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IDS offers Freight Auditing & Payment services

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The accelerated deployment of new technologies, a huge surge in e-commerce and extreme uncertainty… Over the past few weeks, the world has been turned upside down, and recent events have revealed just how risky just-in-time delivery can be. As we all continue to adjust to ‘the new normal’, one thing is crystal clear: cost efficiency will play a key role. When thinking about solutions that can improve supply chain efficiency, Freight Auditing & Payment (FAP) services should definitely not be underestimated. Read on to learn how FAP services can ease the burden on you and help you to save costs, especially during the current coronavirus situation.

 

Time-consuming paperwork

In the face of the current challenges, time-consuming paperwork is a burden you could do without. You can’t afford to just ignore it, though. So what’s the alternative? Freight Auditing and Payment (FAP) services help you to deal with all kinds of freight-related administrative activities, such as by gathering and bundling invoices, performing pre-shipment and post-shipment audits, arranging (bulk) payments, rate management and analytics. Besides taking care of the paperwork, an added advantage of FAP services is that you gain greater insight into all the freight data.

 

Why it’s the ideal time to outsource

Even though many countries are starting to ease their lockdown measures, coronavirus will have a lasting impact on daily life and business. First and foremost, companies are focused on ensuring the continuity of their services to customers. A knock-on effect of staff shortages can be that administrative activities take a little longer than normal – yet it’s now more important than ever to reinforce trust and gain insight. The Freight Auditing & Payment services from IDS take a huge weight off your mind. Firstly, they help to protect your reputation as a reliable business partner by keeping up with your payments. Furthermore, you benefit from an accurate assessment of the necessary capacity and creative solutions for disrupted supply chains.

Are you keen to discuss how the Freight Auditing & Payment services from IDS could support your organization? Contact Arno Spoek from IDS for more details: arno.spoek@idsnl.com.

 

 

 

 

 


Introducing: Jamie van de Kam

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Last month we spoke to Robert Mulders, one of the freight managers at IDS. He told us more about his efforts to keep supply chains running smoothly in these challenging times. Today, we would like to introduce one of his newest colleagues: Jamie van de Kam.

 

Jamie is 24 years old and has recently joined IDS as a freight management specialist. In 2018, he spent some time at IDS doing his thesis on the consolidation of goods flows and the potential efficiency benefits that can be achieved. It was a very insightful study exploring questions such as: What savings can be achieved by consolidating shipments and shipping them a little later?

 

When formulating the questions in your thesis, what were your expectations?

“I expected that it would be possible to consolidate some shipments, and I was right. In theory, smart consolidation can reduce costs by between 10% and 20%. However, it can be challenging to actually achieve that percentage in practice. There can be all kinds of reasons not to consolidate shipments: changing customer requirements, the specific characteristics of a shipment, and so on. But it’s very rewarding when it works.”

What struck you about IDS’s customers during your research?

“The majority of IDS’s customers have large shipments with a wide variety of characteristics and different volumes. What struck me most was the high number of internal transport activities. It can be easy to overlook internal shipments, yet it is an area where many valuable gains can be made. So that was actually a surprising additional insight from my research.”

 

As part of the IDS team, Jamie will have two different roles. Firstly, he will be focused on operational freight management tasks – ensuring that customers’ supply chains continue to run smoothly. Besides that, he will be involved in various stand-alone strategic and tactical projects. “I’m keen to play a part in helping IDS’s customers to achieve optimal results, even in these tough times.”

 

What is your goal at IDS?

“After completing my thesis, I did another master’s degree in Spain and then spent some time travelling in South America,” says Jamie. “The coronavirus outbreak meant I had to return home sooner than planned, but thankfully I was able to start at IDS sooner than planned too, which made me feel very welcome. I was keen to come back here because I felt very at home while doing the research for my thesis – there’s a pleasant atmosphere, friendly colleagues and, above all, interesting work. Most of all, I’m looking forward to getting to know the customers and getting stuck in. In the longer term, I hope to support smooth-running logistics so that our customers can focus on other areas of the supply chain.”

