AEB News Brief

News on supply chain, global trade and logistics

Trending today: Amazon introduces a new twist in customer service and a major automaker debuts a new electric van aimed at last-mile delivery.

News brief
News brief

Welcome to the AEB news brief. It's our regular update on major events and interesting things going on in the world of supply chain, global trade and logistics. You can find the brief by following our pages on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Amazon and Kohl’s are expanding their partnership that allows customers of the former to return their items to the latter’s retail stores. Beginning in July, Kohl’s will take back items you’ve ordered from Amazon and want to return for a refund. You don’t need to pack them up in a box, either; the retailer will handle all aspects of shipping and get the items back to one of Amazon’s return centers on your behalf. And everything is completely free. Kohl’s has been offering this convenience since 2017 at around 100 of its stores, but in July, it’ll be available at every location. (TheVerge)

Swedish truckmaker AB Volvo reported a first-quarter operating profit that beat market expectations on Wednesday on the back of stronger pricing and easing supply chain constraints that yielded efficiency gains. Adjusted operating income at the maker of trucks, construction equipment, buses and engines rose to 12.70 billion Swedish crowns (£1.5 billion) from 8.30 billion a year ago, and beat the mean forecast of 10.19 billion in a poll of analysts. (Euronews)

New technologies, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models, information technology research and advisory multinational Gartner VP analyst Christian Titze said on Tuesday. Gartner identified various strategic supply chain technology trends that have broad industry impact, but have not been widely adopted. These technologies are, however, experiencing significant changes or are reaching critical tipping points in capability or maturity. (Engineering News)

Renault presents the EZ-Flex, a demonstrator for last mile city logistics. The agile and all-electric light commercial vehicle is on its way tocompanies throughout Europe who will use the e-van for two years in a sensible trial. The Renault EZ-Flex is strictly targeted and build with commercial users in mind. For now, a dozen of the new small electric transporters are on the way to select clients. The vehicle is equipped with sensors to understand better the use cases, and user feedback will prop up this data. Measuring includes geolocation but also stops, range and other user data. (

“Tariffs.” It’s kind of a dirty word to some small business owners, and we’ve discussed the negatives that paying more for foreign products and commodities can bring. Higher-priced raw materials, such as aluminum and steel, can push up the cost of domestically-produced goods; on its face, that’s not a welcome change. Add in the fact that complicated trade relations are causing some countries to stop buying American altogether, and U.S. businesses are right to worry. There’s another side to the coin of limited global trade, however, and it’s actually a good one. (

News bried
News bried

April 17, 2019

Tesla swept into the automotive industry on a wave of positive buzz and disruptive promise. Now the company is learning that large-scale automotive manufacturing is notoriously hard to perfect. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has acknowledged that supply chain problems have led to production delays, missed quotas, and busted deadlines. Past production problems have sent Tesla’s stock price tumbling. In order to mitigate the damage, Tesla has decided to eliminate several color options. This quick fix might help to speed up production, but it does nothing to solve the distribution issues that put production in turmoil in the first place. (

Apple is having little trouble getting its manufacturing partners, including two of its largest suppliers, Foxconn and Taiwan Semiconductor, to use clean energy — at least for the equipment needed to create and produce Apple’s products. Less than four years after the technology giant launched its ambitious supply chain clean energy program, more than 44 are on board. And interest is picking up: The company added 21 partners in the past year alone. (Greenbiz)

Uber Technologies Inc. is expanding its business helping independent trucking companies with logistics. Next month, Uber Freight will start operations in the Netherlands, marking the unit’s first international expansion, the company said.  (Bloomberg)

Unilever North America announced that 50 percent of the plastic used in its packaging will come from post-consumer recycled content. Unilever made the announcement last week during the Walmart Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting in Arkansas. (Waste360)

Diplomatic efforts to end a global trade war are expanding to multiple fronts asthe European Union and Japan begin talks soon with President Donald Trump’s administration just as the U.S. looks to seal a deal with China.n (Investing)

Google drone
Google drone

April 7, 2019

Amazon has been talking about drone deliveries for years now. It seems to be the one thing that Jeff Bezos truly wants, his Rosebud, if you will. That’s why it must really, really sting that rival company Google looks set to be the first to begin real, commercial drone delivery service. Wing, a drone delivery startup owned by Google parent company Alphabet, got approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and will begin deliveries in Canberra, presumably quite soon. (PLANELOPNIK)

