Artificial Intelligence Swarms Silicon Valley on Wings and Wheels (NYT)

The new era in Silicon Valley centers on artificial intelligence and robots, a transformation that many believe will have a payoff on the scale of the personal computing industry or the commercial internet, two previous generations that spread computing globally. Computers have begun to speak, listen and see, as well as sprout legs, wings and wheels to move unfettered in the world. The shift was evident in a Lowe’s home improvement store here this month, when a prototype inventory checker developed by Bossa Nova Robotics silently glided through the aisles using computer vision to automatically perform a task that humans have done manually for centuries.

An iPhone’s Journey, From the Factory Floor to the Retail Store (NYT)

After the iPhone leaves the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, it takes two days, on average, to get to a store in Shanghai, a 590-mile trip. It takes three days, on average, to get a store in San Francisco, some 6,300 miles away. Chinese customers can pay much higher prices, because of currency fluctuations and the country’s hefty value-added tax. A 32-gigabyte iPhone 7 sells for about $776 at the Apple Store in Shanghai. In New York, it goes for $649.

Merck Deploys AI For ‘Self-Driving’ Supply Chain (WSJ)

Company is in a multi-year project to improve demand forecasts, plans to deploy sensors and algorithms throughout its supply chains for pharmaceuticals and health-care products. The goal is to create an autonomous supply operation where computers make more decisions about allocating materials and distributing products,

Siemens and General Electric gear up for the internet of things (Economist)

The two firms are taking very different paths towards digitization. GE is completely reinventing itself, whereas Siemens is staying close to its roots. Siemens tends to be organised in vertical, industry-specific silos, such as machine tools and medical equipment. GE typically comes in horizontal, widely used layers, such as computer operating systems.

Amazon Moves to Cut Checkout Line, Promoting a Grab-and-Go Experience (NYT)

In the latest in its expanding set of experiments involving bricks-and-mortar retail stores, Amazon has created a small grocery store in Seattle that will allow customers to pluck drinks, prepared meals and other items off shelves and walk out without having to wait in a checkout line, the company said.

As Gap Struggles, Its Analytical CEO Prizes Data Over Design (WSJ)

Under Mr. Peck, a former partner at Boston Consulting Group who arrived at the company in 2005, Gap Inc. has put operational executives in control of its major brands, including Old Navy. It has also expanded the role of outside vendors—some of which have their own design teams. Mr. Peck favors a model in which things are more decentralized. Brand merchants, who serve as collection editors, are no longer involved in every product category. Some items, like men’s dress shirts, can be stamped out by a foreign supplier without approval from a head designer. He is also pushing executives to pay more attention to Google analytics and market-research data to monitor consumer tastes.

Choke Point of a Nation: The High Cost of an Aging River Lock (NYT)

Lock No. 52 is a serious bottleneck in innumerable supply chains nationwide. It is emblematic of the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure coast to coast — including locks, ports, highways and railroads. The average delay at No. 52 in October and November was 15 to 20 hours. At the moment, No. 52’s sister dam downriver, No. 53, is adding 48 more hours to the wait.

Zara’s Recipe for Success: More Data, Fewer Bosses (BusinessWeek)

Zara has unique practices that may account for its success
– Unlike rivals such as Gap, H&M, and Primark, Zara has no chief designer, and there’s little discernible hierarchy. Its 350 designers are given unparalleled independence in approving products and campaigns, shipping fresh styles to stores twice a week. Guided by daily data feeds showing what’s selling and what’s stalling, the teams develop fashions for the coming weeks.
– It “pulls” ideas from consumers, rather than designing collections months in advance and “pushing” goods on shoppers with ads.
– Its supply chain which consists of a network of factories in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco that produces 60 percent of its merchandise. With production nearby, it can quickly switch gears if weather or fashion trends change, getting designs into stores in as little as two or three weeks, while rivals’ orders slowly make their way across the ocean on container ships.

Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize the supply chain (TechCrunch)

Blockchain has the potential to transform the supply chain and disrupt the way we produce, market, purchase and consume our goods. The added transparency, traceability and security to the supply chain can go a long way toward making our economies safer and much more reliable by promoting trust and honesty, and preventing the implementation of questionable practices.

How to Fight Amazon.com, Best Buy-Style (WSJ)

1) Prevented showroom shoppers from buying elsewhere.
2) Committed to matching competitors’ prices and brought its prices in line with Amazon’s.
3) Improved its website and mobile app.
4) Used its stores to improve its e-commerce operations.
5) Used its stores for competitive advantage.

Walmart Wants to Apply Blockchain to Other Products Beyond Pork

Trying to make pork products in China safer was just the first step of Walmart’s global plans for blockchain. The pilot unveiled last week uses technology from the Hyperledger project to track pork shipping information, including farm origination details, batch numbers and storage temperatures on a secure blockchain. Over the months ahead, the retail giant wants to expand on that work.

Amazon’s Newest Ambition: Competing Directly With UPS and FedEx (WSJ)

To constrain rising shipping costs, the online retailer is building its own delivery operation.

SenseAware is FedEx’s IoT sensor-based logistics solution.

SenseAware is a multisensor device that monitors critical shipments – in near real-time – from when they are packed and picked up to the time they’re delivered and beyond. Typically placed inside packages, pallets, trailers and warehouses, the device collects data from items and transmits that data via wireless communication to an online application for monitoring and analysis.

Fast-Fashion Tricks Are on Display at Department-Store Chains (WSJ)

Lord & Taylor identifies top sellers, uses quick-turnaround methods from Xcel Brands to deliver goods to shoppers.

This is the first Adidas shoe made almost entirely by robots

Adidas’ robotic shoe manufacturing plant in Germany is now up and running. The athletic footwear giant shared its first shoe made almost entirely by robots late last week, building on the company’s long-term plan to add robot-staffed, custom shoemaking factories, dubbed Speed Factories, to its global supply chain.

Blockchain Makes Inroads in Shipping (WSJ)

Marine Transport International Ltd., a U.K.-based freight forwarder, has started using blockchain to create real-time digital ledgers of shipping data for use by port officials, cargo owners and others along global supply chains, the company said Thursday.

Five Technologies That Will Self-Orchestrate The Supply Chain (Forbes)

The supply chain of tomorrow will be leaner, faster and most importantly, self-orchestrated. This unprecedented pace of change will be driven by a few radical technologies that will be cautiously adopted by industry participants over the next 15 years. Here is a view of the top five Frost & Sullivan has identified from its comprehensive analysis on the Future of Logistics.