The Straight Skinny: Business Networks For Supply Chain Are Happening.

We read lots of material on supply chains; without a doubt the best is “Supply Chain Shaman” written by Laura Cecere. She is hard to disagree with yet easy to understand. She does not have any cartoons and no pictures I can use; so I will just continue to fool all of you that the airport control tower at Mirable International Airport is really a Supply Chain Control Tower.

Recently, she was involved in a research process where she can see fast and demonstrable results. It is the adoption of new forms of B2B networks for supply chains.

I just love her appraisal of research projects: “My research projects have been many, and I love new technologies. I often find that new technologies are overhyped and underdeliver on promises. I pride myself on cutting through the hype and getting to the facts. No fluff from me… I am known for telling it straight.”

Laura figured out way back when “experts” were talking about ERPII (ERP2?) that you can’t do it all from inside and that you really need a network.

Her initial take is right to the point: “While many companies wax eloquently on the concept of building the end-to-end value chain, I find that they are not clear on the meaning. It is often stated as a goal in meetings, and I see it used in many strategic plans. However, what I observe is continued investment in the automation of enterprise practices. We are busy working on process iterations and continuous improvement programs that I think only inch us towards business transformation. I am excited to state that today, I think that we finally have B2B Network alternatives that work. I am also excited to state that I think that they are one of the disruptive technologies that can help us get unstuck in delivering on corporate performance. It is important. As we have outsourced logistics and manufacturing, I firmly believe that we need to get more serious about the building of Business-to-Business (B2B) networks. These are one-to-many and many-to-many architectures that connect logistics providers, contract manufacturers and suppliers into true supply networks. There is a community layer, an application layer, and a connectivity layer. In our recent research reports, line-of-business users are using these networks for 7% of their flows. The primary methods of connecting with trading partners are spreadsheets and EDI.”

So what do we have?. CONFUSION:

Nobody in the vendor community agrees on what a control tower is which means they disagree on what visibility is.

Why Business Networks over EDI VANS??????

Don’t look to ERP vendors for answers in the short-term

“the next time that you see an analyst compare an EDI VAN and a B2B Business Network on the same model, throw up a red flag. It is obvious that they just do not know what they are talking about. They are very different solutions with far-reaching implications.”

Let’s Connect the VALUE CHAIN. Simple to say, Why does everybody stumble over this.

OK Laura, enough of praising your ideas (ALL OF WHICH I AGREE ON). Everybody else: Read  Laura’s blog

At least, we seem to be over the days when a “business network” was simply a “link farm” of all the supply chain members.

Laura: I may be “World’s Greatest Blogger”, but you are the “Supply Chain Shaman”      …..Penney





Commuter Trains: Who Runs Their Own and Who Contracts Them Out

This is always a hot topic. Why didn’t the MTA contract out operation of Metro-North? is a current topic on Boston just changed contractors AGAIN. The Springfield Line MIGHT go to Amtrak, or it might not.

A few years ago we built a WebSite about Amtrak’s Secret Business: Amtrak operates commuter trains for several local/regional transportation authorities, but they don\’t publicize this at all. Find out more about this profitable operation in a time when Amtrak looses all kinds of money.

Not going to get into light rail, streetcars, etc today; but we will hopscotch around the US, sort of East to West, North to South and cover heavy rail commuter lines.

Boston MBTA: contracted out ( largest commuter rail system contracted out)

Keolis Commuter Services (KCS) has reached agreements with all 14 labor unions representing its employees at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which KCS will begin operating on July 1.

In January, Keolis was awarded an eight-year, $2.6 billion contract to manage, operate and maintain MBTA’s commuter-rail service. The company is pledging to improve the system’s on-time performance and “provide a better overall experience” for passengers, according to a press release.

