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From the Desk of Kim Zablocky: Value (and Fun) Beyond the Sessions – Why I'm Excited for the Spring Conference in Clearwater Beach

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Call me biased, but I love RVCF Conferences. I always talk about the fact that no other industry conference provides so many opportunities to achieve progress through collaboration. I usually focus on the presentations, panel discussions and one-on-one meetings – the formal, structured sessions – but I'm excited about the RVCF Spring Conference for reasons that go far beyond the sessions.

I'm excited to visit Clearwater Beach, best beach in the U.S. and the seventh-best beach in the world, according to the TripAdvisor 2018 Travelers' Choice Awards. I'm excited to hold the RVCF Spring Conference in a brand-new venue – the Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key. I'm excited for a sunset dinner cruise along Florida's west coast. After getting blasted with a Nor'easter on the first day of spring here in New York, I'm excited to head south and enjoy temperatures in the mid-80s during the day and mid-60s at night.

I'm excited to get out of the office. Truth be told, the RVCF team runs around nonstop during the conference from the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed. But it still gets me out of the office. It's exhausting and energizing at the same time. As an attendee, you're there to get things done, but what you accomplish is up to you.

You can focus on solving specific problems or tackling big picture issues. You can learn about recent trends and research. You can meet with as many peers, trading partners and service providers as possible. We set the conference agenda, but you choose how to extract the most value from the event – and have the most fun.

We work hard to bring together the most knowledgeable folks in the industry to lead presentations and participate in discussions. We work hard to schedule and manage hundreds of one-on-one meetings between trading partners. Even so, we understand that you find just as much value outside the structured sessions.

We know it's hard to have a full conversation with someone during a session. We include plenty of structured networking, but we realize every minute spent outside a session is an opportunity to start a new relationship or strengthen an existing one.

That's why we're very conscious of the time before, between and after sessions. We make sure every environment, whether in hallways, in the lobby or at the bar, is set up and available for casual conversations and even impromptu meetings. We want you to have a comfortable setting to strike up a conversation with that person who said something that got your attention during a session.

The face-to-face interaction and collaboration just can't be replicated when you're sitting in the office. E-mailing, texting and instant messaging are great for convenience, but they're not designed for relationship building. That's what RVCF conferences are for.

When you have that face time with peers, trading partners and service providers, the benefits last far beyond the conference. You feel comfortable picking up the phone instead of e-mailing. You've proven you're willing to invest in your performance and your company's performance. Collaboration and compromise are more likely when built upon the foundation of a live, face-to-face conversation.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to have that conversation while enjoying a view of one of the best beaches in the world. Now do you see why I'm so excited?

It's fun. It's productive. It's a break from your normal routine. Whether you're in a session, waiting for coffee, or sipping a cocktail, it's designed to help you make progress through collaboration. And did I mention it's in Clearwater Beach?

Please join us for the RVCF Spring Conference, May 6-9, 2018 at Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key in beautiful Clearwater Beach, FL. Contact Susan Haupt for more information, or register for the Spring Conference on the RVCF website. We'll see you in Clearwater Beach!

(646) 442-3473

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Tags:  RVCF Spring Conference 2018 

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Retail Value Chain 101: How to Pack Cartons Properly to Avoid Chargebacks

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018


We constantly hear from retailers that cartons aren't being packed and marked in accordance with the purchase order. This is confirmed by the fact that more than 40 percent of retailers are sharing deduction types for which poor packing practices are the sole culprit. Shortages, overshipment, unordered merchandise, carton contents not matching the ASN, unauthorized substitutions and other problems slow down the flow of goods and increase labor costs for retailers that have to research and correct inaccurate orders.

There's more to the packing process than tossing items into a carton, which should never happen. This process requires significant planning, protection and care so cartons are ready not only for transit, but also the sales floor. Here are five basic guidelines to follow during the packing process:

  1. Use the right size cartons for the merchandise. This is the best way to prevent carton contents from damage or shifting while in transit. It can also prevent garments from wrinkling.
  2. Use the proper amount of packing materials. Use as much as you need to prevent damage and shifting – no more, no less – while adhering to retailer requirements. Keep in mind that packing materials become trash when cartons are unpacked, so use recyclable, environmentally friendly products whenever possible.
  3. If you're packing garments, cover them when necessary. A clear, dry cleaning-style polybag will prevent wrinkling and soiling. Many retailers allow the use of a master polybag rather than individual bags. This allows you to pack several units of the same SKU or style in one bag and reduce waste. However, some fabrications and dyes aren't candidates for this and must be individually polybagged to prevent damage.
  4. Alternate the top and bottom placement of garments. You can reduce bulk and prevent shifting if you alternate approximately every six units, placing "like" garments head to toe for best results. You might need to use a bridge to reduce pressure on garments placed in the bottom half of the carton. A bridge is a piece of cardboard folded down on both sides that fits snugly against the sides of the carton. A bridge should only be used with the retailer's permission when there are a high number of units shipping within a carton.
  5. Pack shoes consistently and neatly. All shoes should face the same direction with the label end facing the top of the carton.

