Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (March 27, 2020)

Speedy the hamster is gone.

Not gone as in dead, but gone as in escaped.

Speedy is my daughter’s pet. He was living with her in college and she brought him home for spring break. He was keeping me up one night running on his wheel, so I moved his cage into the living room. When we all got up in the morning, Speedy was gone.

(He escaped through an attachment on his cage that must have come loose when I moved the cage.)

That was two and a half weeks ago. We have food traps all around the house, but still no sign of Speedy.

I think he’s enjoying his freedom too much. He doesn’t mind social distancing. Our house is not a cage for him, but an endless universe of time and space.

We’re the hamsters now.


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

Coronavirus: Operating At The Extremes

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing a spike in unemployment as many businesses close and demand for many products sharply decreases. 

The novel coronavirus is causing a spike in hiring as demand for food and household staples surge, along with demand for home delivery.

Many companies find themselves at one of these two extremes: a huge spike in demand and business activity due to the pandemic or a huge decline in both. Operating at either extreme, however, is creating immense challenges.

We see these two extremes reflected in the trucking industry: “The coronavirus pandemic is whipsawing the trucking industry, as retailers clamor for delivery of food and household staples while lockdowns aimed at curbing contagion shut other businesses, leaving rigs empty on the return trip,” writes Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s more from the article:

The sudden spikes and dips in demand are throwing freight networks off kilter. Trucks moving stepped-up shipments of perishables, cleaning products and paper goods are having trouble finding cargo to fill trailers on the return, leaving carriers to run more trucks empty.

Some truckers, [Mac Pinkerton, president of freight broker C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.’s North American Surface Transportation division] said, want to avoid areas with shelter-in-place orders “based on a lack of confidence in finding outbound freight.”

And we see these two extremes in the retail industry too, as Suzanne Kapner reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Online sales for apparel and footwear retailers plunged in the first two weeks of March, compared with the same period a year ago, falling 37% on March 11 alone, according to Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks electronic receipts.

By contrast, online sales at general-merchandise retailers have soared, jumping 50% in one day, March 13, compared with a year ago. Giant sellers such as Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart have struggled to keep up with the surge in demand, and those two companies are among about a dozen large retailers looking to hire roughly 500,000 people in coming weeks.

Which extreme do you find yourself in? How are you navigating through this crisis? Post a comment and let us know.

In Technology News: FourKites, BluJay Solutions, Trucker Tools, and Command Alkon

Some highlights from the supply chain and logistics technology realm:

FourKites announced this week that it is acquiring TrackX Holdings Inc.’s Yard Management, Dock Management and Gate Control solutions “in order to create Dynamic Yard, a new supply chain visibility solution that extends real-time visibility into the yard. By integrating FourKites real-time logistics data and predictive ETAs with TrackX’s leading yard management products, enterprises will – for the first time – be able to proactively manage yards and warehouses based on real-time signals from trucks in-transit and trucks on-site.”

BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced that its customs management software in Germany, Customs Management-ZABIS®, is officially certified on ATLAS 9.0, the electronic system used by the German Federal Customs Administration. “ATLAS (Automatisiertes Tarif- und lokales Zoll-Abwicklungssystem) is Germany’s main electronic customs system used to organize customs declarations processing including NCTS, import, NEE (subsequent recovery, reimbursement or remission for import), temporary storage, bonded warehouse, and inward processing, declarations and import levy notifications.”

A number of technology companies are also offering free solutions or new capabilities to help companies navigate through this coronavirus crisis:

Trucker Tools (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced “two initiatives designed to help brokers and truckers overcome the unprecedented challenges of sourcing, securing and managing transportation operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Here are some details from the press release:

Waiver of overage fees and enabling unlimited use of the Trucker Tools industry-leading platform for real-time visibility of truckload shipments in transit, as well as when and where trucks are available for their next load. The fee waiver is in effect for 60 days and applies to current and new customers.

A new, COVID-19 section of the Trucker Tools Mobile Driver App, serving as a clearinghouse for information, resources and other support services to help truckload providers manage the challenges of operating safely and successfully in the current pandemic environment. Nearly 900,000 independent owner-operators and some 130,000 small-fleet operators utilize Trucker Tools’ mobile driver app.

Command Alkon has deployed “an eTicketing Essentials offering to help eliminate paper handling of heavy materials tickets while reducing person-to-person interaction at the plant, quarry, and on the jobsite. As part of our commitment to ensuring our valued customers stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times, we are offering eTicketing Essentials via our CONNEX Platform for free through June 30th.”

As linked above, ClearMetal and Elementum are also offering free solutions.

And with that, it’s time to look for Speedy. Stay safe and healthy. Have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Stand or Fall” by The Fixx