Some of my own comments. These are PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS ONLY and relate in FRANCE and  only to the French Riviera. For most of my years here, Veolia (not involved in Boston) was about the only company. Never any labor problems except the “mandatory” French nationwide strikes (a cultural anomaly that fortunately does not exist in United States). Ran a “tight ship” (buses in proper paint, operators in sort of uniforms, etc). KEOLIS only had a couple of minor contracts. But, one was important to me because it is the route to my golf outings. They had numerous labor issues. Mid-day buses not running, etc. Drivers could wear pajamas.Then politics entered its ugly head. KEOLIS  was awarded several   more local contracts. Several initial labor difficulties, but seem to be resolved. KEOLIS had buses every color but the right one (hey, in a tourist town this is a big thing). Tell somebody to look for an orange bus and a white one goes by even if the number is right and they will miss it. Recently KEOLIS brought in new buses with the correct colors.

Shoreline East contracted out

Metro-North: in-house

LIRR: in-house

MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) officials have proposed $3.4 million in service improvements, including restoration of weekend service on the West Hempstead Branch and the addition of two cars to six rush-hour trains. Some of the service improvements, including restoration of the West Hempstead weekend service, will be implemented as soon as this fall while others will occur in 2015, LIRR officials said in a press release. The funding package includes upgrades on the Huntington, Port Washington, Babylon, Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Montauk branches, as well as service to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Barclays Center.

NJT: in-house

Montréal: Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) in-house

SEPTA Philadelphia: in-house

MARC (Baltimore/Washington):

Virginia Railway Express: contracted

SFRTA Tri-Rail (Miami) contracted

O-Train in Ottawa in-house

GO Transit Toronto in-house

NICTD South Shore Line (South Bend to Chicago) in-house


METRA (Chicago) in-house

Northstar Commuter Rail in Minneapolis / St Paul contracted

Trinity Railway Express, Dallas/Fort Worth contracted

UTA FrontRunner in Salt Lake City in-house

New Mexico Rail Runner Express in-house

Doing very well!

West Coast Express in Vancouver contracted

Sounder Commuter Express in Seattle / Tacoma contracted

WestSide Express Service Beaverton / Wilsonville Oregon contracted

Metrolink Los Angeles: contracted

Caltrain (San Francisco / San Jose): contracted

San Diego, California Coaster

Other operators considered commuter railroads by the American Public Transportation Association which we have not yet classified are (alphabetically)

A-train in Denton County Texas

Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) in California

Capital MetroRail in Austin, Texas contracted

Music City Star in Nashville, TN in-house

And pretty much all of the smaller, primarily one-line systems are contracted out.

Small systems tend to be cheaper to contact out, while large systems tend to be cheaper to operate in-house.

New Mexico Rail Activity

Have covered  developing rail topics for quite a while, but never made a comment on New Mexico. Actually trying hard to remember if I ever rode a train through New Mexico.

New Mexico Rail Runner Express recorded 7.9 million riders in first eight years

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express celebrated its eighth anniversary by providing giveaways and free snacks to riders.

Agency officials noted that during its first eight years of operations, ridership rose to 7.9 million (as of June 1). Officials anticipate the agency will have transported its 8 millionth rider sometime this month, according to a press release.

Also during its first eight years, the Rail Runner Express accommodated 269,820 bicycle boardings; provided assistance to 38,815 passengers; and operated over 305 million passenger miles.

BNSF begins double-track project in New Mexico


BNSF Railway Co. recently launched work on a $68 million double-track project west of Vaughn, N.M.The Class I plans to build 9.3-mile second main track to eliminate one of only four remaining single-track sections on its Southern Transcon route between Chicago and Los Angeles. Grading work is under way and track construction is scheduled to start in early 2015, with the double track expected to enter service in mid-2015.

The additional capacity will improve velocity and enhance service along the Transcon — one of the railroad’s most important routes, BNSF officials said in a press release.

After the project is completed, only 25 miles of single track will remain on the route, including a 2.3-mile segment in Ft. Sumner, N.M., over the Pecos River, they said.

The project is part of BNSF’s $5 billion capital plan in 2014, of which $2.3 billion is budgeted to improve the railroad’s core network and related assets.




