This Week in Logistics News (June 9 – 15)

logistics newsLast weekend, at the Belmont Stakes, Justify made history. The American thoroughbred racehorse became just the thirteenth American Triple Crown winner. For those of you unfamiliar with the Triple Crown, it means winning the three biggest races in the US – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. While the last Triple Crown occurred in 2015 with American Pharoah, it is certainly a rarity in the sport. In fact, prior to American Pharoah, the last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed, in 1978. The amount of betting, and the race day logistics are simply mind boggling. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Iceland’s largest online marketplace is set to expand the number of drones it flies across Reykjavik to make home deliveries. Aha, an Iceland-based company launched an initial trial last year with Israeli company Flytrex to deliver food and other items to residents of Reykjavik. The initial reason for the trial was the fact that the coastal city is subdivided by a large bay and several smaller rivers which make the transportation of goods both time-consuming and cumbersome. The new initiative will launch more drones over the next two years. Aha is permitted to fly 13 routes around Reykjavik, and its drones can make detours of up to 700m in order to reach customers. This gives them effective coverage of around half the city. Pizza delivery, organ-transplant transport, and even seagull control are all possible use cases.

Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce site, has acquired Curbside, a California-based mobile ordering and pick-up start-up. Curbside was one of the first start-ups to look beyond home delivery for e-commerce and incorporate curbside pick-up at retail stores. Curbside worked with Target to develop the initial test offering, and has since worked with CVS, which invested in the company as a strategic partner back in 2016. The start-up has developed a software development kit for mobile app users which allows the store to see when customers are arriving for order pickup, mobile order ahead, and appointment check-in. For Rakuten, the acquisition enables enhanced use of curbside pick-up for the growing network of retail partners. Terms of the all-cash deal were not disclosed.

Ford has been working on an autonomous delivery partnership with Postmates, launching a pilot program a couple of months ago in Miami and Miami Beach that enables customers to order items from more than 70 stores. Ford Transit Connect cars with multiple lockers, speakers that provide audible instructions, a touchscreen, and two cupholders perform multiple deliveries in a single route. Businesses receive codes that allow employees to place goods in the vehicles’ locking storage compartments, and customers get text messages with an access code when their order arrives. However, one of the biggest parts of the pilot is a bit tricky – there is actually a driver behind the tinted windows. The trial is all about researching how people interact with (what looks like) self-driving vehicles on both sides of the delivery process. This way, Ford can identify any issues the public has with autonomous vehicles before an attempt to roll out a program nationwide.

There has been a lot of talk around the expanding line-up of electric big rigs lately, especially as Tesla continues to make enhancements to their forthcoming line-up. In the meantime, Daimler has unveiled two new all-electric Freightliner trucks. The unveiling of the Freightliner eCascadia heavy-duty truck and Freightliner eM2 medium-duty model took place on the same day the company announced the creation of the Automated Truck Research and Development Center in Portland. President and CEO Roger Nielsen introduced the eCascadia, which he said can offer a range of 250 miles, and be recharged up to 80% of capacity in 90 minutes, offering an additional 200 miles of driving. He also debuted the eM2, which offers a 230-mile range and ability to recharge to 80% in 60 minutes, providing drivers another 180 miles. Nielsen stated the vehicles will be in “serious production in the next two-to-three years.”

Mars, an American global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products, is seeking to solve the world’s vanilla crisis. The company has announced plans to send a team of experts to Madagascar, the world’s largest exporter of vanilla, to support vanilla farmers in restoring vanilla production. The plan is to increase food security for farmers and preserve the landscape in collaboration with Danone, Veolia and fragrance company Firmenich. Mars and its partners will continue to buy the vanilla produced by Madagascan farmers over a 10-year period with the aim of tripling the farmers’ revenue and purchasing good quality vanilla. The partnership will help to equip farmers a with a new vanilla production model and more sustainable practices for increased vanilla production and quality going forward.

According to the latest Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF), records for US-bound retail container shipments could be broken this summer. As consumers are buying more, it means imports will continue to grow. For April, the most recent month for which data is available, US-based retail container ports came in at 1.63 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), which was 5.8 percent below March, but up 0.3 percent annually. May was pegged to hit 1.77 million TEU for a 1.3 percent annual gain, and June is estimated at 1.78 million TEU for a 3.7 percent increase. After that, new records are expected to be hit in three of the following months – with July at 1.88 million TEU 4.1 percent annual gain); August at 1.91 million TEU 4 percent increase); and September at 1.83 million TEU (2.3 percent improvement). The ports surveyed in the report include Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades.

And finally, Domino’s Pizza has brought about a lot of innovation within its delivery programs lately, including robots and drones. However, the company is now offering a service that will probably make the majority of its customers extremely happy. Domino’s is offering to fill cracks, bumps, and potholes to smooth road conditions for deliveries. The initiative is aimed at “saving pizza.” Domino’s has already been working with four municipalities to help repair potholes on roads, including Bartonville, TX, Milford, DE, Athens, GA, and Burbank, CA. According to Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, “we don’t want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole, ruining a wonderful meal.”

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, the Distance by Cake.

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