This Week in Logistics News (June 5-9, 2017)

It was a busy week in the world of supply chain and logistics, so let’s go straight to the news that caught my attention:

As an example of how geopolitical actions can quickly and unexpectedly disrupt supply chains, cargo shipments in and out of Qatar have come to a halt after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with the country on Monday. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

The Gulf states closed off air, sea and land routes, causing a rush on supermarkets in the Qatari capital of Doha and disrupting airline travel between the nations.

Qatar, with a population of about 2.3 million, imports 80% of its food requirements from neighbors like the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, according to traders. Food mostly arrives on container ships and trucks.

“Food supplies and other products like medicine, clothes and shoes, are under siege with no container traffic and scores of trucks stuck in the border with Saudi Arabia,” a London shipping broker said. “Qatar has to figure out new supply chains, if relations are not normalized over the next two weeks.”

Figure out new supply chains within two weeks?! Make some coffee and keep the midnight oil burning!

While it’s impossible to predict and plan for every type of supply chain disruption, this incident is yet another reminder of why companies need to make supply chain risk management a continuous business process, and why they should leverage supply chain design tools to model and simulate different what-if scenarios so that they’re as prepared as possible when “What if?” turns into “What now?”

Moving on to autonomous cars and trucks, there was a lot of activity this week on that front. Here’s a quick summary:

  • From WSJ: “Delphi Automotive is joining with French bus and train operator Transdev to deploy a self-driving on-demand transportation service this year using the automotive supplier’s automated driving technology…Transdev plans to start the service later this year at a research campus south of Paris using a self-driving-capable shuttle bus equipped with Delphi’s technology…A technician will be present in the vehicles during the startup phase this year, but the companies expect to phase that out in 2018 once the service is tested and has met all regulatory requirements.”
  • From The Verge: “Lyft announced a new partnership today with Boston-based self-driving car startup NuTonomy to eventually put ‘thousands’ of on-demand, autonomous vehicles on the road. In the meantime, the two companies said they intend to launch a limited pilot in Boston within the next few months, in which Lyft users will be able to hail one of NuTonomy’s driverless vehicles by using Lyft’s app.”
  • From Reuters: Alphabet Inc’s self-driving car unit Waymo is working on developing self-driving trucks, the company said on Thursday…‘We’re taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck,’ a Waymo spokesperson said in a statement.”
  • From the WSJ: “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, speaking to a safety conference Monday, said the Transportation Department is moving quickly to update voluntary guidelines for autonomous vehicles that were published last year by the Obama administration…Ms. Chao, however, said Silicon Valley tech firms and car companies need to be more forthcoming with information so that the government can make an informed decision and the public can trust the companies and regulators…The Trump administration is aware of the pitfalls of over-regulating an emerging technology in the car business, Ms. Chao said. ‘But the pressure is mounting on the federal government to do something…the future of autonomous vehicles is very bright, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the technology is safe and secure.’”

Simply put, while many technological and regulatory hurdles still exist, the push continues to make autonomous cars and trucks a reality sooner rather than later.

On the technology front, there were plenty of announcements this week too.

FourKites launched a real-time temperature and location tracking solution for shippers. According to the press release:

Transporting temperature-sensitive goods like produce and pharmaceuticals cross-country has historically created challenges, even for vehicles equipped with the latest refrigeration and telematics systems, because of the lack of real-time connectivity between carriers and shippers.

FourKites’ solution solves that challenge by relaying load temperatures in tandem with location data every 15 minutes from leading telematics and trailer temperature tracking manufacturers. Customizable notifications alert users as soon as temperatures fall outside a specified range. Visualization and analysis tools enable shippers to review individual and aggregated load temperatures over time to spot trends and to compare against industry benchmarks to improve operationally.

In short, the value proposition of real-time tracking solutions is expanding beyond “Where’s my truck or shipment?” to “What is happening to my truck or shipment?”

In transportation management system (TMS) news, Paragon Software Systems announced that it has enhanced its route optimization software to help transport planners simplify the process of managing multi-skilled driver teams. As described in the press release:

The Paragon software will now allow a prioritized skillset to be defined for each driver group including primary and additional capabilities. The system will initially match work based on core skills to ensure the appropriate resources are available for all skilled jobs, such as product set-up, installation and disposal. Once completed, a refined plan can then be created that takes into consideration secondary skills or alternatively makes underutilized drivers available for unskilled deliveries.

By assigning skills to groups of drivers, in combination with setting vehicle characteristics and product compatibilities, transport operations can target improved fleet flexibility. It also frees up these assets to be assigned to a wider range of deliveries, without being constrained by a rigid set of skill-based restrictions. This ensures mixed deliveries, covering a range of multi-skilled added value services, can be planned without impacting the levels of efficiency or productivity.

Simply put, when it comes to fleet management solutions, the ability to take driver attributes and constraints into consideration is just as important as factoring in vehicle attributes and constraints to achieve maximum benefits.

Meanwhile, Pierbridge announced that the latest release of Transtream, its multi-carrier management software, will include support for Deliv same-day delivery services. “B2C eCommerce is driving the demand for omnichannel delivery choices, including same-day shipping from stores,” said Bob Malley, Pierbridge CEO. “The addition of Deliv to Transtream’s growing network of carrier services will give our brick and mortar retail customers an important competitive edge.”

The key takeaway here: as new service providers and modes of transportation emerge, particularly in last-mile delivery, TMS vendors will have to integrate and enable them within their solutions, and it’s already happening.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “New Song” by Warpaint