This Week in Logistics News (April 6 – 12)

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We are heading into what I can only call one of the single greatest days of the year in Boston: Patriots’ Day. The holiday officially commemorates the “shot heard round the world,” or the first shots fired at the battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. The region marks the occasion with Revolutionary War re-enactments, parades, and an unforgettable weekend of sports. The Red Sox hoisted the 2018 World Series banner earlier this week, and normally, going into the third Monday of April, the home town team is generating lots of excitement. This year, however, an abysmal start to the season has left most of us scratching our heads. But, on the brighter side, the Bruins kicked off the playoffs last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This should be an entertaining series, especially with all the bad blood that has been building over the last few years. The Celtics also kick off their push for the NBA championship with a Sunday afternoon game against the Pacers. And of course, there is the single biggest event of the weekend: the Boston Marathon. People don’t generally refer to it as the Boston Marathon however; it is simply “The Marathon.” It is the world’s oldest annual marathon and seen as the ultimate race for any distance runner. Just how big is the Marathon? Well, 500,000 people line the streets of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston to cheer on the 30,000 runners. Having run Boston twice, I can only say that it is more than an event, it is an experience. With the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and the Marathon, it is sure shaping up to be a busy weekend. Oh yeah, the final season of Game of Thrones kicks off Sunday as well. I’m already exhausted. And now on to this week’s news.

About a year ago, CVS introduced one- and two-day shipping for prescriptions. Now, the company has decided that customers shouldn’t have to wait that long. The pharmacy chain is now offering same-day delivery nationwide. CVS originally tested same-day delivery in New York in late 2017. The pilot went well and CVS expanded the service to other big cities the following summer. Now customers everywhere will be able to get that service. CVS will partner with Shipt, the crowd-sourced delivery company owned by Target, to deliver prescriptions the day they are filled. The service will cost customers $7.99. Customers can add additional health and household items to their cart for home delivery, including cough medicine, vitamins, and diapers. For those customers that do not require same-day service, CVS will continue to offer one- and two-day service at a price of $4.99.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has secured approval for one of the world’s first drone delivery services. The company in question is Wing, which became its own company under the Alphabet umbrella last year. The company will launch the drone delivery service in Canberra, Australia. While many companies have successfully made drone deliveries, it has not been a consistent service. Wing has been piloting the program for 18 months, making over 3,000 deliveries. With approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Wing can now launch an official delivery service. Wing is designed to allow users to place orders through an app, with deliveries made by drone within minutes, according to the company. Popular delivery items include fresh food, coffee, ice cream, and medicine.

Speaking of drones, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects to award the first license to operate a drone airline in the next month. In a decision last year, the FAA said that large-scale commercial package delivery drones would need to meet the same stringent requirements and standards as other US-licensed airlines. While the FAA declined to name the partner, so far only one company has applied for drone carrier certification: Wing. FAA documents associated with the application said Wing Aviation was proposing to conduct package deliveries using small fixed-wing drones in a rural area of the United States. Alphabet and Google have declined to comment on the news.

Amazon is preparing for the Coachella Music Festival, which begins the first weekend of its two-weekend run today. This year, the company has established a Coachella “storefront” on its website, which allows attendees to order the necessities they need, including sunscreen, earplugs, ponchos, hats, sunglasses, tech goods, and a variety of other things. This isn’t the first time Amazon has set up shop for events, as in the past, the company has set up Prime Now deliveries for tailgaters at San Francisco 49ers games. On top of the storefront, Amazon has installed Amazon lockers inside the festival grounds, making package retrieval much easier than attempting to give the location of a tent or campsite. Customers can have items shipped to Coachella for delivery starting April 11 — but Amazon says orders placed by noon, Pacific time, on festival days will receive same-day delivery at no cost.

Missed deliveries cause headaches for customers, retailers, and carriers alike. For this reason, Royal Mail has announced “Day-Before Delivery Alerts” for packages within the UK. The service notifies customers the day before a package is scheduled to be delivered along with an estimated time of delivery. This ensures that not only does the customer know that the package is coming, but they can make plans to be home when it arrives. A spokesperson for Royal Mail said “notifying customers of their expected delivery time the day before we deliver is just one of the ways we are helping to make our customers’ lives easier. Coupled with a shorter estimated delivery time of as little as two hours creates a step change in convenience for online shoppers.”

Autonomous robots continue to make headlines, especially in warehouses. Brain Corp., the San Diego-based start-up, is moving the robot from the warehouse and into the store. The company announced the launch of an in-store autonomous delivery robot named AutoDelivery. The robot is still in the proof of concept phase and is built on Brain’s BrainOS navigation platform. The system is designed to handle tasks within the retail store, factory, and warehouse. The use cases range from stocking inventory to delivery fulfillment, and everything in between. Additionally, the robot is able to tow carts, which is a big plus in the retail environment. The touchscreen interface makes it easy for employees to use as well. The robot is still in the early stages but could be at a retail store near you before you know it.

In other robot news, Walmart is adding thousands of robots to its store workforce. The company is adding nearly 5,000 robots to its 11,348 stores. The robots will replace lower-level jobs in janitorial services and inventory tasks to avoid the rising cost of labor. Specifically, the robots will be scrubbing floors, scanning boxes, unloading trucks, and tracking inventory on the shelves. These new robots join a host of other robots that are already in use at Walmart, including the self-service kiosk tower and the newly deployed robot unloader, which pulls boxes from delivery trucks while automatically scanning and sorting merchandise. Much like other forms of automation, Walmart insists that the robots are not here to replace human workers; instead, they will allow human workers to perform other tasks throughout the day to increase efficiency.

And finally, after pulling an all-nighter discussing possible Brexit outcomes, the EU has reached a decision – another extension. This time, the EU has extended the UK’s Brexit deadline until October 31. This decision averts a crisis for the UK, as under the original extension, the deadline to get a deal done was today. The Halloween extension date surely has not been lost on anyone, as the entire negotiation process has been a nightmare for all involved.

Want to learn more about digital transformation? Register now for a free webinar on April 30th, at 10:30 am EST where Steve Banker of ARC Advisory Group, Nil Durak of Solvoyo, and Harsh Koppula of CGN Global will answer all the questions you have been asking. Namely, what exactly does it mean? What factors make it a success for operational backbones of companies? What are some of the traps along the way? And how do you make it sustainable? Attend the free webinar to have all these questions and more answered.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Beautiful Day by U2.

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