Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (May 15, 2020)

It started with the newspapers.

They stopped getting delivered on Monday. The next day, all television and radio stations
went dark and silent. Then on Wednesday, a loose thread was pulled
and all the social networks unravelled, like old, moth-eaten sweaters.

“Am I okay, doc?” I ask a faceless doctor.

“You’re fine, son,” he says, taking a pen from his coat pocket. “You’ve just lost the ability to see
and think beyond today.”

Confused, I ask, “Was there ever anything beyond today?” 

I still can’t see his face, but I know his eyes aren’t on me anymore; they’re focused elsewhere
and nowhere. “I don’t remember,” he says softly, as if talking to someone far away

and I am gone.


Am I the only one having weird dreams these days? 

I think this one was triggered by my decision to limit how much news I consume each day, especially from television and social media. There are too many experts, both real and self-proclaimed, and none of them know anything for sure.

We are all Schrodinger’s Cat now, simultaneously dead and alive, wondering if the sun is rising
or setting outside our box.


In this week’s supply chain and logistics news…

Trucking: Hitting Bottom?

“Shipment volumes dropped 22.7% [to April 2009 levels] vs April 2019 levels, and we believe this will mark the bottom,” according to the Cass Transportation Index Report for April 2020. “May should be better, as the U.S. economy slowly begins to re-open and some manufacturing plants turn back on (many automotive OEMs are targeting plant re-openings in the next week or two). Among the carriers, April was much like March in that if you moved groceries, home improvement, e-commerce, and consumer staples, you had steady demand, while restaurant, auto, and (mall) retail were essentially not moving anything.”

The slowdown resulted in job losses last month in both trucking and warehousing. “Trucking companies slashed 88,300 jobs in April as a jump in business moving food and medical supplies failed to compensate for plunging demand from closed industrial and retail customers,” reports Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal. “Warehousing and storage operators shed 74,100 jobs, nearly 10 times the number cut at the industry’s January 2009 low point.”

Predicting what happens from here, however, is nothing but a guess. What shape will the recovery take? Will it be V-shaped, U-shaped, W-shaped, Z-shaped, L-shaped, or some other letter? According to a Wall Street Journal article this week, many policy makers and corporate executives now expect a “swoosh” recovery. “Named after the Nike logo, it predicts a large drop followed by a painfully slow recovery, with many Western economies, including the U.S. and Europe, not back to 2019 levels of output until late next year—or beyond.”

But who really knows.

The Return of Fast Delivery?

COVID-19 hit the pause button on delivery expectations. Instead of next-day or two-day, the new norm became a week or more (or you’ll get it when you get it). I’m still waiting for a fire pit I ordered more than a week ago with an expected delivery date of “by May 20.” 

But maybe we are on the path to recovery after all. “Amazon’s one- and two-day delivery, which disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic, will return in the coming weeks as the eCommerce giant begins to accept more third-party products in its warehouses,” Bloomberg reports.

Are marshmallows considered essential goods?

The Growing Importance of BI/Analytics Capabilities

If you’re a supply chain software solution without business intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities, are you really a supply chain software solution?

Or are all supply chain software applications really BI/analytics solutions with supply chain functionality wrapped around them?

Either way, there’s no questioning the growing role and importance of BI/analytics capabilities (you can also toss in machine learning capabilities) in supply chain software.

This week, for example, BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced the launch of BluIQ by BluJay, “a data and insight analysis tool that offers real-time, actionable supply chain data in a configurable visual dashboard.” Here are some details from the press release:

“BluIQ by BluJay is designed to be a decision-support tool that sits across BluJay’s applications, extracting data from each application via APIs. This solution is part of the Data component of our DNA strategy. We’re excited about the additional value this innovative tool delivers for customers, who can make data-driven decisions as part of their operational workflow,” said David Landau, Chief Product Officer for BluJay

Users launch the BluIQ by BluJay interface by clicking a button in their application. The tool creates a new dashboard for the user, who can then add widgets to their dashboard and select data sources comprised of their saved searches in the TMS. Data is retrieved for each widget, displayed per the user’s choice of options including gauges, pie charts, bar charts, maps, and tables. Future BluIQ by BluJay releases will include integrations to Customs Management-Global, MobileSTAR Dispatch, and Transportation Management for Forwarders. Beyond this first round of integrations, the company will be evaluating further tie-ins to other BluJay solutions. Customers can create a single dashboard displaying data views from multiple applications.

If you’re a transportation manager creating and using BI/analytics dashboards, are you really a data scientist then? If so, you should ask for a raise because data scientists make a lot more money.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Happy Hour” by The Housemartins