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Category Archives: Ocean Freight

Kuehne + Nagel Deploys Blockchain Technology for VGM Portal and Container Weighing Requirements

Kuehne + Nagel for the first time leverages the benefits of blockchain technology in a large scale operational environment with 800,000 transactions per month while upgrading its well-established Verified Gross Mass (VGM) Portal.

The enhanced solution provides shippers with new features that improve the ease of doing business as well as the degree of transparency on the VGM status of all customer shipments and the history of persisted information.

All information submitted via the portal is stored on-chain, which allows for using native blockchain interfaces for data exchange with third parties, removing the need for additional off-chain communication channels.

Kuehne + Nagel designed the solution to strictly fulfil industry requirements of confidentiality and data privacy, adding to blockchain’s natural features of immutability and traceability.

Martin Kolbe, Chief Information Officer Kuehne + Nagel International AG said:

“The list of promises related to the use of blockchain in the logistics industry is long, but actual real-world applications are hard to find. The Kuehne + Nagel VGM Portal solution jointly developed by our seafreight experts and our IT team allows us to get a true hands-on experience with blockchain technology in an on-premise production environment and with a high number of transactions. Our customers benefit from a tamper-proof solution for information exchange with third parties with improved efficiency and higher transparency. Kuehne + Nagel engages in a number of blockchain projects with customers, suppliers and governmental bodies addressing industry challenges in various domains, as the full potential of blockchain can only be exploited when collaboratively working together with business partners. Our involvement in a consortium engaged in the digitalisation of bill of ladings for seafreight is the best example. Operating the VGM Portal on blockchain in an operational high volume environment delivers valuable learnings and expertise for the development of joint blockchain applications.”

The first version of the Kuehne + Nagel VGM Portal went live in 2016 to give shippers a convenient solution for filing their VGM declarations as being required for seafreight shipments in consequence of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

Now, the use of blockchain technology further facilitates data exchange between the different partners.

FreightWaves reported that the International Maritime Organisation, the main regulatory body for shipping, introduced VGM just over two years ago. The rule requires that the weight of loaded containers must be verified before being placed on a ship.

It was put into effect after several marine accidents were believed to have stemmed from mislabeled container weights and cargo shifting during voyages.

In 2013, the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines-owned MOL Comfort suffered a crack that eventually led to a fire and the ship’s sinking, along with the loss of over 4,000 containers. Container weights were said to have been a factor in the casualty.

Related: How Will Blockchain Ledger Technology Impact Shippers?

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Why Blockchain will Create Extreme Supply Chain Management Optimization
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Stop Manually Auditing Your Transportation Freight Bills

Auditing freight bills

Freight pay and audit can be a very tedious and expensive function.

Money is wasted when companies pay outside firms by the invoice while the company may still be left dealing with difficult exceptions directly with the carrier.

With the help of technology, the entire process can be streamlined and automated.

This makes auditing invoices and handling exceptions highly efficient.

Automation means never accidentally overpaying for freight

Did you know that 15% of carrier invoices are incorrect and, more often than not, those erroneous bills are not in the shipper’s favor?

Manually using carriers’ paper or email invoices to validate billed amounts can result in errors or even approvals without proper research.

Overcharges can occur when all invoices are generically approved for remittance simply because the effort involved to research discrepancies is too time-consuming.

Automation makes auditing faster

By integrating carrier invoices directly with a TMS, carrier bills can be automatically audited against the approved rate quote for each shipment.

If an invoice doesn’t match the agreed upon rate or falls outside an acceptable threshold, a rate exception claim can be created. Rate exception claims should include details of the actual discrepancy to make it easy to dispute.

Then, the ERP system can be automatically updated with the new invoice information and payments can be made with confidence.

When manual freight pay and audit functions are replaced with automatic ones, shippers only spend time looking at the invoices that are incorrect and always know where the discrepancies lay for easy disputing.

Automation helps to better manage cash flow

Paying invoices too early can reduce cash flow for the company. Kuebix keeps track of the payment terms with carriers and helps ERP systems pay carrier invoices on time, ensuring that invoices are not paid too early.

The Kuebix platform automatically alerts the user which invoices to process for payment and on what date, ensuring cash-flow is managed correctly.

Automation provides more accurate financials

With technology, shippers have the ability to add important GL codes to the invoice so that their accounting teams can properly classify the financial information for every line item on every shipment.

Enabling the smooth exchange of all associated financial data helps the company keep track of specific expenses by various product lines and business functions. By leveraging automation technology, opportunities to squeeze savings from shipping operations can be identified and implemented as well.

Kuebix TMS offers out-of-the-box solutions to automate Freight Pay and Audit functions. This means that detailed rate exceptions can be viewed in one place instead of painstakingly researching discrepancies on each mismatching invoice.

By collaborating with Kuebix’s experienced team of implementation experts, a customized carrier invoice auditing integration can be created to fit any company’s specific needs.

Related Article: The Power of Supply Chain Collaboration & Visibility

The Power of Supply Chain Collaboration & Visibility

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The Complete Buyer’s Guide to Transportation Management Systems
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Effectively Managing Big Data in Your Supply Chain
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US GDP Q2 Growth Highest in Almost 4 Years

July 27, 2018 · By Joana Taborda

Personal consumption expenditure (PCE) contributed 2.69 percentage points to growth (0.36 percentage points in the first quarter) and rose 4 percent (0.5 percent in the first quarter).

Spending of durable goods rebounded (9.3 percent compared to -2 percent) and rose faster for nondurable goods (4.2 percent compared to 0.1 percent) and services (3.1 percent compared to 1 percent).

Fixed investment added 0.94 percentage points to growth (1.34 percentage points in the first quarter) and increased 5.4 percent (8 percent in the first quarter).

Investment rose less for equipment (3.9 percent compared to 8.5 percent), intellectual property products (8.2 percent compared to 14.1 percent) and structures (13.3 percent compared to 13.9 percent) and continued to fall for residential (-1.1 percent compared to a -3.4 percent).

The contribution from private inventories was negative (-1 percent), compared to +0.27 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, exports jumped 9.3 percent (3.6 percent in the previous quarter) and imports rose at a much slower pace (0.5 percent compared to 3 percent). As a result, the impact from trade was 1.06 percent, much better than -0.02 percent in the first quarter and the highest contribution since the last three months of 2013.

Government spending and investment added 0.37 percentage points to growth, slightly higher than 0.27 percentage points in the first quarter. It increased 2.1 percent, above 1.5 percent in the previous quarter.

GDP growth figures for the previous years were revised due to comprehensive updates of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs), which are carried out about every five years.

The updates incorporate newly available and more comprehensive source data, as well as improved estimation methodologies. The GDP growth for 2017 was revised slightly lower to 2.2 percent from 2.3 percent.

Related: Tariffs Present Different Supply Chain Challenges for Shippers

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Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth

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Tariffs Present Different Supply Chain Challenges for Shippers

Well, that time is now officially here, with the White House saying it’s moving forward with a 25% tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China, as well as focusing on: protecting domestic property and intellectual property; stopping noneconomic transfers of industrially significant technology and intellectual property to China; and enhancing access to the Chinese market.