 

In your view, what is the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on IDS’s customers?

Jamie: “I think it will take a while before all the consequences become apparent. We have already seen some of the effects, but the situation is changing all the time.”

  • Some production and supply chains completely shut down in Italy and Spain, for example, and were severely disrupted in other countries. But it isencouraging to see that the freight flows are gradually starting back up again.
  • We’ve noticed some instances of stockpiling here and there – and not only among consumers, but also by businesses too. That is now causing a temporary drop in demand.
  • Many companies are now looking for alternatives: different suppliers, different routes, different types of shipments, and sometimes even different raw materials.

 

It’s a very dynamic time and I’m eager to see how things will develop – not least because IDS is involved in helping companies to find logistics alternatives so that production can continue without delay. I’m keen to play a part in solving that puzzle.”


Coronavirus surcharge: a delicate balancing act

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As the coronavirus crisis drags on, it is becoming increasingly difficult for logistics organizations to deliver on their existing promises. More and more carriers are having to adapt their routes and struggling with extra delays, plus there is a real risk of drivers becoming infected. Following a long-running price war in the sector, some carriers feel they have little choice but to introduce a coronavirus surcharge in order to survive this crisis. At the same time, from our position as a 4PL service provider, we’re seeing the exact opposite happening; other carriers are actively looking for creative ways of avoiding the need to impose extra costs on their customers. Where will this lead? Only time will tell…

Looking for balance

For us at IDS, these unprecedented times mean that we’re utilizing our carrier network more than ever before and doing absolutely everything in our power to keep our customers happy. But at the same time, we’re keen to continue to show solidarity with the sector. It’s a very delicate balancing act. After all, the coronavirus outbreak has cast a whole new light on cost reduction and delivery reliability in recent weeks.

Unburden where we can

Thanks to our transport management system (TMS), we provide our customers with visibility of all their shipments and relieve the burden on them wherever we can. But if it becomes apparent that certain delivery agreements are no longer possible using the regular approach, it’s a matter of being creative. Our freight managers are now based from home, but they continue to work on finding solutions to get every shipment to its intended destination at an acceptable price. With their expertise, business instinct and customer focus, they ensure that the costs don’t spiral out of control, without losing the trust of the carriers in our network.

Long-term changes

It’s too early to predict the long-term impact of these developments, but many companies will probably have to overhaul their purchasing strategy and supply chain before too long. Reduced dependency and sourcing raw materials closer to home are both likely to be very high on the agenda.

 

To find out more about how we’re helping our customers to keep their logistics activities running as smoothly as possible under these exceptional circumstances, contact Arno Spoek, Business Development Manager at IDS.


Freight management in the COVID-19 era: fast response and even faster communication

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Following on from the various ‘frontline reports’ that have been provided on a daily basis since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, we’re now interviewing our freight managers, who are continuously working to keep supply chains running in these challenging times. For this interview, we spoke to Robert Mulders, one of the freight managers at IDS. He relieves the burden on customers in the chemical sector by arranging transport capacity. Every day, he and his colleagues work to ensure that loading and unloading can take place as planned, that any problems are resolved and that new routes are made available.

 

What changes have you noticed due to the coronavirus crisis?

“For us as a company, a lot has changed in the past few weeks. Right now there are only four or five people actually in the office; everyone else is working from home. That works fine – we call and Skype a lot. The biggest challenge for us is to respond quickly in the case of an urgent shipment or problem, because that has become a bit more complicated. We need to find out which border crossings are likely to experience delays, and which companies are still operating and which have shut down. After all, we can ship goods, but there also needs to be somebody to receive them. And that can be a problem sometimes, because the coronavirus crisis means that a lot of employees are off sick at the delivery addresses, or in some cases the recipient locations are closed by order of the government. Freight is still allowed through despite restrictions on cross-border movement, but extra checks regularly lead to substantial queues that can last hours and sometimes even days! That was very disruptive at first, but the situation is beginning to normalize again now.”

