Supply Chain Improvement: You have to be Lean and Agile

Supply Chain Improvement-The constant emergence of new technologies, a changing economy and shifting customer expectations make improving efficiencies critical in the supply chain world. Would your company rather be lean or agile? You don’t have a choice – you must do both! Call it a hybrid approach, custom or individualized management.

It doesn’t matter what name you adopt from that trendy business management blog you follow, simply deploying a Lean concept to drive your supply chain function is probably not enough… you also need flexibility.

Agile Methodology

An agile approach to supply chain helps the team respond to the unpredictability of today’s business world and the individualized demands of customers. Lean identifies and eliminates waste, which is a very good thing. It reduces unnecessary costs, speeds deliveries, and brings everyone together in the constant search for improved efficiencies. Anything that doesn’t add value to the supply chain function is out the door at a Lean operation.

But when the company combines agile with Lean, it adds reassurance for customers that the supply chain can adapt and handle new products and deliveries with speed and flexibility. That’s an improved service that customers will appreciate and pay a premium to acquire.

Actual Demand

No one wants to see product sitting in the warehouse. It needs to be on the sales floor or delivered to the customer to be profitable. Again, this is not a new concept. But to keep moving to where it needs to be when it needs to be there, the supply chain can’t rely on just Lean or agility, it needs both.

With this “both” notion in mind, it brings the supply chain function from only supply all the way back to the manufacturing of product. Agility starts from the legs of the organization, much like a highly agile athlete…it’s all in the lower body!

Communicate

The agile mindset, once fully implemented has the potential to bring the organization together from top to bottom as long as good communication is in place from the production operation through to final, last-mile delivery to the user.

This requires more people talking and working together. It can be done, and it not only supports the company’s goals, it delivers to today’s omni-channel customers who buy from many different devices and in every physical location imaginable.

Maybe Some Support is Needed….

If your company is really good at building a quality widget, putting together a Lean, agile supply chain probably sounds like entirely new business that needs to be started. So the real task at hand here is finding the right subcontractor to handle the job and make it a reality.

Now, it’s time to hire a third-party logistics service. The good news for your business lies in the fact that you know your customer, when and where they expect delivery and how much all of this should cost. Take that knowledge into the meeting with a potential third-party logistics partner to get customized services.

As one of the most trusted logistics providers in the country, STC Logistics can deliver on the promises you make even in the tough situations. You can add a comprehensive logistics partner to your business. Take a look at the range of services we offer and call us today!

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Smoothing out the Lags, Delays and Capacity Shortages

Smoothing out the Lags, Delays and Capacity Shortages

Full-service 3PL solutions can steady the business to meet the challenge

Every business deals with countless moving parts that are both within and outside of its control. Anything that can help you predict what’s coming, or even just a piece of the business you can count on from day-to-day, feels like a break from the storm.

If you had to move products through the northeast last winter, you know that nothing was going to arrive on time – record snowfall pounded the area! Add to that a spike in energy costs in the same area, and you were left with manufacturing companies who had to shut down.

This all created some nasty gaps for retailers looking to make a strong product push or simply supply the popular items that customers were looking to buy.

Careful planning and a long-term view 

The time to seek the assistance of a third-party logistics provider (3PL) is not after a problem arises. While that provider can probably do something to ease the pain, it’s still just a short-term fix, and it will likely rear its ugly head again.

The time to begin a partnership and solidify your logistics function is right now so you can build a cushion for your business, giving it the ability to withstand the unforeseen. (And the unforeseen always comes.) Most businesses know what pains them or what could potentially cause discomfort. You will not stop the problem from happening, but a business can at least lay the foundation for a great partnership while putting tools in place to respond to a bad situation.

This changes the conversation from one business trying to take advantage of another in a tough situation. Both sides will benefit from this type of preparation.

So what can a 3PL do to close production or other gaps in the supply chain?

With weather, labor shortages, equipment failures, production lags and everything else that can go wrong, the only real question to answer is “Can our logistics function withstand a crisis?”

Whether it’s a shortage of shipping capacity, production lags or rising costs that limit your ability to deliver product where it is needed, a full-service 3PL company has the resources to help whether the storm. Solutions could include a simple addition of capacity; streamlining processes; improved buying power; more efficient transactions or improved software that connects the entire company.

