This Week in Logistics News (June 4 – 10)

This Week in Logistics News (June 4 – 10)

Supply chain shortages have caused prices to rise globally on just about every consumer good imaginable. And mangoes are no exception. Apparently, this is the time of year when south Asians living in Calgary get excited for a treat that is partly about nostalgia, partly about re-connecting with their homeland, and partly about the sweet, sweet taste. However, this year, the price of Indian and Pakistani mangoes in Calgary could soar. A record-breaking heatwave in India has decimated the mango crop there, hitting the country just as mango trees were flowering, impacting the dozens of different varieties that Indians hold so dear. India has experienced its hottest March in more than 120 years, leaving mango trees bare instead of packed with fruit. In Pakistan, the mango crop is expected to be at least 50 per cent what it usually is thanks to similar soaring temperatures and water shortages. Add in soaring air freight costs, and the fruit will not only be hard to find, but incredibly expensive. That’s a tough break for the industry. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

warehouse travelAccording to the latest reports, the boom in e-commerce demand is abating, as consumers are shifting their spending from goods to services. As a result, logistics hiring in May has slowed down. Trucking, warehousing, and parcel-delivery companies added a combined 32,900 jobs last month, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, down from 44,700 jobs added in April. The pullback came as the broader US economy added 390,000 jobs in May, in the slowest pace of growth in more than a year but still far above employment expansion before the pandemic. The expansion in the trucking and warehousing sectors suggests logistics operators are continuing to staff up in a tight labor market as they work to unscramble supply chains. Trucking companies added 13,300 jobs last month and have boosted employment by more than 70,000 jobs over the past year. Warehousing and storage companies have added 176,700 jobs over the past year, including some 17,700 in May, despite a tight labor market. Courier and messenger companies added 1,900 jobs in May, down sharply from the nearly 15,000 jobs added in April.

Waymo and Uber, former legal foes and bitter rivals in the autonomous vehicle space, are teaming up to speed up the adoption of driverless trucks. Waymo is integrating Uber Freight, the ride-hail company’s truck brokerage, into the technology that powers its autonomous big rigs. According to a statement from the two companies, the “long-term strategic partnership” will enable fleet owners to more quickly deploy trucks equipped with Waymo’s autonomous “driver” for on-demand delivery routes offered by Uber Freight. Waymo describes the team-up as a “deep integration” of each company’s products, including a jointly developed “product roadmap” to outline how autonomous trucks will get deployed on Uber’s network once they are commercial ready. Until then, Waymo says it will use Uber Freight with its own test fleet to better understand how driverless trucks will receive and accept delivery orders.

Gatik, the autonomous vehicle startup focused on the “middle mile,” will start using its self-driving trucks this summer to deliver Georgia-Pacific paper goods to several dozen Sam’s Club stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The deliveries, which are slated to begin in July, are part of a multiyear commercial partnership with Georgia Pacific and KBX, the transportation arm for Koch Industries. Under the partnership, Gatik will deliver goods 24 hours a day, seven days week across a network of 34 Sam’s Club locations. The autonomous box trucks will travel up to 300 miles a day. Gatik developed and is now applying its autonomous vehicle technology to the “middle mile” on the premise that using smaller self-driving box trucks are more efficient than Class 8 trucks at shuttling goods from distribution centers to retail locations.

Descartes Systems Group, a global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that it has spent $65 million to acquire a Utah firm that provides e-commerce multi-carrier parcel shipping solutions. Ontario-based Descartes has bought Cottonwood Heights, Utah-based XPS Technologies for a price that could rise to $75 million if the smaller firm hits certain revenue targets over the next two years. XPS sells its software to e-commerce shippers and provides a white-label shipping platform to logistics services providers. XPS says its platform helps users streamline their e-commerce supply chains and reduce transportation costs by automatically importing orders, comparing carrier rates, printing shipping labels for all major carriers, and tracking through final delivery.

Walmart is teaming up with senior-care app Avanlee Care to help families who care for seniors remotely. Avanlee Care, which seeks to help families coordinate care and monitor the wellness of aging loved ones, said it is adding grocery delivery services powered by Walmart. Avanlee users will be able to place Walmart grocery orders for delivery to recipients’ home through the regular Avanlee Care app, which also offers medication adherence and health and mood monitoring services. Citing a 2018 AARP survey that found that 90 percent of U.S. adults ages 65 and older want to age in place, the company said that teaming up with Walmart is a way to further improve its support for senior customers and their family caregivers. Avanlee said its integrated grocery delivery capability powered by Walmart is available for free download.

Earlier this week, Target warned investors that its profits will take a short-term hit, as it marks down unwanted items, cancels orders, and takes aggressive steps to get rid of extra inventory. The retailer slashed its profit margin expectations for the fiscal second quarter to account for a wave of goods winding up deeply discounted or on the clearance rack. Target said it had nearly $15.1 billion of inventory as of April 30, the end of the fiscal first quarter. That’s about 43 percent higher than in the year-ago period. Target had a big sales event over Memorial Day weekend to clear bulky outdoor items like patio furniture out of its backrooms. It also got additional space near US ports to hold merchandise, so it has a place to move goods — some of which are arriving too early or too late.

More and more companies are looking at ways to be greener, with many opting for resale or recycling programs. Toy-makers in particular are trying to wean themselves off single-use plastics in response to the growing number of parents who are concerned about the environmental impact of plastic toys. Last year, Mattel launched Mattel Playback, a progam that lets parents print out free shipping labels and use them to send old Barbie dolls, Mega Bloks, and Matchbox cars and games to Mattel collection sites for recycling and reuse. This week, the company announced that it has expanded that program to include non-electronic Fisher-Price toys. The Fisher-Price division of Mattel includes Little People, Laugh & Learn, Imaginext and other brands. Mattel also has been ramping up its sustainability efforts with the release this year of certified carbon neutral toys, including the Mega Bloks Green Town building sets, which according to Mattel are the first toy line sold at mass retail to be certified as carbon neutral.

Made4net, a global leader in cloud-based supply chain execution and warehouse management system (WMS) software, acquired Zethcon, a leading North American WMS software company with a robust cloud-based product platform designed specifically for the unique requirements of the third-party logistics (3PL) market. According to the two companies, combining Zethcon’s multi-decade track record of delivering premier 3PL WMS solutions with Made4net’s WMS product leadership across a broad diversity of end markets that extend beyond 3PL, creates a best-of-breed warehouse software company serving an impressive global footprint of blue-chip 3PL and non-3PL customers, spanning virtually all industries.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Phish’s the Mango Song.

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