This Week in Logistics News (October 25 – 31)

PumpkinsHappy All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween). Did you know that Halloween is believed to be an offshoot of an ancient a Celtic/Gaelic festival known as Samhain? Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year (Those of you in the US, excluding Arizona, don’t forget to turn back your clocks Saturday night!). Speaking of harvests, check out the picture of the pumkins I helped carve (Ok, I just carried them from the car to the table). The one on the right is a depiction of me when I wake up in the morning.

Now on to this week’s logistics news:

Shipping container delays at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port is becoming a nascent threat to retailers’ busy holiday season. The LA port is the nations busiest, measured at 40 percent of total traffic. Trucking shortages and labor negotiations are considered to be the cause of the bottle neck. The referenced Reuters article reports that retailers affected from the delays include JC Penney, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, and Carter’s. The causes of the delays are disputed. Some claim a shortage of container chassis. However, I don’t believe this perspective explains why trucks wait in mile long queues while stacks of containers wait for pickup. That sounds more like a scheduling or execution problem to me.

Continuing with the topic of shipment delays, rail delays are negatively impacting feed stock deliveries to east coast oil refiners, according to E&E Publishing. Monroe Energy stated that it experienced a million barrel shortage of crude by rail deliveries in August and September. Rail is supposed to supply 65,000 barrels a day to the company’s jet fuel refinery in Pennsylvania. East coast refineries are relying more and more on rail to deliver crude as production of shale oil in remote areas such as North Dakota has expanded. This exponential increase in shale oil production has impacted rail capacity across the county and displaced other commodities such as agricultural crops. As an example of the growth rate in rail-bound crude shipments, the article states that shipments of rail-bound crude are likely to be more than 450,000 carloads this year, up from 10,000 in 2008. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 88 percent.

Admittedly, I just learned about a new logistics confidence index. The UK Logistics Confidence Index, based on a semi-annual survey and commissioned by Barclays and Moore Stevens, shows that almost three quarters of logistics operators are planning significant capital expenditures over the coming months. Concerns for the industry include attracting and retaining skilled workers and dealing with increasing pressures on margins.

I’m currently conducting research on the warehouse automation and control market. As such, this article on the use of machine learning in robotic unstructured depalletizing caught my attention.The vendor claims that the use of machine learning in conjunction with the robots opens up the opportunity for robotics use in unconventional functions such as bin picking, kitting, and random and unstructured depalletizing. On a related note, I also came across an article on that references Boston Consulting Group diagrams depicting the evolution of  robotics and its applications. Warehouse automation and picking, packing, and sorting are noted as early applications for robotics.

International Business Systems (IBS) announced earlier today its release of IBS Business Suite 2015, a second generation supply chain platform. The suite is geared toward mid-market distribution companies with complex operations and includes IBS Dynaman (Warehouse Management), IBS Sales & Operations Planning, and IBS Netstore (eCommerce) along with other applications including ERP and mobility solutions. The solution also delivers best-of-breed TMS and labor management capabilities through partnerships. (note: IBS is a Logistics Viewpoints sponsor)

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend. This week’s video, a flash mob at San Diego State University dancing to Thriller on the school’s baseball field.


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