New Articles

How Is Customer Service AI Improving Work for Employees?

customer service AI

How Is Customer Service AI Improving Work for Employees?

Customer service is an area that always needs attention and often needs improvement. No matter how strong your systems and your personnel, smart organizations are looking for a competitive edge in this field. Therefore, the work your employees perform in the customer service department is a critical focus for any successful business.

With that in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at how Customer Service AI is making some significant improvements in this area. By heeding the advice and explanations we give you here, your employees will be able to provide a more thorough and effective service to your customers. In turn, the number of satisfied customers will increase significantly, and you won’t have to emphasize the search for new customers anymore.

What’s more, the overall loyalty to your brand will increase, as well as the reputation your brand has among consumers and competitors.

Ways AI Is Improving Customer Service Work

First of all, it’s important to understand that AI is not about replacing your employees in any way. When you deploy Customer Service AI solutions to your customer service sector smartly and efficiently, your employees gain the support they need to perform their jobs much better than they ever could before. That’s precisely where the main benefit of AI lies – in human-AI collaboration.

The most obvious example of this is the use of chatbots in customer service. AI-powered chatbots are now capable of performing many tasks when it comes to the relationship between your company and your customers. They can handle specific repetitive tasks and even resolve simpler issues your customers have. By doing that, your employees are left to work on more complex issues, without having to waste time giving the same answers and dealing with the same problems that tend to repeat themselves within most companies.

What’s more, AI-powered chatbots are available 24/7, so you don’t have to worry about overstretching your employees through several shifts or hiring more people to handle more demands. AI chatbots become the frontline of your customer service, providing the answers to the questions your employees don’t have to worry about anymore. Beyond chatbots, AI can also ensure the organization within the customer service department is at its most efficient and that no unnecessary errors occur.

Chatbots will know when complex issues arise and will seamlessly transfer those requests to human employees who will handle the problem more effectively. This becomes a symbiosis when quality solutions are implemented, and the customer never notices the transition.

As you can already assume, all of this improves the overall satisfaction of your customers, as they no longer have to wait hours for a dedicated agent to give them a response.

The Bottom Line

In essence, AI is not just improving the customer service industry and the work employees do there, it’s revolutionizing it. If you want to be part of that revolution, your organization needs to seriously consider implementing a quality AI-driven service desk that will completely alter the work your employees perform and the service your customers receive.

Aisera offers that kind of solution, and you can test it out to see how it works right now by requesting a personalized demo from us.

manufacturing

Why Technology – Not Tariffs – Is the Key to Reviving US Manufacturing

Reshoring has captured the imaginations of politicians and economic developers for years, particularly in parts of the country hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs. The COVID-19 crisis gave reshoring advocates another rallying cry, as supply chain disruptions rippled through the economy and the general public awoke to the fact that we are dependent on Chinese manufacturing for most of our medical supplies.

Some will no doubt call for a response in the form of tougher trade policies – tariffs that aim to level the playing field and to deter Chinese “dumping” of cheap, below-profit goods with which US manufacturers can’t hope to compete.

But while tariffs can be an effective weapon in the short term, they won’t help revive American manufacturing. In fact, they might do serious damage, especially amid an economic downturn. Most economists now believe the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which leveled crippling tariffs on US imports from all over the world, played a significant role in sinking the country deeper into what would become the Great Depression.

Fortunately, tariffs aren’t the only way. We can reverse the decline of domestic manufacturing and return factory jobs and investment to US soil, but the key isn’t policy – it’s technology.

American manufacturers can regain their global competitive advantage by widely investing in and deploying automation and robotics that will enable them to produce everything from auto parts to cellphone screens cheaper, faster and better than factories in China and elsewhere.

The technology won’t replace workers. They’ll be needed to operate and maintain the sophisticated machinery involved. Much of the investment I’m calling for will be in people – training Americans to work with the kind of technology that can transform and revive our manufacturing sector. We call this Industry 4.0.

Doing What Americans Do Best

Before I explain further, I should lay some groundwork. Even as wages for Chinese workers have risen in recent years, they remain much lower than US workers’ pay. Other countries can undercut China, leaving Europe as the only part of the world where American manufacturers have any sort of cost advantage.

That means we must do what America does best: innovate. If we can get ahead of the curve by investing technologies such as robotics, Internet of Things and 3D printing, we can automate shop floors in a way that speeds production, sparks new-product development and creates new high-skilled factory jobs. We can also produce competitively priced goods that enable our local manufacturers to grow by taking market share from rivals overseas.

