Tag Archives: logistics and warehousing

Flying Warehouses & Fashion Buyouts – Amazon Dominates Headlines

No sooner had 2017 started than Amazon appeared in the news in a big way. From flying warehouses, to buyouts of fashion chains, no-one dominates the headlines quite like the online giant.

flying warehouse

Disruption. It was a buzzword of 2016, and even if the word is falling out of favour, the activity looks set to continue this year. And the company at the forefront (again) of this disruption is Amazon.

The online giant has proven time and again it’s not content to rest on it laurels. So when the company appeared across the news headlines for a variety of reasons, you might not have been surprised. However, when you consider the headlines it was making, you might think again.

Flying Warehouses – The New Reality

Many companies will consider the cost of new facilities to meet demand trends in their strategies. Amazon, however, appear to have bypassed the real estate question with their proposed flying warehouse.

The company submitted patents late in 2016 for these warehouses, which would be serviced by a fleet of drones. The purpose of the “airborne fulfilment centre” would be to visit spectator-heavy events (think music festivals, sports events) where they could sell in-demand goods.

Analytics firm, CB Insights, were responsible for finding the flying warehouse patent, originally filed in 2014.  Additional patents serve to outline other plans in line with the warehouses too. These include a fleet of shuttles to keep warehouses stocked, the creation of an interconnected network of drones, as well as docking stations for drones to allow them to be picked up by the shuttles.

A diagram from Amazon’s patent (image courtesy of South China Morning Post)

The idea might sound a touch fantastical, but there are serious potential benefits that Amazon could realise. Not only would it save Amazon money in building warehouses, but it would also save on energy costs. Drones would be able to glide down to deliveries before being picked up.

Add to this using the airships as flying billboards, and Amazon could sell advertising space above some of the world’s biggest events.

This could represent a huge step change in the retail environment, with Amazon at the forefront. And you wouldn’t bet against them making it a reality. After all, it wasn’t long ago they completed the first drone delivery – something people dismissed when the idea was first proposed.

The Fastest Fashion of All?

It’s not just logistics and warehousing that Amazon are interested in disrupting either. There are strong rumours in the USA that Amazon are set to purchase American Apparel out of bankruptcy.

The clothing retailer went into bankruptcy in November for a second time. Now, with bids submitted late last week, it is suggested that Amazon might come out victorious. The move would fall in line with Amazon’s strategy to add to it’s nascent fashion arm.

The buyout would help to protect 4,500 jobs in America, and allow them to access American Apparel’s 100 plus stores across the country. It could also give Amazon a political boost following heavy criticism of its practices from President-elect Donald Trump.

Throughout his Presidential campaign, Trump criticised Amazon (amongst others) over its tax payments and business model. However, by purchasing American Apparel and maintaining its ‘Made in America’ promise, it’s thought that it may help smooth tensions between the company and the future President.

Technology Trends

Finally, Amazon has also been making headlines in the technology world. Even without attending the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Amazon is making its presence felt.

Not only is Amazon’s ‘Alexa‘ AI assistant gaining in popularity, it’s also the chosen system for many other companies. Prominent companies, including Ford, LG, and Lenovo have all opted for Alexa as the AI interface in some of their products.

Increasing number of products are integrating voice commands, and Amazon’s decision to release an Alexa developer kit last year appear to be paying off. The company is seen as the early mover in this space, and looks set to continue its dominance over its rivals.

Even if there is still potential for glitches in the system delivering unwelcome surprises!

Do you think Amazon will make its flying warehouses a reality? Is this the next step in retail? Let us know in the comments below.

With the new year flying past, we’ve saved you some time by searching out this week’s top headlines…

Tesla’s Gigafactory Begins Mass Production of Battery Cells

  • In partnership with Panasonic, Tesla has begun producing lithium-ion battery cells for energy storage products and the Model 3 vehicle.
  • The Gigafactory is being built in phases, with manufacturing beginning inside finished sections. It is expected to be the largest building in the world when completed.
  • The current structure is only 30 per cent complete, yet houses 4.9 million square feet of operational space.
  • Tesla anticipates cost reductions through increasing automation, process design, locating most manufacturing processes under one roof and economies of scale.  

Read more on the Tesla website

Trump “Personally Involved” in Procurement Decisions

  • An analysis of Donald Trump’s campaign promises and policies has revealed that he is unlikely to make significant changes to U.S. Defence procurement policy.
  • However, he will seek to be personally involved in the negotiation of major acquisitions.
  • The President-elect tweeted about cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet, and encouraged Boeing to compete with its F-18 Super Hornet.
  • Trump’s focus appears to be on technology that is immediately available rather than future research and development, and leans towards Airforce and Navy investment rather than Army.

Read more at Defense News 

Top Supply Chain Universities Ranked in U.S.

  • SCM World has released the results of a survey ranking the top institutions for Supply Chain courses in the U.S.
  • Practitioners were asked to list their top three institutions that are “markers of supply chain talent”,
  • The top five places went to: Michigan State University; Western Michigan University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Penn State University; and Arizona State University.
  • Connection to industry, through practical education and internships, was also flagged as an important factor in the results.

