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.

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.

Is Apple’s Supply Chain a Risk to the Company? (Motley Fool)

If two of Apple’s three products for this event are delayed, coupled with the iPad Mini Retina last year, does this mean Apple’s supply chain presents a risk of sorts to the company?

2014 Top 20 Global Supply Chain Management Software Suppliers

The market for supply chain management software (SCM), maintenance and services posted another year of solid growth, generating $8.944 billion in 2013, including applications for procurement software. That represented a nearly 7.4% increase over 2012 revenues, according to Chad Eschinger, vice president of supply chain with research firm Gartner.

Combining machine learning and optimization in supply chain analytics

A technology that has not been implemented widely in supply chain until recently is Machine Learning and combined with optimization it can produce breakthrough results. A recent award winning pricing project at Rue La La shows how this is done.

2014 FM Global Country Resilience Index (Spendmatters)

FM Global evaluated the relative risk – and resilience capacity to recover from disruptive events – of 130 countries. Their analysts developed risk index scores for each nation.

“The Internet of things” at home – Quirky spawns Wink

Quirky, is a startup that fields product ideas and selects some to produce. Recently, one in four Ideas is for Home products that can communicate with a smartphone or a household Wi-Fi network. These ideas are pursuing the much-promoted vision of the smart home, or the consumer Internet of things.The vision has been around for years, but the reality has remained elusive. To change this, Quirky is setting up a separate company, Wink, whose main technology is software intended to be the equivalent of an open operating system, helping to seamlessly connect all kinds of automated home devices.

Nielsen Rewards Innovations of Successful New Products (NYT)

Of the nearly 3,500 new consumer goods introduced in 2012, just 14 managed to generate at least $50 million in sales in their first year and sustain that momentum into their second, according to the market research group Nielsen.

Implementing “Time to Recovery” to Mitigate Supply Chain Risk

There is a question that you need to ask your suppliers that will help both you and your supplier reduce risk and improve performance. The question is “What is the expected time to recovery if the site from which my part is supplied goes down?”

The supply chain and the NSA

Cisco Systems Inc’s chief executive officer has written a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to curtail government surveillance after evidence circulated showing the National Security Agency had intercepted Cisco equipment, a company spokesman said on Sunday.