August 27, 2014

If you’re celebrating anything and everything before the end of summer this week, we have another for you to throw on the pile: New York City’s 350th birthday party!

English: Bird's eye panorama of Manhattan & Ne...
Bird’s eye panorama of Manhattan & New York City in 1873 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What, you didn’t buy a gift?

Well, you can keep that credit card in your wallet, as very few folks will be celebrating what we might expect to be quite a historic milestone for our area. It turns out that Americans aren’t big on breaking out the bubbly to mark the arrival of the British, regardless of how many centuries have passed.

As the piece explains, no major events are planned for the city on this particular birthday. Some would argue that 1664 has no business even being recognized as the city’s DOB. These folks would instead direct us to 1625, and the settlement of a sleepy little Dutch outpost called New Amsterdam, on the land where now some of the world’s most crucial financial players ply their trade.

One way or another, there’s not a lot of birthday cake being passed around on either occasion.

An interesting side-note in this history lesson – and one more closely related to our profession – is just how crucial a role the East coast’s ports and waterways played in the ownership and development of our region.

If you read all the way through the New York Times article linked earlier, you’ll notice that the British takeover of New Amsterdam was largely achieved by leveraging their increasingly powerful naval influence at key points along the Hudson River and Verrazano Narrows. The battle was a bloodless one, in part due to the declining power of the Dutch incumbents, but also because the Brits found a way to control these key entry and exit points to the city.

Even today, with air travel dominant and the car as the main mode of transport to traverse the country, ports on the East and West coasts dominate the decisions made by supply chain planners. For sheer size of volume and cost-effectiveness, it’s hard to beat the power of a ship coming into port.

Whether the British knew this 350 years ago, or simply got lucky with one of many imperial “acquisitions” is up for debate. What’s completely certain is that they won’t be invited back for a party!

August 22, 2014

If you missed our monthly newsletter, you also missed an opportunity to discover the unexpected culinary corner that is *drum roll* North Brunswick, New Jersey!

Yes, yes, we’re aware that dining in North Brunswick doesn’t receive the same praise as TriBeCa (or perhaps even Teaneck), but if you know where to look, great food ios everywher. And one man who knows just where to look is Capacity LLC CEO, Jeff Kaiden. Continue reading Capacity’s Culinary Corner: Dining in North Brunswick, NJ

August 20, 2014
Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki, looking west.
The streets of Helsinki will soon see driverless cars mix  with other modes of transport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time we looked at automated vehicle delivery, it involved a courier using GPS to locate a car’s coordinates for order drop off. So not really that automated at all, except for the location and scheduling part.

When it comes to using driverless vehicles for transport planning, however, we’re firmly at the automated end of the equation.

While still a long way off, we already see the technology ready to roll for driverless vehicles. Google’s work in the field has been news for some time, but an ambitious transport project underway in Finland will certainly have the eyes of the world watching, as Helsinki aims to connect up all forms of transport for a seamless, shared transit experience.

The project is sublime in its simple objective, yet unimaginably complex in the underlying logistics. Helsinki will attempt to integrate all forms of transport, old and new, manned and unmanned, into a single app, designed to connect origin and destination with the most efficient route. If that involves connecting up an old bus with a new, shared-use driverless car, all the better.

The theory underpinning all this is that schedules are known, moving parts can now be tracked thanks to geo-location devices, and our own location can be flagged in the same way. By connecting all three and applying some smart algorithms underneath, the optimum route can be calculated based on speed, expense, or any other parameter that matters to the person making the journey.

The parallels and potential applications for driverless, mode-agnostic transport planning in the supply chain are many.

Consider just how similar the proposed system in Helsinki is to solve the challenge that transport planners face every day. It’s often as simple as getting from A to B, but there are hundreds of considerations en route that make actually scheduling the moving parts incredibly complex. Managing this complexity is at the heart of logistics, and any help that technology can offer along the way is warmly received.

A transport planning team with mobile access to an app that calculates the complex variables of their industry gains a significant competitive advantage. The clearest immediate gains are the time saved on factoring in these influences manually to come up with an optimal route. Subsequent spin-off wins could include new transport opportunities being flagged, increased adoption of intermodal transport solutions, and reduced training costs as less-experienced employees can be brought up to speed on complex systems in a shorter time frame.

Furthermore, it’s easy to see an entire industry popping up alongside this sort of software, providing customization for the unique transport challenges of each business and helping managers navigate the roll out of such systems. Service providers already exist across the realm of warehouse management systems and freight transit tracking, so it would be no great leap to say that a support system would be required for automated transport planning.

Overall, it’s another reason to keep your finger on the pulse of technology and watch those newswires. Or you could just continue to follow this blog and watch our Facebook / Twitter / Google+ feeds… we’re here to keep you moving!

 

 

 

August 15, 2014

An interesting online article from Area Development magazine takes a look at just how likely it is that we’ll see a rapid move to intermodal supply chain solutions by North American companies.

Map of the North American Class I railroad net...
North American Class I railroad network from 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To support this theory the writer points to an impressive 30 new inland port operations that are now functioning or in the works since the turn of the century. Two-thirds of these are also new as of the past five years, showing the increasing vitality of the trend.

Where unloading facilities open, storage and distribution centers are sure to follow, and the fact that rail freight volume has quadrupled in the last 25 years makes the resurgence of rail connections a very real phenomenon.

The domination of shipping ports and trucking companies has made the coasts the center of attention for as long as most supply chain professionals can remember. Of course goods move all over the country from there, including plenty of internal distribution points, but the promise of rail is that there are towns all along the lines in desperate need of economic regeneration.With development funds being channeled as widely as Ohio and Pennsylvania to Tennessee and New Mexico, a majority of the country stands to compete for the potential new business that new inland facilities bring.

