This Week in Logistics News (July 25-29, 2016)

“Your compressor is dead.” Those are not the words you want to hear from the technician who comes to service your central air conditioner.

“Dead as in I need a new one, or dead as in a new part will bring it back to life?” I asked him, even though I already knew the answer.

“Dead is dead,” the technician said in his thick Irish brogue, then he shook my hand and left. Thankfully, it was only 95 degrees outside yesterday.

Now, before I spontaneously combust in my house-turned-sauna, let’s go to this week’s supply chain and logistics news:

Drones made the headlines again this week, led by (surprise, surprise) Amazon and its plans to increase drone testing in the UK. As reported in The Telegraph:

[Amazon won] approval from the [UK] Government to lift strict flying restrictions in a major boost to its plans for unmanned delivery aircraft.

Amazon’s agreement with the [Civil Aviation Authority] grants it a series of concessions on drone flying rules. Amazon will be able to operate its vehicles without a direct line of sight, and will be able to trial “sense and avoid” technology that lets the drones automatically evade obstacles in the air.

Unlike other drone flights, which require a pilot to be in control of a drone all times, Amazon will also be able to allow one pilot to control multiple autonomous vehicles. The restrictions are only being lifted in certain “controlled spaces” approved by the CAA.

Although the CAA is moving faster than the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) here in the U.S. in allowing drone testing, things continue to progress here too — if you call delivering 7-11 Slurpees by drone progress. As reported by TechCrunch:

During the 7-Eleven delivery, which took place in Reno, Nevada on July 10th, [drone delibery service provider] Flirtey successfully transported: Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee and candy to the home of the family who placed the order.

Drone delivery could prove especially useful to families with children who cannot easily leave the house when they have an urgent need for items like over the counter medicines or milk, [7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins] said.

Check out the video:

As I wrote last week, in addition to using drones in rural areas and developing countries for medicine delivery, disaster relief, and humanitarian purposes, I believe more a realistic operating model is using drones to deliver packages to stations where consumers can pick them up themselves or where local couriers can pick them up for final mile delivery.

In other technology news, Freightos announced “the launch of the world’s first online marketplace for international freight, providing instant comparison, booking, and management of freight services from multiple logistics providers.” Here are some details from the press release:

Prior to this launch, Freightos automated millions of freight price quotes for some of the world’s largest freight forwarders including Nippon Express, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, and CEVA Logistics, as well as massive supply chain companies including Sysco Foods, Panasonic USA, and Marks & Spencer. The same routing and pricing technology now powers the Freightos Marketplace giving SME importers and retailers the unprecedented ability to compare, book, and manage freight rates in real-time. Initially the Freightos Marketplace is focused on US imports from China, by air and ocean.

“Booking a flight has been electronic for 50 years, but the cargo on airplanes, trucks, and ships is still booked manually. This cannot continue,” said Robert Mylod, investor and director of Freightos, and former CFO of the $60+ billion online travel marketplace Priceline Group. “Growing global trade, e-commerce B2B sales, and sprawling dynamic supply chains demand the transparency and efficiency of online freight. Just like passenger travel went online to accommodate the demands of a growing market, Freightos is finally ushering in a much needed digital marketplace for freight.”

Whether it’s in trucking or freight forwarding, technology-led startups are looking to change the status quo in transportation. No doubt, there’s plenty of inefficiency in existing transportation processes, but there’s also plenty of inertia to overcome. Some of these startups will succeed (and likely get bought by larger entrenched players) and many more will fail. But change is coming, if not sooner, then later. For related commentary, see Are Today’s Transportation Tech Startups the Uber of Trucking or the Tinder of Trucking? and The Rebirth of Transportation Marketplaces.

On the transportation management systems front, Kuebix announced Kuebix® TMS with Premier Apps and Integrations. Kuebix TMS is a subscription transportation management system (TMS) built on According to the press release:

Companies start with the core Kuebix TMS, a Software as a Service (SaaS) logistics solution that offers LTL, truckload and parcel shipment rating, booking and tracking, as well as invoice audit, claims management and carrier pay…Next, companies choose from a broad suite of Kuebix Premier Apps. Available Premier Apps include: order consolidation, route optimization, dock management (scheduling & yard), load boards, vendor allowance, vendor compliance, produce management, RFP and brokerage/fleet management…Finally, for companies that require access to simple or complex data environments, the Kuebix in-house team offers Integrations with any data source including ERP systems and IoT devices such as temperature monitors in trailers.

This is yet another example of how the TMS market is becoming more barbell shaped — that is, some TMS solutions are becoming broader, more integrated, and feature-rich (multi-mode, multi-geography, complex optimization), while others are offering more limited capabilities, but with a stronger focus on ease of use, faster deployment, affordable and transparent pricing, and meeting the needs of the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market.

Finally, C.H. Robinson reported a 1.7 percent increase in total net revenues and 4.3 percent increase in net income in Q2 2016 compared to the same period last year. A 21.8 percent decrease in intermodal revenues was the main drag on performance in the quarter, but it was offset by a 24 percent increase in “other logistics services” revenues, which includes managed services, warehousing, and small parcel. The strong growth was primarily from managed services, which validates a point I’ve been making for a long time: what shippers want today is the right mix of technology, managed services, and advice. For related commentary, see Putting 3PLs and Software Vendors in a Box.   

And with that, it’s time to break my piggy banks and find a HVAC contractor. Have a happy and cool weekend!

Song of the Week: “Some Like It Hot” by The Power Station