Friday in 5 – Interesting news from across the supply chain landscape, served up in one spot to keep you up-to-date.
This week: A hot freight market has spurred hiring by trucking companies; Nordstrom invests in personalization technology; Walmart expands its grocery delivery service; growth in e-commerce increases demand for fast payments; and some employees say Union Pacific’s use of drones in railyards raises questions about safety.
Truckers Boosted Hiring At Fastest Pace Since 2015
Trucking companies hired new workers at the fastest pace in nearly three years as operators rush to keep up with a red-hot U.S. freight market. A Wall Street Journal report said carriers added 5,600 jobs last month, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics – the largest increase since May 2015. The news came as the latest jobs reports showed robust growth across construction and manufacturing, adding to transportation demand. According to one industry spokesperson, hiring at trucking fleets is a positive sign in a market where carriers have struggled to bring in drivers to meet demand.
Nordstrom Invests in Technology to Aid in Personalization
This week, Nordstrom announced two technology acquisitions aimed at improving customer experience. According to news reports, the chain has made a deal to acquire two leading retail technology companies – BevyUp, a digital selling tool, and MessageYes, a conversational commerce platform. “The retail environment is changing faster than ever, but the value of service, speed, convenience and newness remain constant,” said Brian Gill, technology senior vice president at Nordstrom. “To continue to be successful into the future, we need to invest in technologies that will enable us to deliver on those qualities and better serve customers in a digitally connected world.”
Walmart To Expand Home Grocery Delivery
Walmart Inc. will expand its home grocery delivery service to more than 100 cities this year, according to a Bloomberg report. The service, currently available in six cities, will roll out to more than 40 percent of U.S. households by the end of 2018, the company said on Wednesday. Deliveries will be handled by Uber Technologies Inc. and other providers, and will require a $30 minimum purchase plus a $9.95 service fee. The move into home delivery is part of Walmart’s broader push to expand online purchasing, and complements Walmart’s rollout of curbside grocery pickup – now available in 1,200 stores and coming to an additional 1,000 this year.
E-Commerce Leads to Push for Faster Shipping Payments
Digital commerce has brought a push to move goods more quickly through supply chains – which, in turn, is driving efforts to get shipping payments to move faster. According to a Wall Street Journal report, some technology companies are adding auditing and processing tools for freight-payment systems that connect shippers and freight haulers, efforts meant to streamline how companies handle invoices, and how they respond to billing errors that are slowing down the back-end payment processing.
Drones in Railroad Yard Raise Concerns Over Safety
According to a news report, Union Pacific Corp. upset some employees when it recently started flying unmanned aircraft over some of its railroad yards to find out whether workers were following safety guidelines. The drones were deployed to spot behaviors that deviate from the railroad’s safety rules, such as climbing off of moving equipment or failing to maintain safe distance between railcars. In response, employees have flooded Union Pacific’s safety hotline with complaints. According to a union representative, the drones create safety risks by distracting them when they should be focused on their jobs.