Tag Archive: 3PL

What do UPS, Shamrock Foods, Amazon & a 3PL Have in Common?

March 14th, 2019

In touring multiple facilities, ranging from package shipments to cold storage food service delivery to the e-commerce behemoth to 3PL organizations, it despite the conversations that take place about labor costs and other daily concerns, the #1 concern across the board is transportation costs. The numbers support this sentiment. According to CSCMP, transportation costs are 65% of total logistics spend.

Logically, it also makes good sense. No matter your business, materials, parts sub-assemblies and/or products need to arrive at your facility. Often, especially in industries such as aerospace, the parts make multiple trips around the area (unless you are unlucky enough to require sourcing outside of your local area) for outside processing services such as anodizing and painting. Lastly, every work-in-process part or finished good must go to the next stop along the way to the customer such as a final assembly customer, your distribution center, your customer’s distribution center or the end customer. That makes for quite a lot of transportation, often involving multiple modes of transport from air freight to ocean freight to rail to trucking.

Given these alarming statistics about transportation costs, the question becomes: What can we do to proactively manage these costs as well as reduce the impact on the environment? After listening to several experts on these tours and experts from Georgia Tech, APICS (learn more about the critical importance of logistics in our APICS-IE CLTD, certified in logistics, transportation and distribution certificate program) and CSCMP SoCal (at the state of the industry event), a few ideas emerged.

  1. Collaborate with strange bedfellows:As recently published in an I’ve Been Thinking article, collaborating with strange bedfellows can achieve 1+1+1 = 25 minimally. In terms of transportation, there is no doubt maximizing the space used in your truck, container or plane is vital. Why not collaborate with another business to increase your utilization?
  2. Take the holistic or systems view: It is quite challenging to see the forest for the trees as the old slogan goes. We have all been there! I have worked with clients for extended periods of time and found myself with this same issue.  So, I have to deliberately shake it up to maintain the systems or bird’s-eye view. For example, don’t worry about saving a few pennies on a non-essential element of your transportation infrastructure when you are missing the key point that your mix of modes of operation or something like that is costing you millions.
  1. Utilize technology that focuses on the critical transportation factors: In every case (at every tour, event and in every conversation), leveraging technology where it makes sense came up. Certainly, artificial intelligence is the new craze since it has the potential to transform entire industries including logistics. However, robotics are being considered even in industries such as 3PL where they never were previously due to the nature of managing different customers and products. Of course, IoT is prevalent in the world of logistics and transportation as well as topics such as alternative fuels and automation. And what about the basics of a solid ERP system and TMS (transportation management system)? Don’t panic over the horror stories. Contact us if you want to overcome them.
  1. Be customer friendly:Interesting how often being customer friendly arises, no matter the industry or size company (small family owned to private equity backed to large complex organizations).  With rising truck rates and a shortage of drivers, if you aren’t a preferred shipper, you might just be out of luck no matter how much you spend. What does it take to be a preferred shipper? It depends on your business, carriers, locations and more. However, it starts by thinking about what is important to your carrier (not you). Are they looking for flexibility? A quick turnaround time? Fast payment? Good treatment for their drivers?

Since transportation costs are, at minimum, 65% of your total logistics spend, it requires further thought. With the vast amount of technology options available, the best approach is to start with your foundation (your ERP system) and ensure it is stable. Once you have a scalable base, find the ‘right’ technology for your situation to maximize the value of your logistics infrastructure. However, remember the 80/20 goes back to people. What are you doing to develop strategic partnerships and to ensure you are customer friendly and a preferred shipper? Given the impact, don’t leave this to chance or make assumptions. We all like to think we are preferred but what can we do to take it an extra step further?

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Ideas to Fill Peak Capacity Periods

February 27th, 2019

As we toured several e-commerce facilities such as UPS and Amazon, it became obvious that the sheer volume during peak season presents a huge dilemma. For example, UPS goes from 250-300 containers per night to 450 during peak season. Now that is quite a surge! Amazon has similar surges and stated facts such as 68 million orders on Cyber Monday.

Peak season occurs in other industries, as well. For example, building products companies tend to have a summer season since there are more issues to navigate in winter conditions. Since working with a large number of these companies, we’ve seen it range from a low of around 10-20% surge to almost 70% of the year’s volume sold during the summer. That can definitely be a challenge to navigate!

In this case, we are talking about labor but the same issues relate to machine capacity, storage capacity, transportation capacity and many others. We find that this area alone can achieve a significant return on investment as companies better align demand with supply. In fact, in 80% of our clients, these types of programs do the best job of achieving bold customer promises and profits simultaneously.