Jergens Inc. is a 78-year-old company in Cleveland, with a campus on an abandoned railyard site. The company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of standard tooling components, vises and other workholding equipment, has fully embraced automation – but not as a way to eliminate jobs.

“With every robot, more jobs at Jergens are created,” says Jack Schron, the company’s president. “We use one robot to get higher production on one of our popular items. Right next to that robot are skilled technicians assembling these same items for small-run, custom applications. Because of the one, the other follows.”

Automation has actually increased headcount in some Jergens departments; because the robots helped increase production and broaden its offerings, Jergens has hired more sales, marketing and shipping workers.

A Technological Cold War

Jergens is far from alone, even among the subset of Northeast Ohio manufacturers I work with. What we learn from them is that automation is more affordable, more accessible and more effective than ever.

Unfortunately, far too many small and mid-sized companies in our industrial heartland understand this. That’s partly why few have taken the first steps toward automation. In a February survey by our organization, 94 percent of manufacturers in Northeast Ohio said they were actively innovating – but more than 60 percent said they weren’t using or just starting using automation, and half said they didn’t plan to increase automation spending.

Too many American manufacturers don’t understand the technology, or how their shop floors or market strategies could benefit from automation. Others see the potential but don’t have the funds to invest, or see the investment as too risky, or fear the lag between investing and seeing a return would destroy their balance sheets.

None of those things is true, but various combinations of flawed perceptions, lack of knowledge, lack of funding and risk aversion prevent factory owners and leaders from investing in technology that would make them more profitable and competitive.

Meanwhile, China has been investing in automation technology for years. The country has now become the world’s largest and fastest-growing market for industrial robotics, according to the International Federation of Robotics. The mental image of Chinese sweatshops is no longer accurate (though other countries still use those methods). Google “manufacturing process” and you’ll see highly automated, high-tech manufacturing facilities in China.

Put simply, we’re in a cold war of technological advancement that very few people – including many manufacturing leaders – see and even fewer understand. And we’re losing. Could COVID-19 provide the motivation we need to fully embrace innovation, advance toward Industry 4.0 and win the innovation war? It absolutely could. Or perhaps American manufacturers will embrace Industry 4.0 for simple business reasons – it will undoubtedly make them more profitable.

Whatever it takes, investment in technology is a critical step toward a new, sustainable era of reshoring. And at the very least, widespread investments in technology will create better-paying, safer, more stable jobs in parts of our country hit hardest by the deindustrialization of the last 30 years.

That is the promise of Industry 4.0.

________________________________________________________________

Dr. Ethan Karp is an expert in transforming companies and communities. As President and CEO of the non-profit consulting group MAGNET, he has helped hundreds of manufacturing companies grow through technology, innovation, and talent. He is passionate about driving economic prosperity in his home region of Northeast Ohio. Dr. Karp is a recognized thought leader on manufacturing issues and a frequent media commentator on the future of manufacturing in America. Prior to joining MAGNET in 2013, Dr. Karp worked with Fortune 500 companies at McKinsey & Co. He received undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and physics from Miami University and a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from Harvard University.

MAGNET is part of the NIST and Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program to support small and medium manufacturers across the US.

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.”

_________________________________________________________

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.

4PL

ONE, TWO, 3PL … or 4PL? DETERMINING WHICH MAKES THE MOST SENSE FOR YOUR BUSINESS

The supply chain ecosystem is becoming more demanding as consumers are conditioned to expect nearly instantaneous free shipping and where order delays can inflict serious damage to brands. As a result, shippers must carefully select their supply chain partners, as their performance has a much greater potential impact on customer satisfaction and the bottom line than ever before.

However, shippers are often perplexed when faced with the choice of partnering with a 3PL or 4PL to tackle their logistics and transportation challenges.

“Every shipper is unique, but many face the same challenges and share the same goals: reducing costs, optimizing their network, consolidating shipments, changing behaviors, improving customer service, and improving visibility, to name a few,” says Ross Spanier, senior vice president of Sales and Solutions at GlobalTranz, a Phoenix, Arizona-based tech company that provides a cloud-based, multimodal transportation management system (TMS) to shippers, carriers and brokers.

“The common thread that links these challenges and goals is data,” Spanier continues, “and many companies lack the data they need to make truly informed business decisions.”

He should know. Spanier brings more than 17 years of experience—which includes stops at C.H. Robinson and Logistics Planning Services—to the discussion of 3PL versus 4PL partnerships. Shippers, he maintains, should focus on the capabilities of the prospective partner and seek out partners that combine the technology, people, multimodal services and solutions they need to in gain a competitive advantage.

