What do the West Coast Port Strikes Mean to My Supply Chain?

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 by The IAS Team No Comments

A tentative agreement has been reached between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), ending the 9-month standoff between the parties operating the US West Coast ports. While this is good news, there is still so much backlog at the ports that it will take several months for the ports to operate at normal levels.

Congestion began building earlier last year, even before the last contract expired July 1. Employers have said union-coordinated work slowdowns exacerbated the problem, and provided data that cargo has been moving at about half its normal rate since the fall. However, both the PMA and ILWU have committed to return to full productivity levels immediately.

The port bottlenecks have caused a ripple effect that is deep and wide across nearly every industry. From perishable foods to automotive parts to retail products, pretty much every supply chain along the way has been disrupted, causing missed shipments and unhappy customers. Per Port Strategy magazine, “When port operations slowdown, and cargo begins to build up, a port-wide gray chassis pool is said to be one of the best options for efficient chassis provisioning.”

The recent announcement of the establishment of the Pool of Pools, which will provide chassis for the transportation of containers between ports, rail yards, and cargo destinations, will be a major help for smoothing operations at the West Coast ports. Chassis providers at the ports have created a pool of chassis available to rent or lease to help move the containers.

Per the recent press release, “The participating pool managers will monitor usage of the fleet and cooperate on the positioning of chassis across the complex, and will utilize a third party service provider to facilitate operation of the concept. This third party service provider will audit cross-pool chassis usage to allow the pools to compensate one another for such usage on a regular basis, and assist in preventing the exchange of competitively sensitive information between the pools and chassis providers.”

This third party is International Asset Systems, which created ChassisManager to facilitate chassis provisioning. IAS ChassisManager enables asset providers to easily and conveniently rent their chassis to their motor carrier partners and other potential chassis users. It also enables motor carriers to easily register, receive rental agreement approval, monitor their rented chassis fleet, view and reconcile chassis rental charges, and easily download information for billing.

Globalization, Internationalization and IAS

Posted on: March 2nd, 2015 by The IAS Team No Comments

IAS has released a new version of our DispatchManager application (called DM 2.6 if you track such things!). In addition to some mundane behind-the-scenes improvements, we have upgraded our reporting functionality. But the exciting bit is that we will also now support multiple languages! With this release we add Spanish and Simplified Chinese to English as options for users to select after they log in.

What’s the big deal? Well, IAS DispatchManager began as a North America-centric transportation work order processing and transport vendor management platform. However, over the last couple years our customer base has grown to include several global 3PLs. These companies saw the benefit of connecting their entire networks of motor carriers on one platform, through a single “data feed,” to comply with a standard set of processes and business requirements. What started with 3 countries in North America quickly expanded to more than 25 countries around the globe. English is generally the lingua franca for supply chain and goods transport worldwide, but with a growing concentration of activity in countries speaking Spanish and Simplified Chinese, the time was right to expand our capabilities. With the help of our translation partner Sajan, we will be adding additional languages to IAS DispatchManager in the future.

Our EquipmentRepair application has been live in almost 90 countries for many, many years. But I suspect the nature of goods transportation operations–and the people doing it–is different than that of depots, terminals, repairs and assets. For one thing, dispatchers and drivers involved in local pick-up and delivery, airfreight trucking and drayage are often with smaller, local enterprises. Another is that a high percentage of our DispatchManager users are actually logging onto the IAS portal to transact business, as opposed to remaining within in-house systems to which IAS integrates– the latter scenario is more common in the IAS EquipmentRepair world.

At any rate, we at IAS are excited to offer new language support in DispatchManager, dovetailing with the capabilities of our Client Services teams in Chicago and Hong Kong.

Experts in the Pool of Pool Concepts – IAS

Posted on: February 18th, 2015 by The IAS Team No Comments

At the end of 2014, the port authority, marine terminals, various associations, and ocean carriers agreed upon a port-wide chassis pool in the Port of New York and New Jersey. The press release reads, “The Council on Port Performance (CPP) Equipment Implementation Team, whose members consist of the Port Authority of NY & NJ, Chassis Leasing Companies, Marine Terminals, International Longshoremen’s Association, Labor Associations, Trucker Associations, and Ocean Carriers, agreed on November 20th to implement a port-wide chassis pool in the Port of New York and New Jersey (PONYNJ).”

