Happy New Year from Logistics Viewpoints! May your 2014 be full of prosperity.
There have been a number of interesting logistics stories in the news this week, above and beyond the plethora of UPS delivery failures over the holiday (I’m comforted to hear that I’m not the only consumer that experienced holiday delivery disappointments… since misery likes company).
- Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft (Wall Street Journal)
- Panama Canal contractors warn may halt work
- Container Shipping Static but Bulk Freight and Multimodal Logistics Brighter for Some Firms
- Wal-Mart recalls donkey product in China after fox meat scandal
- Descartes Acquires 2 European Firms
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the US federal government announced that six states will develop test sites for unmanned aircraft use by businesses, farmers and researchers. This story complements the buzz created by the recent 60 Minutes Amazon drone story. Below is some select text from the WSJ article:
Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia will host the research sites, providing diverse climates, geography and air traffic environments as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to safely introduce commercial drones into U.S. airspace. The testing will determine whether drones can detect and avoid aircraft and other obstacles, and if they can operate safely when contact is lost with operators [emphasis mine]. The FAA does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected. The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years of getting widespread access to the skies above America.
I find the concept very interesting, but can more easily envision drone use in rural areas than in urban areas. I’m not so concerned about spying on my backyard barbecue as I am about a drone crashing in on it. I wonder what the liability insurance will be for drone operators? The insurance actuaries will certainly earn their pay on that calculation.
Switching focus now from the air to the seas, the consortium behind the Panama Canal expansion project is in a dispute with the Canal Authority over the $1.6 billion cost overrun (Come on, that’s nothing compared to the $10-$20 billion cost overrun of Boston’s Big Dig). The Consortium won the project to design and build a third set of locks with its $3.2 billion bid in 2009. Panama now estimates the program will cost $5.2 billion and should be completed by June 2015.
An article by Handy Shipping Guide reviewed some key overseas logistics developments in 2013. In particular, Menlo Worldwide attributed the successful increase in its European customer base to the company’s continuous improvement and “lean” initiatives. Also, there is a reminder of the sinking of the MOL Comfort, and a note on Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) moving its dry bulk operations to Singapore.
Now over to supply chain integrity and traceability news, it appears Wal-Mart in China is recalling its spicy donkey meat due to traces of fox meat found in the product (or is it fox meat contaminated with donkey meat?). The article states that the scandal could dent Wal-Mart’s reputation in China, where it plans to open 110 new stores in the next few years.
Finally, Descartes acquired two European firms in December, for a total of approximately $26 million. These are the first acquisitions under the helm of newly appointed CEO Edward Ryan. The acquisition of Impatek expands Descartes’ electronic customs filing and freight forwarding footprint with additional functionality and customers in the UK. The acquisition of Compudata, a B2B supply chain integration provider, further extends Descartes’ Global Logistics Network. As I argued in a prior post, applications like this one, that connect organizations and support trading partner transactions, are well positioned to deliver increasing value as the network grows. And this is one area where SaaS definitely makes sense.