Tag Archives: supply chain

Drone’s Place in the Supply Chain

How long have we been writing about drones? Probably around 10 years or so, and we are still asking “Where are they?” It’s been quite a while and drones from companies such as Google, Amazon, Zipline, UPS, and more have evolved in shape, size, and scope, but they are all still vying for attention and deliveries.

Well, perhaps delivery drones are finally ready to take-off (and land). A number of companies have been testing drones around the nation and the globe, and a handful are ready for commercial operations in the U.S. at last.

Among the contenders are company Zipline, which is now working on deliveries for Walmart and has delivered medical products for years in Ghana and Rwanda ; Flytrex, from Israel, is focused on local food delivery, and Wing (from Alphabet) has increased deliveries of medical supplies due to the pandemic. And of course, there is always Amazon waiting in the wings to launch its drone delivery services to millions of consumers!

Why the interest in drones to deliver products? Speedier deliveries for one, plus lower transportation emissions, less traffic, and that ever-elusive instant gratification! Many companies see it as solving the “last-mile” delivery problem. However, the use of drones still faces in-depth examination and regulation from the FAA. Because drones are an unknown  commodity and can operate autonomously, regulations are needed to prevent accidents or over-crowding in the skies over densely populated areas.

Drones themselves come in different shapes and sizes. Zipline has logged millions of miles of flights for commercial deliveries in Rwanda and Ghana. It is now teaming with Walmart and testing deliveries in Arkansas. Zipline drones are 11-feet wide, fixed-wing drones that launch from a steel rail and land using a hook to grab a wire.

Flytrex from Israel has been making deliveries for Walmart as well. It is also in partnership with Brinker International to deliver food to local restaurants. It’s drones look like the ones hobbyists use and can carry six pounds (or 33 chicken wings).

Amazon has lately been more secretive than when it first announced its intention to use drones a decade ago. However, the company plans to operate 145 drone stations and deliver 500 million packages within a year. It uses a more radical design with hexagonal wings and onboard systems for detecting obstacles. To deliver, it flies a few feet from the ground and drops packages.

Wing has yet another design. It’s drones are made from carbon fiber and injected-foam, weigh only 10 points, and lowers a hook to pick up and deliver packages.

What do you see in the sky?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students about drones. What are the opportunities? The threats?
  2. What are their opinions about deliveries to their homes via drones?
  3. Bring up companies’ websites and show videos from each:
    1. Zipline: https://flyzipline.com/
    1. Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Prime-Air/b?ie=UTF8&node=8037720011
    1. Flytrex: https://www.flytrex.com/
    1. Wing: https://wing.com/
  4. What are advantages and disadvantages of each company?
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team do an environmental analysis for drones: technology forces, social forces, economic forces, competition, and laws/regulations.
  6. How is each company poised to address the opportunities and threats?

Source:  Mims, C. (2 April 2022). Amazon, Alphabet, and others are quietly rolling out drone delivery across America. Wall Street Journal.

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Global Supply Chain: A Documentary

While consumers might be sick of hearing “it’s the supply chain” when facing empty shelves while shopping, it is a real problem in business right now.  During the pandemic, demand for virtually everything has expanded. Consumers want more. They want it now. But they can’t get it and are getting frustrated. Marketing professionals need to keep a critical eye on distribution and logistics systems to stay ahead.

While it’s seldom that we would recommend a longer film for a class, the Wall Street Journal recently produced a 54-minute video that illustrates the entire length and breadth of the  supply chain – as well as the issues faced today by businesses at each step of the journey.

Because consumers are now used to one-click shopping, it is easy to forget that millions of products are touched by millions of hands every single day. This video explains the various steps of distribution and how an action at one point begets a chain reaction of events down the line:

  • Container ships
  • Sea conditions
  • Small crews on massive ships
  • Bottlenecks (remember the Evergreen ship disaster?)
  • Crowded ports
  • Dock workers
  • Long-haul truck drivers
  • Weather
  • Road conditions
  • Warehouses
  • Laws and regulations
  • Inventory tracking
  • Employees
  • Last-mile delivery
  • Inflation
  • Off-shore manufacturing
  • And the list goes on….

Watch the documentary and consider what is happening – and what will have to be done differently in the future.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students before video: Have students select a few common products. What are the steps in distribution – from manufacturing to sales?
  2. What are potential issues throughout the supply chain?
  3. Block out an hour to show the entire video. If that isn’t possible, segments can be shown a few minutes at a time with discussion following.
  4. Video: https://youtu.be/1KtTAb9Tl6E
  5. Work this video into supply chain chapter discussion.
  6. What are suggested improvements?
  7. Alternative idea: Students ca be assigned to watch the video and provide a synopsis of the documentary.

Source:  Wall Street Journal documentary. Why global supply chains may never be the same. (23 March 2022).

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What Trends are in Store for us in 2022?

Marketers need to be able to monitor trends with an eye towards predicting what consumers will want next. While it is hard to predict the future, we can examine the current environment with respect to what might happen next.

In its yearly predictions report, international research firm Euromonitor forecasts what consumers will want and need. Companies then can use these predictions to consider the strategies that they might pursue.

Lifestyles in 2021 made radical shifts as populations continued to be impacted by the pandemic. To no one’s surprise, COVID-19 and the Omicron variant continue to be very important to the immediate future.  Marketers and businesses must evolve quickly to keep up with new demands.

Ten  predictions for consumers in 2022 include:

  1. Rethinking the supply chain.
  2. Climate change – a low-carbon world.
  3. Senior citizens and their digital adoptions and usage.
  4. Controlling personal finances.
  5. Prioritizing personal values and individual goals.
  6. The metaverse moves to reality.
  7. Increasing adoption of second-hand and peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  8. City dwellers want advantages of living outside of cities.
  9. The importance of self-care and happiness.
  10. The hybridization of being social.

These trends provide guidance for companies and marketers. Using these, we can gain insight into consumer values and behavior. If 2021 was a year that required us to be adaptable and resilience, then what does 2022 indicate?

What trends will impact you?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. The full Euromonitor report can be accessed at: https://go.euromonitor.com/white-paper-EC-2022-Top-10-Global-Consumer-Trends.html?utm_source=WSJ&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=CT_22_01_18_WP_Top%2010%20GCT%202022%20EN
  2. Discuss the importance of environmental scanning and conducing SWOT analysis.
  3. Show the Euromonitor report to students.
  4. Divide students into teams.
  5. Have each team select one of the top 10 trends and prepare a discussion for the class.
  6. What industries and companies will be most impacted by that trend?
  7. What should marketers do to address the trend?

Source: Alcantara, A-M., (January 17, 2022). Ten trends that will shape the way we shop, eat and live this year, Wall Street Journal; Euromonitor International (January 18, 2022), Top 10 global consumer trends 2022.

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