A gray chassis pool, where various chassis providers contribute their chassis into one large fleet, and/or enable “cross-pool” starts and stops, is one of the best options for efficient chassis provisioning since the US chassis provisioning market changed two years ago. Within this port-wide chassis pool, competitors whose assets are being interchanged within the pool need a neutral moderator with expertise in managing the “pool of pools.”

The PANYNJ agreement follows that of the Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, who had come to that same conclusion earlier to 2014. In that region, two chassis pool operators (Flexi-Van and DCLI), had already been granted approval by US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to organize such a pool-of-pools.

Having a pool like this requires a third party to perform various chassis usage reconciliation tasks while meeting government regulations on anti-trust, ensuring neutrality and keeping commercial terms confidential. International Asset Systems (IAS) is assigned the responsibility for these tasks in the SoCal pool of pools.

IAS is a provider of technology that connects shipper communities to the goods transport industry. It is a neutral party without cargo- or asset-related interests. With thousands of motor carriers and intermodal facilities interacting with its services daily, IAS has the understanding and capability to address the changing chassis market.

Enterprise SaaS vs. Networked Platforms in Supply Chain and Transportation Management

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by The IAS Team No Comments

A recent report from Boston-based ChainLink Research on supply chain platforms compares Enterprise SaaS applications serving single, multi-tenant instances with true “Networked Platforms” that provide SaaS solutions for multiple parties–not necessarily in direct commercial relationships, initially–interacting on one platform. A networked platform features a many-to-many model for data, security, connectivity and onboarding. The network platform approach is best for supply chain and transportation management applications that require communication and collaboration among trading partners, be they customers/vendors or other third parties. In IAS’ current world of transportation management, the parties are buyers or arrangers of transportation on the one hand, and providers of transportation and related services on the other.

Some key features of a Networked Platform include:

  • Critical mass of trading partners that can either be easily added to the network or may already be connected to the network, reducing the startup time.
  • Easy discovery of new partners.
  • Ability to automate manual processes with visibility into operations.
  • Open marketplace for competitive bidding by qualified providers of supplies and services, lowering costs and finding capacity in tight markets.
  • On Demand, Real-Time Market that links buyers and sellers for immediate services, such as drayage and goods transport.
  • Sharing and leveraging of network-wide data allowing for analysis of trends and benchmarking of performance, costs and more.

Many networked platforms target a particular industry segment, such as high tech, B2B, consumer or retail. This is one of the key differentiators between the various networked platforms that serve industries such as drayage and goods transport (IAS), couriers (Grand Junction), personal transport alternatives (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar), grocery delivery (Instacart), or housing (Airbnb); all examples referenced in the ChainLink report.

Transloading and Other Factors Affecting Drayage Truck Capacity

Posted on: November 3rd, 2014 by The IAS Team No Comments

There is a growing trend in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach whereby retailers and other importers increasingly are avoiding shipping ocean containers inland by rail and instead transloading into domestic containers that then move by truck or rail. This has exacerbated an ever-growing shortage of drayage truck capacity that is under strain from many issues ranging from vessel size to chassis availability.

Containers are backed up on the docks at Los Angeles and Long Beach, while trucks wait in long lines at the terminal gates. Frustrated importers and exporters are diverting cargo to other ports in an effort to get their containers to the right location at the right time. Together the two ports handled a combined 14.4 million 20-foot-equivalent units annually. Whether Trans-Pac trade growth will recoup coast-wise volume diversion, remains to be seen.

There’s a real estate effect too: importers and exporters need more transload facilities, which is causing available industrial retail prices to skyrocket in the LA Basin and Inland Empire. As the US economy continues to grow, the volume of containers reaches tremendous levels, adding even more pressure to the ports to reduce congestion. Per the Journal of Commerce, “More than 32 percent of import containers at LA-Long Beach was transloaded into domestic rail containers last year, up from 31.7 percent in 2012, 28.4 percent in 2010 and 20.7 percent in 2006, according to data provided by the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority. They predict the share will rise further, to 33.2 percent this year.”