So instead of the “what if” scenarios that had been floated and discussed, we are instead in a “what now” scenario. And, to be sure, that scenario is fairly open-ended at this point.

For nearly 18 months, or even longer, there have been steady gains in United States-bound imports from China, with much of it due to the pending, now actual, tariffs, which have been by viewed by many as protectionist measures.

What happens now remains to be seen on myriad fronts, but one thing for certain is that these new tariffs are not catching anyone by surprise, as the very real possibility of them taking effect has been really going back to early March when the White House first floated the possibility.

Much of what is driving the White House’s tariff endgame is the need to compete on a global basis, which requires the U.S. being able to grow its global exports, according to Walter Kemmsies, Managing Director, Economist and Chief Strategist for JLL’s U.S. Ports, Airports, and Global Infrastructure Group.

“It is important, as the U.S. [collectively] is not the youngest or most vibrant consumer group in the world,” Kemmsies said.

“While there are a lot of millennials out there, it is going to be a while before they become ‘hardcore’ consumers like their parents are. If you are really going to grow, you want to tie your economy to where the consumers are spending and the consumer is global and spending on things like food, where we are really well positioned, clothing, automobiles, and appliances. We are also the world’s most efficient plastics producer….we need to leave the markets open for that and also to compete on an equal basis. In the end, what the U.S. really is asking the world is to ‘let our companies compete with yours on an equal basis.’”

And in order for global shippers to weather whatever tariff storms that may be coming, taking a longer view of trade beyond just the U.S. and China is a good step to take.

That requires looking into setting up production and distribution operations in places like Vietnam and India, as well as parts of Africa, which Kemmsies said are emerging.

“If you are going to operate as a global company, you need to make your decisions that way, too,” he noted.

“When you look across certain products, you can see how bad some supply chains are actually managed if they are not. It makes no sense not to truly diversify globally. If you source stuff in one country and sell it in another, you are extremely vulnerable.”

What’s more, even if these tariffs do not lay out the possibility of a full-on trade war, Kemmsies said there is no benefit for shippers to be so concentrated on one country, even though China has the capacity and manpower to meet the needs of many shippers. But for products and designs that can change on the fly, he said China is not optimal, as it is more large scale-focused.

While Kemmsies stresses shippers look beyond China, Ben Hackett, founder of maritime shipping consultancy Hackett Associates, made the case that implementing tariffs will result in retaliation from major U.S. trading partners, calling it a “shoot yourself in the foot” strategy.

Panjiva research director Chris Rogers

“In a world with no President Trump and President Xi shouting at each other, we are feeling pretty optimistic about things”Chris Rogers, Research Director, Panjiva

“How is that good for America? If the steep tariffs are put into place expect higher producer costs and lower exports,” said Hackett. “Again, neither good for the American economy nor the consumer. Nothing is certain anymore in Washington, D.C.”

And Panjiva research director Chris Rogers noted that despite the back and forth between the U.S. and China regarding tariffs and related protectionist measures, things overall are in a pretty decent place, as it relates to global trade.

“Trade fundamentals remain solid,” explained Rogers.

“In a world with no President Trump and President Xi shouting at each other, we are feeling pretty optimistic about things. Consumer confidence and business confidence are down a little bit but still remain at high levels. Most products [categories] are seeing solid growth, but there remains an overhanging worry about tariffs finally arriving, with the ones for metals already intact. But once others kick in, there could be a sense of the wheels coming off the wagon.”

And he also noted that there has recently been a step back in shipments from China that is not directly related to tariffs on shipments from China being implemented but rather to concerns that tariffs ‘might’ be implemented.

“One could argue that the mixture of nervousness, coupled with sensible supply chain strategies, could lead to less growth,” he said.

“But things are a long ways from not growing as much as in the past, as opposed to [shipment levels] actually falling. It is possibly a sign of more to come, with signs of a summer slowdown, much like what has occurred over the past two years.”

It’s a brave new trade world now, and it looks like it will be quite the ride.

Related Article: Trade Relations are Building a Bigger Wall Between US & China

Trade Relations are Building a Bigger Wall Between US & China

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C.H. Robinson CEO John Wiehoff Talks Transportation Trends

April 27, 2018 · By 24/7 Staff ·
John Wiehoff, CEO of C.H. Robinson, is one of the keynote speakers for the Connections 2018 supply chain conference, which will take place June 25-27 at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

He recently spoke with SMC³, which has served as one of the 3PL’s long-time partners, about emerging technologies in the industry, unique supply chain opportunities, and how C.H. Robinson uses technology to optimize its business.

What are some of the major trends you’re currently seeing in the LTL marketplace?
Demand for LTL is higher than we’ve seen it in nearly 10 years. This shift is an especially significant change when paired with supply changes. Both manufacturing and e-commerce are extremely strong right now, and both have close ties to LTL.

Online orders are driving smaller shipments to the LTL space, not just in the final-mile area. Smaller orders are becoming more common for the middle mile – from one distribution center to another.

LTL capacity is tight because carriers have not added a significant amount of equipment to their fleets in recent years. But even if there was an influx of tractors, there aren’t enough drivers available.

Historically, the driver shortages that affected the truckload market remained mostly out of the LTL space, but even that is changing. Growth in other sectors that have a shared labor force with truck drivers means more LTL drivers are leaving for options that are more lucrative.

As LTL carriers look to be more productive, we are seeing them place a large emphasis on optimizing their networks. With the data, analytics, and tools like dimensionalizers available to them, LTL carriers are paying more attention to accepting the right freight in the right lanes at the right time. More isn’t absolutely better anymore.

How has the ELD mandate impacted the domestic transportation market?
Drivers are reaching their hours of service in shorter timeframes, especially given the tight capacity. Organized and efficient loading/unloading times will become even more important. Reducing driver wait time at either the origin or destination can have a significant impact in a driver’s hours of service.

Both carriers and shippers may rely more heavily on 3PLs. A 3PL can help identify and solve capacity shortages, handle potential rate increases and address other issues from the mandate.

John Wiehoff, CEO of C.H. Robinson

How does C.H. Robinson use new technology to optimize its business, and are there any emerging technologies that will be game changers for the supply chain industry?
We are using technology to reinvent what it means to be a leading 3PL for this industry, our customers, and carriers.

Our technology offering is at the center of what we do and is embedded in our services and solutions every day.

You can see the importance technology has within C.H. Robinson by the number of IT staff and investments we have made and continue to make – we’ve added more than 800 IT staff and invested over $1B in the last decade.

As our business grows – now to more than 120,000 customers who worked with us on more than 19 million global shipments last year – we increasingly rely on technology.

Technology backed by data is critical to the success of our business. As one of the largest 3PLs, we have arguably more first-party data than anyone else in the industry. But, that data doesn’t matter if we don’t use it to our and our customers’ (shippers and carriers) advantage.

That’s why we are continuing to invest in and build tools that leverage the amount of data we have available to us.

