Order Fulfillment in Review: February 2017
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Every month seems to come and go quickly in an industry as fast-paced as ours, but February flies by faster than the rest. That's the calendar at work, with only 28 days to squeeze in all the supply chain action. Now that we've entered March and are rushing headlong into spring, we can all be forgiven for wanting to put the winter behind us. Nonetheless, take a little while longer to focus on February, because we have some important stories to share in our monthly round-up!
Fulfillment Review: February 2017Of all the fulfillment news and supply chain analysis you might have missed last month, here are the headlines we recommend taking a look at:
- UPS took one last look back at a record-setting holiday period. Package delivery surged to 712 million for the final weeks of 2016, which represented a 16% increase over the previous year. Almost two-thirds of that volume went to residential customers, demonstrating the importance of seasonal e-commerce to retailers and parcel carriers alike.
- After a tough year for container shipping throughout 2016, this year got off to a brighter start with double-digit import growth at the nation's busiest port in January. Growth across all U.S. ports increased by 5% overall, with analysts pointing to increased consumer confidence and post-holiday restocking by retailers as the driving forces behind this heartening uptick.
- Even with that more optimistic outlook for shipping, the retail recipients of these imports are facing up to the extreme challenges of e-commerce competition. Big box retailer Target was the latest brand name to announce lowered earning forecasts for 2017, citing fierce competition from Walmart and Amazon as an explanation and predicting significant price wars in the year ahead.
- The Cass Freight Index offered some respite for industry analysts, suggesting that the ongoing downturn observed throughout most of 2016 is over. Several months of consecutive growth, including a 3.2% annual rise in January, point to shipment levels maintaining the gains that occurred heading into the last holiday season.
- Not far from our NJ fulfillment campus in North Brunswick, the Bayonne Bridge has been undergoing extensive renovation work to make it fit for larger post-Panamax container vessels. The first phase of this "Raise the Roadway" project opened up last month, allowing drivers across the newly elevated road. The $1.3 billion project stands at 215 feet above the busy waterway beneath it, 65 feet higher than the original level.
- U.S. railroads continue to benefit from a renewed focus on coal, according to figures released by the American Association of Railroads (AAR). The 19.2% rise in carloads of "black gold" marked the most significant increase since 1988. Overall volume was up by 6% compared to February 2016, leaving analysts cautiously optimistic for the year ahead.
- On the country's roads, the American Trucking Association (ATA) failed to announce tonnage figures in February but conducted a brief review of 2016 performance in its most recent news release. Perhaps more importantly, the organization's task force met with new Transport Secretary Elaine Chao. On the subject of his visit, ATA President Chris Spear summarized this as an opportunity to highlight "the importance of building a modern transportation system to ensure America’s continuing competitiveness."