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Archives for February 2017

FedEx looks at self-driving parcel delivery, CIO says

By Ben Ames | February 06, 2017 | 9:27 AM

Add FedEx Corp. to the list of carriers looking into self-driving delivery vehicles.

The Memphis-based transport and logistics giant is investigating ways to incorporate small vehicles that could drive around neighborhoods and make deliveries without human drivers, FedEx CIO Rob Carter recently told the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Technology Review magazine.

The move would follow similar initiatives from Uber Inc., which recently acquired the self-driving truck firm Otto, and from Amazon.com Inc. and UPS Inc., which both recently ran public tests of package delivery using flying drones.

Another entrant in the field is the British robotics startup Starship Technologies, which said last month that it was expanding the U.S. trials of its self-driving parcel-delivery robots. The small robots are now driving around neighborhood sidewalks in Redwood City, Calif., and Washington, D.C., running routes for the courier services DoorDash and Postmates.

Compared to Starship, FedEx could bring much deeper pockets and a wider delivery network to the scheme, if it deploys autonomous delivery vehicles to cover the routes now covered by its orange and purple-branded parcel trucks.

As a first step toward driverless delivery, FedEx is already working with the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup Peloton Technology on developing technology that would allow a lead vehicle to control the gas and brakes of a follower truck manned by a human at the wheel. Using technology set for release later in 2017, the lead driver uses a wireless data link to improve safety and fuel consumption for both vehicles through improved aerodynamics, a Peloton Technology spokesman said. The next step to building autonomous delivery networks over the long term would involve working with automakers such as Daimler and Volvo that have already launched their own programs to develop self-driving trucks, Carter told the magazine.

In the meantime FedEx is also exploring ways to automate its operations by building an app to work with virtual assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, the article says. Such an app could allow users to prepare shipments and request parcel pickup by spoken dictation instead of filling out the same forms with a computer keyboard or even with that ultimate old-fashioned communications tool, a pen.

Big ideas on campus

By Toby Gooley | February 03, 2017 | 2:45 PM | Categories: Supply Chain

For the past 10 years I have been a volunteer for the admissions office at my alma mater. Alumni volunteers hold informal meetings with applicants in their area, adding a personal touch to a process that can be intimidating to even the most qualified high schooler. Recently I met with six applicants who, as they always do, bowled me over—not just with their prodigious accomplishments, but also with their enthusiasm and commitment to learning, exploring, and achieving something big.

That kind of excitement and sky’s-the-limit enthusiasm isn’t restricted to high school students on the brink of entering college. Attend any university-sponsored event where students in logistics and supply chain programs showcase their research projects, and you’ll figure that out right away. One such event I regularly attend is the annual Student Research Expo hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Transportation & Logistics. The buzz and energy are apparent even before you enter the rooms where graduate students from the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America explain their real-world business projects alongside posters displayed on large electronic screens. These students are older, wiser, and more experienced than the high school boys and girls I met last week, but they are no less enthusiastic, ambitious, or committed to reaching their goals.

The Talent Gap (capital T, capital G) has been one of supply chain organizations’ biggest worries for several years now. But they can take heart that there are more logistics and supply chain academic programs—and job-seeking graduates of those programs—than ever before. Many of those institutions put on events like the one I attend, hold case study competitions, or host career days where recruiters can meet prospective employees. Examples in the U.S. include big, well-known programs like Penn State, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Ohio State, to name just a few. But there are a wealth of opportunities at other institutions you might not think of, including San Diego, Wayne State, Rutgers, Central Michigan, Northeastern, Wisconsin, Georgia College and State University, Rhode Island, and Syracuse—and that’s just a tiny sampling of the possibilities.

If you have not attended a supply chain student showcase, case study competition, or career fair at your local college or university, I urge you to do so. You’ll find it time well spent. Not only will you meet students who could be just the person your organization is looking for, but you’re also likely to come away with some inspiration and a renewed sense of excitement about this fascinating field we’re in.

How do we get the logistics infrastructure that we need?

By Susan Lacefield | February 02, 2017 | 8:11 AM

With this week's confirmation of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, we get closer to seeing if the Trump Administration can make good on its promise of to invest $550 billion in the nation's infrastructure. But how can supply chain managers in private industry make sure that funding gets where it needs to go to benefit their own companies? 

Part of the answer may lie in developing relationships with government and local economic development agencies, according to an article in the Journal of Business Logistics written by Yemisi A. Bolumole, David J. Closs, and Frederick A. Rodammer of Michigan State University: "The Economic Development Role of Regional Logistics Hubs: A Cross-Country Study of Interorganizational Governance Models." 

The latest issue of our sister publication CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterlyinterviews the lead author, Yemisi Bolumole, who asserts: "In the private sector, we've been taught to focus on B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) interactions. This paper is a call to attention of the importance of business-to-government (B2G) interactions. ... Supply chain managers must continue to embrace and incorporate into their decisions an understanding that public sector actions impact what they do. The presence or lack of public policies that inhibit or enhance supply chain efficiency can really have an effect on a firm's total landed cost. "

Check out the full article here: http://www.supplychainquarterly.com/columns/20161214-governance-models-for-regional-logistics-hubs-and-why-they-matter/

 

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.



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