the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
the PartnerShip Connection blog
Slow Season Tips for Shippers
02/19/2018 — Jen Deming
The make-or-break peak season for shippers has passed, and the holiday rush and subsequent surge of returns is over. Months of preparation and planning have paid off and now is the time businesses get to take it easy and enjoy the lull, right? Truth is, this is the most valuable time you can use to plan and forecast for the next year, so you better make the most of it. Here's some core tips on what shippers and business owners can do during the intermission.
Review and Reflect
One of the most important things a business can do almost immediately after a peak shipping season ends is step back and review how the busy period went. By taking a high-level look at successes and opportunities, it's easier to see what adjustments need to be made for more efficient operations in every area of business for a better bottom line. Is your industry consistently cyclic? Are busy times evolving into lengthier periods? Do you need to prepare earlier than you used to? Did you have a large enough workforce to fulfill orders easily? How effective were your marketing promotions? It's also imperative to take a closer look at this year's expenses and where most of your costs, both anticipated and unforeseen, were invested. How close did you come to your projected budget for the period? These are all variables that you need to look at in order to have successful subsequent peak seasons.
With less stress on order production, fulfillment, and replenishment, it's a great time to get organized and focus on what you can't during peak season. In order to operate more productively, it's important to make sure everything is in order from top down – office space, production facilities, and warehousing. Reviewing everything from payroll applications, updated production equipment, inventory strategy, and warehouse management technology is crucial in identifying potential roadblocks that may impede your business from operating at maximum potential. It's also a great time to reinvest in your staff, from developing additional training programs to conducting employee reviews on workplace culture and performance. With less immediate emphasis on production and meeting deadlines, a forward-looking business can also evaluate industry trends as well as evaluate peers. That way, you can better project what you need from purchasing inventory to hiring your sales force.
Good inventory management procedures are important in creating a seamless peak period, specifically for order fulfillment and replenishment. Now is the time to implement proper organization and best practices, in order to maximize efficiency and save time and money on the front-side. Depending on budget and expenses, the slower period is a good time to take a look at updating tech and software. RFID (radio frequency identification) systems, wireless LAN, and bar code systems can all help with monitoring of your sell-through cycle by improving accuracy giving you real-time data. It's also a very good time to take a look at your inbound shipping procedures for your supply orders. Are your vendor-directed options making sense for your business and your customers? If you haven't already, it's a good time to take control of your inbound shipping and take advantage of available alternatives.
To piggyback off of inventory management, it's a great idea to take a look at your shipping procedures as a whole. Was there a high amount of damages to your shipments during transit? Limiting the costs put into freight claims replacement orders is a great way to avoid unexpected expenses, and you can do this by reevaluating packaging type and procedures. Did you have difficulty hitting delivery deadlines? Oftentimes, fulfillment centers can charge for late arrivals or hold-overs in addition to sort and segregation fees. It may be smart to take a look at your available carriers or service options to see which make the most sense for your business and your customers. Different service options can save you time and offer peace of mind about the security of your shipments. With more time available to shop options, it's a great opportunity to collect shipping invoices and conduct a shipping audit with different carriers to see if you are getting the best rates available. Shipping costs add up, especially during heavier freight times, and this is another effective way to keep your expenses down.
Remaining vigilant and being proactive after peak season is crucial for businesses to prepare for upcoming peak periods. Taking a look at what can be improved going forward, and what worked for you in the past an ensure success, and less stress! A huge portion of preparing your business is making sure you have your shipping processes streamlined, and the experts at PartnerShip can help. From analyzing your freight costs, to making sure you have the proper services selected for your shipments, we find the solutions that are right for you. Call 800-599-2902, email sales@PartnerShip.com, or click below to get a free quote today!
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It's Show Time! Wrapping up at Fancy Food and Winter NAMM
01/30/2018 — Jen Deming
It's winter tradeshow season here at PartnerShip, and this year two of our favorites are taking place back to back! Senior Program Manager Harry Centa attended both the Winter Fancy Food and NAMM Shows, jet-setting from San Francisco to Anaheim, California, taking in all the music and tasty snacks one could handle over the course of a week.
First up was the Winter Fancy Food Show, put on by the Specialty Food Association and created for industry leaders and innovators eager to exhibit the future of specialty food! Over 80,000 products are exhibited, with plenty of samples and take-homes to enjoy and share. Thought leaders plan sessions on buying, storefront trends and hot new flavor profiles to expect for 2018.
Harry set up shop in the lobby, helping SFA exhibitors prep their event shipments' return trips home and answer any questions about PartnerShip and the shipping services we provide members. The show is also a great opportunity to re-connect with association members and recognize industry leaders with awards honoring creativity and culinary excellence.
After receiving his fill of tasty treats, Harry traveled to Anaheim for the Winter NAMM Show, where artists, tech experts, and music lovers unite twice a year to share industry trends, education, and of course, enjoy live music! The bi-yearly event, put on by the National Association of Music Merchants, serves as a gathering place for industry leaders who want to expand and present the newest innovations in musical development, sound recording, lighting technology and serves as a platform for educational programs promoting the importance of making music.
Now entering its 117th year, the show features over 7,000 brands and five stages featuring live concerts from up and coming musical artists, as well as quite a few big names. One of the highlights of the show included the Breakfast of Champions with special guest Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead as well as She Rocks Awards at the House of Blues, honoring women in music with a performance by Melissa Etheridge.
From snacks to songwriting, the Fancy Food and NAMM shows allow PartnerShip the opportunity to say hello to old friends and meet business owners and industry professionals who can benefit from their association memberships. These are two of the most anticipated events we visit during the year, and we would like to thank all of the attendees and exhibitors who helped make them such great shows!
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Trade Show Shipping Tips
01/26/2018 — Leah Hyland
Trade show shipping can be nerve-racking and a bit confusing for exhibitors. Nobody knows this better than Jennifer Hammersmith, our Customer Service Manager. Her team helped exhibitors ship to 215 different trade shows last year, and she has seen it all. I asked her a few questions and she was kind enough to share some wisdom about what exhibitors can do to make everything go as smooth as possible.
How far in advance should you get a quote for your exhibit shipment?
One to two months out from the show is the ideal time to get a quote. Any farther out and rates may change due to fuel. But you don’t want to wait until the last minute either. Use the advanced warehouse rather than shipping directly to the show site to ensure your exhibit materials are ready to go for the show.
What tips do you have for first time exhibitors?
Don’t overdo it. Start small with a 10x10 booth and a modest stock of product. Your first year is a great time to learn and gather new ideas. Once you’re there, make sure to walk the show floor to look at what other exhibitors are doing and to get inspiration. Also, take plenty of notes about what worked and what didn’t. That way when you plan for the following year you’ll be ready to take it bigger.
What is a common question you get from exhibitors?
Exhibitors usually ask about the roles between PartnerShip, the carrier, and the decorator. As the broker, PartnerShip helps exhibitors set up their shipment. One of our customer service representatives will recommend specific days to ship your materials out, secure a discounted rate with the carrier, and help you schedule your shipment. The carrier then picks up and delivers your shipment. Once it arrives, that’s where it’s handed off to the show decorator. The decorator is responsible for the drayage and material handling, meaning they get it to your booth.
What’s the best way exhibitors can plan around bad weather?
The advance warehouse exists for a reason. Take advantage of it and ship early! Keep an eye on the weather – not just in your city and the show city, but also nationally. Think about what happens to airlines when one city is hit with a bad storm. Flights in and out of that city aren’t the only ones affected. Airlines will often have to delay and cancel flights across the board. Shipping is very similar. Bad weather in one area affects a carrier’s network all across the country, causing costly disruptions.
What are some best practices exhibitors should follow?
- Ship early (have you noticed a trend?). It’s the best way to ensure you’re all set for the show. If there’s damage to your shipment or you experience delays due to weather, you’ll have time to create a contingency plan.