You will notice most of those solutions can be put in place well before anything nasty happens.

When times get tough or you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed, you will more than likely turn to a friend. That’s what you need from a 3PL provider — a good relationship with someone you can count on to help with any situation. You don’t need a business that immediately wants to start cranking up the extra charges.

Learn how STC Logistics springs to action in a tough situation. If you’ve been considering adding a complete logistics and supply chain management service to your operations, take a look at our services.

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10 Tips for Streamlining Warehouse Efficiency

Shipping is the number one cost in the fulfillment arena, and without a comprehensive plan for cost monitoring and optimization, retailers can easily end up being charged much more than anticipated. Fortunately, there are many ways that retailers can improve warehouse efficiency to reduce costs; one way is to control inbound and outbound freight. Click here to read the rest of the article on MultichannelMerchant.com.

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How to Avoid Last-Minute Retail Logistics Mishaps

industrial port with containers
industrial port with containers

A misstep with your retail logistics can cause dramatic profit losses even when you see it coming from a mile away–when you’re blindsided by last-minute mishap, those losses become nearly inevitable. With that hard fact in mind, it behooves a retailer content to protect its profitability by working out flexible, reliable, trustworthy logistics solutions. For most businesses, there’s one simple way to manage this: the services of a reputable Third-Party Logistics (3PL) provider. Wondering how a 3PL can empower retail logistics, improve bottom lines, and insulate companies from last-minute mishaps? Read on.

What a 3PL Offers

At its core, what a 3PL offers is the experience and efficacy of an advanced in-house logistics team without the associated costs of hiring, training, outfitting, and maintaining such a team full time. By leveraging that level of experience and familiarity with retail logistics on a part-time basis, you can achieve much greater efficiency in every aspect of your supply chain—which means big savings and big profits, in the long term.

And unlike an in-house team, a 3PL has zero issues with scalability, myriad tools which may only see use in unusual circumstances, and many other advantages of adaptability which a savvy retailer can leverage to their benefit. Few retail logistics solutions offer as much.

Avoiding Retail Logistics Mishaps

By working together with a 3PL to develop flexible retail logistics strategies, you can minimize or even eliminate the opportunity for most mishaps to arise. When regulations change, or a particular shipping route becomes less effective and thus less profitable, a 3PL will be far more likely to spot that change and adapt accordingly—saving you from wasteful shipping, delays, and other retail logistics nightmares.

But even the greatest plan and greatest analysis can’t offer 100% coverage from all mistakes and unexpected occurrences. That’s where the other great strength of a 3PL comes to the rescue: the nature of a 3PL means a much greater agility in developing workaround solutions and last-minute logistical fixes than anything an in-house retail logistics team working with mainstream shipping services could provide.

Turn Logistical Traps into Opportunities

The savviest businesses will take their logistics one step further than safe, by turning the same events which become mishaps for their competitors into opportunities. By being the first business in your market to adapt to changing logistical situations, and thus maintaining lower prices or better offers than those competitors which took the shift’s full brunt, you can turn yesterday’s pitfalls into today’s grand opportunities. All it takes is flexibility and a willingness to act quickly to capitalize on such chances.

Final Thoughts

If you take the reliability of your logistics at all seriously, investing in the services of a 3PL provider may be the best option for your business—a cost-effective way to maximize the efficiency of your supply chains, avoid mishaps as they arise, and adapt to changes in the way you receive your retail goods. STC Logistics has several years of experience working in the retail procurement industry, providing reliable logistics solutions for new store openings, POP display campaigns, rollouts and distributions, and much more. Click below to learn more about our retail logistics services!

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Global Logistics: Benefits of Working with an International 3PL Provider

For successful companies, the primary differentiator from competitors may be the efficiency of their supply chain. An uninterrupted supply chain adds value to the company because it determines the pace at which other operations can press ahead. A bottleneck in the supply chain can have an adverse impact on the company’s brand, revenues, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

supply chain management boxes_miniMore small, mid-size and enterprise level companies are realizing the numerous benefits by outsourcing supply chain management and logistics to a 3PL provider. A 3PL partner has the logistics advantages, including expertise, technology and network connections, to ensure that the warehousing and transportation component of the operations moves in the right direction.