“Many shippers really cannot afford to staff and maintain an internal transportation and logistics team,” he notes. “Finding a partner that can act as an extension of their business is key. It’s also extremely important to make sure your partner can provide technology and experience in implementation, execution and integration. That can be a significant cost and a disruption for businesses that attempt to do that by themselves.”

Whether you’re a medium-sized business or listed on the Fortune 1000 annual list, deciding between a 3PL and a 4PL sets the stage for all moving parts.

“A common misunderstanding is that a 3PL is just a broker, when the reality is they can be much more than that,” Spanier says. “At GlobalTranz, our managed solutions are a great example of that. We can offer a more strategic and consultative approach for our customers including having ‘skin in the game’ on the broker side, where we’re taking on pricing commitments, service level commitments, managing the risks and owning the contracts.

“Many times, that is one of the common misunderstandings because a 3PL can act very strategically with customers and not necessarily need a fourth party. The 4PL typically offers strategic insights and management of a company’s entire supply chain, and often if one goes back to the question of ‘what is the difference between a 3PL and 4PL,’ 4PLs are the right fit for much more mature, large or complex organizations.”

GlobalTranz positions itself as a leader in customized solutions for a wide variety of shippers across many industry verticals. From LTL to truckload, final mile or white-glove service, intermodal, ocean, air, and cross-border Mexico transportation … are all part of the GlobalTranz offering. In addition, the company offers an award-winning TMS. The company takes pride in collaborative efforts between the people driving their technology as an integrated solution offered to their customer base.

“Whether a customer is best-suited for a 3PL or 4PL solution is typically not already known when we walk in the door, Spanier explains. “We like to show where a customer can gain the most value based on the solution and its capabilities. More times than not, it’s about voicing that to the customer and understanding where their constraints are and how we can put a solution together–a 3PL or a 4PL solution.”

GlobalTranz boasts a different approach when it comes to serving its customer base. Its robust managed solutions offerings serve a variety of needs that can be tailored upon identifying where the client’s business needs it the most. The experts at GlobalTranz take the process of solution identification one step further by evaluating the needs and configuring a solution from there. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, which is exactly how GlobalTranz separates itself from the rest as a leader in logistics solutions–whether that be a 3PL or 4PL solution.

“People, processes, and technology are important, and it’s crucial to establish relationships and communications that are aligned with company goals,” Spanier contends. “Without strong relationships in place, technology and process won’t deliver the needed support or what they’re looking to get out of a partner. When you have a customer looking at a 3PL solution, you want to make sure that a 3PL has the ability to bring in carriers no matter what markets they operate in. This is critical because they may be in one market today but with growth, both organic and through acquisitions, and the changing dynamics in customer demand and expectations, the footprint could expand and it’s important to have a partner that is quick to react and agile in respect to their carrier partners as well.”

So, when deciding on what makes the most sense for your business, consider partners that not only provide solutions but are agile and customizable based on specific business goals.

_______________________________________________________________

As the GlobalTranz Senior Vice President of Sales and Solutions, Ross Spanier leads the enterprise sales organization as well as the design and delivery of innovative and customized supply chain solutions that drive efficiency, cost savings and competitive advantages for current and prospective customers. With more than 15 years of experience in the supply chain and logistics industry, Spanier has developed and grown sales and operations teams specializing in best-in-class service execution of LTL, TL, expedite, supply chain management, projects & heavy haul, white glove and managed transportation service lines. Prior to joining GlobalTranz in 2017, he held sales and operations leadership roles at both C.H. Robinson and Logistics Planning Services (LPS).

congress

DRIVING CONGRESS TO ACT ON NATIONAL SECURITY TARIFFS

Volkswagen GTI is turbocharged with room for…tariffs?

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a perennial winner of Car and Driver’s 10Best award. The German-built sport hatchback combines “speed, handling, build quality, an attractive interior, and room for the family,” all for under $30,000. Car and Driver raves about the GTI’s turbocharged engine and notes it’s a formidable challenger to competing “hot hatches.”

Apparently, the U.S. Department of Commerce believes that the GTI poses another challenge — maybe a turbocharged threat to America’s national security.

In a still-confidential 2019 report, the Department reportedly found that imported autos like the GTI “threaten to impair the national security” and recommended that the president impose tariffs as high as 25 percent.

All revved up

The president would enact these tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. As TradeVistas’ Andrea Durkin has detailed, Section 232 is a little-used Cold War-era law under which Congress delegated broad authority to the president to restrict imports for national security reasons. The law is also the basis for current controversial duties on steel and aluminum.