The Connections 2018 supply chain conference is perfectly positioned at the midpoint of the year, giving speakers a chance, to sum up, the first half of 2018. What themes have defined the first half of the year, and what will define the transportation market during the second half?
For the first half of the year, we saw efficiencies in utilizing capacity, as truckload utilization climbed to more than 95 percent, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. At the same time, new trucks increasingly entered the market to replace retiring trucks.

For the second half, these factors will combine for a focus on hyper-efficiency and the most effective use of capacity. We’ll be able to see if the strong truck sales of the first half of the year will add capacity or primarily serve as replacement capacity. We’ll also be able to put our finger on the real effects of ELD.

How can shippers and 3PLs better position themselves to take advantage of supply chain opportunities in the marketplace?
As supply chains grow in both size and complexity, transportation management technology will be an important way for 3PLs to help shippers gain a competitive advantage and exceed their customers’ expectations. That’s why we are invested in delivering and implementing flexible, efficient and integrated technology solutions that connect all aspects of the supply chain.

Read: Transportation Management Systems Market 2018

It is not so much what changes are coming to the industry; it’s more important to focus on what the innovative supply chain of the future will look like and recognize that it will take people, processes, and technology to bring positive change.

Digitalization of supply chains is our opportunity to continue bringing technology to our customers and their supply chains that make them smarter and more efficient. The technology we are able to bring today and into the future has to go beyond freight matching to encompass the complexities of today’s and tomorrow’s supply chains.

An algorithm can do amazing things, but when a truck gets delayed or a delivery window changes, people are still able to provide the most effective solution.

To hear more from John Wiehoff and other industry experts, sign up today for the three-day supply chain conference Connections 2018 to learn about emerging trends, current challenges and new innovations in the supply chain.

Register here by April 30 to take advantage of early-bird pricing.

Raise Your Supply Chain IQ
Connections 2018 | June 25 – 27 | The Greenbrier, WV

Why Attend Connections 2018

To REGISTER for SMC³’s Connections 2018, visit www.smc3connections.com

Related Article: SMC³ Announces Connections 2018 Speaker Lineup

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How to Build a Supply Chain Champion Following Chicago Cubs Theo Epstein’s 5R Strategy

On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs did the unthinkable:

They won the World Series after coming back from a 1-3 deficit to the Cleveland Indians.

For Cubs fans, the victory marked the end of a 108-year streak of competitive futility.

Although the Cubs game seven, extra-inning victory is inspirational, you may be wondering: “As a supply chain professional, why should I care?”

Answer: Because of Theo Epstein, the Cubs President of Baseball Operations, knows how to build a championship team, a task that is likely high on your to-do list.

Vitally, Epstein’s role in the Cubs turnaround wasn’t a fluke.

In 2004, Epstein, as Red Sox General Manager, helped Boston vanquish the Curse of the Bambino and end an 86-year title drought.

Deciphering how Theo Epstein took the Cubs, a perennial loser, to a World Series championship has been a hot topic in the sports world.

Based on our 20-plus years working with supply chain leaders, we argue that Theo Epstein’s job assembling a champion on the field is a model for the supply chain leader’s quest to build a winning supply chain.

Let’s take a closer look at how Epstein transformed the Cubs into champions.

His approach highlights five principles of supply chain design that we call the 5Rs (Figure 1). The 5Rs have enabled companies from Amazon to Zara to win on the world’s toughest playing field – today’s global marketplace.

Figure 1
The 5Rs of Supply Chain Excellence

Strategic Supply Chain Management: The Five Disciplines for Top Performance

Know the Rules and Break Them When Necessary

If you want to win on the baseball field – or in the marketplace – you need to know the rules of the game. The rules define not just your strategy and value-added capabilities, but also your team’s composition.

Rules, however, change and disrupt industries and dethrone champions. For proof, look no further than A&P, Compaq, and Pan Am. Thus, it’s not enough to know the rules; you also need to pay attention to how they are changing. Spotting inflection points before rivals – and responding effectively – can give you a competitive edge.

Andy Grove modeled this reality when he made the case for Intel to make the leap from RAM/DRAM to CPUs before the memory market crashed. Grove’s anticipation of a threat before it was widely discerned is a big reason you know the phrase “Intel Inside.”

Of course, sometimes the rules aren’t fair, which is a plus if they favor you and a travesty if they don’t. When you find your team disadvantaged, your job is to change the rules.

This is the scenario Billy Bean, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, faced in 2001. The A’s $40 million payroll couldn’t compete with the New York Yankees $115 million player budget. Not only did the Yankees beat the A’s in the divisional championship series but they signed the A’s Jason Giambi to a big-budget free agent contract.

To compete, Bean needed to build a different type of team. He stepped away from traditional approaches to player evaluation and embraced sabermetrics, a novel statistical approach that became known as “Moneyball.” His goal: Identify players undervalued by other teams. Bill Henry, the new owner of the Boston Red Sox, saw value in Bean’s approach and offered him the Sox’ GM job.

When Bean declined, Theo Epstein stepped in. He levered Boston’s big payroll with sabermetrics to assemble a team that won the World Series in 2004, followed by two more championships in 2007 and 2013.

Great companies do the same thing. They execute within the rules better than rivals, or they exploit opportunities to change the rules.

Search Amazon

Consider Amazon, the poster child for e-commerce. Launched in 1995 as the “Earth’s largest bookstore,” Amazon began life as a pure-play e-tailer, with no inventory or brick and mortar presence.

It acted as a broker, linking customers to publishers. Amazon went public in 1997 and immediately began to rewrite the rules of online retailing and expand its product line. At a time when other organizations were outsourcing fulfillment operations, Amazon invested in its own distribution network.

By 2016, Amazon operated 383 fulfillment centers worldwide, supporting sales of $136 billion. Amazon even began to build out an in-house network of trucks and planes to “own” the delivery experience all the way to the customer door.

Today, Amazon sports a market capitalization of $400 billion. Its allure is a willingness to push boundaries and redefines rules. Amazon made two-day “Prime” delivery an industry standard that customers were willing to subscribe to. Amazon also enabled eager consumers and intrigued investors to envision the day when drones, predictive shipping, and check-out free shopping will be common.

The result: Amazon is forecast to reach half a trillion in sales over the next decade. More amazing, Amazon achieved this unparalleled success without ever making a meaningful profit on operations. According to The Economist, 92% of Amazon’s value is due to profits that won’t be earned until after 2020. Amazon’s story stresses a point that you need to remember.

To build a winning team, you must change the competitive rules even as you execute the daylights out of existing rules. The remaining four Rs of supply chain design can help.

Assess Readiness; Your Own and That of Potential Partners

By winning the World Series, the Cubs proved their greatness. Nonetheless, you wouldn’t bet on the Cubs to win the Rugby World Cup. After all, the Cubs weren’t built to play rugby. Yet, many companies try to do the equivalent every day. They come to market with the wrong supply chain. How do smart managers get stuck in such a predicament? Two explanations persist.

Wrong focus. Great ideas spawn companies. But, source, make and deliver decisions are often an afterthought, following marketing, engineering or finance. No one asks whether, or how, SCM can confer a competitive edge. Market mediocrity is the result.