Looking at deductions involving packing and marking, the RVCF Deduction Policy Review Study tells us that retailers place great emphasis on the use of GS1-128 labels, which are critical to the receiving process. Use high-quality GS1-128 labels and make sure you have a verification process in place for testing label quality on a regular basis. Once you have a high-quality label, proper label placement is essential, so train your packing teams accordingly. Consider using templates or ordering cartons with U-shaped label placement indicators to reduce the risk of errors.

Of course, packing cartons in an acceptable carton with regards to structure and size is also important. Cartons that aren't strong and durable might not make it through transit intact, and cartons that are too big or too small might not be conveyable.

Ultimately, cartons need to be packed exactly as they've been ordered. Packers are often compensated based on the volume they ship. The more they get out the door, the more they get paid. They often end up trying to fill multiple cartons at the same time, which might increase speed but also causes shipping errors. These errors delay the receiving process and add costs for the retailer, who charges those costs back to the supplier. Packers must take great care to avoid mixing up cartons and scanning items incorrectly.

Simply following the scan-and-pack method will eliminate the majority of these issues. Scan a unit. Put it directly into the carton. Repeat until the carton is full. When the carton is full, tape it shut immediately. Implement this procedure and observe packers to verify the procedure is being followed.

When a retailer submits a purchase order to the supplier, their expectation is for the order to be filled on-time, completely, damage-free, and accurately. This is the formula for the Perfect Order Index (POI). Generally, achieving 95 percent compliance, or a solid A, in all four categories would be considered a job well done for suppliers. However, according to the POI formula, 95 percent compliance in all four categories only achieves a B-minus (81.4 percent) on the overall POI performance grading scale.

Suppliers can go a long way to improving overall performance by buttoning up packing and marking processes. This is a correctable issue. Training, attention to detail, and ongoing evaluation of tasks involved in packing and marking will result in better outcomes for the supplier, the retailer and the customer while strengthening the trading partner relationship.

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Tags:  Chargeback  Packing  Shipment Integrity 

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Retail Value Chain 101: What Golf Can Teach You About Supplier Relationship Management

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018


The best golfers in the world, regardless of how well they're playing, are constantly revisiting and evaluating the basics. We're not talking about keeping drives in the middle of the fairway. We're not even talking about swinging the club. We're talking about the very basics – grip, posture and alignment.

Are my hands positioned properly? Is my grip too tight? Is my body properly angled? Are my knees slightly bent? Are my feet, knees, shoulders and eyes parallel? You may have the sweetest swing on the course, but if your grip, posture and alignment start to falter, the results will be less than desirable.

Retailers should approach supplier relationship management the same way. Mastering the fundamentals is critical. Even if you have first-rate store operations, products and personnel, you have to do the basics to ensure merchandise flows smoothly from the supplier to the distribution center to the store to the customer. Otherwise, the bottom line will suffer.

The RVCF Spring Conference, being held May 6-9, 2018 in Clearwater Beach, will feature the double session "Building Your Supplier Relationship Management Program from the Ground Up." We'll cover the basics of how to create and manage a compliance manual, a supplier onboarding program, a scorecarding program, and a compliance program that allows you to recover expenses for supplier errors.

Going back to the golf analogy, think of your posture, or how you appear to the supplier, as the compliance manual. These guidelines and standards explain the requirements suppliers must follow to do business with you. Think of your grip as your scorecarding process. Scorecarding constantly tracks a variety of key performance indicators and provides timely relationship feedback to both the supplier and your retail organization.

Think of alignment in your relationship with the supplier as your compliance program. Is the supplier consistently meeting order requirements? Are both sides dealing with disputes and non-compliance challenges in a productive way that allows you to resolve issues and maintain an amicable trading partner relationship? Of course, an effective supplier onboarding program will help you achieve internal and external alignment that sets up new suppliers for success and minimizes risk.

Our double session at the RVCF Spring Conference is specifically designed for retailers that don't know where to start with a supplier relationship management, as well as retailers that need help expanding or updating an existing program. For example, you have a compliance guide but not a program for recovering expenses through chargebacks. Maybe you have a compliance program but no scorecarding system. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you should be attending this session.

Too many retailers make the mistake of simply finding a competitor's compliance site and mimicking whatever the competitor is doing. This approach almost never works because you end up with a program that isn't customized for your organization.

What are your organizational goals? What are you trying to accomplish for your customers and your shareholders? Are the various elements of your supplier relationship management program aligned with those goals? If not, they could just be creating noise and confusion.

What are your biggest problems? Does your program address these problems? For example, if your noticing recurring issues with ASNs, have you updated your compliance manual to explain how to create and send ASNs? Do your offset policy and scorecards emphasize the importance of ASNs? The clearer you make your goals, requirements and expectations to suppliers, the fewer problems you'll have with shipping errors.

