This Week in Logistics News (January 15-21)

There has been a lot of buzz around facial recognition software lately. And that buzz has come from both sides of the issue, from the benefits of facial recognition software to the dangers and privacy issues. I just read about a different version of facial recognition software that uses artificial intelligence in a slightly different way. Five major UK supermarkets are set to trial age estimation technology to accurately guess the age of customers when buying alcohol. Co-op, Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Morrisons are taking part in a government “regulatory sandbox” between January and May 2022, testing the technology’s ability to facilitate alcohol sales safely and quickly. Yoti, a digital identity platform used by the NHS, claims to have developed the world’s most accurate age estimation technology, training its AI-powered algorithm to verify the age of faces with a average accuracy of 2.2 years. The service is opt-in and the photos will be deleted immediately after departure. It certainly sounds like interesting technology. And now for this week’s logistics news.

The past two years have been fraught with supply chain disruptions as Covid-19 and its multiple variants have spread around the world. Businesses are now bracing for another round of supply chain disruptions as China imposes sweeping containment measures in an attempt to contain the omicron variant. China is home to nearly a third of all global manufacturing, so a prolonged shutdown could certainly have major ramifications on global supply chains. Supply disruptions would be problematic as companies are already facing a shortage of raw materials and longer delivery times. So far, the effects of the shutdowns on production and deliveries from Chinese factories have been limited. Four of China’s biggest port cities (Shanghai, Dalian, Tianjin and Shenzhen) have imposed narrowly targeted shutdowns in an attempt to control small outbreaks of the omicron variant. But, as of this writing, these towns have not locked down their docks.

The Biden administration announced the release of $14 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers to fund 500 projects focused on mitigate supply chain issues and the fight against climate change. The spending is part of Biden’s larger $1 trillion infrastructure deal and is used to show how the projects will improve supply chain backlogs. There are three specific projects related to reducing supply bottlenecks by facilitating the movement of goods. The first is to improve the country’s ability to transport goods. Specifically, the administration will provide $858 million to support the replacement of locks that keep water levels high enough for large cargo ships to pass through the upper Ohio River west of Pittsburgh. Second, strengthen America’s largest port complex. The administration will invest $8 million to improve commercial shipping and allow larger and larger ships to pass through the Port of Long Beach, California. Third, it’s about moving more cargo faster through one of the fastest growing ports in the country. The authority will invest $69 million to improve navigation and increase capacity at Norfolk Harbor, Virginia.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been around in some form or form for some time. The process basically involves building a three-dimensional object from computer-aided design (CAD) to adding material layer by layer until a final product is completed. There has been a lot of interest in 3D printing to reduce supply chain congestion, especially when it comes to small spare parts. Well, the next big act in 3D printing could be large metal objects. A new method from a startup called Seurat could be the breakthrough the industry has been waiting for. If Seurat’s method can be used at scale, US supply chains could be reinvented by using low-cost “print depots” to manufacture parts domestically, in high volume, where and when they are needed. required. This new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the manufacturing of large industrial products like airplanes and cars, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

ocean trendsFourKites, a leading provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions for all modes of transportation and digital platforms, announced the acquisition of European supply chain visibility provider NIC GmbH (NIC-place) . The combined road, rail and sea carrier networks of FourKites and NIC-place will create the largest multimodal carrier network in Europe. The acquisition will also accelerate the adoption of secure, real-time visibility solutions purpose-built for carriers, while shortening the time to value for shippers with complex multimodal carrier networks. The companies will retain the NIC-place name and retain the NIC-place offices in Germany from which to expand its team and operations. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Shippers are struggling ocean rates continue to soar. According to recent data, shipping rates are expected to remain high through 2022, creating another year of booming profits for global freight carriers and leaving small businesses and their customers to pay more for just about everything. The spot rate for a 40ft container to the United States from Asia exceeded $20,000 last year, including surcharges and premiums, from less than $2,000 a few years ago, and recently hovered around $14,000. In addition, tight container capacity and port congestion mean that longer-term rates set in contracts between carriers and shippers are around 200% higher than a year ago, signaling high prices in a foreseeable future.

instagram continues to expand its service options in its partnerships with major supermarkets across the country. As more and more customers turn to ready meals, Instacart is seizing the opportunity to grow its business. Starting this week, Instacart enabled supermarket customers to purchase hundreds of meals from chains including Publix Super Markets, Kroger and Ahold Delhaize USA’s Giant, Food Lion, Hannaford, Stop & Shop and Martin’s banners. Customers can use the Instacart app’s Ready Meals Hub, a new integrated destination for ready meals, to have them delivered to their doorstep in just 30 minutes. Consumers in 35 states can now access the Ready Meals Hub to order ready meals for delivery at more than 4,100 grocery stores, and Instacart plans to roll out ready meals from ShopRite in the coming weeks.

More than 70 companies, including some of the world’s biggest plastic polluters, are calling on the UN to implement a global pact that includes reduction of plastic pollution as well as increased recycling. Companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestlé signed an open letter over the weekend recommending such a “plastics treaty”. The call to action comes ahead of the UN Assembly conference on the environment, which takes place in Nairobi from February 28. Signatories to the joint statement recommend that the UN implement a legally binding treaty that, in addition to improving downstream solutions to tackle plastic solutions, including recycling, would also set production reduction targets plastic first. The open letter insists that the plastic pollution crisis is linked to the climate crisis and harms ecosystems.

It’s all for this week. Enjoy the Weekend and Song of the Week, Blink 182’s How old am I again?