Japan's supply chain sees some improvement
Japan’s supply chain has seen some progress from all of the country’s rebuilding efforts following March’s earthquake and tsunami.
For the first time in four months, the Japanese government raised its view on the economy, which is a quicker turnaround for the crippled supply chain than most experts predicted.
The Cabinet office said economic conditions in Japan “remain severe due to the March 11 earthquake,” but that “some upward movements are also being seen.”
While some bottleneck effects have been seen in Japan’s supply chain, some factories are already ramping up production efforts in defiance of the disaster. Toyota has said they see a return to pre-quake production levels in the near future.
Japan’s government is expecting the economy to pick up by the end of the year, and recent data is showing that recovery is well under way. Industrial output rose a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in April, while companies on average expect orders to increase 8 percent in May and June.
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The news isn’t all good, however. Japan’s exports dropped more than was expected in May, falling 10.3 percent from 2010 for the month. The decrease is more than the 8.4 percent some analysts had predicted.
Rising oil prices haven’t helped matters, as increased transportation costs have impacted the supply chain of a country in a dire rebuilding situation.
Still, the fallout from the Japan disaster hasn’t created a global supply chain apocalypse that some had predicted. Recovery can be a painfully slow process, but there are signs that the worst is behind us.
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.