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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- July 15, 2020 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for July 15, 2020

Amazon Loading Up on Larger Delivery Vans; Hair Testing could Push Many Drivers off the Road; US Manufacturing Output Up but Still Low; MIT Warehouse Disinfecting Robots



That is how many heavy-duty Utilimaster "walk-in" delivery trucks from Shyft Group, a Michigan-based specialty vehicle company, an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters it has purchased this week. The implication is these will augment and/or replace the smaller Amazon Prime branded vans most Amazon Delivery Service Partner contractors use, as commonly seen in many cities and neighborhoods. It turns out that Amazon purchased the vehicles last year, but the branded trucks have been parked for months in locations around the United States, including in Amazon lots in New Jersey and California. Why the delay in deployment not clear. The new larger vans are being rolled out now in some parts of the country. So why is Amazon investing in the larger trucks? It could be to simply add more capacity, as Amazon struggled during the pandemic to keep up with 1 and 2-day delivery commitments. Another possibility: Amazon may be reviving its Amazon Shipping program for non-Amazon packages suspended in June to prioritize deliveries to its own customers. Amazon declined to say whether the new fleet would be used to restart that service, which competes directly with UPS and FedEx.



That is about how many US truck drivers might be taken off the road if the government uses hair testing to look for drug use. That according to a new study by Doug Voss and Joe Cangelosi at the University of Central Arkansas, The results ofthat research will soon appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Transportation Management. If accurate, and a hair testing program is mandated by the US DOT, the elimination of that many drivers would have a huge impact on the on-going driver shortage, despite the good of eliminating drug using drivers. It would also represent almost 10% of the total driver population. A number of large carriers, including Schneider, Knight-Swift Transportation, J.B. Hunt, Werner and Maverick, already use more stringent hair drug tests rather than urinalysis due to cheating on the urine testing. But most carriers have not adopted the practice. Congress authorized the DOT to recognize hair testing of commercial drivers in 2015, but little has happened since then.



That was the level of the US manufacturing output monthly index for June, according to the data released this week from the Federal Reserve Bank. That means the production was down almost 7 percent from the baseline year of 2012 (index = 100), but it did jump very nicely from the level of 87.0 in May and 83.8 in June. It was also well below the output level before the virus crisis started, with the index from February at 104.9. It was also down 11% from June of 2019. Factory utilization, however, was at a very low rate of 66.9%, though that was up from 62.3% in May. The long run average is a much higher 78.2%.




That's how many minutes it takes a new robot from MIT and Ava Robotics to disinfect a 4000-square foot warehouse of a Boston food bank through the use of ultraviolet light. The MIT researchers say the machine disinfects surfaces and - critically - neutralizes aerosolized forms of the coronavirus. That seems ever more important given recent reports that the virus stays airborne for longer periods than believed previously. The MIT technology uses a custom UV-C light fixture that is integrated with Ava Robotics' mobile robot base. During the test at the warehouse, the robot was able to drive by the pallets and storage aisles at a speed of roughly 0.22 miles per hour. At this speed, the robot could cover the 4,000-square-foot space in about half an hour. The results were encouraging enough that researchers say that the approach could be useful for autonomous UV disinfection not only in a warehouse but also other environments, such as factories, restaurants, and supermarkets. The design is in its early stages, and many improvements are already planned, such as improvement in coordinating teams of UV-C robots to work together. It is unclear when the system will be ready for commercialization.

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