This Week in Logistics News (January 25 – 31)

logistics newsThe long wait is over, and we are almost ready for kick-off in the Redemption Bowl. I mean Super Bowl. On Sunday night in Miami, FL, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will battle it out for football’s ultimate prize. This Super Bowl is a chance at redemption for the coaches, as both of them lost their lone Super Bowl appearance to the Patriots. Andy Reid has consistently been one of the better coaches in the NFL, but his legacy has been more defined by poor clock management that has resulted in heartbreaking losses in the past. This includes the 2005 Super Bowl, where Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New England Patriots 24 – 21. In this game, the Eagles were criticized for their lack of urgency while down 10 points with just under 6 minutes left. The critics blamed Reid for the poor clock management. Fast forward ten years, and Kyle Shanahan is the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, leading the Patriots 28 – 3 with about 8 minutes left in the third quarter. People were quick to criticize Shanahan’s play calling which allowed the Patriots back into the game, and eventually to win in overtime. For one of these coaches, this game will be their chance to exercise their Super Bowl demons. For the other, the sting of defeat will be felt once again. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

According to a recent announcement from FedEx, the company’s Ground service has launched year-round Sunday deliveries for its residential FedEx Home Delivery service for the majority of the US. The root cause is to better serve the company’s fast-growing e-commerce delivery business. This news comes on the heels of Amazon’s announcement to lift restrictions that prevented third-party sellers from shipping goods via FedEx Ground service right before the holiday season. FedEx said delivering residential packages on Sundays speeds up most shipping lanes by one or two days, an advantage that is particularly valuable for shippers and consumers of health care and perishable goods.

As supply chain sustainability efforts continue to grow, Unilever has signed a new agreement with Chinese e-commerce firm to explore sustainable solutions in its supply chain. The two companies have been working together since 2018, and the new agreement builds upon this existing relationship. Sustainable initiatives explored will include plastic recycling and collection, 5G delivery solutions for world-wide customers, and less carbon intense transportation initiatives. The joint framework will be based on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and’s sustainability strategy Green Stream Initiative ‘Planet, People, Profit’.

The world of autonomous truck testing is getting a little more crowded. Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit of Google parent Alphabet, has announced plans to test autonomous trucks on roads in Texas and New Mexico. The company will start driving its Chrysler Pacificas and long-haul trucks along what it calls “interesting and promising” commercial routes. The goal is to see just how the self-driving trucks can create new transportation solutions. Earlier this month, Waymo announced it has surpassed 20 million miles with its autonomous vehicles since its first car hit the road in 2009. The company has also completed self-driving truck tests in California, Arizona, and Georgia.

Due to some issues with suppliers, Whole Foods customers are reporting food shortages and empty shelves at some stores. The company said that its supplier of private-label beans, grains, lentils, and rice unexpectedly closed, leading to shortages of those items nationwide. Additionally, weather-related issues temporarily impacted the availability of lettuce from California at stores. This is not the first time that customers have seen barren shelves at Whole Foods though. As I wrote last year, a new inventory management system meant store associates would often skip the stock room and bring items directly from delivery trucks to the shelves. The positive aspect is that it has caused less spoilage in stock rooms, reduced costs, and allowed associates to be more customer facing. However, the result has also been empty shelves, angry customers, and discouraged employees. Whole Foods has said that it is working to stock its shelves with branded alternatives that should become available in stores in the coming weeks.

In May of 2019, Swiss Post and Matternet grounded joint drone operations to launch an investigation by independent aviation experts on the safety processes of the drone operations. The investigation stemmed from two different “incidents” that warranted a closer look. Prior to its grounding, the joint venture was using drones to transport laboratory samples. The experts that conducted the investigation have certified that Swiss Post and drone systems developer Matternet are upholding a high standard of safety. Starting this week, Swiss Post and Matternet will again be transporting laboratory samples via drone. The first location to restart operations will be the Ticino EOC hospital group in Lugano.

Speaking of drone deliveries, Japan Airlines (JAL) has signed a cooperation agreement with the Japanese city of Yabu to launch unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) test flights to transport medical supplies. JAL is hoping to conduct the maiden voyage this spring. The expected route will span about 25 kilometers, from a hospital to a clinic and over a river. For the past year, JAL has been in discussions with Terra Drone to perform demonstrations of fixed-wing drones. For the drone deliveries, JAL will contribute operational knowledge while Terra Drone will contribute technical expertise for operating tis drones. The city of Yabu is currently tapping on drones for agricultural purposes and is looking to expand their usage to other purposes.

Home Depot is offering a new way for customers to get their orders fulfilled. To do so, the company is opening a new facility in one of its biggest markets – Dallas, TX. The company has opened a new 800,000 square foot distribution center that has been engineered to accommodate flatbed trucks. The new facility is basically the biggest drive-thru you have ever seen. According to Home Depot, the system allows the company to take control of that entire supply chain, from the lumber mill all the way to the customer. Large flatbed trucks can drive through the huge facility and heavy products such as lumber, ladders, pipes, and roofing materials are added from either side. The facility can handle up to 65 to 75 trucks going out per day. That’s thousands of deliveries per week to customers within a 75-mile radius of Dallas. Home Depot plans to open similar ones in other cities as part of a $1.2 billion, five-year investment in its supply chain.

And finally, coronavirus is making big news around the world. It has caused the closure of restaurants and stores, disrupted supply chains, and could impact ocean shipping worldwide. In the US, the impact of the outbreak has been a bit muted, but many drugstores have reported they have sold out of surgical facemasks. Despite reassurances from public health officials that Americans don’t currently need to wear face masks, demand is quickly outpacing supply. And while many consumers see it as a necessary precaution, many stores are indicating that consumers are buying the masks to send back to China, where the supply has pretty much dried up. Drug stores are reporting that will do what they can to get more masks back in stock.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, the Super Bowl, and the song of the week, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

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