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.

How Coronavirus Could Impact the Global Supply Chain by Mid-March (HBR)

Reports on how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting supply chains and disrupting manufacturing operations around the world are increasing daily. But the worst is yet to come. We predict that the peak of the impact of Covid-19 on global supply chains will occur in mid-March, forcing thousands of companies to throttle down or temporarily shut assembly and manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Europe. The most vulnerable companies are those which rely heavily or solely on factories in China for parts and materials. The activity of Chinese manufacturing plants has fallen in the past month and is expected to remain depressed for months.

A Warehouse Robot Learns to Sort Out the Tricky Stuff (NYT)

At a facility near Berlin of Obeta, an electrical parts company that opened in 1901, a robot using three suction cups at the end of its long arm sifts through parts with surprising speed and accuracy. While it may not seem like much, this component-sorting robot is a major advance in artificial intelligence and the ability of machines to perform human labor.

Brazil’s Shrinking Rainforest Prompts Nestlé, H&M, Others to Shake Up Supply Chains

Brazil’s accelerating deforestation is pressuring food makers, retailers, investors and commodity traders to shake up supply chains in an effort to push back on land-clearing and achieve environmental goals. Nestlé SA, which aims to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain over the next three years, has stopped buying Brazilian-produced soybeans from agricultural trading firm Cargill Inc. after a review couldn’t trace the oilseeds back to specific plantations, raising concerns that they were produced on converted land.

Is the U.S. final mile market size $8 billion or $417 billion?

Estimates of the size of the final mile delivery market in the U.S. vary widely. They are a combination of hard data and expert opinion, which roughly judge the value, number, quantity and extent of the market. The term “final mile” is broadly used to describe the movement of people and products the last leg of transportation from a facility to a final destination, and some estimates include all modes transporting products, commodities, mail and people to both residential (B2C) and business (B2B) premises. Others focus on the store-to-home transportation of very specific goods. Estimates can be limited to goods sold within the U.S. or include cross-border sales with domestic delivery. To account for drop-ship and other forms of e-commerce fulfillment, some estimates include first-mile, middle-mile and fulfillment costs in a first-to-last-mile approach.

Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming (NYT)

A surge of oil production is coming, whether the world needs it or not. The flood of crude will arrive even as concerns about climate change are growing and worldwide oil demand is slowing. And it is not coming from the usual producers, but from Brazil, Canada, Norway and Guyana — countries that are either not known for oil or whose production has been lackluster in recent years.

Companies Go to New Depths for Ocean Plastic in Recycling Push (WSJ)

Multinationals like Coca-Cola, Adidas and HP reuse trash fished from seas or collected on coastlines. Since 2017, Dell has recycled 27 metric tons of ocean-bound plastic collected within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of coastlines or waterways in the developing world. The company reuses the material for packaging and is expanding the initiative. HP Inc. says it sourced 450 metric tons of trash at risk of reaching the sea in Haiti, equivalent to 35 million plastic bottles, to make ink cartridges and parts of laptops and monitors. The tech companies, together with General Motors Co. , Interface and others, have partnered under the two-year-old NextWave Plastics consortium to commercialize supply chains that prevent plastic getting to oceans.

Unraveling the Secret Origins of an AmazonBasics Battery

AA batteries are one of Amazon’s smallest and most popular products. Amazon is fiercely secretive about its corporate footprint and masks its operations through a discreet network of outsourcing, making its supply chain hard to unravel.

May I predict your Order? (NYT)

McDonald’s has a new plan to sell more Big Macs: Act like Big Tech.  Over the last seven months, McDonald’s has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire technology companies that specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning. And the fast-food chain has even established a new tech hub in the heart of Silicon Valley — the McD Tech Labs — where a team of engineers and data scientists is working on voice-recognition software.

Amazon Sells Clothes From Factories Other Retailers Blacklist (WSJ)

According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, the site today offers a steady stream of clothing from dozens of Bangladeshi factories that most leading retailers have said are too dangerous to allow into their supply chains.

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 […]