Robert continues: “Communication remains challenging, though, because drivers are no longer allowed access everywhere, for example, which means longer delays. We monitor everything closely and take swift action if anything looks like it might go wrong. In terms of our customers, for some of them it’s still business as usual whereas the crisis is really causing problems for others. That differs greatly per industry. In some cases panic-buying has played a role, and other sectors are facing a sizeable reduction in transport capacity. For April we’re already seeing a decline in volumes among a number of our customers but, once again, there are huge variations between product groups.”

Looking to the future, what do you expect? How will the ‘Great Lockdown’ change the face of the logistics sector?

“It’s difficult to make any predictions about the next four to eight weeks. I personally think that things will be quieter for the next few weeks, and then let’s hope that it will slowly start to pick up again after that. Parts of China are gradually starting to resume operations, and Austria plans to ease the restrictions. Even Spain has eased some restrictions now. But it will still take some time before the big factories are up and running again and the retail sector regains its momentum.”

Plus there is another challenge, according to Robert: “How many people already have immunity? And how long will it take until a vaccine is available for everyone? I think we’ll continue to feel the effects of this for a long time. The ‘1.5 metre economy’ could well become the new normal, and that will pose a considerable challenge for a lot of businesses. In my opinion, one lasting change will result from many companies in Europe now realizing just how vulnerable their supply chain is as soon as a country like China comes to a standstill. They will conclude that it makes more sense to source some products closer to home. There were already some initial signs of that ‘redundancy’ trend. Now, I really do expect companies to buy more goods within Europe itself or to take a different view of inventory levels.”

 


Logistics in these times of coronavirus – the importance of pulling together

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The coronavirus pandemic seems to be leading to ever-more chaos, uncertainty and stringent measures. Both in Europe and elsewhere around the world, nations are doing everything they can to stop the exponential rise in the number of cases. No one knows for sure how long this will take, but it could be a matter of months rather than weeks. This is a period in which our resilience and patience are being severely tested, as well as a period of previously unthinkable measures and also solutions. DSM has started producing hand sanitizing gel, local authorities are relaxing the rules on delivery windows, and carriers specialized in fresh-cut flowers are lending a hand to replenish supermarkets. These are just some examples of countless heart-warming supply chain initiatives in which organizations are helping each other to get the right goods to the right destinations. As IDS, we’re happy to do our bit too.  

We’re doing everything in our power to keep our customers’ supply chains up and running. The health of our employees, customers and suppliers is our top priority, of course. Freight transport is sometimes still possible in the regions where general travel restrictions are in place, but the situation is changing day by day and drivers often face extra border checks and delays. Therefore, we are in continuous contact with our suppliers to enrich the tracking & tracing information. As soon as we hear of new measures implemented by recipients to protect their own employees, we communicate them throughout the chain to avoid any nasty surprises.

The overall situation is very varied. The supply chain is functioning just as smoothly as before in some places, but struggling in others. We’re constantly looking for new and creative ways of improving the delivery reliability under the current circumstances. At the same time, we’re trying to ease the burden on drivers and warehouse operatives as much as possible, since we know that they are doing their utmost to keep supply chains up and running. Needless to say, we make shipments of essential raw materials for medicines and protective equipment our top priority. We strive to consolidate shipments and adapt our loading and unloading times to support social distancing.

One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be difficult to emerge from this crisis completely unscathed. But by pulling together, we can at least try to soften the blow a little.

If you have any questions or need any support, you know you can always contact us!

Kind regards,

Arno Spoek 
Business development manager


Traceability under pressure

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The logistics sector is collectively holding its breath now that coronavirus is tightening its grip on Europe too. The problems in China are already affecting manufacturing activities due to shortages of certain parts and semi-finished products. This is causing other stock to pile up in warehouses. In the meantime, retailers such as Blokker, Action and Coolblue are selling out of many items. Port of Rotterdam predicts its freight throughput will fall by 2 million tonnes. The chaos is mounting and traceability is under increasing pressure as the virus spreads throughout Europe.

