Category Archives: Logistics

What’s the Future of Just In Time for Consumer?

It’s the holiday season, which means retail is in overdrive. This means on-line retail is in overdrive, and this means shipping is in overdrive.

Shipping which relies on postal services or private carriers. Postal services which are in dire straits and which are getting costlier by the year and private carriers which are also getting costlier. The USPS recently announced yet another round of price increases for 2017, just six months after it raised prices almost 10% (which followed price increases barely six months before).

Costs just keep increasing, and it’s hurting small retailers who can’t negotiate Amazon and eBay bulk shipping rates (and offer free shipping @ 35 or low cost shipping on individual orders). People aren’t going to pay a $20 shipping fee to ship a $10 product. And they’re not going to buy from retailers where this is the case.

So, we’re entering the age where the Amazons and their ilk are going to do in the online world what the Walmarts and their ilk did in the offline world — kill the little guy unless the little guy falls in line. Prepare to see even more Amazon and e-Bay storefronts popping, piggy-backing off the already in place infrastructure in exchange for a small piece of the profit. And prepare to see the closure of even more independent storefronts that wanted to compete without having to give a cut to the new digital mafia, as they just won’t be able to compete.

This means that sales will centralize, but shipping rates won’t necessarily standardize. The Amazon resellers also use the Amazon warehouses will be able to take advantage of the lowest shipping rates, and the rest, like the e-Bay storefronts, will be subject to reduced rates, but not the Amazon warehouse rates. And these rates will keep increasing as fuel goes up, labour goes up, and the carrier rates go up even more. Stores were invented for a reason — it’s much more cost effective to ship a pallet to one location than 100 items to 100 locations. Even with route optimization, right turns only, last-leg optimization with the local post, and so on — package delivery costs can only go so low. As long as a human is involved.

This says that the future of just in time for the average, cash-strapped consumer, is likely one of two futures. The past where physical stores regain their supremacy. Or the pre-SkyNet future where drones rule the skies.

However, the best future for just in time consumer delivery might be one where the old mail order model is modernized for the e-Commerce world. Back in the day, if you were in a rural community or small town, and you wanted something from a big box store (like Sears) you’d go to a local mail-order outlet where you would hand over some money (which could just be a deposit or the entire amount) to order something from a catalogue. Then, a few weeks later, you’d go back to pick it up. Amazon has revived this with the Amazon locker where you can get faster delivery and pick up by agreeing to pick up at a nearby locker, which is essentially a digitized bus locker system where you scan a code which opens a locker with your package.

The best future is one where a third party opens a lock location that can be rented by any online merchant that wants to use a locker for delivery where carriers offer lower rates to ship to the locker location. It would require at least USPS to agree to offer lower rates to ship to a locker location, which would require a large number of locker locations for the locker owner to negotiate better rates. This means that, in the short term, for this concept to take off, Amazon will have to go heavy into it, offer not only faster shipping but significantly lower shipping rates to get them to take off, and then offer these rates to their resellers at cost, or a loss, to get everyone using them. But it would then be able to capitalize on yet another revenue stream, as it could allow third party non-Amazon storefronts to ship to these locations for a small fee, and get an even bigger footprint in the physical world — which would allow it to create Amazon stores with “best sellers”, the same way Apple was able to create Apple Stores.

In summary, the future of just in time for consumer is still a bit cloudy, but it should be a hybrid locker / storefront model where costs can stay down, but customer satisfaction can stay high. Thoughts?

Freightos: Still Flippin’ Freight Quotes Faster than a Fleet-Footed Feline on Guarana

When we last checked in on Freightos a year ago, they were serving up real-time freight quotes for global shipping and were just launching the marketplace where buyers could search by “lane”, see public freight quotes from shippers serving those “lanes”, compare them, and book quotes. (And a buyer can define a lane by zip code or city, and the software will automatically identify all relevant [air]ports.) Since then, the Freightos marketplace has been growing, and a few noticeable improvements have been made:

More, and bigger, carriers.

Now that big global companies have publicly announced their adoption of the platform — including Sysco, Marks & Spencer, and Panasonic US — bigger forwarders and carriers are signing up and there are a plethora of good, competitive, economical options for all major lanes between Asia and North America — which includes complete multi-modal options from just about any zip code to any zip code in the regions of interest (and almost all major ports and major distribution centers are covered).

