This Week in Logistics News (September 1 – 7)

logistics newsAnd like that, summer is over and the kids are back to school. But this year is a little different, as my daughter has joined her big brother at the elementary school and started kindergarten. For some reason when my son started kindergarten, it didn’t seem like it was as big of a deal to me. Maybe he has always seemed older. Maybe it was his naturally outgoing personality that made it easier. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that she is his baby sister and elementary school seemed so far off. Well, not anymore. She made the trek down the hill with him and a gaggle of neighborhood kids this week to officially kick off the school year. As I wistfully watched her walk down the hall to her classroom, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of amazement about just how fast the time goes. And now, we are off to new adventures and this week’s logistics news.

Walmart has applied for another blockchain patent. According to an official patent document released by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), Walmart has filed to patent a blockchain system for deliveries using robots. The patent, which is named “Systems, Devices, and Methods for In-Field Authenticating of Autonomous Robots,” was initially filed in January 2018. This patent looks at technology for running “in-field authenticating of autonomous electronic devices” to enable secure deliveries. The patent states that “in exemplary embodiments, two autonomous electronic devices, such as delivery drones or household autonomous robots, can authenticate each other using embodiments of security procedures described herein.” Basically, the patent calls for multiple robots or drones to make package deliveries across the entire supply chain using blockchain powered secure authentication.

As Walmart tries to scale its home grocery delivery business, the company is testing whether independent drivers could be the answer. Walmart is piloting a program dubbed Spark Delivery where a fleet of drivers use their personal vehicles to make grocery deliveries. The crowdsourced delivery platform works with Delivery Drivers Inc, which is a separate firm that manages the drivers. Delivery Drivers will manage background checks and payment for the drivers, and will use Walmart’s in-house platform to schedule drivers within specific timeslots. This is not the first time Walmart has sought to bring innovation into the grocery delivery business; however, its trials with Uber and Lyft, as well as with its own employees using their cars to make deliveries, were all shelved pretty quickly. Spark Delivery is currently being tested in Nashville and New Orleans with plans to roll out to a few more metro areas this year.

Speaking of grocery delivery, Kroger is expanding its home delivery partnership with Instacart to cover more than half of its stores nationwide. The new service is available in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and a few other markets. According to Kroger, the company will expand the service from 45 to 120 metropolitan markets across the country by October. This will cover 1,600 stores, and same-day delivery will be available in as little as two hours. Kroger customers can place their order through Kroger’s website or mobile app, and the service generally has a flat fee of $11.95 per order.

Drone deliveries have been a hot topic of debate over the last couple of years, with companies hoping the FAA would relax regulations to make drone deliveries a viable last mile option. Earlier this year, the White House announced plans to initiate a number of pilot programs using drones, and now the FAA is celebrating early success. The trials were part of the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program and carried out this month by 10 companies selected to collaborate with the FAA and local governments to prove applications. The tests included delivery of ice cream, feral hog traps, medical supplies, and everything in between. The FAA hopes the UAS Integration Pilot Program will help launch drone applications for commerce, aerial photography, emergency management and rescue operations, agricultural support, and infrastructure inspections. The results of these pilots will be used to help shape future regulations around drone deliveries. But the early success of the pilots has the future looking a little brighter.

After a vote earlier this week, the House passed legislation that would roll back tariffs on an estimated 1,660 products from China, mostly chemicals. The legislation, dubbed the Miscellaneous Tariffs Act, previously passed the Senate last month and now heads to the White House. The main argument in the bill is that the tariffs are outdated and protect very few products that are actually made domestically. Instead, the tariffs are simply driving up costs for manufacturers that need them. The legislation now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed, but it is unclear what he will do. While Trump has not publicly opposed the bill, he has stressed the importance of tariffs as bargaining tools and seems prepared to continue to levy more tariffs.

There has been a lot of scrutiny around the relationship between Amazon and the US Postal Service lately. Namely, President Trump has been outspoken about his belief that Amazon is ripping off the USPS. As part of his displeasure with the USPS, Trump launched a task force to overhaul the Postal Service back in April, with the hopes of generating more money. A hearing at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where senators are expected to scrutinize Amazon’s relationship with the Postal Service has reportedly been postponed. It is not clear when the hearing will be rescheduled, as the committee awaits a report from the White House on the overall health of the Postal Service and the implications of the service’s business agreement with Amazon.

Tesla Costs Twice as Much as DieselAs I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Tesla made some news around its semi-truck when it  rolled out video of a prototype undergoing testing. Now the company is taking the semi on the road to customer sites. Specifically, Tesla is taking the semis on a cross-country tour to show off the technology inside and out of the cab. The latest stop was to Ruan Transport Corp., an Iowa-based TMS provider that has reserved five of the semis. According to Ruan, it is not just the potential for the electric truck to save money in the long-haul while being eco-friendly; instead, it is the remote diagnostics capabilities that alert technicians to maintenance needs, safety enhancements such as wrap-around windshields and heads-up displays for improved visibility, and automatic emergency braking, jackknife prevention, forward collision warning, and automatic lane keeping capabilities. However, Tesla has still not yet released details such as the total operating cost, according to Ruan.

And finally, Debenhams is set to roll out Doddle Click & Collect points across its store estate. You may be asking, just what does this mean? Well, Debenhams is a British department store that operates a number of brands. As such, online shoppers at Amazon, ASOS, Missguided, and almost 50 other brands will be able to collect their purchases at branches of Debenhams nationwide as the department store begins the full roll-out of the Doddle Click & Collect service across its store estate. Debenhams has been piloting the Doddle service at 50 of its stores and is now extending it to all 165 branches with the majority due to be live by Spring 2019.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle.

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