Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (December 15, 2023)

Did you know that there is an Excel World Championship — “the Olympics of competitive ‘spreadsheeting’?”

I didn’t until I read about it in the Wall Street Journal this week. As Robert McMillan reported:

Thrills were off the charts at the main tournament, where rivals battled for the Excel championship over three 30-minute sessions that included both high drama and hexadecimals. Watching the action unfold on a giant screen, the live audience screamed cheers of encouragement and surprise and marveled at the rich data types, tables, monster functions, and the dreaded #ref error flashing before them. 

Microsoft Excel is arguably the most widely used supply chain and logistics application (see “5 Reasons Why Excel Is Champ Of Supply Chain Apps”), so maybe it’s time someone introduces a similar competition in our industry.

How about a track at next year’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) annual conference where demand planners go head-to-head against each other with their custom spreadsheets to see which one comes up with the least wrong forecast? Or transportation planners can show off their Excel skills in creating delivery routes that may or may not be executable or efficient? This could attract a whole new audience to the conference. Something to consider.

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

The Achilles’ Heel of Electric Trucks

The adoption of autonomous trucks to date has not been as fast and broad as some had predicted. The same can be said of heavy duty electric trucks.

Uber Freight, however, is looking to help on both fronts. Last week the company announced a new partnership with Torc Robotics to “accelerate the development of autonomous trucks” (see my commentary from last week). And this week, Uber Freight announced a collaboration with Greenlane to “accelerate the development and installation of public charging infrastructure for Heavy Duty Battery Electric Vehicles (HD BEVs).” Here are some details from the press release:

Through this collaboration, Greenlane will leverage insights from Uber Freight’s logistics network, representing $18 billion in active Freight Under Management, to unlock critical learnings regarding the future development and installation of public charging stations on highways in North America. Uber Freight’s vast network data will augment Greenlane’s own data analysis to determine corridors that are prime candidates for early HD BEV deployment, charging infrastructure needs, and the addressability of shipping lanes for electrification. The two organizations will also explore leveraging Uber Freight’s marketplace technology to potentially create in-application charging appointment scheduling, surface Greenlane charging stations, fuel card discounts, and more directly to carriers.

In related news, as reported by Marcus Williams in Automotive Logistics, “Mercedes-Benz Trucks has delivered 12 battery-electric trucks to its logistics providers, the first of 20 eActros 300s for use in inbound logistics. The first 12 trucks will be used for just-in-time delivery of parts to the Wörth plant in Germany from the first quarter of 2024 and together they will make around 50 journeys a day…In support of the use of the e-trucks Mercedes-Benz Trucks is developing a charging infrastructure at the Wörth site.”

The Achilles’ Heel of electric trucks, however, is not a lack of charging stations or constraints related to vehicle range, weight, or cost. The main problem is the electrical grid, as I highlighted this past April in “Electric Freight Trucks: Not Happening Anytime Soon For Long-Haul Moves”: 

Even if the range, weight, and cost challenges associated with electric freight trucks can be overcome, our electric utilities might crumble under the added demand for electricity, especially when you factor in the drive to replace gasoline consumer cars with electric ones, and the push in some states to replace natural gas appliances with electric ones.

So, we might have more electric cars and trucks on the road in the future, we just won’t be able to see them because of the blackouts.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Someone Somewhere In Summertime (Live from Paisley Abbey)” by Simple Minds.