As the global parcel industry continues to contend with falling volumes, industry experts are looking ahead. Zipline, Roadie, and last-mile delivery robot manufacturers are leading the industry forward with innovative solutions to age-old problems. However, it’s not all optimism in the global transportation industry. National negotiations are off to a bumpy start between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the bleak news keeps coming as Q1 results roll in. In an industry that’s always moving, here’s what you need to know.
DHL Supply Chain has announced intentions to invest further in robotics. According to a May 10 press release, the German-based carrier plans to expand its partnership with Locus Robotics. The expansion will see 5,000 Locus Origin AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) deployed across the carrier’s global distribution and warehouse facilities.
“The flexibility and scalability of the Locus solution has been instrumental in helping us meet the evolving demands of the e-commerce landscape and leveraging cutting-edge technology to optimize our operations and deliver an even better experience for our customers,” said Oscar de Bok, Chief Executive Officer at DHL Supply Chain.
In a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Supply Chain Dive, industry leaders debated the role of sidewalk delivery robots in a dynamic last-mile delivery landscape. Ali Kashani, CEO and Co-Founder of Serve Robotics, predicted that sidewalk delivery robots would play an integral role in last-mile supply chains: “I think you’re going to see this in every densely populated area or medium density [area], I would even say. So you don’t have to be in the middle of downtown Los Angeles for this to make sense,” Kashani said. “These robots, you’re going to see them in all of those environments as the last mile part of the supply chain.”
However, other industry experts were less rosy on the future of last-mile delivery robots. “My sense is that we’re going to be seeing a lot more consolidation in terms of the number of companies that are looking at these things,” said Nico Larco, a University of Oregon Professor of Urbanism, “and I think we’re going to have a lot more narrowly defined use cases and business models.”
Zipline, a leading provider of drone delivery solutions, has recently signed on major customers, including GNC, Pagliacci Pizza, and Associated Carriers, according to a May 10 press release. The new customers will be served by the Platform 2 drones, which produce significantly less noise than the Platform 1 models.
Irene Scher, Senior Vice President of U.S. Go-To-Market at Zipline, said, “Zipline’s instant delivery solution is faster, more convenient, and better for the environment than traditional automotive delivery. We provide the best delivery experience on earth for consumers and businesses of any size, industry, and location. We’re excited to go above and beyond for GNC, Pagliacci Pizza, and Associated Couriers’ customers.”
According to a website post, UPS-owned delivery platform Roadie plans to offer same-day delivery services for oversized items. The service, which will be called RoadieXL, offers local shippers an opportunity to ship oversized items without the inconvenience or expense of traditional dimensional pricing.
Despite unresolved supplemental negotiations, UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have moved on to talks regarding the national (or master) agreement. The two supplemental negotiations continue in Kentucky and Northern California, respectively, despite the commencement of national bargaining.
As low volumes force carriers to reconsider tried-and-true strategies, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is reducing its reliance on FedEx. According to an April 25 press release from law firm Culhane Meadows, the USPS reduced its spending with FedEx to $1.9 billion, a YoY drop of $236 million. This drop comes as the USPS works to reduce its reliance on air freight, a vital component of the Postal Service’s “Delivering for America” plan.
Fifteen Attorneys General have signed onto a legal filing seeking “to correct the mistaken and harmful panel decision” by a California Appellate Court regarding the controversial AB5 law governing contractor status. All 15 signatories of the legal filing come from states with Democratic governors, revealing the deep political divide over contractor status that exists between Democrats and Republicans.
“If allowed to stand, the panel’s decision will invite endless litigation over even the most mundane economic legislation, on subjects ranging from tax laws to worker protection,” wrote the Attorneys General, according to FreightWaves.
On May 10, roughly 80 FedEx pilots protested at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. The pilots, members of the Air Line Pilots Association, picketed to voice their frustration with ongoing negotiations between their union and FedEx, which has a considerable operations base at that airport.
In a statement obtained by Alaska News Source, Capt. Chris Norman, Chair for the FDX Master Executive Council, said, “We are trying to get our point across to our company that they need to finish the bargaining. … It’s time to finish this process and let us continue to be the pilot group that we’ve always been and that is well-respected amongst the industry.”
Recent innovations throughout the global supply chain have been laser-focused on simplifying communication and optimizing operations. However, the same cannot be said of the clothing industry. Apparel suppliers mainly rely on outdated technology like fax machines and Excel sheets.
Per a report cited by Supply Chain Dive, this lack of technology dissuades younger, tech-hungry professionals from joining the industry — a trend that may be to blame for the falling numbers of U.S. apparel factories.
In a report from the Intermodal Association of North America, Q1 2023 saw a steep decline in intermodal volumes. Total volumes fell 8.6% in the first quarter, with a total volume of 3,940,153 units. According to Logistics Management, the drop marks the seventh consecutive quarterly decline in volumes and the second largest decrease over the first quarter.
As the Biden administration continues to focus on improving supply chain resilience following the COVID-19 pandemic, much of its efforts will expand the Department of Transportation’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) initiative. The initiative, which aims to bolster supply chain resilience through data sharing, now includes 53 companies — including big-box retailers like Costco and Walmart and prominent carriers such as Maersk, J.B. Hunt, and C.H. Robinson.
According to a recent report from the Association of Supply Chain Management, salaries of those employed in the U.S. supply chain increased significantly in 2023. Salaries for U.S. supply chain professionals rose 3% YoY to an average annual salary of $98,570. The largest difference was those employed as supply chain professionals for less than a year. This group's average salary was $65,000, an increase of $5,000 over the previous year.
Grocery Wholesaler Associated Food Stores, or AFS, has announced plans to partner with robotics company Symbiotic to bring autonomous warehousing capabilities to their Utah distribution facility, according to a May 8 press release.
“While very important, a modernized distribution system is not just about automation and technology, but also about optimizing processes and empowering people,” said Roger White, AFS’ executive vice president and COO, “It’s a strategic investment that can increase efficiency and enhance our ability to service our member retailers.”
Pandemic-era vaccine requirements ended on May 12 for truck drivers crossing into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. The decision by the Biden administration to lift vaccine restrictions at the country's Northern and Southern borders will likely spur increased cross-border freight movements.
“Beginning May 12, 2023, DHS will no longer require non-U.S. travelers entering the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination upon request,” wrote the Department of Homeland Security in a May 1 website post.
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