The proposed tariffs have generated opposition from vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, economic analysts and members of Congress. The Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers notes that a 25 percent tariff on autos and parts would raise the price of an average imported car by an estimated $6,000 (and add $2,000 to a U.S.-built car) while potentially leading to the loss of over 600,000 American jobs. The Association of Global Automakers (now merged with the Auto Alliance to form the Alliance for Automotive Innovation) questions how passenger cars and light trucks are relevant to national security, suggesting that “America does not go to war in a Ford Fiesta.” Statements from Administration officials suggest that the “national security” justification for auto tariffs may be a pretext to gain negotiating leverage in other contexts.

Sourcing of US Light Vehicle Sales 2017

Congress may put the brakes on Presidential tariffs

With the possible exception of avid inventor Ben Franklin, America’s founders would be astounded by the GTI. They might be equally astonished, however, by the Trump Administration’s assertion of broad authority to impose tariffs. After fighting a revolution against “taxation without representation,” the founders believed it was vital to entrust the power to impose tariffs and other taxes to the people’s representatives. Specifically, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution vests Congress with the “power to lay and collect taxes [and] duties.”

Since 1934, after its disastrous experience with the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, Congress has increasingly delegated specific trade and tariff powers to the president, subject to a variety of limitations. Presidents have generally used these powers judiciously and to reduce tariffs to expand trade. For example, when President Kennedy signed the 1962 Trade Expansion Act (which enacted Section 232), he emphasized the importance of opening trade and reducing trade barriers and warned against “stagnating behind tariff walls.”

President Trump has taken a maximalist approach to his delegated powers to impose tariffs, particularly for “national security” reasons. In response, Congressional critics from both parties point out that under the Constitution, Congress should be the ultimate driver of tariffs, not the president.

Other concerns with the Administration’s application of national security tariffs include a lack of transparency in determining tariffs and administering tariff exclusions, its use of an overly broad definition of national security, and the cascading impacts on U.S. producers from higher metal prices. Legal experts are also concerned that the Administration did not follow the law when it imposed new tariffs on derivative steel products (including nails and bumpers) and when it extended its review of auto tariffs when time limits under Section 232 have likely expired.

Cost of Autos 232 Tariffs

Time for a trade law tune-up?

Congress could rein in presidential national security tariffs by simply repealing Section 232. However, even critics of current tariffs recognize that there are circumstances where the president might need authority to adjust trade in response to national security threats. Accordingly, Congress has focused instead on bipartisan proposals to place additional limits on the president’s ability to employ Section 232.

The Trade Security Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representative Ron Kind (D-WI), would bifurcate the Section 232 process. The Department of Defense (DoD) would first investigate whether there is a national security basis for restricting imports of an article. If DoD finds that an article poses a security threat and the president decides to act, the Commerce Department would then recommend tariffs or other measures to address the threat. The Portman-Kind bill would also enable Congress to disapprove any Section 232 trade restriction imposed by the president through a resolution of disapproval that would itself be subject to a veto by the president. This legislation would not impact current Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) would also require DoD to take the lead in investigating whether an article poses a national security threat, while also adopting a tighter definition of national security. Notably, under this legislation, no proposed Section 232 action by the president could take effect unless Congress first passes a resolution of approval. The Toomey-Gallagher bill would also (i) repeal current steel and aluminum duties unless Congress passes an expedited resolution of approval, (ii) direct the independent U.S. International Trade Commission to report to Congress on the economic impacts of Section 232 actions, and (iii) require that the USITC administer the tariff exclusion process for future Section 232 actions.

Two bills in Congress to brake 232

Getting out of neutral

For the past year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been attempting to meld the Portman and Toomey bills into a compromise measure that would attract veto-proof majorities in Congress. Despite considerable bipartisan support, Grassley notes that this effort has faced two challenges. First, there’s opposition from Republicans who see the legislation as a rebuke of President Trump. Second — as any student of U.S. trade history could have predicted —interests that benefit from new national security tariffs are now lobbying intensely to retain these tariffs. Despite this opposition, Grassley has vowed to continue efforts to enact Section 232 reform in 2020.

More potholes ahead?

Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s GTI and other imported autos will continue to face the threat of national security tariffs. And that threat won’t necessarily subside if a Democratic president takes office next year. Some Democrats have already proposed using the Trump Administration’s expansive reading of Section 232 to advance their own policy goals — particularly to address the climate crisis. Carbon-emitting autos like the GTI would be a prime target for new tariffs.