We'll discuss these and other issues during this robust double session. We'll also provide handouts, checklists and complete copies of all materials presented. You can then return to office prepared to educate you colleagues and move your supplier relationship management initiative forward.

As Ben Hogan said, good golf begins with a good grip. Every golfer is constantly reminded by instructors and coaches to check and validate their grip, posture and alignment. Retailers should do the same with their compliance manuals, onboarding, scorecarding and compliance programs.

Over time, little things get missed or fall out of alignment. If not addressed, little things can turn into costly problems that eat into profits and cause friction in the trading partner relationship. Best practices in golf and retailing are to master the basics first to give yourself a solid foundation and constantly confirm that you're doing the basics correctly, completely and consistently.

We invite you to learn more about building your supplier relationship management program during the RVCF Spring Conference in Clearwater Beach. Contact Susan Haupt or register online.

CLICK HERE to return to the APRIL 2018 RVCF LINK

Tags:  RVCF Spring Conference 2018  Supplier Relationship Management 

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RVCF New Member Spotlight

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018

RVCF is a member-based organization focused on promoting best practices, trading partner alignment and collaboration, and technology solutions to streamline operations, lower costs and speed goods to market throughout the retail value chain. RVCF welcomes new member Visconti Garment Hangers, Inc.

Visconti Garment Hangers, Inc.

Visconti Garment Hangers, Inc. designs, manufactures and supplies hangers for the clothing and retail industry. We operate across the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa to enhance the shopping experience and your bottom line, through impactful presentation of clothing, accessories and footwear. Depend on us for excellent customer service, punctual delivery and consistent supply throughout the year. We have a proven service track record and operate within strict quality and safety standards with international ISO accreditation. Our in-house mould design division provides conceptual and technical design for new product development and re-design of existing products to guarantee optimal manufacturing performance and outstanding hanger quality. We embrace ethical work practices and have a clear commitment to doing more for our people, the communities in which we operate and the environment. Visconti was formed in 1985 as a division of the Polyoak Packaging Group, along with Hangerman, who pioneered hanger recycling in South Africa.

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Tags:  Visconti Garment Hangers 

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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: Think Traps! (Part Two) – Debate Club

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.

Last time we introduced the concept of Think Traps – preconceived notions you bring to the table when brainstorming a solution to a problem. We talked about Confirmation Bias (you look for evidence that supports what you already think and discard anything that doesn't) and the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy (you find "evidence" by creating patterns in data that agree with your hypothesis and ignore patterns that do not support).

Today we're going to examine two other Think Traps – ones that lay dormant in the brainstorming stage and wait to show up until you're trying to conclude. This is a situation that often occurs AFTER the data has been collected, the problem has been analyzed, the root cause has been identified, and the team is at the precipice of taking action to solve the problem. This moment can also be referred to as Debate Club…as in…the first rule of Debate Club: you do not talk about Debate Club. As you go through your potential solutions, here are two big ol' fashioned Think Traps to be aware of and hopefully avoid:

Slippery Slope
Politicians are often fond of this ol' chestnut! If we let this happen, pretty soon this, this, and this, and this, and this, and this will happen, and it'll be anarchy and ruin everything, so we'd better not even try. If we upgrade our scanning devices to make it easier to enter SKU numbers and print labels, they may not be compatible with our computers, and then we may have to upgrade our cell phones as well to match the operating systems of our new computers, and if we upgrade our cell phones, many come with apps that let people watch movies and these movies cost money, and pretty soon this will all lead to our staff just sitting around watching movies all day on our dime! Okay…that was a ridiculous example, but hopefully the theory is clear. This is a dangerous mindset as it appeals to our "worst case scenario" lizard brain thinking and can definitely SEEM logical when you're in the fray of brainstorming…because it FEELS like you are doing proper due diligence. But the problem is that it is simply not fact based and very often subscribes to the "Oh, if we can't do everything we should do nothing" mentality. A good way to stave the effects of slippery slope is to hold firm to your data and your logic. If a potential problem that could arise with a new solution comes up, take a moment and fully explore it. Do some research. Has this similar situation occurred before with other companies?

Ad Hominem
Meaning "to the person," Ad Hominem arguments are a variation on shooting the messenger. It's attacking the person presenting the idea instead of the idea itself. Usually it's a sign of a weak counter argument or even an indicator of insufficient data on both sides, but it could also be a business culture issue ala "Oh, YOU are Operations and this is an IT problem, so you couldn't possibly understand!" Full disclosure, it could technically also be a personality conflict issue (I HATE Hanrahahn so I'm not ever going to use his ideas), but certainly none of that is present in YOUR gembas, right? It's a powerful deterrent to debate as nailing someone's credibility is quite effective at getting their ideas disregarded. A good workaround is to stage (not literal) boxing matches with each solution up for debate. Make and announce the rule of "We let the idea live or die on its own merit."

