This Week in Logistics News (November 24 – 30)

logistics newsAfter traveling through space for six months, the Mars InSight officially touched down on the red planet earlier this week. InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, and according to NASA, will give the planet its “first thorough check-up since it formed 4.5 billion years ago.” The mission is to study the interior structure of Mars, specifically its crust, mantle, and core. The research will look at the interior structure of Mars to understand its formation and evolution. InSIght will also measure tectonic activity to give a snapshot of the makeup of Mars’ interior. Scientists are hoping to gain a better understanding of how rocky bodies form, evolve, and become a planet. This will help to give more insight into the origins of Earth as well. Good work by all the folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. And now, on to this weeks’ logistics news.

As the market for grocery delivery grows, and the competition intensifies, Walmart is testing same-day grocery delivery in China. The service, Walmart To Go, is being tested in a new store in Shenzhen, China. Walmart, which has recently partnered with Tencent to reach a broader customer base within China, will run the service through a mini program on Tencent’s WeChat, the leading mobile messaging app in China. The service gives customers access to nearly 8,000 SKUs including fresh products, condiments, snacks, baby items, personal care items, and homecare items, which can be delivered in as little as one hour. The deliveries will be fulfilled by JD.com’s crowdsourced online grocery delivery service Dada JD-Daojia.

Black Friday has come and gone, and retailers around the world were busy filling orders. Although not all workers were actually filling orders – Amazon workers in Spain and Germany went on strike on Black Friday and walked off the job. Amazon Germany said around 620 workers were participating in the strikes at its Bad Hersfeld and Rheinberg facilities. In Spain, workers at Amazon’s largest warehouse in San Fernando de Henares walked off the job as well. In both cases, workers were protesting against what they felt were unfair wages and working conditions. According to Amazon, in both Germany and Spain, the strikes did not interrupt the processing of customer orders, and “the majority” of employees were still processing orders. It will be interesting to see if any more strikes are planned as the holiday season gets in the full swing.

We have seen an uptick in warehouse automation over the last few years, as manufacturers try to reduce costs and improve productivity. Hyundai Kia’s logistics division, Hyundai Glovis, has automated the packaging of semi-knockdown components at its logistics centers in Asan and Ulsan, South Korea. The company is turning to automation to both package the parts as well as construct the boxes the parts are shipped in. The robots are able to classify parts from different supply locations and palletize them for transport. By automating the task, Hyundai said it saves four to five minutes per box, which equates to 5,600 hours a year. On the box construction side, the Ulsan center produces 94,000 boxes a year and the company said the automated process would reduce the time taken to make them by 3,400 hours a year. The company said on top of the time savings, the automation also puts significantly less stress on workers who no longer have to constantly handle the heavy materials.

XPO Logistics announced this week that it has become the first company to provide last-mile tracking of heavy goods through Google search. Tracking of items through the last-mile is clearly not a new capability. However, what makes this different is that customers can track the large items directly through Google on any internet-enabled device, whether that is a computer, tablet, or smartphone. According to XPO, customers can enter the Google search phrase “XPO Package Tracking” and a display box asking for the shipment number comes up. At this point, customers simply enter the number and receive the status of their order. This is something new in terms of heavy goods tracking.

Volvo Trucks has announced an agreement with Brønnøy Kalk of Norway to provide its first commercial autonomous solution transporting limestone from an open pit mine. The program will use six autonomous FH trucks to transport the limestone. The vehicles will autonomously navigate a 5-kilometer route between the mine and the crusher, which includes tunnels. The tests are currently ongoing, and the program is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019. The mining industry has already proven that autonomous trucks can be used for transportation, so it is not surprising to see this agreement. The mining company will pay Volvo on a per-ton delivered basis rather than buying the trucks outright. According to Volvo, “by working in a confined area on a predetermined route, we can find out how to get the best out of the solution and tailor it according to specific customer needs.”

French car manufacturer Renault is going back to the age of the sail to take advantage of the future of technology. The company has signed a three-year deal with French developer Neoline to construct two wind-powered ro-ro vessels to operate on a transatlantic route starting in 2020. The 136-meter long Neoliner has a beam of 24.2 meters and a standard sailing speed of 11 knots. At the rear of the ship is a loading ramp that leads to 1,700 linear meters of cargo space – enough to hold 478 vehicles. As companies become more aware of carbon emissions, wind power is becoming increasingly popular. Neoline said its primary use of wind power would result in the equivalent of a reduction of CO2 emissions by some 90%.

And finally, the delivery trike of the future may be here. Urban delivery vehicle startup Upcycles has completed its prototype for the T3 cargo trike. The trike weighs 150 pounds, has an aluminum frame, features a heavy-duty suspension system, can carry 450 pounds of cargo, and luckily for its rider, has an electric hub in the rear for a power boost going uphill. Under New York City law, the trike is considered a bicycle, therefore it can fit on and travel within the city’s growing number of bike lanes, and can park on sidewalks rather than in the street. The trike can help to reduce congestion in the streets by taking delivery trucks off the road as well as reduce total CO2 emissions city-wide.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead.

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