Full and accurate overview

Last week, one of our customers asked us “Where exactly are my goods?” and “Are those people safe?”. The customer has clients in northern Italy and sends several large shipments there on a weekly basis. Reports mention around a dozen towns and villages in the area going into lockdown. That’s why our customer was keen to gain a full and accurate overview of all their shipments, cross-docking locations, carriers and delivery locations. In the case of international transport activities such as these, it is usually easy to gain a detailed overview of the entire supply chain. Even though the order quantities, volumes, dimensions, shipment types and dates as well as delivery addresses fluctuate from day to day.

Zooming in

Our tracking and tracing services are supported by dashboards, which enable us to provide our customers with clear insight into all their freight movements. We aggregate the data to present them with the complete picture. In response to the customer’s request, we zoomed in on northern Italy where 1,700 people are currently infected with coronavirus.

Besides reporting on the current situation, we were also able to trace where else the carriers and their drivers had made deliveries and which routes they normally take. That was no easy task because while some carriers have their own employees, others make use of sub-contractors. But eventually we managed to provide our customer with all the necessary information: no deliveries had been made to locations in the affected area in the past couple of weeks. Additionally, the contracted carriers are taking precautionary measures such as using antibacterial soap and face masks. Although the face-mask supply chain is struggling to cope with the huge surge in demand…

No guarantees

While such precautionary measures are certainly reassuring, they offer no guarantees. After all, truck drivers are human too. They need to refuel and take breaks, and they come into regular contact with their family, friends and colleagues. That’s why we strongly advise all our customers to follow health and safety protocols and to immediately alert the authorities in the case of any irregularities. In the meantime, our customers are taking various steps to prevent the virus from spreading. That includes working from home, avoiding non-essential travel, not visiting industry events, not shaking hands and performing extra cleaning. One of our customers has even introduced temperature checks at the gate. They are turning away any visitors showing signs of a fever. It is important that the industry does whatever it can to minimize the spread of the virus and optimally safeguard the continuity of transport operations.


Why 4PL is especially relevant today

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The logistics market is large and fragmented, with a wide variety of services on offer from all kinds of companies. From multinationals with a comprehensive portfolio, to small, nationally focused carriers and ‘hyperspecialists’. In fact, it can be difficult to see through this maze of complexity. The sector growth slows due to uncertainty about Brexit, the nitrogen discussion, disruptions such as cyberattacks, the corona virus and a shift in the logistics landscape. ING predicts ever-greater demand for information about the movement of goods. Information holds the key to eliminating supply chain friction – and it is precisely how 4PL suppliers add value. Read on to find out why it has become such a relevant topic today.

The ongoing search for efficiency

Freight flows have been increasing for the past two decades, and so too has the number of companies that outsource their transport activities. Their 4PL partners are continuously searching for logistics solutions that add value. They strike the optimal balance between supply and demand, time and money, and people and resources. With each customer’s interests as their top priority. 4PL partners take control, utilizing an ever-bigger network to keep their customers’ freight flows running smoothly and above all efficiently. Accurate and accessible information plays an essential role. The following trends are making this more important than ever nowadays:

The growth of e-commerce

The tremendous growth of e-commerce, which is also known as the ‘Amazon effect’, has put supply chains under immense pressure. Advancements in fulfilment systems, inventory management and goods transport have resulted in larger volumes of – and luckily also more reliable – data.

Specialization

In industries such as high-tech, automotive and chemicals, the demands are so high that specialized logistics service providers have emerged who are focused solely on these sectors. To seamlessly align and switch between modalities, some of which they also operate themselves, requires a deeper understanding and optimum visibility of all the available data.

Innovative technology

Innovations such as robotization (IoT), autonomous vehicles and augmented reality are becoming ever-more common in the supply chain and generate extra data flows of their own.

Sustainability and CO2 reduction

Reducing CO2 emissions or consolidating shipments are increasingly important selection criteria in major tenders. When it comes to securing new business, detailed management reporting has evolved from a nice-to-have extra to an absolute necessity.

