Supply Chain Trends and Issues: Our Weekly Feature Article on Important Trends and Developments in Supply Chain Strategy, Research, Best Practices, Technology and Other Supply Chain and Logistics Issues  
  - Jan. 15, 2015 -  

Supply Chain Event Timeline for 2014

A Month by Month Chronicle of the Top Supply Chain Stories Last Year

  by SCDigest Editorial Staff  

What were the top supply chain stories of 2014?

Last week, SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore gave an overview of th year in supply chain for 2014, concentrating on top trends and themes. (See The Year in Supply Chain 2014).


As promised in that column, we're back again with our popular review of the top supply chain stories and event of 2014, chronicled by month, as found below.

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We're back again with our popular review of the top supply chain stories and event of 2014, chronicled by month"

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News that Amazon has received a patent for something called "speculative shipping," which greatly simplified means Amazon would send packages to a market based on forecasts, not actual orders, then deliver to customers rapidly as real orders are received.

Chinese auto glass maker Fuyao Glass announces it will buy about 1 million square feet of the 2.5 million total at a shuttered GM plant near Dayton, OH made famous in after a 2008 HBO documentary on its closing called "The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant." The company will invest some $200 million, and employ 800.


In a major defeat for the United Auto Workers and labor forces generally, workers at a VW plant in Chattanooga vote against unionization, despite management's quasi-support for organizing them. UAW at first says it will challenge the vote with the NLRB, but then drops that plan.

Also in the month, however, the NLRB says it will again propose so called "microwave" elections for unionization, which many believe will favor labor. Seems likely to become the law sometime in 2014, and is in fact finalized in December.

News that Rolls Royce has been working with European officials on "drone" container and cargo ships that would have no crew, and be controlled by joy sticks and other technology from shore. It hopes to develop a prototype ship that can be sailed by the end of 2015.


News that Walmart execs still pushing store managers and others to do a better job keeping shelves stocked, saying at a company meeting that there is $3 billion in increases sales to be gained in US.

Amazon announced new "Dash" wand-like device that enables customers to order groceries in the markets serviced by its Amazon Fresh service via scanning product bar codes or simply speaking into the device (e.g, "skim milk").


Walmart introduces new "WAVE" truck concept, which features very aerodynamic can in which driver sits in the middle, and trailer made solely from low-weight carbon fiber. Just in R&D mode for now.

Reports that Amazon is testing its own fleet of delivery trucks for general merchandise deliveries in three US markets, and that it has plans to use its own trucks eventually in the top 40 US markets.

Supply chain professional organizations APICS and the Supply Chain Council (SCORE model) announce they are merging.

Zebra Technologies surprisingly announces it will be acquiring the radio frequency systems, bar code scanning and related products businesses from Motorola Solutions, which will focus just on its radio business.

The World Bank releases its fourth ranking of logistics competitiveness by country, with Germany taking the top spot, displacing Singapore, which was number 1 in the 2012 rankings. European countries dominated the top 10, holding the top four spots and 7 of the top 10. Interestingly, for all the hand wringing relative to US logistics infrastructure challenges, the US actually ranked number 5 in the world on that attribute. The US would have been near the top placement overall except for a relatively poor rank of 26 on ease of international shipments.


JDA Software CEO Hamish Brewer loses job after many years at the helm, as private equity investors believe company not moving fast enough on new strategies. Chairman Bal Dail takes over on an interim basis, later takes CEO on a permanent basis.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos clarified long mysterious plans for the Kiva robotic picking system the company had acquired in 2012, saying Amazon would ramp the number of the robots in its DCs from about 1000 to some 10,000 by year's end. Number turns out to be more like 15,000.

Gartner releases annual top 25 supply chain list, with the top four (Apple, McDonald's, and Unilever) remaining unchanged from 2013, with P&G grabbing the fifth spot. It's far from perfect, but it's the best we've got.


The annual State of Logistics from CSCMP finds logistics costs in 2013 fell to 8.2% of GDP in 2013 from 8.3% in 2012, largely on falling freight rates and lower interest rates for inventory. But as noted above that trend is unlikely to hold for 2014.

China regulators kill plan for P3 container shipping alliance between Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Co., and CMA CGM, after consortium had received OK from US and Europe. Move would have changed the dynamics of container industry. Maersk and MSC just announced plans for two-carrier alliance, however.

