This Week in Logistics News (May 4-8, 2015)

Ever get a song stuck in your head? According to a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, the best way to get it out of your head is to…

In this week’s supply chain and logistics news…

As I wrote last October in The Messy Reality of Cross-Border E-commerce, it may sound simple, but enabling a consumer in one country to buy from an online retailer in another country is incredibly complex. In addition to language and currency considerations, there are many other factors that come into play, including cost factors (duties, taxes, brokerage fees), customs compliance requirements (product classification, restricted party screening, import/export documentation), and complying with the address formats of destination countries to prevent delays and other issues with last-mile delivery.

I wrote that post in response to UPS acquiring i-parcel, and this week Pitney Bowes expanded its cross-border e-commerce capabilities by acquiring Borderfree. According to the press release:

Borderfree provides cross-border ecommerce solutions through a proprietary technology and services platform that enables retailers in the United States and United Kingdom to transact with consumers around the world. Its customers include retailers, department stores, apparel brands, and lifestyle brands that sell a range of physical goods online. Borderfree generated $125 million in revenue in 2014. It has 253 employees and is headquartered in New York, NY, with offices in Tel Aviv, Israel; Dublin, Ireland; and Brighton, England.

Borderfree manages all aspects of the international shopping experience, including site localization, multi-currency pricing, payment processing, fraud management, landed cost calculation, customs clearance and brokerage and global logistics services.

Simply put, cross-border e-commerce is arguably one of the weakest links in omni-channel fulfillment, and Pitney Bowes, which already has years of experience in this area with its Global Shipping Program for eBay sellers, is positioning itself as a leader in this emerging market space.

On the TMS front, LeanLogistics announced the launch of LeanTMS Mobile, “a driver-centric interface that allows drivers to provide visibility to their activity within the LeanLogistics network.” Here are some excerpts from the press release (emphasis mine):

Drivers can quickly update LeanTMS load assignments with the easy to use smartphone interface. This streamlines the communication process, reducing administrative tasks for carrier companies by enabling the driver to update the shipper directly.

“The carrier mobile site really allows us to focus on the mobile enablement of the driver” stated Josh Hunt, head of Product Management at LeanLogistics. “We are supporting mobile connectivity for our clients and their carrier partners, allowing updates to come directly from the source that is performing the activities and removing several layers that are present today in EDI or manual processes”.

That last point gets to the heart of this solution’s value proposition: getting more timely and accurate visibility to transportation activities. The challenge is getting carriers and drivers to use it, since they work with many shippers that use different TMS solutions. The key influencer here to drive adoption will be LeanLogistics’ shipper clients, and if the solution is easy to use and proves to save the carrier time and money, it shouldn’t be a hard sell — especially if use of the mobile solution is linked to getting paid faster (e.g., payment initiated upon receiving Proof of Delivery notification via mobile device).

As I was heading to Transplace’s Shipper Symposium conference on Monday to lead a panel discussion on 3-D Printing, Drones & Driverless Trucks – Creating a Futuristic Supply Chain, I wrote that I wouldn’t be surprised if another article or two gets published about those topics by the time I landed in Dallas. Well, I was right. On Wednesday, Daimler Trucks North America unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, “the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States.”

Here are some details from the press release:

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck underwent extensive testing before the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is equipped with the Highway Pilot sensors and computer hardware is based upon a series production Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, fully certified to meet all U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The Highway Pilot links together a sophisticated set of camera technology and radar systems with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that can perform safely under a range of highway driving conditions. In total, two trucks with this equipment exist.

It’s important to note that during the demonstration drive across the Hoover Dam, there was a driver in the truck with both hands on the steering wheel — you know, for safety’s sake.

And on the 3D printing front, CloudDDM announced the launch of its advanced additive manufacturing facility located on the UPS Supply Chain Solutions Campus at UPS Worldport®. Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Leveraging a combination of innovative 3D printing technology, automation, and location on the UPS Supply Chain Solutions Campus, CloudDDM is eager to provide additive manufacturing services to the growing number of designers, engineers, and companies who want to leverage the benefits of industrial additive manufacturing (3D printing) to reduce upfront production costs, manage stock and inventory, and accelerate product development.

“We are excited to have CloudDDM as a resident on our UPS Supply Chain Solutions Campus,” said Mark Wallace, UPS President of Global Logistics and Distribution. “Locating at UPS Worldport hub allows CloudDDM to leverage our integrated network and end-of-runway location to get 3D printed parts in the hands of their customers as quickly as possible. As this technology continues to become more mainstream, UPS has the ability to scale the shipping and logistics solutions to meet the additive manufacturing services provided by CloudDDM.”

I’ll share my thoughts about these topics when I write about my takeaways from the Transplace conference, but to put it simply, it’s clear that driverless trucks, 3D printing, and drones will play an important role in supply chain management in the future. What’s unclear at the moment is their exact role, and how long until we get there. 

And with that, have a happy weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Oh, if you want to get that song out of your head, chew gum.

Song of the Week: “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

Note: LeanLogistics and Transplace are Talking Logistics sponsors.