Hauling New Treasure Along the Silk Road (NYT)

Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley electronics company, has pioneered the revival of a route famous in the West since the Roman Empire. For the last two years, the company has shipped laptops and accessories to stores in Europe with increasing frequency aboard express trains that cross Central Asia at a clip of 50 miles an hour.

The New Panama Canal: A Risky Bet (NYT)

For more than 100 years, the canal has been a vital artery nourishing the world economy, a testament to American engineering and one of the signature public works of the 20th century. The new locks, built by Panama without help from other governments, were sold to the nation and the world as a way to ensure that the canal remained as much of a lifeline in the hyperglobalized 21st century as it was in the last.

Gap Inc takes to cloud to optimise clothing price

Clothing retailer Gap Inc is localising the way it prices inventory in its network of retail stores using a cloud-based optimisation system.

Fashion Company Desigual’s Multi-Stranded Approach to Omni-Channel

Omni-channel customers buy and return goods online or via physical stores, and expect excellent service regardless of how they receive their purchases, meeting these expectations requires inventory to be visible and available globally.

Wal-Mart and P&G: A $10 Billion Marriage Under Strain (WSJ)

As both companies face stalling growth, the big-box retailer challenges the consumer-products giant with more store brands, lower prices and less shelf space

How to Revitalize U.S. Manufacturing (WSJ)

Nine policies that could spark new growth in factory jobs and the economic benefits they bring

An Operating System for Global Trade (TechCrunch)

Transparency begets data, which begets efficiency. Smarter shipping shrinks the physical world the way faster internet shrinks the digital one. New businesses emerge. High bandwidth connections paved the way for Netflix. Now Flexport could make meatspace merchants as nimble as Amazon.

Walmart Looks to Drones to Speed Distribution (NYT)

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, is testing the use of flying drones to handle inventory at its large warehouses, which supply the thousands of Walmart stores throughout the nation. In six to nine months, the company said, the machines may be used in one or more of its distribution centers.

EBay CEO Devin Wenig Stresses His Company Is No Amazon (WSJ)

Ebay differentiates its customer value from Amazon – focuses on making online auction site more personalized and will not compete on speedy deliveries. “I don’t have to be like Amazon, I don’t have to be like anyone else,” said Mr. Wenig at the Code Conference. “I’d rather have a billion unique items that arrive in three days than a billion commodity items that arrive in an hour.”

Counterfeiting and piracy: Stamping it out (Economist)

It has long been known that counterfeiting and piracy make up a vast global business. But a report published on April 18th by the OECD suggests that, despite the advent of high-tech counter-measures, it is far bigger than previously thought. The last such survey by the club of 34 mostly rich countries was in 2008. Updated the next year with data from 2007, it put the value of cross-border trade in fakes at $250 billion, or 1.8% of the total for all goods. The latest report estimates that by 2013 those figures had risen to $461 billion, and 2.5%.

Additive Manufacturing: A printed smile (Economist)

3D printing is coming of age as a manufacturing technique. Increasingly 3D-printed objects are being produced as finished items, rather than as models or prototypes.

Johnson Controls Unravels Riddle of Missing Crates (WSJ)

Johnson Controls Inc. had a logistics mystery on its hands: thousands of reusable shipping boxes and storage racks were disappearing every year. Sticking RFID tags on the containers and racks helped resolve this issue.

Toyota’s earthquake strategy: paying off or paying the price? (SCM World)

Professor David Simchi-Levi, a supply chain risk expert at MIT who has done much to develop the time to recovery (TTR) concept, agrees that Toyota has taken steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, as long as its manufacturing and sourcing operations continue to be heavily based in Japan, it will be more prone to disruptions than rivals like Honda and Nissan, which have more distributed supply chains.

Keeping it under your hat (Economist)

APPLE and Tesla are two of the world’s most talked-about companies. They are also two of the most vertically integrated. But the renewed fashion for vertical integration will not sweep all before it. For the most mundane products the logic of contracting out still reigns supreme and today’s bundling is less ambitious. Apple, for instance, contracts out a lot of production to contract manufacturers such as Foxconn (though it keeps them on a tight leash). Integration is also hard to pull off: Tesla lost some of its shine on April 11th when it recalled 2,700 of its sport-utility vehicles because of a glitch. Striking the right balance between doing things in-house and contracting things out is clearly complicated.

The Mirage of a Return to Manufacturing Greatness (NYT)

Manufacturing powered the economic development of today’s advanced nations. But in the developing world, industrial employment is peaking prematurely, before poor countries have had a chance to get rich.

Toyota’s ‘Quake-Proof’ Supply Chain That Never Was (Fortune)

You don’t need to build an earthquake-proof supply chain, to secure this, only a network that bounces back from shocks faster than competitors.

Why There Are More Consumer Goods Than Ever (WSJ)

In the past, the upswing in new products was driven by the emergence of new types of stores, as when natural-food and gourmet-food stores arrived in the 1980s. But starting in the early 2000s, the Internet became a driving force in product introductions. And Facebook is the latest manifestation of this trend.