Why is the road transport so expensive?

I used to work as a “transport specialist” in a distribution center called “Distribuidora Alcarin”, in Venezuela. Before reading the post, I invited you to take a look to the video on the home page of the company. (ALCARIN HOME PAGE)

Alcarin Logo

The video shows an organize distribution system were trucks come into the distribution center; pick the order and move on to the stores to deliver all kinds of goods. This company also works directly with the clients and with a very complex activity that is called Cross docking. I can tell that transportation by road is nothing but a complex activity, were a lot of factors are involved. It is not only about taking good decision, having good control of indicators, a good GPS system or a specialist logistic group, sometimes it is also about how lucky you are. So, I won’t use references this time, I will write about my own experience.

When I started at the company, I was supposed to work in the principal office, with indicators, charges for theft or misplacement and with directly contact with the clients, making agreements and passing information to the coordinators of each operation. Suddenly, I knew all the names, vehicles plate, and the history of almost the half of the transport fleet. Can you imagine why? I can tell because of the transport charges.

Goods become property of the carriers in the exactly moment when the truck doors get closed “that’s when you start to pray”. You may say: “You are overreacting”, how can it be?. Here are some examples of especial events and robberies that happen during one year and a half:

– Because of poor conditions of the roads, goods can suffer all kind of damage. They may fall, break and bend. But, the must curios thing is when trucks flipped in the wrong area, and people from near village’s loot the truck. So, whom you blame? The government for the conditions of the road, the driver for being distracted, the people from the village?. Anyway, this is all about money, and no matter how will pay and how much, it is a loss anyway.

– Road transport provides limited protection to goods from rain, sun, dust and wind. You can try to take care of all details, the conditions of the trucks, documents, measures, etc, but there is always a small hole in the roof of the truck, that may damage something. And once again, even if you get pay, there is already a big loss of money and reputation.
– Boxes suddenly disappear, units from big boxes disappear, and even trucks disappear. And one last time, your money and reputation is already gone.

I can keep on giving you examples and anecdotes, but the point is that road transportation is so expensive, not only because of the delays, uneconomical long distances, spending on gasoline, vehicle maintenance, and so on. But, because of any amount of details that cannot be controlled. However, I can tell this has been one of the best experiences of my life; these people have a very different way of living and I have learned a lot from them. It is a complex and ambiguous job, but don’t know how it is special and interesting at the same time.

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General information about Mercadona

During our next lesson we will discuss about Mercadona. Everyone of us knows Mercadona now, but especially the international students are not that familiar with the supermarket as the Spanish students are. Therefore I just want to give the most important information about Mercadona in summary.

Mercadona is a Spanish supermarket chain which is family owned and was founded in 1977. Mercadona started as a small butcher shop in Valencia and displayed a notable growth. In 1981 the company started to expand worldwide. (Compare http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercadona)

Nowadays Mercadona has locations in 46 provinces of 15 autonomous communities, owns more than 1,100 stores and occupies more than 70,000 employees. (Compare http://www.mercadona.es/corp/esp-html/empresa.html)

Mercadona is really rich in using new innovations. So Mercadona was the first Spanish company to implement the barcode scanning system in its stores. Furthermore Mercadona has an automated distribution center. The modern adaptability of Mercadona is still growing  with the needs of the consumer because their main goals are to meet the customers’ needs and satisfy them by low prices. (Compare http://www.mercadona.es/corp/esp-html/ventajas.html)

Bild in Originalgröße anzeigen

The DHL importance in F1

F1 championship has just started and it’s a sport that I really like. This competition is organized almost over the world (Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australia). F1 has the best engineers, aerodynamic, tyres, engines, technology, and of course the best pilots and we are lucky to have a pilot among them, Fernando Alonso who has won 2 championships. In summary, F1 is the highest class of single-seater auto racing.

Here, in Valencia, it was held a race (urban circuit) during five years (2008-2012). I had the opportunity to see the enormous trucks next to me once in Harbor Avenue and the trainings. It was amazing!