- Use bright, unique packaging. The best way to think about this is how you mark your luggage when flying. The more you can make your luggage stand out, the easier it is to identify it as it comes through baggage claim. A simple way to do this is to find patterned duck tape and wrap it around your container.
- Track and confirm delivery. When you confirm delivery with the decorator you can also have them send you a picture. That way you’re able to see if there’s any visible damage ahead of time. This extra step will save you from potential heartache when you arrive to the show.
- Take a picture of your freight before it leaves. If you have a picture of your freight (with a time-stamp if possible), you can easily help the carrier or decorator locate it if it’s lost. You’ll also have evidence of its prior condition if it sustains damage during transit.
- Create a pack list. If the shipment is lost or damaged, you’ll have all the information you need ready to go. Include a list of your products, along with the quantity and costs.
- Be prepared for the worst case scenario. To compare trade show shipping to flying again, think of how you might protect yourself against lost baggage by putting some essentials in your carry-on. Bring some extra product or collateral in your luggage, just in case something happens to your shipment. Also, think of all aspects of the show – not just your shipment. Have a plan for if you encounter any other disruptions like delayed/canceled flights or the wrong carpet in your booth.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re exhibiting at a trade show, but if you follow Jennifer’s advice, you’ll be in good shape. If you have a show coming up, you can reach our customer service team by calling 800-599-2902 or emailing sales@PartnerShip.com - or simply request a quote by clicking below.
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High Freight Rates and Tight Capacity: What You Can Expect
01/22/2018 — Leah Hyland
If you’ve been experiencing sticker shock from unpredictable freight rates lately, you’re not alone. Shippers are seeing a lot of volatility in the truckload and LTL market, with no end in sight.
2017 ended with tightened capacity and record rates. By December, the average van rate was $2.11 per mile (DAT) – an all time high. The load-to-truck ratio was also breaking records at the end of the year, with 9 load postings for every truck posting in December.
Coming off of a record high December, capacity continues to be tight in January – particularly with reefers since they’re needed to keep freight from freezing in the coldest parts of the country. DAT reported that the national load-to-truck ratio at the beginning of the year was the highest ever recorded at 25.2 reefer loads per truck. During which, the reefer rate was at a high $2.71/mile. Van rates have also been breaking records. According to DAT, they were at $2.30/mile on January 6.
So what can shippers expect going forward? Let’s look at the trends. We saw a bit of a recession in 2015 and 2016 with rates and load-to-truck ratios declining, but that appears to be over. Rates climbed throughout 2017 and we can continue to expect increases in 2018.
Overall, the U.S. economy is healthy right now and is growing, increasing freight demand. In contrast, the trucking industry is dealing with the aftermath of the ELD (electronic logging devices) mandate. Not only do they need more drivers and more equipment on the road to handle the same amount of freight, but they are also contending with a long running driver shortage. All of this equals tightened capacity, which is becoming the new normal in the industry.
Recent weather events have been driving up rates as well. Areas of the U.S. that don’t typically experience extreme cold or snow have been hit by treacherous weather that has led to dangerous conditions including low visibility and icy roads. In a tight capacity market, these conditions drive up rates even more.
In February we can expect to see capacity loosen some (barring any winter storms or other troublesome events), as this is typically the slowest time of year for freight. However, you’re likely to see higher rates than you have in years past, because of the long-term trends.
In April, drivers not complying with the ELD mandate will be put out of service. Up until then, inspectors and roadside enforcement personnel are simply documenting and issuing citations if a truck isn’t equipped with the required device. As a result, we may see some ripple effects. There could be fleets that have held out or hoped to fly under the radar until April. There could also be another wave of trucking companies exiting the market, which will leave a void in the already tight market.
Now it’s more important than ever to find ways to mitigate the impact of this tightened capacity. Plan ahead so you can be flexible. Providing more lead time and giving your carrier a longer pickup window rather than a specific time can lessen the strain on its network. Planning ahead can also help you shift to more committed freight and away from the spot market. The spot market is more sensitive to disruptions and subject to reactionary pricing spikes.
