Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Looking Up




Walmart joins Amazon in proposing flying blimp warehouses to speed deliveries.

It only sounds like science fiction.

When Walmart applied for a patent for a flying blimp warehouse to speed “last mile” deliveries, it was actually playing catch up with online archrival Amazon. 

As reported by Bloomberg, Walmart filed a patent entitled “Gas-filled carrier aircrafts and methods of dispersing unmanned aircraft systems in delivering products.” According to the patent, the floating blimp would be operated remotely by a human pilot while flying at between 500 to 1,000 feet off the ground. A fleet of drones would then be used to collect and deliver items stored on board to destinations in the vicinity of the blimp.

By having a floating warehouse, Walmart could remove the expensive last mile deliveries from its network. Instead, the blimps would be deployed fully stocked with products which are then delivered by drones before the blimp returns to a base station to be restocked and refueled. There would be no traffic to deal with – until the skies become crowded with blimps and swarms of drones – and the area served by one blimp could cover dozens of delivery trucks on the ground. 

In its patent application filed two years ago, Amazon proposed a blimp warehouse traveling at heights up to 45,000 feet.  Delivery drones would save on fuel, as they would glide to their destination with gravity on their side. The blimp, said Amazon, could also hover over events such as football games so as to deliver food, drinks and souvenirs. Mobile warehouses could cover a wider distribution area compared with old-fashioned fixed warehouses that can fill orders only within a fixed driving distance. The airship could fly to one town and release a flock of drones to deliver packages, after which the drones would return to the vessel and restock while it flew to the next destination, bypassing congested roadways.

Walmart’s patent application was filed in August, but has yet to be approved. Walmart has also filed a patent for in-store drones to ferry products from the backroom to the sales floor. Amazon’s blimp concept won approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in April, 2016.

So when it comes to last mile delivery options, things are definitely looking up.


Kirk Shearer
President
TOTALogistix
www.totalogistix.com
800-989-0054 x103

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'Flex'-ing its Muscles


Amazon wants to control everything – but you knew that.

The massive online retailer is experimenting with a new delivery service intended to make more products available for free two-day delivery and relieve overcrowding in its warehouses, according to people familiar with the plan, which will push the online retailer deeper into functions handled by longtime partners United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. The service began two years ago in India, and Amazon.com has been slowly marketing it to U.S. merchants in preparation for a national expansion. Amazon is calling the confidential project Seller Flex, and began it on a trial basis this year in West Coast states with a broader roll out planned in 2018, sources said. Amazon declined to comment.

Amazon will oversee pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on Amazon.com and their delivery to customers’ homes – work that is now often handled by UPS and FedEx. Amazon could still use these couriers for delivery, but Amazon will decide how a package is sent instead of leaving it up to the seller. Handling more deliveries itself would give Amazon greater flexibility and control over the last mile to shoppers’ doorsteps, let it save money through volume discounts, and help avoid congestion in its own warehouses by keeping merchandise in the outside sellers’ own facilities.

Last year, Amazon introduced Seller Fulfilled Prime, which lets merchants who don’t stow items in Amazon warehouses still have their products listed with the Prime badge, meaning they’ll be delivered within two days. The merchants had to demonstrate they could meet Amazon’s delivery pledge, and many used UPS and FedEx for deliveries. The new service gives Amazon control over those deliveries instead, even if it continues to use third-party couriers. Seller Flex would also give Seattle-based Amazon more visibility into the warehousing and delivery operations of its merchant partners, potentially helping it make full use of their product inventory, storage space and proximity to customers while still guaranteeing quick delivery.

The project underscores Amazon’s ambitions to expand its logistics operations and wean itself off the delivery networks of UPS and FedEx. A rush of last-minute holiday orders in 2013 forced Amazon to issue refunds to shoppers who didn’t get gifts in time, highlighting the perils of being overly dependent on outside parcel services for a main part of its business pledge – quick, reliable delivery.


Amazon is relentless in developing innovative technology to increase efficiency in its supply chain. That focus can and should ‘deliver’ a message to the rest of us.


Kirk Shearer
President
TOTALogistix
800-989-0054 x103

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Enemy of My Enemy


Walmart and Google team up to battle a common foe – Amazon.


First written in Sanskrit 2,500 years ago, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” counts among mankind’s oldest precepts. The concept had Churchill and Roosevelt partnering with Stalin’s Soviet Union against Hitler during World War II, and now has mega-corporations Google and Walmart joining up to battle a common threat – Amazon. 
The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall, reported the New York Times. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.
The partnership is a testament to the heat both companies feel from internet behemoth Amazon.com. Amazon's dominance in online shopping is an existential threat to brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, while more people are starting web searches for products they might buy on Amazon instead of Google.
But working together does not ensure Walmart and Google will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options. Walmart’s website sells 67 million items, up from 10 million early last year. Amazon sells hundreds of millions of items. In July, about 83.6 million people visited Walmart’s website, only half as many visitors as Amazon had. 

Demonstrating the primacy of logistics, Walmart has been partially repurposing its retail stores as e-commerce fulfillment centers, offering in-store pickup for products ordered online including groceries, and Google Express will offer free delivery with a $95 annual membership, a direct knockoff of Amazon Prime. Walmart may never catch Amazon online, but industry experts say if their partnership with Google can make them a strong number two, that could be enough.

Kirk Shearer
President
TOTALogistix
800-989-0054 x103

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Truck Drivin' Man



YRC moves to streamline network, provide shorter hauls for drivers
 

There is a reason that truck drivers are the subject of jukeboxes full of country songs. Longhaul truckers face long hours wrestling their big rigs down the highway, and too many nights away from their honky tonk angel back home. 



Keeping their Teamsters happy wasn't the stated motive of the extensive operational changes just announced by less-than-truckload (LTL) giant YRC Freight, but is an important added benefit in an industry that has struggled to keep enough drivers in their cabs.  


The LTL carrier is adding eight distribution centers (DCs) without building any new facilities, planning to unlock underutilized capacity by converting eight existing terminals to DCs. This will speed up service and effectively add 837 doors of "transfer capacity" to the YRC network, allowing the company to handle an additional 7,000 shipments a day. 

 

Changes to YRC Freight's US network will be matched by changes in its driver workforce. The company told the Teamsters union, which represents YRC's more than 7,000 drivers, it plans to create 84 "utility employee" positions for truck drivers. Operating within a 175-mile radius of the carrier's 31 DCs, these drivers will work in shorter haul lanes than traditional linehaul drivers, and be home most nights. Along with "meet and turn" relay operations handing off trucks from one driver to another, YRC expects to eliminate 195  layover trips and 267 overnight hotel stays each night, helping drivers get home faster and more often. 

 

Besides reuniting drivers and their families, the YRC steps will translate to a 15 percent overall increase in capacity by the time the network enhancement is completed in October, said YRC Freight president Darren Hawkins. The changes come as greater demand for LTL service is tightening capacity, with 11 straight months of manufacturing growth piling shipments onto LTL docks. 

 

Emerging trends in e-commerce are seeing companies place smaller DCs closer to customers, meaning incoming freight to those centers is more likely to be LTL rather than truckload, putting increased importance on the "middle mile" of any given cargo move.

So in the immortal words of the big rig classic song -
 "Convoy," "Let them truckers roll. 10-4." 


Kirk Shearer
President
TOTALogistix
800-989-0054 x103