2017 Parcel Express Roundtable: Paying for peak performance

It can be hard to believe that very much happens in a year, but that theory is put to the test when it comes to the parcel express market.

In fact, over the past 12 months we’ve seen major changes in pricing from the parcel duopoly of FedEx and UPS; the accelerated emergence of regional parcel players; and don’t forget we’re all watching the increasing power and reach of e-commerce giant Amazon as it grows its own delivery capabilities globally.

These developments require parcel shippers to do whatever it takes to stay on top of their parcel game from both a financial and operational perspective. To help them along, Logistics Management has gathered Jerry Hempstead, president of Hempstead Consulting, a parcel advisory firm; David Ross, transportation and logistics director at investment firm Stifel; and Rob Martinez, president and CEO at Shipware, an audit and parcel consulting services company.

Over the next few pages, our experts offer their insight into what’s driving parcel market trends and offers some practical advice for how shippers need to re-adjust to ever-changing market conditions.

Logistics Management (LM): How would you describe today’s parcel marketplace?

Jerry Hempstead: All of the parcel carriers are doing well in volume and earnings—even the USPS is making money if you back out the Congressional mandates. And it’s clear that e-commerce is driving the volumes. To top it off, service levels this year are at record levels and are predictable and consistent.

My observation is that there’s no statistical difference between the service performance offered by FedEx and UPS across a year’s worth of activity, although FedEx offers a faster delivery on ground to about 25% more city pairs than UPS. This pressure on speeding up the promise and refining the networks to make the magic happen will only improve the consumer experience in parcel services.

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How IoT logistics will revolutionize supply chain management

As with many other areas of the economy, the digital revolution is having a profound effect on delivery logistics.

The combination of mobile computing, analytics, and cloud services, all of which are fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT), is changing how delivery and fulfillment companies are conducting their operations.

One of the most popular methods for fulfilling deliveries today is through third-party logistics, which involves any company that provides outsourced services to move products and resources from one area to another. Third-party logistics, or 3PL, can be one service, such as transportation or a warehouse, or an entire system that maintains the whole supply chain.

But the IoT is going to change how this process operates. Below, we’ve outlined the impact of IoT on supply chain, and how IoT management will transform inventory, logistics, and more.

Internet of Things Supply Chain Management

One of the biggest trends poised to upend supply chain management is asset tracking, which gives companies a way to totally overhaul their supply chain and logistics operations by giving them the tools to make better decisions and save time and money. Delivery company DHL and tech giant Cisco estimated in 2015 that IoT technologies such as asset tracking solutions could have an impact of more than $1.9 trillion in the supply chain and logistics sector.

And this transformation is already underway. A recent survey by GT Nexus and Capgemini found that 70% of retail and manufacturing companies have already started a digital transformation project in their supply chain and logistics operations.

Asset tracking is not new by any means. Freight and shipping companies have used barcode scanners to track and manage their inventory. But new developments are making these scanners obsolete, as they can only collect data on broad types of items, rather than the location or condition of specific items. Newer asset tracking solutions (which we’ll get into shortly in the next section) offer much more vital and usable data, especially when paired with other IoT technologies.

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How Big Data And Analytics Are Transforming Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management is a field where Big Data and analytics have obvious applications. Until recently, however, businesses have been less quick to implement big data analytics in supply chain management than in other areas of operation such as marketing or manufacturing.

Of course supply chains have for a long time now been driven by statistics and quantifiable performance indicators. But the sort of analytics which are really revolutionizing industry today – real time analytics of huge, rapidly growing and very messy unstructured datasets – were largely absent.

This was clearly a situation that couldn’t last. Many factors can clearly impact on supply chain management – from weather to the condition of vehicles and machinery, and so recently executives in the field have thought long and hard about how this could be harnessed to drive efficiencies.

In 2013 the Journal of Business Logistics published a white paper calling for “crucial” research into the possible applications of Big Data within supply chain management. Since then, significant steps have been taken, and it now appears many of the concepts are being embraced wholeheartedly.

Applications for analysis of unstructured data has already been found in inventory management, forecasting, and transportation logistics. In warehouses, digital cameras are routinely used to monitor stock levels and the messy, unstructured data provides alerts when restocking is needed.

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NFL Draft Lessons for Supply Chain Managers

Just like with successful football game play, having a well-developed modal selection strategy helps organizations defend against capacity concerns and score points for their bottom line by lowering transportation costs.

Every year, the NFL draft provides coaches an opportunity to re-evaluate their teams and supplement their current roster with new players to fill skill or position gaps and prepare their franchise for the future.

In a similar way, supply chain managers have the opportunity, on an ongoing basis, to review their transportation portfolio to ensure they have the right modes and processes in play to not only address the demands and the environment of today, but to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Read on to learn three important lessons supply chain leaders can learn from this year’s NFL Draft and how it applies to calling winning plays for their organization’s transportation network.

The Challenge for Supply Chain Managers

Much like NFL coaches, supply chain managers find themselves having to balance short and long term demands. Managing the demand between these two competing forces is fueled by:

  1. Ongoing disruptions: Whether on the football field or in the supply chain, disruptions can and will occur. It can be easy when everything goes according to plan, but when volatility and the unexpected cause disruption (and they always do) supply chain managers have to have a backup plan.
  2. Short-term cost-savings still primary focus: Organizations are still pressing supply chain managers to deliver more value and additional cost savings. According to a survey completed by Georgia College and the University of Tennessee, 36.7% of shippers listed reducing costs as their first priority in 2015, up from 32.2% in 2016.

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Beware the ‘black swans’ in your supply chain

Enterprises know that merely having a supply chain involves a certain amount of risk, but few do enough to protect against the one-off, extreme incidents that can disrupt them.

That’s according to Yossi Sheffi, an MIT professor who is director of its Center for Transportation & Logistics.

Such events — sometimes referred to as “black swans” — include unanticipated catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, the BP Horizon oil rig explosion, the 9/11 terrorist attack, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and even the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

While most risk-planning processes focus on events that happen relatively often, such as routine weather emergencies, they often ignore the extreme ones that are considered too unlikely to worry about, Sheffi argues.

While such events are unlikely, the probability that they’ll happen isn’t zero — as history has proven again and again.

“Black swans are never expected,” Sheffi said in an interview. “There are many examples of low-probability, high-impact disruptions. People don’t believe they can happen, but they do — and there will be more.”

Vendors such as Resilinc and Elementum along with IBM, SAP and Cisco are increasingly coming out with software to help companies protect themselves, he noted.

Read more at Beware the ‘black swans’ in your supply chain

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