We have found several ideas to fill peak capacity periods. Of course, there is no one formula for success.  Each company has unique circumstances that require different solutions. However, a few ways to meet peak capacity include:

  1.  Hiring temporary workers for the peak season – of course, this strategy sounds like an easy win. If only it were that easy! UPS starts hiring seasonal workers prior to the holiday season in order to provide training. In 2018, they expected to bring on 100,000 seasonal workers. Over the last 3 years, 35% were hired into a full-time role after the peak season, creating an interesting enticement. Since every e-commerce related business needs seasonal workers, you need to provide some sort of benefit or enticement to fill these positions.
  1.  Overtime – of course, this is commonly used throughout manufacturing and logistics organizations. We’ve seen many aerospace firms running at high rates of overtime for many months, even years, in a row. It can be a tricky issue as employees become accustomed to higher paychecks, and the costs add up. On the other hand, people get tired and can get less productive and want a break. Counter-intuitively, it can also be the better financial decision given the learning curves associated with complex manufacturing roles. Of course, the answer is, “It depends”.
  1.  Hiring people with developmental disabilities – as our Inland Empire Economic Partnership leadership regional academy toured Goodwill and we have worked with clients such as Oparc, we have learned that people with development disabilities can be an ideal solution to fill peak capacity.  Thanks to Oparc for their research statistics: 1 in 7 people have intellectual or developmental disability, yet, only 19% participate in the labor force, leaving a significant opportunity to supplement the labor force. Studies show that these folks rate higher in reliability, productivity and loyalty. For example, a DuPont study showed that 90% of employees with Disabilities rated average or better on job performance. According to Walgreens, disabled employees had 40% lower accident rate, 67% lower medical treatment costs and 78% lower overall costs associated with accidents. And, Marriott shows a 6% turnover rate vs. 52% overall. It is worth checking this option out! Please contact us for a referral.
  1.  Partnering with companies with counter cyclical peak seasons – again, have you thought about partnering with strange bedfellows? Why couldn’t an e-commerce company with a winter peak season collaborate with a company in the building products industry with a summer season? In a way, the 3PLs follow this model. Having counter cyclical clients is an important aspect of maintaining a strong workforce as a 3PL.
  1. Outsourcing – one of the advantages of outsourcing and overflow capacity is that you can use it when you need it. Of course, you’ll pay a premium but it can still provide maximum value in several cases and meet the peak season requirements.
  1. Leveraging your extended supply chain – you never know what collaboration might make sense with your suppliers, customers and other supply chain partners until you ask. Explore the possibilities.

One thing is definitely true. You will not succeed during peak season if you wait until it hits to address your capacity shortfalls. Be clear on your strategy and make sure to build it into your plans. It isn’t all about peak season. Perhaps off-peak is “the time” to upgrade your infrastructure such as your ERP system, your business processes and to explore your customer collaboration opportunities. If you’d like an expert to weigh in on your plans, contact us.

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Navigating the Global Supply Chain Starts with People

November 29th, 2016
global supply chain

Your supply chain is only as strong as your weakest link so you must develop your employees and find ways for them to work together more effectively.

At APICS Inland Empire’s recent executive panel and networking symposium on “Navigating the Global Supply Chain”, we had some intriguing discussions on the hot topics in global supply chains. Wouldn’t you know, even with a complex, technical topic like this one, people are #1!

Start with your employees. As I said while leading a webinar on “Onshoring Profits” earlier today, I’ve never seen “happy customers” with “unhappy employees”. Have you? Thus, clearly starting there is cornerstone in navigating the supply chain.

However, this step is not enough. We must expand to collaborating with your supply chain partners. Your supply chain is only as strong as your weakest link. Thus, it is worthwhile to collaborate, share information and find ways to elevate your supply chain. Again, this starts with people. Do they know how to talk with one another? Do they understand cultural norms? How about language barriers? Or, let’s start simple — do we pick up the phone? I hope so!

The key to success of any person, department, company or extended supply chain goes back to people. For example, the best ideas die if not communicated effectively. The best suppliers will not work with people unwilling to think win-win and collaborate for success. Customers will not think about what would help your success if you don’t tell them about your business objectives — and ask how you can help them achieve theirs. Your transportation partners might not prioritize your shipment when natural disasters occur. Is your 3PL in sync with you? They are an interface with your customer. Remember, no matter the topic, consider people your #1 asset.

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