We'll explore a few more of these next time to hopefully help you avoid pitfalls as you journey towards conclusion. Until then remember, thinking is the best way to avoid Think Traps! 
McRaney, David. You are not so smart: why you have too many friends on Facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways youre deluding yourself. Gotham Books, 2012.
Chartrand, Judy, et al. Now You're Thinking!: Change Your Thinking... Transform Your Life. Pearson FT Press, 2014

Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

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Tags:  Kaizen  think traps 

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A Game of Chess Well-Played or a Game of Chicken? Significant Import Tariff Increases by the United States and China

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018

by Melissa Proctor, Miller Proctor Law PLLC

In early March, as has been widely reported throughout the media and industry organizations, the Trump Administration imposed additional tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products imported into the United States for national security reasons because of the investigation conducted by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. Ch. 7). Also making news as of late is the March 22nd announcement that the United States would further increase tariff rates on additional goods imported from China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (9 U.S.C. § 2411). These international trade punches and counterpunches appear to be accelerating between the United States and China continue to accelerate rapidly. The following is intended to provide a detailed summary for manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and consumers of all the "need-to-know" developments in these fast-moving areas.

Increased Tariffs on Aluminum and Steel (Section 232 Investigation):

  • Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the Executive Branch the ability to conduct investigations to determine the effects of imports on U.S. national security. In January 2018, the BIS delivered Section 232 reports on steel and aluminum to the President concluding that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports threaten to impair national security.1 Specifically, the reports found that U.S. steel imports quadrupled U.S. exports of the same, and that aluminum imports had increased to 90% of the total demand for primary aluminum. Accordingly, the Commerce Department recommended that the President act to protect the long-term viability of the U.S. steel and aluminum industries. The President issued Proclamations on March 8, 2018, announcing the increase in import tariffs on certain aluminum and steel products.2
  • The increased tariffs apply to products originating in all countries – except for those countries that were specifically exempted. The new tariff rates went into effect on March 23, 2018.
  • The affected steel products include goods classified in HTSUS Subheading 7206.10 – 7216.50, 7216.99 – 7301.10, 7302.10, 7302.40 – 7302.90 and 7304.11 - 7306.90.
  • The affected aluminum products include: unwrought aluminum in HTSUS Heading 7601; aluminum bars, rods and profiles in Heading 7604; aluminum wire in Heading 7605; aluminum plate, sheet, strip and foil in Headings 7608 – 7609; and, aluminum castings and forgings in HTSUS Subheadings 7616.99.5160 and 7616.99.5170.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued instructions for the filing of entries that are subject to the increased tariffs on aluminum and steel products.3 U.S. importers are required to report the regular HTSUS classifications applicable to the imported steel products as well as HTSUS Subheading 9903.80.01. For aluminum products, U.S. importers must report the applicable HTSUS classifications of those goods as well as HTSUS Subheading 9903.85.01.
  • The following countries have been exempted from the additional tariffs on the covered steel and aluminum products: European Union member states; Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Canada; Mexico; and, South Korea.4
  • Aluminum and steel products determined not to be produced in the U.S. in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or in a satisfactory quality will be excluded from the increased tariffs upon request. Products may also be excluded based on national security issues. The BIS will accept public comments until May 18, 2018 on the process that will allow interested parties to request exclusions from the increased tariffs. Parties eligible to request such exclusions are individuals or entities that are suppliers of the covered products in the United States or that use them in the United States in construction and manufacturing operations. (Note that any individual or entity in the U.S. may also file objections to the requests for exclusions under the announced process.)5
  • On April 2, 2018, China increased import tariffs on 128 U.S. goods totaling approximately $3 billion in U.S. exports to China in retaliation against the additional tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration on steel and aluminum products. China imposed a 15% tariff on the following products: nuts; fresh and dried fruits; grape wine; denatured ethyl alcohol; ginseng roots; and, seamless tubes, pipes and hollow profiles of iron and steel. It also imposed a 25% tariff on aluminum waste and scrap, as well as pork.

Proposed Increase in Tariffs on 1,300 Chinese Products (Section 301 Investigation):

  • Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 authorizes the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to investigate unreasonable and discriminatory trade practices. The USTR recently investigated China's practice of requiring U.S. companies to transfer their intellectual property rights (IPR) and technologies to Chinese companies in order to obtain business licenses and approval to invest in China. The USTR determined that these practices were indeed unreasonable and discriminatory, and effectively burden or restrict U.S. commerce.6
  • On April 3, 2018, per the Section 301 investigational findings, the USTR published a proposed list of 1,300 Chinese products that would be subjected to additional 25% tariffs.7 (Note that the proposed Section 301 tariff increases will be in addition to the increased duties assessed on aluminum and steel products from China.) These tariff increases have not yet taken effect.
  • The Chinese products targeted for the proposed increase in import duties under Section 301 include: chemicals and pharmaceutical products; certain rubber products; products of iron and non-alloy steel; airplanes and helicopters; aluminum; boats; electrical machinery; firearms; glass and microscopes; motor vehicles; tires and conveyor belts; and, TV image and sound recorders and reproducers.
  • Interested parties may submit written comments to the USTR on the proposed tariff increase by May 11, 2018, and a public hearing is scheduled to be held on May 22, 2018. Thereafter, the USTR will issue a final determination as to which products will be subject to the increased import duties and the deadline on which those increases will go into effect.
  • In retaliation, China proposed to impose an additional 25% tariff on more than 100 U.S. products, such as corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat, beets, cranberries, orange juice, tobacco and whiskey. China has also proposed to target certain manufactured items for an additional 25% tariff as well (e.g., aircraft, automotive parts and components, chemicals, off-road vehicles, passenger cars, SUVs and plastics). In addition to the tariff increases, the U.S. has also proposed the imposition of restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States.

The U.S. tariff increases under Section 232, as well as China's retaliatory actions, are currently in effect, and U.S. importers should confirm that they are in full compliance with the new entry requirements applicable to covered products.

However, the tariff increases proposed by the United States and China relating to the Section 301 investigation have not yet gone into force. It is therefore critical for U.S. companies to review the products that may be subjected to the tariffs proposed by the United States and China and assess how these measures may impact of these measures on their international operations and supply chains. As with all things international trade-related, it is crucial for U.S. companies to stay up-to-date on any new developments to ensure that they have sufficient lead time to adapt to changes that will impact their international supply chains.


Melissa Proctor is the founder of Miller Proctor Law PLLC, an international trade law firm located in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more than twenty years, she has advised companies on the full of array of international trade issues, including export controls, embargoes and economic sanctions, customs laws, anti-corruption compliance, and other agency requirements that impact the cross-border movement of goods, information and services. She may be reached at 480-447-8986 or

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Tags:  China  Tariff 

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Importers and Exporters: Use Digital Tools to Save You Time and Money

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2018

by Shahar Vigder, Shiperd

We all lead a digital lifestyle – we snap and share photos on Instagram, order a car on Uber, and shop on Amazon. But in our professional lives, when it comes to managing shipping, importers and exporters still use tedious phone calls, e-mails and spreadsheets like it's still 1999. Despite delivering trillions of dollars' worth of goods, importers and exporters have largely skipped the digital overhaul most other industries have undergone. International logistics is still a manual, cumbersome, and non-transparent process, leading to losses of billions of dollars due to inefficiencies. But fret not – a number of tech companies are now bringing innovation to the world's last industry yet to be disrupted by tech; they allow importers and exporters to regain control and visibility over their shipments, manage their shipments online quickly and effectively, and save money and hours of productivity.

When it comes to digitizing our business, our colleagues seem to do just fine. The CFO has an accounting software to follow up on payments, credit limits, and salaries like Xero or Quickbooks. The sales manager has a sales management software like Salesforce. The warehouse manager uses warehouse management software to track goods. So how come logistics managers still use Excel, e-mails and phone calls to manage their duties? One of the reasons is the information gap between the importers/exporters and the freight forwarders. There is large reliance on the service provider to advise on market conditions, legal position, and other logistical considerations that need to be taken into account. This makes service providers the industry's standard setters. However, one of the standards that might not be in the service providers' best interest is having a highly transparent and competitive market. Another factor, not necessarily negative in its own right, is the close relationship between the service providers and clients. The logistics sector is well known for friendly relationships between suppliers and clients. It's not always clear where the line between business and friendship ends as many deals are agreed upon over the phone, sometimes not even quoted until after the operation started. The trust often leads everyone to believe that all will be sorted later, between friends.

Shipping is an industry of highly specialized information flow, middlemen arbitrage, and asset play. But so much of what happens is either unnecessary duplication or prone to manual mistakes and other inefficiencies. The logistics industry has lagged behind most of the modern economy in both transparency and speed. It still uses archaic technology and operates in silos. The logistics industry is partially broken because it is very "offline," therefore wasting time and money while also providing a poor service. Pricing is often not transparent to the customers, resulting in billions of dollars of inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

But what if all processes – from the inquiry stage through the shipment transportation, freight tracking, and payments – could be automated?

Shiperd, the cloud-based Shipping Management Software, surveyed 200 logistics managers in the U.S., Europe, and Israel, and found the following inefficiencies:

  • It can take on average 3 days just to get a quote (by e-mail, fax, or phone)
  • In more than 10% of cases, quotes are inaccurate, confusing, or contain mistakes
  • Up to 50 e-mails and 10 calls are required per single trade
  • Endless questions about freight forwarders invoices
  • No automated updates about the shipment location/ETA
  • Zero transparency on charges, tracking, or process

However, there are some digital innovations that are here to make your life easier as a logistics manager:

  • Digital Freight Forwarders – Aiming to replace traditional freight forwarders, companies like Flexport or iContainers combine modern software and dedicated service to bring accountability, transparency, and efficiency to the supply chain.
  • Marketplaces – Companies like Freightos or Uship compare freight quotes from a global network of forwarders on an online freight marketplace.
  • Transportation Management Systems – Companies like SAP or Oracle provide full enterprise level supply-chain management solutions.
  • Shipping/Workflow Management Software – Shiperd is offering simple-to-use workflow management software for importers and exporters to save them time and money, while gaining control and visibility over their shipments. A cost-effective solution that blends into existing workflows and doesn't require changing methodologies or switching freight forwarders.