Complex landscape

4PL partners are the linchpin in this complex landscape. At IDS, it revolves around on providing full supply chain visibility and consolidating shipments for optimal efficiency. But above all, we are focused on not only planning but also execution. We’re happy to tell you more about how our services can help you manage your supply chain down to the finest details.

Contact Arno Spoek for more information.


The same, but different

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Over the past few months, I’ve written a series of blogs exploring the similarities within the various logistics-related disciplines. And it seems that even when people are working at different companies and in different sectors they are faced with the same challenges.In the case of transport managers, for example, irrespective of whether they are working in the manufacturing, chemicals or agricultural industry, many of the challenges they face are almost identical. It’s about time pressure, the unpredictability of fluctuating transport volumes, tight budgets and carbon reduction targets, and disruptive events beyond control such as the corona virus, to name but a few. Since the summer, my blogs have outlined how IDS eases the burden for transport managers as well as supply chain managers, finance managers, IT managers and customer service managers within a wide range of different businesses.

Handling hazards for chemical companies

But although the challenges for each discipline are largely the same, each industry faces its own unique challenges too. Therefore, it’s not as easy as taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach per discipline. If only it were! Let’s consider the chemical industry, for instance. Chemical companies often have to ship hazardous substances which require special handling to ensure safety. Therefore, it’s essential that they have access to experienced and reliable carriers. Carriers who have the necessary ADR certifications for the transport of dangerous goods in combination with specific equipment for temperature controlled transport and routing restrictions. Managed transport solutions can help them to deal with the extra complexity of their carrier management activities.

Boosting OTIF for manufacturing companies

In contrast, time pressure often causes the biggest headache for industrial companies, such as suppliers to the automotive sector. Whether because of just-in-time manufacturing, tight delivery windows or the importance of having the right spare parts available at the right time to minimize machine downtime, the focus is on on-time in-full (OTIF) deliveries. Therefore, such companies benefit from a single source of real-time insight into the status of their shipments. That includes automatic alerts in the case of potential problems so that they can find a solution, quickly. Moreover, detailed reporting helps them to identify areas for further performance optimization.

Supporting safety for food companies

And then there’s the food sector. That often requires freight forwarders and carriers with the right facilities such as temperature-controlled trucks and refrigerated warehouses. Only they can handle the transport and storage of fresh, chilled and frozen products. To comply with food safety regulations, it is essential to ensure that the products are kept within the required temperature parameters at all times. That creates the need for a system offering excellent supply chain visibility and track & trace reporting.

Respecting the differences

That’s why, at IDS, we regard all our customers as being the same, but different. We look for common denominators so that we can transfer proven successful approaches from one industry to another. That way, we can share our knowledge and experience and help companies to learn from one another, creating benefits for all. Our transport managementsystem (TMS) enables all types of companies to manage complex carrier networks. It monitors performance and discovers new insights as the basis for improved delivery reliability, greater cost savings and further efficiency measures. But at the same time, we also respect the differences that create unique needs in each sector. We work closely with each of our customers to find the optimal, sector-specific solution for them every time.

I’ve been delighted to hear that so many people in various roles have read and enjoyed my insights over the past few months. If you’d like to discuss any topics in more detail, feel free to contact me. And you never know, you might even inspire me to write another blog in the future!


Brexit: A seismic shift for logistics

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The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has now cleared most of the hurdles so that the UK can leave the European Union (EU) on 31 January. As things currently stand, 1 February will mark the start of a transition period. This period is aimed at reaching a new trade deal and various other arrangements with the EU. Both sides will want to get the maximum out of these negotiations. They want to make sure that goods and services can continue to flow as freely as possible between the UK and the continent. But irrespective of the final outcome, Brexit represents a seismic shift for the logistics sector. As a result, it is important for many businesses to not only implement short-term measures, but also to make long-term strategic choices.

