Wal-Mart Ramps Up Global E-Commerce

FEBRUARY 23, 2014

A worker at Wal-Mart's "dark store" in Mexico City

Wal-Mart says it has cracked the code for speedy, same-day grocery delivery—in Mexico. As retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon.com rush to expand home delivery in the U.S. to groceries, the retail giant is looking across the border for help: Its high-end Mexican grocery chain, Superama, already delivers groceries in as little as 3 hours.

Wal-Mart has ramped up its global e-commerce operations over the past few years, writes The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 19, 2014), in hopes of catching up to online rival Amazon.com. The company vowed to match Amazon’s service offerings within 2 years. Currently, only about 2% of Wal-Mart’s sales come from the Web.

The company has been testing home-grocery delivery in Colorado and California, but it hasn’t announced a timeline for taking the service nationwide. It is also experimenting with grocery delivery in such cities as Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile. Wal-Mart says it is “committed to being the online global leader in grocery delivery.”

Mexico provides $27 billion in sales and contributes 6% of the company’s global sales. Superama helped Wal-Mart achieve a 92% market share in the home delivery of groceries in Mexico. A fifth of its grocery orders arrive via mobile-phone apps, computers and tablets. The service is strongest in Mexico City, where much of Mexico’s wealth is concentrated. The capital’s snarled traffic and cramped grocery stores make delivery from Superama appealing for the well-to-do.

The majority of the grocery deliveries in Mexico come from supermarkets that are open to the public. But in the future, Wal-Mart de México plans to deploy more “dark stores”— spaces used exclusively to fulfill online orders. Such “closed” stores are more efficient: Wal-Mart’s inaugural dark store in Mexico City handles the same volume of orders as 5 stores open to the public.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

America’s Second Railroad Revolution

FEBRUARY 4, 2014

Union Pacific's Bailey Yard

Rail is on a roll in the U.S. As Forbes(Feb.10, 2014) writes, The relic of the 19th century will become the most important logistics system of the 21st century.” Thanks to leaps in technology, more and more freight traffic has moved from roads to rails, where trains can move one ton of goods about 500 miles on a single gallon of fuel. The industry, so recently an aging also-ran in the age of superhighways, has seen revenues surge 19% to $80.6 billion since 2009, creating 10,000 new jobs at railroad companies. Less than a decade ago diesel prices were so low that manufacturers rarely considered rail for shipments of less than 1,000 miles. Now they’re ditching trucks in favor of trains for jobs as short as 500 miles.

All of which is driving a multibillion-dollar revival in rail R&D and infrastructure, investment unseen in America since the transcontinental railroad. Thousands of new state-of-the-art locomotives–far more fuel-efficient and less polluting than the ones they replace–are now operating on U.S. railroads. And the boom (with $20 billion in infrastructure spending annually) has been underwritten by industry, with no cost to taxpayers. Further, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 required railroads to fund, build and implement a new, safer “Positive Train Control” system by the end of 2015, refitting locomotives and tracks, and placing GPS devices on every locomotive.

This technology has been revolutionizing freight hauling, allowing the railroads to pinpoint a locomotive’s location within one yard. And instead of sending trains speeding across the country only to stop at each red signal, the new system means conductors will be able to know about planned stops well in advance, allowing them to simply reduce speed (and fuel consumption) to a level that won’t force them to stop altogether and burn major amounts of fuel when restarting from a standstill.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

From Navy Oil Tankers to Amazon’s Diapers

NOVEMBER 27, 2013

8 ships returning to Caroline Islands anchorage, 1944

Amazon’s online diaper sales and the U.S. Navy’s refueling protocol for World War II appear unrelated and worlds apart. Nevertheless, they are both answers to an identical logistics problem: how can an organization shorten the time between a customer’s order and a supplier’s response?

Amazon is seeking a way to decrease its response time to online buyers. In the case of diapers, this means encouraging a supplier such as P&G to relocate its operations adjacent to Amazon’s warehouses. With co-location, both firms presumably can reduce their shipping costs, better manage their inventories, and speed up deliveries.

The Navy experienced a similar logistics problem during World War II, writesThe Wall Street Journal (Nov.25, 2013). In the early months of the war, the Pacific fleet engaged in hit-and-run tactics; it had to return to Pearl Harbor, where its oil supply tanks were located. When the Navy launched a 1943 offensive in the central Pacific, the geographical distance between consumer (fleet) and supplier (Hawaii) widened. Refueling consumed a precious commodity—time.

One  logistic solution: seize an enemy-held island, convert the island into an advanced base and construct oil-storage facilities for the fleet. That worked, but as the Navy accelerated its offensive, it outran the advanced base network. By 1944, the Navy introduced floating bases at Pacific anchorages. Commercial tankers delivered fuel oil to the anchorage, storing oil in barges. A gap, though, between oil demand and supply still persisted.

Then the Navy turned logistics on its head, dispatching 36 oilers to meet carrier task force units at prearranged locations in the forward area. Oilers now refueled fleet units on the move in “underway replenishment.” The results were dramatic. A carrier task force could remain free from a fixed base for 3 months. Fleet Admiral Nimitz termed the Pacific just-in-time supply chain as his “secret weapon.” Naval historians would describe Nimitz’s logistic plan as a “fleet within a fleet.” Amazon’s co-location has been called a “plant within a plant.”

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.