P.A.M. Transportation Services (NASDAQ: PTSI) on Thursday reported a net loss of $823,000, 14 cents per share, which includes investments in equity securities. Excluding the investments, the dry-van truckload (TL) carrier lost 43 cents per share. Analysts’ estimates were for a profit of 15 cents per share.
The Tontitown, Arkansas-based carrier reported a 30% year-over-year decline in total revenue to $93 million as truck loads were down 26% and revenue per mile excluding fuel fell 7%. Revenue per truck per week was 23% lower in the quarter at $2,700. The company’s TL division posted a 104% operating ratio, 1,690 basis points worse year-over-year.
COVID-19-related shutdowns in the auto manufacturing sector, 45% of P.A.M. Transportation’s revenue, were the primary reason for the earnings degradation.
“Our second quarter results reflect the significant financial impact of the temporary winding down of operations by our three largest manufacturing customers in response to COVID-19, with April and May bearing the brunt of that impact with a combined operating loss of $4.6 million during those two months,” stated CFO Allen West.
The company redeployed equipment into the spot market, which it blames for “lower rates” and an increase in empty miles. P.A.M. Transportation’s deadhead percentage increased 500 basis points in the quarter to 11.8%.
The carrier said it saw “normalized levels of profitability” in June as automotive manufacturing came back online, allowing its operating ratio to improve to the low-90% range in June.
“An additional hurdle we faced throughout most of the quarter was that a significant portion of our trailer fleet was loaded with freight that we were unable to deliver due to various receivers being shut down due to COVID-19, essentially removing the trailer from our available pool,” continued West.
The company took further cost actions in April and May, including the furlough and termination of employees.
P.A.M. Transportation ended the quarter with $12.5 million outstanding on its $60 million revolver and $25.7 million in marketable equity securities holdings. The company plans to maintain an average truck fleet age of 1.5 years.
No balance sheet update was provided with the company’s earnings report. The company includes a balance sheet with its quarterly 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, typically two weeks after its quarterly earnings results are released.
“With the return of automotive production, the increase in general economic activity as we approached the end of the second quarter, and cost reductions recently implemented which have yet to be fully realized, we believe that we are well positioned for a strong recovery as the remainder of the year progresses,” West concluded.
Chairman Matthew Moroun stepped in as interim CEO in May when Dan Cushman retired after 11 years in the role. The announcement came as the hauler was struggling to deal with the second auto production shutdown in less than a year as a result of the pandemic; the first being a six-week strike by the United Auto Workers at its largest customer, General Motors (NYSE: GM).
The Moroun family is the largest shareholder of PTSI’s shares, owning 68% of the company’s stock at the close of 2019. The family patriarch, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, died at the age of 93 on July 13.
US Cybersecurity Agency Recommends Integration of Blockchain in Supply Chain
The United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in a report dubbed “Building A More Resilient ICT Supply Chain: Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” published on Nov 6, said the blockchain technology can help in resolving supply chain problems in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Assessing the Impact of Coronavirus in Supply Chain and How
The United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in a report dubbed “Building A More Resilient ICT Supply Chain: Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” published on Nov 6, said the blockchain technology can help in resolving supply chain problems in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Assessing the Impact of Coronavirus in Supply Chain and How Blockchain Comes in Handy
In the report, the agency’s goal was to assess the supply chain’s impact from the coronavirus pandemic — a highly contagious viral disease that is still claiming lives in the United States and around the globe.
As the world was attacked by the healthcare crisis, transportation was severely affected as borders were closed as governments jumped in to prevent exponential spread.
CISA calls on ICT companies to engage in scenario planning for different types of events and map out alternatives for a speedy restoration of normalcy, especially in the supply chain.
In their view, blockchain–a solution that provides real-time visibility in the supply chain, can come in handy. It could further help address transportation and logistical bottlenecks. Notably, companies that had robust contingency plans fared better in delivering their products and services to the market:
“To reduce the impacts of transportation and logistics issues, ICT companies can engage in scenario planning for different types of events and map out the alternatives that can allow for the supply chain to be restored as efficiently as possible. To further assist in these efforts, companies can utilize technology platforms that provide real-time, blockchain visibility into available logistics capacity.”
Supply Chain After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Increasingly, companies and agencies seem to be preparing for post-pandemic businesses where the virus and advisories from the government will shape the way business is done.
Some of the measures introduced will be for continuity. In preparation, one way of doing that is to identify possible weak points and introduce robust solutions that can absorb shocks should they arise.
Blockchain technology is garnering support from entities and individuals for its characteristics. Its decentralization, transparency, and security are particularly useful in the supply chain where opaque operations cost the industry millions of dollars every year.
BTCManager, in August, reported on Honeywell integration of blockchain to weed out counterfeit products and improve transparency in the supply chain.
Logistics Company XpressBees Raises $110 Million From Investcorp And Others
- XpressBees raises $110 million from private equity funds Investcorp, Gaja Capital, and Northwest Venture Partners.
- The company will use the funds to expand in Express Cargo, 3PL, and Cross Border Logistics.
Pune-based e-commerce logistics service provider XpressBees raises $110 million (or about Rs 800 crore) in its Series E funding round led by private equity funds, including Investcorp, Gaja Capital, and US-based growth equity investment firm Northwest Venture Partners.
The company will utilize the funds in further automating its hubs and sort centers, improving technological infrastructure, and to expand its delivery footprint in the entire country.
According to the media reports, The company is in the process of foraying into Express Cargo, 3PL (third-party logistics), and cross border logistics.
With this investment, the three PE investors have acquired a collective stake of 31% in the company.
In September 2015, The company first raised $5 million in Seed funding from various investors including Chiratae Ventures, Vertex Ventures, and others.
In January 2018, XpressBees had raised $100 million from the Alibaba Group as part of its corporate funding round.
Following, In January 2020, it raised $10 million in its Series D funding round from existing investor Alibaba Group.
Other top investors, including InnoVen Capital, Elevation Capital, New Enterprise Associates, have also invested in the company.
While Alibaba Group is the most active investor in XpressBees. Till date, it has invested more than Rs 1,000 crore (or about $134 million) in the company.
Since its inception, The company has raised more than $275 million in a total of eight funding rounds, mostly participated by Alibaba, Chiratae Ventures, and InnoVen Capital.
“Investcorp strongly believes in the digital transformation of the Indian consumer and the enterprises,” said Varun Laul of Investcorp.
“We are delighted to partner with Xpressbees in their mission to build India’s premier E-commerce logistics business,” said Gopal Jain, Managing Partner, Gaja Capital.
According to the reports, Ecom Express is also in advanced talks with Bahrain-based Investcorp to raise $40 million in funding.
About XpressBees – XpressBees is a Pune-based end-to-end supply chain solutions provider founded in 2015 by Amitava Saha and Supam Maheshwari, who also founded baby products shopping platform Firstcry.
XpressBees is considered one of India’s fastest growing express logistics service providers, competes with Delhivery, Ecom Express, Shadowfax, among several others.
Tips for Keeping Your Business Inventory Organized
No matter the business, inventory is a key component. Organization and tracking ability are crucial. If these aren’t present, it can cause a multitude of issues for your business. Follow these tips for keeping your business inventory organized. These tips will provide you with a few reminders to keep your inventory efficiently and successfully organized.
Only Have What You Need
When you don’t have enough of a product, or you have an extra surplus of a product, issues can occur. Obviously, if you don’t have enough of a product then you run into the issue of not being able to sell it to your customers, which ultimately gives you incorrect data to anticipate how much of the product you are going to need. In addition, having an extra surplus of the product will not only not allow for you to correctly track and organize the data, but it could also cause issues with the physical stocking and storage element of your product.
Make Sure You Pay Attention to Dates
Dates are extremely important, especially when viewing the overall organization of your inventory. You obviously want to make sure you properly date everything and that you are following the correct protocol when it comes to dates. To do this easily, make sure you have the proper equipment to date your items, as well as paying close attention to the dates and requirements that need to be followed.