Poor scanning. Even cutting-edge supply chains can fall behind the obsolescence curve. You’ve read, for instance, about the woes of some high-profile brick-and-mortar retailers. As the Internet changed the rules of retail, they didn’t adapt. Now, they are dying. The readiness assessment is a key weapon in Theo Epstein’s arsenal. By conducting a two-step readiness assessment – the second R – you can avoid these losing outcomes.

Step 1 is an honest self-appraisal of the team’s current competencies. Simply put, ask: “Do we have the skills we need to play, and win, our industry’s competitive game?” If not, ask two questions:

1. Which skills are you missing?

2. What do the gaps look like?

By making capability gaps visible, you can prioritize your skill-acquisition efforts.

Step 2 is to assess potential partner competencies. Your job, like Epstein’s, is to close the gaps by building or buying the right capabilities.

Now, let’s take a peek into how Epstein leveraged the second R to turn the Cubs into champions.

The key to winning a baseball game is to score more runs than the other team. The emphasis on runs scored has always placed a premium on two player-evaluation metrics: Batting average and RBIs (runs batted in).

Sabermetrics argues you should set these metrics aside in favor of on-base percentage. After all, you can’t score unless you get on base, and it doesn’t matter whether you get on base via a hit or a walk. The logic of sabermetrics is simple: By using more-valid-but-less-used metrics, you can acquire the right skills at a lower price.

Of course, winning attracts benchmarking, and rivals quickly copied Epstein’s approach. Epstein’s response: Keep refining the readiness-assessment process.

Neuroscouting. Neuroscouting uses a computer simulation to make the connection between a player’s cognitive function (recognizing a pitch) and motor skills (swinging a bat). A player who picks up a pitch five feet out of the pitcher’s hand will get on base more frequently than a player who doesn’t read the pitch until 20 feet or 30 feet out. Neuroscouting helped Epstein identify Mookie Betts as a top prospect in the 2011 draft. Betts is now a rising star.

Wins above replacement (WAR). Epstein has grown fond of WAR, a metric that estimates how many wins a player contributes to above a replacement player at the same position. Going into the 2016 season, WAR indicated that the Cubs excelled in starting pitching, first base, and third base. But, right field was identified as a liability. To fill the gap, Epstein acquired Jason Heyward in free agency.

Predictive analytics. Epstein is now experimenting with simulations to predict how a given team composition will fare in each game throughout the season. Inputs can be quite detailed and include things like ballpark where the game is played, time of day and pitcher-versus-batter matchups.

Beyond closing capability gaps, readiness assessment serves another purpose. In 2011, as Epstein’s tenure with the team began, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts asked when the Cubs would be ready to compete for a championship.

Epstein’s response: The Cubs would get worse before things could get better. Building a strong farm system and young talent meant that the Cub faithful would need to be patient. Epstein’s plan, however, leveraged the “rules” of the collective bargaining agreement, one that allocated larger draft budgets to losing teams. Losing early to win later enabled the Cubs to acquire players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, who were key contributors to the 2016 championship run.

The readiness assessment is a pivotal part of Zara’s story. Zara, like Amazon, is a rule breaker; its fast-fashion business model is truly game-changing. So too are the supply chain capabilities needed to make fast-fashion work. Compare the Zara way to Gap’s approach (see Table 1).

Table 1
Zara Has Built Unique Capabilities to Change the Rules

The backstory: Amancio Ortega, Zara’s founder, got his start in the apparel industry as a 14-year old errand boy. A decade later, Ortega began developing his own designs, reproducing popular styles, but with his own twists. He soon realized that if he could bring trendy designs to market quickly and inexpensively he could wow consumers. Ortega simply needed to convert the concept into capabilities. Readiness assessment provided Ortega the insight needed to build the capabilities that would fuel Zara’s fast-fashion strategy. Let’s highlight two points here.

Infrastructure. Capabilities derive from infrastructure. For instance, Zara brings its 30,000 distinct designs from concept to rack in only 14-24 days (a 10X advantage over rivals). To reliably hit this target, Zara sources over 50% of all items from local subcontractors in Spain (over 75% in Europe) and preps all product to be rack ready in its 400,000 square meter DC called the Cube. Zara’s infrastructure links supply to demand.

Decision processes. At Zara, decision makers evaluate every investment based on how it will enhance Zara’s capabilities. For instance, Xan Salgado Badas, Zara’s head of IT, stuck with an outdated, DOS-based point of sales system (POS) for years because newer systems didn’t offer any strategic capability upgrade. Yet, when Zara figured out how to use RFID to gain insight into fashion trends and hasten replenishment, it rolled out the technology at a scale and speed that startled rivals (in 2016, Zara bought 500 million RFID chips, 16% of that year’s total RFID sales).

Being fast and driving trends pays serious dividends. Customers visit Zara stores 17 times a year, compared to three times to five times for rivals. That’s because they know if a trendy new outfit sells out, it may not be back. In effect, Zara has turned customers into treasure hunters, transforming stockouts into a sales pitch.

Along the way, Zara became the world’s largest fashion retailer and Amancio Ortega the world’s second richest person. But, Zara’s team also knows that readiness assessment and capability development must be a lifestyle, not an event. If Zara isn’t always getting better, a rival like BooHoo or ASOS might make Zara’s version of fast-fashion obsolete. Just like the Cubs and Zara, you are only as good as you are ready.

Assemble the Right Players; Build or Buy Needed Competencies

Redefining rules and assessing readiness are tough tasks. But, the outputs – a capability-development matrix and a talent-acquisition map – are critical to devising a winning game plan.

Bringing all of the right pieces together and molding them into a champion is equally daunting. Emotional fortitude is needed. Executives like Theo Epstein, however, embrace the team-building challenge. Team ego results when you holistically progress through the remaining 3Rs – right players, right roles and right relationships. Let’s explore how Epstein brings these Rs together.

Through experience or intuition, Epstein knows the best players aren’t always the right players. Many so-called super teams never hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy at season’s end. So, what type of player does Epstein look for?

Talent is critical, but even more so, Epstein seeks a mix of athleticism and positional skill backed up by EQ and a team-first mindset. After all, when a crisis arises – and it will during the course of a 162-game regular season – team ego decides whether the team steps up or collapses.

The better question is, perhaps, how does Epstein put the right mix of skills on the field? Like you, Epstein has two options. He can build competencies or he can buy them. To field a consistent contender, he must do both exceptionally well. Figure 2 depicts Epstein’s method.

Figure 2
Assembling the Right Players

Phase 1: Long game. The core of an Epstein team emerges from the draft. Young talent like Javier Baez (2011) and Kris Bryant (2013) is identified and developed. The process takes time, but it provides a big bang for the buck. Baez and Bryant both made pivotal contributions to the Cubs’ World Series run. Of note, when Epstein arrived in 2011, he began to trade valuable players that didn’t fit his vision and culture, giving the Cubs more draft picks.

Phase 2: Close key gaps. Epstein opportunistically closes key skill gaps by acquiring proven talent via free agency or a well-timed trade. Consider Jake Arrieta, a starting pitcher acquired from the Baltimore Orioles just before the 2013 trading deadline. Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and was the ace of the Cubs’ 2016 pitching staff.