Luckily you don’t have to navigate the freight market alone. When you work with PartnerShip, you benefit from our large network of carrier partners and our shipping expertise. We help you ship smarter with competitive rates and reliable service. Get a quote today!
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Season of Giving: Rainey Institute
12/21/2017 — Jen Deming
At PartnerShip, we are wrapping up our week of holiday visits with our five charitable organizations. Every organization helps to spread the theme of compassion and community not only during this season, but all year long. We've presented debra of America, Downs on the Farm, the Gathering Place, and Music on a Mission. Today, we visit the Rainey Institute on Cleveland, Ohio's east-side.
The Rainey Institute was founded on the belief that kids who participate in visual and performing arts are impacted on an interpersonal level by encouraging self-esteem and positive social interaction. By exploring dance, drama and theater, music, sewing and art, students of the Rainey Institute learn to be leaders and positive role models in both school performance and in daily life.
The organization was established in 1904 by Eleanor B. Rainey, which began by creating reading and lunchroom program for boys and young workmen in the local Eastern European community. These programs provided physical fitness, literacy studies, and industrial training in a wholesome recreational environment. In the 1960s, program focus shifted exclusively to the arts and a deeper curriculum was developed for the growing community in Cleveland, aligning with the Cleveland Music School Settlement. This cooperation extended to a modern program list that includes music theory, therapy, dance and private instrumental classes for students.
Currently, the organization has grown to include more than 2,500 children and young adults age 3 and up, where they attend Rainey after school, on Saturdays, and during summer camps. The program listing has become more sophisticated, but the essential message at Rainey remains the same: that regardless of background, socio economic levels, and skill set, a child who is influenced by the arts is a child who has an outlet for creativity and self expression.
We are inspired by the Rainey Institute and the staff's efforts to help Cleveland's kids gain exposure to the arts and confidence in themselves. Get involved and support the Rainey Institute through fundraising, community events, and donations, and learn more about their various programs for kids.
Check out more pictures from all of our visits on our facebook and learn more about these amazing local organizations that have given so much and helped so many!
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Season of Giving: Music on a Mission
12/20/2017 — Jen Deming
The holiday season is one of giving, and this year PartnerShip has once again chosen 5 charitable organizations to donate to and spread holiday cheer! These organizations are about the people behind the scenes and the message they want to spread, and we want to spread the word on their amazing work! We've touched on debra of America, Downs on the Farm, and the Gathering Place. Today, we would like to recognize Music on a Mission.
Music on a Mission believes in the power that music has to heal and enrich the lives of every individual. By providing access to everyone, including those with special needs through their wide variety of free programs, the organization helps develop physical and emotional health as well as create an environment that fosters positive social interaction and inspires self-confidence. Music on a Mission provides therapeutic programs for the young and elderly, veterans and nursing home residents. Through group sing-alongs, choir performances, dancing activities, and one on one sessions with artists and writers, music motivates these individuals through vocalization, socialization, and self-care.
Our PartnerShip team was invited to tour the facility in Avon Lake, Ohio, to check out the onsite music venue lovingly known as "Barnegie Hall". An exclusively volunteer team donated their time and energy over the course of 14 months to repurpose and renew an older barn standing on the property. Storing equipment and in disrepair, the building was renovated and equipped with sound equipment, band instruments, and full seating space for visiting artists and musicians. Proceeds of any performances support the programs of Music on a Mission.
Upon immediate entry, the warmth and care put into the place can be felt through the high windows, bright light streaming through. The large stage is ready and waiting for its next performance, and the seating area is surrounded with memorabilia and photos of important visitors and moments in The Barn's history. An outside deck with string lights hugs the tree-lined outdoor space and provides an additional place to gather. A good energy resides here, leftover from the hard work of kind people, dedicated to creating musical opportunities for individuals who need them most.
All Music on a Mission programs are offered free for individuals, and the organization is supported mostly by vital private donations. Encouraging mental and physical development, as well as essential self-confidence to individuals who may not otherwise have the support and opportunity to do so is essential, and rent and payroll expenses add up. Click here to learn more about the different ways you can support Music on Mission, from donations to booking live events at Barnegie Hall!
