This Week in Logistics News (October 26 – November 1)

logistics newsIt looked like the Houston Astros were finally going to end the bizarre pattern of World Series games this fall. And by that, I mean the home team would finally win a game. But the visiting Washington Nationals had other ideas, and for the first time ever, the visiting team won every game of a World Series. With a two-run lead in the seventh inning, the Astros were 8 outs away from winning their second World Series in three years. However, the Nationals, as has been their M.O. this postseason, rallied for 3 runs in the seventh, 1 in the eighth, and 2 more in the ninth to take the deciding game 7 by a score of 6 – 2. It was one of the more entertaining game 7’s in World Series history. I’m happy for the Nationals, and their fans, for the city’s first baseball championship since 1924. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Brexit has been put on hold yet again. The European Union has agreed to give the UK three more months to exit the bloc. European Council President Donald Tusk announced the decision on Monday. Tusk tweeted “The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the U.K.’s request for a Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.” This latest extension means that the UK will be able to leave the EU at any point before January 31, provided that its Parliament approves the exit agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson concluded with the 27 other EU leaders earlier this month. This is the third delay of the proceedings. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens if an agreement is not struck as the new deadline approaches.

The Trump administration reinstated some of Ukraine’s trade privileges late Friday. This move restores benefits to the eastern European country that had been delayed since August. The White House said it suspended Ukraine’s ability to export some products to the US on a duty-free basis over worries regarding intellectual property rights. Trump announced that Ukraine has made progress in providing adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, and thus removed the blockage. In a statement to The Washington Post, the White House said that the restoration of some trade privileges, which was signed after Ukraine passed a law in 2018 addressing some of the concerns, would impact roughly a third of the goods. Besides restoring trade rights to Ukraine, the administration decided to revoke trade benefits for Thailand and put privileges for South Africa and Azerbaijan under review.

Alphabet held a secret “logistics summit” last week in Silicon Valley. The event was called the Alphabet Advanced Logistics Summit and hosted by Alphabet’s research and development unit, “X,” and its recently spun out infrastructure company Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. Attendees included Alphabet executives as well as executives from external companies including FedEx, JD.com, Deliv, Flexe, and Walmart. The point was to explore potential business models and investment opportunities in the e-commerce space with a focus on logistics and fulfillment. According to attendees, the meeting’s discussions included predictive analytics, order fulfillment, package tracking, Bluetooth usage, and drone delivery.

Amazon is making its grocery delivery service free to all Prime members in the US, as well as integrating all grocery orders onto a single portal. The integrated portal will include delivery services from Amazon and Whole Foods, offering one and two-hour delivery windows. Amazon has been phasing out its Fresh grocery delivery service in select areas over the last few years. However, these customers still have the option for grocery delivery through Prime Now. The announcement comes as the holiday shopping (and shipping season) gets ready to heat up.

Kroger is looking at a new service to bring package deliveries into their stores. The company sees this as an opportunity to get more consumers to walk in the door, offering more opportunities for sales. Kroger plans to test the program, called Kroger Package Services (KPS), in about 220 stores in 2019. Under KPS, select Kroger stores accept packages — including those that require signatures — from major carriers including UPS, USPS, and FedEx, and store them in a secure area until customers pick them up. The program also allows shoppers to drop off pre-labeled packages or bring in unboxed items for shipping anywhere in the US. Automated kiosks enable shoppers to print or purchase shipping labels as well.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA‘s administrator, envisions a future where the air above at least one US city will be buzzing with unmanned electric aircraft delivering people and packages. To turn the vision into reality, NASA is using a “grand challenge” incentive program to improve the technology’s maturity. Bridenstine admits there are plenty of challenges ahead before this vision becomes a reality, such as regulatory hurdles and infrastructure issues. He believes part of the solution will involve moving to battery-powered drones from gas-powered ones. This will be interesting to monitor over the next decade.

Plant-based meat alternatives are taking the country by storm. Beyond Meat has been showing up in restaurants and supermarkets across the nation, with more consumers going for the vegetarian-friendly option over the real deal. One of the biggest problems facing the country is a supply bottleneck for the plant-based protein. With revenues growing at triple-digit rates, the company needs to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities. The company announced that it will triple its pea protein sourcing in 2020 to keep up demand. The company has recently added Subway, KFC, and McDonald’s to its list of restaurants carrying the pea-based products.

Delta Airlines cargo unit is partnering with Roadie to launch door-to-door pick-up and delivery service for businesses to ship urgent parcels with same-day delivery. The two companies have been partners since 2015 to transport delayed baggage to passengers’ homes. Roadie has also helped launch DASH Door-to-Door service on flights to more than 55 US cities. The service is for packages less than 100 pounds and 90 linear inches. The service has rates starting at around $99 including tariffs and fees but not government taxes. The service is geared toward urgent shipments in industries such as medical, manufacturing, automotive, and industrial parts.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, Sea of Love by the National.

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