A 3PL provides businesses with reliable logistics solutions that include the following benefits:

Wide Network of Resources

By working with a 3PL provider, a business can take advantage of a vast network of resources and carriers. This enables providers to execute each step along the supply chain efficiently and cost-effectively through leveraging assets, relationships and industry knowledge and experience. It results in lower overhead and quick service delivery because of the international 3PL provider availability of resources that in-house operations cannot match.

Save Time and Money

More businesses find that they can save both time and money by outsourcing their logistics to third-party logistics providers. Generally, these companies provide warehousing, transportation (ground, air, rail and sea), proprietary technology and integrated operation services.

Business owners and executives can tailor the 3PL provider services to meet market demands and customer needs. The right logistics service provider has a global network in place to handle paperwork, customs documentation, billing, audits and staffing necessary to efficiently move goods where they need to go for the lowest cost.

Industry Expertise and Experience

3PLs should have knowledge of industry best practices when it comes to packaging, transporting and storing goods in an organized and cost-effective manner. Service providers stay up-to-date with the latest advances in technology, manufacturing and logistics. They have state-of-the-art applications, supply chain transparency, transportation management and inventory control.

Scalability and Flexibility

Three key benefits to outsourcing logistics has to do with the flexibility to scale space, transportation and labor, especially if you experience a sudden spike in demand. Firms that have seasonal variations in their business can plan their budgets accordingly and adjust inventory, space and other resources up or down when needed. Businesses looking to grow and expand into other markets have in place the logistic infrastructure to support their strategic initiatives with incurring increase in costs.

Best Practices and Optimization

Cloud computing, proprietary systems and other technology platforms make it easier to outsource logistics. Smart, transformed companies understand the value that a reliable, accurate and timely supply chain has on the business. Reliable third-party logistics companies have proven cost-effective systems geared to move a large volume of goods and ensure that they get to the location on time.

Economy of scale allows 3PLs to build a network and provide the resources businesses need to be flexible and scalable and ensure important needs are met. Third-party logistics providers have the latest technology, industry knowledge and systems to make sure that customer shipments arrive in top condition, at the right place, at the right quantity, and in the right time frame.

The third-party logistics firm should provide the customer with transparency, access and the ability to track everything the client needs to know through an interface, data warehousing, advanced reporting and customer-facing web portals.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from working with a 3PL provider.  Choose a 3PL provider that has the system, financial capabilities and expertise to deliver the requisite services to make operations more effective and efficient.

STC Logistics offers international and domestic freight services. To learn more about our shipping options, click below!

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5 Steps for Taking Your Logistics Green

shutterstock_94715374-resized-600.jpgBusiness changes can be intimidating and often costly—especially if these changes lack clear-cut numbers for your return on investment. Adopting more green, environmentally-friendly options for your supply chain does not sound like something that can quickly improve your business’ bottom line, but the eventual benefits can lead to quite a positive ROI.

Of course, significant supply chain changes should never be taken lightly, and it’s important to conduct thorough research on green business practices in advance. Consider these tips before you encourage your business to “go green”:

1) Establish a baseline: Like anything in business, it’s important to set up a plan before making any significant changes to your operating system. Creating a sustainability baseline is a great start. Analyze each department of staff and compile the operational statistics that will provide you with the data needed to determine your carbon footprint and value drivers.

2) Find your opportunities: Once you’ve determined your business’ carbon footprint and value drivers, start doing some research. Find the areas where making reductions will align with value drivers. This could include reducing excess waste or byproducts; reducing areas where there is a disconnect, such as the amount of fuel used for transport of goods, compared to the actual transit time taken for your business’ logistics needs. The more opportunities for your business to adjust, the better.