Shippers choose to transload because, depending on the cargo’s characteristics, they gain better economies from 53-foot domestic containers versus standard marine 40-footers. They can also take control of goods earlier upon arrival in North America. However, transloading requires real estate for cross-dock facilities and drayage to move containers from the port to transload facilities. Many of the current cross-dock facilities do not have spare capacity for new customers.

One of the reasons drayage is under pressure is due to ocean carriers no longer providing chassis for containers in most cases. This has forced truckers to make multiple stops at different terminals to pick up or drop off chassis, resulting in a reduction of productivity. One solution addressing this inefficiency is IAS’ ChassisManager application that provides visibility and accurate re-assignment of liability and costs for chassis in “street-turns.” A Street-turn is the re-use of assets that enables intermodal companies to reduce empty mileage, cut fuel costs and emissions, and decrease congestion.

IAS billing scheme vows to end tortured history of US chassis provisioning

Posted on: October 3rd, 2014 by The IAS Team No Comments

As Seen in Shipping Gazette 2 October 2014

US DOCKSIDE chassis provider IAS-International Asset Systems feels it has identified and resolved the big billing problem that has troubled forwarders and cargo owners procuring trailers since carriers stopped doing it in recent years.

“The administration and accuracy of billing is the problem,” said IAS chief operations officer John Allen in response to questions from the Hong Kong Shipping Gazette.  ”When an ocean carrier makes an exception with a customer to absorb the charges for a chassis, the carrier must be able to inform the billing entity of that fact for the specific moves in question,” he said.

And this is where carriers fall down, he said, adding that his Oakland-based company has devised a billing system that uses gate activity information, itemising billable moves and identifying who pays for what. ”We make this information available to all billable parties in real time, so the party paying (motor and ocean carriers) gets accurate invoice and complete back-up info. We also have a support team to reconcile billing problems,” he said.

Such systems, it is hoped, will spread to bring to an end the tortured history of dockside chassis provision, which carriers abandoned in the US a few years ago, leaving all in state of confusion.

In the US, ocean carriers have traditionally provided chassis at no direct charge to trucking companies or cargo owners. In other countries, truckers own or procure chassis. Ocean carriers formed “pools” to share the chassis and manage usage of the chassis by the trucking companies in some busy port and inland rail terminal locations.

Several years ago, Maersk said it would end its ownership and free chassis provisioning and in 2012, the company had sold them to leasing companies. Soon other carriers stopped providing chassis. But this did not mean ocean carriers were no longer responsible for the cost of chassis provisioning.

As carriers sold their chassis, the large asset companies took over, apportioning cost according to the terms of each container move. They would bill the cargo owner, the trucking company or the ocean carrier depending on the specifics of the deal that often lacked clarity. Mistakes were many and dissatisfaction grew. Ocean carriers got out to trim costs as the shipping industry faced global overcapacity and falling rates. Not only the costs of the chassis provisioning itself, but there was the expense of repairs and legal liability, too.

So carriers sold their owned assets to leasing companies and returned leased fleets to the lessors. Some arrangements required a commitment of usage on the part of the ocean carriers. In response, some forwarders, were able to persuade carriers to continue to pay for the chassis regardless of whether the move was merchant or carrier haul.

Many shifted their bill of lading terms with the ocean carriers from merchant to carrier haul. For the most part, if it were a carrier haul move, the liner company would either pay the equipment provider directly for the carrier haul usage or they were billed by the trucker for the move to the customer’s location. Chassis are still available, but the supplier and billing model has changed.

The end of the carrier’s central role means truckers are responsible for the chassis charges if rented or operating costs if owned. Leasing companies or chassis pool operators can bill trucking companies for their specific usage. Truckers would rebill their respective customer for the use. This could be either the cargo owner or the ocean carrier.

To Mr Allen, the new way is more efficient as it requires fewer assets to handle the volume due to economies of scale. This way, he says, one combines disparate supply points and providers, and having fewer parties involved while increasing trucker flexibility.

