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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- Oct. 30, 2014 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of Oct. 30, 2014

HP 3D Printing Breakthrough? China May be Creating its Own Robot Bubble; US Truckload Rates Continue to Soar; Goldman Sachs Says Oil Prices to Keep Falling



That's how many times faster a new 3D printer from HP is going to operate versus existing technology, the company said this week. The new machine, meant to be sold to businesses, is expected to be released in 2016. It will be able to digitally print items in different colors and manipulate their form, texture, strength, elasticity, friction, as well control their electrical and thermal properties. Current printers use a technology called selective laser sintering (which prints objects point by point), while HP will use fused deposition modeling (which lays down plastic in toothpaste-like layers). Unlike its competitors, HP's machine will prints parts by whole layers at a time. It says to print 1,000 gears using the new printer would take 3 hours, while using laser sintering it would take 38 hours to do the same job. Could be a game changer - with a big impact on supply chains.




Number of robotics companies now operating in China, as such firms are "coming up like mushrooms," according to the CEO of one firm. That is in large part because the Chinese government is aggressively pushing the use of robotics in manufacturing, as its labor hourly costs continue to rise, and some officials estimating Chinese productivity has actually fallen a bit since 2009. In 2013, China overtook Japan to become the largest buyers of robotics (37,000), though some 75% of the machines still come from non-Chinese companies, a situation the government wants to change. In addition to the rapid rise of robot manufacturers, more than 30 industrial parks devoted to robotics are being built or were already functioning around the country, with many now saying there is a "robot bubble" in China that will soon burst.


Price to which US crude oil prices (West Texas Intermediate) are headed by Q2 2015, according to a new forecast this week by Goldman Sachs. The price for Brent crude will also fall to $80, the report predicted. Currently, WTI is about $81 per barrel, and Brent is at $86. Goldman expects both prices to drop a bit through Q1, to $75 and $85 per barrel respectively, then fall further in the typically soft second quarter. All this is of course good news for shippers, as diesel fuel prices are hitting their lowest levels since 2011, bunker fuel costs are down 25% from June, etc., but some say the dropping prices might curtail development of US oil, as prices fall below production costs.



Amount by which the Cass Information Systems Linehaul Index was up in September year over year, making it seven straights months this measure, which measures per mile truckload rates, has been up 5% or more compared with 2013. The numbers starting in March through September: 6.0%, 5.7%, 5.8%, 5.2%, 7.2%, 7.0% and now 6.7% last month. The index was up 2.4% in September over August, which is quite a jump month over month, as carriers are in the driver seat, pardon the pun, when it comes to supply and demand. Noted Avondale Partners: "We are not surprised to see our index continue to post mid-to-high single digit gains, and we expect this to continue through 4Q. We continue to expect contract TL pricing to rise 4-6% in 2014, with the higher end looking increasingly likely."

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