Phase 3: Win now. By July 25, 2016, the Cubs had the best record in MLB. But, by Epstein’s estimation, the Cubs still lacked a critical piece: a hard-throwing lefty closer. To bring Aroldis Chapman, the hardest thrower in baseball (105-MPH fastball), to Chicago, Epstein traded four up-and-coming prospects – a steep price Epstein was willing to pay to win it all in 2016.

One more point: Epstein knows that the concept of right “players” extends beyond the playing field. To help make things click, Epstein brought on Joe Maddon, former manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon’s keen sense of strategy and a sabermetrics-driven willingness to tweak the batting order and defensive alignment helped position the Cubs to win a league-leading 103 games.

Simply summarized, getting ready to compete means bringing the right players on board, whether drafting undervalued prospects, signing free agents, making pivotal trades or signing a manager whose true talents are being underutilized.

Apple has shown an uncanny ability to bring the right players together to develop and deliver hit products and services. Figure 3 shows how Apple uses Epstein’s playbook.

Figure3
Apple’s Path to Developing the HomePod

Phase 1 – Long Game: At the turn of the millennium, Apple began to invest in what has become the source of its success – software. The iTunes Music Store, paired with iOS, set in place the foundation for Apple’s ecosystem, which consists of over one billion active devices worldwide and includes services such as App Store, Apple Pay, Apple Music and iCloud. Apple touches its owners’ lives every day – and in an increasing variety of ways.

Phase 2 – Close key gaps: By buying Siri in 2010, Apple forged into both the search and mobile “assistant” markets. More recently, in 2014, Apple acquired Beats Electronics, quickly integrating Beats Music into its own streaming service, Apple Music. Pundits, nevertheless, questioned Beat’s $3 billion price tag. But, Apple appeared to have a compelling goal: To close gaps that powered Google Android’s foray into Apple’s turf.

Phase 3 – Win now: In August 2016, Apple quietly acquired Turi, an artificial intelligence startup, for $200 million. Less than a year later, on June 5, 2017, Apple introduced HomePod, a device designed to “reinvent music in our homes.” The Beats acquisition now made sense. But, that’s not all. HomePod is a home assistant – Apple’s answer to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. Turi’s machine learning makes Siri smarter, giving Apple the win-now capability needed for HomePod to become the central nervous system for the IoT-enabled home, a nascent market with fantastic growth potential.

Apple is seldom first to market, but the design, user-friendly interface and massive ecosystem that support Apple products and services make it a game changer. The result: Apple’s market capitalization hit $800 billion in 2017 – 2X Amazon’s. Consider two facts: Despite owning only 30% of the mobile operating system market, Apple earned 90% of the industry’s 2015 profits. And Apple earns developer loyalty by delivering 75% more revenue vis-à-vis Google Play, making App Store the go-to place for the latest and greatest apps. Bringing the right players to the game has made Apple a perennial industry champion.

Put Players in the Right Roles; Shift As Needed

Getting the right players is just one step in the team-building process. Jim Collins described what comes next: “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” Matching players to roles is critical. Yet, the way most companies do this won’t deliver a true – i.e., inimitable – competitive edge.

To be a supply chain champion, you have to think differently about how to mix and match key capabilities. With Epstein at the helm, the Cubs tinker incessantly with player roles. That’s one reason Epstein hired Maddon: His teams led the league in distinct batting lineups and in-game positional shifts every year from 2006 to 2014.

The goal: Tweak the lineup to improve the Cubs’ chance to win any given game. Imagine sending your catcher out to pitch. Maddon did just that, inserting David Ross to pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers. Ross had never pitched in the MLB, but he recorded a perfect inning. Maddon’s penchant for moving players around led the Cubs to acquire Ben Zobrist. Maddon called Zobrist a “super-U,” someone who can play multiple positions.

In fact, during his career, Zobrist has played every position except pitcher and catcher. Proactive role shifting made the Cubs improbable season possible.

Best Buy

In 2015, many pundits had already written Best Buy’s obituary, claiming the electronics retailer couldn’t survive Amazon’s assault and consumers’ affinity for “showrooming.”

Yet, Best Buy did survive, showing how role shifting can create a competitive edge even against Amazon.

How did Best Buy do it? Consider three pivot points that enabled Best Buy to become an experienced retailer.

Reduced costs. To contest showrooming, Best Buy began matching prices. To reduce costs and make price matching economically viable, Best Buy deepened collaborative relationships with suppliers, especially in the areas of merchandising, forecasting and replenishment.

Repurposed bricks. For brick-and-mortar retailers, Amazon’s onslaught turned what once was an asset into a liability. Yet by shipping online orders direct from local stores and encouraging in-store pickup of online orders, Best Buy can deliver with Amazon-like speed, turning its 1,600 physical stores back into an asset.

Reimagined roles. Clicks and mortar wasn’t Best Buy’s only proactive role shift. Best Buy invited top suppliers like Samsung, Apple, LG, Microsoft, Sony and Google to set up shops within its cavernous stores. Best Buy charges rent and benefits from high-margin sales of high-end appliances and electronics.

What’s in it for suppliers? The opportunity to create immersive customer experiences without the cost of owning stores. Google Guides, full-time Google staff, offer tutorials and tech classes, helping customers discover, play and have fun. Samsung Experience shops are located in every Best Buy store.

The result of role shifting: In 2017, Best Buy shares surged to an all-time high. However, as the Cubs know from first-hand experience, some role shifts backfire. Boeing discovered this the hard way with the launch of its vaunted 787 Dreamliner. Poorly conceived and managed shifts cost Boeing five years in first-mover advantage and, by some estimates, $20 billion in design, production and launch costs.

To avoid such misfires, you really do need to do the work entailed by all five Rs. Despite the risks, as Table 2 highlights, game changers from rivals’ strategic moves to disruptive technologies dictate that you begin to experiment with proactive role shifting.

Table 2
Forces Driving Role Shifting

The Future of the Supply Chain Workforce Will Be Determined By Technology Talent

Cultivate the Right Relationships; Build Identity and Trust

Having the right players in the right roles does guarantee that your team looks good on paper. Sadly, looking good on paper is no guarantee your team will win once the game begins. What separates paper tigers from competitive champions, both on the sporting field and in the boardroom? Champions possess chemistry; that is, a common vision backed by a willingness to work together to achieve strategic goals – even if someone has to play a less visible role.

Critically, chemistry derives from trust. To fully sense the value of trust, consider this key fact from the auto industry: The most trusted automakers are also the most profitable. Your takeaway: Ultimate success requires that you invest in a culture of trust.

Theo Epstein is a culture guy. Organizational culture, after all, endures beyond the departure of talent. So, what are the core tenets of an Epstein-inspired culture? For starters, Epstein believes people perform best, especially under pressure, when they are part of something bigger than themselves. He also believes that environment matters. That’s why the Cubs’ new $300 million stadium renovation included a round clubhouse – 60 feet, 6 inches in diameter (the exact distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). Epstein wanted to promote collaboration by putting everyone within eyesight of each other and encouraging serendipitous conversations. The space eliminated hierarchy, engendering camaraderie and team identity. David Ross, the Cubs catcher, described the design as, “a subliminal message they’re sending.”