Read more at Forbes

Apple Removes New York Times from App Store

  • Apple has removed the New York Times App from its Chinese app store, in compliance with a request from the Chinese Government.
  • The Chinese Government began blocking the NYT website after a series of articles on then Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, in 2012.
  • An Apple spokesperson stated the reason for the removal was “that the app is in violation of local regulations”.
  • Both Apple and Chinese authorities declined to comment on what regulations had been violated, or if the app would reappear in the future.

Read more at the New York Times

Why The Future of Logistics is Dynamic – And Huge!

The market value of the logistics industry is on the rise. But in order to maximise this value, organisations need more dynamic strategies.

dynamic warehousing

Logistics has not been immune to the global changes and shake-ups during 2016. However, in spite of this volatility, the importance, and size, of the Logistics industry has continued to grow. In the era of on-demand everything, organisations need to ensure logistics strategies are able to keep up with customer requirements.

As with any other market or industry, the changes being seen bring risk and reward in equal measure. New technology, new entrants into the market, and demand can boost the agile, and bring down the inflexible. As we have seen in the shipping industry, there’s no guarantees to be had from size and longevity if you can’t meet demand.

And with the global Logistics and Transportation Industry expected to reach a market value of $15.5 trillion in the next decade, the rewards for staying on track are obvious.

Growing Global Value

The estimated increasing value was highlighted in a new study from Transparency Market Research, released last week. The current market value of the industry is estimated at $8.1 trillion, with an estimated 54.6 billion tonnes of goods handled in 2015.

From their research TMR expect this value to nearly double in the next 8 years, to $15.5 trillion, with global logistics companies handling over 90 billion tonnes of goods.

What is key to note is that the industry is not dominated by one or more major player. This makes for an attractive proposition for new players to get a slice of the pie. Currently, the big four companies – Deutsche Post DHL, Ceva Logistics, UPS, and FedEx – control less than 15 per cent of the market.

New entrants tend to enter the market with newer technologies, use of data analytics, or, for companies like Deliveroo, solve the problem of, and meet customer demand for, the so-called “last mile” logistics.

Some retailers are even choosing to move their logistics back in house thanks to new strategies available to them (more on that shortly!). There is also increasing collaboration, with larger organisations working more closely with smaller, newer companies, whose service complements their own.

Apart from being a great way of sharing best practice, it also serves as a lesson to other industries, procurement included.

Disruption on the Way

One thought that seems to be pertinent for the logistics industry is, “If you’re not disrupting, then you are being disrupted”. Companies need to be adapting to changing markets, or they face obsolescence.

PwC recently published “Shifting Patterns: The Future of the Logistics Industry“, outlining just this issue. They see four main areas for disruption in logistics: customer expectations; technology; new entrants; redefining collaboration.

The whitepaper covers what a possible future in the Logistics industry will look like. They share interesting trends across each possible future. However, one key takeaway is the Logistics could be in line for an Uber-type disruption in the near future.

Could Dynamic Strategies Be the Key?

It’s getting to that time of year again. In a little over 3 weeks it’s Thanksgiving, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday following hot on its heels. And although you might not want to think about it, Christmas is peeping over the horizon.

All of this isn’t news for the supply chain and logistics organisations (or at least, we would hope not). However, with increasing, yet still uncertain, demand at this time of year, many are looking to different strategies for their warehousing.

Dynamic, on-demand warehousing is proving to be a viable alternative for many organisations, particularly those retailers looking to change their logistics strategies.

Dynamic solutions can be particularly helping for e-commerce, as it allows companies to quickly adapt to changing demand and costs. With the growth of e-commerce, consumer wants are changing. At the top of that list is fast delivery, something that traditional warehousing solutions can hinder.

At times of peak demand, like the holiday season, organisations can increase their capacity and their coverage across a region, without a major capital outlay.

The dynamic warehousing strategy also pays dividends for warehouse owners. They can offer capacity to a number of companies at once, and are less likely to end up with spare, or unused space, which costs them money.

2016 hasn’t been the best year for Logistics and Supply Chain, but with more flexible and dynamic strategies in place, the coming 12 months, and beyond, could see a significantly more rosy picture.

Have you used dynamic warehousing for your business? How does it work from a procurement point of view? Share your story below.

e-Commerce has reminded us about our Christmas shopping. While we do that, you can look at the latest headlines in the procurement world…

Impact of Hanjin Bankruptcy Not as Severe as Feared

  • ISM has released a ‘Report on Business Special Question’, asking its panel of U.S. supply management professionals if they have been impacted by the Hanjin bankruptcy.
  • Results reveal that while Hanjin’s situation has caused some impact in the U.S., disruption was not as wide-spread as expected.
  • 51.9 per cent reported “no impacts”, 29.7 per cent reported “small, but not material” impacts.
  • 13.4 per cent have said they have experienced a “material, but management impact”, while only 0.8 per cent reported a “large material impact”. 4.2 per cent said they were unsure if they have been impacted or not.

