REVERSE LOGISTICSHow reverse logistics contributes to the circular economy.

By John Mugnaini

Most organizations today work under the traditional linear economy, where raw materials are made into products and are disposed of after a consumer’s use. The problem with this model is that the materials are finite, and not only are the disposed products hardly ever reused or repurposed, but the disposal process itself has a considerable impact on the environment.


(Photo credit: Courtesy of LEO A DALY) 

Your warehouse may be costing you employees.

 By Linda Landry

As an architect specializing in warehouse design, one of the most common complaints I hear from clients is about the high cost of employee turnover. Labor is often the most expensive part of running a warehouse, and replacing an employee costs the equivalent of several months’ salary, after hiring, onboarding, training and ramp time to peak productivity are considered. When developing goals for a new warehouse project, designing to improve employee retention is often at the top of the list.

 PROCURECON 01Trump’s trade war could mean trouble for the procurement industry.

 By WBR Insights

Satirists and political commentators often quote the adage, “war is good for business.” However, when it comes to a trade war, it can mean all kinds of problems for industry – especially in the business of procuring goods and services from overseas.


Planning your route and developing a clear sense of where you’re going can help you stay safe on the road

 By Inbal axelrod

Driving is a dynamic experience, and there are so many important factors on the road that sometimes even the most experienced driver can overlook if they are tired, stressed or otherwise distracted.

 Even more, one simple slip up can lead to accidentally taking a wrong turn and reaching unfamiliar territory – which in turn creates more stress and less focus on the road. However, this can all be avoided if you aim to develop a clear sense of where you are going before you set off – in other words, if you plan your journey. 

Whether you’re going on a short trip to the grocery store, or have multiple destinations to reach around town, we’ve gathered some points on why planning your route will increase your safety on the road, and minimize and stress you may bear. 

Stay Focused

Understanding our vulnerability on the road is the first step in ensuring safety while driving. But, of course, there is more to it than simple understanding. We need to be sure that we remain focused on the road at all times, and to do so it’s crucial to remove any variables that can be dealt with beforehand, such as your route. 

We all have a schedule to follow whether we’re on the road to run some errands, on a road trip, or for work. But, with some cities being built like a maze, arriving at new locations, or having a general bad sense of direction, it’s very easy to get lost and start worrying about meeting that schedule or even simply where to make a U-turn. 

This means, that rather than focusing on where you are on the road, for example, busy main roads or dangerous junctions, you find yourself fixated on getting back on track. This not only increases yours and others risk on the road but also is guaranteed to make you more stressed. 

But, this could all be avoided if you familiarize yourself with where you are going, and plan your journey. Regardless of the number of stops you need to make, if you have a pre-planned route that you can follow, you can forget about needing to know every turn you must take, and place the focus back on your driving while following the route. 

Therefore, when you do reach those unfamiliar road layouts or tricky overtaking opportunities you’re 100 percent focused on what you are doing, rather than where you are going. 

Avoid Mistakes

We all know that getting lost affects the quality of driving. However, the experience doesn’t seem to be bad enough to prepare the next time we get into the car. But, getting lost and reaching unfamiliar roads does have some impact on safety due to worrying about where you are going or missing your appointment. Therefore, being distracted significantly increases the risks on the road. 

In reality, we all have busy schedules so most of the time the last thing people have time for is to sit and plan. But, avoiding a fraught journey is the key to safe driving as you are less likely to get distracted and make mistakes. And, this can be achieved with preparation and planning.  By planning, you can avoid being rushed, always know where you’re going, and therefore avoid any mistakes. A wrong turn is an easy error to fix with a planned route, and you’ll guarantee that you will feel more confident about finding your destination. 

Manage Your Journey

Before you set out, ask yourself if you really need to make the trip. If you can achieve your work or errand without driving just as effectively then it would be best to stay off the road. 

If you must drive, then ensure that you’re well-rested, ready and relaxed about the upcoming trip – as stress leads to possible incidents. 

So, rather than leaving everything to chance, you should plan your journey. Now, you don’t have to do painstaking research of the route or have a meticulous plan, but a simple route that will keep you on track will suffice. There are countless tools online, and off, that can assist you in planning, such as a satnav, Google Maps, an online route planner for multi-stop journeys, and even a paper map. 

