In the fast lane: May logistics and supply chain news update

A quick synopsis of what we are reading in shipping, transportation, and business news this week


I hope you had a wonderful Memorial day weekend and were able to enjoy a shorter work week this week. It’s starting to get hot and humid here on the East Coast. Our office, close to the Philadelphia area, has experienced some wild weather and tornado sightings and warnings this week. Time to prepare for summer weather.

Here were the hot topics (no pun intended there) of the week in the news:

7 Days

FedEx Ground Announced Seven-Day Residential Delivery Year-round

The ecommerce buyers desire and demand for faster shipping had FedEx announcing this week that beginning in January 2020 FedEx Ground will be delivering seven days per week, year-round for the majority of the U.S. population.

“We have made significant investments in capacity, technology and automation at FedEx Ground over the past 20 years. These investments have allowed us to gain ground market share for 19 of the last 20 years, and we are now ideally positioned to extend that growth as the average daily volume for small parcels in the U.S. is expected to double by 2026,” said Raj Subramaniam, president and chief operating officer, FedEx Corp., in their press release. “Expanding our operations to include Sunday residential deliveries further increases our ability to meet the demands of e-commerce shippers and online shoppers.”

FedEx currently is a shipping carrier for 201 retailers in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000 – while UPS is used by 274.


$2 trillion infrastructure package

“Status quo is failing” was the theme coming out of Washington D.C. and other host cities as 500 organizations participated in the 7th annual Infrastructure Week to call for a national infrastructure investment last week.

“Manufacturers are calling on Congress to act. Everything from our roads and bridges, ports and waterways, broadband and 5G technologies and more need a robust investment,” said Catie Kawchak, Director, Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy at the NAM. “Across the country the message from Infrastructure Week is simple: The infrastructure choices we make today will shape America’s future.” – nam.org

“With a $2 trillion infrastructure package on the line, business leaders need to step up and fight for the common good in the form of public infrastructure spending — or suffer the consequences.” – Forbes


98.6%

The percentage of small American manufacturing companies that are struggling to hire

98.6% of American manufacturing companies are small businesses, struggling to hire.

“Manufacturing businesses drive the U.S. economy,” said SCORE CEO Ken Yancey. “They might be factories or bakeries, and they might utilize machine power or hand-make their products, but what they have in common is that the vast majority of manufacturers are small business owners.”

What does this mean? While robotics have been perceived to be a threat to manufacturing jobs – the more than 400,000 job openings further prove that humans are still needed in manufacturing. And as ABI Research conconcluded, technology will reinvent, not eliminate, manufacturing jobs. Employers will need to leverage new technologies and machine learning to continuously train their current employees.


June 1

Beware the Weather

With the Atlantic hurricane season officially starting June 1 and devastating storms and tornadoes already impacting lanes across the midwest – it’s a good reminder for companies to be looking ahead at possible delays and disruptions to their supply chains that summer weather could cause.


14 acts of kindness

What I’m reading this week

“Be kinder than is necessary. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”

Simple words, but a great reminder as you interact with peers and customers. 14 random ways to be kind at work (and why it matters) by Sarah Goff-Dupont gave some practical tips on ways you can show kindness to those around you. If you have a few minutes I would recommend it.


And I’ll leave you with this Gif of the week:

Any news you are reading this week? Let me know!

Have a great weekend,

– Hannah

P.S. I won’t admit to how long I watched that gif until I realized what was happening.

Blockchain Simplified

What you need to know about the technology


By now, almost everyone has heard of the blockchain, a concept popularized by the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. But the blockchain as a model has the power to influence and transform society with its ability to create an unchangeable digital ledger of transactions, protected by encryption and distribution over hundreds of thousands of independent computers.

Imagine a document that you upload to Dropbox and share with say, 100 random people. Everyone you have shared the document downloads it immediately and stores it on their own computer. They now have timestamped “copies” of this digital document, and if you were to go back and change it, 100 other people have the original document to compare your changed one to. If someone wanted to hack into your computer and change the document, he would have to also hack the 100 other computers and change all of those too.

When an author finishes writing a manuscript to a book, she sends it to a publisher, who then copies it hundreds of thousands of times. It is now decentralized and, in a sense, unable to be changed because you have thousands of other copies to compare it to. No one dreams of changing The Bible or Harry Potter, because millions of copies exist worldwide, and no one is going to accept your modified version. This is the beauty of the blockchain.

In the world of digital transactions and contracts, the blockchain removes the need for a middleman, such as a bank or a contractor. You don’t need a third party to participate in your deal because once the transaction is complete, it’s done. You cannot double-spend, change a contract or forge because the transaction is set in stone and irreversibly documented on the blockchain. There are less risks because the sensitive data is not being held in one place, and the blockchain uses encrypted technology called cryptography to store it.

Public key cryptography uses a pair of keys, one public and one private to transfer messages and data through the blockchain. Anyone can see or use someone’s public key to encrypt a message, but once it is encrypted, only the person holding the private key is able to decrypt it. If Joe wants to send an encrypted message to Alice, he would use Alice’s public key to encrypt his message. If someone were to see that message, all they would see is seemingly random numbers and letters. Once Alice has received the encrypted message, she uses her private key to decrypt it.

Remember the 100 people you shared your Dropbox file with earlier? In the world of the blockchain, those people are called miners or nodes. The blockchain can only be updated by total consensus of these nodes, and once new data is added, it can never be erased.

If the blockchain is like an infallible history book, recording everything that happens as it occurs, the nodes are the fact-checkers, interested in preserving the integrity of the chain for their own gain. The nodes solve extremely difficult puzzles on the blockchain network and as a result, have a chance at winning Bitcoin, which is worth nearly 9000x one US Dollar.  It is a tradeoff that works because of the value of Bitcoin and the extreme amount of electricity and space required by these computers completing the puzzles, which are proof-of-work algorithms that keep the blockchain network running.

So what does all this mean? The US Dollar is no longer backed by gold, which means our paper money is only valuable because we as a society believe it to be valuable and rely on it. In online banking, the number in your account is literally just a number that you or your bank cannot change without fulfilling specific conditions, such as a purchase on your debit card, a withdrawal, or an overdraft on your account. Our currency is all about authenticity and the meaning we give it, so the same is true for the blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Contracts, online payments, checks, birth certificates, and cryptocurrency are all valuable because of the confirmation of their authenticity. Without that affirmation, any of these things could be forged and ultimately worthless. The blockchain eliminates the ability for forgery in its infallible record of transactions and data.

Whatever the future of the blockchain, its concept is revolutionary. Whether it will transform society in the way many people believe remains to be seen, and in order for that to happen, our entire society would have to be turned upside down, removing the trust we put in central banks, the federal reserve, third party contractors and the government, replacing that trust with faith in the blockchain.