This Week in Logistics News (April 29 – May 5)

It has been an incredibly busy week. I am working on getting my latest Transportation Management Systems market study completed, while prepping to launch my annual omni-channel fulfillment survey, as well as an omni-channel order management market study. On top of that, it is conference season. Which means lots of travel. As I mentioned in my Wednesday article, I spent the beginning of the week in Chicago attending the BluJay Solutions user conference. I’ll be shipping off to Las Vegas for the Manhattan Associates conference next week, followed by a trip to New York for the Dynamic Distribution Disruption conference the week after. Getting back to BluJay, the conference featured some amazing presentations as well as a fantastic customer appreciation event. The customer appreciation event was held in the Aon Ballroom at Navy Pier. I’ve been to Navy Pier multiple times, but this was my first chance to check out the ballroom – an incredibly cool space to host a party. One of the highlights of the party was the performance from Jon Dorenbos, a former NFL Pro-Bowl long snapper turned magician. His sleight of hand tricks are unbelievable. I was lucky enough to watch him perform some tricks up close at one of the tables before his official performance, and it definitely left me scratching my head. There were also a number of caricaturists capturing the likeness of those of us in attendance. The picture at the beginning of this post is mine – let me know if you think it looks like the real me.

And now, on to the news.

UPS is putting a new policy in place to offset the impact of e-commerce orders. The new policy will charge retailers who do not ship the number of packages they say they will. Basically, during peak times such as the holidays, retailers order up capacity for what they forecast they will need to ship. However, the retailers don’t always meet this forecast, and UPS takes the hit. Last mile deliveries are the most expensive part of the delivery process, and also require additional resources, such as temporary workers or additional trucks on the road. When these resources are not put to use, due to retailers not shipping as many packages as forecasted, UPS is losing money. Well no more, as UPS is asking retailers to take on the additional cost of the added resources required to handle the forecasts.

UPS will also be testing out a new truck in Sacramento, CA. The truck will be a medium-duty delivery truck that uses gaseous hydrogen to power an electric battery and motor. The company announced that this is part of an initiative to test whether zero-emission fueling technology could be more widely adopted across its entire fleet. This is just the beginning of the exploration though, as UPS has said that the test still requires at least 5,000 hours of service to evaluate the design and core performance. If the test is successful, UPS plans to add 16 additional trucks built on a Class 6 chassis.

Amazon is making a strong push in India to become the online retailer of choice, battling fiercely with the local e-tailer Flipkart. The company is expanding its operations by adding 7 new warehouses which will bring in an additional 4,000 jobs. The addition of the 7 new warehouses brings Amazon’s total to 41 warehouses or fulfillment centers country-wide. The new warehouses will cater exclusively to its large appliances and furniture category. The locations of the warehouses are in Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is threatening to reinstate duties on Mexican sugar on June 5, after talks between the US and Mexican sugar industries stalled.  With the deadline to reach a new agreement expiring earlier this week, the US will bring back antidumping and antisubsidy duties on Mexican sugar. Right now, about 50 percent of US sugar imports come from Mexico; if the duties are imposed, it would drive prices up to unsustainable levels, essentially locking Mexican sugar out of the US. This all comes at a time when President Trump is preparing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA), while indicating he plans to add a border adjustment tax. It will certainly be interesting to watch how trade relations shake out from here.

Staples is overhauling its marketing efforts, with a campaign that focuses on its delivery services. The rebranding campaign features television ads that do not reference brick and mortar stores at all; instead, the campaign focuses on office and building managers performing mundane tasks such as refilling copy machines and restocking breakrooms. The key point is that Staples delivery services are what makes these tasks possible, or at least a lot easier. The company has made a huge push in its delivery services, which already outperform brick and mortar stores. The funny thing is that delivery has historically not been mentioned in any campaigns. With a keen eye on improving its fulfillment services, the company is placing its delivery service at the front of its branding campaign.

Marks & Spencer has announced that it will trial an online grocery shopping service. Customers can currently buy party food online, but nothing else. With a major shift in the industry towards online grocery shopping, M&S is jumping on the bandwagon. The company has already transitioned some of its stores over to food only, but not with an e-commerce presence. There are hopes that online grocer Ocado can secure a deal with M&S. In fact, based on rumblings, Ocado’s shares have jumped 9 percent. If this deal were to happen, it would make it possible for M&S to launch a grocery delivery service. In conjunction with a click and collect offering through M&S’s own stores, this could prove to be a nice one-two punch for the retailer.

And finally, Domino’s is at it again. I’ve written about the company here before, and how they have made pizza deliveries via both drone and robot. Well, now Domino’s is moving into the IoT world, as they have announced a new tie-up with IFTTT that allows customers to automate their smart home devices according to the status of their pizza delivery orders. IFTTT is a platform that allows users to create customized, conditional interactions between apps, online services, digital assistants, wearables, and other connected devices. Domino’s has integrated its order tracking app with the platform so customers can automatically turn on porch lights or deactivate sprinkler systems as the driver is arriving with the pizza. Talk about taking an order tracking app to the next level.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Ramblin’ Man by the Allman Brothers.