With your planned route, you’ll be able to efficiently reach all your destinations while saving money on fuel, and ensure you’re on the road for less time. Thereby, leading to safer driving by greatly reducing any risk of accidents. 

Side note – even with a planned route it’s important to check the route, and ensure that you have a backup route just in case there is a problem with your original route. It’s better to be prepared than find yourself frantic. 

So, no matter the reason for being on the road, ensuring you are well-rested, focused and in control is crucial. And, having a well-planned route is the way to do so. A route will not only lead to fewer mistakes but also, less time on the road. Thereby, efficiently helping you arrive at your destinations safely and with time to spare. With so many types of planners on the market, the right one is out there for you. 

Try out the different options, as they could make the difference between managing to keep to your schedule worry and accident-free or, in the worst case, you may find yourself in an unsafe road situation.

Inbal Axelrod is the co-founder and CMO at MyRouteOnline, a multiple stop route planner that helps make our world greener. Individuals visiting multiple locations can plan their routes online, optimize their route, and spend less fuel and time on the road. This means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, a reduced carbon footprint, and better air quality. Inbal can be reached at


Managing supply chains in the face of geopolitical uncertainty can be a challenge

By Brian Alster

The global economy has given rise to – and benefits – numerous enterprises. Despite recent events that call into question the effects and the future of globalization, big corporations around the world remain critically dependent on a global supply chain.

 This intricate network of manufactured and service inputs – which often involve several countries simultaneously – can unravel amidst rising geopolitical uncertainty. Some of the recent uncertainty stems from disruption in U.S. foreign relations, as the White House posits a potential trade war with China over steel tariffs, or sanctions imposed on Russian aluminum. These actions will most certainly disrupt supply and distribution chains.

In fact, geopolitical uncertainty is a major concern for procurement leaders and C-suite executives today. A report released by A.T. Kearney and RapidRatings shows that supply chain risk management has climbed in priority among most companies, based on current geopolitical volatility. A majority of companies polled (78 percent of typical companies and 90 percent of those identified as “procurement leaders”) expect their procurement organizations to be given more responsibility for managing risk in the next two years. And geopolitical risk is a top-five threat in every region (except Asia-Pacific, where it ranks sixth) according to PricewaterhouseCoopers in its 2018 CEO Survey. Thirty-one percent of CEOs cited it as an issue in which they are “extremely concerned.” From guarding against supply chain vulnerability to avoiding costly disruption, using a data-driven approach to mitigate risk in the face of uncertainty is one of the best strategies a business can undertake: 

1. Ensure a diverse supply base – Supply chain disruption is a matter of when, not if. Working with a diverse range of suppliers from various geographies can help protect companies against the unexpected, such as border disruption, natural disasters, political unrest and regional sanctions. This is currently playing out as global oil prices rise, due in part to sanctions impeding Iranian supply; an uncertain situation demonstrating the need for a diverse supply base.  

Supplier diversity in terms of the types of businesses you work with – from minority-owned to veteran-owned businesses – also makes good business sense as these suppliers tend to be smaller and more agile, qualities that can often lead to innovation. Working with diverse suppliers can also help businesses comply with various corporate, federal and state requirements.

2. Know who you’re doing business with – In order to build and sustain reliable supplier relationships, you need broad and deep visibility into your company’s supply base. That visibility enables you to determine exactly who comprises the multiple layers of your supply chain – including parent companies, subsidiaries and their ties to other organizations. Using analytics and a data-driven strategy, enabled by technology, can reveal savings, untapped opportunities and unforeseen risks. By vetting suppliers up front, you can identify things like supply availability, lead times, and financial and operational risks, as well as avoid doing business with violators.

3. Analyze and onboard suppliers quickly and efficiently – On-boarding suppliers can be a complex process, requiring you to validate everything from whether the supplier is a legitimate legal entity with the proper tax and legal codes, to ensuring that the supplier is financially solvent. Validating vendors early in the process will increase efficiency, maintain operations and lower costs. Having an efficient vetting and on-boarding process helps companies pivot more easily during geopolitical uncertainty. Leveraging technology to streamline that workflow is one way to assure companies are able to support corporate guidelines for approving new suppliers. 

4. Maintain an ongoing health scan – It is important to monitor your suppliers on an ongoing basis. Monitoring suppliers regularly will help prevent financial waste, production shortfalls and inventory excesses, while ensuring supply chain continuity, centralizing risk, and being proactive with your supplier relationships. Developing a corporate supplier program that supports ongoing health scans involves putting the right technology in place to act on the above methods and enable continued monitoring. Taking advantage of advanced analytics will enable businesses to set corporate guidelines within the system to ensure ongoing health, and gain visibility into supplier coverage by industry, such as oil and gas, and by geographical location. 

In a year of unprecedented global political turmoil, geopolitical risk becomes more important than ever in evaluating the larger picture of a business climate.

Brian Alster, global head of Supply & Compliance for Dun & Bradstreet, is responsible for the strategy, product development, and sales efforts for the company’s Supply & Compliance product portfolio. Prior to this position, he served as the regional vice president, Financial Institution Sales for Dun & Bradstreet.




IoT is bringing positive changes in the way the transportation and logistics industries work.

By Suneil Sastri

IoT is a buzzword that’s fairly new to the shipping, transportation and logistics industries; however, the functionality is not. For several years, shipping, transportation and logistics companies have been using machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions to improve their efficiency in being able to both trace and track the locations of their vehicles and devices.

EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGEClimate change and other environmental impacts can affect your supply chain.

By Steve Dowse

Alongside the technology advancements and digital transformations happening across supply chains, climate change may ultimately cause the most disruptions, particularly in certain industries. For instance, it’s worth noting that scientists from the United States, United Kingdom and China all issued research forecasting how barley harvests would be disrupted by different climate scenarios this century.

CHATBOT EVOLUTIONAutomation can do a lot for you, as chatbots have gone more mainstream and are expanding. 

By C. Prasanna Venkatesan

Take a guess. How many of your recent online interactions involved a bot? If you were asking routine questions or checking the status of a package, then that number is probably higher than you think. That’s because chatbots – those artificially intelligent, often maligned, auto-responders – have gone mainstream and are expanding. From Federal Express on Facebook to UPS on Google, top brands in the transportation and logistics industry are using chatbots in a variety of both internal and customer-facing applications. 

Studies show that – especially for routine inquiries – customers actually prefer to deal with an efficient, automated chatbot than with a live person.

Chatbot 2.0 

The top stories in the artificial intelligence (AI) narrative may highlight flashy drones and ubiquitous driverless cars. Improvements to language capabilities of modern chatbots, coupled with relatively recent changes in the technology landscape, have catapulted chatbots to center stage. 

However, the idea of a chatbot is not new. In 1966, MIT took a giant leap in the AI space and introduced, “Eliza.” Considered by many to be the original chatbot, Eliza’s interactions with humans were purely text-based and taken from a set of scripted responses that let Eliza converse with humans on limited topics. 

Modern chatbots are much more forgiving than their predecessors and can even provide examples and options for users to choose from to ensure a successful interaction. While Siri might turn up her nose, it’s Eliza’s descendants who are proving to be the best new thing in the transportation and logistics workplace.

Strictly speaking, a chatbot is a type of AI program that interfaces with humans via text or voice input – in other words, you type or say something and the chatbot responds. You can ask your questions the same way you speak – without having to translate your request into the very specific, perfectly formatted search query that used to be the norm.

According to Martin Beeby, developer evangelist at Oracle (and formerly with Microsoft), “…we’re getting to a point where the user is able to explicitly ask for what they want rather than always traveling down a predetermined road.”  For example, it’s easier to say, “Tell me the cost of shipping a package to Wichita,” and answer the prompts about weight and delivery dates than it is to look up potential answers in multiple tables that probably include all rates for all types of packages shipped to all 50 states.

Today’s chatbots definitely offer better results with customer-facing applications, but they can also provide invaluable assistance to internal employees in day-to-day operations. No matter who is doing the asking, the need is the same: information delivered and questions answered. 

Do the Math

What could you and your employees do with an assistant who speaks the same language you do? An assistant who knows where everything is and can deliver that information faster than you can finish asking for it? The answer is “a lot.” 

