This Week in Logistics News (November 15 – 21)

Black-Friday-LineThanksgiving is just a week away, which means the countdown is on for Black Friday (and pre-Black Friday deals). Just how big will this year’s turnout be? The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects 140 million holiday shoppers to take advantage of Thanksgiving weekend deals in stores and online. To put that in perspective, that represents about 44% of the population of the United States. That means that for every 20 people you know, 9 of them will be partaking in the madness of Black Friday and / or Cyber Monday.

NRF will release the results of its Thanksgiving weekend survey by 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 30 and will hold a special media briefing with President and CEO Matthew Shay the same day at 2 p.m. ET. Information will include what time people started shopping on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, how much they spent, how many people say they shopped for Small Business Saturday and the percentage spent online in total over the weekend. NRF will also release information about the number of people who plan to shop online on Cyber Monday.

And with that, on to this week’s news.

On November 20, Descartes Systems Group, global provider of federated network and global logistics technology solutions, announced its acquisition of Airclic, a web-based software and mobile information services company. In today’s increasingly mobile-driven world, Airclic’s Perform platform is a nice addition for Descartes considering its configurable, feature-rich mobile technology and advanced electronic proof of delivery (POD) solutions that operate on a hand-held device carried by the driver. The acquisition should work nicely considering the two companies have common customers, and it will bring about robust mobile resource management (MRM) capabilities to strengthen Descartes’ fleet management platform.

Kiva RobotWe’ve written about Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems many times before. But now, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is ramping things up. In May, Amazon had 1,400 robots working at various fulfillment centers. Bezos has set a goal of having 10,000 robots working by the end of the year. This could have a big impact on the holiday season. The robots bring shelving units to human pickers, who identify the specific item stored in the unit needing to be packed and shipped to a customer. This means Amazon’s pickers need only stand in place as robots line up to bring them the appropriate items. As of now, it generally costs Amazon between $3.50 and $3.75 to fulfill an order. Estimates put the savings of these additional robots in the 20% – 40% of fulfillment costs. For a company expecting to ship millions of holiday packages, the savings could be more than significant.

More than 100 independent clothing boutiques from New York to Stockholm are teaming up to offer click-and-collect services for the first time. Farfetch.com is an internet portal which is introducing a service that allows shoppers to place an order for apparel and accessories with one of its retailers and collect it from another potentially thousands of miles away. Farfetch gives shoppers access to apparel and accessories from in excess of 2,500 brands in more than 300 stores in 26 countries.

trucker strikeAs if the situation at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports couldn’t get worse, we can now add trucker’s pickets to the list. The Los Angeles and Long Beach port truck drivers’ fight over fair wages and better working conditions has expanded to five more trucking firms, officials said Monday. Drivers and their supporters, who began their fourth day of strikes at port terminals Monday, said they began striking trucks that belong from QTS Inc., LACA Express and WinWin Logistics Inc. They also plan to strike trucks that belong to Pacer and Harbor Rail Transport today. At the heart of the issue is the drivers’ belief that they are being misclassified as independent contractors, which allows trucking companies to skirt labor laws and avoid paying fair wages. Many drivers have reported receiving small or in some cases negative paychecks after fuel, maintenance and other deductions are taken, despite working long hours delivering goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. If the potential dock workers strike doesn’t cripple the flow of inventory into the ports, the ongoing trucker strike might do it instead.

Earlier this week, my colleague Clint Resier wrote a guide to logistics industry economic indicators. One of the indicators he mentioned was the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index. The latest index has been released. In October, the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index rose 7.3% year over year as rates continue on their upward trajectory. The combination of increasing demand and capacity shortages will continue to push the index higher as effects from this year’s new contract pricing are filtering into the market.

In a bit of sad news, Mike Nichols, director of the award-winning move The Graduate, has passed away at the age of 83. In honor of the late director, please enjoy this week’s song of the week, Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel.