FEATURE ARTICLE

Changing expectations for logistics

Published: July 31, 2017

With e-commerce sales reaching almost $350 billion last year, and expedited shipping heading Jefferies’ Top 10 Internet Themes for 2017, it’s clear e-commerce is changing expectations for warehousing and distribution. Randy Swart, Chief Operating Officer at A. Duie Pyle, a transportation and logistics provider based in Pennsylvania, USA, spoke about these trends and what they mean for the chemical industry.

According to Swart, e-commerce has been driven by customers’ ability to order in boutique quantities, rather than in bulk. In the past, companies were unable to deliver smaller quantities of products, and customers were required to pick up items at distant retail sites or warehouses. Now, companies deliver smaller quantities to a wide range of locations, reducing the need for a middle man, and driving the rapid rise of e-commerce.

This is clearly true for global companies such as Amazon, serving customers with a wide range of domestic products. It is also true for the speciality chemicals industry, as a growing number of corporate customers realise the ability to order a variety of products to fit their needs. Customers now rarely need to buy a superfluous amount of product to reach the ‘minimum quantity required to ship’.

However, Swart explains that there are various issues for warehousing and distribution for e-commerce companies in the chemicals industry. Appropriate risk management protocols need to be put into place for their transportation. Clearly, drivers need to be qualified to handle hazardous materials. Chemicals should only be stored and shipped with specific items – for example, chemicals that exude a scent cannot be stored with any product that absorbs the odour like food, clothing or other retail goods. It’s very important to find a company that has risk management with very specific protocols for fire control and spill containment and is constantly being monitored. Each type of chemical has different requirements, so companies that provide warehousing have to strategize about how to keep them separated and safe.

Another issue that can arise with specialty chemicals is protecting water-based chemicals from freezing. Since water-based chemicals have a higher freeze point than other chemicals, carriers must ensure they have active freeze-control protection, similar to Pyle’s Protect From Freeze service.

Naturally, clients often have high security concerns when entrusting their merchandise to a transportation and logistics company. “Those concerns should be actively monitored and addressed,” says Swart. For example, “When addressing physical security concerns, Pyle would not advertise clients’ specific products are being stored in a particular warehouse… Pyle uses 24-hour camera surveillance and has the ability to lock down facilities in the case of an emergency.”

Regarding cyber-security, Pyle keeps an exact client inventory system with a fully operational IT department with appropriate firewalls and digital safety. Anything that goes into the mainframe is password protected and the RFID is under a protocol that ensures no one can intercept sensitive information. Once a customer’s product is on the truck, each driver has their own lock and key, each truck is able to communicate with dispatch, and drivers are able to communicate with each other, so they are in constant communication.

The company also stays on top of digitization, serialization and tracking with an extremely robust system that tracks freight. Swart is proud to say that “At Pyle, nothing moves that we don’t know is moving.” Each item is tracked electronically including a multi-piece shipment that has the potential to be separated under a different system.

Swart also advised, “Packaging is important. Many shippers believe that because their package arrives in one container, they are able to ship it in the same container. It’s sometimes important to think about double packaging because of the potential environment the package may have to traverse. The correct packaging of products will protect the shape in which a customer will receive the product and will ensure customer satisfaction.”

Finally, finding a warehouse to store inventory can be a daunting task but, to finish, here are three tips for choosing the right warehouse for your business

1. Bundle services together: find a warehouse that offers delivery too.
2. Flexible accommodations: you’ll want a logistics company that can respond quickly to your
    changing requirements and growing business.
3. Location: look for a warehouse that’s in the region where you need your product to go. A warehouse that’s close to transportation arteries, such as highways and railroads, is ideal.

A. Duie Pyle is a shipping and logistics company with more than nine warehouse facilities and over 2.2 million square feet in warehouse space connected to terminals, which allows for quick delivery and turnaround. For more information, visit www.aduiepyle.com.

 

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