As the transportation industry faces a bleak outlook, supply chain innovators are undertaking some heavy-duty spring cleaning. From e-commerce to ocean freight, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Just ask Gently, the delivery solution making waves on the West Coast, or look at FedEx, whose robotic team at their Memphis, Tenn., facility is about to get a bit bigger. But it’s not all Fabuloso and Windex in the transportation industry; trouble is brewing between FedEx and the ALPA, and persistent inventory issues have retail experts scratching their heads.
Target is turning to larger delivery vehicles to meet the rising demand for last-mile services, said Target executive vice president and COO John Mulligan on a May 17 earnings call. The retailer is doubling its capacity for last-mile deliveries by using SUVs and minivans rather than sedans.
“Beyond capacity,” Mulligan said, “the use of larger vehicles enables further route optimization, increasing the number of packages that can be delivered per hour.”
As national negotiations under a federal mediator continue between FedEx and the Airline Pilots Association Internationa (ALPA), a recent strike authorization vote shows that most FedEx pilots are ready to strike. With 97% participation, 99% of ALPA members voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike if needed.
“Today, FedEx pilots spoke with one unified voice and sent a clear message to management that we are willing to go the distance to secure a new contract,” Capt. Chris Norman, chair of the FedEx ALPA Master Executive Council, said in a May 17 press release, “Now is the time for FedEx to deliver a new contract that reflects the value we bring to FedEx as highly skilled professionals who deliver FedEx’s Purple Promise every day. Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. The ball is in management’s court, and it’s time for the company to get serious at the bargaining table and invest in our pilots.”
FedEx has acquired 12 more parcel-sorting robotic arms for its sorting facility in Memphis, Tenn. The purchase of the new robotic arms, manufactured by Plus One Robotics and Yaskawa Motoman, brings the total number of robotic arms working in the Memphis facility to 16. Using Plus One’s Yonder software, a human operator will remotely monitor the robotic arms used mainly for depalletizing operations.
“The technology in these depalletizing arms helps us move certain shipments that would otherwise take up valuable resources to manually offload,” Brian Marflak, FedEx vice president of Global Engineering, Research & Technology, said in a May 10 press release, “Having these systems installed allows team members to perform more skilled tasks such as loading and unloading airplanes and trucks. This has been a great opportunity for robotics to complement our existing team members and help them complete tasks more efficiently.”
As businesses continue to compete on the last mile, delivery start-up Gently is bringing a new approach to its Los Angeles operations. After completing its first deliveries in April, the delivery provider plans to expand last-mile operations through its driver-owned and operated nano-delivery centers to provide customers with fast, effective last-mile service.
“It’s a bit of a modular and agile approach, and we want to keep it modular and agile because consumer behavior and demand changes so quickly,” Gently CEO Elian Pres-Gurwits said.
According to Descartes’ Eighth Annual Broker and Forwarder Benchmark Survey, the buzz surrounding the difficult freight market is concealing an increase in shipment size. The survey polled 272 participants, revealing that shipment sizes have increased despite falling overall freight demand. Of those surveyed, 29% said shipment sizes had risen by more than 5% since last year. This represents a notable increase, as almost 70% of respondents noted larger shipment sizes in Descartes’ 2022 survey.
In a May 17, 2023 article from Supply Chain Dive, Flexport Senior Vice President of SMB Product and Technology Parisa Sadrzadeh said that Flexport’s recent purchase of e-commerce platform Shopify’s Logistics operations includes storage provider Deliverrr, as well as Shopify’s network of third-party warehouses in the U.S. In addition to the third-party warehouses, the deal will include several warehouses that were previously owned and operated by Shopify Logistics.
Following Pandemic-era inventory shortages, today’s inventory planners are finding themselves faced with elevated inventory levels. “I’ve worked at multiple apparel retailers recently that have more inventory than I’ve ever seen,” Matt Garfield, managing director with FTI Consulting, said in a recent interview with Supply Chain Dive, “It looks like you’re walking into a peak season distribution center and we were in the middle of February, March.”
As Shein navigates increased regulatory scrutiny around the use of forced labor within its supply chain, the DTC fast-fashion retailer has announced that it will contribute $55M to its Supplier Community Empowerment Program. The additional investment would bring Shein’s total contributions to the program to $70M by 2028.
“The supplier community is the foundation for the sustainable development of the fashion ecosystem,” Adam Whinston, Global Head of Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) at Shein, said in an April 25 press release, “and SHEIN will continue its efforts to empower this group, deepening the industry’s innovation capabilities, and promoting on-demand and lean production models for a more sustainable industry.”
After years of steady rate increases, eBay and Etsy are offering shippers a glimmer of hope. According to reporting from The Loadstar, the e-commerce platforms told customers that USPS would be lowering rates by as much as 18%, though the decrease would be smaller for most services. The news comes as parcel markets become increasingly volatile and mark a welcome shift in market trends for e-commerce shippers.
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