Inbound Logistics | July 2022

It can get pulled straight onto a truck, and bypass some of the logjam.” SharkBanz, a provider of shark deterrent technology, employed FreightBob to move its inventory out of China more quickly in anticipation of Black Friday/Cyber Monday in 2021. Utilizing FreightBob, SharkBanz experienced 50% faster shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. BRINGING TRANSPARENCY TO TRANSPORTATION RATES The carrier market to move freight inbound hasn’t been much easier to navigate. Both imports and exports in the United States hit record highs in 2021, according to the Department of Commerce. Meanwhile, an unending stream of external factors, such as the pandemic and low levels of labor force participation, depleted trucking capacity last year. According to Averitt Express’s 2021 State of North American Supply Chain Survey , 37% of shippers had trouble securing capacity in 2021 and 76% of respondents expected to ship more freight in 2022. Tight trucking conditions create a difcult negotiation climate and limit carrier accessibility, especially for smaller shippers, says Josh Dunham, CEO and co-founder of Reveel, a shipping

intelligence platform headquartered in Irvine, California. For example, most carriers require a minimum number of shipments before they can assign a dedicated sales representative to a customer. Smaller businesses often can’t meet that threshold, which means potentially missing out on discounts and optimal rates. Meanwhile, consumers’ appetite for fast, free shipping shows no signs of abating. A 2021 Inmar Intelligence survey nds that 79% of consumers expect free shipping on apparel and home goods, and nearly 90% expect their purchases to arrive within ve to seven days. “There’s a direct correlation between lower shipping costs and higher sales, especially in the commodity space,” Dunham says. “Years ago, lower shipping costs were a ‘nice to have.’ Now they almost determine whether a company will survive as a business in the next ve to 10 years.” Such was the case with eFavormart. The wedding favor distributor, which began in 1994 with just two employees, relied on free shipping and competitive prices to maintain a market advantage. Using data compiled and displayed in Reveel’s dashboard, eFavormart cut shipping expenses by 26%. That enabled the company to lower its free shipping threshold and achieve 30% higher sales within one year. BRING ON THE ROBOTS As companies adapt to the post- pandemic world, the twin difculties of stafng shortages and evolving customer demand have persisted. Respondents to a June 2022 survey conducted by Zebra Technologies identify faster delivery expectations as a top challenge. Meanwhile, 61% of managers report a need to increase their workforce, but struggle to recruit and retain enough labor. “Everyone is trying to keep up a certain level of service,” says Zach Gomez, senior director of global logistics business at Realtime Robotics in Boston.

and shipping schedules. As a result, it has become increasingly difcult for companies to get inventory to U.S. shores. “Moving a container from China to the United States might traditionally cost around $2,000,” says Dhruv Saxena, co-founder and CEO of ShipBob, an omnifulllment platform headquartered in Chicago. “Since 2020, that cost has skyrocketed to $20,000. As a result, margins are going to take a massive hit.” It’s a tough environment for companies of any size, but these logistics snags create a unique set of challenges for smaller retailers. “Small business owners don’t do large-scale manufacturing, which means they are rarely able to ll up an entire container coming out of China,” Saxena says. “They always have to nd brokers or ght for space in an existing container to ship their inventory.” In 2021, ShipBob introduced FreightBob, a managed freight and inventory distribution program, to help its 7,000-plus less-than-containerload clients secure shipping capacity. “Because we have so many small merchants, we are able to pull all their inventory into one container,” says Saxena. “Because the entire container is reserved for ShipBob sellers, it doesn’t need to be opened once it reaches a port.

Automation can level the playing field for SMBs. Realtime Robotics, for example, o‘ers products that help smaller businesses decrease robot lifecycle costs, reduce programming time, and increase throughput rates.

July 2022 • Inbound Logistics 175

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