As each year comes to a close, we all look back on the year that was in reflection. Today, we conclude our annual year-end series highlighting the top blog posts in each of our 5 main categories: ManufacturingSupply ChainLogisticsTransportationFreight.

We spent the last week exploring each category’s top 10 most viewed posts over the course of 2017. These will only contain posts written in 2017. There were approximately 220 blog posts in 2017, and over 360,000 page views on those posts alone. We added nearly 7,000 subscribers to the blog and featured over 35 guest bloggers.   

Top 10 Transportation Blog Posts of the Year

This year, most were interested in staying ahead of trends -especially those effecting inbound freight and freight claims. Now without further ado, I give you the top 10 transportation blog posts of the year by page view:

[e-Book] The Essential Guide to Freight Claims Management: Laws, Fundamentals, Management, & Staying Proactive

At Thomasholmes, we provide comprehensive freight claims management. Why? It’s something all shippers, at some point, will eventually face. Sometimes this involves a huge damage or loss claim, sometimes it’s much more simple. We provided this service, as a value add service in addition to many other services because as shippers used our transportation management system, we found that one area that most shippers are the least knowledgeable in is that of claims for freight loss and damage. However, this does not mean that an understanding of claims isn’t vital to running an efficient transportation and logistics department.

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[e-Book] The Essential Guide to Inbound Freight Management

If you’re looking to save costs on shipping, take a look at inbound shipping. Depending on the industry and size of the company, a business can spend more than 40% of its annual freight budget on inbound shipping, according to the Aberdeen Group, a research firm in Boston. A more efficient inbound freight program can minimize delays, save money and even reduce confusion.

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[e-Book] The Guide to the Digital Revolution & Technology Shaping Less Than Truckload Shipping

With so many variables going into LTL shipping, data, software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems, artificial intelligence, cloud-based system, technology and everything in-between, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But, Thomasholmes can help you with all those challenges and possibilities and give you access to the original LTL-dedicated TMS system, the Thomasholmes Rater. It is time to move into the next generation of LTL shipping standards, and your moving partner is ready to help you.

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Freight Claim Laws: The Various Laws You Need To Know

Freight claim loss is almost a taboo subject in modern shipping. No one wants to touch it, but it’s important to know which freight claim laws govern certain modes of transportation, allowing everyone to understand when and if a claim is appropriate. Let’s look at some of these freight claim laws and what they mean for freight transportation liability.

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[e-Book] The Less-Than-Truckload Guide: From the Basics to Best Practices for Complete Mastery

Our goal is to empower our readers, customers, and shippers of freight with knowledge in order to better manage and decrease resources needed to run transportation departments. But first, in order to make sure we are all speaking the same language, due to the jargon, like any industry, in the freight an transportation industry, we will cover some common terminology.

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A Carmack Amendment Refresher: Understanding How It Applies to Freight Loss Claims

In 1935, Congress passed legislation to help prevent carriers from being subject to unqualified cases of fraud and freight loss claims. Previously, carriers were held liable for any damage that occurred to a shipment while in their possession. However, this meant that carriers were on the financial hook even when damage was not their fault. Over time, the Carmack Amendment has been interpreted to provide additional protections to carriers through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But, the age of the Carmack Amendment has led many to wonder how it applies to modern shipping practices. So, let’s take a moment for a brief refresher.

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Reducing Costs in Shipping with a Focus on Inbound Logistics Strategy

Shippers often forget about the possible savings through an effective inbound logistics strategy. Unfortunately, this disconnect could be costing tens of thousands of dollars and eating away at your bottom line. In addition, managing vendors and inbound logistics can feel like a lot of work for little gain, yet the possible savings by implementing an inbound logistics program can add up through these key ways.

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The 6 Trends Third Party Logistics Service Providers Will Drive to Empower Shipper Success in 2017

2017 will not be a bed of roses for third party logistics service providers, nor will the coming year be filled with thorns in the sides of major supply chain entities. By understanding how the industry will evolve throughout 2017, you can prepare your organization for the challenges and opportunities that will come. Take a moment to think about how these remaining six trends will impact the shipping and freight industry as a new administration takes control.

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[Webinar] The Essential Guide to Freight Claims Management

This educational webinar is perfect for North American shippers who are interested in either managing freight claims better or looking to an outsourced provider to drive value in the area of freight management and take the entire burden of freight claims off their shoulders.

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The Top 6 Reasons to Have a Good Inbound Logistics Program

Most transportation costs in a company arise from inbound logistics cost. If other words, the costs associated with transportation of items from vendors make up the biggest portion of will transportation costs, reports . Part of the problem lies in misconceptions around inbound logistics, including manual, data-intense processes and added stress. However, modern technology is changing the perception, and the importance of having a strong inbound logistics program cannot be overstated. In fact, let’s take a look at the top reasons why. 

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As each year comes to a close, we all look back on the year that was in reflection. Today is day four of our annual year-end series highlighting the top blog posts in each of our 5 main categories: ManufacturingSupply ChainLogisticsTransportationFreight.