3) Invest in certifications: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created the SmartWay program, which is designed to improve fuel efficiency and environmental performance in transportation supply chains.  The EPA works with small trucking companies, rail carriers, commercial manufacturers and retailers. Businesses and 3PL’s can partner with this organization to track fuel consumption and improve transportation performance, access freight supply chain best practices which reduce costs and emissions, and  address carbon-risk throughout their supply chain by improving energy and environmental efficiency of freight operations. There is also the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, a green building certification that encourages the best and healthiest building strategies and practices. Each building needs to meet a certain number of prerequisites in order to qualify for certification in fields like construction, interior design and building operations.

4) Learn the benefits and breaks:  Depending on your location, there are a variety of tax breaks, credits and loan guarantees for any business that qualifies for environmental improvements through the state and/or federal government. The Recovery Act established in 2009 was designed to provide more benefits and incentives for businesses thinking about taking their supply chains green.

5) Get the word out:  Once your green changes have been enacted, don’t forget to let your consumers know! Going green has become a positive buzzword in last two decades, and many Americans are fine with spending a little more if they know what they’re purchasing will have a positive effect on the environment.

While these are only a few tips regarding taking your logistics green, there are plenty of other options for you to consider when partnering with a 3PL provider. By utilizing the latest technology and most efficient logistics practices, 3pl providers can devise the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly logistics solution for your business—whether you’re shipping by air, land or sea.

STC Logistics is a certified SmartWay Transport Partner and has implemented ways to improve environmental performance and address carbon-risk throughout our supply chain. To learn more about our services, please click below.

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Holiday Retail Planning: The Benefits of Working with a 3PL Provider

christmas package-resized-600.jpgRetail planning for the holiday season can be a daunting task. Having the right decorations and an accurate inventory full of all the new specialty products for the season is essential for business success. To meet these retail planning challenges, many savvy retailers turn to 3PL providers to make sure their logistics needs are managed properly. Here’s why:

3PL Providers Meet Deadlines

In retail planning, it’s critical to have freight shipments arrive on time. 3PL providers like STC Logistics utilize an infrastructure based on state-of-the-art technology which recognizes an impeccable route for each specific shipment. The needs of freight shipments are handled and processed by high speed machines, ensuring superlative delivery times. Experienced 3PL providers communicate with affiliates from all over the world in order to consider each possible mode of transportation before deciding on the quickest freight shipment route. Utilizing a retail-specialized provider during holiday freight campaigns begins with computerized recognition of efficient routes with economical rates and ends with precise timing for delivery arrival before the holidays.

3PL Providers Save Time and Money

Distance, equipment, handlers, consolidation and deadlines factor into freight shipment prices. Retail-specialized 3PL providers analyze each freight shipment with a customized rate program to ensure that the most amicable and economical rates available are offered. Optimal logistical efficiency means money is saved in every possible way while the fastest freight shipment routes are taken. Freight may be combined in order to provide additional saving opportunities during the process of transportation for retail planning. Individualized electronic rate quote numbers are created when a freight shipment is rated and this number is used to reference pricing when freight is booked and tracking numbers are generated. This enables the rates and routing to be exact.

The Benefits of Electronic Logistics Format

Multiple rollouts, destinations or assembly services are no issue with STC’s Electronic Logistics Format (ELF). It is a proprietary service which STC Logistics utilizes in order to give clients the advantage. It has been specifically designed to provide an awareness of information between all involved parties during the distribution process. Customized rollouts are drafted, many containing multiple destinations for distribution, along with pieces, sizes and weights and then the spreadsheet for a freight shipment will be received by means of EDI transfer. Updates and changes are simply made and reviewing an entire program now becomes straightforward.

Before the very first pickup is made, outlined instructions that detail requirements for pickup and delivery will already have been prepared and awaiting client approval. Once approved, the ELF will be published to a custom mini-website accessible to clients through the STC Logistics client portal. Status updates are easily viewed, tracking is in real time and reports are easily manufactured. Receiving holiday freight shipments this season in a timely and cost-efficient manner by utilizing STC Logistics enables distribution that is stress-free.

3PL Providers Use Efficient Freight Shipment Methods

Retail planning requires research when partnering with a logistics provider in order to grant an overall flawless process in retail planning. Having a 3PL provider facilitate freight shipments guarantees an enhanced and well-researched process for finding available logistics. Placing an emphasis on the process of retail planning before the transportation plan occurs enables retailers to confidently be assured of the quality they are receiving during a freight shipment. Providing easily accessible status updates and paying sufficient attention to concerns with detailed instructions ensures optimal efficiency during the shipping process.

