Contact lost with Russian space freighter
The intergalactic supply chain is in trouble.
Well, maybe it’s not quite intergalactic, but there are concerns mounting over a Russian space freighter that has reportedly lost contact with the Earth. The supply ship was carrying 2.9 tons of food, fuel and supplies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station.
NASA spokesman Rob Navias told CNN that contact with the space freighter was lost about three minutes before it reached orbit. Mission Control Houston said that it received a message of an “off-nominal situation” five minutes and 50 seconds after launch, during the supply ship’s third and final stage of liftoff.
There were no people on board the space freighter, which was carrying its supplies to the six people currently living on the ISS.
According to Navias, the Russians resupply the International Space Station about every three months. The six people living there are “well supplied – actually oversupplies” since the last U.S. shuttle mission that launched for the same purpose in July.
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Similar missions launched by the Russian space agency, including these progress-series space freighters, have been the “backbone of Russian space cargo operations for decades,” Russian news agency RIO-Noviosti reported.
The news outlet also said that the progress-series space freighters have also been used to carry out scientific experiments and adjust the space station’s orbit.
There have been no confirmations of a crash (or alien interference, for that matter), but the communications delay has undoubtedly left officials concerned over the uncertainty surrounding the outer space supply chain.
Cainiao Network Launches Customer-Centric Logistics
As the logistics division of the Alibaba Group, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network has decided to provide its Southeast Asian customers with unsurpassed service during its annual shopping festival. Based on customer feedback surveys, the company will expand its real-time customer service support and speed up delivery times. ‘By expanding and deepening our services, we aim to provide a stronger logistics infrastructure that can bolster the booming eCommerce sector, support merchants’ expansion into new markets and diversify retail options for consumers’, said Chris Fan, Head of Cross-Border, Singapore, Cainiao Network.
Who Is Cainiao?
According to TIME Magazine, Cainiao ‘is far from a typical logistics firm’. The company controls an open platform that allows it to collaborate with 3,000 logistics partners and 3 million couriers. This means that merchants can choose the least expensive and most efficient shipping options, based on Cainiao’s real-time logistics analytics. The company’s goal is to ship packages anywhere in the world in under 72 hours—and for less than US$3.00.
For countless small business owners around the world, from coffee-growers to textile-weavers, this could change everything. Usually, it costs about US$100 to ship a DHL envelope from Shanghai to London in five days. Cainiao aims to change that. Said its CEO Wan Lin: ‘The biggest barrier to globalisation is logistics’.
What’s Part of the Upgrade?
Throughout the Tmall festival, Cainiao’s logistics upgrade will be divided into four critical segments:
- Real-time customer service support. Cainiao has launched a direct WhatsApp channel for customers to receive logistics updates and ask questions.
- Expansion of air freight parcel size and weight limits. Packages can now be up to 30 kilograms or 1-metre x 1.6 meters to help ship large items such as furniture.
- Daily air and sea freight connections. Shipping frequency will almost double to seven times weekly to maintain resilience and efficiency.
- Compensation for lost or damaged packages. Customers will be reimbursed up to RMB 2,000 (US$311).
Where is the Company Headed?
From June 1st to June 20th, the finale of Tmall, Cainiao will ensure that its customers feel confident in the company’s ability to deliver their packages. Despite global shipping delays due to COVID, the show will go on. Said Fan: ‘This series of customer-centric logistics upgrades reaffirms our goal of pursuing value-added services to enhance customers’ shopping experience while mitigating challenges posed by external factors’.
Furthermore, Cainiao has recently expanded its Southeast Asian operations, achieving revenue growth of 68% year-over-year. In Malaysia, the logistics operation has partnered with BEST Inc. and Yunda; in Singapore, the company has partnered with Roadbull, Park & Parcel, and the Singapore Post. And if its recent measures help retain and grow its customer base, the company will be well-poised to lead the industry in resilient and customer-centric global logistics. ‘COVID-19 made everyone realise how important the logistics infrastructure backbone is’, said Wan. ‘And it gave us a peek at what Cainiao should look like in three years’.