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.

Four forces to watch in trucking and rail freight (McKinsey)

The North American recession of 2007–09 was hard on surface-transport companies, but today volumes are back, and resilient carriers have become more efficient. Over the past several years, Canada and Mexico have rapidly built supply-chain capabilities for more efficient transport, both domestically and abroad. By embracing e-commerce, US consumers have fundamentally changed the supply chain, pushing inventories further downstream. Other changes are also gathering force, including emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, connected devices, alternative fuels, and blockchain, to name a few. As a result of all these changes, transport markets are less predictable than ever, and require more vigilance from executives.

Sears vs. Amazon: A Tale of Two Retailers (WSJ)

Sears has closed hundreds of stores, triggering anxiety about the once-dominant retailer’s future. Amazon has been on a building binge, is set to swallow Whole Foods and now, will sell Sears appliances online. See how their paths have crossed:

This Economic Model Organized Asia for Decades. Now It’s Broken (Bloomberg)

Automation threatens to block the ascent of Asia’s poor. The window is closing on emerging nations. They will not have the opportunity that China had in the past.

GM Expects To Move 600 Supplier Jobs From Mexico to Texas (WSJ)

GM is one of several manufacturers rethinking the wisdom of shipping intermediate products through far-flung supply chains. Once thought of as a strategy to lower costs, overreliance on a global parts network is perceive to be a risky bet due to political shifts, protectionist measures and even natural disasters.

The Amazon-Walmart Showdown That Explains the Modern Economy (NYT)

Larger companies that are good at supply chain management and technology can spread those more-or-less fixed costs around more total sales, enabling them to keep prices lower than a niche player and entrench their advantage.

BMW Slows Some Production Due to Parts Shortage From Supplier Bosch

Bosch is not able to provide sufficient number of steering gears used in BMW’s 1-Series, 2-Series, 3-Series and 4-Series compact cars. BMW’s plant in Leipzig in eastern Germany has been shut down since Friday. Plants in China and South Africa have brought forward planned production breaks and extended their duration.

Supply Chain Management: It’s IoT Time

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making its way into every aspect of life. By 2021, 22.5 billion devices will be connected to the IoT, compared with 6.6 billion in 2016, according to a BI Global Intelligence survey. The world will invest $4.8 trillion in IoT technologies and products during that time, the company forecasts.

Your Shoes Will Be Printed Shortly (WSJ)

Because traditional manufacturing requires molds, casts and machining, it has high upfront costs. It’s great if you want to make a million of something, but not so great if you want fewer. What the 3-D printing business has finally figured out is how to speed up the process dramatically while also using cheaper and stronger materials.

As Department Stores Close, Stitch Fix Expands Online (NYT)

So far, Stitch Fix has found success where other online clothing start-ups have struggled. To the company’s founder, Katrina Lake, success comes down to delivering what consumers want: making it easier to shop. Data science plays a role in nearly every aspect of the business.

How Sephora Is Thriving Amid a Retail Crisis (NYT)

Sephora, which is owned by the French luxury conglomerate LVMH and has more than 2,300 locations in 33 countries, offers digitally savvy customers enough technological doodads and computer displays to make a Silicon Valley engineer blush.

Fashion’s move to immediacy has resulted in a shipping race

Not only does fast shipping meet customers’ new expectations, it also helps sales, which considering the rocky retail climate, is a major benefit. Faster delivery is linked to instant gratification, and for many retailers, it has helped lower the return rate.

Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm (WSJ)

Retailers are using artificial-intelligence software to set optimal prices, testing textbook theories of competition; antitrust officials worry such systems raise prices for consumers

How Germany’s Otto uses artificial intelligence (Economist)

Otto uses a deep-learning algorithm, which was originally designed for particle-physics experiments at the CERN laboratory in Geneva. It analyses around 3bn past transactions and 200 variables (such as past sales, searches on Otto’s site and weather information) to predict what customers will buy a week before they order.

Study: 80% of manufacturing supply chain execs say digital supply chain will be the predominant model within 5 years

The top technologies respondents say can be a source of either disruption or competitive advantage are:
Robotics and automation (61%, up from 39% in 2015)
Predictive analytics (57%, up from 38% in 2015)
IoT (55%, new category in 2017)
Sensors and automatic identification (53%, up from 42% in 2015)
Driverless vehicles and drones (54%, up from 30% in 2015)

Automated Truck Firm Raises $60 Million (WSJ)

Peloton gets second round of funding for its ‘platooning’ technology for commercial fleets. Peloton’s system allows two trucks traveling front-to-back to be controlled by a driver in the front vehicle. Trailing the lead vehicle by as little as 30 feet, the second truck uses about 10% less fuel because of reduced wind resistance from the lead truck.

China Sees a Manufacturing Future—in America (WSJ)

Beset by high taxes, slow shipping, one Dongguan shoe maker looks to the U.S. But the real key is technology: Advanced manufacturing is leveling the playing field.