This Week in Logistics News (January 19 – 25)

logistics newsThis past Sunday was a remarkable day for the NFL, with both conference title games going to overtime for the first time ever. Here in Boston, it was business a usual, as Tom Brady and the Patriots advanced to yet another Super Bowl. But in New Orleans, a horrible missed pass interference call has left the city reeling, with many people saying they will never get over this loss. With just under two minutes left, in a 20-20 game, the Saints had the ball at the Rams 13-yard line, facing a third-and-10. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman destroyed Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis before the ball got there; he could have been called for either pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact. Instead, no call, and the Rams won the game in overtime. Some Saints fans decided they couldn’t stand for this. Two Saints season-ticket holders are suing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league for a range of damages, including mental anguish, emotional trauma, “loss of enjoyment of life” and “distrust of the game which has become the National pastime.” While the end result will not be changed, there is at least a good chance the replay rules will be changed for next year. But for Saints fans, this “moral victory” simply isn’t enough. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

Amazon has begun to test its new fleet of fully autonomous delivery robots. Named Amazon Scouts, the cooler sized vehicles are fully electric and are set to begin deliveries in Snohomish County, Washington. The bots have a variety of sensors built in that allow them to navigate suburban streets at a walking pace, while avoiding common obstacles such as people, animals, trash cans, mailboxes, cars, bikes, and other iems. Unfortunately, the delivery robots require human assistance, as they can not climb stairs or make the actual delivery. Amazon will begin testing the bots with an Amazon employee making the deliveries, but customers could also come out of their house to retrieve the package. The robots will deliver during daylight hours Monday to Friday.

Amazon has also been at the forefront of rolling out robots within its warehouses. A new initiative has the company using a worker safety vest at 25+ sites to improve worker/robot interactions. The new vest is mainly designed to keep human employees safe when entering a space where the robots are working. Warehouse employees generally enter these areas to service a robot or to retrieve a fallen item. The Robotic Tech Vest has built-in sensors which alert robots in the area of the employee’s location, ensuring the bots slow down to avoid a collision. Improving safety is clearly important for Amazon, especially after December’s incident where a robot punctured a can of bear repellant in a warehouse, sending 24 workers to the hospital. The vest is designed to work in tandem with the robots’ existing obstacle avoidance detection.

The trade war and threats of imposing taxes and tariffs continues to create friction in the global economy. The European Union announced this week that it is prepared to hit 20 billion euros ($22.7 billion) of US goods with tariffs should President Donald Trump follow through on a threat to impose duties on EU cars and auto parts. Six months ago, a truce was struck between he US and the EU, but that could be crumbling. A US probe of automotive imports is due to be completed in February. If the Trump administration does enact the taxes, it would add 10,000 euros to the sticker price of European vehicles imported into the country. This will certainly be an interesting development to watch.

Last year, UPS and Latch launched a pilot program in New York and San Francisco to enable UPS drivers to deliver packages inside apartment buildings that were equipped with a Latch access device. The pilot program was deemed a success, and this week, the two companies have announced plans to roll the partnership out to 10 more cities in mid-2019. The new markets will include Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, and Seattle. Although the Latch system can be used to access all parts of an apartment building, the partnership with UPS only grants UPS drivers access to the building’s common area.

As grocery delivery continues to pick up steam, Walmart is seeking out new partners to enhance its service. This week, the company announced partnerships with Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire. and Roadie to expand the service to four more states. Using Walmart’s grocery delivery program, customers place an online order and select a delivery timeframe. Walmart’s personal shoppers pick the items, package them, and hand them off to one of Walmart’s grocery delivery partners. Walmart’s grocery delivery is currently available in more than 800 stores and plans to be in 800 more this year. Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire. and Roadie join a roster of other partners including Postmates, Deliv, and DoorDash, which just became the first on-demand service to be offered in all 50 states.

JD.com has been pushing the boundaries for drone deliveries over the last few years, running a number of successful pilots and use cases, as well as rolling out drone deliveries in certain areas. The company announced this week that it had completed Indonesia’s first government approved drone flight, which could be a breakthrough for drone delivery in Southeast Asia. The test flight took place on January 8, 2019, in West Java, Indonesia, where the drone flew from Jagabita Village, Parung Panjang to MIS Nurul Falah Leles Elementary School to deliver backpacks and books to students. The items delivered by drone were part of a larger donation of supplies from JD.com to the school.

Although the ELD mandate has been in place since December 2017, a lawsuit has kept the state of New York from enforcing the federal regulation. Well, the wait is over; the New York State Department of Transportation announced that state inspectors will begin enforcing federal electronic logging device rules. The aforementioned lawsuit was brought against the state by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sought to restrain New York officials from enforcing the ELD mandate. A big reason for the move to begin enforcement is the fact that it restores New York’s eligibility for grants under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. The program issues grants to states that agree to incorporate Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations into state law and enforce those regulations.

The US government has been partially shut down for 34 days, making it the longest shutdown in US history. As a result of the shutdown, non-essential employees at agencies including the US Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have been furloughed. This has made inspections at ports of entry considerably longer and more difficult. Contrary to some beliefs, inspections are still taking place. However, the inspections are taking longer which means that the shelf-life of fresh produce from overseas is getting shorter. Sixty-three percent of perishables and 89 percent of all flowers entering the US pass through Miami International Airport, which has considerably less staff on hand now than in normal operations. Because of this, items that generally take 48 hours at most to pass through inspections have sat for up to two weeks. More items lost to spoilage will only increase the price to end consumers. If the shutdown continues, the effects could soon be felt.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

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