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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- May 19, 2023


Supply Chain by the Numbers for May 19, 2023


US Manufactuning Flat in April; Inflation Outpaces US Retail Sales; Cass Shipments Index Falls Index Falls in April; Ample Claims breakthrough in EV Battery Swapping     



That was the month-over month growth in US retail sales in April, according to a new report from the Commerce Dept. As the numbers are not adjusted for inflation, the headline increase equaled the 0.4% monthly rise in the consumer price index for the month. On an annual basis, sales were up just 1.6%, well below the 4.9% CPI pace, as infation takes a toll.. On-line sales were up just 1.2% for the month. “Retail sales posted a modest rebound in April, but the gain mostly reflected higher prices and a sustained turnaround is unlikely with consumer fundamentals turning less supportive,” said Lydia Boussour, senior economist at EY-Parthenon.



That was the decline in the Shipments Index from the monthly report issued this week as usual by Cass Information Systems. The data is gathered from data from the billions of dollars in freight bills Cass pays on behalf of its clients each year. That 1.3% drop shows modest market weakness, but was less than the 3.8% fall seen in the March index. Cass also publishes its Linehaul Index, which tracks per mile contract truckload rates before fuel surcharge or any other accessorials. That measure was down 0.8% versus March, and 12.3% versus 2022. That took the index down to 146.6, versus the baseline month of January 2010, meaning truckload rates are up 46.6% from more than 13 years ago.




That was the level of the US Manufacturing Output index for April, as reported this week as usual each month by the Federal Reserve Bank (2017 = 100). That was basically up about a percentage point from March’s reading of 98.9. So, US manufacturing is basically flat in recent months, not great, but not recession-like either. Still, with a score of 99.8 for the month, it means output is about the same as in the baseline year of 2017 now six years later, and well below the all-time high of 108 in 2007.




That’s about how many minutes it takes to swap out a car battery at new stations from a company called Ample Inc. , which has quietly deployed more than a dozen robotic battery-swap stations around the Bay Area and in Europe. Earlier this month, at an unmarked warehouse, the company previewed its next-generation swapping stations. That five minute process time of course is much faster than a charging process – and maybe surprisingly cheaper. Consumers subscribe to the company’s swapping service for a fee that it has declined to disclose. Customers also then pay an “energy fee” each time they swap. Changing out a 32-kilowatt-hour battery pack, for instance, costs about $13. Key to the process was getting EV makers to build cars with swappable batteries. So far, the company has signed partnerships with five vehicle manufacturers and designed adapter plates for 20 EV models. Ample’s modular structure costs less than $100,000 to build a station, with all the parts fitting in a shipping container. A station can be deployed in just three days, according to Ample.

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