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.

If a Robotic Hand Solves a Rubik’s Cube, Does It Prove Something? (NYT)

Though it could be dismissed as an attention-grabbing stunt, the feat was another step forward for robotics research. Many researchers believe it was an indication that they could train machines to perform far more complex tasks. That could lead to robots that can reliably sort through packages in a warehouse or to cars that can make decisions […]

Winemaking in a Warming World (NYT)

Wine, which is among the most sensitive and nuanced of agricultural products, demonstrates how climate change is transforming traditions and practices that may be centuries old. Around the wine-growing world, smart producers have contemplated and experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of unexpected, sometimes […]

The Next Generation of Aircraft Will Track Your Bathroom Visits (Bloomberg)

Airbus sees a big market in digitally aware cabins that may speed your flight—and save airlines lots of money. 

How Amazon’s Shipping Empire Is Challenging UPS and FedEx (WSJ)

Over the years, Amazon has played down its ambitions. But as consumers flock to its site for everything from toilet paper to TVs, Amazon has quietly blanketed the nation with hundreds of sprawling suburban warehouses and neighborhood package-sorting centers, flooded the streets with tens of thousands of vans and even taken to the airways. The […]

Apple’s data shows a deepening dependence on China

Tapping factories in Brazil and India has not lessened Apple’s dependence on China. Few American firms are as tightly bound to Asia’s largest economy as Apple. Contract factories owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd’s Foxconn, Pegatron Corp, Wistron Corp and others employ hundreds of thousands of workers to assemble Apple devices.

IBM unveils Sterling Supply Chain Suite

IBM unveiled an integrated supply chain suite embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, saying the platform was open to developers in a move to help users make their organizations more efficient and better able to adjust to disruptions and opportunities. The “IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite,” built on the foundation of Sterling B2B Network […]

The App Age Has Come Far. Look at Long-Haul Trucking.(NYT)

Trucks move about 70 percent of freight by weight in the United States, but the industry is inefficient, with more than a quarter of trucks on the road riding empty. App-based businesses, such as the biggest, Convoy, has pushed to eliminate the paperwork and streamline the calls, emails and faxes that have been the unavoidable […]

The Impossible Burger Hasn’t Been Easy to Find

 Meatless patties made from plants and designed to “bleed,” in a faithful imitation of real red meat, exploded onto restaurant menus across the nation. Impossible Foods Inc., a Silicon Valley startup, appears to have hooked a burger-loving population on vegan food. By the end of July, Impossible said that about 10,000 restaurants—including White Castle, Red Robin and […]

IBM, Chainyard unveil blockchain-based ‘Trust Your Supplier’ network

IBM has partnered with Fortune 500 companies to launch the network, which is aimed at automating the validation and onboarding of buyers and suppliers.

Byte’s Smart Fridge Is Upstaging the Vending Machine

Byte Foods, founded in 2015 by husband-wife team Lee and Megan Mokri, is trying to introduce a new option to the office food mix. Their company supplies offices with smart fridges full of fresh, healthy food options from local producers, like coffee from Blue Bottle and falafel snack packs from Sinbad Specialty Foods. To use […]

The Science of Microbiome Analytics: DNA Detectives Tackle the Supply Chain

Phylagen is a San Francisco-based data analytics company that has developed a platform for tracing goods and materials back to the farm, warehouse or factory. The tool draws on microbiomes, unique types of naturally occurring microbes found all over the world. The genetic information encoded in those microbes create the equivalent of a biological fingerprint. […]

Retail Giant Target Working on a Blockchain for Supply Chains

Since mid-2018 the retailer has been working on a blockchain-powered solution for supply chain management, dubbed ConsenSource. More recently it pledged to support the Hyperledger Grid project, a supply chain framework that earlier saw participation from food giant Cargill, one of Target’s suppliers, together with tech giant Intel and blockchain startup Bitwise.io. The ConsenSource project, which Target […]

Zara Is Still Well Dressed (WSJ)

A cutting-edge business model no longer delivers blistering sales growth, but parent Inditex remains one of the steadiest bets in retail. Zara and other Inditex labels famously source a big chunk of their products from countries close to the company’s European hub. Just 40% of its clothing stock comes from Asia. That is half the […]

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.