Multiple scenarios

At IDS, we have helped numerous companies with Brexit-related scenario planning over the past three years. We start by thoroughly reviewing the end-to-end supply chain and analysing the risks. We then model various ‘what if’ scenarios, to ensure their supply chains would continue to run as smoothly as possible even in the case of a ‘hard’ Brexit. In our transport management system (TMS), we can incorporate amendments to routes and lead times at the touch of a button. Our customers can then see the impact of those changes on their incoming deliveries or planned orders in the Control Tower. And if clients want, we can relieve the burden on them completely. We take care of ensuring they are properly prepared in terms of the changing requirements for export documents, audits, certificates, procedures or import duties and taxes.

As a precaution

Those companies now have a valuable head start as another factor is making the situation even more complex. The centre of gravity for the manufacturing and storage of products in Europe is set to shift in the long term. And so too will the way those products are transported throughout Europe. Many shippers are transferring their warehousing and distribution capacity from the UK to the European mainland, often to the Netherlands. Besides that, many American and Asian companies with a manufacturing facility in the UK have started to look for a base on the continent. Others are running two inventory locations, one on each side of the Channel. They want to minimize the risks in the case of border chaos. But the biggest change is that major companies are moving the bulk of their production activities to continental Europe as a precautionary measure. They want to avoid labour shortages, customs checks, and additional red tape and hence costs. This trend is likely to affect your supply chain too.

Anticipating shortages

The changes to regulations, paperwork and processes will inevitably cause some delays at the border. Industry experts predict that the delays will increase the demand for goods vehicles such as trucks and trailers. The same goes for warehousing and distribution capacity in Northwest Europe. Especially in the Netherlands and Belgium. But that capacity is limited. And so too is the availability of goods vehicles. That’s why our scenario planning includes consideration of transport options in times of shortage. We analyse your supply chain and help you to calculate whether it could be beneficial to consolidate your shipments, for example, both now and in the future.

Have you already thought about what will happen to your supply chain after Brexit? Do you know where the weak spots are? Or would you just like to exchange thoughts and ideas with one of our transport experts? Feel free to contact Arno Spoek: arno.spoek@idsnl.com.


Blog: Taking the pressure off the customer service manager

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I always have the utmost respect for people who work in the high-pressure environment of Customer Service at any company. Recruited for their good communication skills and helpful nature, they are the very public face of the whole team working behind the scenes. They ensure customer orders are dispatched on time and in full. They are expected to know everything… And if they don’t know it, to be able to find out immediately. Above all, they are there to pick up the pieces whenever things go wrong. In the case of a problem, all eyes are on them to come up with a satisfactory solution – and sometimes even to perform miracles!

It can be a thankless job. That’s why I’m happy that IDS helps to make the work of customer service managers a little bit easier. Thanks to our advanced IT systems, for example, they have a clear view of all shipments at their fingertips. This real-time visibility of what is where, and when it is expected to arrive enables them to answer clients’ questions quickly and effectively.

Proactive approach

Increasingly, customer service managers are taking a more proactive approach to keeping customers informed throughout the whole process. Automated solutions such as track and trace are invaluable in this respect. In the case of any potential delivery problems or irregularities, the IDS system automatically issues alerts. That way, the employee can contact the customer to pre-empt a bottleneck and discuss an alternative solution if necessary – before panic strikes!

It probably comes as no surprise, but customer service is important for us at IDS too. Our specialists work closely with you to actively look for improvement areas and opportunities. For example, with our managed transportation services (MTS), we can even take things a step further. We relieve the burden on your Customer Service department by taking care of certain tasks on your behalf. Thinks like handling disputes with carriers, for example. Together, we optimally align your activities with your clients’ needs in order to further raise your service level.

Fewer miracles required

In fact, if we zoom out a little, all of our solutions make life easier for the Customer Service department. After all, by helping to keep things running smoothly and efficiently for transport managers, supply chain managers, IT managers and financial managers, we improve delivery performance, keep costs down resulting in lower prices for customers and reduce the number of errors in all departments – including invoices. All of this ultimately boosts customer satisfaction. And, if nothing else should hopefully mean that customer service managers are required to perform fewer miracles!

Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in exploring how we can help to take the pressure off your Customer Service department. Or read our tips on how to develop an outside-in mindset when it comes to customer satisfaction and your supply chain.