With these new innovations, manual processes will become a thing of the past, allowing importers and exporters the ability to better support their clients and move shipments more efficiently.

Shahar Vigder, Founder and CEO at Shiperd, is an experienced entrepreneur, enthusiastic about how innovation and digital together can disrupt complete industries. For more information, visit

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Tags:  Digital Tools  Exports  Imports 

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From the Desk of Kim Zablocky: Want to Solve Problems? Pick. Up. The. Phone.

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 8, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018

I've been in sales of one form or another since the late 1970s. To be successful in sales back then, you needed a good product, a fair price and, most of all, a good reputation. You could build such a reputation, and a strong business, through word-of-mouth marketing and strong relationships with your customers.

Today, a lot of people are relying on technology and social media for word-of-mouth marketing and relationship building. Instead of conversations, people are relying on impressions, views, clicks, likes, shares, yada yada yada. Share a useful article on LinkedIn and it might get a few dozen views. Share a photo with a funny or interesting quote and it could easily get hundreds of likes and a handful of shares. Problem is, building a relationship is hard work, not entertainment.

Attention spans have evaporated. Years ago, we had 15-30 seconds to deliver an elevator pitch and express a value proposition. On today's digital platforms – website, social media brand pages, mobile apps, etc. – we have three seconds to make a first impression and keep someone's attention.

Year ago, we communicated in person, on the phone or by snail mail. Today, people send e-mails, texts and instant messages. Many aren't read, and fewer are returned. I was talking to an RVCF member the other day who was out of the office on business for a few days. He returned to find 3,000 e-mails in his inbox. How many of those e-mails do you think he read or responded to?

My point here is not to demonize technology. And I'm not going to take your ball and tell you to get off my lawn.

We have more collaboration tools today than we did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Technology can be a wonderful thing. Social media can be a wonderful thing. But technology and social media shouldn't replace the most powerful collaboration tools we have at our disposal – the phone call and the face-to-face meeting.

If you have a problem with a trading partner, or you have an idea to share with your peers, you don't make progress and drive positive change by sending e-mails, texts and instant messages. Those things create noise. And noise creates problems and delays.

Unreturned e-mails might give the impression that your peers and trading partners don't want to hear from you, or that they're avoiding you. But that's usually not the case.

They do want to hear from you – literally. They want to hear your voice. They want to see your face. They want to sit across the table from you. They want to get rid of the noise. If you want to build stronger business relationships, solve problems, share and implement new ideas, and streamline processes, don't type or tap.

Pick. Up. The. Phone.

I'm not saying you should delete all your apps and never use LinkedIn again. I would humbly suggest that you use them to support and supplement real conversations and face-to-face meetings, not replace them.

If there's one form of technology I'd like to see embraced, it's video conferencing. It's not realistic to schedule an in-person visit with every peer or trading partner. I get that. But there's no reason why you can't have a real time, face-to-face video conference, whether it's with your counterpart or a large group.

You don't need a large conference room with expensive technology to hold an interactive meeting. You just need a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone with a quality video conferencing app.

The need and desire for real conversations and face-to-face collaboration are why RVCF exists. That's why we have our signature conferences and other live events every year. That's why we spend months planning one-on-one meetings. That's why we hold monthly conference calls. Every conference, every event, every meeting, and every call are opportunities to solve a problem and strengthen a relationship.

The retail industry landscape is too competitive and challenging to let noise get in the way of progress. Take advantage of events and calls that give you a platform for verbal and face-to-face collaboration. At the very least, pick up the phone. You'll be glad you did, and so will the people you're calling.

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Tags:  Collaboration 

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Retail Value Chain 101: Surveying Suppliers and Acting on Their Feedback

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 8, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018


Many retailers want to hear from their trading partners in the merchandise supplier community. Retailers want to know what suppliers like and don't like. They want to know what suppliers need from retailers to improve performance. Retailers also want to know how they compare with other retailers. However, there's a big difference between casually asking for feedback during a random conversation and taking a disciplined approach to surveying suppliers on a regular basis.

Just like top-performing companies ask for feedback from customers in a strategic way, retailers can use supplier surveys to gain insights into people, process and system challenges, and drive continuous improvement. Surveys can also be constructed to help you better understand your company culture and business acumen. When you take the time to gather and act upon feedback from suppliers, you show your commitment to becoming a better, more collaborative trading partner.