Use Data Software
Having software to track your data will help your business keep your inventory beyond organized. Not only will it help you track numbers such as sales and returns, but it will help you get other important data necessary to organize and track your products’ success. Knowing these numbers will help you keep your business inventory organized.
Making sure you always have the proper number of products in inventory, understanding how important you dating and coding is on your products, and using data software are three recommendations and tips for keeping your business inventory organized. Following these tips will only ensure success for anything and everything inventory for your business!
Source: Christina Duron is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things digital. She has focused her career around digital marketing and writes to explore topics that spark her interest.
New And Innovative Supply Chain Threats Emerging
The electronics supply chain is seeing evidence of increased sophistication in the counterfeiting of complex ICs and simple passives, both of which can impact the functioning and safety of the systems that use them.
New technologies are being developed to build trust by helping to identify counterfeit devices before assembly and during failure analysis. It’s too early to tell how effective those measures will be, but individual component identification is becoming an important tool in that effort.
“Trust requires looking at the whole value chain, from design through manufacturing, and carefully monitoring every step,” said Tom Katsioulas, head of trust-chain business at Mentor, a Siemens Business. “Security is about the digital assets. Trust is about the physical assets. And identity connects the two.”
Questions about authenticity can occur at a supplier, with contractors to a supplier, or during the movement of components between contractors and to the customer. The types of anti-counterfeiting options to be used depend both on the value of the component and the consequences of fake components. But they all focus on the ability to uniquely identify a component so it can be tracked through final system assembly.
Counterfeiting can occur anywhere there’s a reliable revenue stream. “There’s $70 billion a year in printer consumables sold into the world,” said Scott Best, technical director of anti-counterfeiting products at Rambus. “This is a remarkable opportunity for counterfeiters. It is a $10 million effort to take apart somebody else’s security chip, completely reverse engineer it (the reverse engineering is completely legal), and print a functional clone. That’s 50 people for a couple of years. But if you can do it, there’s a guaranteed $100 million annual product stream from that chip.”
In addition to lost revenues and profits, safety is driving much of the concern today. “What I’ve seen now are other, more important markets, looking for anti-counterfeiting solutions because of safety issues,” added Best.
This changes the stakes of counterfeiting. “If this is a Gucci bag, you [as a customer] might have lost if you paid for a real one and got a fake one,” said Ophir Gaathon, CEO of Dust Identity. “Clearly, an airbag has a completely different implication.”
Fig. 1: An illustration of the many aspects of the supply chain for an electronic device. Source: Keyfactor
Anti-counterfeiting measures have similarities with traceability, especially when it comes to developing unique component IDs. While such IDs solve two different problems, they go much further with anti-counterfeiting. Critically, wherever economically feasible, counterfeiting protections can be used in a forward-looking manner — as a system is being assembled. They also help in retrospect if a failure ends up being caused by a counterfeit component.
“One of the big problems is being able to identify a part, and there have been different tag technologies that have surfaced over the years to address that,” said John Hallman, product manager for trust and security at OneSpin Solutions. “If you go back 10 years ago, there were attempts to attach DNA tags. They’ve made some progress. Now there are all sorts of electronic IDs, where you have an identifier that is random in silicon, and authorization technologies. We’re looking at verification data as a unique identifier, where you take verification data and attach that to the IP using blockchain technology.”
In effect, that data becomes unique down to the individual bit. “That data can then stay with the device, and if someone modifies it, you can see that,” Hallman said. “This approach turns the problem of trying to look at a piece of IP or chip and assess it into one of how to build this into a device so it can travel along with that IP. The data stays encrypted and is connected in an external database.”
Trust traditionally has been established at the organization level by vetting. But just having an approved vendor is no longer good enough. “The problem with ‘trust, but verify’ is that you’re assuming trust at the outset,” said Steve Carlson, director, aerospace and defense solutions at Cadence.. “And if you do some verification one time, then you say, ‘Okay, now they’re trustworthy,’ then they have free rein within the system.”
