Supply Chain by the Numbers

- May 8, 2015 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of May 8, 2015

US Trade Deficit Soars; Union Pacific Knows How to Run a Railroad; New 3D Printing Factory Inside UPS Hub; Kroger Makea Progress in Hiring Disable for Tennessee DC


$51.4 Billion

That was the amazing US trade deficit in March, according to figures released this week from the US Census Bureau. That was an enormous jump from February, with a growth in the deficit of more than $15 billion, and the highest total monthly deficit since October 2008. Some of the sharp increase is being attributed to the end of the labor strife on West coasts ports and the resulting flood of log jammed imports in the month, such that the trade deficit may pull back when the April figures are released. That said, the U.S. trade deficit with China was $37.8 billion in March, or 74% of the total and the highest ever monthly deficit with that country on record. That story simply never changes.




That was the average net profit as a percent of revenue in Q1 across the four public rail carriers we follow, after all the earnings reports are now complete. That performance was as usual led by Union Pacific, which saw net income as a percent of revenues come in at an impressive 20.5%. By comparison, that same measure at consumer products giant Procter & Gamble was just 11.8%. Not that many years ago, the railroad sector was very unprofitable, but the times have certainly changed. CSX, for example, has raised its dividend at a compound annual growth rate of 26% over the past 10 years - and investment in rail carriers would have paid off nicely over that period and maybe still today.


That's the number of disabled workers Kroger now has at a distribution center in Cleveland, TN, after a little more than one year of a program to increase the number of such workers in the same mode as pioneer Walgreen's, Lowes, Starbucks and Toys R Us have already done. That is out of 1000 total DC associates at the facility, but Kroger's HR manager Stan Martz said at the WERC annual conference this week that the goal is to reach 100 disabled workers at the facility. "This is just the right thing to do," Martz said. SCDigest agrees, and notes that none of the companies cited above reduces performance standards for disabled workers, although sometimes low cost "accommodations" to the physical work environment are needed to enabled these workers to do the job.



That's now many 3D printers a start-up company called CloudDDM (direct digital manufacturing) will soon have in place right in the heart of the giant UPS sortation facility in Louisville, KY, according to an announcement this week. The company has targeted creation of prototypes and service parts for its offering, and highly automated the entire process, with UPS performing the fulfillment services. Customers submit their orders online by uploading a 3D file. At that point, the company’s software immediately estimates the price. Orders start printing once a customer enters credit card information. UPS' venture fund has taken a stake in the company, and CloudDDM says it may someday have 1000 3D printers at the UPS site. 3D printing really is coming.