You can think that it can be easy to have ready all the cars, spare parts, petrol, tools, machines, tyres, etc. but it isn’t. Logistics at F1 could be the most important aspect because everything has to be on time and at the precise moment, and that’s quite difficult.

DHL has been the official logistics partner since 2004. DHL is in charge of transporting those things that I’ve mentioned before, including the overseas transportation. This means about 400 tonnes of material and they need 100 trucks for the Europe races and 7 aircrafts for the other races.

They work very hard almost 365 days a year. DHL has to have everything under control and start working about 9 days before each Grand Prix, though sometimes there are only 4 days. They always work against the clock. In addition, DHL guarantees a safe and accurate transport. And they are able to deliver express shipments in just 24 hours.

Each team goes over 160.000 kilometers a year along 19 different destinations which is very awesome.

As you all can see, DHL has an impressive logistics. Maybe it’s one of the most important companies in the world in this sector. Moreover, as we can see in the races, DHL has an important and strong advertising campaign which helps to make it bigger.

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Why Hollywood?

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People often ask me what my favorite state in the US is, and there is only one obvious response – California. Most Californians would agree, and be hard-pressed to think it’s because of any kind of pat “state-rioticness.” California is nothing short of every kind of awesome. It is the state that has changed the US and the world technologically as well as culturally. It reeks of natural beauty, from the granite sky-scrapers of Yosemite overlooking the bluest river, tallest waterfalls, and greenest forest I have ever seen, to the always-sunny San Diego, to a desert holding the record for hottest place in the world (and arguably the most beautiful desert as well). In the US, we have the tallest mountain, deepest valley, most beautiful beaches (and women), glorious forests…

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And then there’s Los Angeles. Attracting visitors from around the world, to be left welcomed by a dirty, crime-ridden shit-hole that’s as much big as it is ugly. However, this giant urban mass has somehow managed to birth one of the most well-known industries in the world, known for bright lights, glamour, beauty, fortune, and fame. The industry is named just as frequently by what it produces as much as by where it’s located – Hollywood. But why would such an ugly city attract an industry with practically the opposite image? The answer lies in Logistics.

Almost a century-and-a-half ago, the film industry (then silent films) in the US was dominated by the Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Co. in New Jersey, who held various patents, and was not afraid to use them. To avoid litigation, filmgoers fled elsewhere, and a film company called Biograph fled west and found a home in Los Angeles, which at the time, like most of California, was filled with orchards and farms.

However, California offered the film industry an ideal combination of factors. Not only did it help film producers escape litigation from the other side of the country, but also offered excellent weather conditions. The lights were not strong at the time, so films often relied on a sunny climate for good lighting conditions. Furthermore, California’s scenic diversity is hard to match, offering mountains, beaches, deserts, valleys, cliffs, islands, urban areas, suburban areas, farms, jungles… and almost any setting a film producer might want; and all within just a few hours distance from Los Angeles. The icing on the cake was the low wages that made the costly process of making a film less so. Biograph spread the news of the location, and as the film industry exploded, so did the urban mass of Los Angeles.

The story of Los Angeles is a complicated one. But at least next time you are driving down the streets of Bel Air looking at the homes of some of the richest celebrities on this Earth, only to have your tire blown out by a gauntlet of pot-holes, it will all make a little more sense.

The Cold Chain

This topic came out while I was the other day at the supermarket and I saw the multiple destinations from where the fresh products came and their package dates, which was surprisingly just a few days before. So I thought it could be interesting to know a bit more about how a “cold chain” system works.

General speaking, a Cold Supply Chain refers to all those products that demand to keep a specific temperature during its supplying process. It ensures to keep the quality until the good is provided to the customer. The most common ones would be: frozen food, seafood, meat, fruits, vegetables, medicines, vaccines and chemicals but for sure that others come to your mind. While pharmaceutical products should keep a temperature between 2-8 degrees, in the case of food temperatures should be even lower in some cases such as refrigerated products.

The cold chain shares the same important issues such as time, security or reliability with the common supply chain. Moreover, it demands a higher control and accuracy. The reason is basically, because and inefficiency can derive on a huge waste of products that is translated to a waste of money.