Beyond facilities, Epstein cultivates “lever points”other people who help drive the culture. Epstein then steps back and lets them do some heavy lifting. Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, is an ideal lever for an Epstein-built team. “Try not to suck,” a key Maddonism, communicates big-time expectations without big-time pressure. Madden helped nurture the Cubs culture: Trust each other; do the right things consistently, including stretching for better results; have fun, but hold each other accountable; expect greatness. Epstein and Maddon know that if you build the right culture, that comes crunch time, someone will step up.

And that’s exactly what happened in game seven of the World Series. After digging out of a 1-3 deficit and building a commanding three-run lead going into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Cubs did the unimaginable – they gave up the lead and gave away the momentum. The 103 wins didn’t matter anymore; the dream was slipping away. Then, it began to rain – and culture took over. As the grounds crew came on the field, the Cubs exited toward the locker room.

Jason Heyward impulsively called his teammates into a weight room for a player’s only meeting. Never the outspoken leader, and struggling at the plate throughout the playoffs, Heyward reminded his teammates just who the Cubs were. David Ross recounted Heyward’s message: “He just said: ‘We’re the best team in baseball for a reason. Continue to play our game, support one another. These are your brothers here, fight for your brothers, lift them up, continue to stay positive. We’ve been doing this all year so continue to be us.’”

What would’ve happened if Heyward hadn’t spoken up? The Cubs may still have won. But, Epstein knows that you leave less to chance when you invest in the right culture.

Honda

Honda is a Cubs type of culture warrior.

More reliant on suppliers than rival carmakers, Honda’s buyer-supplier culture is truly unique, even a little quirky. Honda treats strategic suppliers as an extension of Honda itself.

Simply put, Honda invests in supply partners as if it is buying their capacity and capabilities, not just their parts. By the way, 90% of Honda’s spend is with strategic partners.

To help these partners succeed, Honda sends engineering teams to work on-site at suppliers for three months – and as long as 24 months – at no cost to the supplier.

The goal: Help suppliers optimize manufacturing and business processes. A typical best practices (BP) improvement initiative improves quality by 30% and labor productivity by 50%. More importantly, under Honda’s coaching, suppliers develop critical skills. Honda, in turn, gains stronger supply partners. Cost savings are shared 50/50 with the supplier.

Honda’s investments aren’t limited to BP projects. Honda expects supply partners to participate in corporate training, senior-leader business reviews and new product and target costing programs.

You may be wondering why Honda invests so much in its suppliers instead of switching to more capable suppliers. Honda’s response: Other suppliers would have similar problems. The nuanced answer, however, runs deeper.

Like Epstein, Honda is playing the long game, building a trusted team that can compete the “Honda Way.” Identity is critical.

One result: Honda is the most trusted carmaker among suppliers. Almost 40 years after launching U.S. operations, nearly all of Honda’s original supply team remains intact. The trust also shows up in Honda’s profitability.

Despite Toyota’s superior scale – producing twice as many cars per year – Honda has consistently delivered higher profit margins.

General Motors

Now, let’s go back to the early 1990s. J. Ignacio Lopez, General Motor’s purchasing czar, tore up supplier contracts, putting everything out to bid.

By saving $4 billion dollars, Lopez saved GM from bankruptcy. But, Lopez alienated suppliers, solidifying a culture of mistrust.

Over a decade later, supplier resentment still ran hot. Suppliers scored GM a 114 on the 2005 Supplier Working Relations Index(the lowest score ever – 300 points behind Toyota’s 415).

The real cost: Suppliers were holding back on GM, dedicating their best engineers and sharing their latest technology with more trusted partners like Honda and Toyota.

The rise of autonomous vehicles, however, forced GM in 2015 to acknowledge an existential threat, that its future depended on supplier innovation.

Compelled to change, GM began offering longer-term contracts to urge suppliers to more openly share their best ideas. Two years later, GM’s 2017 WRI score reached its all-time high of 290, lagging behind only Toyota and Honda.

The Journey Continues

The Cubs faithful view Epstein as a miracle worker. In truth, Epstein simply embraced core tenets supply chain champions put to work every day as they design and manage world-class value-creation teams. What then is your key takeaway?

Epstein succeeded by executing each R as part of an integrated 5Rs strategy.

In Epstein’s words:

“Acquiring the talent is only half the battle. The other half of the Cubs’ rebuilding required the organization to establish a winning culture. This meant devising a ‘Cubs Way.’”

In our experience, putting all five pieces of a 5Rs strategy together is quite a feat. Even supply chain champions struggle to implement all five Rs.

But, Maddon offers a word of advice: “The process is fearless.”

If you continue to work the process, the 5Rs will help you break whatever supply chain curse you’re facing.

About the Authors
Stanley E. Fawcett, Ph.D., is the Goddard Professor of global supply chain management at the Goddard School of Business at Weber State University. He can be reached at stan.e.fawcett@gmail.com.

A. Michael Knemeyer, Ph.D., is a professor of logistics at Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. He can be reached at knemeyer.4@osu.edu.

Amydee M. Fawcett, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of supply chain management at the Goddard School of Business and Weber State University. She can be reached at amydeefawcett@weber.edu.

Sebastian Brockhaus, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of supply chain management at the Boler School of Business at John Carroll University. He can be reached at sbrockhaus@jcu.edu.

Image Credit: Dan Vasconcellos

Related: How The Chicago Cubs Baseball Team Brought Data-Driven Decision Making to Wrigley Field

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Today’s Millennial Supply Chain Professionals

APICS, the professional association for supply chain management, has published the results of its Millennials in Supply Chain research report, conducted by Peerless Research Group in conjunction with Supply Chain Management Review(SCMR) and the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC).

A survey carried out in April 2017 was designed to gain insight into millennials as a critical segment of the supply chain workforce.

The report finds that millennials are focused, engaged, enthused and committed to working in supply chain management, and reveals that supply chain represents a sought-after, dynamic and rewarding long-term career choice for professionals in their 20s and 30s.

“The results of the report are eye-opening, especially when compared to the more senior supply chain professionals in leadership positions, who were part of a previous study from APICS and SCMR in 2016,” said APICS CEO, Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CAE, CPA.

“We see that more millennials started their career in supply chain, are moving around less, are highly satisfied with their jobs and see more opportunities for advancement in the field.”

APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi

“Despite some noted frustrations, millennials are continuous learners and fast movers who are eager to advance”APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi

The report shows millennials have a diverse interest in activities that span the end-to-end supply chain. Notably, the area that holds most appeal, supply chain design, and planning, is a role that touches all areas of supply chain.

The millennials surveyed also said they find their careers personally rewarding. Eighty-one percent feel they can make a difference in the supply chain field, 87 percent believe working in the field will help with their personal growth and development, and 88 percent agree that there are opportunities for advancement within the field.

Diversity topped the list of what millennials consider most important about the field and the companies for which they work. Eighty-five percent noted that supply chain involves a diverse workforce and encompasses people of all types, which additional findings that more women are now entering the field also reflect.

