Sometimes, you need to add a little color to make people happy. After World War II, Brussels was in a state of depression. Pierre Draps, founder of Godiva Chocolates, had the company’s delivery trucks painted pink, a color that soon became synonymous with spreading happiness during a dark and difficult time. As we have written about here quite a bit, the last year-plus has been an unprecedented time. To harken back to the day of bringing about positivity in a time of despair, Godiva will be bringing a pink truck back to New York. The pink Godiva truck will make its way around New York to “offer wonder and optimism to its residents following a difficult and unprecedented year.” And by wonder and optimism, it means it will be bringing samples. But then again, who doesn’t love a good chocolate sample? And now on to this week’s logistics news.
Over the last few years, the rocket industry has been taking off (pun intended), as companies continue to look at sending satellites into space. Late last Friday, the US Air Force launched a new rocket cargo program with the Space Force to study the use of commercial spacecraft to ship supplies around the world, and they may look to NASA’s lunar lander program for ideas. If the project, called Rocket Cargo, goes as planned, it would take advantage of this fast-growing market. A concept released by the US Air Force Research Laboratory looks at the Starship prototypes being tested by SpaceX in South Texas. In a joint statement, Space Force and Air Force officials said “these new opportunities are expanding cargo capacity and dramatically reducing launch costs.” The military branch therefore plans to examine how to use the largest available commercial rockets to ship dozens of tons of supplies around the world, especially to remote areas.
The Amazon effect has certainly pushed the boundaries for customer expectations, especially when it comes to speed of delivery. UPS is now exploring a same-day delivery option, according to CEO Carol Tomé. Ms. Tomé said the company is testing the concept but did not offer much more in the way of details. A company spokesperson made it clear that the company does not comment on pilot programs. However, from looking at the infrastructure UPS has in place, and the investments it has made over the last few years to enhancing and redesigning its delivery network, it is well positioned to take on such an endeavor. As e-commerce continues to surge, this seems like the right time to make this move.
As more and more companies seek to eliminate waste, they have been redesigning their supply chains. In an interview with Supply Chain Brain, Intel highlights its new program to eliminate waste from its manufacturing process and prevent all used and returned materials from ending up in landfill. According to Intel Supply Chain Manager Greg Skrovan, the new focus is transforming the company’s reverse logistics supply chain, making it a “circular economy.” According to Mr. Skrovan, a circular economy is the transformation from “make, use, dispose” to “make, use, recover, reuse, reclaim.” When the company can no longer reuse an item, it will find a sustainable way to the dispose of them.
The US trade deficit narrowed in April to $68.9 billion as an improving global economy boosted sales of American exports. The April deficit, the gap between what America buys from abroad and what it sells to other countries, was down 8.2 percent from a record March deficit of $75 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The improving economic situation overseas drove up demand for American goods while domestic demand for imports slowed. In April, exports of US goods and services rose 1.1 percent to $205 billion while imports declined 1.4 percent to $273.9 billion. Part of the boost in exports came from a $1.4 billion increase in sales of civilian aircraft, a positive sign that a rebound in air travel from depressed pandemic levels is prompting stronger sales of jetliners.
Instacart has been steadily expanding, with the pandemic pushing its business to the point where it is considering implementing robots to pick orders. Now the company is adding a pilot program in select cities allowing customers to Boston-based ButcherBox. Shoppers can choose from 10 different ButcherBox products, which include grass-fed, grass-finished beef, free-range, organic chicken, pork raised crate free, wild-caught Alaska sockeye salmon, and wild-caught scallops. Prices start at $99 for the boxes, which are delivered within one to four days. The service will initially be available in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami, with plans to expand later this year.
Autonomous trucks may still be a few years away from navigating busy city streets and highways, but they certainly have their place in other areas. MIT spin-off ISEE has identified the shipping yard as one of those areas. When containers come into a port, they need to be moved to a destination for a number of reasons, including customs clearance, need for refrigeration, or a power supply. This takes a driver to hook up the container and move it. The ISEE trucks are retrofitted with lidar, cameras, and other sensors to give them 360-degree awareness. Their job is to transport containers to and from locations in the yards, backing the 50-foot trailer into a parking spot with as little as a foot of space on either side. ISEE’s co-founders Yibiao Zhao and Debbie Yu “it’s surprising how dated yard operations are; it’s basically just people yelling. There’s a big opportunity to bring this to the next level by using autonomous trucks.”
More and more consumers are looking to buy local these days, and farmers markets are happily reaping the rewards. For one large supermarket chain, the idea of jumping on the buy and source locally trend makes too much sense. Stop & Shop is once again kicking off its annual summer program which furthers its commitment to providing customers with fresh, quality seafood that is responsibly and sustainably sourced. Stop & Shop will offer local seafood at more than 100 stores this summer. This year, stores from Plymouth to Gloucester, Massachusetts; the Connecticut Shore and the New Jersey Shore will join Cape Cod, Long Island and other Massachusetts, Connecticut and Northern New Jersey stores in offering local summer seafood from oysters and mussels to fresh clam chowder and lobsters. In store, customers can look for dedicated “shop local” signage in their seafood department, as well as a chalkboard easel featuring the catch of the day.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Bruce Springsteen’s Pink Cadillac.