We will feature over the next 2 business days each category’s top 7 most viewed posts over the course of 2017. These will only contain posts written in 2017. There were approximately 220 blog posts in 2017, and over 360,000 page views on those posts alone. We added nearly 7,000 subscribers to the blog and featured over 35 guest bloggers.   

Top 8 Freight and Trucking Blog Posts of the Year

What were the top Freight & Trucking blog posts of 2017 by page view? Well, it’s clear that automation was the most interesting topic for readers along with regulations. See for yourself the top 8 blog posts in Freight & Trucking on the Thomasholmes blog.

Freight Driver Shortage Update: Will 2017 Come to a Head & Cause Issues for Shippers?

As capacity tightens in the industry, shippers will face the challenge of reaching more customers with fewer resources, and the freight driver shortage may spike temporarily. However, the capacity crunch itself will help curb the driver shortage, and reaction to capacity issues will further the cause of better wages and incentive for more drivers to enter the industry. Of course, nationwide low unemployment and better wages among other industries will still draw people away from the trucking industry, reports the . Remember the saying, “it’s always darkest before dawn.” The driver shortage may not come to a head just yet, provided the industry continues to increase wages and work to increase driver retention.

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8 Freight Shipping Trends Shippers Must Know for 2017

Freight is growing. It’s getting smarter, faster and more responsive to the demands of the market. With the promise of reshoring hope and possible public backlash for continuing offshoring of processes, freight shipping providers will have the opportunity to restore public trust and increase profits in 2017. They just need to take notice of what’s happening with freight shipping trends. 

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The Uberization of Trucking – Will We EVER See It Happen?

It has almost become an archetype in society. Someone gets out of something late and can’t get a ride. Rather than spending countless hours wasting time, they pull out a smartphone and order an UberUber has changed the game for the public transportation industry, and the ride-sharing giant is well on its way to changing logistics. Enter: the Uberization of trucking.

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Aspiring Military Freight Carriers: Don’t Miss SDDC’s Open Season

The Department of Defense’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) has announced an . This is a chance for transportation professionals who would like to move military freight to kickstart their working relationship with the SDDC. The period during which you can take advantage of the opportunity runs from January 9 to February 28, 2017.

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NMFTA Announces Freight Classification Changes & What Shippers Need to Know

The new freight classification changes are now in effect, assuming you are using carriers that adhere to the NMFTA freight classification rules. If you have not previously reviewed the new changes, you could already be overpaying on shipping costs. Take the time to review the changes in the in NMFC, and use the preparation tips above to gain better control over your freight classification processes now.

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5 Ways To Help Avoid Freight Damage & Loss Claims

Shippers and sellers have plenty of things to consider. They must think about what customers will want today, tomorrow and two months from now. Meanwhile, are freight costs going to rise or decrease? Will Mother Nature throw a wrench into a shipment, causing extra delays or even freight damage?

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What Will Become of the Automated Freight Industry In The Next Ten Years?

Time will only tell how successful these new technologies will be and while they all seem very impressive in their development stages, there is a lot of work left to be done before we start seeing drones knocking on front doors and human-free ports. Until that time most  to help customers find the most efficient and cost effective means of transporting their goods. 

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As each year comes to a close, we all look back on the year that was in reflection. Today is day three of our annual year-end series highlighting the top blog posts in each of our 5 main categories: ManufacturingSupply ChainLogisticsTransportationFreight.

We will feature over the next 3 business days each category’s top 10 most viewed posts over the course of 2017. These will only contain posts written in 2017. There were approximately 220 blog posts in 2017, and over 360,000 page views on those posts alone. We added nearly 7,000 subscribers to the blog and featured over 35 guest bloggers.   

The Top 10 Logistics Blog Posts from 2017

This year, most were interested in logistics management trends, and transportation – specifically in the last mile and white glove services. Now without further ado, I give you the top 10 logistics blog posts of the year by page view:

6 Important Tips For Effective Logistics Management

If you wish to trump over your competitors, you should adapt the latest technology and innovative approach. The aim of effective logistics management is to improve the efficiency of the operations, ensuring customer satisfaction, and increase productivity.

These tips and strategies are necessary for process optimization. Every logistics firm that is struggling to boost their operations, they can incorporate these suggestions for logistics network optimization.

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The Top 6 Trends in Logistics Impacting Shippers in 2017

Like 2016, logistics providers will be tested for weaknesses in 2017. For organizations that do not embrace these trends in logistics, the road will quickly divert to Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Additionally, improving operations in response to the top six trends in logistics could stimulate growth and prosperity among providers. However, logistics providers must also consider the remaining six other factors in part two of this series.

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[e-Book] The Ultimate Guide to Last Mile & White Glove Logistics

It can be hard to wrap your mind around how encompassing last mile Logistics can be. Last mile e-commerce, last mile technology, last mile metrics and white glove services make standard shipping conversations seem like child’s play, and the new focus on the last mile is anything but. Shippers must adapt to the changing consumer demands and tailor last mile strategies to mesh well with such demands. In this e-book, “The Ultimate Guide To Last Mile & White Glove Logistics”, these top lessons that shippers need to know about last-mile logistics in the modern era.