Retailers Import Into US For Holiday Rush Despite Port Issues

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by The IAS Team No Comments

The West Coast Longshoremen’s Contract is still under negotiation, but retailers continue to import merchandise into the US at above-average rates in order to be ready for the holiday shopping season. Retailers want to make sure that consumer demand during the holidays is met, so they are shipping products to alternative ports.

Import volume at U.S. ports is expected to total 1.47 million containers this month, according to a report issued by Global Port Tracker. This is down from the all-time monthly record of 1.53 million set in August as retailers imported merchandise early in case of any disruption on the docks. September has averaged 1.42 million containers over the past five years.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1, prompting concerns about potential disruptions that could affect back-to-school or holiday merchandise. A tentative agreement on health benefits was announced in August but both sides are continuing to negotiate on other issues as dockworkers remain on the job.

The National Retail Federation is forecasting a sales growth of 3.6 percent in 2014. While cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales numbers, it is still a good measure of forecasting retail sales expectations.

International Asset Systems (IAS) helps carriers improve drayage assignments, appointment times, invoicing, visibility, rates, and optimization for ocean, air, LCL/LTL, international and domestic moves. IAS Dispatch coordinates shippers’ needs with the resources of partners in their global transportation network, resulting in improved profit, improved equipment utilization, and improved customer satisfaction.

How Much Does a Chassis Cost? The Math of Chassis Economics

Posted on: September 12th, 2014 by The IAS Team No Comments

Debate exists on whether the new chassis-provisioning model has simply shifted the cost of chassis usage to different industry players or if it has increased costs for most participants in the different pools as a result of new process implications.  In the USA, ocean carriers have traditionally provided chassis at no direct charge to trucking companies or shippers/consignees to move containers to and from the ocean carriers’ customers. The ocean carriers formed “pools” to share the chassis and manage usage of the chassis by the trucking companies in some busy port and inland rail terminal locations.

This is contrasted with outside the USA where the trucking companies typically own or procure and manage the chassis themselves. Several years ago Maersk announced its decision to end its ownership (and “free” provisioning) of chassis and, in 2012, the company had indeed divested those assets (sold them to leasing companies). On the heels of the Maersk decision other ocean carriers announced similar plans to discontinue managing and providing chassis, forcing truckers to either purchase chassis or lease them from equipment providers.

This, however, did not mean that the ocean carriers were no longer responsible for the cost of the chassis. As the ocean carriers sold their chassis, the large asset pooling arrangements took over the responsibility of providing chassis to the logistics community, apportioning cost according to the terms of each container move– either the cargo interest, the trucking company or the ocean carrier pays for the chassis.

IAS created ChassisManager to address this issue. John Allen of IAS will be discussing this issue at the upcoming IANA Show on September 22 – 23, 2014. Attendees at this presentation will be provided a compelling look at the true costs of chassis operations in the new chassis market and learn how this can be a new revenue source for many intermodal operators.

IAS provides a very proactive billing platform that receives the relevant gate activity, which drives usage billing along with the data from the ocean carriers on how to direct the billing (who pays). We make this information available to all billable parties in real time, so the party paying (motor and ocean carriers) get the most accurate invoice and complete back-up info possible.

Chassis – account management

Posted on: November 20th, 2013 by The IAS Team No Comments

When registering for ChassisManager, you provide details such as your billing address, users, and insurance information. ChassisManager makes it easy to maintain and update this information any time.

To sign up for ChassisManager, you need to provide a billing address. This information can be updated by going to Admin > Company Profile > Company Information. You have the option to enter separate billing and service addresses, or you can check the box to make them the same. The billing address is what will be displayed on your invoices.

1 company info

Each equipment provider has different insurance requirements. Click on Insurance Information to see these and enter your own insurance details. The numbers at the top of this window are your own details, and you should fill them out with the appropriate information. Below are the requirements of the various equipment providers. If your limits are sufficient to meet the equipment provider’s requirements, they will turn green. If not, they will be red. Once all requirements are green, you have met the requirements to start renting chassis.

