I have written about drones a lot here in the past, and all the practical (and often times impractical) applications they have been used for. I saw an interesting story earlier this week about how a police department in a small Maryland city is using drones in its effort to thwart illegal dirt bike riding within city limits. Police in Hagerstown are deploying a surprisingly large fleet of low-cost drones and training more than 20 percent of the department’s officers on how to fly them. In the past two weeks, Hagerstown police report they have seized at least 15 illegally operated motorcycles and made multiple arrests. In one incident, police say they used a drone to track riders after one allegedly hit a police car as an officer tried to make an arrest. Video released by police shows the riders speeding through the city, and at times, riding off road on pedestrian walkways. Apparently unaware they were being tracked, the riders went to a home and stashed the bikes away. The drone was still hovering above as officers calmly drove up after the bikes were hidden to make arrests safely. The drones used heat-seeking camera to track the dirt bikes as they fled from the area. And now on to this week’s logistics news.
For the first time since June 2020, global supply chain capacity is now underutilized, indicating a shift to a buyers’ market, according to an analysis by supply chain software provider GEP. That assessment comes as a result of 10 months of subdued demand, inventory de-stocking, and high interest rates, the New Jersey-based company said in its “The GEP Global Supply Chain Volatility Index.” That index fell below zero in April to -0.04, from 0.32 in March, a striking contrast from the picture a year ago when GEP’s index stood at 4.61, one of the highest levels of volatility in the 20 years of data. According to GEP, the April numbers show that while global demand for raw materials, commodities, and components remains subdued, it is much improved from the trough in December 2022, indicating some stability in the face of consistently high interest rates and a global manufacturing sector under intense pressure.
DHL Supply Chain is once again expanding its fulfillment automation agreement with Locus Robotics, this time pledging to deploy 5,000 autonomous mobile robots worldwide. The Locus Origin AMRs will be fully deployed in multiple of DHL Supply Chain’s 1,500 warehouses and distribution centers by the end of the year, according to a press release. The logistics provider has already deployed 3,000 AMRs globally with over 2,000 in North America. According to Sally Miller, global digital transformation officer at DHL Supply Chain, the need for autonomous robots is being fueled by three factors: ongoing labor challenges, increased investments, and rise in e-commerce. The logistics provider will use the expanded fleet to improve worker productivity, order accuracy, speed, and efficiency. “LocusBots specifically increase productivity by 2X-3X while lowering operational and labor costs while providing unparalleled flexibility to scale as needs change or there are opportunities for growth,” Miller said.
As customer demands for faster delivery increase, Amazon is focusing on using artificial intelligence to speed up deliveries by minimizing the distance between its products and customers. Stefano Perego, vice president of customer fulfilment and global ops services for North America and Europe at Amazon, outlined how the company is using AI when it comes to logistics. One area is in transportation, such as mapping and planning routes, taking into account variables like the weather, Perego said. Another area is when customers search from products on Amazon to help them find the right goods. But a key focus right now for Amazon is using AI to figure out where to place its inventory. Amazon has been focusing on a so-called “regionalization” effort to ship products to customers from warehouses closest to them rather than from another part of the country. But doing so requires technology that is capable of analyzing data and patterns in order to predict what products will be in demand and where, and this is where AI comes into play.
Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), the makers of Nestle breakfast cereal, has unveiled its 2050 Net Zero Roadmap, which it claims will be used to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. According to CPW, the roadmap comes from an external consulting firm called Quantis, which took note of the total emissions across CPW as part of a large-scale audit that involved working with many employees and affiliates, including farmers and logistics providers. The audit determined that CPW emitted 1.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, a result that will serve as the baseline for measuring progress. The roadmap includes five key areas:
- Sourcing ingredients: which involves using regenerative agricultural methods such as working with farmers to reduce their dependency on conventional agrichemicals and transitioning toward 100% deforestation-free ingredients.
- Transforming the product portfolio: which involves choosing ingredients with lower carbon footprints, repurposing byproducts or waste materials into new products and continuing to oversee circular economy business models.
- Evolving packaging: which involves making packaging 100 percent designed for recycling by 2025.
- Moving toward cleaner operations: which involves reducing waste and switching to alternate renewable energy sources
- Driving toward cleaner logistics: which involves maximizing space in vehicles, reducing fuel consumptions, and making 100% of the company’s internal shuttles electric by 2025.
Digital grocery continues to see growth as consumers become more comfortable with the concept post-global pandemic. Online grocery skyrocketed during the pandemic, but now has become part of the norm as demonstrated by the overall online grocery sales for April totaling $8.2 billion, up 0.9 percent year-over-year. As the market continues to evolve, a recent shopping survey from analytics and strategic insight firm Brick Meets Click and e-commerce technology software company Mercatus unveils the uptick was driven by a rebound in monthly active users (MAUs) and a higher average order value (AOV). While online grocery sales were up for the month of April, year-over-year performance varied widely across the three key segments: Delivery sales increased 20 percent, pickup decreased 3 percent, and ship-to-home plunged 19 percent. That said, U.S. online grocery sales have inched up 1 percent versus a year ago.
The United States and Mexico are pushing forward with an aggressive investment into the international ports of entry along the nearly 2,000 miles of their shared boundary. The southern border – a complex network of more than 44 active ports that facilitate the world’s largest number of international crossings – has a massive impact on both nations’ economies. With trade between the two countries exceeding $1 million each minute, July 2022 alone saw “more than $53 billion crossing the southern border via trucks and trains,” according to a 2022 nonpartisan study by The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. At the 2023 North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City earlier this year, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pledged to invigorate the trade sector between the two countries. Utilizing the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package, the U.S. has pledged $3.4 billion “to construct, acquire, repair and alter” 26 land ports of entry – 20 at the Canadian border and six at the southern border. Mexico has pledged $1.5 billion between 2022 and 2024.
Social media exploded over the weekend with reports of truck drivers planning to boycott moving freight into or out of Florida in response to the state’s new law regarding migrants. The state government recently passed a bill targeting undocumented immigrants by requiring employers to check that workers are authorized to work in the U.S. The Florida bill was signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis and takes effect July 1. “My truck will not be going to Florida at all. I’m pretty sure we can all come together as a Latino community and boycott Florida as a whole because what they are doing to our brothers and sisters out there is not fair,” one trucker said in a TikTok video. In another TikTok video, a truck driver said, “Truckers, don’t enter the state of Florida. Let’s be united as Latinos in defense of our Latin American brothers who are being assaulted by this very stupid law, which incites hatred and discrimination.”
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Bad Boys by Inner Circle.