Stopping the ‘Fires’ in your Supply Chain

When discussing a strategic supply chain, one of the areas that many shippers feel overwhelmed by is the sense that they’re always putting out ‘fires’ in their organization. That is, solving problems that take time and attention away from creating products to be sent to your customers. Oftentimes these ‘fires’ are caused by confusion since a lack of processes and procedures can result in ‘different ways of doing things’ between associates or a lack of proper training. Both of these result in questions for management and thus fires that need to be put out.

To create a more strategic supply chain, it would be wise to create a set of processes & procedures that standardize the steps your organization takes to complete a task. When creating these processes and procedures, be sure to get everyone assigned to a particular task involved so that they can provide you with a preferred list of steps everyone can agree to. Including screenshots, pictures, lists and any other resources you deem necessary that help make these instructions crystal clear will help current associates get their tasks completed faster and provide clarity with getting all assigned tasks completed in the best way possible.

Devising processes and procedures will allow you to create a company playbook that will grant a lot of independence for your associates while also maintaining standards for your organization. Such clarity will make your supply chain operations run smoothly and in time you’ll find that there are fewer questions or operations where your input is needed. As long as you’ve provided proper input as well as documentation and the procedures are being followed, you’ll find that over time your organization will operate like a well oiled machine. You’ll find yourself spending less time putting out fires and more time building your business, a place where every founder wants to be.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of processes and procedures. Every role in our organization has a series of processes and procedures that provide clarity in how every job is done. Combine this with our focus on a positive attitude from all of our associates and we have a winning combination where we’re able to ensure that every shipment in our care will be delivered on time and undamaged. We have tested and verified all of the steps we utilize in getting your shipments to your customers, and this is one of the ways we’re able to ensure a 99% satisfaction rate with all of our customers. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Customer & Supplier Impacts on your Supply Chain

When creating your supply chain, it’s vital to remember that every activity you’re doing leads back to one road: the customer. The customer is arguably the most important member of the supply chain because without customers, nobody would be in business. Building your supply chain to satisfy your customers will allow you to source proper materials that will make your supply chain more resilient. 

How is this done? When your business endeavors to get a clear understanding of what your customers value about your business and how you differentiate yourself, you can build upon your strengths. If you’re known for building a more reliable product, then customers won’t mind if you need to source higher quality parts/materials and take a little longer to do so. The story will be different if you’re known for efficiency and cost savings or customer satisfaction. Seeking out what your customers value from you has proven time and again to be a worthwhile investment.

By knowing what the customer values with your business, you can identify what threatens your ability to deliver your products and which risk mitigation measures will be most effective for your business. You can also utilize this information in regards to your suppliers and provide them with feedback on improving their supply chain as well. They can source better materials or direct you to another supplier in case there is a disruption. Creating these working relationships allows you to continue providing quality products to your customers in a timely manner while keeping true to your values.

It’s important to pay attention to the supplier’s impact on your supply chain, particularly the distance and shipping methods used when determining sourcing strategies. There was a long-held belief that parts/materials would simply be delivered no matter what, but it will be a long time until this will be the case. Understanding the distance and shipping methods allows you to develop contingency plans in the event there is ever a disruption.

Finally, we must understand the supplier’s costs associated with creating products. While nobody wishes to pay more, we must understand when it’s beyond the supplier’s control and assess whether their value as a partner outweighs these costs. It’s important to remember why your company picked your suppliers, oftentimes it was for reasons beyond cost. If we’re too focused on costs we may run out of suppliers and if we can’t have suppliers, then we won’t have a supply chain.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the patterns that can affect your supply chain. That’s why we strive to help our shipping partners and their customers ensure success with every delivery by scheduling pickup and dropoff times through a phone call. Our drivers also understand the importance of every shipment, providing friendly and helpful service while your shipment is in our care. If you’re looking to understand more about developing a strategic supply chain, we have a multitude of custom carrier solutions that can help every shipment of yours arrive on time and undamaged. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Developing a Holistic View of Your Supply Chain

In our previous article, we discussed the importance of developing a ‘strategic’ supply chain for your organization. The first area in developing a strategic supply chain was to take a holistic view of the supply chain, rather than constantly putting out fires when things went wrong. This week, our aim is to discuss exactly how your business can develop a holistic view of your supply chain rather than spending your energy always putting out fires.

