It’s a wild world right now. As people everywhere look to flatten the curve, we have tentatively moved beyond the “panic-buying” stage of COVID-19. However, things are rapidly evolving when it comes to grocery shopping. Many stores are limiting the number of people in stores at one time, leading to long lines outside of stores just to get in. As a result, more and more people are looking at either curbside pick-up or home delivery. However, the capacity is simply not there to handle the demand. For example, Whole Foods is no longer accepting new grocery customers. Instead, new sign-ups will be placed on a wait list so the company can try to add capacity. Even for those customers that were already customers, trying to find a delivery window is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Lidl is looking at new delivery formats to keep up with customer demand. To help those customers that are most at risk, the company is using its food truck to make grocery deliveries. Specifically, the Lidl food truck will make special deliveries without any service fees to several retirement communities in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, VA. The grocery fulfillment space will certainly be interesting to watch over the next few months. And now on to this week’s news.
- Draganfly is developing a ‘pandemic drone’ to help fight Covid-19
- Smithfield Foods closes one of nation’s largest pork plants as worker COVID-19 cases spike
- Amazon expands shipments of nonessential items, continue adding staff
- Resilinc and UPS Team Up to Help US Hospitals
- Electronics firms battered by high shipping costs, components shortages
- Wuhan’s tech and auto factories up and humming as lockdown lifted
- Airlines begin pulling passenger seats to make room for cargo
- Levi’s ramps up ship-from-store to move inventory trapped in dark stores
- California allows startup Nuro to test driverless delivery vehicles
Drones have been used in the medical field in the recent past, most notably to transport medical supplies, medicine, or blood samples to and from remote areas. Given the current state of the world, it is not surprising to see a company developing a “pandemic drone.” But that is what Canadian drone maker Draganfly, in collaboration with the Australian Department of Defense and the University of South Australia, is doing to tackle the coronavirus. The new drone will be part of a camera system to spot signs of illness, such as coughing and elevated temperatures. The drone is part of a bigger system to collect real-time data about the possible spread of the disease. The project will initially focus on “hot zones” to gauge infection rates. Draganfly says that its pandemic drone could be ready within the next 60 to 120 days.
Smithfield Foods has closed its Sioux Falls pork facility after a spike in COVID-19 cases. This comes after the South Dakota Department of Health said 238 of Minnehaha County’s 438 COVID-19 cases involve “individuals who work at Smithfield Foods.” In a news release, the company said the plant will be shut down until “further direction is received from local, state and federal officials.” This is a major blow to the food supply chain, as this plant alone accounts for 4-5 percent of the nation’s pork production. To put that in perspective, the plant processed 19,000 hogs a day, enough for 18 million pork servings. When the plant is operating at capacity, it takes in 100 semi-trucks daily of hogs weighing about 280 pounds each. Smithfield has also closed plants in Wisconsin and Missouri.
Amazon is expanding shipments of nonessential items and continuing to add staff. Last month, the company had prioritized essential items (cleaning products, health-care items and shelf-stable food) at its warehouses. It had stopped accepting shipments from third party sellers on its platform that didn’t meet criteria for what items were deemed essential. Now, Amazon is beginning to allow third-party sellers to continue to sell nonessential items. And while sellers can begin shipping items to Amazon warehouses, there will be limits on how much it will accept to ensure that essential items can still be stocked. The company also announced that it is hiring another 75,000 employees to fill the need in warehouses and for deliveries. This is on top of the more than 100,000 employees the company has added over the last month.
Resilinc, an AI-based supply chain mapping and disruption monitoring services company, has teamed up with UPS Healthcare to help US hospitals ease imbalances and medical product and supply shortages during coronavirus. Using the Resilinc Exchange, hospitals and frontline healthcare providers experiencing supply shortages can submit requests for specific items and be matched with peer organizations who can supply those items. The items can then be expedited by UPS to the matching facility.
According to new data from an industry trade group, US electronics manufacturers remain deeply concerned about coronavirus’ impact on the global supply chain. According to the report, 80 percent of electronics industry executives are facing supply chain issues related to the coronavirus. The most common issue reported by 55 percent of surveyed executives is abnormal shipping delays. During normal times, passenger planes carry a significant volume of global airfreight. However, with passenger planes mostly grounded, capacity has dropped. This means that prices have gone up and it is a lot harder to secure air freight, resulting in shipping delays.
After a two-plus month lockdown, Wuhan is making its way back to some sense of normalcy. As of Saturday, 97.2 percent of industrial enterprises in Wuhan had resumed operation, according to city officials. As a result, the city’s technology and automotive factories are back up and running and churning out products. Many of these companies, even though they had been allowed to re-open in March, were not seeing utilization levels above 50 percent. This is because many of these companies rely on production equipment built by foreign makers. The government is processing entry visas for non-Chinese technicians, indicating that they will be swiftly brought onto factory floors to help boost output capacity.
US airlines are looking at ways to increase cargo capacity to move medical supplies. One of those ways is to follow in the steps of some overseas airlines and petition the FAA to allow them to carry cargo in the main deck where passengers normally sit. To increase the capacity, airlines are looking at removing passenger seats to carry more cargo. The new operational configurations require certification by civil aviation authorities who examine structural loads and what mechanisms are employed to secure the cargo. A decision on basic main-deck loading is expected very soon, but FAA sign-off for more complex modifications could take a couple weeks longer.
For many retailers, having inventory trapped in dark stores is causing additional headaches as their supply chains are turned upside down. For Levi’s, its global footprint and combined operation of retail, e-commerce, and wholesale enables agility that others do not have. As part of its plan, the company will ship some e-commerce orders from stores starting next week to move inventory trapped in closed stores and hedge against any changes in local regulations that could shut down fulfillment centers not shipping essential goods. Levi’s has cut purchases and canceled orders for the second half of 2020.
As companies continue to struggle to find drivers for grocery and household item deliveries, autonomous could be part of the solution. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday authorized autonomous technology startup Nuro to test two driverless delivery vehicles in nine cities. Nuro is the second firm after Waymo to receive the state’s permit and has been allowed to test its low-speed R2 vehicle, which is about half the width of a regular car, without drivers. The permit also means Nuro can begin conducting deliveries with its local retail partners. Last year, Walmart and Domino’s Pizza launched pilot delivery projects with Nuro in Houston.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the day, Wild World by Cat Stevens.