More refined cost tracking and rate comparison. 

Upon launch, Freightos provided buying organizations the ability to upload all of their contracts and associated rates. The UI has been improved and it’s easy to compare the contract rate against the current market rate of a carrier as well as the market rates of other carriers side-by-side and to see the relative delivery times that correspond to the rates. (The models break down the cost and delivery time component of each leg of the journey. Truck to port, ocean or air cargo from port to port, truck to distribution center, etc.)

The detail provided on quote breakdown is incredible compared to most platforms that simply collect an all-in-one delivery free for each segment and the government tariff rate(s). If relevant, the platform will break out delivery fee (per unit), fuel surcharges, messenger charges, e-document charges (at origin and destination), lift gate charges, manifest system charges, customs charges, each export and import tariff, SOLAS administration fees, docking fees, temporary storage fees, freight station fees, pier pass fees, cleaning fes, chasis fees, handling fees, and local charges.

Immediate Online Payment with Booking

Since Freightos can now collect payment immediately upon booking through the marketplace, this provides two major advantages over the initial version of the platform where a buyer requested a quote, a supplier replied, and then a booking was made at a later time. The buyer gets the booking they need when they need it, no fear of the lowest cost or preferred carrier maxing their quota (and the option disappearing because someone else selects and pays first). Secondly, since all marketplace payments flow through the platform, Freightos is able to offer the service free for buyers and at a low cost to service providers, who pay a small transaction fee (which should cost them much less than it does to hire multiple sales people to respond to offline RFQs all day with the same quotes cut-and-pasted into multiple Excel sheets of various formats).

More Powerful and More Responsive Drill Down Filters

Not only can you select/deselect ports, modes, forwarders/carriers, intermediate routings, and intermediate ports/distribution centers, you can also include or exclude additional requirements such as lift gate, cross-docking, etc. in your search and comparison. The platform is effectively doing hundreds of searches across (potentially) thousands of carriers with dozens of options in real-time.

Streamlined Document Management

The platform can store, index, and cross reference all contracts and documents (such as insurance certificates, compliance certificates, etc.) related to all carriers used by an organization and they can be easily retrieved when a quote is accessed or easily managed through a carrier management interface.

A Full Featured API

You can include the power of their marketplace in your sourcing application. You don’t have to use their web-interface, you can embed the search functionality in any platform you are currently using to get worldwide shipping estimates and available carriers in real-time.

Freightos is getting very close to becoming the powerful freight management solution that will not only be Supply Management’s best friend but the default platform for all logistics tenders and spot buys performed by the organization. Stay tuned. We’re sure we will be hearing more from Freightos in 2017.

One Hundred and Twenty Eight Years Ago Today …

While Constantinople may have fell 563 years ago, it was remembered 128 years ago today in the The Convention of Constantinople which guaranteed free maritime passage through the Suez Canal during war and peace. Connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez, it provides seagoing vessels with a short route between the North Atlantic and North Indian oceans, reducing the journey (which used to go through the South Atlantic and South Indian oceans) by 7,000 kms. Without this treaty, global logistics could have been brought to a halt with canal blockage.

And LOLCats everywhere rejoiced!

Happy One Hundred and Thirty Second Birthday, Prime Meridian

Without you, we’d never know where zero longitude was, and that could make geolocation very difficult without a reference point.

… and the eastern border of the Texas panhandle with Oklahama would not be so easy to find … (look it up).

Historical fact, it took a whole International Meridian Conference, at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, to select this!

One Hundred and Eighty Seven Years Ago Today

Stephenson’s The Rocket wins The Rainhill Trials. An important competition in the early days of steam locomotive railways for the nearly completed Liverpool and Manchester Railway, The Rocket was the only locomotive to complete the trials and became the template for the railway.

The Rocket, which brought together several innovations to produce the most advanced locomotive of its day, was so revolutionary at the time it is now on display in the Science Museum of London. While not the first steam locomotive, it was the foundation for the steam locomotives that would become a major means of transport in the UK in the nineteenth century and should not be lost to the annals of history.

What do you think, LOLCat?

Choo! Choo!