Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (June 18, 2021)

I am back to using my 2014 laptop.

My new Apple MacBook Pro with the M1 chip that I bought just a few months ago proved to be a lemon. For no apparent reason, it would continuously restart and not shut down. After several hours with Apple on the telephone, via chat, and at the store, the decision was made to ship the laptop away to get repaired (probably need to replace the logic board, I was told). I’ve lost a week of productivity and counting.

They just don’t make them like they used to. Also, getting version 1.0 of anything comes with risks. “I told you so,” says my 2014 laptop, its cooling fan purring away like a happy cat again.

In this week’s supply chain and logistics news…

Home Depot: A Dedicated Container Ship 

Setting up a dedicated truck fleet is one way shippers have historically dealt with capacity constraints in truckload transportation (see yesterday’s “Editor’s Pick” commentary by Ben Cubitt from Transplace). Home Depot is taking a page from that playbook and applying it to ocean transportation. As reported by Melissa Repko at CNBC:

Home Depot is one of the largest importers in the country. Yet with congested ports, container shortages and Covid-19 outbreaks slowing shipments, the company made a decision: It was time to get its own boat.

“We have a ship that’s solely going to be ours and it’s just going to go back and forth with 100% dedicated to Home Depot,” President and Chief Operating Officer Ted Decker said in an interview. It marks the first time that the company has taken such a step.

Decker said the contracted ship, which will begin running next month, is just one example of the unusual measures that the company is taking as it copes with challenges that have ricocheted across the global supply chain. On rare occasions, Home Depot has also flown in power tools, faucets, electrical components, fasteners and other “smaller, higher value items” by air freight, he said. In other cases, it has opted to buy items on the spot market — even though it can cost as much as four times more than contracted rates.

In related news, the National Retail Federation sent a letter to President Biden this week requesting a meeting “with several of our retail leaders to talk about the current supply chain challenges that continue to impact prolonged economic recovery.” Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

The supply chain disruption issues, especially the congestion affecting our key maritime ports, are causing significant challenges for America’s retailers…In a recent survey of NRF members on the congestion situation, we found the following:

– Over 97% of retailers surveyed say they have been impacted by port and shipping delays.
– The most common challenges respondents mentioned were U.S. port congestion, lack of carrier capacity and lack of available containers overseas.
– More than two-thirds (70%) of respondents say they have had to add 2-3 weeks to their supply chains. 
– All respondents said their costs have increased with a majority (75%) having had to pass along some of the costs to consumers.
– Nearly all (85%) of those surveyed say they are experiencing inventory shortages because of the ongoing supply chain disruptions.

Meanwhile, as reported by Lloyd’s List, “the situation at southern China’s main export hubs around the Pearl River Delta continues to pose a significant threat to the containerised supply chain. Port congestion that has reduced work at Yantian is now spreading to other nearby container terminals as the number of vessels waiting to berth increases.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, going back to my engineering days and the second law of thermodynamics, supply chains are a system and its entropy (level of disorder) continues to increase.

But, hey, we have AI and machine learning, right?

Last-Mile Delivery: Unicorns and Smart Tires

Another logistics startup has reached so-called unicorn status: Bringg.

The company, “a leading delivery and fulfillment cloud platform provider,” announced this week that it closed a $100 million Series E investment led by Insight Partners with participation from seven existing investors. According to the press release, “the investment also sets Bringg’s market valuation to $1 billion, making it the first and only unicorn in last mile delivery and fulfillment cloud technology.”

And where would last-mile delivery be without smart tires? 

Goodyear announced this week “the first tire intelligence solution for cargo van fleets, Goodyear SightLine.” Here’s more from the press release:

Goodyear SightLine will help enable seamless, safe and reliable mobility for all vehicles starting with cargo vans serving the field service, construction and last-mile delivery industries.

Goodyear’s proprietary predictive maintenance technologies can help to address many challenges facing drivers and fleet managers today, including predicting breakdowns, minimizing downtime and monitoring tire pressure and wear for enhanced safety and more cost-efficient mobility.

“Much like smart watches that monitor vitals like heart rates and oxygen levels, Goodyear SightLine’s tire intelligence monitors the health of a tire,” said Chris Helsel, senior vice president, global operations and chief technology officer. “Goodyear SightLine takes the mystery out of understanding tires and provides proactive mobility insights to communicate when tires need service or replacement.”

I assumed that with a name like SightLine, it would also detect broken glass or nails on the road and alert drivers, but maybe that will come in version 2.0.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Sword From The Stone” by Passenger