Can The United States Postal Service Be Saved?

Pictured above represents a Supply Chain Management Control Tower. Don’t expect to currently find one in back of your local post office. Look for lots of them at company called DHL which is the German Post Office.

Jim O’Reilly, writing in EBN, presented a very good discussion on saving the USPS.

Yes, his ideas are good and I encourage you to read his article. Other countries, like Canada, have postal cost problems and are following a deliberate path to shed unneeded buildings, cut home delivery, etc.

But out there is a winner: Germany, the owner of DHL Express, a division of the German Post Office.


The United States government, and the sometimes-awkward Congress have surprisingly “thought out of the box” a couple of times in the last forty years in a very successful way. First in 1976 with CONRAIL, then more recently with General Motors.


Now is the time to REALLY think out of the box! Let’s get all the great financial wizards on Wall Street together and engineer a buy-out of either Fed Ex or UPS. Maybe just convincing one of them to sell out their domestic division for some tantalizing “financial instruments” would be enough?


Now let’s at the same time solve the long-time problem of AMTRAK by bring back mail trains. Maybe we could pick up a couple of bankrupt airlines for a song to handle the REAL need for airmail (not all these 200 mile flights)

Little things like the postal pension can be thrown in with a massive restructuring of Social Security which the now-grateful Wall Street community will gladly help us with.





Finding Holes In AMAZON PRIME

Not everybody is sitting around waiting for the Amazon DRONE to win the war.

But in the meantime they have lots of folks who are not very happy with Amazon .Start with publisher Hachette, who claims the retailer charges more for its e-books than it should, or refuses to ship non-virtual copies in a timely fashion. There’s also its shareholders, who are miffed that Amazon’s earnings weren’t as strong as they’d hoped for in the second quarter. Read lots more horror stories like class action suits.


Riding to the rescue is Webgistix, which was founded in 2001 by Joseph DiSorbo, and was acqiured last year by Japan’s own e-commerce giant Rakuten. That company competes directly with Amazon for online sales and product fulfillment. Rakuten uses Webgistix for North American logistics, which includes everything from supply chain management to to freight oversight, and has recently launched its own two-day delivery service.

Webgististix claims to offer an alternative to Amazon’s hyper-competitive environment. And that appeals to some online retailers. 

Logistics and fulfillment are a complicated part of e-commerce. They involve everything from storing and locating items to figuring out the most expedient method for shipping them, as well as providing merchants with actionable information about the selling and shipping process.

Webgistix Fulfillment Centers
Webgistix Fulfillment Centers


The Webgististix network of centrally located fulfillment centers makes it easy to get your orders delivered to your buyers as fast as possible. Our fulfillment centers include:

  • 5 Locations in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta,Reno and Scranton where Webgistix operates warehouses focused on B2C order fulfillment.
  • Fast and economical shipping using SmartShip a proprietary shipping analysis that gives you an inventory placement map based on your buyers and the Webgistix nationwide network of fulfillment centers.
  • Real time views into inventory at multiple locations and stock replenishment levels using SmartStock technology and services that streamline inbound inventory processes.
  • Tours are Available for qualified prospective clients. Hey does Amazon give tours?

Webgistix’ personal client support is what distinguishes us from other order fulfillment providers.

With a bare-essentials service there’s no client support to speak of…

With a bigger service you’re just one name in ten thousand…

But when you become a Webgistix client, you are assigned a personal support representative based in the same facility that you store your products. Most of our clients end up knowing their representatives by first name and in fact, consider them an integral part of their own team.

8 Things To Remember When Starting With EDI

Oh my goodness! I’m faced with choosing an EDI solution! Where do I turn? I just don’t know any of these companies. It is often a daunting task for many businesses, especially those who have little or no experience with EDI. Many companies become familiar with the technology only after being informed by a major trading partner of the need to be EDI compliant. Here are a few key points to consider when choosing an EDI solution:

Your Checklist
Your Checklist

What’s still holding back rail service?

