This Week in Logistics News (October 19 – 25)

logistics newsAs the old adage goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But what happens when that imitation comes from the person they are imitating? And what happens when that form of imitation is seen as copyright infringement on a band’s song? Well, in 1988, John Fogerty faced a very rare court case in which he was accused of plagiarizing himself. Yes, you read that correctly. In 1985, after a hiatus of several years from the music industry, Fogerty released his hit album Centerfield. The top-10 hit from that album was The Old Man Down the Road. And while that song was a fan favorite, the label that owns his old Creedence Clearwater Revival recordings, Fantasy, Inc., alleged he’d ripped off his own “swamp-rock” hit Run Through the Jungle. At one point during the court proceedings, Fogerty took the stand, guitar in hand, and played the two songs to show the subtle differences in them. In the end, a six-person jury decided in Fogerty’s favor in November 1988 that he did not steal his own song. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Four healthcare organizations have announced agreements with UPS to test drone deliveries. CVS Health, Kaiser Permanente, University of Utah Health, and AmerisourceBergen announced agreements with UPS Flight Forward, the UPS subsidiary dedicated to drone operations. UPS also announced the formation of a business unit that is dedicated entirely to healthcare. CVS will work with UPS to evaluate delivery of prescriptions and retail products to the homes of its customers. The company is also exploring other test cases. Kaiser Permanente plans to transport healthcare supplies between buildings on its 39 hospital campuses using UPS’ autonomous drones. In partnership with Matternet, University of Utah Health will employ drones to deliver lab samples and other. And AmerisourceBergen will collaborate with UPS to transport certain pharmaceuticals, supplies, and records to qualifying medical campuses served by AmerisourceBergen across the US.

For the first time in the US, a drone has successfully delivered a FedEx package to a residence. The delivery was to a residence in Christiansburg, VA. The flight is part of the US Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (IPP). According to FedEx, the package was delivered using a Wing Aviation drone. During the trial, Wing drones will be delivering FedEx packages to homes in Christiansburg, VA. FedEx customers who live in certain Christiansburg delivery zones can choose to participate in the Wing delivery service and receive packages by drones during the trial.

In the final piece of drone news, Walgreens is officially in the drone game as well. As FedEx noted in its discussions about its drone deliveries, Wing is also collaborating with Walgreens to allow program participants to order health and wellness products through the Wing’s delivery app. Walgreens is officially live with what it calls its “store to door” delivery program in of health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience items via drone delivery in Christiansburg, VA. The very first drone-based delivery from Walgreens went to local residents Michael and Kelly Collver, who received a cough and cold pack including Tylenol, Halls cough drops, tissues, Emergen-C, and bottled water. During the pilot program, prescription medicine is not available for drone deliveries.

Supply chain software firm LLamasoft has acquired artificial intelligence (AI) firm Opex Analytics LLC, the companies said earlier this week. The deal focuses on bringing more advanced AI solutions to the market as part of the larger supply chain software stack. According to Razat Gaurav, LLamasoft CEO, “the acquisition of Opex Analytics supports our strategy to transform the future of enterprise decision making. The teams at LLamasoft and Opex are known for leveraging data and the power of AI to gain deep insights and solve complex problems for companies who battle a barrage of constantly changing market conditions and ever-evolving customer demands. The combination of our enterprise-grade analytics platform and our unmatched team of seasoned data scientists with simulation, optimization, and machine learning expertise will uniquely position us to unlock the value potential of AI for our customers.” The acquisition is backed by TPG Capital, Goldman Sachs, and MK Capital. I asked my colleague Steve Banker for his take on the acquisition. According to Steve:

“There is something of an arms race by enterprise and supply chain software companies to improve their software by adding AI and machine learning features and functions. JDA’s acquisition of Blue Yonder was a big deal. This is just as big.”

The extended Brexit deadline is now less than a week away. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the UK, will make a final bid to force Brexit through by the October 31 “do or die” deadline. Johnson has already requested another extension for three months, which would put the date at the end of January. However, this is not a move he wanted to make. In fact, he has referred to it as something he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than do. Now, he is waiting on word from the other 27 EU heads of state and government on whether the October 31 Brexit date can be delayed. A decision, which was originally expected on Wednesday, is tentatively expected by sometime today. But if the government can force its Brexit bill through parliament in time, the UK could in theory still leave the EU by next Thursday’s deadline.

The modernization of supply chains has resulted in shorter delivery timeframes for consumers. Best Buy is one of those companies that is trying to stay ahead of the competition, or at this point, at least remain competitive. The company is set to announce plans that about 99 percent of its customers are now able to get free next-day delivery on thousands of items through Best Buy has improved the speed of its deliveries by both shipping online orders from stores as well as from its distribution centers, seven of which now have automated storage and retrieval systems that cut down on the amount of walking warehouse employees have to do. Bigger and heavier items such as big-screen TVs and refrigerators are not eligible for next-day delivery.

As the trade war continues to make headlines, China is asking the World Trade Organization for the right to impose $2.4 billion in annual penalties on the US in a case over Chinese subsidies dating back years. A document published Monday showed China has called for the matter to be considered by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body next Monday. The matter would be referred to a WTO arbitrator if the US objects to the amount China proposes. The request stems from a July WTO appellate decision in a case dating to before the Trump administration, and unrelated to the tariffs it has slapped on Chinese goods.

Amazon is expanding its counter service. Amazon Counter, the in-store pick-up service the company launched this past summer at more than 100 Rite Aid locations is expanding nationwide. The company announced today the service will reach thousands more locations with the additions of new partners GNC, Health Mart, and Stage Stores. GNC is a health and nutrition chain. Health Mart operates a network of independently owned and operated pharmacies. And Stage Stores operates Gordmans off-price stores, Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles, and Stage department stores. Amazon’s Counter system is designed to be minimally disruptive to brick-and-mortar stores; customers simply show a barcode to the store employee to receive their package.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week CCR’s Run Through the Jungle (or is it the Old Man Down the Road?).

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