The newer approach is to assume that, at any given time, no entity can be trusted without proof, no matter how many times that proof has been given in the past. It’s called “zero trust,” and it treats every interaction as if it was the first. “It was a false notion that because the manufacturing was onshore, you could trust that supplier because it was done through ‘guns, guards and gates,’” Carlson noted.
But humans in the process can reduce the level of trust. “When we’re talking about zero trust and zero touch, where we don’t want to include advanced human intervention in the various stages, automation is key,” said Ellen Boehm, senior director of IoT product management at Keyfactor.
The notion of “trust” is an overarching concept that covers many specific elements. One of them has to do with whether or not one trusts the components going into a system as being authentic or counterfeit. Assigning each such component a unique identifier – “serialization” — is one step toward being able to authenticate components.
But serialization can be a challenge. “The biggest problems with serialization are the commitment to specific serial numbers, having all participants in the ecosystem commit to the same serial numbers, and having a system that will be able to recall the serial numbers,” said Gaathon. This creates a need for more sophisticated approaches.
An electronic system — whether a satellite, automobile, or high-availability computer — can have an extremely sophisticated supply chain. Chips and passives are assembled onto boards, boards are assembled into modules, and modules come together into a finished system.
“There’s a difference between identity and identifiers,” noted Katsioulas. “I may have identifiers for multiple purposes. For a single device, between design, manufacturing, and assembly, before I ship the chips out to the wilderness, I can have three or four or five identifiers. I create a unified identity that consists of those identifiers.”
It’s also important to consider that, while there is always a risk of a rogue operator within an organization, much of the vulnerability comes when components or sub-assemblies are transferred between different participants in the supply chain — or even between different plants belonging to a single supplier.
The focus of most ID efforts has been on silicon chips, for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the fact that these tend to be the high-value components that supply much of the differentiation in a system. The second reason is the fact that they’re amenable to having an electronic ID that can be interrogated and read, either while the chip is isolated or while it’s in a system.
There are several approaches to creating a unique chip ID. They overlap, so conceptually they could be used in a complementary fashion. The chip ID that has received the most attention is an electronically addressable ID. Used for traceability, it could be created during manufacturing using a number of different techniques. But counterfeiting places more constraints on the ways such an ID can be established. “[With] an injected ID, you create some secret number on a server,” said Dave Huntley, business development at PDF Solutions and co-chair of three SEMI committees/task forces. “Then you have the problem of who’s controlling the server.”
The gold standard is an ID that originates in the chip itself, which is an internal hardware root of trust (HRoT). “The alternative is based on physical properties of the actual device,” said Huntley. “And when it powers up, it creates its own unique identity at that moment.”
There are different ways of implementing this, but the one that receives the most mentions is the physically unclonable function (PUF). A PUF leverages some random source of high entropy, like the random power-up state of an SRAM array, to establish an identity. Because the ID is intrinsic to the device, it is immutable. That is an important characteristic of any component ID.
With such a device, the first time it powers up, it “enrolls” its ID. From that point forward, it can identify or “authenticate” itself during manufacturing and even after deployment. Systems can verify all of their chips on each power-up to ensure that nothing has been tampered with
HRoTs serve several purposes, including acting as a seed for public and private keys. For the purposes of those applications, it’s essential — and fundamental — that the actual value returned by the HRoT be confidential in order to protect those keys. It should never leave the device. But a component ID, by definition, must be able to leave the device. So the component ID can also be derived from the HRoT, just like the keys. The HRoT value remains hidden, while the derived ID can be made visible.
For chips that don’t implement a HRoT, it’s still possible to inject an ID. This must be done within a trusted environment to ensure that the equipment loading the ID into the chip and storage of the ID cannot be hacked or gamed.
There are other complementary approaches to proving the integrity of an IC. One technique assures that a given IC has been built using approved masks rather than an altered mask set. “Cadence has technology that essentially imprints some ‘DNA’ into the mask set to be able to detect whether or not the masks were altered,” said Carlson.
