Supply Chain by the Numbers

- March 1, 2019 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for March 1, 2019

US GDP just Misses Magic Number; FedEx Joining Delivery Bot Wars; Big Economic Gains Coming from AI; New Truck Trailer Material Produces Big Reduction in Weight



That, it appears, was the full year growth in US GDP for all of 2018, just below the magical 3% growth number that the US has amazingly not reach since 2005, even though 3+% growth used to be commonplace. Still, the year ended strong, up 2.6% in Q4 versus Q3, according to the Commerce Dept., and above the 2.2% gain that was the consensus among economists. And Q4 GDP was 3.1% over the same period in 2017, giving the Trump admiration something to crow about. Ironically, however, the partial government shutdown in December may have caused the 3% annual growth goal to be barely missed. The White House is confident about achieving economic growth in the 3% range again this year. However, Federal Reserve officials see a slowing trajectory, with economic output growth of 2.3% in 2019, 2.0% in 2020, and just 1.8% in 2021.



That's the top speed in miles per hour a new delivery robot from FedEx can reach, as the package delivery giant joins Starship Technologies, Amazon and many other chasing an autonomous delivery bot that can traverse city sidewalks from retailers and restaurants to consumers. FedEx calls its version the SameDay Bot. It was developed with the help of engineer Dean Kamen, who previously created the Segway and stair-climbing upright wheelchair, iBot, and you can see the legacy of Kamen's work in FedEx's robot, which uses multiple pairs of wheels to climb up steps and curbs. Like the others, the SameDay Bot can in theory steer itself around pedestrians and traffic using a combination of LIDAR sensors like those found in self-driving cars and regular cameras. FedEx says it's currently in talks with firms including AutoZone, Lowe's, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart to assess their need for this sort of robot delivery.


$15.7 Trillion

That's how much artificial intelligence will contribute annually to global GDP in 2030, according to new analysis from PwC. The accounting firm said AI already drove $2 trillion in economic output in 2018. How they came up with that figure we're not quite sure, but if it is even modestly accurate it could allay fears over the net impact on jobs from AI, even if lots of workers in some areas are replaced by software robots. PwC says currently the AI gains are coming from labor productivity, personalization, time saved, and quality. We'll note the latest World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) report found that two United States companies lead the world in issued AI patents, with IBM holding 8,290 patents and Microsoft holding about 5,930 patents. But China has become the fastest growing competitor by focusing on machine learning techniques.



That is the substantial reduction in weight in a new class of truck trailer made from composite materials going into test at UK grocer Tesco. Under the Lightweight Aerodynamic Double-Deck Trailer Trial, a consortium of partners – including Tata Steel, manufacturer Lawrence David, SDC Trailers and Cambridge University – aims to reduce the carbon footprint of trucks, both on the road and throughout the whole lifecycle through the lower weight, which will allow more goods to be placed in each trailer run. The design also has a higher proportion of recyclable content than conventional rigid-body trailers. Tesco is testing 8 of the new trailers. A spokesperson from Tata Steel said that: "We have developed a product that is not only light and durable, but can be easily and safely recycled." The Tata composite material is called Coretinium, and is produced at the companies Shotton plant in North Wales, offering a local supply chain for UK-based trailer manufacturers.