Questions to Ask in a Supplier Survey
We recommend a supplier survey include objective questions based on measurable data and performance, as well as subjective questions that tell you how the supplier feels about you as a trading partner. Responses might fall into categories such as "strongly agree," "agree," "disagree," and "strongly disagree."

Examples of general survey questions about your retail organization include:

  • Does the retailer share metrics and scorecards?
  • Does the retailer work with you in the spirit of a long-term relationship?
  • Is the retailer a collaborative partner?
  • Is the retailer open to your viewpoint?
  • Does the retailer have an effective merchandising team?
  • Is the retailer's senior management accessible?
  • Does the retailer plan effectively for the short term (seasonal/annual) ?
  • Is the retailer willing to change?
  • Is the retailer organization a well-managed company?
  • Does the retailer have a long-term vision?
  • Is the retailer willing to take risks?
  • Does the retailer make decisions in a timely manner?
  • Does the retailer have an effective marketing and advertising team?

You can also ask questions that focus on specific areas of your company, such as store operations, e-commerce, merchant teams and supply chain. Examples of supply chain-specific questions might include:

  • Does the retailer provide clear expectations for vendor performance?
  • Does the retailer promptly return phone calls/emails?
  • Does the retailer provide an appropriate level of support?
  • Does the retailer transmit information on a timely basis?
  • Does the retailer provide adequate and timely feedback?
  • Does the retailer demonstrate creativity in addressing issues?
  • Does the retailer meet deadlines?
  • Does the retailer ensure data integrity?
  • Does the retailer have reasonable standards (lead times, on-time delivery, etc.)?
  • Does the retailer generate accurate forecasts?
  • Does the retailer have systems that are accessible?
  • Does the retailer have systems that are accurate?
  • Does the retailer have systems that are easy-to-use?

How to Make Supplier Surveys a Valuable Exercise
We recommend supplier surveys be conducted on a regular basis. By soliciting feedback twice per year, or at least once per year, you gain the ability to trend your own performance over time. Are responses getting better, staying the same, or getting worse? For example, after two years, you could generate a report like the one below and determine whether your efforts are producing the improvements your suppliers need:

One of the primary benefits of conducting supplier surveys is finding out how you compare with similar retailers that do business with your suppliers, particularly your largest and most important suppliers. The best way to acquire this information is by asking your suppliers.

If a retailer is struggling and seems to be headed in the wrong direction, recent history has shown us that suppliers will be less likely to support and invest in that retailer as a trading partner. Comparisons with other retailers would allow you to learn how suppliers rate your performance as shown in the graph below:

Senior management should own the process and recognize the value of identifying and addressing problems with the supplier community. This will ensure supplier participation and support. That doesn't mean you have to survey every supplier. Use the 80/20 rule and focus on the 20 percent of suppliers that represent 80 percent of your supplier community's value.

Most importantly, supplier surveys need to be anonymous. Suppliers need to know that you expect and value their honest, unfiltered responses. Without anonymity, suppliers will be more likely to hold back because they're worried about protecting their own interests and offending the retailer. Watered-down responses diminish the value of supplier surveys because they don't paint an accurate picture of the supplier's view of the retailer.

Using a third party to manage the solicitation, collection, and formatting of your survey is one way to address this concern. Responses, ratings, and comments would only be seen in the aggregate. This will show suppliers that you view these surveys as an important tool for improving performance and you're not just going through the motions.

You Gather Feedback from Suppliers. Now What?
If you learn about problems and weaknesses but you're not prepared to do anything about it, what's the point? Put yourself in the supplier's shoes. They've been responding to these surveys for three years, but nothing has changed. Frustration sets in, and you add friction to the relationship.

Internally, surveys are designed to help you learn from suppliers so you can become a better retailer, increase revenue, and create competitive advantages. Gathering information without converting that information into insights and acting upon those insights is a waste of time.

Supplier surveys must go hand-in-hand with a formal process for implementing necessary changes that address specific problems. Do people need to be trained? Does a business process need to be altered? Is there a system within your organization that isn't doing or isn't capable of doing what suppliers need it to do? The sensible way to move closer towards becoming a best-in-class retailer is to make changes that enable you to operate like other best-in-class retailers.

Retailers should approach supplier surveys as a strategic discipline and process. This process includes the collection and analysis of data in a way that protects each supplier's anonymity, followed by a path to action. This feedback, when carefully considered and acted upon, allows the retailer to improve and become a better trading partner.

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Tags:  Supplier Relationship Management  Survey 

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Retail Value Chain 101: How to Prevent Chargebacks for Barcode Labels that Won't Scan

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 8, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2018


When it comes to satisfying retailer requirements and preventing chargebacks, many of the changes that need to be made must be researched. Implementation can be costly and complex. You might have to wait for information from the retailer before you can do anything.