Visibility of Your Supply Chain

The first step is to define visibility for your organization. If you’re in need of one, a definition we’ve seen works well is asking: “Can we find all the components and move them from Point A to Point B when we need to?” Once you have your definition of visibility, the next step is to work on communication across the supply chain, since company silos ensure that a supply chain is less effective and resilient than an optimized one. Ease of communication to all parties involved in the supply chain helps create visibility and allows you to allocate the resources when and where you need them.

Plan for Multiple Contingencies

One of the interesting perspectives of a holistic supply chain perspective is the fact that they have multiple suppliers for all of their products/components. A lack of visibility often led to a lack of knowledge in alternative supplies that has hit many supply chains hard. Developing alternative sourcing contingencies is the heart of supply chain resilience. Simply having a backup plan in case a supplier doesn’t get you your shipment on time is vital, and sometimes it’s better to have a second and third contingency just in case.

Unity Across the Organization

Finally, the most important component in a holistic supply chain is the unifying belief of its importance across every department in the organization. Developing a holistic supply chain strategy starts at the top with every executive providing their input and follows all the way down across departments to the front line. One department may be concerned about cost, another one about the quality of components. When the executives determine the vision of their supply chain, such questions will be easily answered against the company’s values. Such a unified vision for a holistic supply chain will do wonders to inspire your team and help to grow your company as a result.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of taking a holistic approach to your supply chain strategy. We stress the importance of communication in all that we do and provide continuous updates for every shipment that is in our care. Any time you call us, you’ll receive an answer on the phone from a person, never a machine and we’re always willing to help, whether you’re looking for an update on your shipment or a quote. Everything we do is for our customers and no matter what supply chain challenges you’re facing, we have a custom carrier solution that will help you get your shipment to its destination on time and undamaged. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Choosing Your Supply Chain Strategy

There is little doubt that every shipper understands that their supply chain is critically important to their success. Yet recent research has concluded that 85% of shipping executives would only give their supply chain a rating of ‘average’ or below. Subpar supply chains cause multiple financial and operational challenges since companies need to deal with allocations of critical supplies and management of skyrocketing costs. The question becomes: how can companies develop an excellent supply chain, one that will fuel their growth?

The first step in evaluating your supply chain strategy is to assess whether your company has a transactional or strategic supply chain. Transactional supply chains tend to be focused on always putting out fires. There’s a belief that these supply chains are too chaotic and it’s impossible to ever ‘get ahead.’ Transactional supply chains are also too focused on the cost side of the equation, rather than focusing on the value provided by their supply chain partners. Finally, transactional supply chains exhibit a lack of awareness on their suppliers and customers patterns and how those impact their business.

On the other side there are strategic supply chains which tend to: look at the supply chain holistically, and are able to see how everything works together. They also focus on how the patterns of customers and suppliers impact their supply chain activities. Finally they operate with a proactive ‘fire-prevention’ approach, always evaluating their processes in response to changing market conditions. Now the question is: how can a company become more strategic?

Companies that are more strategic take the time and effort to create a written strategic supply chain and/or transportation management plan that defines how activities are managed and quantifies the investments that must be made to address their requirements. They also have written goals and objectives for their supply chain/freight activities as well as supply chain/transportation Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are reviewed on a monthly/quarterly basis. Taking the time to develop, write and incorporate your supply chain partners into your strategy will keep your business strong in the long run and allow your business to achieve incredible performance.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of a dynamic supply chain strategy. Our services were designed to help companies meet their objectives and surpass their expectations, no matter the current operating environment. Our level of service and experience can help you devise a supply chain strategy that will help your business grow. No matter what challenge you’re facing, we have a custom carrier solution that will work for you. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

In the Driver’s Toolbox

No matter how hard a carrier tries, no matter how often companies maintain strict maintenance schedules to keep their trucks in tip-top shape, breakdowns inevitably happen. While roadside assistance is always available, drivers know that shipments need to keep moving and any delays must be addressed.

