This Week in Logistics News (September 21-25, 2015)

The Pope addressed the U.S. Congress yesterday and he called on our leaders to show mercy and compassion to truck drivers, encouraged them to work together to pass a long-term highway funding bill, and he cautioned our lawmakers about moving too quickly on enabling a world “where birds with blades for wings cover our skies,” an apparent reference to drones.

Actually, he didn’t say any of that, but can you imagine the headlines today if he had?

Other than the Pope, it was a relatively quiet week for supply chain and logistics news, so let’s go straight to it:

What do you get when you mix two of the hottest IT trends together, namely social collaboration and wearable devices? Nothing as delicious as a Reese’s peanut butter cup just yet, but Infor is taking steps to find out. The company announced this week that its Infor Ming.le™ and Infor Business Intelligence (BI) applications are now available for the Apple Watch. From the press release:

By providing wearable access to Infor Ming.le, users may now directly interact, accept requests and provide approvals, to drive enterprise business processes without the use of a computer or tablet. The Infor BI application will provide mobile users with the ability to process actionable insights in real-time, allowing for easier and more accurate decision-making. The addition of the Infor Ming.le and Infor BI applications for Apple Watch users signals a substantial shift in the way enterprise knowledge is utilized.

The Apple Watch has yet to catch fire with consumers, and even less so with IT departments, so Infor is way ahead of the curve here. But whether it’s the Apple Watch or some other wearable device (see augmented reality and Wearable Devices: The New User Interface for Logistics Software), there is no doubt that the way we communicate, collaborate, and interface with enterprise applications will change in the years ahead, and that social networking and mobile/wearable devices will drive that change.

In transportation news, the American Trucking Associations reported that its advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 0.9% in August. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello pointed to soft housing starts and falling factory output as contributing factors. Despite the dip last month, tonnage was up 3.3% year-to-date through August, compared with the same period last year. Looking ahead, Costello is concerned “about the high level of inventories throughout the supply chain [that] could have a negative impact on truck freight volumes over the next few months.”

Meanwhile, in the Wall Street Journal this week, Loretta Chao writes about how rising costs and regulations, including the pending electronic logging devices (ELD) rule, are negatively impacting small trucking companies and owner-operators. Here’s a notable excerpt:

“Everybody’s quitting, all us old-timers are done. We’re done with the regulations,” said Eric Peterson, 47 years old, in Burlington, Wis. He drove his own truck for 17 years, but recently decided to sell it because he could no longer afford to make payments. He is now driving for an hourly wage for a local carrier. He said owner-operators haven’t seen the benefits of rising freight rates, and restrictions such as a ban in California on trucks made before 2010 have reduced work for small companies, which update their fleets less often.

A key takeaway is that we often think of the trucking industry as a homogenous entity, but in reality, the economics and interests of small carriers — those that operate 20 or fewer trucks, which represent 96 percent of the market — and the economics and interests of large carriers are often very different and conflicting. In this case, what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

The Wall Street Journal also published an article this week on how “retailers’ powerful chief merchants, once lionized for their knack for spotting trends, are finding their intuitions being displaced by algorithms.” The article goes on to say:

Companies increasingly are relying on number crunching rather than a top merchant’s instinct as they try to combat sluggish sales and changing shopper behavior. Driving the trend are big-data tools popularized by online retailers that take the guesswork out of picking goods.

But I believe there are downsides to relying only on software and algorithms to make smart decisions, as I discussed in Is Software Making Us Dumb?, and as Gwen Manto, the former chief merchandising officer of Sports Authority, comments in the WSJ article:

[Ms. Manto] remembers the first time she saw a GoPro wearable camera at a trade show in 2010. She knew it would be a hit and bought all of the manufacturer’s supply on the spot. Her instinct turned out to be right.

Ms. Manto said that had she been making a similar purchase today, she would have first had to study reams of data to determine how similar cameras had been selling and at what price.

“You now need so much data before you make a decision that opportunities can pass you by,” said Ms. Manto, who left Sports Authority in 2012 and is now head of product innovation at, a health and wellness company.

I wonder what the Pope thinks about this trend?

And with that, have a happy weekend!

P.S. If you’re attending the CSCMP Annual Conference next week in San Diego, make sure you attend my session “Building Supply Chain Talent for 2050” (Tuesday, Sep. 29, 3:45-5:00 pm in Room 1B),  where Angie Freeman, Chief Human Resources Officer at C.H Robinson, and Michelle Godwin, Director of Fulfillment at, will join me on stage to share their perspective and expertise on the topic, and to lead breakout table discussions with attendees.

Song of the Week: “Return to the Moon” by El Vy