The GTI was designed for Germany’s smooth, high-speed autobahns. When it comes to U.S. national security tariffs, however, the GTI’s road ahead may continue to be full of potholes.

_________________________________________________________________

Ed Gerwin

Ed Gerwin is a lawyer, trade consultant, and President of Trade Guru LLC.

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

artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Market to Reach $54 Billion by 2026

According to a new study published by Polaris Market Research, the global artificial intelligence market is anticipated to reach USD 54 billion by 2026. The advancements of robots and the rise in their deployment rate particularly, in the developing economies globally have had a positive impact on the global artificial intelligence market.

Augmented customer experience, expanded application areas, enhanced productivity, and big data integration have highly propelled the artificial intelligence market worldwide. Although, the absence of adequate skilled workforce, as well as threat to human dignity, are some of the factors that could affect the growth of the market. However, these factors are expected to have minimal impact on the market attributed to the introduction of advanced technologies.

An extraordinary increase in productivity has been achieved with machine-learning. For instance, Google, with the help of its experimental driverless technology has transformed cars including, Toyota Prius. The integration of various tools by artificial intelligence has helped in the transformation of business management. These tools include brand purchase advertising, workflow management tools, trend predictions among others. For example, Google’s voice accuracy technology has a 98% accuracy rate. Furthermore, Facebook’s DeepFace technology has a success rate of approximately 97% in recognizing faces. Such accuracy in technologies is further anticipated to bolster the market growth during the forecast period.

Currently, North America dominates the global artificial intelligence market attributed to the high government funding availability, existence of prominent providers in the region, and robust technical adoption base. Also, the region is expected to continue its dominance during the forecast period. Moreover, the adoption of cloud-based services in key economies, such as the US and Canada, is considering adding to the market growth in the North American region. The markets in Asia Pacific, MEA and South America region are expected to notice a high growth during the coming years. The growth in the Asia Pacific region is attributed to the increasing demand for artificial technologies by the developing economies. Thus, the region is anticipated to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.

 

Major companies profiled in the report include Google Inc., Intel Corporation, Nvidia Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, IBM Corporation, General Vision, Inc., Qlik Technologies Inc., MicroStrategy, Inc., Brighterion, Inc., and Baidu, Inc. among others.

Key Findings from the study suggest North America is expected to command the market over the forecast years. APAC is presumed to be the fastest-growing market, developing at a CAGR of more than 65% over the forecast period. The artificial intelligence market is presumed to develop at a CAGR of over 55.9% from 2018 to 2026. The high implementation of artificial intelligence in several end-user verticals including, retail, automotive and healthcare is projected to boost the growth of the market over the forecast period. Several companies are making considerable investments to integrate artificial intelligence competencies into their portfolio of products. For instance, in 2016, SK Telecom and Intel Corporation signed an agreement for the development of the artificial intelligence-based vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology as well as video recognition.

For More Information About Artificial Intelligence Market @ https://www.polarismarketresearch.com/industry-analysis/artificial-intelligence-market/request-for-customization
blockchain

Blockchain and its Impact on Business Operations

When one thinks of blockchain, one thinks of cryptocurrency, but even though much of this article is dedicated to the use of cryptocurrency, the truth is that more can be done with blockchain technology. This is because blockchain technology allows people from all over the world to create a transaction on a computer system. This transaction is secure (cannot be tampered with), it is dated, and it can be signed in many secure ways.

In short, if you wished, you could conduct a large digital Mexican wave around the world, and not only would the entire process be secure and efficient, it would also be traceable and wouldn’t rely on a central authority or third party to action.

The Omise Story

Omise is a company the operates a payment gateway for Thailand, Japan and Singapore. Rather than moving money from one country to another, convert it and so forth, they created their own coin OMISEGO, which they can quickly transfer anywhere. It can be deposited with an Omise office in another country. To help keep the price of their coin from fluctuating too much, they only conduct inter-office transfers as a way of getting money from one country to another. This is far faster and cheaper than using an Automated Clearing House, and far cheaper than using wire transfers.

But, what about the problem that each transaction creates a little more OMISGO coin? The answer for them was simple. They released the coin onto the general market, which gave it a market price, which therefore solved the “bit-extra” problem and introduced the problem that transactions now had to happen quickly for fear of sharp rises and falls in the coin’s price, which pushed up the potential transaction fee. However, the increase was marginal, and it was still cheaper than wire transfer and is still almost as fast.

Can the Omise Story Transfer Over?

