Archive for May, 2009

Does the BLS Trucking PPI Indicate That a Bottom has been Reached?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Ghost Ship full After performing a steep dive since Q3 2008, the current Bureau of Labor Statistics Trucking PPI  looks like it”s beginning to run out of negative steam. Anybody who has been watching this in the marketplace knows that the timing is pretty good to dust off those carrier contracts and secure the requisite capacity at today”s rates … rates that are destined to go north once manufacturers begin to feel the pinch of inventory depletion. Reinforcing the change in momentum is the Census Bureau’s latest report on the ratio of manufacturer”s inventories to sales, always a good leading indicator. A American Hauntingn download

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So what can shippers do today to ensure they remain competitive during these volatile & evolving conditions? The first question they have to answer is how their freight costs measure up in the marketplace. There are a couple of ways to benchmark rates:

    • A quick metric is to compare actual freight rate change trends to the BLS PPI indices for TL, LTL, & rail freight classes; other rate index sources are available from the ATA, AAR, and STB.
    • Or a more detailed benchmark analysis can be performed on the shipper”s freight database by an outside provider that has a comprehensive, best-in-class, and current freight rate database in the modes used by the shipper.

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Catch a Fire hd Once it”s been established that the opportunity exists for rate improvements, a procurement initiative needs to be launched to close the gap. Here too there are a couple of options:

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  • Using either manual, electronic, and/or web based processes shippers can execute their own in-house RFQ methodologies to secure requisite capacity at the most competitive rates available in today”s market.
  • Or an outside provider can be engaged to perform the RFQ process often times in conjunction with other shippers” volumes to leverage maximum lane densities using highly efficient, state-of-the-art RFQ technology.

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So whatever option a shipper elects to use, my advice is Carpe Diem – seize the day.

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Looking for Cash? Think About Categories

Friday, May 15th, 2009

The recent global financial crisis has had a double impact on

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specialty chemical companies as revenues decline and credit tightens. Many companies are responding with the typical functional programs focused on specific line items in the budget or balance sheet. While offering some financial success, functional programs often drive conflict with customers, suppliers as well as internally. For example:

  • Cost initiatives focus on cost savings without a viewpoint about the cost associated with service levels.
  • Departmental cost reductions often leave managers with the same tasks, but with fewer resources.
  • Aggressive AR collection policies and longer AP times put a greater strain on customer and supplier relations.
  • Inventory reductions pose the risk of stock outs, often with the highest turnover products purchased by the largest customers.

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Category Cash Management or C2M is a proven alternative to the functional approach to cash management that offers high gains without adding risk to business operations. Based on over a decade of work with the unique sourcing, production and distribution characteristics of the chemicals supply chain, C2M offers an integrated view of cash generation and utilization, both of which are driven by specific measures of service.

In C2M, cash management is segmented by categories or segments of business with similar cash utilization related service requirements.
All categories have financial measures, like the business as a whole, including Contribution and Current Asset Return. However, each category has unique values for the measures of it service cycle – a critical driver of costs in the supply chain. These costs range from to 20 to 25% of sales (all costs with the exception of raw materials and plant direct conversion) in the business unit. Understanding trade offs between service and the financial measures is where business insights begin. Win – win break points between service and cash can be the focus of discussions with both customers and suppliers.

Performance can be dramatically improved via management of categories. Cost savings of 1% of sales and working capital reductions of over 20% are common. There is a lot of opportunity for using this methodology as most business units have 4 to 6 of 10 possible business categories.

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With Freight Payment You Get What You Pay For

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Why is Freight Payment, the payment of carrier invoices, so often considered an afterthought? When asked many transportation managers are not at all happy with their Freight Payment service, but consider it a necessary evil. As long as the service is inexpensive (cheap), they’ll deal with the problems as they come, even if this means hiring the services of full time or temporary personnel to mask the inefficiencies of the process. In addition, many companies hire Post Audit firms to verify the payment accuracy.

Carriers apparently feel the same when it comes to the subject of billing accuracy. Many of the problems created in the Freight Payment process are due to inaccurate billing. But yet, it seems that there are many more people employed by carriers whose job is to collect money rather than ensure that the billing is accurate. In addition, carriers will employ Collection Agencies to resolve past due invoices. Carriers are also masking the inefficiency of their billing process.

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What these attitudes have created are inefficient and costly processes, driving high transaction costs to resolve all the inaccuracies. Wouldn’t it be wiser and ultimately less costly to pay a little more up front to improve the processes? Would companies jeopardize the quality of their product by not making the investment in technology and manpower? Clearly the answer is “NO”.

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The time has come for carriers and shippers to invest in freight settlement processes. Investments in technology, trained personnel, and attention paid to the processes will result in a more seamless and problem free environment with lower transaction costs. Plus the cost of Collection and Post Audit firms can be eliminated. “Cheap” will convert to “Cost Efficient” freight payment services.

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