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10 Skills You Should Have To Be Successful Logistics Manager

While a logistics manager has responsibilities that can vary from one company to another, we can agree that it’s not an easy task. Logistics managers have the crucial role of ensuring things go smoothly no matter what. To establish a good career in logistics, we rounded up ten skills that you must work on and keep in mind at all times.

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What Is Last Mile Logistics & Why Are More Shippers Looking at This Transportation Function?

Last mile logistics is among the most misunderstood parts of transportation networks. On the surface, last mile may not seem very important, but it can make up 28 percent of a shipments total cost. In addition, growth in e-commerceis radicalizing how shippers view last mile logistics. To understand wide-ranging benefits and key concerns inherent in last mile logistics, your organization needs to understand what constitutes last mile logistics, it’s challenges, how it impacts e-commerce and omnichannel supply chains, why it is evolving, and how new technology improves it.  

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5 Skills Necessary For Maximizing Logistics Effectiveness

Generally speaking, the skills needed to be a successful logistic expert are being meshed up with any other skills of a productive worker. The business as a whole tends to become more social oriented. Not only the service and goods providers want to know their customers but also the users set their sights on who their vendors are. To be efficient means to undergo that changes occur already today and to be open to them.

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Top 8 Online Logistics Tools For Logistics Professionals

Logistics professionals require exemplary international online logistics tools to help them carry out their daily businesses with ease and deliver the best for their customers. For any developing business, adopting the widely used and affordable  is more economical. Mobile phones can offer incredible services in any business from inventory tracking and shipments to the execution of procurement transactions. Let’s base our discussion on online trucking logistics and mobile applications that can be used in supply chain management on a global basis by the logistic professional to control their business.

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How IoT and Augmented Reality in Logistics are Moving The Industry Forward

Logistics industry trends in 2016 reflected global drives to improve efficiency and meet increasing consumer and business-to-business demands. However, there is still much to be unveiled about how the supply chain logistics entities evolved this past year, and the next post will look how collaborations and partnerships grew, why reshoring is becoming more important, especially following the election and how expanded services among third-party logistics providers (3PLs) changed what it meant to outsource operations. 

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Autonomous Vehicles in Logistics: What are the Impacts?

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[Interactive Infographic] The Warehouse of the Future: how will it impact efficiency?

Did you know that from as soon as 2019, new technologies could be revolutionising and improving efficiency in warehouses? Technologies including artificial intelligence, 3D printing and self-driving vehicles could be more widely used in warehouses everywhere sooner than you think. 

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As each year comes to a close, we all look back on the year that was in reflection. Today, is day two of our annual year-end series highlighting the top blog posts in each of our 5 main categories: ManufacturingSupply ChainLogisticsTransportation Management , Freight.

We will feature over the next 4 business days each category’s  most viewed posts over the course of 2017. These will only contain posts written in 2017. There were approximately 220 blog posts in 2017, and over 360,000 page views on those posts alone. We added nearly 7,000 subscribers to the blog and featured over 35 guest bloggers.   

The Top 10 Supply Chain Blog Posts from 2017

This year, most were interesting in supply chain optimization – from distribution to inventory management – and Key Performance Indicators. Now without further ado, I give you the top 10 supply chain blog posts of the year by page view:

[e-Book] The Most Impactful Supply Chain & Logistics Trends in 2017

We want to make sure that supply chain practitioners, as well as manufacturers, understand how all of these technologies are affecting the entire supply chain, including the supply chain & procurement side of a manufacturing operation.

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[e-Book] The Digital Supply Chain: The Landscape, Trends, Types, and the Application in Supply Chain Management

In this all new e-book from Thomasholmes, you’ll learn the following:

  • What is the Digital Supply Chain and what is the current landscape
  • What are the trends in the application of digital technologies in the supply chain
  • What are the specific technologies to understand in the digital supply chain
  • How can you apply the digital supply chain for effectiveness including going omnichannel
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Top 5 Trends to Know to Compete with Amazon’s Supply Chain

Supply chains must accept that they cannot equal the power of Amazon’s supply chain without embracing these new trends. New technologies are great, but chances are Amazon has already implemented them. Rather than falling into despair, you can use these trends to re-evaluate processes and practices in your organization, which will help you stay competitive with Amazon and overcome the possible challenges of the new administration.

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5 Tips for Warehouse and Distribution Center Management Success You MUST Instill Today

Although these distribution center management tips can help your organization succeed, you should also bring your systems together through an integrated system. This will reduce redundancy and increase productivity. For some, working with a third-party integrator (3PI) may be the best way to achieve integration with speed to market in mind.