Here you can find some recommendations and needs:

–       Well prepared equipment. Cold rooms at airports or other transportation hubs are needed. As well as special refrigeration trucks, reefer ships and reefer containers.

–       Compact design in order to be able to pack as much quantity as possible.

–       Control processes during all the supply process are demanded. Related with this, workers should have the knowledge and information enough related with the product.

–       Study and analyze the country regulations.

–       Have a back-up plan. In the case of medicines or vaccines, it can help even so save lives.

Finally, I share a couple of videos that might be of your interest. The first one is in a big scale how a big company such as American Airlines deals with the cold supply chain. The second one, in a smaller scale, shows the importance of systems that are needed to provide and store pharmaceutical products.

Fonts: http://www.coldchainiq.com/transportation-logistics; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU3mDWZsAG4; http://www.miebach.es/es/noticias/?news=38907cab03540bf6483f1465c454a63b ; http://www.publicaciones.san.gva.es/publicaciones/documentos/V.2719-2004.pdf

The Traveling Salesman Problem

Hello to everyone! The topic I want to share with you is about The traveling salesman problem, I find it very interesting because we can apply it in everyday life actually, in my case I like traveling a lot, so these methods can be useful for me to be able to visit as so many cities posible, find the shortest and best route to fallow, so I can save money and have time for traveling in other places later.

The traveling salesmane problem is basically find the shortest path from the begining to end, going to through all the cities only once and returns to the start point. I think is a very good way to optimize time, distance and costs, and a very organized way of working too. The traveling salesman problem asks the following question: Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city exactly once and returns to the origin city?

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But, it is not as easy as it sounds, there are so many applications to solve this problem, it requieres an specific procedure to follow, depending of  wich methods we are going yo use, to achieve the best outcome. I will mention some of them:

As a Graph Problem

TSP can be modelled as an undirected weighted graph, such that cities are the graph’s vertices, paths are the graph’s edges, and a path’s distance is the edge’s length. It is a minimization problem starting and finishing at a specified vertex after having visited each other vertex exactly once. Often, the model is a complete graph (i.e. each pair of vertices is connected by an edge). If no path exists between two cities, adding an arbitrarily long edge will complete the graph without affecting the optimal tour.

Asymmetric and Symetric

In the symmetric TSP, the distance between two cities is the same in each opposite direction, forming an undirected graph, This symmetry halves the number of possible solutions. In the assymetric TSP, paths may not exist in both directions or the distances might be different, forming a directed graph. Traffic collisions, one-way streets and airfares for cities with different departure and arrival fees are examples of how this symmetry could break down.

Symmetric TSP with four cities

Even, due the complexity of TSP, it can be calculated by making formulas or by a computing solutions, with a spcecyfic programs or softwares able to solve the problematic.
So when I have many choices of cities to visit and I dont know what to do, definitetly I will take a time to analyse the paths, and  choose the shortest and best route for me.
Here’s a video that may help you to understand the traveling salesman problem concept with an easy explanation  .

Source: “Travelling salesman problem” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem

Trans European Transport network

European Union approved last January a new transport policy with the objective to create an efficient transport network. The outcome that they are looking for is to connect Europe by the four cardinals points. For this project they provide about €26 billion to construct transport infrastructures.

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For Spain brings the opportunity to remove our insolated train situation. This insolated was due to prevent invasions for outsiders in the Franco’s age. The current problem is that we have a different railroad width than the rest of Europe. Its width avoid use of train to entry armies and supplies in this hypothetical invasion, now it increases the transportation cost due to use special train (like TALGO) or unload-load the freight and passengers to continue their travel. Several locations aspire to get some of these funds in order to increase their volume of goods moved by their logistics facilities. This is the case of the Valencia sea port, in its 2015 strategic plan includes an extension of the rail road lines. One of them is the famous Mediterranean corridor which will join the east of Spain with the south of France, and Europe too of course. Other is the line to Zaragoza and north of Spain.

railway-gauge

I personally wish that these infrastructures will carry out to increase the competiveness of Valencia area