Pictured above, The Belt Railway is the largest intermediate switching terminal railroad in the United States, employing approximately 520 people. The Belt has 28 miles of mainline route with more than 300 miles of switching tracks, allowing it to interchange with every railroad serving the Chicago rail hub. The Belt’s Clearing Yards span a 5.5 mile distance among 786 acres, supporting more than 250 miles of track.

When I looked at my inbox and saw an article from Larry Gross at JOC.COM about “What’s still holding back rail service?”, my first thought was Chicago. I was right, He cut right to the chase. Blamed last winter on the polar vortex. Now, I have some great Winter stories on Chicago too. Belt Railway on it’s back, Indiana Harbor Belt stuck in snow, etc.

But then Larry climbed out of winter and points out some of the rest-of-the-year problems with Chicago. Not going to repeat his excellent explanations. Instead, I’m thinking of new ideas today.

Limited space for trains are a problem. Even the Circus Train can’t find a good parking spot for a show in Chicago. Then crowded highways for intermodals to get out of Chicago.

I route an article on Chicago Bypass. No, I’m not going to go out and suggest we bring back the Peoria & Eastern. Once upon a time it was “quicker via Peoria,” 210 direct, unobstructed miles on the Peoria and Eastern between Peoria and Indianapolis instead of 350 miles via Chicago and congestion. Much has changed in the quarter century since the P&E was an unbroken route. For over a century the railroads had an overcapacity problem, one solved by the mid-1990s by increasing traffic and decreasing route-miles.

37,000 freight cars move through the Chicago area every day (CREATE brochure). Some 25% does not originate or terminate there (“Freight Rail Futures,” Chicago Department of Transportation website). That is over 9,000 cars a day, easily 90 or 100 trains, merely moving through the area.

Indiana Harbor Belt's Gibson Yard in 1950
Indiana Harbor Belt’s Gibson Yard in 1950

Do they all have to go through Chicago? Is Chicago always on the shortest, most direct route? Obviously not.

There is a deeply encrusted practice of “long-routing” to increase the originating road’s cut of revenues. Obviously it requires a longer route, with the obvious disadvantages of greater travel time, more expense, less reliable service, and poorer use of now scarce rail resources.

Running everything through Chicago is defended in rail circles on grounds of more frequent connections and keeping crews in position. Those are usually compelling advantages, to be sure, but not always. Bigger is not necessarily better.

Maybe Chicago has seen it’s time as the “intermodal capital”? Again, does all rail freight have to go through Chicago?


We recently wrote about Union Pacific Intermodal Is Really Rolling Along. Let’s think of ways to better accommodate more intermodal.

Louisville and Indianapolis provide some ideas. Like I said above, we are not going to go out and suggest “new” railroads. That is like tilting windmills. The “grand highway” to Indianapolis is NOT a railroad, it is Interstate Highway 65. But I-65 does not start in Chicago. Instead it starts East of Gary, Indiana. Gary has more railroads running through it than you can shake a stick at. Lots of nearby land for intermodal terminals too. Now how can we bypass Chicago? The obvious way is CN’s old Elgin, Joliet & Eastern. Before you say, what would this save? Just drive Interstate 90 going East of Chicago and observe all the trucks turning South on Interstate 65.

Elgin Joliet & Eastern
Elgin Joliet & Eastern

Yes, I know all about railroad mileage and short hauls. Maybe we need to initiate something I will call: a “Negotiated Switching Rate”. This way no railroad gets hurt. Have the government throw some ecology money in there to save the environment.

Can’t believe Western railroads, with a little help, could not block their trains better to cut down on some of the Chicago switching.

Florida Is Buzzing With News About All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast Railway

About the neatest story, especially for the big critics is that All Aboard Florida is paying for bulk of rail crossing improvements in South Florida. There is a video and a great story in Sun Sentinal.