The world economy is still slowing, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday, but a pickup is on the horizon — growth is expected to recover next year unless "policy missteps" get in the way. The organization, which monitors emerging risks and lends to countries in distress, cut its growth forecast for 2019 to 3.3%, down from 3.5% in January's edition  of the World Economic Outlook. (CNN)

On one hand, U.S. auto sales are falling and anxieties are rising. On the other hand, the industry is feeling a fresh wind of bullishness. Automakers have announced a series of major investments to expand, restart or retool existing plants and hire more workers to boost production. The projects are welcome news for suppliers and economic development officials in several locations, and hardly a sign of trouble ahead. (Automotive News)

Californian carmaker Tesla has shared a video of the first delivery of electric cars on an electric Tesla Semi prototype. Sporting a car trailer with four Model 3s on board, the fully electric semi is shown pulling up to a very excited family who are evidently thrilled at being the first ever customers to have their new car delivered by electric truck. The video was preceded by a photo release from Tesla on social media channel Twitter, showing the very happy family receiving and posing for photo in their Model 3. (The Driven)

More than 90% of companies’ environmental impact comes from their supply chains, McKinsey estimates. According to these estimations, retailers’ supply chains typically account for 11.5 times each company’s impact. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) recent ‘Sustainability, the Missing Link’ global report commissioned by LLamasoft revealed 60 percent of supply chain decision makers consider sustainability and profitability as being equally important. But the research also highlighted tension between these priorities in global supply chains, with respondents divided on whether cost is a motivator or a barrier to the adoption of a sustainable supply chain strategy. (Financial Director)

News Brief
News Brief

April 3, 2019

Global sales of Counterfeit andpirated goods have soared to 460 billion euros ($522 billion) a year, amounting to a whopping 3.3 percent of world trade, according to a report published Monday. (France24)

Adidas has warned that it will not be able to meet growing demand in the mid-priced market fully because of supply chain shortages. “Consequently, growth is expected to be negatively impacted, particularly in North America during the first half of the year. The overall impact on the company’s full year growth rate in 2019 is anticipated to be between 1 and 2 percentage points.  (LogisticsManager)

Beijing’s stance on digital currencies has been well documented. Publicly, it wants nothing to do with them and will not permit its population to trade or own them. The underlying blockchain technology remains of great interest, to both business and the state. One of China’s largest ecommerce enterprises, Alibaba, is taking a closer look at this with the launch of two new blockchain affiliates via its payment arm Ant Financials. (AsiaTimes)

The world’s largest logistics provider is steering clear of the sector’s increasingly active mergers-and-acquisitions market. Frank Appel, chief executive of DHL parent company Deutsche PostAG , said in an interview that the scale of the DHL’s forwarding, express and supply-chain business means there are few opportunities for significant combinations that would also pass muster with antitrust regulators. (WSJ)

Supply chains are moving onto cloud-hosted platforms. In these environments hundreds of thousands of partners on a supply chain can share inventory, shipping information and invoices. Here are seven reasons why platformisation could be the future for supply chain management. (Raconteur)

News Brief
News Brief

March 15, 2019

UK lawmakers have voted in favor of delaying the Brexit process, acknowledging that more time is needed to break the deadlock over Britain's departure from the EU. But they decisively rejected a call for a second referendum. (CNN)

Thousands of companies that do business with Amazon were notified last week that they had been removed from the company’s own list of vendors, de facto being pushed to do business on Marketplace. Amazon is only saying the move is part of its regular review process and while some are speculating there may be other reasons for the change, the push is seen by many as part of a longer-term strategy to eventually eliminate most of its own direct selling efforts. (Forbes)

Adidas AG said a supply-chain bottleneck in North America would prevent it from meeting demand for its products in coming months, sending shares down amid concerns the world's second-largest sporting-goods maker could lose its footing in one of its most important markets. (MarketWatch)

BMW and Daimler are in talks to cooperate in developing vehicle platforms for electric cars in a step that could save each carmaker at least 7 billion euros (£5.9 billion), Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Auto Bild said on Thursday. The two premium carmakers already have a joint procurement program and recently extended their alliance to include development of advanced driver assistance systems and mobility services. (Euronews)

The Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) Standards Council board has approved its first official standard to improve supply chain efficiency. Previously, there had been no consensus on the framework over how applications could be built. Companies were using their different perspectives on what tracking and visibility entails. (Supply&DemandChainExecutive)

News brief
News brief

March 12, 2019

Could Amazon Make a Bid for FedEx? Thee-commerce giant has been building up a significant in-house logistics unit, but buying the shipping powerhouse would also solve some problems. (The Motley Fool)