Chatbot work is characterized as automating the routine delivery of information – that means doing work that your employees could do with one hand tied behind their backs, but work that still takes up a great deal of their time. A quick application here of the 80/20 Pareto principle looks something like this: 80 percent of customer inquiries can be answered by 20 percent of your knowledge base. 

Now imagine that your call center has an assistant who is fluent in that 20 percent of your knowledge base – maybe an assistant who knows it even better than your employees. If you let that assistant cover the 20 percent – which anecdotally represents 80 percent of your calls – then you can use your experienced employees for more complex or more important issues and leave the routine issues in the very capable “hands” of a chatbot. 

The Future is Information Delivery

When information is able to move quickly through an organization, teams can act faster and exceed customer expectations by identifying potential issues before (or immediately after) they occur. This efficient flow of information is what lets your customer service representatives identify sales opportunities and deliver relevant marketing information to your customers at the most opportune time. While customer-facing roles continue to be the overwhelming use for chatbots, the full potential of this automated AI app remains untapped. 

Analysts estimate that chatbots could automate as much as one third of an organization’s customer service tasks, but chatbots also can have a significant impact in other areas of the business. For example, would it be helpful to have someone automatically track and analyze traffic data and use that information to alert your drivers to traffic delays while seamlessly providing alternate routes?  It’s a pretty routine task, so handling it automatically is a win for everyone. 

How about scheduling preventive maintenance for delivery vehicles during a time when the vehicle is not in use and the mechanics are on duty? Someone has to do it, why not turn it over to a chatbot?

Don’t ignore the side benefits that come with using chatbots to increase the efficiency and productivity of your employees – including, (but not limited to), an upswing in customer satisfaction, more-engaged employees and an acknowledgment that your business is keeping current with modern trends and technologies.

From 3-D printing to drones to autonomous vehicles, technology disruptions in the transportation and logistics industry are transforming the traditional landscape and opening up a lot of uncharted territory. The competitive environment is fierce and constantly changing, and young disruptors (like Uber) as well as new spin-offs from industry giants (like UPS) are constantly looking for ways to do more for less. 

Organizations that plan to be around for the long haul need to play smart. The good news is that – in addition to being the consummate disruptor – technology is also the great equalizer. Advances and opportunities that were once deemed as unattainable for the average company are becoming more affordable and more accessible because of technologies like cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).  

There’s no denying that chatbots provide a friendlier, more accessible way to deliver information to both employees and customers. 

Whether it’s as a recommendation engine presenting a choice of options or as a querybot answering questions, chatbots offer organizations an efficient, effective way to extend services and capabilities while having a minimal impact on their budget. 

SIDEBAR – Five Things You Should Know About Chatbots

1. Chatbots are more pervasive than you think. According to an Oracle-sponsored survey of 800 senior marketing and sales executives, 80 percent of these leaders say chatbots are already part of their customer experience or will be by 2020. As of the last quarter of 2016, 79 percent of supply chain businesses said they were not using chatbots at all. However, in the second quarter of 2017, 51 percent of respondents admitted to depending on them.

2. Chatbots aren’t new, but they have recently undergone a technological makeover. Improved natural language capabilities and the addition of voice recognition commands, (instead of the traditional text-based input), have opened chatbots up to more applications.

3. Internal chatbots are the new best thing. While customer-facing applications have been the more visible face of traditional chatbots, advances in AI and in the technology landscape (think cloud computing) are making chatbots more accessible to businesses of all sizes. 

4. About customer-facing applications: Studies show that customers – especially the younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers – increasingly favor talking with chatbots rather than interacting with humans when making reservations, scheduling appointments and conducting routine customer service inquiries. 

5. Chatbots can team up with human CSRs. In addition to showing up in previously non-traditional roles in supply chain technology, chatbots are adding value by working in conjunction with regular employees. For example, when a customer needs a question answered outside of regular business hours, they can get immediate feedback 24/7 and can later be switched to in-person conversations that can pick up where the chatbot left off. Before making the follow-up call, human CSRs can refer to the chatbot’s history to gain a thorough understanding of the issue and have a resolution ready for the customer.

C. Prasanna Venkatesan is director of the Industry Solutions Group at Oracle. His team focuses on marrying emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, chatbots and the Internet of Things with business-relevant applications to build use cases in transportation, logistics and other industries.







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