STC Logistics has established an impeccable reputation throughout its 45 years of experience as a 3PL provider. We offer unbeatable freight shipment delivery times on land, air, and sea—all while enhancing a client’s retail planning process. Our unrivaled technology and catered retail planning programs ensure time and money are saved during the transportation process. Additionally, with a damage rate of less than 1%, our customers can feel confident their shipments will arrive in pristine condition ready to be stocked for the holiday season.

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Selecting a Logistics Provider with Quality Shipping Tracking Software

digital-dreams-1160562-m-resized-600.jpgInformation is key in maintaining a smooth logistics chain. The more information every individual supplier and manufacturer in a given supply chain has access to regarding the status of materials, the more effectively and efficiently those individual companies can manage their own part of that chain. In our modern era, quality logistics and shipment tracking software is a key part of any track and trace logistics solution, and utilization of the superior software to superior effect often marks key differences between two logistics companies.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating shipment tracking software. A software suite that excels in pinpointing shipments en route and stays up-to-date on changes in local shipping conditions may lack equally robust inventory tracking tools, may not output adequate analytics, or may fail and numerous other ways. Here are just a few factors logistics companies should consider when selecting software:

Identification of Points

Before a piece of shipment tracking software can offer anything else, it must be able to accurately map the key points of your supply chain:

  • Data Collection: How much information does the shipment tracking software collect at each data point? How accurately and easily does it do so? Using software that allows you to quickly access requested information tremendously speeds up the logistics process.
  • Data Assessment: While raw data has its value, smarter shipment tracking software offers more in the way of analytics. Can the software give you full analytics on any possible damage rate or accurate delivery times and updates?
  • Integration: Good software ‘plays well with others’. The information produced should be readily available to share across programs or between suppliers, manufacturers, and transporters on the supply chain.

Identification of Goals

A good logistics firm also keeps in mind three end goals in all its evaluations of shipment tracking software:

  • Will the software improve supply chain speed?
  • Will it improve supply chain reliability?
  • Will it create a leaner supply chain?

With those goals and the above factors in mind, it becomes simple to decide which software program to use on a regular basis.

STC Logistics uses the most advanced track and trace shipment tracking software on the market to support its clientele. Under the guidance of logistics experts across the nation and using a massive network of transportation affiliates in hubs across the nation, STC Logistics maintains a 99% on-time delivery rate—better than any of the major shipping companies. Whether your chain needs air, rail, sea, or road travel with large shipments to distributed locations or small shipments to a single location, STC Logistics can provide unmatched precision and reliability. Contact us today for a service quote!

Retail Logistics: Why Timing is Everything

Timing is everything in the retail logistics and transportation industry. Many retail stores struggle to break even in down months and make the entirety of their annual profits in short, frenetic periods each year. Having the right products on the shelves when they are most valuable can mean life or death for any retailer, whether it’s the summer boom in lawn equipment and air conditioners at a hardware shop or having the newest titles on the shelves at a gaming outlet. Ordering too far ahead of schedule can mean as much of a loss as ordering too late—even in periods of low sales, wasted shelves equal lost profits.`

Logistics and transportation must be carefully handled at all stages for a store to achieve maximum profits. On the store’s end, this means careful pre-planning, beginning at least a few months in advance of hectic sales seasons. Important steps in retail planning include:

  • Researching products
  • Gauging potential sales
  • Developing sales and advertising strategies
  • Contacting suppliers
  • Completing negotiations
  • Arranging shipping
  • Receiving products and advertising materials
  • Shelving products and preparing displays

Several of these steps can be quite difficult without retail logistics and transportation support, but missing important products, over- or under-estimating interest in products or failing to complete negotiations and receive necessary items in a timely manner can all be devastating. Forgetting to order point-of-purchase displays for a major product until the week before the product goes on sale, for example, might make the difference between clear shelves and a full stockroom.