Some of the driving factors here are positive, others less so. We wrote last year about the potential to bring back the true appeal of “Made in the USA,” which many Americans value and would help to kick the economy on to the next step of its recovery.

On the downside, the lack of investment in our roads and bridges is forcing supply chain planners to reevaluate the risk and costs associated with trucking, which helps to make planners pause for thought when it comes to taking advantage to train moves.

In reality, the future of cargo movement will be a carefully crafted blend of sea, rail and road freight (with air reserved for those vital, valuable items that your purchaser simply must have tomorrow!)  The revitalization of the country’s railroads and internal distribution points is nonetheless something to be celebrated, and a trend that the industry will be watching intently.

 

August 13, 2014

CAPACITY FOR SERVICE
Capacity LLC has grown into a leading mid-sized provider of warehousing and third-party order fulfillment services for domestic and international clients.

Long gone are the days when warehousing and third-party order fulfillment companies could rely solely on labor, square footage and transportation to meet their clients’ needs. Capacity LLC continues to adapt as its clients have, and today the company offers a suite of services that help its customers grow in a rapidly changing marketplace.

“The focus of our niche is technology and adding value to the product, so we’re helping free our clients to focus on product development, marketing and executing business goals,” says Thom Campbell, chief strategy officer for Capacity LLC. “We have worked with companies that were fairly small at inception and provided them the kind of expertise they didn’t have internally or never really wanted to cultivate.”

Campbell joined forces with father and son engineers Jeff and Allen Kaiden and CFO Arlen Fish in the 1999 to form Capacity LLC. The startup company landed Netgrocer.com – an online grocery store – as its first client, managing the customer’s warehouse in North Brunswick, N.J.

Capacity LLC’s management team realized from inception that Netgrocer.com had more space than it needed, so Capacity LLC offered to rent out the warehouse for its own business, sharing profits on new clients. By 2003, the company was fully operational and assumed the lease for its first warehouse in New Brunswick.

Today, Capacity LLC’s New Jersey campus consists of three facilities – two are 130,000 square feet apiece and a third is 165,000 square feet. The company also has a location in City of Industry, Calif., which is 25 miles east of Los Angeles, and a sales office in New York City.

Capacity’s services include EDI and e-commerce order fulfillment, pick, pack and ship, client services, B2B fulfillment, B2C fulfillment, 3PL solutions, international fulfillment, kitting and assembly, returns management, and reduced shipping costs.

RAPID RESPONSE
In today’s logistics industry, clients and vendors alike must be increasingly flexible to keep the bottom line improving. In order to stay on top of the latest needs for its clients, Capacity LLC meets regularly with them to determine the next facet of their partnership way before it is needed. Campbell says these meetings occur at least quarterly.

“We listen very carefully to what’s important to them and what they need to do in order to succeed,” Campbell says.

 

“If we forget we’re a service provider in a customer service industry, we will lose sight of how we do what we do well.”

This is particularly important for a medium-sized player in an industry with stiff and large competition. Therefore, Capacity LLC pays close attention to the larger concerns clients have with their supply chain. For example, CEO Jeff Kaiden spent three days at the Foundation for Strategic Sourcing conference in Lexington, Ky.

“Participating in groups like that, you get to hear from larger, more robustly provisioned companies 10 times or larger than our size,” Campbell says. “Also, there are areas where they are not as nimble as us, and areas where we can be more responsive. Understanding how to differentiate yourself within your niche is a key to growth in a highly fragmented industry like ours.”

Capacity LLC doesn’t limit its active listening to its clients and peers in the industry. Campbell says the company will listen to truckers, packaging providers and any of its vendors who can help Capacity LLC gain any edge possible.

“By being very active students of everything that is happening in the industry, you can learn a great deal,” Campbell says.

One such partner is Corporate Resource Services, a recruiting a staffing provider that Capacity LLC has relied upon for over 10 years.

“For more than a decade CRS has been a key partner to Capacity in the areas of HR, training and flexible labor,î Campbell says. “On a corporate and on a relationship level, they are a tried-and- true partner, having remained with us through numerous corporate actions driving their impressive growth.

“They have helped us enhance safety, and worked on site daily to help elevate our floor teams’ performance and integration into the company,” Campbell adds. “They have helped us to create and perpetuate a corporate culture that is truly can-do, passionate about our work on behalf of our clients, and deeply resourceful.”

STEPPING UP
Capacity LLC learned a great deal from one of its largest clients in a short amount of time to keep up with some rigid quality standards. About five years ago, Johnson & Johnson acquired Greek health and beauty manufacturer Korres Natural Products. The initial concern was Johnson & Johnson would end the relationship with Capacity LLC, but after the health product giant saw Capacity’s expertise in shipping to the beauty industry firsthand, it instead brought Capacity up to speed with its own standards required to be one of its providers.

According to Campbell, becoming a Johnson & Johnson provider includes obtaining certifications, registrations and submitting facilities to a number of quality audits. This includes becoming certified in current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, providing detailed standard operating procedures and other areas of quality control.

Campbell says Capacity LLC already had plenty of quality control measures in place along these lines before Johnson & Johnson became its client, but the higher bar Johnson & Johnson sets for its providers took Capacity to a new level that now benefits its other clients.

“You can’t just implement cGMP SOPs for one client – it must be company- wide,” Campbell says. “Therefore, our HSN assembly process for Korres was an immediate benefit to Tarte Cosmetics, Weleda and all our other clients looking to Capacity for value-added services.

“It forced us to raise the levels of our game and allowed us to keep the business,” Campbell adds. “When you learn from a company like Johnson & Johnson, there are benefits accrued across the business.”