How should manufacturers use digital technologies, in particular automation, to improve the internal supply chain – from Goods In to Goods Out? BMW has embarked on a program that aims to tighten every single link in their supply chain, external and internal, to create a model of manufacturing efficiency. (TheManufacturer)

Alibaba announced that they would be working on their own blockchain solution to closely monitor their supply chains, a move that has been necessitated as the company has moved beyond its own borders. (CoinTelegraph)

Cloud-based IT systems, as well as augmented and virtual reality technologies are changing the way engineers, designers and researchers in OEMs and suppliers work through the automotive supply chain on future products and services. (AutomotiveIT)

Hermes plans to deploy 1,500 electric transporters across Germany in the coming years. “We are focusing clearly on the nationwide expansion of electric mobility. As part of our comprehensive mobility concepts, for instance, we are testing other alternative modes of delivery such as electrified cargo bikes,” said Schabirosky. (Hamburg News).

The news brief
The news brief

April 15

Three-quarters of UK warehouse owners say their space is full to capacity and storage costs have soared by up to 25% in the past three months after a surge in Brexit-related inquiries. (The GuardianYou can find help and insight for Brexit in our Brexit toolkit. It's loaded with all you need to know to navigate your way through any outcome.

The 8,000 truckers who work for Walmart are getting a raise, as the retailing heavy weight looks to hire hundreds more amid an ongoing shortage of drivers. Starting next month, truck drivers will get a per-mile hike of one cent and an extra $1 each time they drop a trailer at a destination, Walmart said Wednesday. That will bring average pay for drivers to $87,500 a year. (CBS News)

Amazon has been quietly shipping thousands of ocean freight containers out of China and to the West Coast, in another sign of its increasing logistics ambitions and an entire supply chain play, according to a report in USA Today. (MultiChannelMerchant)

Ever since Tesla’s inception, Panasonic has been the automaker’s only approved battery supplier when it comes to its electric vehicles. Now Tesla is reportedly looking to approve its second one in order to supply battery cells to Gigafactory 3 in China. (electrek)

Supply chains around the world are being transformed. External pressures, technology trends and internal evolution are prompting companies to re-evaluate their network to determine how their future supply chain should be structured, both in terms of capacity and capabilities. What should you do now? A good first step is consider the broad ongoing trends that will impact the supply chain of the future.  (Supply Chain Management)

The News Brief
The News Brief

January 15, 2019

Worldwide delivery service DHL is deploying artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and product-picking robots at its warehouses in North America to help handle the surge in e-commerce demand. The U.S. unit of Deutsche Post AG will spend $300 million on its plan to equip facilities with technology that includes autonomous trolleys that shadow human workers and robots that can pick and sort products by themselves. (Bloomberg)

Singapore is working with Chongqing to integrate data exchange and smoothen trade flows as the new trade route that connects western China and South-east Asia takes shape, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. "It's not just about the physical connectivity, it's also about the non-physical dimensions of how we integrate our processes to allow our businesses a much better environment to do their business," he said yesterday at the close of a two-day visit to the south-western city of Chongqing. (The Strait Times)

A no-deal Brexit will cost the Netherlands at least €34bn up to 2030, the equivalent of €164 per resident per year, according to calculations by economic research bureau SEO for economics magazine ESB and quoted by the Financieele Dagblad. (

2018 was a banner year for supply chains. Companies across the globe found ways to grow revenue (not just cut costs!) through the digital transformation of their supply chains. Customers demanded more, and expected more, in terms of delivery accuracy, personalization and timing. Automation of routine tasks became commonplace and new technologies, like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Blockchain, were deployed. What can we expect to see in 2019? (Forbes)

Japanese carmaker Honda will shut its British operations for six days in April to help it counter any border disruption from the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. Carmakers have warned that their factories, which rely on the constant delivery of parts to enter production cycles, would be severely damaged if Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal, forcing the need for customs checks at borders. (Reuters)

The news brief
The news brief

January 8, 2019

Amazon has a new way to prevent thieves from stealing packages. In early 2019, Amazon will offer to deliver packages right into your garage, the company announced Monday at CES. The service is called Key for Garage, and joins Amazon’s Key for Home and Key for Car services. (CNBC)

After four years of planning, Tesla Inc. finally broke ground on its planned $5 billion factory in the world’s biggest auto market. But the timing couldn’t be more inauspicious. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and some Shanghai officials, including Mayor Ying Yong, on Monday attended a function at a site near the city kicking off construction of what would be the electric-vehicle maker’s first car-manufacturing facility outside the U.S. (Bloomberg)