Respondents were roughly two-thirds male (61 percent) and one-third female (39 percent), compared to the 2016 survey of senior supply chain leaders, in which 76 percent of respondents were men while only 24 percent were women.

However, just as earlier research of senior managers in 2016 showed a pay gap between males and females, there is a gender wage gap among millennials. Men and women start at roughly the same salary, but the disparity grows larger as they move up the career ladder.

This disparity is chief among complaints from millennials surveyed, along with frustration around the attitude towards millennials by older generations in their organizations and a disconnected feeling from the big picture or a lack of purpose in the workplace.

“Despite some noted frustrations, millennials are continuous learners and fast movers who are eager to advance,” Eshkenazi concluded.

“To address the ongoing skills gap, industry expectations, priorities and communication styles must adapt to and embrace the different needs of this younger generation. Millennials are growing and learning on the job in an era of lean, optimized, end-to-end supply chains and are critical to the ongoing transformation of the industry.”

SC24/7 Search Term: Millennials

Millennials Don’t Just “Fall Into” Supply Chain

This generation comes to the field with early and prolonged commitment

A generation ago – or even a decade or two ago – if you asked a group of students about their career goals, the field of supply chain management probably wouldn’t rank highly, if at all, among their responses. Most Gen X and baby boomer supply chain professionals didn’t plan for, prepare for, and intend to work in supply chain. It was a field they found themselves in, having landed there as they evolved from previous roles in engineering, finance, planning or management.

Millennials in Supply Chain research report

Download the Research Report: Millennials in Supply Chain

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Ocean Cargo Carriers Must Optimize Networks

Owing to the structural overcapacity in the container industry, shippers have essentially had most of the pricing power since the financial crisis, says industry consultant Lars Jensen, CEO and partner of SeaIntelligence Consulting in Denmark.

As a consequence, this has enabled shippers to benefit financially from the cost saving measures brought about by slow steaming, mega-vessels, vessel sharing and “skipped sailings.”

In his new book titled “Liner Shipping 2025,” Jensen observes that vessels ordered in 2014 and 2015 will continue to be delivered over the next two years, meaning high levels of scrapping are likely to continue.

However, Jensen also notes that in 2019 and beyond, a disproportionate share of feeder-sized vessels will be reaching the end of their lifespan, and orders for their replacements are likely to surge.

“The good news is that their relatively small size means the impact on the overall global market will be limited,” adds Jensen.

In the meantime, carriers will still have to make some hard decisions for the remainder of 2017, says Esben Christensen, managing director of the international consultancy AlixPartners.

“They’ve already taken steps to relieve their financial woes, including slashing expenditures,” he says.

“They must continue to drive down costs through effective post-merger integration and fleet rationalization to bring supply and demand into balance.”

Fortunately, spot rates have improved in the wake of last year’s Hanjin bankruptcy, and carriers seem to realize that they must do everything they can to maintain that trend, adds Christensen.

“The carrier community’s ability to drive rate levels higher into future contract negotiations will likely decide whether 2017 will be the turning point the industry desperately needs – or just another bad year in a growing string of losses.”

Ritzau Finans, an analyst with the Paris-based consultancy Alphaliner, maintains that the reduction in idling container ships has been driven by the rollout of new alliance networks, adding that with reduced availability of spot tonnage, the charter market is kept upbeat.

“The container shipping industry is expected to continuously optimize networks and make them more efficient,” he adds.

Analysts for the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) in Copenhagen, agree, noting in their “Shipping Market Outlook” that cutting costs where it’s still possible and making the most of the fleet available remains essential to reaping the benefit of the individual alliance members.

Above all, add BIMCO analysts, the implementation of new alliances remains the one thing to watch carefully in 2017. The three ocean shipping alliances – which replaced the previous four – now control 77% of global container ship capacity and as much as 96% of all east-west trades.

“Before getting carried away, we should remember that 57% of all demand, as measured by twenty-foot equivalent unit [TEU] miles, is generated by non-east-west trades that are particularly impacted by the recent years’ cascading of tonnage,” says BIMCO President Anastasios Papagiannopoulos. “Another two-tier market is in the making.”

BIMCO expects the container ship fleet to grow by 2.9% in 2017, under the assumptions that 450,000 TEU will be demolished and 1 million TEU will be delivered. For that to happen, the current demolition interest must cool somewhat and the delivery pace must pick up, analysts conclude.

Russ Romine, Vice President of International Transportation at LEGACY Supply Chain Services in his article “Keeping Ocean Freight Moving This Peak Season,” states that ocean transportation is becoming more of a transaction-driven business, but it should never be done transactionally.

Romine further states that by sacrificing service for the lowest price, a shipper runs the risk of reducing visibility and predictability in their supply chain, increases supply chain risk, limits the ability to come up with proactive solutions to problems that occur during transit, and decreases the efficiency and productivity of their internal operations and customer service teams and, it actually increases their true logistics costs.

“Filling this service gap is something importers and shippers must face the reality of as carriers and low-price forwarders continue to absolve themselves of responsibility for service-based activities”

Read the Article: Keeping Ocean Freight Moving This Peak Season

Article Image: Speed Trans Logistics

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Keeping Ocean Freight Moving This Peak Season

We all watched it happen… It started with the global trade boom of the 1990’s and early 2000’s; trailed by significant investment from steamship lines in an effort to ramp up capacity in the late 2000’s – only to be met fiercely by the Great Recession, and a flattening of demand.

Today, e-commerce pulls heavily on transportation networks while the fickle consumer demands faster and faster and cheaper and cheaper.

The signs were there that the ocean logistics industry was going through a “sea change” (pun intended) and would look much different today than it did even 10 years ago.

And here we are – an ocean logistics industry once driven by carrier investment chasing fast growth in demand has now reached a mature stage where carrier differentiation is elusive, and vessel oversupply structurally limits their ability to profit.

Ocean carrier efforts to manage vessel oversupply have led to a variety of shifts in partnerships and alliances.

While the latest carrier alliances may have proven beneficial to bottom lines, it has not been without disruption to downstream suppliers and customers.

Carriers have shed ancillary service offerings previously bundled with ocean container movement, opting to focus on lower cost port-to-port and port-to-container yard moves.

“Without the customer service, interface shippers lose visibility, increase risk, and increase costs – mitigating all front end savings from choosing the low-cost provider”

As carriers pump higher capacity vessels into ports, terminal operations, challenged with their own inefficiency and lack of infrastructure find it difficult to keep up with waves of volume.

Read: Volatility Continues to Define International Logistics

Less sophisticated truck networks that lack automation and technology struggle to provide true last mile delivery visibility. Most carriers have offloaded functions such as chassis services onto other providers – further elongating the supply chain with more disparate providers involved in each segment.

In fact, most service-based activities required during the international ocean logistics process have been pushed off to downstream parties in the transaction. The trailing effect of steamship carriers continuing to push out cost – the customer service interface has become lost in the shuffle.

As Shippers and Service Providers look ahead to peak season 2017 and beyond – How Can Customer Service get Shuffled Back to the Top of the Deck?

