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.

Unilever Finds That Shrinking Its Footprint Is a Giant Task (NYT)

Unilever’s sustainable living plan pledges to cut the company’s environmental impact in half by 2020, it also vows to improve the health of one billion people and enhance livelihoods for millions, all while doubling its sales. None of this is easy to achieve. In broad terms, sustainability means meeting the needs of today while preserving resources for tomorrow. But selling more products means consuming more energy and more natural resources. However, Unilever’s factories are emitting 37 percent less emissions than in 2008, even while producing more goods. Waste going to landfills is down 85 percent. At the same time revenue is up 22 percent, though profits are up less.

The Shape of ‘Things’ to Come (Inbound Logistics)

As sensors, communications systems, and analytics solutions all become cheaper, faster, and more capable, many more things will start talking to one another via the Internet. Supply chain operations are already part of that exchange.

TPP intends to spark a boom in trade in services, but it will take time

TPP is about opening up trade for services industries so that one day they may be as efficient and as globally integrated as manufacturing is today. TPP is a step toward that ideal, but just one of many that are needed. This process was slow for manufacturing as many pieces had to fall in place. For most of industrial history, countries traded raw materials or finished goods, with the process of turning the one into the other located entirely within a single country, and often within a single factory. From the 1980s, however, a large and rapidly growing share of trade consisted of “intermediate goods”. Rather than produce a computer from scratch in one country, for example, a tech firm would source components from several different countries, bring them together in yet another country for assembly, and then ship the completed good to consumers around the world. The great supply-chain revolution was slow in coming, however. Tariff rates fell precipitously from the 1940s to the 1980s, by which time the duties imposed on most goods traded between rich economies had fallen to negligible levels. The shift to container shipping, which made transit by sea much faster and more reliable, was largely over by the early 1980s. From 1950 to 1985 the cost of a long-distance phone call dropped dramatically. Yet it was not until the 1990s that the supply-chain boom really got going, abetted in part by China’s economic opening.

ERP vs. Best-of-Breed is History

A business support platform is an integrated solution that supports end-to-end business functions such as supply chain management or retail operations. Like an ERP, it is a totally integrated solution operating off of a single data model and data management structure, but without the burden of all of those back office systems like accounting or general ledger. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, it is a very focused, in-depth solution for a particular area of the business. Like Best-of-Breed systems, a business support platform has deep fit-for-purpose functionality, but in an integrated platform rather than as standalone systems. Thus, a business support platform has the best of both options without their downsides.

The technology behind bitcoin could transform how the economy works (Economist)

The “blockchain” technology that underpins bitcoin carries a significance stretching far beyond cryptocurrency. The blockchain lets people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority – it is a machine for creating trust. The technology has other related applications such as bank and property ledgers. But it can also be a solution for safely tracking the “internet of things” through distributed registers.

The Slower You Shop, the More You Spend (WSJ)

If you sit down in an Origins store, you’ll probably spend about 40% more than you would standing up. This type of insight, backed by data, is behind a change going on at retail. Stores are trying to slow down the shopping experience, a movement known as “slow shopping.” Adherents believe that browsing in a store should be a leisurely and enriching experience that’s not overtly focused on buying something. To entice shoppers to spend more time, boutiques and national chains are adding libraries, art installations, performance spaces and cozy lounges to encourage shoppers to hang around and enjoy themselves.

Whole Foods makes big bet on tech (Fortune)

Whole Foods is tackling the last frontier—merchandising and supply chain. Having a better handle on inventory management and sourcing means the company can feed that information back to shoppers. The system will have the potential to capture hundreds of attributes on every product—everything from a unit measure and weight to the metrics used in the company’s responsibly grown program, such as water usage. When it comes to traceability for consumers, the new platform could mean identifying something as specific as when your vegetables were harvested. Fpr suppliers, Whole Foods will also be able to send information on how products are selling and provide insight into trends.

Under Armour’s vision for future manufacturing: make local for local

Under Armour plans to start developing and perfecting technologies next year to enable a “local for local” model, building on systems it already uses to make its Speedform running shoes in a lingerie factory. Want to show that if they can make something as labor-intensive as a $25 T-shirt or a $100 pair of shoes in Baltimore, you can effectively make anything anywhere.

Home Depot Supply Chain Deals with Omni-Channel (SCDigest)

Home Depot Integrates Its Two Supply Chain Networks to Address Order On-Line, Pick Up In Store. Items are Shipped from Three Fulfillment Centers to Existing Cross Dock Networks, Merged with Regular Merchandise Headed to Stores

China’s Strategy in U.S. Car Market: Make Parts First (WSJ)

Chinese car companies do make and sell cars in markets such as Russia, Egypt, Ukraine and Thailand. But the Chinese government’s big thrust is to subsidize its auto industry’s move into parts. In its latest guidelines for China’s auto industry, in 2009, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic-planning agency, required the country’s auto-parts makers to go all out to enter the global purchase network.

Why Airbus Built a U.S. Factory (Bloomberg)

Airbus, which sells lots of planes to U.S. airlines, is opening its first plant in the country today. This is a big shift from a decade ago, when it seemed as if all supply chains were going to go through China. It may even help explain the manufacturing slowdown in China, MIT engineering professor and supply-chain expert David Simchi-Levi wrote in the Harvard Business Review earlier this month.

Companies Struggle to Comply With Rules on Conflict Minerals (NYT)

A complex provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law requires companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals “necessary to the functionality or production” of products they make or contract out for manufacturing. Conflict minerals are tantalum, tungsten, tin or gold mined from ore, and extracted in Congo or nine surrounding countries, including Angola, Rwanda and Sudan. Minerals from the countries, long mired in civil war, violence, acts of rape and the use of child soldiers, appear in a variety of products. Tantalum, for example, allows Apple’s iPhone to maintain an electrical charge. Tungsten permits the filaments in General Electric light bulbs to get hot enough to emit a bright light without melting, and tin gives party balloons their special sheen.

You Can’t Understand China’s Slowdown Without Understanding Supply Chains(HBR)

The last few weeks have brought news of turmoil in China, including currency devaluations, an economic slowdown, and a stock market plunge. Most economists, including those at the the IMF, think it is premature to talk about an economic crisis. While I agree, I nonetheless believe that the slowdown is due, in part, to an acceleration of “near-shoring,” the practice of producing closer to the customer.

The Experts’ Choice of the Top Online Logistics Resources

This blog is mentioned as one of the top blogs in Experts’ Choice: Logistics and Supply Chain Blogs

Behind Deadly Tianjin Blast, Shortcuts and Lax Rules(NYT)

The catastrophe in Tianjin at the Rui Hai warehouse has stunned a nation inured to living with one of the worst industrial safety records in the world. The company exploited weak governance in one of the party’s showcase economic districts and used political connections to shield its operations from scrutiny.

Wal-Mart pushing back inventory to Distribution Centers (WSJ)

The retailer is holding goods longer at distribution centers, increasing flexibility and trying to meet e-commerce competition and the changing consumer expectations.