However, preventing chargebacks caused by barcode labels that can't be scanned is a different story. Producing quality GS1-128 labels and having a process for identifying and addressing potential problems aren't difficult, expensive or complicated. Merchandise suppliers just need to be proactive and take the time to put a process in place at their own distribution centers in order to avoid issues at retailers' distribution centers.

In this article, we'll discuss two kinds of thermal printing methods, common labeling problems, the importance of using a high-quality barcode verifier, and the implementation of processes that ensure your labels are legible and scannable.

Thermal Transfer Printing vs. Direct Thermal Printing
Thermal printing is recommended for barcode printing because it uses thermal printheads to produce accurate images with well-defined edges. There are two types of thermal printing – thermal transfer and direct thermal.

With thermal transfer printing, a ribbon is heated by the thermal print head and ink is melted and absorbed into the label. The ink actually becomes part of the label. With direct thermal printing, a heat-sensitive, chemically-treated label is passed under the thermal print head, and a barcode is created when heat causes the label to darken.

Thermal transfer can use a wider range of label materials than direct thermal printing. Thermal transfer barcodes tend to last longer because the labels aren't affected by heat and light, which is important if your barcodes spend a lot of time in transit or in a warehouse. There are three types of ribbon used in thermal transfer, and the right ribbon must be matched with the right ink and label. These variables increase the risk of creases, smudging and poor image quality.

Direct thermal printing doesn't use ribbon, ink and toner, so you don't have to worry about compatibility issues, related costs, or smudging. However, premium-coated facestock, the label material used with direct thermal printing, tends to be more expensive than thermal transfer. Because direct thermal label materials remain chemically active after printing, exposure to heat and light can cause the label to darken.

For these reasons, direct thermal is not recommended for "lifetime" printing applications. However, if you have control over the environments where cartons are stored and transported, as well as the time spent in these environments, direct thermal is more desirable because of the smudge-resistance factor. Thermal transfer labels last longer, but a direct thermal label will usually remain scalable for at least six months.

Common Labeling Problems
Most of the problems that would prevent a label from scanning properly are clearly visible to the naked eye. Here are some of the most common issues we see.

The bars are too light (underburn). This can happen when the pressure applied from the printhead to the label material is uneven or inadequate. With thermal transfer printing, the heat may be too low.

The bars are too thick (overburn), which is typically caused by too much heat.

The barcode is smudged. Smudging can be caused by using the wrong combination of ribbon, label and ink, as well as exposure to heat. Labels can also smudge if cartons are loaded in a way that allows barcode labels touch. Again, smudging doesn't happen with direct thermal heating.

Diagonal lines or white streaks appear within the barcode. This usually happens when the ribbon isn't loaded properly or feeding correctly.

There are spots or voids within the barcode. This can be caused by the printhead burning out elements or abrasions, a wrinkled ribbon, or the use of incorrect label stock.

Other common issues with barcode labels include an unsustainable wide/narrow ratio and poor edge definition. Poor edge definition is often caused by fast print speed, incompatible label stock and print method, and printing in vertical orientation.

Verification of Barcode Print Quality
Merchandise suppliers must identify and address barcode quality issues as quickly as possible to avoid delays and chargebacks at retailer distribution centers. Sample labels should be printed from every printer in use, and a high-quality, ANSI/ISO barcode verifier should be used to determine the quality of barcodes and whether they're scanning at the proper grade.

Barcode verifiers do more than ensure a barcode can be scanned. Barcode verifiers ensure a barcode can be scanned in multiple environments at fast conveyor speeds. They can measure a variety of data that isn't visible to the naked eye, including barcode language (symbology), encoded data, data check digit and symbology check digit, bar and space dimensions and tolerances, allowable ratio of wide to narrow dimensions, and reflectance parameters.

Most retailers require an ANSI Grade of B or higher for GS1-128 barcode labels. If one or more retailers require a grade of A, it's a good idea to verify that all barcodes meet that standard so barcodes scan properly at all retailer facilities.

Verification of barcode quality should be done at least once per day, and ideally once per shift. If you're about to prepare a large order for shipment, it's a good idea to verify barcode quality before you get started. This will allow you to detect and fix printing issues before you end up slapping a large run of labels onto cartons and having them fail at the retailer's distribution center.

We encourage merchandise suppliers that do not have a barcode quality verification program in place to use this information as a roadmap. Have your cross-functional team meet with upper management to explain how such a program is a relatively easy fix and can reduce chargebacks that are completely avoidable. Packers who put labels on cartons need to be aware of their role in this process and the benefits it will create. There should also be some kind of identifier on labels that allows you to trace each label back to the source printer so issues can handled quickly and efficiently.

Merchandise suppliers, we want your feedback. What print method do you use and why? How is it working? Do you have a barcode quality verification program? How is it working? What problems are you facing, and what steps are you taking to overcome them? Please share your stories on the RVCF forum boards, join the discussion, and help and learn from other members.

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Tags:  Carton Labels  GS1-128  Label Quality 

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