Today’s technology-first service providers have created a marketplace for shippers to competitively procure ocean container bookings – self-service choice has become a powerful tool for shippers ultimately focused squarely on cost.

Technology has also given shippers better visibility to ocean-laden cargo and allowed for more predictability in-transit.

Recently in June of 2017, steamship carrier Maersk was hit by a cyber-attack that crippled their systems and operations for several days. Whether it be cyber-attacks, capacity challenges, financial risk, labor unrest, regulatory change, politics, or Mother Nature – supply chain disruption is costly.

The high-touch, responsive service required to dig in and investigate the true location of in-transit cargo, as well as proactively provide a solution to correct the problem has been foregone in the name of choosing the lowest price option.

To help shippers navigate this year’s shipping season, we developed this Peak Season 2017 Ocean Transportation Infographic.

Understanding the TRUE Cost of International Logistics
(Hint: the lowest price is often not the lowest cost)

How do you determine the actual cost, meaning the complete financial impact, of an international ocean transaction?

Oftentimes, the front end benefits of choosing the low-price provider – be it through direct contracting with the carrier or secured through a forwarder, do not represent the full cost incurred by a shipper’s operation.

Download the Paper International Transportation: Price Matters, But At What Cost?

Sure, a hundred or few hundred dollars saved per container can paint a nice picture on the top half of a transportation manager’s monthly P&L. To quantify the TRUE cost we must look at the full scope of the logistics transaction:

  • Additional occurrences of downstream supply chain costs: caused by having more disconnected parties involved in the transaction, including port and terminal charges, per diem and breakbulk charges, chassis service fees, increased drayage, etc.
  • Cost of cargo delays: created by rolled bookings, port congestion, and other ocean logistics inefficiencies.
  • Cost of insufficient visibility across the supply chain: starting from not knowing who is handling cargo at the origin, disconnected service providers handling last mile delivery.

And the True Unknown – the Overhead cost impact on a shipper’s team. As carriers and low-price forwarders continue to shift service responsibility onto the shipper, the true financial impact begins to outweigh the front-end container price savings.

Stripping a shipper of the customer service interface creates a new set of responsibilities that must be absorbed by the shipper’s internal teams, including shipment tracking, managing transitions between multiple providers from ocean vessel to port to final delivery, as well as working to solve problems that inherently come up as cargo moves around the world.

Not to mention the opportunity cost created by operations and customer service teams as they shift their focus away from servicing their own customers or supporting sales, and onto administrative ocean logistics activities.

Ocean Logistics Visibility – More than just Track & Trace
Rapid enhancements in technology have given shippers new levels of visibility into the activities within their supply chain. Real-time data integration connects parties from origin to destination, data visualization and business intelligence provides insight and planning capability, while mobile devices provide anytime-anyplace accessibility.

However, true visibility lies in the ability not only to see and understand, but also to react, solve problems, and execute a solution.

When technology fails or provides an inaccurate depiction of the true narrative of a shipment, shippers are often left to identify the root cause of a transportation delay, and then develop a creative solution on their own. Quickly finding the actual location of delayed freight, and being able to immediately divert or redeploy cargo can reduce or completely mitigate supply chain impact.

Technology is a powerful tool, however, it must be combined with human proactivity, responsiveness, market knowledge and a solution mindset to create true visibility.

Although carriers and many low-price tech-only forwarders have dramatically enhanced technological capabilities – without the service component it becomes much less powerful and useful to the shipper.

Customer Service – The Forwarder’s Ace in the Hole
Ocean transportation is becoming more of a transaction-driven business – however it should never be done transactionally.

By sacrificing service for the lowest price, a shipper runs the risk of:

  • Reducing visibility and predictability in their supply chain
  • Increasing supply chain risk
  • Limiting the ability to come up with proactive solutions to problems that occur during transit
  • Decreasing the efficiency and productivity of their internal operations and customer service teams
  • and…it actually Increases their true logistics costs

Filling this service gap is something importers and shippers must face the reality of as carriers and low-price forwarders continue to absolve themselves of responsibility for service-based activities.

As the ocean logistics industry continues to evolve from today’s mature, ultra-price competitive state – the importance of relationships within the supply chain, and true partnerships between shippers and service providers (both forwarders and transportation providers) become the last true differentiator, especially in the eyes of small and mid-sized importers.

Author
Russ Romine, VP International Transportation, LEGACY Supply Chain Services

Source: LEGACY Supply Chain Services

How Does Your Supply Chain Measure Up?

Use the LEGACY Supply Chain Services Supply Chain Performance Grader to evaluate your supply chain.

The Supply Chain Performance Grader™ provides businesses with a free report that evaluates your supply chain across 6 critical supply chain disciplines. Each discipline contains a set of questions to measure your own supply chain competencies.

You’ll receive an instant report containing opportunities for improvement, recommendations, and best practices.


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MIT Supply Chain Management Master’s Program Ranked No. 1 in the World


The MIT masters program in supply chain management has been ranked as the world’s No. 1 graduate business program in supply chain and logistics by Eduniversal, the Paris-based global rating agency for higher education.

This is the second time the MIT master’s program has been ranked No. 1 by Eduniversal.

The 10-month master’s in supply chain management program at MIT has been educating supply chain professionals for almost 20 years, and is the model for graduate programs in centers across MIT’s Global Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence (SCALE) Network.

The program is currently offered at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics in the United States, the Zaragoza Logistics Centerin Spain, and the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation in Malaysia.

“Our MIT master’s in supply chain management program is providing the supply chain talent that companies need to thrive in today’s highly demanding commercial environment”Yossi Sheffi, the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT and director of the MIT Global SCALE Network

A variant certification, the graduate certificate in logistics and supply chain management, is offered in Latin America.

Graduate programs in the newest SCALE centers – Luxembourg Center for Logistics and Ningbo Supply Chain Institute in China – will commence this fall.

Business professionals from around the globe enroll in the top-ranked program to hone their supply chain expertise and advance their careers.

They learn the latest supply chain management methods, engage in cutting-edge research, and interact with industry through site visits, lectures from C-level executive speakers, and dozens of recruiting opportunities.

MIT SCALE graduates are in high demand in a wide range of industries.

This year’s graduates have already accepted positions with leading firms such as AppleAmazonGeneral MillsGeneral MotorsThe Boston Consulting GroupMcKinsey and CompanyConverseDeloitte, and more.

Yossi Sheffi, the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT and director of the MIT Global SCALE Network, stated;

“A company’s ability to efficiently manage its supply chain has become a key competitive differentiator across the globe. Our MIT master’s in supply chain management program, which is consistently ranked as a world leader, is providing the supply chain talent that companies need to thrive in today’s highly demanding commercial environment”

In addition to this 10-month program, MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics also offers a MicroMasters credential in supply chain management (watch video above).

Through five online courses and a capstone exam learners get access to an advanced, professional, graduate-level foundation in supply chain management comparable to one semester’s worth of coursework at MIT with the same faculty members.

Related: Are You and Your Company Prepared For a Supply Chain Talent Crisis?

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