Officials say those improvements, such as new lights and gates – should put municipalities in a good position to qualify for quiet zone status at 115 crossings in Palm Beach County, 67 in Broward and 19 in Miami-Dade.

The company is adding a second track to the Florida East Coast Railway and rebuilding dozens of South Florida crossings to safety levels needed for passenger trains.

Cities will still have to pay for smaller upgrades that All Aboard Florida’s project won’t cover. That could mean something as simple as a $100,000 raised median to prevent cars from jumping into opposing lanes at crossings.

The private company expects to spend about $800 million to build the first phase of its passenger rail service, with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It plans to run 32 trains daily – 16 each way – starting in late 2016.


Miami-Dade officials approve All Aboard Florida’s Miami station plan

The Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved All Aboard Florida’s land use plan to construct a nine-acre multi-modal station and transit-oriented development in downtown Miami.

The transportation hub will include a mixed-use development with residential, office and commercial uses, and a retail concourse, and will serve as a connector between All Aboard Florida’s passengers and Miami’s existing public transport systems, All Aboard Florida officials said in a press release.

The company selected Boston-based Suffolk Construction for pre-construction and construction management services for the station, which will be located in the downtown’s western area. Construction is anticipated to begin in late fall.

The passenger-rail system will be elevated 50 feet to align with existing public transportation systems and with retail spaces located beneath the track. The design will allow through-streets to remain open to traffic and create an atmosphere of walkability, All Aboard Florida officials said.

“This is definitely a project we want to see happen in the core of downtown. We are optimistic that the project will take us to the next level of urban living,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

All Aboard Florida is a Miami-to-Orlando passenger-rail project being developed by Florida East Coast Industries Inc.

West Palm Beach Station
West Palm Beach Station


The Sun-Sentinal talks about the new West Palm Beach station for All Aboard Florida

All Aboard Florida’s modernistic new train station is expected to help revitalize a ragged stretch of downtown between Clematis Street and City Place, officials said Monday as plans for the new stop were unveiled.

Renderings show a 60,000-square-foot complex with lots of glass, an elevated lounge above the tracks and signature V-shaped trusses at the station, located west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Evernia and Datura streets. The design complements stations underway in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. A fourth station is planned at Orlando International Airport.

Then We Have An Editorial from a Realtor About How A “Transportation Workshop was Bogus

What was falsely advertised as a Transportation Vision Workshop on July 10 in Viera was nothing more than trolling for comments so railroad promoters could adjust their sound bites and sell their boondoggle to taxpayers.

Real workshops build good policy using the interplay of group expertise. In contrast, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization hosted a marketing presentation, not a discussion. Its plan promotes an ill-conceived 110-mph passenger rail blasting through Brevard, increasing congestion at U.S. 1, and diminishing property values along Indian River. As we Realtors know, buyers say that Brevard’s potential will be stifled until the railroad moves west.

Crowley's Port Everglades Terminal
Crowley’s Port Everglades Terminal

Finally we have a story about how Crowley Customers are Realizing Benefits of New FEC Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in Port Everglades

The opening of Florida East Coast Railway’ s (FEC) new, state-of-the-art intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF) adjacent to Crowley Maritime Corporation‘s Port Everglades, Fla., terminal is providing Crowley customers with more efficient cargo handling and faster deliveries now that containers no longer need to be trucked via interstate highways to and from an off-site rail terminal. Additionally, the strategic location of the 43-acre, near-dock station is allowing Crowley to handle bigger, heavier break bulk and out-of-gauge cargo more efficiently and cost effectively because of the shorter distance required for transit to the railhead.

DART, DFW Airport prepare for Orange Line extension opening

Exciting times in Dallas. KC Jones recently reported on Texas Central Railway’s plan to build a Dallas-to-Houston bullet train is gaining speed.

Now the Train To The Plane is ready to open. See a picture above of the new station.