While major repairs should be left to a professional mechanic, with the right set of tools many if not most of the smaller repairs can be handled by drivers. One of the most valuable tools for a driver is their cell phone since they can call and report the incident to dispatch and anyone else they need to. A cell phone is invaluable for calling roadside assistance as well should a driver not wish to address the mechanical problems they face.

For the more hands-on drivers, some of the tools we’ve found to be absolutely essential in their toolbox include: screwdrivers (philips and flathead), pliers, wrenches, vice grips, a hammer (for knocking debris off of brakes), duct tape, a flashlight, ear plugs, zip ties and a fifth-wheel pin puller. The reason for the fifth wheel puller is because too many drivers hurt themselves when reaching for the pin or trailer tandem and strain their muscles by overextending themselves. These are the ‘lighter’ set of tools which are handy in any situation a driver may find themselves in.

If a driver wishes to be prepared for any situation they find themselves in, some additional tool considerations are: a socket set, pry bar, a torque wrench, spare light bulbs (such as headlights and brake lights) and spare nuts and bolts. Another recommendation from a long time driver was a spare key stored somewhere on the outside of the truck, because it was a matter of “when” not “if” a driver may accidentally lock themselves out of their truck. It helps save them a trip from the locksmith, although this may apply more to long-haul drivers than regional ones. Being prepared is the sign of an experienced driver as well as dedication for getting the job done. Having a few tools for all of the minor fixes is simply another way drivers prove just how resourceful they are.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of keeping a driver equipped for whatever they need on the road. We’re able to maintain our trucks thanks to our routine maintenance schedules along with our driver’s diligence, but we know they’re ready for anything on the road. It’s this diligence that helps keep our shipments moving and their dedication to our customers that ensures every shipment we handle is able to arrive on time and undamaged. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Diesel Fuel Index & Surcharges

If there is one thing that we can count on, it is the volatility of fuel prices. In an effort to provide stability against the ups and downs of the fuel market, carriers created and adopted a practice during the 90s to tie the price of fuel into shipping rates. This fuel surcharge was and still is added in addition to the price of the shipment but only as a means of protecting carriers against the volatility of the fuel markets. However, there’s a new challenge, one that threatens many carriers if it’s not properly addressed.

The Energy Information Administration (the E.I.A.) is a section of the Department of Energy (DOE) which provides ongoing analysis and projections of fuel prices for the United States. The E.I.A. has been in the process of developing new statistical methodologies of estimating on-highway diesel fuel prices and these prices were supposed to be viewable by the public as of June 13, 2022. However, June 13th was the last day that these prices were available to the public for nearly a month. Updates resumed as of July 7th, 2022. The E.I.A. cited technical difficulties for why these prices were not displayed, and most carriers simply used the June 13th rate as their go-to when creating contracts, regardless of market conditions.

The E.I.A. worked hard to get diesel prices live on their website, but they also announced that once prices were live, they would provide a comprehensive list of diesel prices from June 13th through July 7th. The E.I.A. is only providing information, why would this be a problem?

Well, as with all markets there was a degree of fluctuation in the prices of diesel during this interim. When carriers billed for services rendered during this interim, they were using diesel prices as of June 13th for their pricing. They were simply relying on the information they had available to them. Any volatility in pricing opens up the possibility that shippers and carriers who subcontracted between June 13th and July 7th will come back to challenge any and all discrepancies pertaining to fuel surcharges. Many carriers are worried about having to retroactively adjust their freight bills due to market fluctuations.

We would like to take a moment and assure any carriers that we have worked with during this time that we have no intention of calling attention to any discrepancies or ask you to retroactively adjust freight bills to reflect updates from the E.I.A. 

With that in mind, we’d also like to state that Zip Xpress has worked diligently to treat all customers with fairness in our pricing practices and would like to call attention to item 120 in the Application of Surcharges on our Rules Tariff:

“If for some reason the E.I.A. is not able to post the weekly index, the most recent prior posting will be used. If after a period of time of lapsed postings the E.I.A. publishes fuel prices for prior weeks, ZPXS will not retroactively adjust freight bills to reflect those updates.”