The supply chain of iPhone devices is bracing for major turbulence after Apple lowered its guidance for its fiscal first-quarter 2019 ended December 29, 2018 due to weak sales of its smartphones in China, according to industry sources. Apple slashed its revenue guidance for the latest quarter to  $84 billion, a shortfall of at least $5 billion from its previous guidance of $89-93 billion. There had been frequent speculation about poor iPhone sales during the last quarter of 2018 - speculation fueled by revelations of sluggish performance at a number of Apple's key component suppliers, and the US vendor's unusual promotional activities. (DigiTimes)

Trucking industry economists sayafter a 2018 that saw record-setting levels of freight-hauling demand and driver pay as tonnage levels reached a 20-year high — the industry is expected to remain strong in 2019 but undergo a bit of a cool-down. (Transport Topics)

Theresa May hopes to secure last-minute assurances from the European Union before next Tuesday’s meaningful vote over Brexit, although there are significant differences between the sides and scepticism that rebel Tories can be won over. Brussels sources said at lunchtime on Monday that the prime minister was likely to be offered an “exchange of letters” confirming the EU’s intention to quickly conclude trade talks with the UK. (The Guardian)

News brief

December 1, 2018

If Amazon follows through on a pair of patent applications, future fulfillment centers could be transported on their rounds by trains, ships or trucks and deliver their goods with autonomous drones flying out from the tops of shipping containers. Their concept calls for putting all the hardware for a fulfillment center, including a robotic arm and a squadron of drones, inside shipping containers (also known as intermodal vehicles). The standard-size containers are designed to be easily transferred from ships to trains to tractor-trailer trucks. (GeekWire)

American manufacturers, including Apple, have begun to feel the squeeze from U.S. tariffs imposed by China. Suppose, then, that Apple heeds U.S. President Donald Trump’s call this month to shift production of consumer electronics back home, according to the “solution” he proposed in a September 8 tweet. If Apple scales back contracts in Asia, at least a half-dozen core suppliers and assemblers in tech hardware hub Taiwan would face a loss in orders, analysts forecast. But those corporate heavyweights might be able to retain Apple’s business by moving their China-based production back home to Taiwan, if not to the U.S., and using automation for lower costs. (Forbes)

The Volvo Group has developed a system where autonomous electric vehicles are coordinated as they travel between logistics centers. The system consists of autonomous electric vehicles that are wirelessly connected to a transport control center. The control center monitors parameters such as each vehicle’s location, load and battery charge, using this data to ensure that the overall fleet logistics as well as goods and vehicle flow are as efficient as possible. (MaritimeExecutive)

German auto giant BMW on Tuesday lowered its earnings and revenue guidance for the full year 2018, hurt largely by emissions-related costs, product recalls and ongoing global trade war. Automotive segment revenues are now expected to be slightly lower than the previous year. Earlier, BMW expected slight year-on-year increase in automotive segment revenues. The EBIT margin in the automotive segment is now expected to be at least 7 percent, compared to the prior outlook of 8 percent to 10 percent. (Nasdaq)

AEB news brief
AEB news brief

September 20, 2018

German pharmaceuticals firm Merck KGaA’s health-care division plans to deploy artificial intelligence and predictive analytics throughout its entire supply chain by the end of 2019, said Alessandro de Luca, chief information officer for the division. (WSJ)

Tesla Semi is still accumulating orders for its upcoming all-electric truck. We learn that Walmart, who already ordered a few Tesla Semi trucks last year, added 30 more electric trucks to its order this week.  The retail giant was amongst the first to place a reservation for the electric truck after the unveiling in November 2017. (Electrik)

Adidas and Carbon have partnered together to create the Futurecraft 4D sneaker, made solely from 3D printing. According to Tech Crunch, the secret behind the shoe's success is Carbon's cloud-based software tool. By using a primitive CAD and defining certain mechanical properties, the product gets manufactured right before your eyes. (Supply & Demand Chain Executive)

China has threatened to hit back at the United States if Washington ramps up the trade war between the two countries after Donald Trump declared he was ready to slap extra tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports. (Express)

According to a recent Forbes Insights survey of more than 400 senior transportation-focused executives, 65% believe the logistics, supply chain and transportation sector is experiencing nothing short of a tectonic shift. Though there are several drivers behind this shift, one of the most powerful is the advancement of behind-the-scenes technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and increasingly, blockchain. (Forbes)

