children in South Carolina by the S.C. Department of Social Services.

Barbara Melvin, President, and CEO of SC Ports, expressed the organization’s year-round commitment to connecting with local communities and emphasized the significant impact of giving back during the holidays. She expressed gratitude for the collaboration with maritime partners and urged people and businesses to participate in supporting this meaningful cause.

Juan Gordon, President of trucking organization Coalition 18, shared the success of last year’s efforts, with nearly 2,000 toys donated to fill the shipping container. He encouraged the community to surpass last year’s achievements, emphasizing that every contribution, no matter how small, makes a difference.

Yvette Flowers, the Financial Secretary Treasurer of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422, echoed the sentiment of giving back to the community. She highlighted the ILA’s commitment to service and encouraged others in the Lowcountry to join them in supporting South Carolina children during the holiday season.

Taylor Jackson, President, and CEO of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, emphasized the integral role of partnership and community service within the maritime community. Jackson expressed pride in supporting such a wonderful cause and urged the broader community to come together to make a positive impact on the lives of South Carolina children during the season of giving.

To contribute to the Maritime Toy Drive, individuals can bring unwrapped toys to SC Ports headquarters or purchase toys online through wish lists at Walmart, Target, or Amazon. The wish lists make it convenient for donors to select and ship gifts directly to the designated address, ensuring a seamless and efficient donation process.