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This Week in Logistics News (March 25 – 31)

We have seen companies look at different ways to deliver orders to customers, and bikes have become more commonplace in busy cities for this reason. But Walmart is looking at bikes in a different way. In the spring of 2022, Walmart created a new position among the roughly 15,000 employees who work at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The job, called director of workplace mobility, came with a very specific task: figure out how to get 10 percent of the company’s local workforce to commute by any means other than driving alone. Walmart originally set the target in the summer of 2019, a couple months after unveiling plans for a new 350-acre corporate campus. The goal was to get 10 percent of the Bentonville staff commuting on bikes by this year, but reaching that mark has proven tougher than expected. So last year the company pushed the deadline back to 2025, when the new campus is set to open. When Walmart reset its deadline, it also broadened the terms to include walking, riding a scooter, busing, carpooling or taking any other form of transit that isn’t a single-occupancy automobile. To count toward the 10 percent, an employee must use alternative modes two or three times a week for a year. Less than 1 percent of the Bentonville workforce currently meets that standard. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Amazon in the news:
Amazon aims to reduce grouped delivery issues
Amazon begins flagging ‘frequently returned’ products

Walmart using AI to make shopping better
FDA sketches out plan to bolster US infant formula supply
Trucking industry looks to women to overcome shortage
US annual parcel shipping volumes to grow 5% through 2028
Supply shortages threaten U.S. infrastructure and war efforts

Amazon is looking to reduce issues with deliveries that are grouped together. As the company continues to insource more of its last mile delivery operations, it is also taking steps to limit issues that could occur during the package drop off process. Better service can help the company keep businesses using Fulfillment by Amazon, in which Amazon handles delivery and other fulfillment steps for sellers, and end customers satisfied. Amazon likened the Risk Aware Delivery program to a guardrail for drivers in the memo. Its overall aim is to reduce future delivery defects, particularly when it comes to packages that have been delivered but not reported as received by end customers. This issue may occur when a customer requests to have a package dropped off in a specific area of the location that could otherwise have been overlooked in the grouped stop process.

As online shopping continues to grow, the surge in e-commerce has also brought about a surge in returns. Amazon has begun displaying a warning about frequently returned items as the company tightens its belt in response to shaky finances and an uncertain economy. Industry-wide e-commerce returns skyrocketed during pandemic lockdowns. Although they’ve declined, they’re still well above pre-pandemic numbers. The company’s new badge reads, “Frequently returned item: Check the product details and customer reviews to learn more about this item.” However, it doesn’t appear visible to everyone, which may suggest Amazon is deploying a gradual rollout or a limited test. In addition, the tagged products all appear to be from third-party vendors fulfilled by Amazon. Some sellers have said their customers return items at a higher clip on Amazon than when bought from other outlets, a discrepancy they chalk up to Amazon’s easy checkout process and fast Prime shipping. The retailer has already passed on some of the extra expenses to vendors, as it raised fees for “Fulfilled by Amazon” sellers earlier this year.

Walmart is looking to AI to make the shopping experience better. There are roughly 4,700 Walmart stores and 600 Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. employing a combined 1.6 million workers. Deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning in ways that improve both the customer and employee experience across such a massive environment is the focus of Walmart’s AI strategy. At warehouse chain Sam’s Club, that means staying on top of roughly 6,000 items stacked on shelves in warehouse stores that average 136,000 sq. feet. Sam’s is using floor scrubbers to do just that. As they travel around the stores, keeping floors clean and free of debris, they’re also capturing, in real time, images of every item in the store. These scrubbers (there’s one in each store) are equipped with inventory intelligence towers that take more than 20 million photos of everything on the shelves every day. The company has trained its algorithms to discern the different brands and their inventory positions, taking into account how much light there is or how deep the shelf is, with more than 95 percent accuracy. When a product gets to a pre-determined level, the stock room is automatically alerted so that the item is always available.

The baby formula shortage from last year caused quite a bit of panic among parents. he US Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday its initial strategy to boost and strengthen the management of the country’s supply of infant formula. The announcement came just ahead of a hearing of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about what went wrong during last year’s infant formula shortage. Committee members and experts who testified were critical of formula makers and the FDA’s food safety program, which the agency has pledged to revamp in order to protect the nation’s food supply and promote better nutrition. Many experts are concerned that the formula shortage of 2022 could easily happen again, even with those changes. According to the strategy, the FDA will expedite review of premarket submissions for new products to prevent shortages. It will continue to closely monitor the formula supply and has developed a model to forecast any potential disruptions.

Efforts to introduce more women to trucking became even more pressing when the Covid pandemic took hold in the U.S., sending the service and education industries into upheaval. Comparatively, trucking never slowed down. Many teachers and service workers made the switch to trucking, along with nurses and other women from the medical field who faced burnout. Now, with the industry facing a daunting driver shortage, initiatives to bring in women drivers from other industries have escalated. Unions including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have worked to end violence and harassment of women on the job and remove barriers to women entering the industry, including safety risks, wage inequities and lack of training and support. The share of women truckers has increased significantly in recent years: Women now make up almost 8 percent of truck drivers and sales delivery drivers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is even higher — 14 percent — for Class A license road drivers (which includes any driver who can operate vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds), almost double what it was just five years ago, according to the 2022 Women In Trucking Index.

U.S. parcel shipping activity is expected to grow 5 percent per year over the next five years, continuing what is expected to be an increase over pre-pandemic volume projections despite a slowdown in 2022, according to an annual parcel shipping index published Tuesday by global shipping and mailing company Pitney Bowes Inc. By 2028, annual U.S. parcel volume is expected to hit 28 billion, according to the report. America shipped, received and returned 21.2 billion parcels last year, 1.1 billion shipments more than had been projected by pre-pandemic forecasts, according to Pitney Bowes. The 2022 levels were not expected to be attained until 2023, putting volumes a year ahead of pre-pandemic estimates, Pitney Bowes said. The report, along with a study published recently by the e-commerce unit of Deutsche Post DHL, validate the argument that consumers remain unlikely to fully return to pre-pandemic behaviors. The Pitney Bowes report also indicates a slowdown from the 10.8 percent annual growth rate from 2016 through 2022.

Manufacturers of everything from pickup trucks to homes are still grappling with tight supplies of microchips and cement – shortages that could translate into delays and higher costs for federal efforts to arm Ukraine against Russian aggression and rebuild U.S. crumbling infrastructure and manufacturing. The supply chain woes that sent costs soaring and spurred shortages of everything from toilet paper to passenger cars are easing for retail-focused industries, but remain stubbornly persistent in important growth sectors like autos, machinery, defense and non-residential construction, experts said. Companies that make war weapons like shoulder-fired Javelin and Stinger missiles are awaiting U.S. funding before starting new production for Ukraine. When the defense industry gets that greenlight, their scramble to source semiconductors and other hard-to-find electronic components could usher in a new wave of supply chain snarls that disrupt production and drive up costs.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Pink Floyd’s Bike.

The post This Week in Logistics News (March 25 – 31) appeared first on Logistics Viewpoints.

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