Holidays are of particular concern for any retailer, because as the most vital season for financial success they are also the most likely place for problems to crop up in your logistics and transportation. Perfect preparations store-side can fall apart completely if the chaos of the season overwhelms suppliers, transporters or other parts of your logistics chain. Major logistics and transportation firms fail to deliver express packages on time roughly 10% of the time and lose between 0.5% and 1% of packages every year. Those numbers become even worse during intense seasons.

Having specialists manage your logistics and transportation chain can greatly reduce the odds of delayed order completions and missing shipments. STC Logistics maintains a better than 99% on-time delivery rate to customers in locations across the nation. We offer shipping by air, sea, rail and road and can handle complex large-scale distribution and small daily shipments with equal ease. By working with over 700 logistics and transportation affiliates in and around transportation hubs across the United States, STC Logistics can manage time-sensitive shipments with high precision and reliability. To learn more about our logistics services, click the button below or contact us today for your rate quote!

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Retail Display Environments: The Role Logistics Play

warehouse-resized-600.jpgAchieving success in retail display environments depends on various factors. Every retailer must have an exceptional logistics system in order to offer the best quality service to their customers. Logistics play a major role in sourcing and inventory management, among other key activities in the overall supply chain. A retailer should provide customers with products they desire at the correct quantities, the correct time, and the correct place. In order for a retailer to successfully carry out these activities they require a logistics provider who demonstrates sufficient experience and one that is staffed with experts who can solve any complex transportation issues as they arise. Along with offering the best competitive prices, maintaining standards of service are important when implementing the correct mode of transportation and are a key focus of a knowledgeable logistics team. Here are some of the reasons why logistics are important to every retail display environment.

Logistics allows the retailer to concentrate on other core activities

For a retail business to produce successful results, the company must be able to spend a substantial amount of time focusing on the management of their company. Too much time spent on dealing with their logistics efforts denies their staff the ample time they need to concentrate on other key activities; such as marketing, administration, customer care or inventory management. It is important that a retailer chooses a reliable logistics provider that is experienced and cohesive. This way, it is possible for management to give attention to other activities that are core to the retail environment.

Logistics increase retail efficiency

The most critical requirement of every retailer is having the ability to offer products at the right place and at the right time. With a good logistics provider, an eye-catching flow of goods will be displayed in and out of the store. Having a reliable relationship with your chosen 3PL will allow for last minute changes and a working relationship that allows you to be confident in your transportation decisions. This means that your company rarely suffers from unexpected damages or delays that can cause negative impact on both the business and the customers. However, it is important that you implement good store management techniques to avoid losses associated with poor stock management. Make sure that the various stock levels are communicated to your supply at the right times. If last minute rush orders are necessary, have a logistics team behind you to accommodate those requests.  This will not only strengthen your total supply chain, but may go a long way in helping to avoid losing potential customers.

Transport expenses are passed to a third party

There are many overhead expenses that are included in the transportation of products. In addition to clearing and forwarding in the case of imported products being moved, you may have extra expenses that you haven’t budgeted for. This could become very expensive for a retail business.  Teaming up with a dependable logistics provider who offers insight and risk assessment will allow you to minimize these expenses as well as other transport risks. Pre-planning is key in maintaining your budgets.

Goods in transit are stored goods

When goods are being transported from one location to the other, there are considered to be stored goods. A good logistics provider will allow your company to avoid extra storage costs until the goods arrive safely at the retailer of choice. Make certain to negotiate storage fees upfront and get to know you 3PL’s policies on timeframes.

Using a trustworthy logistics provider is influential on the amount of success resonated in retail display environments. Your 3PL should be aware that the primary role of the retailer is to offer products to customers on-time and undamaged and at reasonable prices. A reliable logistics provider like STC Logistics can help customers have more time to focus on proper retail management of their company by managing the behind-the-scenes transportation effort that goes into a successful retail campaign. In turn this will help increase the amount of retail efficiency within the company. STC Logistics can also assist in pre-planning your shipping schedules and accommodating budgets, while maintaining the highest level of service. They will work to cover extra storage expenses that typically aren’t covered by other logistics providers and give you a clear picture, upfront, of what costs may be incurred through different modes of transportation.  Learn more about our adding STC to your team at:  http://shipstc.com/services-how-we-ship.asp