This Week in Logistics News (June 18 – 24)

This Week in Logistics News (June 18 – 24)

And just like that, once again, the Gronk spike is on its way out. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end, Rob Gronkowski announced his second retirement this week. However, Gronkowski’s agent told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he wouldn’t be surprised if his client could be coaxed out of retirement for a second time by Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. If this truly is the end for the greatest tight end to ever play the game, I have so many fun memories, such as when he threw Sergio Brown out of the club, made one of the greatest catches in traffic against the Broncos, when he laughed at Sean Davis after a touchdown against the Steelers, and his ridiculous touchdown celebration at Wembley Stadium. Much like it’s hard to pinpoint my favorite Gronk play, it’s hard to come up with his best spike. But here is an incredible compilation of some of his best spikes. The football world will miss you Gronk. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Amazon Prime Day is looming, and the company is making changes this year. From July 12-13, Prime members can score deals on items from national brands and third party-sellers and save on goods available at company-owned stores. New this summer is a 20 percent discount for Prime members to use on select everyday items at Amazon Fresh Stores. Members can enjoy this benefit year-round by scanning their Amazon app at the register or purchasing with a credit card that’s registered to their Prime account. There’s another bonus for Prime members who apply for a Prime Rewards Visa card. Card members with an eligible Prime membership can get a $200 Amazon gift card when their card application is approved and then earn 6 percent back at Amazon and Whole Foods Market on Prime Day and 5 percent back year-round. Ahead of Prime Day, members can subscribe to receive deal alert notifications related to their recent Amazon searches and recently viewed items.

Amazon has announced its “first fully autonomous mobile robot,” meant to move large carts throughout its warehouses. The robot is called Proteus, and Amazon says it can safely navigate around human employees, unlike some of its past robots that it kept separated in a caged area. Amazon says Proteus robots have “advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology,” and a (strangely silent) video shows the robots shining a green light in front of themselves as they move around. When a human steps into the beam, the robot stops moving, then resumes after the person moves away. The company has also announced several other robotic systems. One, called Cardinal, is a robotic arm that can lift and move packages weighing up to 50 pounds, which Amazon hopes to deploy in warehouses next year. The company says that its computer vision systems let it pick out and lift individual packages, even if they’re in a pile.

ocean trendsFedEx and Chicago-based supply chain visibility provider FourKites have partnered to build a global supply chain intelligence platform, the companies announced Tuesday. Under the agreement, FedEx has invested an undisclosed amount in FourKites. The new platform, FourKites X, will aim to help large shippers and logistics providers with features like dynamic planning, real-time visibility, proactive alerts and supply chain optimization insights. FourKites customers will be able to integrate the platform with their existing systems. I asked my colleague Steve Banker for his take on the investment: “When it comes to supply chain data, more is always better. The collaboration between FourKites and FedEx is exceptional in both the volume of data that it will aggregate, and in the degree to which it will improve predicted times of arrival, planning, sustainability initiatives and more. FourKites X is a big step forward for this market.”

General Motors’ electric delivery van subsidiary, BrightDrop, has delivered 150 vans to FedEx, the companies announced Tuesday. This comes after five of the vans were delivered to FedEx last December and it marks BrightDrop’s first sizable delivery of vans. FedEx announced that it is also adding additional vehicle charging stations to manage the expected influx of electric vans into its business. The delivery company has announced a commitment to be carbon neutral in its operations by 2040. BrightDrop plans to offer two versions of its electric delivery van. The larger van, the Zevo 600, can carry up 2,200 pounds of packages and can travel as far as 250 miles on a full charge. The smaller Zevo 400, which BrightDrop says will be available next year, is designed for local deliveries in tight urban environments. it will carry less cargo and be able to drive a shorter distance.

Walmart has installed a computer tablet in every vehicle of its private fleet, saying the telematics-linked device delivers “near real-time visibility” for store deliveries, better shelf stocking for customers, and improved technology for its drivers. Each tablet is integrated with NTransit, a driver workflow application developed by Walmart’s product and technology teams. San Diego-based Platform Science is backed by Daimler Truck AG, as well as venture investors. In 2020, the startup said it had partnered with tractor-trailer manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America to add on-vehicle fleet management software to its trucks. Terms of the newest deal were not disclosed. But Walmart says it operates 210 distribution centers, providing delivery to its 10,500 stores through a transportation fleet of 9,000 tractors, 80,000 trailers and more than 12,000 drivers.

President Joe Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 into law, promising sweeping changes to the ocean shipping industry after more than two years of port congestion, delays and rising costs. The high-profile bill, which sailed through the House earlier this week, is part of the Biden administration’s attempt to rein in consumer price inflation that hit a new 40-year high this month. Many shippers celebrated the legislation as a significant step forward in addressing shipping disruptions that have arisen during the pandemic, including soaring fees and a lack of containers for agricultural exports. Biden added the law will address the inflation that has plagued businesses and “bring down prices on goods American families need.”

As the world embarks on an electric vehicle (EV) boom, a new report by the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) highlights a serious challenge facing the United States—an EV battery crisis. There are several reasons for this, including weak investment in advanced technologies, limited access to critical minerals and a lack of federal policies to promote R&D and manufacturing. An adequate supply chain for lithium-ion batteries—the single most important component in the EV—simply doesn’t exist. While some of America’s automotive companies are making an effort to build their own supply chain, others continue to rely on production-outsourcing and importing. In response, the auto industry needs to step up its efforts—and its investment dollars. And Congress must implement a strategy to stimulate domestic battery production, including cost-effective and environmentally safe mining of critical minerals here in the United States.

In the latest sign of volatility in the freight sector, a measure of trucking conditions rebounded slightly in April, only to achieve a nearly two-year low point. Freight transportation analysis firm FTR said that diesel prices stabilized in April, but softer capacity utilization and freight rates made for positive but lackluster market conditions. Looking farther into the future, the outlook is mildly positive in the near term, but ongoing fuel price increases and other factors could result in further negative readings, the Bloomington, Indiana-based firm said. By the numbers, FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) rebounded to a reading of 3.21 for April after sinking to -7.38 for March. The index tracks changes in five conditions in the U.S. truck market: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. Combined into a single score, the number represents good, optimistic conditions when positive and bad, pessimistic conditions when negative.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Tom Petty’s Spike.

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