Well, it certainly transfers to other payment gateways, and even modern US banks have stated their intentions to create their own cryptocurrency so they may move money within their own branches more easily. They would maintain full control of the currency, including its mining, which means that theft is more difficult and price fluctuations are not a problem.

Still, if it is to be applied to business operations, it needs to somehow improve efficiency, otherwise it is just another path to the same objective. If your business has an international element, then there is a chance that blockchain technology, specifically cryptocurrency, will help you. Otherwise, cryptocurrency needs to evolve and be retooled before it can do things like pay separate departments on demand more efficiently than the methods you are using right now.

What About Automated Clearing Houses?

ACH is hardly in its death throes since despite online transfers being as common as salt in the ocean, companies are still wrapping themselves in the warm blanket that is ACH, so what are their arguments against blockchain?

Argument – Costs pretty-much the same for each transaction.

Counter – Yes, on a per-transaction basis, but you receive your money up to 24 hours quicker with cryptocurrency.

Argument – We conduct thousands of transactions per day that only a clearing house could handle.

Counter – Dealing with fiat money yes, but transacting thousands of blockchain transactions per day can be done in house with almost no security risks.

The truth is that there are many ways that blockchain technology can replace Automated Clearing Houses, especially in terms of speed, security and traceability. But, ACH is trusted, tried and proven, whereas blockchain is still too new for most companies to trust.

The Demand for More Transparency

Let’s say there is a new law where every company had to track every supplier from its source. Every screw and every wire from every phone ever made, and so forth. A similar thing already happens with products labeled “Organic” in stores. Such a law would cost most primary and secondary industries a fortune, but the costs could be reduced in such an event with blockchain.

They could use blockchain to track transactions from start to finish. That way, every product being sold could have its own history that is stored in digital form. If required, an authority figure could back track every single element within a product, from where the coffee beans were bought to where the glue was manufactured for the label. Plus, the system could be set up so that each supplier need not consult a central authority to execute transactions, and each transaction would be protected with encrypted data. It would be difficult for a single entity to disrupt the history of transactions, which on its own will make the transactions a lot more secure.

Supply Chain Tracking

Using the same method as above, a company could track its supply chain, which is more important in the food industry than anywhere else. Walmart is unable to trust the record-keeping of companies in China, so it is using blockchain to track the supply of pork. Record-keeping transactions are marked at intervals so that Wal-Mart can see if a piece of pork sat in a warehouse for six months before being processed. The record-keeping process happens with regards to where the meat comes from, is slaughtered, processed, and stored, and this information is then used by the company in the US to create its sell-by-date.

Conclusion – A Tool is Only as Good as Its Use

A paintbrush in the hands of a novice is no more useful than a shotgun in the hands of a kangaroo. The intrinsic benefit of blockchain, as described in the introduction, is very powerful, but businesses are having a hard time integrating it into their companies. There are plenty who claim they have tried, such as Tyson, Nestle, Unilever and Dole, but they are more like nervous children dipping their toes in the shallow end of the pool.

Blockchain will benefit those who wish to transact payments domestically and overseas, and those who wish to track a process, a supply chain, and/or who just wish to be more transparent about their business operations. However, it is only the really competitive industries like the financial and food industries that are worth the added benefits of blockchain for the slight edge that blockchain technology gives them over their competitors.

_________________________________________________________________

Ava Williams is a Resumeble editor and a career expert from Vancouver. She finds her inspiration in blogging and career courses. Meet her on Twitter and LinkedIn

breakbulk europe

Breakbulk Europe to Return to Bremen in 2021

Breakbulk Europe, the world’s largest event for the project cargo and breakbulk industry, will return to Bremen, Germany, for the fourth consecutive year in 2021 at Messe Bremen from 18-20 May.

“It’s a great pleasure to be returning to Bremen in 2021, a city that has gone above and beyond to welcome breakbulk and project cargo professionals from more than 3800 companies,” Nick Davison, Portfolio Director for Breakbulk and CWEIME events, Hyve Group (formerly ITE Group) said. “The city of Bremen has proved to be a good fit for the Breakbulk attendees with its unique blend of historical charm, modern amenities, maritime environment and visitor affordability.”

Breakbulk Europe has grown significantly since the move to Bremen in 2018, and with over 120 countries represented, its reach embraces the world. Exhibitors at the 2019 event overwhelmingly demonstrated their satisfaction with Breakbulk Europe, Messe Bremen and the city itself, by rebooking 89 percent of exhibition space for 2020 by the end of the show. Along with many repeat exhibitors, the 2020 edition will feature 70 new companies, such as Sarens, CEVA Logistics, DP World, and Airbus, who has chosen Breakbulk Europe to promote their Beluga XL aircraft.

“We are committed to bringing a world-class event to this industry that is critical to the world’s economy,” Davison said. “As we move further into this decade, we will consider alternate locations for 2022 and beyond to deliver new markets and fresh thinking, but for now, Bremen is the right choice and we would not hesitate to return in the future.”

The 2021 announcement comes three months before the opening of Breakbulk Europe 2020, and already the indicators point to another success. Online registration is tracking 13 percent ahead compared to this time last year. A strong lineup of partnerships has been secured, including companies for each of the three content areas: Masters Arena by Aurelis Real Estate Service, Main Stage by Port of Gdańsk and Tech & Innovation Hub by Erhardt. New to the 2020 experience will be a pair of professional workshops focused on risk management and chartering essentials, Education Day for local students and those new or looking to enter the industry, and the first Europe-based Women in Breakbulk breakfast, part of Breakbulk’s global networking platform for female professionals.

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 Middle East in Dubai, 25-26 Feb. 2020, Breakbulk Asia in Shanghai, 18-19 March 2020 and Breakbulk Americas in Houston, 29 Sept.-1 Oct. 2020.

____________________________________________________________

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

slavery

“Free” Trade and Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

It’s more common than you might think. Seeking a means to provide for themselves and their families, millions of people routinely put their fate in the hands of brokers who promise factory, fishing, farming, hospitality or healthcare jobs overseas. They leave their country, greeted in a strange land not by honest employers but by traffickers. They are now bonded laborers who are told they must work to pay off their debt under threat of violence. Sometimes that “work” is commercial sex. Against their will, by force, fraud or coercion, they have become slaves.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million men, women and children are victims of forced labor at any point in time. Although a person does not need to be physically transported to be subject to slavery, 29 percent of victims end up in forced labor after moving across international borders.

$150 Billion in Illicit Profits – Every Year

In small numbers, we should be concerned. But this is no small problem. According to the Alliance to End Slavery and Human Trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, generating an estimated $150 billion in illicit profits annually.

In the United States, January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To recognize the 20th anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), the White House held a Summit on Human Trafficking on January 31.

The summit culminated in the signing of an executive order to improve prevention, increase prosecutions, and strengthen protections for victims in the United States, recognizing that “millions of individuals are trafficked around the world each year — including into…the United States.”

To combat it requires a comprehensive government effort involving labor and criminal enforcement, public services to aid victims, counter-trafficking policies and programming in overseas assistance, intelligence and diplomatic coordination – and trade policy.

Human Trafficking Across Borders Stat

Trade Policy and Trafficking

As far back as the Tariff Act of 1930, the United States prohibits the importation of foreign goods made by means of slave labor. But more recently, Congress has debated whether the United States should grant trading privileges to governments that do not respect human rights or fail to combat trafficking. That question featured in the annual debate over whether to grant “most favored nation” trading status to China before it entered the WTO. It arose again when some Members of Congress questioned whether Malaysia should be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

In January 2018, Senators Menendez and Portman introduced the Anti-Trafficking Act to suspend countries from U.S. trade preference programs for one year for failing to address trafficking.

The U.S. State Department spearheads an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to assess the extent to which our and other governments are making efforts to meet minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking. On that basis, countries are placed into one of three tiers or on a watch list. “Tier 1” countries are deemed compliant with minimum standards under TVPA for making “serious and sustained efforts” to eliminate human trafficking.

On the other end of the spectrum, governments on “Tier 3” do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. A country in Tier 3 may be restricted from receiving certain U.S. foreign aid, though the president may issue a partial or full waiver, particularly if withholding such assistance would cause adverse effects to vulnerable populations. The concept of withholding benefits to Tier 3 countries has also been applied to trade.

A “Principal” Trade Negotiating Objective

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 as amended (the legislation that gives the executive branch its trade negotiating mandate and authority) added a principal trade negotiating objective on human rights. The expedited voting procedures afforded to trade deals under the Act can be conditioned on progress toward achieving this objective.

Principal negotiating objective smaller font

More powerful a lever, the Act explicitly prohibits applying so-called “fast track” voting on trade agreements with countries ranked on Tier 3 of the TIP Report.

Tier 3 exception smaller font

However, the Act was amended to allow the President to submit a waiver to Congress. The waiver is not meant to rest its case on new, untested commitments. Rather, it should describe “concrete steps” that country has taken to implement recommendations in the TIP report and should include supporting documentation. To date, no country has been denied a trade deal on this basis.

Free Trade Begins with Free

Trafficking in humans is an abomination and the worst form of illicit trade. Some policymakers believe that trading with the United States is a powerful incentive to government action and is therefore an effective tool to deploy as a punishment or carrot to improve human rights. Others argue that engagement in trade opportunities should not be withheld, lest it hold back economic progress in places and for people who need it the most.

Human rights as customary international law came into being and “grew up” alongside the international trade regime after WWII. The primacy of human rights over trade liberalization obligations is consistent with trade law itself, which explicitly provides exceptions where necessary to protect human life.

Wherever the debate comes out on how to use trade agreements and policies to promote human rights, we can all agree that free trade begins with free. The human right to be free will always come prior to free trade.

Dive Deeper: Trafficking in Persons Report 2019

________________________________________________________________

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

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

Businesses Must Adjust To Climate Change; 5 Ways Toward Sustainability

As climate change causes worldwide concern and prompts calls for governmental action, consumers are putting the onus on businesses to step up their sustainability standards and practices.

A Nielsen survey, for example, showed that 81 percent of global consumers feel companies should help improve the environment. And with governments across the globe struggling to reach an international consensus on climate change, close observers of business and the environment, along with a high number of CEOs, agree: Private industry should take the lead in driving sustainability.

“Some forward-looking companies are seeing it’s an issue they can no longer ignore, morally and economically, and that you can go green and succeed in business,” says Hitendra Chaturvedi (www.hitendrachaturvedi.com), a professor at the Supply Chain Department of W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and expert on global supply chain sustainability and strategy.

“Business strategies must include sustainability in their core beliefs and practices. Part of the problem is that they are missing the simple, sensible ways that can drive sustainability and bring a return on investment at the same time.”

Chaturvedi suggests the following ways businesses can exercise sustainability practices to help fight climate change and connect with consumers:

Find the facts. “When a package gets delivered to you by an online commerce company, most people see the packaging as mainly contributing to the pollution, but that is not the case,” Chaturvedi says. “The packaging contributes less than 5%, but the main culprit is the returned/defective item which accounts for close to 50% of the pollution because it is not properly disposed of. I call it sensible sustainability. Identify and focus on low-hanging fruits.”

Seek education. “Finding the facts brings an important issue – education of consumers,” Chaturvedi says. “I see too many data points floating around that are put forth to create hysteria and are flat-out wrong, causing well-intentioned people to be waylaid in unproductive directions. Too many times this causes even a well-wisher of the environment to lose interest. We need a proper way to educate consumers about what is real and what is fake news.”

Implement business model changes. “Look at your business model holistically,” Chaturvedi says. “I propose a 5R model that simply, sensibly, and holistically integrates forward and reverses supply chain within any organization to ensure reduction in waste – and without sacrificing profits or competitiveness.”

Embrace technology. “It will lead to quick solutions to many vexing sustainability problems,” Chaturvedi says. “For example, advancement in technology has given us economically viable micro-factories to processing plastic waste, something that was not possible a few years ago. Now we can package it into a business model and scale it. Technologies like blockchain and dendrites will have far-reaching effects on sustainability as they will drive tracking and accountability.”

Find sensible solutions. “Sustainability needs sensible solutions, not a panacea, not motherhood and apple pie solutions,” Chaturvedi says. “We need solutions that are practical and profitable. We see many solutions that promise to solve the world’s pollution problem but are either one-off, or do not make money or both. We need businesses to step in and partner with scientists, universities, and government so a practical/viable perspective can be applied to sustainability solutions. A business will bring that perspective along with what can scale and what can not.”

“Businesses can see significant benefits, both economically and socially, from incorporating sustainable practices,” Chaturvedi says. “Some of the steps you incorporate can seem small at first, but day by day those efforts will produce great results.”

___________________________________________________________________

Hitendra Chaturvedi spent over 30 years in progressive technology leadership positions with Microsoft, Newgistics, E&Y e-Business and A.T. Kearney. Chaturvedi also built a $100 million software company in India, GreenDust, where he implemented proprietary reverse logistics software at Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart), Samsung, Panasonic and Whirlpool. A computer engineer with a master’s degree from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University, Chaturvedi has been widely covered in the media and is a subject matter expert on global supply chain strategy, sustainability in supply chain, reverse logistics, ecommerce, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Now a professor at Arizona State University, Chaturvedi has been a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University, University of Texas-Dallas, Penn State and Purdue.