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10 Advantages of Slotting Optimization in Warehouses

As new  evolves, slotting optimization in warehouses will grow easier. You owe it to yourself, your team and your customers to make sure your warehouse utilizes slotting optimization. If you are still unsure about it, just think about how these benefits could boost your profit margins.

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5 Podcasts for Supply Chain and Logistics Professionals

I used to think that podcasts were a hip form of new media that millennials used to further their iPhone addictions. Fast forward a few years, and the benefits of having news and entertainment in your earbuds has converted me to a podcast fan.  are a series of digital audio files that listeners can subscribe to. Think of it as the DVR of your smartphone. Podcasts, like cable shows, come in all shapes and sizes. Their popularity has skyrocketed since the smartphone became as necessary as car keys, giving you to-the-minute facts and information, right in the palm of your hand. If you’re looking to increase your podcast listening, here are five that highlight topics of interest to supply chain and logistics professionals.

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Download: The Impact of Big Data in the Supply Chain & Transportation Management Industry Webinar Replay, Transcript & Presentation

For this 60 minute webinar, join Adam Robinson, Marketing Manager at Thomasholmes, as he discusses how Big Data provides actionable insight to truly affect business outcomes, resulting in reduced supply chain costs and a more strategic approach to transportation management. 

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Emerging Trends in Automation: What it Means to Supply Chains

The potential applications of this type of technology can include real-time traffic condition monitoring and warnings, redirecting traffic before pile-ups and accidents occur, similar to Google Maps’ capacity to show traffic congestion in real-time.

Data through such systems can automatically feed back into transportation planners’ systems to automatically change signal phase and timing and enable immediate rerouting or adjustment of traffic flow on a broader scale.

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Omnichannel Supply Chain Metrics: What Should Supply Chain Leaders Measure?

There are dozens of other KPIs that your organization can track to improve efficiency in your omnichannel supply chain. However, all KPIs and metrics should be measured and monitored automatically, and if possible, you should consider working with a third-party integrator (3PI) to help manage omnichannel supply chain metrics. By understanding and leveraging these KPIs, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too.

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The Many Types of Inventory Management Technology

Broad changes in the marketability and use of  technologies have led to an immeasurable number of vendors in the market. But, the key to selecting the right system lies in understanding system variances and the features in each system that will help your business grow. Ultimately, you get to decide, but it helps to understand how to select and implement your inventory control system effectively.

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As each year comes to a close, we all look back on the year that was in reflection. Today, we kick off our annual year-end series highlighting the top blog posts in each of our 5 main categories: ManufacturingSupply ChainLogisticsTransportation Management , Freight.

We will feature over the next 5 business days each category’s  most viewed posts over the course of 2017. These will only contain posts written in 2017. There were approximately 220 blog posts in 2017, and over 360,000 page views on those posts alone. We added nearly 7,000 subscribers to the blog and featured over 35 guest bloggers.   

Top Manufacturing Blog Posts for 2017

This year there was a major focus on the upcoming trends, emerging technology, and sustainability. We look forward to beefing up even more great content to give value to our customer base of manufacturers and those in the manufacturing industry. Although we are a 3PL who supports manufacturers who ship, the more information we provide, the better off we all are. Now without further ado, I give you the top 7 manufacturing blog posts of the year by page view:

The “First Five” Industrial Manufacturing Trends of 2017

These trends will define how manufacturers respond to changing attitudes throughout 2017 and the next four years. Ultimately, manufacturing is evolving in the wake of a new presidency to meet the demand of modernity.

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7 Ways Augmented Reality in Manufacturing Will Revolutionize The Industry

When it comes to manufacturing, operators are trained for VR assembly tasks before they put into the real shop-floor assembly. Unfortunately, augmented reality in manufacturing has been less successful application-wise. In spite of there being many talks about its potential, there are fewer systems using it at the moment.

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[Infographic] 6 Recent Trends in Manufacturing Technology to Increase Agile Responsiveness, Continuous Improvement & Customization

Technology is changing how manufacturers respond to markets around the world. Companies are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints, embracing “green,” sustainable alternatives, and they are finding customers are willing to pay more for products that live up to their expectations, ranging from green to lean production.

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[e-Book] The Current State of Manufacturing to Better Manage Logistics & Supply Chain Operations

In this ebook, you will learn about the current States of Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing Technology, Logistics, Logistics Technology, and Transportation Management.

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Trends In Manufacturing: 5 Tangible Technologies are Shaping the Future of Manufacturing Now

At the end of 2017, manufacturing will still look similar to what it is today. However, the biggest changes in the industry will appear subtle, reflecting changing technology and management software applications. But, each of these trends in manufacturing will work in tandem to create demand-driven manufacturing, empowering the supply chain along the way. 

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IoT, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing… The Game is Changing

We are heading toward a future with a higher adaptability, which is more dynamic and flexible thanks to technical development, AI and robots. It will hold many changes, but the sooner we acknowledge them and adapt to them, the more advantages it can provide us with.

