Amazon’s patent for 3D printing and delivery

An article in the Wall Street Journal (February 26, 2015) titled “When Drones Aren’t Enough, Amazon Envisions Trucks with 3D Printers” describes a recent patent awarded to Amazon that describes printing the required product for the customer rather than carrying it in inventory and transporting it to the customer.  The possible use is to print spare parts required by customers and offer quick delivery without carrying inventory in anticipation of customer demand.  But success in this front will require manufacturers to share design details and print files, in return for the benefits from customer delivery. Will OEMs find it in their interest to share design files with Amazon to enable customer satisfaction ? Will such printers be used to customize products already available and offer convenient 3D printing capability for customers ? Will there be enough volume to generate the truck utilization required for these services to be profitable ?

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USPS evolution as ecommerce delivery expectations increase

An article in EcommerceBytes (March 2, 2015  http://www.ecommercebytes.com/cab/abn/y15/m03/i02/s04 ) titled “Online Selling and the future of package delivery”, describes the possible role for the US Postal Service that already serves every postbox every day. It describes use of the US Postal Service by UPS’s SurePost and FedEx’s SmartPost. These new opportunities and Sunday delivery for Amazon suggest that USPS will benefit from ecommerce delivery opportunities. But a recent move by USPS t move to “cluster boxes” that require customers to come pick up their merchandise suggests moving away from their core capability.   Will USPS emerge the winner as ecommerce delivery expectations grow ? Will ecommerce companies like Amazon feel the need to offer home delivery themselves to build brand loyalty ? Or will customers prefer to pick up packages from retail locations or package boxes enroute to work or shopping ?

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Will Roadie provide an alternative cost effective delivery model ?

An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Technology Bubble? Ask Waffle House” (February 24, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/technology-bubble-ask-waffle-house-1424754062?cb=logged0.0031108735129237175) describes an alliance between Roadie (a technology startup) and Waffle House (a 24 hour restaurant). Under the agreement, Waffle House’s 1750 stores will serve as pickup and drop off points for college students who will use the Roadie app to accept and complete deliveries along routes they are already driving. The delivery person gets 80% of the fee, with insurance and photographic evidence of delivery included. Will such use of third party spare delivery capacity provide a cost effective delivery alternative to UPS, FedEx and USPS ? How will dealing with security concerns, timeliness of delivery, tracing impact the costs for Roadie ? Will drivers be able to earn a sustainable income stream to incent them to be available when required ?

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Understanding USAID’s supply chain based on available data

A paper to be presented by A Iyer and G Berenguer uses the dataset provided in section j9 in this site The data provides delivery costs and flow paths from suppliers to country locations by product, by path (direct from supplier or through warehouses in Singapore and Netherlands) and by delivery mode.  It provides information regarding product consumption, ordering and delivery lead times.  An important question analyzed is alternate ways to operate the supply chain and associated managerial changes to implement these alternatives.  Which of the issues i.e., forecasting, budget availability, lead times and customs clearance times based on mode, worries about shrinkage of inventory would you except to be the dominant issue to manage in the USAID supply chain ? How can one use observed performance by country to generate ideas for improvement across countries ?

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Will coordination between e-commerce retailers and carriers ensure on-time deliveries this Holiday season?

An article in the Wall Street Journal (October 1, 2014) titled “UPS, FedEx Want Retailers to Get Real on Holiday Shipping” describes pleas by the carriers FedEx and UPS to ecommerce retailers to stagger their promotions, avoid promising free overnight shipping, move sales to earlier in December and provide volume projections.  This is is response to the close to 2 million packages that did not arrive on time last year. But competition among retailers is bound to push deals until the very last minute on December 23, with volumes forecasted to increase by 14% this year.  Will threats to stop pickups once capacity limits are reached by carriers be sufficient to manage this year’s package volume surge ? Can customers be enticed to order early with appropriately chosen discounts rather than wait until the end ? Can “marketing and logistics be expected to work closely” this Christmas to enable it be a profitable holiday in addition to be a high package volume event ?

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The impact of California’s rules for a “Made in USA” label

An article in the Wall Street Journal (October 1, 2014) titled “‘Made in USA” Spurs Lawsuits” describes the California Law that even one rivet in a product with such a label that is not made in the USA constitutes false advertising.  Basketball hoops with just a few bolts and net imported, USA made helium tanks shipped with imported balloons, rubber rings and light bulbs in Maglite flashlights – are all termed a violation in California even when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) permits the label on all products that are “virtually all” made in the USA.  Is California’s 100% requirement a reasonable requirement to ensure that the intent of the label is satisfied and the benefits accrued only to manufacturers who comply? Will the impact of California’s stringent requirement be a decrease in the number of US manufacturers if they cannot get the market benefit of such labels ? Should states be required to generate consistent requirements for labeling so as to eliminate the ambiguity in Federal labeling laws ?

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Auto Demand and supply mismatch worries impact platinum prices

An article in the Wall Street Journal (September 29, 2014) titled “Platinum Skids on Car-Demand Worries” describes the recent price drop for platinum and traces the volatility of prices of the metal recently.  A strike in a South African mine created supply worries and drove up prices. But the flat to declining demand for autos in Europe and Japan, a sector that accounts for 38% of world demand for platinum, along with steady exports from Russia have created worries of oversupply, thus driving prices down. Will the low prices for platinum create a demand for the metal as investors switch from gold to platinum ? Will its use in the auto industry increase from countries like China ? Or will mines decrease their output to get the system back in sync ?

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