Take a look at our facebook page to check out more amazing pictures from our visit and don't forget to check back tomorrow when we highlight another fantastic local non-profit that embodies strength of community and warmth of heart.
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Season of Giving: the Gathering Place
12/19/2017 — Leah Hyland
At PartnerShip, we’re in the holiday spirit! Once again, we’ve selected five charitable organizations to donate to this season. They are all amazing organizations and we think they deserve all the recognition they can get. So far, we’ve showcased debra of America and Downs on the Farm. Today, we are talking about the Gathering Place.
The Gathering Place offers a wide variety of free programs and services addressing the emotional and physical needs of individuals and families currently coping with cancer. They help manage the stress associated with a cancer diagnosis and provide a number of enrichment programs. The work that the Gathering Place does provides people with a space where they can feel safe, connect with others, and find peace during a time of chaos.
A few of us were treated to a tour of their west side location in Westlake, Ohio. The atmosphere is very relaxing and it feels more like home than a care facility. They have a very impressive area for art therapy, a massage therapy room, and plenty of calming spaces for support groups. One of the most touching parts of our tour was seeing and learning about the Regina Brett Wig Salon, which provides a free wig to women with cancer-related hair loss. It’s very moving to see all the components of complete care that the Gathering Place offers.
The most incredible part is that all of the programs and services the Gathering Place offers are completely free. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is not only stressful but is also a huge financial burden. To provide a place where those affected by cancer can go for premium care and not have to worry about expenses is very admirable. Click here to learn all of the different ways you can support the Gathering Place – from donations to fundraising and community events!
Check out more pictures from our visit on facebook and make sure to come back to the blog tomorrow when we featuring another amazing local non-profit that has touched our hearts!
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Season of Giving: Downs on the Farm
12/18/2017 — Leah Hyland
To help spread holiday cheer, PartnerShip has once again selected five charitable organizations to donate to. On Friday we profiled debra of America, a non-profit that supports a cause very close to our hearts. Today, we’re going to tell you a little bit about Downs on the Farm of Amherst, Ohio.
Downs on the Farm provides animal therapy to children with special needs. They have combined two very meaningful causes into one very special non-profit organization by rescuing mistreated and neglected animals in need of finding loving forever homes and enriching the lives of special needs kids. Through animal assisted activities, kids have the opportunity to improve skills, increase their self-esteem, and reduce anxiety.
When we visited Downs on the Farm, the owners Shawna and David, gave us a warm welcome and were kind enough to give us a tour. Their property is incredible and we were quickly greeted by a number of their animals. Goats, alpacas, and horses oh my!
During our visit we learned about some of the awesome fundraisers Shawna and David have up their sleeves. Goat yoga is a popular event, and they just launched a new Escape Room that sounds like a blast. There certainly isn’t a shortage of fun activities around the farm, even in the winter months.
Along with individual programs for animal assisted therapy, kids can also enjoy a petting zoo, pony rides, and train rides. Downs on the Farm even has a big playground where kids and kids (the baby goat kind) can play together. It is a great experience for the whole family.
If you’re interested in supporting a worthy cause, there are several ways to get involved or you can choose to donate! To see more pictures from our visit, check out the album on our facebook page. Be sure to check back on the blog this week as we profile the remaining three organizations we picked this year!
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Season of Giving: debra of America
12/15/2017 — Leah Hyland
In the spirit of the season, PartnerShip is donating to five charitable organizations that speak to our hearts and lift up our community. This tradition started several years ago and it’s our way of giving back and saying thank you to those who inspire us. The hardworking elves in the PartnerShip holiday planning committee have made their selections and we couldn’t be more excited to share them with you! We hope that by hearing their stories you’ll be as inspired as we were to hear about what they do.
First up is debra of America. This organization is dedicated to finding a cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), which affects 1 out of every 20,000 live births in the United States. EB is a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that is painful, often debilitating, and is in some cases lethal. There is no treatment or cure. Daily wound care, pain management, and protective bandaging are the only options available.