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Green Is the New Black: Why Green Manufacturing & Sustainability Matter

More than $140 million are being poured into a new Sustainable Manufacturing Institute that will work to give more companies better options and feasibility in implementing sustainable practices. The U.S. Department of Energy is also working toward this goal. With the public, the government and private enterprise moving toward sustainability, you cannot avoid beginning the process of optimizing your operation and eliminating costs through sustainable solutions any longer.

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Fabtech 2017 is North America’s largest metal forming,  fabricating, welding and finishing event. This year, Fabtech was at  McCormick Place in Chicago, IL from November 6th through the 9th. The event covered more than 750,000 net square feet and hosted over 50,000 attendees and 1,700 exhibiting companies.

This year, Thomasholmes attended Fabtech and met with several world-class suppliers, saw the latest industry products and developments, and found the tools that manufacturers can use to improve productivity, increase profits and discover new solutions to all of their metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing needs.

While we were there, Thomasholmes’ own Kevin Jessop and Mark Burdette walked the floor and talked to fellow exibitors, discussing not only what they do, but what is important to them in their supply chain and the issues that they face.

Check out our videos below

FabTech 2017 - Day 1

In this video we talk to:

  • Taloc: Booth C41023 – Visit them at
  • KeyedIn Solutions: C40344 – Visit them at –
  • Italmac: Booth C40144 – Visit them at
  • RWM Casters Co: Booth C41122 – Visit them at  
  • Createch Machine and Design: Booth C41026 – Visit them at
  • Plant Engineering Services Inc: Booth C40644 – Visit them at

Fabtech 2017 - Day 2

In this video we talk to:

  • Closed Loop Recycling – Booth: C41212 –
  • Nadella – Booth: C41107 –
  • Rousseau – Booth: C41101 –
  • Weldobot Technologies Inc – Booth: C41236 –
  • Welser Profile – Booth: C41117 –
  • Inoue Special Steel Co. Ltd – Booth: C41109 –

Fabtech 2017 - Day 3

In this video we talk to:

  • Sturdell Industries – Booth: C41006 –
  • NSK Americas – Booth: C40706 –
  • TYKMA Electrox – Booth: C40712 –
  • Doringer Cold Saws – Booth: C41104 –

Fabtech 2017 - Day 4

In this video, we talk to:

  • Laser Marking Technologies – Booth: B12089 – Visit them at –  
  • R&B Machining Inc. – Booth: B10072 – Visit them at  
  • ESAB Welding and Cutting Automation – Booth: B17074 –  
  • AP Lazer – Booth: C40930 –

Freight shipping has relied on the same systems for years, ranging from manual entries to a constant struggle in balancing delivery windows with costs. However, the pressure for tighter, faster and more deliveries has increased to a point where the only solution is change. According to , truck capacity is not tight; it is simply hidden from view. Meanwhile, technologies, like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, will catalyze a reinvention of the transportation industry and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping above all other modes. Before these changes can happen, shippers need to understand a few things about LTL shipping challenges and ways Less Than Truckload technology will impact them.

What Are the Major LTL Shipping Challenges?

The  derive from assumptions shippers make during carrier selection. Some of these problems include the following:

  • “Not all carriers handle LTL shipments,” so finding a carrier that offers LTL shipping at a competitive rate is difficult at best.
  • Poor transit time occurs as some carriers place LTL shipments on the proverbial backburner, resulting in delays.
  • Carrier rates may vary. This problem tends to go unnoticed unless a transportation management system (TMS) is used to compare carrier rates side-by-side.
  • Deadhead results in higher costs. Every mile driven without using cargo space is lost money to carriers and shippers alike. However, freight consolidation and LTL shipping can use Less Than Truckload Technology to reduce deadhead and increase profitability.

Machine Learning Will Enable Adaptive, Predictive Pricing Models.

Machine learning refers to computer systems, including cloud-based TMSs, that consider historic data and use it to improve the system’s existing processes. In a sense, this is an automatic process, but it can be leveraged to define new routes, find lagging systems and errors in shipping practices and replace electronic data interchange (EDI) systems. In addition, machine learning is adaptive, so data coming into the system increases its efficiency and capacity to provide value for shippers and carriers. Moreover, machine learning will power , eliminating risk from misclassification or incorrect carrier selection.

AI Will Gradually Replace Manual Processes.

Think of AI as machine learning on steroids. It functions through an ongoing series of algorithms and internet-connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), to make data-based decisions before shippers overlook something. This is an important change in how small and mid-sized shippers operate, enabling rapid scalability and unmatched accuracy in both invoicing and shipping through LTL carriers.

For example, shipper A uses manual processes to manage invoices. Over one year, the shipper pays up to 50-percent higher costs due to double billing. But, shipper B uses AI, enabling automated payments and auditing within the system. It finds billing and compliance issues and implements changes, like triggering chargebacks, to carriers. Thus, billing is corrected, and the physical resources needed to process LTL shipments decreases.

An additional use of AI includes the use of embedded analytics to evaluate factors influencing an LTL shipment’s rate, explains , considering possible delays and issues, giving shippers more information before selecting a carrier.

