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.

Why we need to learn to trust analytics (NYT)

People are reluctant to give computers a second chance when they mess up, even if it’s clear that the machines have a higher hit rate overall. Given that in many situations their “judgment” is superior to our own, that’s a problem. If algorithms are really going to live up to their potential to help us, we’re going to need to figure out how to put more confidence in their results.

MIT Forum for Supply Chain releases annual report on U.S. manufacturing

Survey indicates 13.5 percent of manufacturers intend to move some manufacturing activities back to the U.S.

Shippers turn to airfreight to avoid port delays

Many shippers are temporarily shifting to airfreight to deliver their eleventh hour holiday shipments in order to avoid chronic congestion and labor slowdowns at U.S. ports, according to this week’s issue of Container Insight from Drewry Maritime Research.

Dealing with Supply Chain Big Data

As supply chains get bigger, more complex, and demand faster responses times, expect to see NoSQL databases and complex event processing gaining a foothold.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Inventory Problems (WSJ)

Samsung produced about 20% more devices than it did of the Galaxy S5’s predecessor, basing the numbers on a survey of its carrier partners around the world, who were asked to predict demand but who weren’t on the hook for any unsold devices, according to the person. That led to merchandise piling up in warehouses, forcing Samsung to increase marketing expenditures to unload the devices.

Logistics Outsourcing Amplifies Supply Chain Risk (WSJ)

Logistics outsourcing, global supply chains and cost-cutting measures are exposing companies to higher levels of supply chain and business interruption risk, say insurers and risk managers.

Experts Discuss How to Streamline Global Supply Chain

Companies of all sizes have been capturing the value from Global Supply Chain to increase the economies of scale and scope for years. Due to the rapid change in global business environment, managers find it difficult to gain the edge over competitors. In this article, we will show you tips from worldwide experts that you can use to streamline your global supply chain operations.

Why Online Retailers Continue To Open Brick-And-Mortar Stores (TechCrunch)

In an age when new technology and the growth of pure online-only retailers have industry analysts questioning the future of brick-and-mortar stores, what are online retailers doing to grow their businesses and gain market share? Why, opening up physical storefronts of course. The benefits that physical spaces provide make up three of the top reasons why online retailers are setting up shop, including: multisensory consumer experiences, better logistics and consumer service offerings and strong, lasting brand relationships. An omni-channel customer shops more frequently and spends 3.5 times more than other shopper types. Today’s consumer wants to shop when, where and how they want, and physical stores will no doubt continue to evolve and enhance the consumer experience and continue to fortify themselves as the preeminent retail channel.

A Retreat From Weather Disasters (NYT)

Damages from weather-related catastrophes have increased, but the share of these damages covered by insurance has been declining, according to a new report by Ceres, an environmental advocacy group. Last year, less than a third of the $116 billion in worldwide losses from weather-related disasters were covered by insurance, according to data from the reinsurer Swiss Re. In 2005, the year Katrina struck, insurance picked up 45 percent of the bill.

Investors Say Logistics Companies Are In For The Long Haul (TechCrunch)

In a world where consumers are increasingly expecting frictionless, tech-enabled services, snail mail is just not cutting it. Just about anything can be ordered from a smartphone, but shipping it across the country takes days and often costs a small fortune. A variety of logistics startups have cropped up to tackle shortcomings in various sectors of the shipping industry, from local delivery by bike messenger to international delivery via trucking fleet management platforms. The past year has seen more early stage rounds than ever before, with seed rounds accounting for nearly three-quarters of all deals recorded in 2014. This is just the beginning of a revolution in the logistics and shipping industry.

Big Data is set to revolutionize Integrated Business Planning (WSJ blog)

Big Data is set to revolutionize Integrated Business Planning, a core element in business operations that extends the process of balancing supply and demand to all aspects of the supply chain, financial processes and strategic planning. This holistic approach to planning benefits from technology such as sensors and new analytic frameworks that promise businesses better flexibility, more accurate forecasting and faster response times. From an earlier focus on real-time data, many businesses are discovering that the winds are now shifting towards generating actionable insights, both at an operational/tactical level as well as strategic level. There is an increasing realization that the mark of an optimized supply chain–i.e. delivering the right amount of product to meet market demand while minimizing production, inventory and transportation costs–is a smoothly functioning, comprehensive IBP.

Aboard a Cargo Colossus (NYT)

Until the late 1990s, the largest container ships could carry about 5,000 steel shipping containers, each about 20 feet long. The size of container ships has exploded, reflecting their role as the packhorses of globalization. Each year, the maritime shipping industry transports nearly $13 trillion of goods, roughly 70 percent of total freight, according to the World Trade Organization. The Triple-E’s can carry more than 18,000 containers, piled 20 high, with 10 above deck and 10 below. But they can sail only between Europe and Asia, as their nearly 194-foot wide hull is too large to fit into American ports or to slip through the Panama Canal.

Zara Builds Its Business Around RFID (WSJ)

Inditex parent of the Zara chain, says it has learned from competitors’ experience and is rolling out RFID technology throughout the operations of its signature brand. RFID chips can store information about whatever item they are attached to and, when prompted, emit that data via radio signals to a scanner. Inditex is burying the chips inside its garments’ plastic security tags, an innovation that allows the “fast fashion” chain to reuse them after the tags are removed at checkout.

Infographic: Apple Perfects Global Supply Chain (EBN)

The effort that went into putting out the newest Apple product, from idea and design into actual end product, is a fascinating supply chain story. This single product has the potential to impact the economies of entire nations. For example, the iPhone 6 release may increase Japan’s electronics exports by 5% and Taiwan’s by 8.6%. What about the United States? Bringing iPhone manufacturing to the US would cost Apple $4.2 billion. A US-assembled iPhone would cost only $4 more than the current globally manufactured product. Though the iPhone 6 is mainly assembled in China, Apple supports almost 600,000 jobs in the US. The Chinese spent more than $1 billion on iPhone 6 assembly machines purchased in Japan.

Alibaba: It’s the world’s largest 3D printer. (Bloomberg)

Alibaba enabled me—with little knowledge and even less experience—to have 280 pairs of fluorescent denim pants custom made in 28 days for $4,503, including shipping ($16.08 per).

A new era for supply chains as faster IT systems push data into the driving seat

Supply chain’s influence is expanding into product life-cycle management, business planning and corporate social requirements. This requires access to whole new sets of data, and for that data to be made available across an organisation.