Read more at ISM

Paris Climate Agreement Comes into Force

  • The Paris Agreement came into force on Friday 4th November, formally replacing the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The agreement aims to hold the global average temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • According to Sydney barrister Noel Hutley it is “conceivable that directors who fail to consider climate change risks now could be found liable for breaching their duty of care and diligence in the future.”
  • As of the 3rd of November 2016, 97 of the 193 parties who signed in Paris have ratified the agreement.

Read more at the Australian Financial Review

Philippines Government Looking for Alternative Firearms Supplier

  • The Philippines Government is looking for alternative suppliers of firearms after the U.S. blocked the sale of 26,000 weapons.
  • The U.S. State Department halted the sale due to concerns about human rights violations carried out as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, which has seen more than 2,300 people killed by police and vigilantes.
  • Ironically, Philippine Government procurement laws disqualify local gun makers from selling weapons at this scale domestically.
  • However, both Russia and China have offered to sell arms to the Philippines in the US’ stead.

Read more at ABC

IBM Trials Blockchain for Dispute Resolution

  • IBM has announced that it will be using blockchain technology to help resolve supply chain disputes.
  • A number of companies in finance are looking at permissioned ledgers connecting companies that know and (within limits) trust each other.
  • The blockchain could allow companies to transact, resolve disputes and settle more efficiently than current practices.
  • During IBM’s testing of the concept, it reduced resolution time, and markedly improved customer satisfaction.

Read more at Forbes

Dynamic Solutions to Dynamic Problems

‘Pop up Warehousing’ and ‘Dynamic Warehousing Networks’ are new terms hoping to provide dynamic solutions to solve an old problem – large fluctuations in stock.

Dynamic Solutions - Dynamic Warehousing

Whether predictable or unexpected, most businesses have had to deal with stock maxing out their facilities from time to time. Moreover, as managing average or normal stock levels has become more sophisticated and accurate, the effect of the pinch points becomes more acute.

Of course, any predicted overflow can be accommodated. However, just because it is predictable (for example, seasonal storage gluts), doesn’t mean its impact, or the challenge of solving it, is reduced. Furthermore, not all stock excess is predictable – far from it! Taking advantage of bulk purchase opportunities or running promotions make good business sense, but often create storage headaches.

Historical Solutions

Historically, the solutions that companies resort to cost money and may adversely affect operations. They may rent additional warehousing to accommodate extra stock, or find themselves involved in costly shuffling of inventory across locations, both existing and new.

Outsourcing – getting a third party provider to pick up the slack – is the obvious course to follow, but has traditionally suffered from a lack of transparency and the sense that a better solution might have been missed. After all, an emergency is not always the moment to run a tender process!

Dynamic Solutions

However, the growth in dynamic solutions such as Pop-up Warehousing (the colloquial term for on-demand storage space) is now set to change the game.

This ability to quickly identify available warehouse space and pricing on the internet, represents a step-change in how to deal with over-spill. It means that solutions can be found locally or in strategically relevant hubs – dependent on the user’s need – and that rates are benchmarked by the market.

On top of the transparent pricing and availability that these dynamic solutions provide, they also facilitate a direct dialogue with providers across the country. This means that users can identify, secure, and make use of available warehouse space immediately.

This level of choice can mean the economic benefits of bulk buying or customer promotions are not diluted further down the P&L, and the added flexibility can also allow companies to be more daring in their development – testing new products, markets or distribution strategies with less inherent cost (and risk) and modelling the impact of more permanent solutions to their business without making significant investments or sweeping changes.

Speed and Flexibility

The ability to quickly react and adapt can be particularly beneficial to fast growing or new e-commerce businesses. These business are often unclear about what mid- or long-term capacity they need, and the resources required to support fixed logistics costs.

Dynamic warehousing allows them to upscale logistics in line with their growth rate, without overwhelming resource and cost implications, nor the distraction and risk of running a fast-growing logistics function.

With end to end logistics costs averaging 12 per cent of sales value, not doing it as efficiently as possible can make a material difference to competitiveness. For a third party logistics provider, that 12 per cent is their 100 per cent, and they have the vertical and horizontal experience of logistics to build skills and capabilities from shared experience. Outsourcing logistics can, therefore, make a lot of sense for younger companies – as long as the most appropriate providers can be found easily.

Whilst outsourcing is not a new concept, the catalyst for the recent upsurge in interest has been the development of interactive online platforms by companies such as Flexe Inc in the US and, more recently Zupplychain in the UK.

These websites provide a degree of aggregation and transparency that means all businesses, whether large or small, mature or a start-up, can benefit from a level of flexibility. This means users can be more responsive and make better decisions for the present and future health of their company.

Zupplychain employs algorithmic matching of customer’s search requirements to warehouse availability to show warehouse pricing, along with an automated and structured process to progress enquiries and a cloud based system to manage customer stock in provider’s warehouses.