The rest of the story now
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are making final preparations on the last segment of the Orange Line, which is scheduled to open on Aug. 18.The airport built the station as part of its construction at Terminal A, the first of the legacy terminals to be renovated. The partnership will enable DART to open the light-rail extension four months ahead of schedule, according to a press release.The five-mile extension links Terminal A and Belt Line Station, with service continuing to major regional destinations including Irving-Las Colinas, Dallas Market Center and downtown Dallas.Regional leaders believe that light-rail service connecting the airport to the DART network will help attract businesses and conferences to the area. It also will serve airport employees; DFW Airport is one of the region’s largest employment centers.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) gets you around Dallas and 12 surrounding cities with modern public transit services and customer facilities tailored to make your trip fast, comfortable and economical. Our extensive network of DART Rail, Trinity Railway Express (TRE) and bus services moves more than 220,000 passengers per day across our 700-square-mile service area.
The DART Rail System provides fast, convenient service to work, shopping and entertainment destinations in Dallas, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Garland, Irving, Plano and Richardson. Plus, the TRE commuter line links DART customers to DFW International Airport and downtown Fort Worth.Free parking is available at most rail stations, and most are served by DART bus routes specially timed to make transfers between buses and trains quick and easy.Popular shopping and entertainment destinations near DART Rail stations in Dallas include NorthPark Center and Upper Greenville Avenue (Park Lane Station), West Village (Cityplace/Uptown Station), Mockingbird Station (Mockingbird Station), the Dallas Museum of Art (St. Paul Station), American Airlines Center (Victory Station), the entertaining West End Historic District (West End Station), Fair Park (Fair Park Station and MLK, Jr. Station), the Dallas Convention Center (Convention Center Station) and the Dallas Zoo (Dallas Zoo Station).Popular destinations in surrounding cities include the Renaissance Hotel and the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts (Galatyn Park Station in Richardson); Downtown Plano, the ArtCentre of Plano and the Courtyard Theater (Downtown Plano Station); the Granville Arts Center (Downtown Garland Station); Downtown Irving (Downtown Irving/Heritage Crossing Station); the Farmers Branch Historical Park (Farmers Branch Station); Downtown Carrollton (Downtown Carrollton Station); the University of Dallas (University of Dallas Station); the Irving Convention Center (Irving Convention Center Station) and Las Colinas (Las Colinas Urban Center Station).

Downtown Fort Worth is now just about an hour’s ride from Union Station in downtown Dallas via the TRE. Business commuters love the convenience – and if you’re looking for a Saturday adventure, Cowtown is Wowtown! From Fort Worth’s Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC) or T&P Station it’s a short bus ride to the bustling Sundance Square dining and entertainment district in the heart of the city, the historic Fort Worth Stockyards Old West district, or the famed museums in the city’s Cultural District. TRE information is available at
DART has come along way both structurally and culturally. All I remembered seeing was an RDC (Rail Diesel Car) or two. The area was strongly “car culture”. Asked some of the folks I was visiting if they had used it yet. The answer: “No, but I think our neighbor’s maid rides it to work.

Connecticut to hire consultant for Bridgeport station development.

The Connecticut State Bond Commission is scheduled to approve $2.75 million for the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) to hire a consultant to complete engineering, design and environmental permitting for the new Barnum Train Station in Bridgeport, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced late last week.The funds will enable the consultant to develop the station site on the city’s east side. The project will encourage transit-oriented and economic development in the city, Malloy said in a press release. Note the need for revitalization of the territory in the picture above.

“Moving this project forward demonstrates our commitment to helping municipal partners and stakeholders make their communities more accessible, more walkable centers of cultural and economic activity.” he said. “In the process, we are also building a foundation to make Connecticut a stronger and more regionally competitive state by growing jobs for residents and providing more flexible, convenient transportation options for employers and employees alike.”

The new Barnum Station project has been deemed feasible by a recent study completed with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, ConnDOT officials said.

The design phase is expected to take 18 months to complete. Soil remediation would begin in spring 2016, construction on the station could occur in 2017 and service might start in fall 2018, ConnDOT officials said.

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