Automation Will Reduce Errors and Enhance Existing Shipping Practices, Reducing Problems.

AI also relies on automation, but for the purposes of this discussion, think of automation as systems that auto-populate data and replace the standard operations performed by people.

People are reactive. Shippers see a problem when it reaches the point of causing a disruption in the supply chain. But, automation can be used to identify the indicators of a forthcoming disruption before they come to fruition. Like changes in weather patterns that increase the risk of flooding. As a result, routes can be automatically adjusted to circumvent the problem. This is based on a proactive, not reactive, risk management strategy within the supply chain.

Now, consider the impact of automation in LTL shipping and last-mile delivery. Automated delivery via drones or hand-held scanners upon delivery increase delivery accuracy. In addition, automated tracking of shipments ensures visibility to consumers, carriers and shippers. As a result, customer service levels increase, safety increases and the product cycle continues.

Automation rests on the cornerstone of making the best carrier selection for each type of shipment, big or small. In LTL shipping, certain carriers have already switched to dimensional pricing models (DIM pricing), that considers weight and shipment dimensions in rate determination. With a growing number of shippers and local carriers working to meet the demands of e-commerce, automation is essential to maintaining today’s companies’ operability.

Could Less Than Truckload Technology Replace Everything?

Automation, AI and machine learning are a triad of Less Than Truckload technology that improve upon one another. These technologies overlap, producing many grey areas that can improve supply chains and reduce the “legwork” in LTL shipping. Furthermore, the technologies have the potential to replace all human jobs in shipping, but that possibility is far from the capacity of today’s technologies. For shippers concerned about the economic impact, consider how a change in Less Than Truckload technology standards will result in the need for more skilled workers to manage and develop such systems.

 It is a shift away from traditional shipping practices to a digital-driven workforce and series of best practices. Unlike terminal-based systems of the past, these technologies reside the cloud, serving to empower new generations of technological systems that will enhance and propagate efficiency and resolution of LTL shipping challenges.

It is that time of year again. The 28th Annual Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) 2017 State of Logistics Report, published by , is out. In the years since the Great Recession, the report has shown growth throughout logistics and a recovery through measurement of logistics spending as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). However, this year’s report comes on the heel of a polarizing election and inauguration, so its findings may come as a surprise to shippers.

U.S. Logistics Costs Are Unsustainable.

U.S. logistics costs fell last year for the first time since 2009, reflecting concern within the industry. But, the most-concerning factor in the 2017 State of Logistics Report revolves around truckload expenses. Truckload expenses make up the largest line-item within the report’s cost categories, as seen in this breakdown.

2017 State of Logistics

Unfortunately, the continued decrease of truckload expenses by 1.6-percent annually, explains , indicates that carriers cannot continue to scrap by with minimal profit margins. As a result, truckload expenditures will increase toward the end of 2017, and the increase could be sharp and sudden.

Overall Over-the-Road Shipping May Suffer From Being “Too Proactive.”

Supply chain costs have been quite low for the past few years. Lower fuel costs, better economic stability and continued growth of e-commerce have given rise to reduced shipping costs. However, the decrease in overall over-the-road shipping costs fell even further last year to 7.5 percent of U.S. GDP. Consequently, further losses would result in losses to carrier profits and difficulty keeping rates at their historic lows. The current measure of logistics as part of U.S. GDP is at its lowest level since 2010, as seen in this graphic.

2017 State of Logistics

Carriers may also be partly to blame for this issue. There has been a trend of increasing fleet size in response to a “capacity crunch,” yet the number of unused Class 8 trucks increased 53 percent last year. While more trucks are great, not having drivers to get them going and the financial drain are contributing to carriers’ need for more shipments.

Spending on LTL Shipping Is Increasing.

Despite the fears noted in the 2017 State of Logistics Report, some areas of the transportation industry are growing at excellent rates. Spending on LTL shipping has risen by 0.5 percent, valued at $58 billion today. This increase is due to moderate rate increases by carriers seeking approval to charge higher rates to shippers. Unfortunately, this gain is accompanied by a 1.6-percent decline in spending on full truckload (FT) shipping, alluding to a possible break-even scenario.

Spending on Private and Dedicated Fleets Increased.

Spending on private and dedicated fleets jumped significantly this year, rising 0.7 percent to a value of $286.1 million. This is nearly equal to the amount shippers spend on over-the-road truckload shipments in a year. As a result, more shippers and carriers will start looking to tap into the resources of private, dedicated fleets, offering incentives for dedicated fleet-owners to work with carriers directly. Furthermore, parcel and small-package shipping has now eclipsed rail as the second-largest mode of transportation, increasing 10 percent to $86.3 billion in the U.S.

Freight Fragmentation and Spread Are Causing Issues in Carrier Networks.

One of the confounding factors in this year’s Report has to do with increasing variety and volume due to e-commerce sales. Incoming shipments are being rerouted to other ports and terminals. This forces carriers to rethink their networks, routes and means of getting products from the docks to consumer doors.