As you can see, we will not be retroactively adjusting freight bills to reflect the updates from the E.I.A. We are dedicated to providing all of our customers with the best possible service and we hope that shippers will understand that this was not an attempt from carriers to manipulate pricing, but only a means of operating and getting shipments delivered on time and undamaged. We look forward to serving you and providing you with the customer carrier solutions that will help your business succeed. To see this for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Getting the Service You Deserve

If there is anything that we here at Zip aspire for, it’s better service. This mentality drives everything we do, from our procedures to how our drivers interact with customers. Yet when we hear over and over the lackluster service that so many carriers have provided to shippers recently, we can’t help but balk at such poor treatment. It is absolutely essential that all shippers receive the best service possible because shippers are the key to a dynamic supply chain. Shippers and carriers need each other and when one disrespects the other with poor service, conflict will become inevitable and not only will a customer be lost, reputations will be damaged as well.

Shippers no doubt face rising rates from their carriers and while most of these rate increases are inevitable – whether due to tightened capacity or rising costs, it doesn’t help when shippers see these rate increases paired alongside subpar or even poorer service. Shippers are in the business of creating products for their customers and carriers have the important responsibility of ensuring that those products arrive on time and undamaged. When a carrier breaks a promise of getting a shipment to its final destination in the pursuit of an ‘easier lead’ they’re only hurting themselves, because shippers always remember how a carrier treated them. 

It is vital that carriers set a better service standard for their customers. It was not that long ago when many carriers were facing their greatest challenges and the market has proven that it will always provide more challenges for us to overcome. As for the shippers: always remember that there are carriers willing and ready to take your shipments and provide you with the best service you will ever ask for. There are carriers willing and able to provide you with the options you need to build a better, more resilient supply chain, one that won’t leave you under the misguided belief that there is always another customer waiting in the wings.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of better service to our customers. We communicate with customers every step of the way in their shipment, scheduling pickup and dropoff over the phone so that we can remain transparent. When you call Zip Xpress, you will speak with a person, never a machine because we don’t believe you need to wait for a call back in order to get your shipments moving. We also can assist with all of your shipping problems and guarantee that we have a custom carrier solution that will work for your business. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Deterring Detention

Detention is a policy that causes a lot of tension between shippers, carriers and drivers. For a definition, detention is the costs incurred by a customer for using the equipment beyond the given free time, typically outside of the terminal. This causes a lot of ire from shippers because they’re facing a shortage of employees in their warehouse, while it causes ire with drivers and carriers because they want the driver on the road tending to other shipments. The question then becomes: how can we navigate this situation and create a bridge between shipper and carrier that reduces or even eliminates detention?

For companies on the shipper side, many are facing labor shortages in their warehouses. As they try to find more staff, some companies are even willing to simply pay the detention fees as a ‘cost of doing business’ since their reduced staff can only work so fast in loading/unloading shipments. This is an unfortunate reality we face, however revising pickup and delivery times to accommodate the warehouse is a critical first step.

Another issue in this environment is when a broker tells a driver that a shipment is ready for pickup/delivery when it’s simply not. When a driver arrives and the warehouse hasn’t been notified, this causes tension because the driver is forced to wait and the warehouse staff simply isn’t ready because they weren’t properly notified. The fault here is on the broker for giving faulty information to the driver when they weren’t doing their due diligence on proper pickup/delivery times with the shipper.

On the other hand, there are instances where a driver arrives too early and the shipment isn’t ready. This is generally the case for smaller operations who are seeing their dock open/close times or “package ready at” times ignored. While everyone wants to keep shipments moving, it is vital that carriers respect the shipper’s availability as a sign of respect for their operations. These times are provided for a reason and many shippers know exactly when a package is ready to ship out.

