This Week in Logistics News (September 22 – 28)

logistics newsToday marks the 237th anniversary of the beginning of the Siege of Yorktown, the last major land battle in the American Revolutionary War. The timing seems appropriate as last weekend I finally saw Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece about the life and death of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It was an incredibly special night as I took my 8-year-old son, who has become obsessed with the soundtrack, to the show. I wanted to temper his expectations, given that he had only heard the soundtrack with the original Broadway cast. However, I am happy to report that the show surpassed all expectations. After the opening number, his eyes were like saucers, and he turned to me and said, “this is amazing!” The show continued like that for nearly three hours – he would look at me from time to time and tell me how amazing a song was or how incredible the show was. It was a mind-blowing experience for him, and for me. He later found out that Nick Christopher, who plays Aaron Burr, attended the same elementary school that he goes to. That made things even cooler for him. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important within the supply chain. Walmart Canada has introduced a sustainable online grocery delivery option in Vancouver. The program is a partnership between Walmart Canada and Food-X Urban Delivery, which uses food waste reduction technology and reduces truck trips by consolidating orders and increasing delivery density. The company also uses compostable packaging for its packages. Customers can either shop online or via the Walmart app, choose a timeframe for delivery, and have the packages delivered in reusable bags as soon as the next day. The minimum order is $50 before taxes, and delivery costs $9.97.

Walmart is also making a big blockchain push. The company recently announced that it will require its lettuce suppliers to use blockchain technology as well. In a letter sent to suppliers this week, Walmart stated that they have one year to upload data about their food to blockchain. The move comes on the heels of an E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce, as well as salmonella outbreaks in eggs and breakfast cereal. Using blockchain technology, suppliers will be able to trace food back to specific farms in seconds, rather than days. According to Walmart, a supplier could theoretically see which farms are infected and quickly stop the supply to restaurants and consumers.

Renault has recently unveiled the new Renault EZ-PRO for last mile delivery using a “robo-pod.” The EZ-PRO model calls for an autonomous leader pod which has a human “concierge” that will not drive the pod, but will be able to perform other tasks, such as delivering groceries or fragile objects. There are also driverless robo-pods, which can travel in a platoon or independently. These pods can be outfitted with personal lockers for items. Once a delivery is completed, the robo-pod will join back up with the lead pod, ready to return to base. It is certainly an interesting concept, and as autonomous vehicles become more of a reality, the last mile market is one to keep an eye on.

Hurricane Florence brought what has been described as the 1,000-year flood to North Carolina. The end result, other than an estimated $40+ billion in damages, has been a drop in freight activity out of North Carolina by more than 60 percent. For example, the Wilmington, NC market generates about $1.25 billion per year in trucking freight, or around $24 million per week. Last week, the market dropped 67 percent off its average, barely hitting $9 million. And while ports and I-95 have reopened, truck routes in and out of the state are still unreliable. It looks it could take weeks and even months for deliveries and freight traffic to return to normal levels.

Earlier this week, the US and China imposed a new round of tariffs on each other as the global trade war continues to escalate. US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and retaliatory tariffs by Beijing on $60 billion worth of US products took effect this week, though the initial level of the duties was not as high as earlier feared. China has indicated that it is ready and willing to continue to fight, claiming that the US is engaging in “trade bullyism” and is intimidating other countries to submit to its will. While the rhetoric continues to grow, China has indicated that it is willing to restart trade negotiations with the US if the talks are “based on mutual respect and equality.”

It does not look like a new NAFTA deal is going to happen this week. The White House is insisting that Canada is not making the necessary concessions needed to reach a deal with the US. As a result, the US is increasingly looking to forego a trilateral agreement and proceed with a Mexico-only deal. The Trump administration has placed a Sunday deadline for Canada, or else they risk exclusion from a revised NAFTA deal. A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland brushed off the latest remarks from the United States, saying Canada was not interested in focusing on timelines.

And finally, Amazon has handed out hourly raises to warehouse workers across the country. And while this may sound like a feel-good story, warehouse workers are calling it a “damage control” move by the e-commerce giant. The raises ranged from 25 cents to 55 cents an hour, which some workers have claimed is the first raise in four years. However, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company evaluates wages every year and attempts to set compensation at 30 percent higher than the average retail employee in the area. Additionally, they said raises come every few years or more often and said that it was unaware of a full-time associate who would have gone four years without a bump.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, fittingly, Yorktown from Hamilton.