The Impact of Trump Administration on Logistics Is Uncertain.

The Trump Administration also played a role in this year’s Report. The plans laid out during the campaign spelled success for the industry, but to date, the administration’s actions have left many feeling uncertain and unsure if they will succeed. New policies could force shippers to adapt to new trade regulations and markets, but protests and legal battles in both the courts and legislature could lead to even bigger, costlier regulations.

Lackluster Discipline Among Over-the-Road Transit Modes Will Catalyze Change.

Over-the-road carriers are also faced with uncertainty this year. Rail providers have managed to squeeze every drop of efficiency from their network and implement stringent, disciplined pricing practices. However, the sudden drop in overall freight spend via over-the-road modes will lead to a greater resolve for consolidation and rationalization of changes in spend. In other words, motor-carriers will be forced to tackle their inefficiencies and potential problems with innovative technologies, and when necessary, push shipping costs upward.

A Word of Caution to Taking the 2017 State of Logistics Report to the Bank.

Uncertainty following the election and actions of the Trump Administration, a global shift toward better inventory-control systems and the use of predictive analytics could be undermining the State of Logistics Report.

On one hand, the Trump Administration could put the proverbial fire to the feet of carriers and shippers to bring about amazing growth, or not. The push toward analytics-based systems might be decreasing freight spend as inventory control and forecasting grows more accurate, reports , or not. The pushback from those upset with the election results could result in a new onslaught of regulations that could choke the transportation industry, or not.

Uncertainty and unsustainability are the best words to describe the 2017 State of Logistics Report, so in the interim, it is the best interest of the industry to continue marching forward with strategic, money-saving goals, including upgrading systems, implementing strong TMS platforms and working together to ensure their continued success.

Manufacturers have always struggled to know their customers. But, modern businesses have grown to encompass an omnichannel sales opportunity. Customers can place orders online, by phone, in person and in nearly any other means desirable. Unfortunately, this means manufacturers face an even greater challenge, as more customers translate into greater use of customer service. In addition, customers are continuing to demand lower prices and free shipping. But, our predictions’ post noted how manufacturers are having trouble with transforming customer input into responsiveness and enhancements to the customer experience. Those who do achieve this feat can realize significant increases in revenue and high returns. But, how do manufacturers turn their focus to the customer experience?

Customer Experience

1. Determine What Customers Want Today.

Modern technologies can give manufacturers real-time insight into the ways products are moving in retail and online environments. But, patterns today do not necessarily reflect the needs for tomorrow. As a result, manufacturers must be wary of overproduction and focus on providing the products customers want now, not tomorrow. In other words, manufacturers need analytics from point-of-sale systems, transportation metrics and more. Furthermore, companies must extend the buying cycle to get as much information as possible from consumers.

2. Lengthen the Buying Cycle Through Interaction.

Remember the catch-phrase, “Do you want fries with that?” Well, that concept holds true in the supply chain and for manufacturers alike. Consumers may not always go for what you are offering, but they want you to offer more than you have. Essentially, this creates a stronger level of customer service, and it can turn into additional purchases. More importantly, it gives manufacturers a chance to find out more about what the customer wants.

For example, a customer is a shoe store may purchase shoes, but if offered a new brand of socks, he or she refuses. During the ensuing conversation, the representative finds out that the socks have gathered a bad reputation on social media.

While this example is a bit extreme, it highlights how a longer buying cycle can translate into insights for manufacturers. In addition, a longer buying cycle naturally improves the company’s reputation.

3. Partner With Appropriate Businesses.

Businesses are often grouped into a broad category of competitors, but businesses can work to help manufacturers become more responsive to their consumers. This can include offering like products in package deals, compiling changes in like demographics or sharing information to reduce costs across the scope of both companies’ transportation networks. In fact, manufacturers can collaborate with third-party logistics providers (3PLs), like Thomasholmes, to realize the benefits of collaboration and taking advantage of business-to-business (B2B) sales through integration of systems, explains .

Essentially, every interaction with another business increases the possible customer base by both the number of employees in the new business and the number of customers working with that specific business. As you go through the chain of business, the opportunity for enhancing customer experiences grows.

4. Take Extra Care of B2B Partners.

B2B sales are more fickle than business-to-customer sales. According to a Gallup study, reports more than 70 percent of B2B companies are facing setbacks and decreases among their B2B partners because of lacking customer engagement. Since B2B sales often take place behind the public’s perception of the economy, it is important that manufacturers work to create engaging relationships through content-driven, digital experiences. This can include videos demonstrating how products work, informative blog posts that provide something free and helpful to customers and beyond. Of course, the same concept of using digital technology to engage customers can be applied to B2C sales channels as well.

5. Be There for Customers After the Sale.

We have all experienced that disheartening feeling when calling customer service and getting lost or frustrated with the lack of service offered. Manufacturers need to be present to their customers after the sale because the level of customer service provided will be shared widely on social media. More importantly, poor customer service or inability to help customers with product issues or questions will gain a huge following much faster than a positive comment.