As one suspects, all of these problems can be solved with proper communication for the shipment. Communicating and scheduling proper pickup/delivery times with both sides is the bridge to deterring detention. Providing updates in real time – whether a driver is arriving early or a warehouse worker called in sick will help smooth the dynamic between shippers and carriers. Why? Because both sides are working together to get shipments to the customer on time and undamaged. Keeping communication lines open will help both parties keep their operations running smoothly and will hopefully eliminate unnecessary detention delays.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of communication between us and our customers. We’re constantly working to improve our communication with our customers, providing updates and adjustments in real time as events happen. We respect the availability of our customers and work in a timeframe that works for them. We’ve found that many shippers are more than willing to work with a carrier that is also willing to work with them. All of this goes to prove that communication is key to a dynamic supply chain. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

The Importance of Maintenance Schedules

One of the worst things that can happen to a carrier is a breakdown with their trailer or chassis. The cost and hours of repair as well as the time lost for being unable to deliver shipments can really add up. In the current economy, these costs are magnified for both carriers and shippers. 

There is a dire shortage of chassis and trailers both new and used. Manufacturers are trying to secure materials and parts, but many companies are forced to use what they have. This in turn has stretched mechanics thin as well, which means repairs are taking longer to get completed.

To exacerbate the situation, many carriers are running their trucks ragged due to tightened capacity. There’s always the next shipment which needs to go out and get delivered and it’s unknown how many carriers are performing routine maintenance checks to ensure their vehicles are running properly. In combination with the difficulties inherent in expanding a fleet, any truck that is taken out of commission will be felt by both the carrier and the shipper. As a result of this, both sides are learning the importance of proper maintenance schedules and routines in caring for their vehicles and how much of a competitive advantage it is for the carrier.

Shippers would do well to inquire about a carrier’s maintenance procedures and what their contingency plans are in the event of a breakdown. While accidents can and do happen, most issues with equipment are preventable with proper routine maintenance. Developing maintenance procedures will go a long way in helping carriers get through this hectic time, without putting their equipment at unnecessary risk. We’re unfortunately in a situation where we’re tempted to push our vehicles harder than ever, while at the same time stranded when something goes wrong. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of those shipments you’ve been entrusted with.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of proper routine maintenance. Whenever one of our drivers notices something off about their vehicle, we take note for our mechanic to inspect. We maintain a strict routine maintenance schedule for our fleet, which helps reduce the amount of downtime each of our vehicles face. It is this routine maintenance schedule that helps ensure that all of our vehicles are in tip-top shape and we’re able to keep them on the road performing pick-up and deliveries for all of our dedicated customers. It is simply another way that details matter here, which help us get your shipment to its destination on time and undamaged. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Automation Sector: Is Your Supply Chain Ready?

Many challenges have been prevalent across the American economy, and one of the most pressing has been labor shortages, primarily in manufacturing. As a means of combating these challenges, many manufacturers have turned to automation machinery, generally as a means of bolstering their workforce. The Association for Advanced Automation recently announced that member providers sold an astounding nearly 12,000 units in Q1 of this year alone, with the total valuation of the machines at $646 million. In short, it is a great opportunity for many of these automation manufacturers, but there is a question that remains for the automation sector: is your supply chain ready to handle the increase in orders?

Your technology has become a boon to many companies, and transporting these valuable machines is more important than ever before. Getting your products to your customers is vital because they likely need these machines online in order to keep production going and it is unwise to leave a shipment such as this to chance. Too many carriers are in a position where if your shipment is lost or damaged they will simply ‘move on’ to the next customer, while you and your customer will be left with the task of repairing and/or replacing your machine, causing more delays, more headaches and loss of trust with the carrier.

It would be far better to work with a carrier that is experienced in unique and valuable freight, one that is able to help you build your supply chain as you experience this remarkable growth. Here at Zip Xpress, we maintain a higher standard when it comes to shipping, providing over 20 years of experience in handling unique freight. One of the primary industries we serve is automation and robotics technologies and you can be assured that all of your vital equipment will reach your customer on time and undamaged.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of automation in today’s world. The value this sector brings to our economy is only going to grow and those machines need to be delivered to their customers safely. As the sector continues to grow these companies will inevitably need to grow their supply chains and will need a partner that will help them through all of their shipping challenges. No matter what happens, we will be able to meet those challenges with our custom carrier solutions and help our customers reach their full potential. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!