This Week in Logistics News (July 11 – 17)

logistics newsIt is always interesting to me to see the creative ways that companies try to collect data about their customers. Over the last few years I have seen an increasing number of “challenges” being shared on Facebook that in reality are simply ways to gather more information about its users. These include picture challenges, such as the “10 Days of Being a Mom Challenge” or the “Here’s How I’ll Look When I’m Old” challenge, as well as a large number of “My Top 10 fill in the blank here” challenges. And while I have been nominated to compete in some of these, I never do, as I generally share as little information as possible. One challenge that I have seen a lot lately, and that I almost participated in because I found it interesting, is the “Top 10 Albums that Influence Your Taste in Music” challenge. As I thought about it, I realized that my taste in music has changed significantly over the years, which is not a surprise. And since I won’t share it on Facebook, I figured I would share it here. So, here are my Top 10 Albums, in no particular order: Nirvana – Nevermind; Metallica – …And Justice for All; Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine; Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon; The Who – Live at Leeds; White Stripes – De Stihl; Guns n Rose – Appetite for Destruction; Green Day – Dookie; Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle; Black Sabbath – Paranoid. It is interesting to see that the most recent album on that list is from 2000 – I guess I’m not a big fan of new music. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

logistics newsThe US plans to announce details in its ongoing battle with France over taxes on US-based technology companies including Amazon, Google, and Facebook, among others. This comes on the heels of the US’ decision to withdraw from international talks over digital taxes. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has been trying to find agreement among nearly 140 countries on a global tax overhaul to address how multinationals are taxed in the countries where they have users or consumers, which would prevent countries from implementing their own versions of levies. According to the US, the tariffs will be in the ballpark of $500 – $700 million, and include items such as French wine, cheese, and handbags.

logistics newsTyson Foods is looking at ways to promote worker safety as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The company has recently closed some meat packing plants as workers tested positive for COVID-19 in high numbers. The company is pursuing an automated approach and investing big money in its Manufacturing Automation Center. While human hands have more finesse when it comes to performing complex tasks, Tyson is looking into the use of robot butchers in its processing plants. When its Manufacturing Automation Center last year, the company rolled out a mechanical system in many of its chicken plants that is able to carve chicken breasts more precisely than a human using a water jet cutting system. Robots have a long way to go in the animal protein industry, but the coronavirus pandemic may be the catalyst that speeds up the development and implementation of robots in the plants.

Amazon has been pushing the advancement of its logistics services to reduce its reliance on FedEx and UPS for home deliveries over the last few years. I have certainly noticed a significant uptick in Amazon branded vans driving through my neighborhood the last few months. Now, the company is rolling out bigger trucks for deliveries that are similar to the type used by FedEx and UPS to fight delivery delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon has ordered more than 2,200 heavy-duty Utilimaster “walk-in” delivery trucks from Shyft Group, a Michigan-based specialty vehicle company. The new trucks can carry more and bigger packages than the vans Amazon contractors currently use around the country. There is speculation that Amazon may restart its Amazon Shipping program for non-Amazon customers, but the company declined to comment on the service that is a direct competitor to both FedEx and UPS.

The British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement on new plans to improve post-Brexit infrastructure. According to the BPA, the $888.4 million (£705 million) fund included “helpful measures” designed to ease border requirements due to come into force in 2021, including infrastructure, systems, and staffing. These include plans to build borders facilities at ports where infrastructure can be built on site, as well as for Government to build inland infrastructure sites, where ports do not have the space. According to BPA CEO Richard Ballantyne:

“We are particularly grateful that the Government has listened and agreed to our requests to pay for new infrastructure both at ports and at inland sites. We look forward to reviewing the details, but this is an important first step to help limit the impacts of Britain’s departure from the EU.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given US airlines permission to remove passenger seats and transport cargo on the floor of the cabin in aircraft being deployed on cargo-only flights. The decision comes two months after an airline trade group petitioned for an exemption from normal aircraft operating rules and three months after some international carriers began reconfiguring passenger cabins to create more room for boxes of goods. However, in the two months that the FAA debated the ruling, the air cargo market has cooled considerably, making it unclear how many passenger airlines would actually strip their planes of seats for cargo-only flights. The exemption to existing regulations governing aircraft operations lasts for one year. The FAA also extended until July 10, 2021, its prior ruling that airlines could fly with cargo strapped into the seats through the end of this year.

A few weeks ago, the California Air Resources Board approved a groundbreaking policy to require manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024 and to electrify nearly all larger trucks by 2045. In response, 14 additional states and the District of Columbia have released a joint memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and phasing out diesel-powered trucks by 2050. The voluntary initiative is aimed at boosting the number of electric large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks. The end goal is to ensure all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2050. The states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Vermont.

The coronavirus has prompted many grocery retailers to implement online sales with curbside pick-up at a faster rate than most stores had likely anticipated or planned for. After a successful pilot program in select markets, Aldi is expanding its curbside pick-up program. Based on customer response, Aldi will now roll the program out to nearly 600 ALDI stores in 35 states across the country by the end of July.  Customers can shop the full selection of Aldi products on either the company’s website or mobile app, select curbside pick-up at check-out, and choose the store location that is nearest to them. This certainly looks like a model that will continue to grow for more grocery retailers.

And finally, specialty grocer Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has launched same-day online grocery delivery via Shipt in 30 metropolitan markets across the Midwest. Target-owned Shipt said the rollout will enable more than 10 million households in the region to order groceries online from Fresh Thyme and have their items delivered to their doorsteps that day. Michigan residents in the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing metro areas also will have access to same-day delivery of beer and wine from Fresh Thyme. Customers must be at least age 21 to order or accept alcohol deliveries and are required to present identification upon delivery.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, from one of my favorite albums (and I’ll be revisiting these in the coming weeks), Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine.