This Week in Logistics News (May 28 – June 1, 2018)

I’ve been using the same headshot photo for over 16 years. Whenever I email it to conference organizers for speaking engagements, I expect them to reply back with a “Come on Adrian, are you kidding me?!” — but I keep getting away with it. I’ve remained forever young on PowerPoint slides and web pages for almost two decades.

But, alas, I’ve decided to retire that photo. Earlier this month, at the BluJay Solutions SOAR 2018 Conference, I had a new headshot taken, courtesy of FourKites (one of the conference sponsors). Here’s my new headshot photo, which I plan to use for the next 20 years or until I retire, whichever comes first.

Moving on, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

June 1, 2018: A New Day That Will Live in Infamy?

President Trump decided to move forward with imposing tariffs on metals imported from the EU, Canada, and Mexico. As the New York Times reported yesterday, “The European Union, Canada and Mexico, which will face 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, quickly denounced the action and drew up lists of tit-for-tat measures, many aimed at parts of the United States where President Trump enjoys his strongest political support.”

Canada has already outlined $12.8 billion in retaliatory tariffs on American exports — including steel, aluminum, ketchup, insecticides and laundry machines — which will go into effect July 1, 2018.

Meanwhile, as reported by Reuters, “Mexico announced what it described as ‘equivalent’ measures on a wide range of U.S. farm and industrial products, including pork legs, apples, grapes, cheese, steel and other goods.”

June 1, 2018: The day the U.S. attacked its allies with tariffs, triggering a trade war?

The following paragraph from the NYT article sums up the situation:

By keeping trading partners guessing, the president has sought to create leverage in trade negotiations, including in talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. But in the process, he has sowed an atmosphere of chaos among allies as well as manufacturers uncertain about the ultimate impact on their vast supply chains [emphasis mine].

An atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty — the worst possible combination for supply chain executives to work in.

None of this should come as a complete surprise, however. “There are plenty of changes, risks, and uncertainties related to global trade that companies need to keep a close eye on in order to respond quickly and effectively to whatever happens in the months ahead,” I wrote back in December 2017 as part of my predictions for the coming year. Companies that have been modeling and simulating the impact of these tariffs — and other potential changes and disruptions — over the past few weeks and months (or even years) will be able to respond faster and more intelligently than those convening for the first time this morning asking “What do we do now?”

For related commentary, check out Navigating the Ever-Changing Global Trade Landscape.

“Hey J, Walmart Launches Jetblack”

Hey Alexa, Hey Siri, Hey Google — there’s a new member in the lexicon of e-commerce: Hey J.

J is Jetblack, a startup company within Store No. 8, the incubation arm of Walmart. It’s a same-day delivery service where customers can place orders using text messages (either typed or voiced). According to Reuters, shoppers can order items “from and even websites of rival retailers [like cosmetics retailer Sephora]…Jetblack has been launched in parts of New York City, with plans to roll it out to the rest of the United States over time…Jetblack, which is available with a monthly membership fee of $50, will offer same-day and next-day delivery at no additional cost.”

$600 per year for Jetblack versus $119 per year for Amazon Prime.

Since there’s no such thing as free same-day or next-day delivery, Jetblack’s membership fee makes a lot more economic sense, but will consumers (beyond upper middle class professionals in NYC, San Francisco, and other large expensive cities) be willing to pay 5X for this service?

I think the odds are against it, but one thing is clear: chatbots and digital assistants will play a growing role in how we order goods online moving forward.

No TMS Does It All: DHL Launches Connected TMS in the UK

As the narrator states in the video below introducing Connected TMS, “DHL extensively reviewed the [transportation management system] market, however no single off-the-shelf system met DHL’s needs, so by combining these best-of-breed technologies [including Oracle OTM, Quintiq, and Microlise], DHL Supply Chain created its own bespoke solution.”

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

Connected TMS is a bespoke digital network that connects customers to DHL’s whole transport capability, as well as sub-contracted partners, allowing them to utilise DHL’s network regionally or nationally according to their volume requirements.

All customer orders are processed through TMS to allow planners to create the most efficient networks possible from all of the available options. TMS optimises cost by maximising the use of existing space, reducing empty miles and carbon emissions.

TMS feeds practical optimised routes to drivers then tracks their journeys. Customer service teams have real-time status updates and proof of delivery, as well as live visibility of challenges, enabling them to find solutions.

By managing all transport data in one place, DHL can access operational insights for customers allowing better forecasting and planning.

I haven’t seen a demo of the solution, but based on the description, DHL isn’t breaking new ground here. For me, the most interesting part of the announcement is that the company had to bring together multiple solutions to meet its needs. Despite the progress that has been made over the years in expanding the functional footprint of transportation management systems, the reality is that there’s still no such thing as a “one-stop-shop” TMS, particularly for companies (shippers and third-party logistics providers alike) that have diversified operations and requirements.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Forever Young” by Alphaville