The AEB News Brief
The AEB News Brief
The AEB News Brief

September 6, 2018

Few industries or business functions are experiencing as much disruption as logistics, supply chain and transportation. In fact, according to a recent Forbes Insights survey of more than 400 senior transportation-focused executives, 65% say tectonic shifts in these areas are driving an era of profound transformation. (Forbes)

Over the next 12 months Microsoft will work with its U.S. suppliers to implement this new paid parental leave policy. It will require that suppliers offer their employees a minimum of 12 weeks paid parental leave, up to $1,000 per week. (SupplyChainDigital)

Walmart has a new online delivery team — but they aren’t employees and they don’t work for a major delivery company. The discount giant announced that it is testing a crowd-sourced delivery platform service, called Spark Delivery, to get online grocery orders to customers faster. (ChainStoreAge)

The numbers are not looking good for a president who has made reducing the U.S. trade deficit one of his main economic goals. Worse still, signs are emerging that President Donald Trump’s trade wars are starting to hit economic growth, not just at home but around the world. (TIME)

As relations between the U.S. and Chinadeteriorate, small suppliers are being caught in the middle. Auto-parts makers were already grappling with spikes in the cost of steel and aluminum, and now the trade war is threatening to upend an industry that’s become increasingly dependent on the U.S. China’s exports of auto parts to the U.S. increased almost 18 percent between 2012 and 2017 to hit $17.6 billion last year, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. (Bloomberg)

AEB News Brief
AEB News Brief

August 28, 2018

As Tesla struggles with its cash balances, extremely negative press, and CEO Elon Musk’s erratic tweets, it is at a crossroads and, in order to reach its potential, need a strategic partner? (MarketWatch)

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the global trade war, businesses must look to dynamic supply chain strategies to address an ever-changing landscape. Here’s a look at the impact this issue may have on industrial companies, along with suggestions for appropriate mitigation strategies. (

As battery technology improves and other advantages become more apparent, commercial electric vehicle sales could top 100,000 units by 2035, according to ACT Research. ACT’s study says advances in battery technology coupled with government policy, environmental considerations, and increased potential for cost savings will eventually boost the electric truck market by a significant amount in the next two decades. (

UPS has filed a U.S. patent application for a technology that would use blockchain and its shared distributed ledgers to more efficiently track and manage packages shipped within its network as well as those handed off to other carriers worldwide. (

A Brexit “no-deal” impact paper for financial services has been listed among the first batch of official assessments due to be published on Thursday, at a time when banks and insurers have been warning about the risks of a disorderly exit from the EU. (

AEB News Brief
AEB News Brief
AEB News Brief

August 10, 2018

The US intelligence community has issued a new warning about cyber-espionage risks posed by attacks made via the technology supply chain. A report said China, Russia and Iran were the most capable and active states involved in such economic subterfuge. Software supply chain infiltration had already threatened critical infrastructure, it warned, and was poised to imperil other sectors. (BBC)

Kerry Logistics Network, a Hong Kong-listed firm owned by Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s wealthiest man, has become a beneficiary of the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies, as customers shift part of their production lines from mainland China to such destinations as northern Malaysia’s Penang to skirt US tariffs. (South China Morning Post)

The global freight business doesn’t see much innovation. Now that major shipping companies are developing blockchain logistics platforms, that could be changing. Blockchain logistics solutions could make global shipping a far more efficient system. Numerous blockchain logistics projects are under-way, but it is difficult to know how the industry will evolve. (CRYPTO DISRUPT)

In the latest sign of the complex fallout from Donald Trump’s trade war, BMW says it will raise the price in China of two SUVs manufactured in South Carolina, potentially dampening demand for the vehicles. Reuters reports that the price increases will impact the X5 and X6 SUV models, and will be between 4 and 7%. That’s less than the recent 25% increase in Chinese tariffs on imported U.S.-made cars, meaning the tariffs will cut into BMW’s profit margin on the vehicles. BMW had already warned that it wouldn’t be able to “completely absorb” the cost of higher tariffs. (Fortune)

The Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is set to make a sizeable contribution to the global economy by 2023, according to a new global study launched today by Inmarsat. Organisations across the global supply chain expect IoT to be increasing their annual revenues by 10% within five years. The report said that the Industrial Internet of Things is set to revolutionise how businesses function in the next few years.

Mike Towle
About the author
Mike Towle
Mike Towle has been involved in content creation for more than three decades. A former reporter, he’s worked in all forms of international media – digital, print and video. He’s driven to find the best way to tell every story and then publish it in a mode that finds its perfect audience.

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