Contract with the Longshoremen at West Coast ports expires on June 30, but the docks keep working during negotiations, as positioning thus far has been relatively cordial. Competitive pressure may lead to modest gains for workers, but "Cadillac" healthcare plan fines under Obamacare for terminal operators could be big issue. Turns out we enter 2015 with no agreement in place.

UPS joins FedEx is announcing it will use a so-called dimensional weighting program for all ground shipments starting in 2015, in move that could raise parcel shipping costs for some companies substantially.


(Supply Chain Trends and Issues Article - Continued Below)



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US manufacturing levels finally reach 2007 peak and baseline year output, and stays above that mark for rest of 2014 after seven long years, according to Federal Reserve data, though the recovery varies dramatically by sector.


Accelos announces it is acquiring fellow Warehouse Management System provider HighJump Software, and will keep the HighJump name.



Wall Street Journal reports sales of natural gas trucks are well off earlier expectations, expected to grow maybe 20% in 2014 versus some predictions for 100% growth. Continued large cost delta between nat gas trucks and diesel, relatively long payback period (four years or so) and questions about whether carrier fuel savings will be lost from lower surcharge revenue among key factors cited in the drop.

News that China is cracking down hard on Western companies it says are charging much higher prices in the country than in their homes markets or other parts of the world, in move that has many huge multinational companies scrambling. Several major European auto companies reduce prices on replacement parts significantly as scrutiny increases.


Zara, the dominant banner in Spain's Inditex SA retail portfolio, announced major plans to roll out item-level RFID tagging too all its 2000 or so stores globally, up from 700 or so using the technology now to improve inventory accuracy. In interesting twist, Zara develops way to reuse all the tags, saving millions annually.

DHL tests drone delivery of parcels using what is calls a "Parcelcopter" to a fairly remote island community called Juist, but says widespread use of drones is years away, and most suitable to special situations.

Electric car maker Tesla announces it will build its new "Giga factory" in Las Vegas near Reno in what may become the largest US factory by square footage. Project said to cost $5 billion, but Tesla will receive huge tax breaks, gets major part of its investment from Panasonic, which will run the factory projected to create 6500 jobs and be operational by 2017.


Delays and congestion really start to hit West Coast ports, with accusations that the ILWU is holding back needed workers as negotiating tactic in contract talks, while chassis management is clearly also an issue. Delays threaten ability of manufacturers and retailers to get some goods to the shelf in time for Christmas.

HP announces it will release a new printer in 2016 that will produce items as much as 10 times faster than current technology. 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). This could be a game changer - with a big impact on supply chains.


Republicans dominate elections, capturing US Senate while holding the House, in change that will impact many legislative and regulatory issues that impact the supply chain.

The ILWU takes a week or so off from contract negotiations with West Coast ports, as talks seem to be going nowhere.


The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, led by US firms including VF Corp., Walmart and Gap Stores, and formed after 2013 building collapse in Bangladesh that killed some 1100 apparel workers, gains traction with program Bangladeshi factories access to the low-cost loans to make factory improvements backed by a corporate guarantee using an arm of the World Bank.

Amazon test "immediate" delivery service in New York City called Amazon Prime Now using bike couriers, launches "Essentials" private label product line, starting with diapers and baby wipes.

New spending bill signed into law suspends enforcement of the new 34-hour restart provision for US truck drivers until late 2015 pending requirement for further study by the FMCSA in win for the transport sector.

UN Climate Summit in Peru ends with another agreement to finally agree at the 2015 meeting in Paris, which promises lots of fireworks over whether the agreement for CO2 emissions will be legally binding or voluntary (we predict voluntary to avoid a US Senate vote) and huge payments to developing countries - including China - to help them transition to low carbon economies.

As expected, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approves new rules that may lead to much faster votes on unionization ("microwave elections"), access to labor of employee email addresses and phone numbers, and other changes seen as very favorable to unions in the biggest change to labor law in decades.

Oil prices fall to around $50 per barrel by year’s end in stunning move, but while gasoline prices fall in lockstep, diesel prices are much slower to move.

Anything missing from our top supply chain stories of 2014? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section (email) or button below.

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