This Week in Logistics News (September 19 – 25)

logistics newsForty-six years ago today, Dr. Frank Jobe performed the first ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery on baseball player Tommy John. At the time, this was an experimental surgery, and Jobe put the chances for success of the operation at 1 in 100. The procedure is certainly a complex one. A 3 to 4-inch surgical incision is made near the elbow. Holes to accommodate a replacement graft tendon are drilled in the ulna and humerus bones of the elbow. Then, a harvested tendon, such as the palmaris tendon from the forearm of the same or opposite elbow, the patellar tendon, hamstring, toe extensor, or a donor tendon (allograft), is then woven in a figure-eight pattern through the holes and anchored. The ulnar nerve is usually moved to prevent pain as scar tissue can apply pressure to the nerve. After the procedure, John missed the entire 1975 season rehabilitating his arm before returning for the 1976 season. Before his surgery, John had won 124 games. He won 164 games after surgery, retiring in 1989 at age 46. Today, the procedure (named after Tommy John) is quite common, as prospects of a complete recovery have risen to 90 percent or better. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

logistics newsOver the last few months, Amazon has been busy adding delivery stations in clusters across select regions. The delivery stations are local terminals that receive goods from one of the company’s distribution centers for final delivery to the customer. As the company continues to invest in its network to meet same-day and one-day delivery for more and more customers, these new delivery stations will continue to expand. According to reports, Amazon plans to open 1,000 parcel-delivery stations in suburban US locations to support local fulfillment operations. This is the first stage in what the company hopes will be a 1,500-delivery station network. While no timetables have been set, MWPVL International, which closely tracks Amazon’s physical distribution program, expects 450 stations to be open by the end of 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred rapid growth in the grocery delivery market and Amazon and Whole Foods are looking at new ways to meet the growing demand. In a pivot away from the traditional method of having Whole Foods workers pick, pack, and deliver orders, Amazon is now recruiting gig workers to shop for and deliver groceries for Whole Foods Market customers who place online orders. Amazon is no stranger to using contractors to deliver goods; Amazon Flex uses independent contractors to deliver packages from an Amazon staging facility to customers’ homes. Drivers can sign up for the program, known as Shop and Deliver, by reviewing an online tutorial about how to pick, pack, and safely handle groceries. The driver must then pass a quiz before they can make deliveries.

logistics newsLast week I wrote about a partnership between Walmart and Zipline to deliver select health and wellness products in the US. This week, Walmart has announced another drone delivery partnership in response to the current pandemic. The company will partner with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp, a Virginia-based drone services provider, to drop Covid-19 diagnostic kits at customers’ homes. The pilot program will take place in North Las Vegas and Cheektowaga, New York. The program delivers nasal swab kits to patients living within one mile of the local Walmart supercenter in those two markets. The kits include pre-paid shipping labels to send the samples back to Quest as part of the company’s contactless testing capabilities. There is no customer cost for the service.

As sustainability becomes more important to large corporations, Walmart aims for zero emissions by 2040. Heading into Climate Week NYC, the company announced a new set of sustainability goals. In its announcement, Walmart said it plans to harness enough renewable energy, including wind and solar, to power its facilities by 2035. All of its vehicles, including long-haul trucks, will either be electric or zero-emissions. And the company will switch to eco-friendly cooling and heating equipment by 2030. Currently about 29 percent of Walmart’s operations are powered with renewable energy, and 80 percent of waste is diverted from landfills and incineration facilities. Walmart is also making an effort to end deforestation. For every acre of land the company develops, Walmart says it will preserve one acre of natural habitat. The company will push for regenerative agriculture practices and sustainable fisheries management.

logistics newsTwo weeks ago, I wrote that eBay and UPS have expanded their shipping relationship and, for the first time, will integrate UPS’ services with eBay’s global platform. Now the reason for the expansion has come to light – eBay was not satisfied with shipping times when using the US Postal Service. eBay is one of the Postal Service’s biggest customers, but it said it is shifting some of its business to private-sector rival UPS because of reliability issues with the agency. The company said that by the end of September, eBay sellers will be able to print out discounted UPS shipping labels, at a cost up to 62 percent cheaper than typical UPS rates. The revenue hit to the USPS from this partnership is substantial. The USPS generated more than $743 million in revenue from eBay packages last year.

After experimenting with Reliable Robotics, a technology startup on autonomous aircraft, FedEx is looking at using small self-flying cargo planes to serve remote areas. With approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Reliable Robotics demonstrated in June a fully automated remote landing of a Cessna 208 Caravan turboprop owned by FedEx. The new partnership will not take jobs away from pilots any time soon; much like autonomous trucks, the technology will take years to replace any pilots. According to Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith:

“This initiative deals with small turboprop airplanes and in this particular case the single-engine C208, which we’re looking at putting in very remote and uninhabited areas as part of our network.”

As buy online, pick up in store sales continue to grow, so too does the concern over contactless pick-up. Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is taking a new approach to how it handles these orders. The company said it will install parcel-holding lockers at all of its 1,700 stores by next March. COVID-19 has accelerated the percentage of Lowe’s orders that are placed online for store pick-up, as more than 60 percent of online order are now picked up in store. While the company has rolled out curbside delivery, the lockers enable customers to pick up the item when they want. Each locker will be equipped with technology that generates a scannable barcode when an order is ready for pickup, and a parcel can remain in a locker for seven days.

German aviation startup Volocopter has teamed up with logistics group DB Schenker to deploy its heavy-lift drones, in a project that will gather vital practical flying experience before its air taxis enter service. Volocopter is one of a fleet of startups developing battery-powered aircraft and, with full certification for its air taxi still a few years away, it wants to put its VoloDrone to work sooner. The remote-controlled drone can lift a load of up to 440 pounds and has a range of 25 miles. This makes the aircraft ideal for jobs such as delivering medicines to a hospital or dropping off components at a factory.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Tommy Gun by the Clash.

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