New Job for Robots: Taking Stock for Retailers (WSJ)

The complicated blending of inventories in stores and warehouses has some retailers testing the use of shelf-scanning robots that roam store aisles and send restocking data back through their networks.

Canadian Trucking Firm Adopts AI, Then Jumps Into Consulting

Polaris, which owns about 200 tractors and 300 trailers, began its document-automation project in late 2017. The Mississauga, Ontario-based company processes between 700 and 800 documents daily. Before it deployed the new system, six to eight people at Polaris were dedicated to processing documents—sorting, reading and analyzing reams of shipping documents for accuracy and completeness—with […]

Blockchain’s Occam problem (McKinsey)

Blockchain has yet to become the game-changer some expected. A key to finding the value is to apply the technology only when it is the simplest solution available. There are specific use cases for which blockchain is particularly well-suited. They include elements of data integration for tracking asset ownership and asset status. Examples are found in insurance, supply chains, and capital markets, in which distributed ledgers can tackle pain points including inefficiency, process opacity, and fraud. Blockchain appeals to industries that are strategically oriented toward modernization. These see blockchain as a tool to support their ambitions to pursue digitization, process simplification, and collaboration. In particular, global shipping contracts, trade finance, and payments applications have received renewed attention under the blockchain banner. However, in many cases blockchain technology is a small part of the solution and may not involve a true distributed ledger. In certain instances, renewed energy, investment, and industry collaboration is resolving challenges agnostic of the technology involved.

Will Truckers Trade Futures? A New Market Seeks to Draw Freight Bets (WSJ)

The first futures tied to the cost of trucking goods across the U.S. are set to launch on Friday, a new financial tool designed to protect cargo haulers and shippers against swings in freight rates. Nodal Exchange, a unit of German exchange giant Deutsche Börse AG, plans to debut 11 new futures contracts linked to trucking costs. Futures allow firms to bet on whether the price of an asset will rise or fall, or to hedge against unfavorable price moves. There is an established market for futures-like contracts on ocean freight rates, but Nodal’s trucking futures will be the first of their kind, their creators say.

Successful IBM blockchain pilot for Mandarin Oranges

The project, involving a shipment of 28 tons of Mandarin Orange showed significant improvement in the bill of lading process. IBM, the container shipping operator Pacific International Lines (“PIL”), and the Singapore-based importer Hupco Pte Ltd. collaborated in this project. The pilot tracked the shipment using the blockchain-powered “e-BL” solution.

You Know Your Diamond’s Cut and Carat. But Does It Have Ethical Origins?(NYT)

Consumers want to know the origin of the things they buy, like the name of the farm that supplied their milk or the source of the feathers in a down jacket. But when it comes to a diamond — quite likely one of the most expensive and emotional purchases a jewelry buyer will ever make — most know next to nothing about the source of the stone. Tiffany & Company, is hoping to change that. Beginning Wednesday, it will start a program that will identify for customers the country where their diamond was mined, and, eventually, information on where it was cut, polished and set.

Kroger and Microsoft Create Futuristic Grocery Store (Bloomberg)

Kroger has remodeled two stores to test out new features to bring the ease of online shopping to brick-and-mortar grocery stores. These include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly along with a network of sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles. Kroger could eventually roll out the cloud-based system it developed with Microsoft in all of its 2,780 supermarkets.

Prioritization and precision: How AI and design thinking will transform technology production

Two major developments in technology hardware production dynamics—adoption of advanced innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and growing adherence to design thinking—are giving executives in the technology industry opportunities to experiment, optimize and boost agility, particularly as product design grows in importance within the production process.

Solving the Inventory Assortment Problem by Utilizing Product Embedding

Best practice at JD.com for selecting the inventory assortment to distribute at each node in their fulfillment and warehousing network. How to use product embedding through neural networks to solve this problem which involves prediction and optimization.

The Annals of Flannel (NYT)

Told that the cozy shirting fabric could no longer be made in America, one man began a yearlong quest. “We wanted to start an American-made business and build it to scale,The consistent narrative was, ‘You can’t do that, it’s all gone overseas.’ We heard that with the fleece, with premium tees. Set the business part of it aside, The thing I continue to be so struck by in the supply chain is this latent undercurrent of, ‘Give us a shot.’ It’s worth it for that alone — to prove the ability to do it.”

As disruptions accelerate, supply chains learn to measure them

A new wave of KPIs is emerging — such as time-to-recovery — to help executives benchmark their operational resiliency.

DB Schenker has integrated its eSchenker portal with what3words

what3words splits the world into 3×3 meter squares, and provide a three-word address for each one of them, helping people navigate better and more accurately. Through the association with what3words, DB Schenker’s customers can now optimize their supply chains by specifying accurate pick-up and drop-off points using three-word addresses.

How Robots and Drones Will Change Retail Forever (WSJ)

What if you could store and deliver goods as easily as data? Amazon, Walmart and others are using AI and robotics to transform everything from appliance shopping to grocery delivery. Welcome to the physical cloud.

What happened to RFID in the Supply Chain?

Despite the bad publicity related to the Walmart mandate, RFID has been making inroads in the supply chain.

Campbell in Talks to Sell Fresh Unit (WSJ)

Campbell Soup Co. is struggling to keep things fresh. Campbell has been plagued by supply chain issues since buying Bolthouse Farms six years ago to boost its fresh foods unit and is now looking to sell off the entire fresh division. Fresh foods like carrots and refrigerated juices require supply chain capabilities that differ drastically from what Campbell built for its long-lasting canned soups and cookies businesses, and weak carrot harvests and juice recalls didn’t help Bolthouse’s sales and its relationships with retailers. Campbell’s experience highlights the critical differences in seemingly similar supply chains, where the discipline of managing processed foods doesn’t match the need for speed in fresh food.

Germany’s Merck Introduces Automation to Supply Chain (WSJ)

The company is currently using analytics software to mitigate supply shortages, predict spikes in demand and bottlenecks with about 100 products related to fertility drugs. This has improved service to customer. It plans to expand the pilot program to its 5,000 products by the end of next year. Artificial intelligence is a way to augment the jobs of the company’s supply chain planners, and reduce often tedious and repetitive work.

Inside the Factory of China’s Future (WSJ)

Workshop 18 is designated by Chinese industry officials as a model demonstration facility for Beijing’s plan to upgrade its corporate champions so they can better compete in the world, a policy known as “Made in China 2025.” Engineers at the plant run by Sany Group Co. figure out how to make better products by analyzing information fed in real-time from machines operating around the world to a data center nearby. The company tracks 380,000 of its internet-connected concrete mixers, excavators and cranes, and it has collected more than 100 billion items of engineering data. Sany, one of China’s three big heavy machinery makers, said the integration of technology has increased capacity, shortened order-delivery times and slashed operational costs, all by at least 20%. The company is also betting that the technology will enable it to build a reputation for innovation and quality, rather than for lower prices for copycat products that made Sany a big player domestically.