This Week in Logistics News (February 17 – 23)

logistics newsThis Sunday marks the end of the 2018 Winter Olympics. It has certainly been and exciting couple of weeks, with hundreds of medals awarded, and some incredible performances by the world’s greatest athletes. Yesterday marked the 38th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, when the USA men’s hockey team defeated the heavily favored team from the Soviet Union. However, many people like to remember this as the gold medal game. But this wasn’t the case. Instead, the USA still had to defeat Finland to avoid missing on a medal at all. Almost 38 years to the day and the USA women’s hockey team had their own miracle – a gold medal rematch with Canada which they won in a shootout. This marked the first time since 1998 that Team Canada has not won the gold; for members of the 2014 women’s team in Sochi, this was sweet revenge after their overtime loss in the gold medal game. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Walmart Canada is stepping up its grocery delivery presence now that its key rivals have expanded their offerings. While Walmart began delivering groceries in Toronto last year, the company is now expanding its service to Vancouver. The program will launch this summer through the service Food-X Urban Delivery Inc. The partnership will allow Walmart to make deliveries to parts of the city where it does not currently have a physical presence. This is all part of the company’s larger efforts to increase its online grocery business; aside from the home-delivery service in Toronto, Walmart currently offers free pickup of online fresh grocery orders outside its stores in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Amazon is working to consolidate Amazon Prime Now and AmazonFresh to streamline the delivery experience. The two programs offer distinct benefits to customers. Prime Now is an additional benefit to Prime members which enables one-hour delivery of more than 25,000 “essential” products. AmazonFresh is the company’s grocery delivery business. The big news on this consolidation is how it will affect Whole Foods; last week, Amazon announced two-hour delivery from Whole Foods using Prime Now. The idea is to streamline the Whole Foods delivery experience, especially as the retailer moves away from using Instacart for home delivery. The consolidation eliminated several hundred jobs.

Amazon has become the first foreign e-commerce company to stock and sell food items directly to consumers in India. The company announced that it has rolled out its first food retailing business in Pune, India. Last year, Amazon had secured the government’s permission to invest $500 million in a wholly-owned venture to retail locally produced and packaged food products through offline and online channels. It is the only global entity to have applied for the food-only retailing business, an area where the government allowed 100% overseas investment in 2016 to help producers and generate employment. This is a big move for Amazon to expand into India, especially as Walmart makes a play to acquire a 40% stake in Flipkart.

Speaking of investments in India, Virgin Hyperloop One has announced plans to link the Port of Mumbai and the City of Pune by using the Hyperloop system, which aims to revolutionize freight and public transportation. A new a partnership with the Indian State of Maharashtra has set out the planned route, which has the potential to link central Pune with the New Pune International Airport and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai with Pune’s industrial economic zones. In its announcement, Virgin Hyperloop One stated that hyperloop has “the potential for the rapid movement of palletized freight and light cargo between the Port of Mumbai and Pune, creating a robust backbone for on-demand deliveries, supply chains, and next-generation logistics”. A major benefit is that the 100% electric, efficient hyperloop system could ease severe expressway congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000 tons annually.

Unilever has become the first consumer goods firm to publicly disclose palm oil suppliers and mills that it sources from, both directly and indirectly. This is a move described by the firm as a “major milestone” in driving sustainability through the industry. The extensive mapping exercise covers more than 1,400 mills and more than 300 direct suppliers. Whereas companies are able to map palm oil sources as it enters the supply chain, the fruit has to first pass through plantations, middle men, and agents before entering mills. Unilever is still committing to “complete transparency” of this particular supply chain. Palm oil has been in the news a lot lately, as it is a major contributor to deforestation. The cocoa industry in particular has been vocal about reducing its reliance on palm oil, and ending deforestation practices. Nestlé, Mars, Mondelez, Cargill, and Olam have signed an agreement in which they acknowledge that their cocoa supply chains and procurement practices have contributed to the destruction of forests. The agreement indicates that these companies will work together to develop a solution to the problem.

The exports of US oil took a major step forward this week as the first fully laden supertanker sailed from an American port, alleviating a bottleneck that has limited overseas shipments. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, the only deep-water port in the US able to handle the industry’s biggest tankers, said in a statement it had successfully completed the first loading of a very large crude carrier. While US crude has already been exported using supertankers, other ports are too shallow to allow full loadings. This means that smaller ships must shuttle multiple cargoes to the large vessels as they wait to load off-shore. Because of its position in significantly deeper water, LOOP allows the industry’s largest tankers to load in one go.

KFC restaurants across Britain were forced to close temporarily due to a chicken shortage. The problems stem from a new partnership with DHL to handle delivery of chicken to the restaurants. Apparently, the chicken crisis has been caused by chaos at a delivery depot, where the chicken is going to waste. Drivers have been left waiting for hours because of problems getting into the firm’s new delivery site in Rugby. The result has customers none too pleased. In fact, some unhappy customers have resorted to calling on their local police and parliament members to do something. Both the police and Parliament have asked consumers to not call with chicken-related complaints.

Transplace, a supplier of TMS and logistics services software, announced this week that it has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), the largest industry-specific blockchain standards organization in the world. BiTA focuses on the education, development, and adoption of blockchain applications in the trucking, transportation, and logistics industry. The organization’s goal is for members to discuss, create, and adopt industry standard uses of blockchain applications, and to provide clarity and direction for the development of the technology in the transportation industry in a manner that will create efficiency and transparency and foster trust. Transplace CTO Mike Dieter will also serve on the BiTA Standards Council Board of Directors.

And finally, cargo theft recording firm SensiGuard is reporting a 15 percent decrease in cargo theft volume in 2017 when compared to 2016, along with a nearly negligible increase in average loss value year-over-year. The firm says it recorded 649 cargo thefts in the U.S. in 2017 with 146 in the first quarter, 132 in the second quarter, 177 in the third quarter and 194 in the fourth quarter. SensiGuard also reports an average loss value of $146,063, up just a tenth of a percent over 2016. For the first time in eight years, food and drinks did not top the list of most-stolen items in 2017. Instead, home and garden products took the top spot, accounting for 17 percent of thefts during the year. Food and drinks made up 16 percent of the 2017 total, a 14 percent decrease from 2016. Other highly-targeted products included electronics (15 percent of thefts), and building and industrial (12 percent).

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, the Grateful Dead’s I Need a Miracle.