This Week in Logistics News (October 6 – 12)

logistics newsGoing, going, gone. Those words were posted on Instagram, along with a picture of his “Girl with Balloon” canvas print, by the renowned and mysterious street artist Banksy shortly after the piece of art had sold for nearly $1.4 million at auction. Why going, going, gone? Well, Banksy, who has a history of pranking the art world, had built a shredder into the frame of the print in 2006, just in case it ever went to auction. Once the gavel fell, an alarm sounded and the print suddenly dropped through the shredder at the bottom of the frame, leaving it in strips. Sotheby’s has said it was not in on the ruse, and had discussions with the buyer to see if they still want to complete the transaction (they do). Some dealers have suggested because of the notoriety of the piece of art, it could actually double in value in the long run. Either way, this is certainly the first time I’ve ever heard of a piece of self-destructing upon purchase. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

Britain and the European Union (EU) could agree to terms of a Brexit deal as early as next week. During a speech at a conference for EU business leaders, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier relayed this information provided that Theresa May agrees on a customs union. Under an agreement, the British government would have to give up on its plans for free-trade deals with China and the US. There would also need to be a customs and regulatory border erected within the UK. The EU’s proposal for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland is so Northern Ireland can stay in the customs union and remain under single market regulations, while the rest of the UK withdraws.

When the US withdrew from the Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP), killing the partnership in the process, the remaining members vowed to continue to work on a new agreement. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has stated that the country will likely ratify the new 11-member TPP (TPP-11) in a parliamentary session ending in November. At least six member states must ratify the TPP-11 for it to take effect. So far, Mexico, Japan, and Singapore have done so, meaning if Vietnam ratifies it, only two more approvals will be needed. This leaves the TPP-11 with time and opportunity, as only two of the following countries would need to ratify the pact: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Peru. Considering these countries were on board for the original, it seems likely that at least two more will opt in.

Carrefour, Europe’s largest retailer, is joining the blockchain movement. The company will join IBM’s Food Trust to adopt a blockchain ledger to track and trace chicken, eggs, and tomatoes as they travel from farms to stores. The IBM Food Trust, which includes other global retailers and manufacturers such as Walmart, Nestlé, Unilever, Dole Foods, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, McCormick and Co., Kroger, McLane, and Tyson Foods, allows the industry to track and share information on how products are grown, processed, and shipped. The biggest aspect is to reduce the time it takes to trace food back to specific farms and factories to seconds, rather than days. Theoretically, suppliers could see if farms or manufacturers are infected and quickly stop the supply to stores and consumers.

After long negotiations, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ratified a master agreement with UPS. An interesting side note to the negotiations, however, is that more union members voted “no” than voted “yes.” However, since less than half of the union members voted, they needed a two-thirds majority to reject the contract; just under 55 percent voted “no.” The agreement calls for starting wages to jump to $13 per hour, from the current $10.50. The deal also requires UPS to create 5,000 full-time jobs over five years and to review with the union any proposed technological changes, such as drones and driverless vehicles.

As warehouse automation continues to improve, robots are becoming a central component for retail operations. Sodano’s, a Miami, Florida-based supermarket, is opening a robotic fulfillment center powered by Takeoff Technologies. Takeoff”s Micro Fulfillment Center technology can reportedly sort online grocery orders of up to 60 items in minutes and has one-eighth the footprint of a typical supermarket’s operations. Sodano’s will open the robotic fulfillment center next month, and it will support 14 Miami-area supermarkets. The center will also support click and collect operations. According to Takeoff Technologies, the compact fulfillment centers can be built into an existing facility, with orders shipped to nearby hubs, such as a locker system similar to Amazon lockers.

Speaking of supermarket innovation, Waitrose & Partners is set to become the first supermarket in Britain to deliver groceries to the inside of a customer’s home and put those groceries away. As grocery delivery services continue to gain traction, one of the key hurdles is delivery timeframes and ensuring that customers are home. The service, dubbed “While You’re Away’ aims to eliminate this issue. Waitrose will pilot the program with 100 customers located within the delivery area of its distribution center in Coulsdon, south London. The customer grants access to their property to a Waitrose delivery driver by setting a temporary access code for the lock which is then sent to Waitrose via a secure app. The code is then sent to the driver’s device at the time the customer has booked for the delivery and is deleted once the delivery is complete. Waitrose will use lock technology from Yale for the program.

And finally, as the truck driver market continues to see turnover and a large shortfall, Wisconsin is rolling out an innovative plan to attract new drivers. The move will also help veterans find civilian work once they are out of the military. According to Governor Scott Walker, recently discharged (within in the last year) and active duty military personnel can now use military training to get a commercial driver’s license in the state. In a statement, Walker said: “Not only is this a great benefit for the veterans, who bring valuable experience and skills to our workforce, but Wisconsin businesses will gain by being able to quickly and easily recruit and hire trained and experienced drivers.”

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Greg Allman’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Going, Going, Gone.

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