Order Fulfillment in Review: January 2017
It's already February; business is back in full flow and the snow is hitting hard if you live on the East coast. All good reasons for accidentally overlooking some of the more important headlines that our industry had to offer in January.
As usual, there's no need to worry. Capacity has you covered with early analysis of the fulfillment sector as 2017 got underway.
Fulfillment Review: January 2017
Here are some of the supply chain news and views you may have missed during the first month back:
- The shipping sector finally got some positive signals from January, with the news that U.S. imports jumped by more than 10% last month. Rising consumer confidence, restocking, and a robust dollar on the currency markets are all contributing factors to what the industry hopes will be the start of a significant recovery.
- The first weeks of a new U.S. administration brought all kinds of activity relevant to the global supply chain. From the immediate dismissal of the TPP trade deal and proposal of new border taxes to taking the early steps on easing regulatory burdens, the Trump administration is clearly ready to move on its campaign promises. With infrastructure spending and manufacturing high on that agenda, we expect much more to cover in the months ahead.
- Rail freight volume is rarely a ray of sunshine in our monthly updates, but 2017 has started off well for the country's railroads. Carload traffic was up 2.9% last month, compared to January 2016. That uptick appears to be continuing into February, with coal carloads an important part of that growth. All aboard the energy train!
- As if to balance the books, road freight figures failed to post a second consecutive month of growth and tonnage fell by 6.2% for the most recently reported period. Trucking tends to be the bright spot of our volume reviews but the sector had something of a rollercoaster ride as 2016 came to a close. Nonetheless, analysts remain confident for the year ahead. Bob Costello, Chief Economist at the American Trucking Association (ATA), points to several factors for this optimism, including "continued spending by consumers, larger wage gains, and solid home construction.”
- Amazon posted positive earnings results as we entered February, but it was its various patents that caught our eye last month. Drone delivery and autonomous vehicles we already knew about, but an underground network of tunnels? Hey, at least they're unlikely to injure any innocent bystanders!
- Unphased by Amazon's seeming desire to deliver everywhere in every possible way, its aspiring e-commerce rival Walmart offered a more established competitive feature: free two-day shipping. The offer covers two million items and is widely known as the main selling point of Amazon Prime, but Walmart's version comes with no annual subscription fee.
- FedEx continued the trend towards retail locations that double as pick-up points, signing on to access thousands of Walgreens stores across the country. Although the program will start out at a slow pace, FedEx is so confident consumers want the service that it expects to have a presence in some 8,000 stores by the start of next year.
- State lawmakers in Virginia have partnered with a European robotics company to explore autonomous delivery vehicles. These rolling drones - described as looking like "a cooler on wheels" by tech-savvy observers - could be used to fill the delivery gap in product categories like perishables, which have so far proved tough to crack.
Another month under our belt and we're already gathering valuable supply chain stories to bring you in March.