Drones for material handling in plants and warehouses

A video posted in (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG3Frwaa47E) shows the use of drones for indoor material handling being planned by Qimarox.  The video shows the benefits of using the third dimension and thus relieving the constraints of aisles for warehousing equipment.  The direct flight between points also reduces the constraints on location of kitted components. Will drones provide the productivity and flexibility demanded for light weight kitting ? Will ecommerce warehouses be potential users, particularly for cosmetics, pharma and computer components ? How will drones compete with robots and how should warehouse management systems plan to be integrated with drones for efficient order picking ?

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The role of logistics competitiveness in Airbus’s Mobile, Alabama assembly plant decision

A New York Times article (September 18, 2015) titled “First US Airbus Factory Gives Wings to Revival in Mobile, Alabama” describes parts being flown in from, Europe for assembly of the A321 jet in the Mobile plant. But the article describes the deepwater port to receive large parts from Europe, freight trains nearby and two long runways at the nearby Brookley airport that added to Mobile’s competitiveness. The historic role of military employment at the Brookley Air Force base also added to its significance as a location, in addition to the urgency caused by the cancellation of a previously approved tanker project involving Airbus and Northrup Grumman.  How should the logistics access and mode flexibility of a location be incorporated into the calculus regarding its competitiveness ? Given the mix of modes to deliver components, how will this flexibility enable fast response and yet efficient production in response to production issues as they arise ?  Will the US assembly of the jets provide a demand side benefit in addition to supply advantages – if so, which is more important in determining this site’s long run benefit to Airbus

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Consumer expectations regarding Ethical Behavior by Companies and associated trust issues

An article in the Sustainable Brand newsletter (http://tinyurl.com/companytrust) describes a study by Princeton Survey Research Associates that claims that 96% expect companies to behave ethically, 90% expect a focus on protecting the environment and 76% expect companies to limit their environmental damage. However, 10% of the consumers expect that companies can be trusted to do the right thing.  The article suggests use of social media to communicate the message regarding steps companies are taking to be more responsible.  Should companies take deliberate steps to highlight that they have earned consumer trust and make ethical choices ? Should one expect these steps to be aligned with profit motives in the long run or expect these steps to decrease profitability ? How should companies ensure that ethical practices are propagated across the supply chain ?

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Implications of the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act 2015” passed by Congress

A discussion of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in (http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/blog/2015/jul/23-0) describes the law’s impact on blocking states from passing voluntary GMO labeling laws. A Cornell study by William Lesser had estimated the impact of such labels at $500 per year for a family of four in NY State.  But other researchers claim that transparency across the supply chain  will increase trust and decrease risk (Alexis Bateman).  Should companies have the right to make claims (such as non GMO) about their supply chain even if the specific aspects of the claim  are not shown to have a material impact on the product safety or performance ?  Should product supply chain claims be permitted to be about product features that certain customer segments want to know about ? Will the cost impact of such claims as reflected in their prices be considered part of a customer’s willingness to pay for desired product features ? Should the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act be vetoed because it might be viewed as a constraint on consumer choice ?

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“Uber for Trash”

An article in the Sustainable Brands newsletter (http://tinyurl.com/uberfortrash) describes Rubicon Global as an “Uber for Trash” company, a company that offers on demand trash removal within a few hours to a day. The company removes trash, sorts and recycles to reduce material going to the landfill. The net of pickup and recycling revenue determines customer costs. Will this company generate enough recycled material to become a reliable source for recycled content using companies and thus generate a higher revenue stream for customers ? How will optimal routing to minimize pickup costs mesh with the need to offer fast pickup ? How will on demand trash pickup compete with the current scheduled periodic (weekly) pickup common in most locations ? Will such services be more relevant for companies with significant demand surges that overwhelm trash holding capacity ?

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Malaysia, the Malacca Straits, Slavery and TPP

An article in the Huffington Post (May 26, 2015) titled “Why the US is Desperate to OK Slavery in Malaysia”, describes the logistical importance of the Strait of Malacca located between Malaysia and Indonesia and through which 60% of global trade passes.  The flows include 85% of the oil imported by China, or 60% of their requirement.  This makes preservation of control of the straits, currently ensured by the US Navy, of strategic importance as China tries to assert its control over its security.  But inclusion of Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) requires its classification as a Tier 3 human trafficking country to be lowered, thus the US State Department reclassified Malaysia as a Tier 2 country.  Is the acceptance of steps by Malaysia to change enforcement sufficient to provide the strategic benefit of control of the Malacca Strait for TPP countries? If the Strait of Malacca becomes less reliable for China’s strategic interests, what options might it pursue to ensure its own interests are assured ? Should one balance ethical concerns with strategic interests for TPP or should ethical concerns be nonnegotiable deal breakers ?

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Data protection timing disputes for biologics pharmaceutical products and TPP

An article in the New York Times (July 30, 2015) titled “Patent Protection for Drugs puts Pressure on US in Trade Talks” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/business/international/pacific-trade-deal-drugs-patent-protection.html?_r=0) describes a conflict between Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  countries regarding the duration that data collected during development of biologic medicines is protected. The US has set it at 12 years, while Australia has set it at 5 years. The timing of this data protection is intended to increase the costs for generic manufacturers to repeat these trials before launch. The conflict thus pitches intellectual property protection and costs, but does not involve a discussion of patent protection duration. Should the benefits of the $28 trillion in trade under TPP be incentive for the US to decrease protection time to 7 years from 12 ? Will the US pharmaceutical industry, which has the bulk of the medicines, 3372 out of the 5600 in development across TPP countries, suffer the most and if so, how should incentives for development be protected ? How should the demands from patients in TPP countries for cheaper drug costs be balanced against industry demands ? How will the rest of the global supply chain for biosimilars from non TPP countries offer an alternative to keep costs manageable ?

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