You also need to upload a copy of your insurance certificate and keep it updated. Check the box of your desired equipment provider and click Upload Insurance Certificate. Then select your your file and click Attach to save it. If your certificate expires, simply click Upload again and choose your new certificate.

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The Company Profile screen also includes the Terms & Conditions for all equipment providers. When first registering, go here and click View to read the T&C and then click Accept to submit your registration. If you wish to review the T&C at any time, you can return to this screen and click View.

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Another essential feature of account administration is user management. Go to Admin > Users to see all current users for your company. Select a user and click on the Actions box to update their role or to activate or suspend their account. A detailed explanation of each user role can be found on the IAS Support Portal. Your account needs at least one Admin, but you can restrict other users to specific functions if you desire.

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To register a new user, go to the ChassisManager login page and click Register. Fill in some basic details and you will receive an email with your temporary password. Once you log in, you will be presented with the company type options. Select service ChassisManager and company type Motor Carrier, then enter your company’s SCAC.

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If your SCAC is already registered, you will be asked to confirm your company name. Click Confirm to join the existing account.

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The new user will appear under Admin > Users. The account must be approved by an Admin before the user can view data. To approve the user, select their name and click Activate. You will be presented with the user role window, so just select your desired role and click Save. If you do not recognize the new user, click Reject instead. You can always return here to change their role or to disable their account.

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Each user has their own profile. Go to Help > My Profile to change details such as your name, job title, or password. Since your account is dependent upon your organization and email these details cannot be changed, but you can always deactivate an account and create a new one if need be.

EDI University – best practices

Posted on: November 5th, 2013 by The IAS Team No Comments

IAS maintains the largest neutral intermodal network of depots and terminals in the world, literally 2,500+ individual connections. IAS provides a powerful web portal to manage activity and enter data to those not able to integrate. The majority of our volume, however, is from integrated partners whom connect to IAS via EDI in order to gain efficiencies and leverage internal technology investments. IAS supports multiple EDI formats, including standard XML, ANSI and EDIFACT formats, as well as the basics such as flat file and CSV. Regardless of the specific EDI format you may choose to utilize, there are a few best practices that will ensure long term success:

Testing and Mapping – When working within your own system to generate the test files needed to join the IAS network, make sure that you are updating your mapping source, and not the data file itself. Always ensure you have submitted successful transactions in the test environment first before moving to production.

Validations and Standards – As many of us know, the word “standard” is often a loosely used term and may mean different things across your customer organizations.  IAS helps contextualize the data requirements into three categories:

   1. EDI Standard format – This refers to the file format standard being utilized (e.g., ANSI, EDIFACT, etc.) and includes valid envelopes, wrappers, delimiters, and characters used.

   2. IAS Standard Validation – This refers to how IAS has implemented the EDI standard for use with our software solutions and includes the minimum required data content, format, and location that all IAS customers adhere to (e.g., a container number should be 4 alpha plus 6/7 numeric)

   3. Customer Specific Validation – These are additional requirements configured specifically for the customer based on how their solution is implemented.  These validations will vary from customer to customer and can range from fleet validation to sequencing to more.

It is important to understand all three categories up front to ensure a smooth testing process and long term data transfer success.  

File Transmissions – In transmitting files to IAS, FTP is often the most desirable manner. IAS will provide secure access to a hosted FTP along with specific instructions on directory information. For diagnostic purposes and best practice, it is helpful to create and place copy of all files transmitted and received files in the archive directory in case re-processing is needed for any reason. In addition, IAS strongly encourages you Secure FTP (SFTP) protocol when exchanging files with IAS. SFTP results in a much more secure connection and can also be beneficial as a public SSH secure encryption key allows for automatic login and one standard access port.

Integrating with IAS via EDI is quick and easy through our established processes of on-boarding new customers and their trading partners. IAS has extensive experience applying its expertise and powerful integration tools to create and manage thousands of integration maps covering all the major intermodal EDI events. Moreover, our engineers are able to rapidly develop and test the maps within a dedicated “training” environment to assure end-to-end tests are complete before an integration is implemented live.

If you have any questions on customer requirements or enablement process please reach out to support@interasset.com.