This approach is useful only during processing, however, because successive layers of masks will cover the underlying “DNA” traces. Once the device is complete, this approach is no longer useful for validating the chip. “The pattern is put into the mask during the steps that include multi-patterning for mask generation. The choice of layers and locations is a part of the decision process based on mid-manufacturing access to sample wafers,” noted Carlson.
There are also visual cues that can be used to identify an ID. “Multibeam [e-beam] is making it possible to write identifiers on a device in silicon — not electrically, but visually — so you have to get an electron microscope to look at it,” said Huntley. This has the benefit of being created outside the electronic testing flow, and so it can’t be gamed in the same manner as an electronic ID. But electronic and visual IDs are still likely to be used together. “Once that chip is on the circuit board and it’s in a product, you can no longer see it,” said Michael Ford, senior director of emerging industry strategy at Aegis Software and chair of three committees for the IPC standards body. “So visual IDs do not work.”
Passives, such as resistors and capacitors, are often considered to be low-value components that don’t merit the attention lavished on ICs. But there are significant efforts to counterfeit them, as well. “I went to this MTA counterfeit summit, and I was blown away by people talking about fake resistors and counterfeit capacitors and the impact it has in the supply chain,” said Katsioulas.
He’s not alone. “The greatest increase in counterfeiting has been in ceramic condensers,” said Ford. “It’s because there was a shortage in the market. [The counterfeits] looked like capacitors and they behaved like capacitors. The only difference was the dielectric was of a lower quality than normal.”
This can have real-world impacts. “There was a specific case where an Air-Force jet went up, and the ‘Friend or Foe’ circuit failed,” continued Ford. “They thought one of the big PGAs had been counterfeited. But it was the ceramic condenser, because the signal goes through the passive component to get to the PGA.”
Many such passives arrive mounted on reels. As a result, they’re naturally serialized, and it’s theoretically possible to do individual incoming inspection. “If you have a box full of reels, you might choose to have something that, you know, verifies the box first, opens the box, opens the reels, put the reels on a [spool], and reads all the package IDs in the background before it gets put into production,” said Huntley.
But today, identifying individual passives is likely too cumbersome. Instead, the reel gets a batch ID, and any passive is noted to have come from that reel. “Verifying every single capacitor is probably not worth it,” Huntley observed.
Alric Althoff, senior hardware security engineer at Tortuga Logic, agreed. “It’s going to be hard to do this beyond batches,” he said. While a system might not be traceable back to a specific passive device, it would be traceable to the batch from which the device came.
That’s not necessarily fail-safe, because there are some sophisticated efforts afoot to get counterfeits past incoming quality checks. “There was one case we saw where there was a reel of SMT components, and the first 100 were genuine,” said Ford. “And then every seventh one was a counterfeit. So this has been a reel which has been taken by somebody, all the parts taken off, and then the parts put back on again, specifically designed to defeat any incoming inspection regime. If somebody were to find an unexpectedly high quality problem, it’s so random that they can’t find a path to the responsible party.”
Meanwhile, not all assembly is automated. “For manual assembly, it’s a little trickier, because they have bins of components that are just filled up from time to time,” said Ford. “So you have to have procedures to make sure that you never mix the different batches or lots of components within a bin.
One challenge with batches is that batch size doesn’t always match assembly demands. “Let’s say you need to make 100 products, and on those hundred products you use two of a certain component,” Ford said. “So you’re going to use 200 parts. But the parts come on a reel of 1,000. So ERP thinks you’re going to use the 200 parts, and it allocates those. The other 800 have to be there just because they’re physically connected.
“Meanwhile, on a different production line, a guy runs out of materials because there’s some issue. He doesn’t care about anything other than getting his line running, because that’s what he’s judged on.” So some of the 800 parts get used there, without proper tracking. “This is happening all the time in every manufacturing company unless they have transitioned to lean material management,” he added.
Once components are identified, either individually or in batches, they’ll be assembled onto boards and into subsystems. Those units also will need identification.
— Ed Sperling contributed to this report.
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