There’s a reason it’s often referred to as the “worst disease you’ve never heard of.” Children living with EB are affectionately referred to as “Butterfly Children” because their skin is as fragile as a butterfly’s wing. They live with painful blisters that cause them to endure constant pain and suffering.
debra of America is committed to funding research toward a cure, while also providing direct services and support to patients and their families. debra of America works to improve the quality of life for people with EB, their families, and caregivers. They have several different programs that include services like educating nurses, distributing wound care supplies, and providing care packages to families with newborns with EB.
Next week, we'll feature the remaining four organizations, so make sure to check back!
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2018: The Year of the Truck Driver
12/06/2017 — Jen Deming
Ringing in the New Year means starting fresh and anticipating big changes for future, and truck drivers may be looking forward to 2018 more than anyone. The ELD mandate, driver shortages, fuel costs, and e-commerce boom are all components that leverage trucking companies' ability to determine cost and coverage.
As we covered in our previous blog post, truckload rates are going up due to a number of different factors. That means that drivers and trucking companies are going to be behind the wheel when it comes to determining how much shipping lanes will be going for. Having this leverage pushes the shipper to the passenger seat, with the potential for less bargaining power and high shipping costs heading into the new year.
A significant factor contributing to the higher truckload rates is due to an overall shortage of willing and capable truck drivers. Trucking analyst John Larkin suggests that the slow but steady economic increase will result in stronger demand with tighter supply. "The primary driver of the supply/demand tightness is the economy-wide shortage of skilled, blue collar labor," he says. "While driver pay scales began to rise in the 2nd half of 2017, the starting point for wages was so low, that it may take multiple wage hikes before we see any alleviation of this chronic challenge." The ELD mandate, which will be fully implemented on Dec 18, 2017, may add increased tension to an already volatile scenario. Many drivers view the mandate as an invasion of privacy, and may push an already limited number of qualified and experienced drivers from the pool of available carriers.
The amount of freight being hauled by trucks is expected to increase more than 3% annually over the next five years, as reported by the American Trucking Association. The industry has already seen a 2.8% increase over the past year, and the ATA estimates it could accelerate as much as 3.4% before slowing down again slightly. A notable increase in shipping economy means that though the available trucker pool has dwindled, those who are qualified are more in demand than ever. In addition, because those drivers may have to travel outside their normal area of operations, they can charge a premium. The ATA also reports that trucking will continue to be the dominant freight mode, and in 2017 "approximately 15.18 billion tons of freight will be moved by all transportation modes." The growing economy will further push demand and stretch the pool of available carriers. The ATA estimates that the current 50,000 driver-deficit could expand to 174,000 by 2026.
With that economic push, and labor shortage, truck drivers will demand higher wages and shippers will have to pay. The third-quarter hurricanes are also said to have played a factor, with drivers understandably asking more for lanes they had run at lower rates previously. Additionally, Florida and Texas, the two states hit the hardest by the storms, are typically some of the most reliable recruiting markets for new drivers. Until the economy recovers in these states, the pool of new drivers will be limited, with many potential recruits choosing the recent wave of construction positions over trucking. A jump in driver pay may keep them interested. According to Bob Costello, the American Trucking Association's economist, observes, "We've already seen fleets raising pay and offering other incentives to attract drivers." The driver pay structure is also evolving. Where once most carriers were being paid by load, many are now moving to an hourly pay model, specifically as the ELD mandate takes effect. Either way, with the anticipated changes for the new year, it's safe to say truck drivers and carriers are going to have a huge influence on shipping rates for the near future.
So, now that truck drivers have extra leverage, what can shippers do to help keep down their shipping costs in 2018? Working with a freight broker like PartnerShip can help add value and flexibility to your current shipping options. We shop rates and put in the legwork for you, negotiating on your behalf with carriers for both your LTL and your Truckload moves. If you have questions on how PartnerShip can help manage your shipping costs, call us at 800-599-2902 or get a free quote today!
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