For example, manufacturers could send out emails for high-tech products that will require updates, or they may create online video banks to teach customers how to use the products easily. The opportunity for creativity in engaging current and future customers is only limited by your imagination!

Listening to What Customers Say is the Key to a Positive Customer Experience.

These steps go back to one thing, listening. Your company should listen to what internet-connected devices are saying about customers. You should listen to what your B2B partners are saying about your products and customers. Listen to what stakeholders, employees and B2C customers are saying. If you take the time to listen, you can meet the growing expectations of a modern customer base that wants a higher level of service than past generations. Ultimately, manufacturers who do listen and focus on customer experience and service will win in the battle to increase revenue and company size.

Automation sales declined throughout 2016, but industry experts believe a major shift toward third-party companies is coming, reports Manufacturers need to increase production without increasing overhead costs, and outsourcing technology to 3Pls is the perfect solution. The age of internal IT departments is drawing to a close, and the role of outsourced technologies will have a lasting impact in coming years In fact, more off-site IT investments into such companies will become a standard practice throughout 2017, and you need to know why.

1. Manufacturers Need to Process Higher Volumes of Information.

The volume of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) and an increasingly data-driven society is difficult to imagine, explains . Now, consider that volume of data, analyzing it and leveraging it across millions of SKUs and operations in manufacturing. Manufacturers cannot realistically take on the challenges of Big Data internally, especially among new and upcoming business. As a result, more companies will turn to outsourced agencies, like Thomasholmes, to process higher volumes of data.

2. Outsourcing Technology to 3PLs Enables Competition in the Global Market.

 Another factor in the 3PL Revolution is gaining a competitive advantage in the global market. 3PLs have the benefit of having operated globally for years, and many are experts in international trade laws, compliance, and regulations. Therefore, outsourcing technology to 3PLs relating to the import and export of goods will help move products along with international supply chains and grow businesses.

3. Disparate Systems Require a Partnering 3PL That Can Bring Harmony and Integration to All.

Throughout history, companies have created numerous systems to manage product flows and lifecycles. Inbound and outbound freight programs exist. Billing is another major system, and let us not forget transportation management systems (TMSs). Although 3PLs can handle many of these operations, more companies will begin using 3PLs to have the technical expertise needed to bring disparate systems together in one, comprehensive solution. Increasing supply chain connectivity is cited by up to 67 percent of manufacturers, reports

4. Outsourced Software-as-a-Service via 3PLs Will Stay Competitive, More Cost-Effective Than Traditional Systems.

Cloud-based systems, operating through software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms will contribute to be competitive for manufacturers in 2017. In fact, up to 73 percent of companies are actively using cloud-based solutions for manufacturing, reflecting a 7-percent increase from 2015. In other words, the trend toward outsourcing systems to third parties will continue.

5.  Partnering IT Engineers and Technicians in 3PLs Eliminate Costs Associated With Internal Systems Management.

There are costs associated with handling IT needs internally, including labor, equipment and downtime costs. However, working with a 3PL eliminates these costs while maximizing the uptime of your systems. Essentially, the partnership benefits both entities while driving costs down.

6. Consolidation Is Driving Companies to Downsize Operations Where Necessary.

More manufacturers are also looking for ways to consolidate operations. For some already involved with minimal 3PL-based services, the natural progression leads to consolidating IT services under one outsourced provider.

7. External Management Opens Doors to Savings Across Whole Supply Chains, Not Just Select Companies.

When manufacturers work with external partners, such partners can leverage data from worldwide supply chains in one dataset. While this may appear counterproductive to competitive advantage, it results in savings across the board. As a result, all companies can decrease operational and technological costs while maintaining proprietary goals.

8. Use of Mobile Technology on the Plant Floor Demands Apps and Advanced Systems, Which 3PLs Provide.

The rise of mobile technology has changed how manufacturers operate on a fundamental level. Workers now have numerous handheld devices that can be leveraged to improve inventory management and grow the company. However, existing systems were not designed for mobile optimization, so outsourcing this need to 3PLs gives all employees the ability to access relevant systems from their own mobile devices, cutting the costs associated with investing in company-owned devices.

9. Cloud-Based Solutions Reduce Cybersecurity Risks and Costs.

Of course, any discussion on outsourcing technology to 3PLs is incomplete without mentioning cybersecurity. Large-scale 3PLs have the technology and expertise needed to ensure systems adhere to stringent cybersecurity criteria, explains the In addition, the outsourced nature reduces the cybersecurity risks within individual companies.

The Big Picture.

Manufacturers have an opportunity to rapidly scale their operations by using 3PLs. As 2017 moves forward, the rate of outsourcing and partnering with these companies will increase dramatically. More importantly, small to mid-sized manufacturers that lack the buying power of major competitors will be unable to remain competitive without the assistance and technologies offered by 3PLs. Clearly, your business needs 3PLs if you want to stay in business.

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