This year, all kinds of holiday shopping traditions are being upended as desperate retailers do everything they can think of to increase sales. On what’s being called “Gray Thursday,” retailers like Walmart WMT0.85%, Toys“R”Us, Target TGT0.37%, and Kmart are giving shoppers the jump on Black Friday by opening on the evening of Thanksgiving, presumably after you’ve had enough turkey and cranberry sauce. JC Penney JCP1.57% is opening even earlier — at 3 p.m.
This is a rotten break for employees forced to work while the rest of the family gathers together, as I point out here. REI, the outdoor sports and gear retailer, seems to be taking another approach, closing its 143 outlets on bothThanksgiving AND Black Friday. This move may earn REI a lot of publicity and goodwill. It is also consistent with the company’s brand as an environmentally concerned business and its “get out there” message: In this busy world, you don’t get enough time with your family or with nature. Why not use the holiday to enjoy the very things that REI promotes? You can always shop for our products later.
Companies seeking to further improve their supply chain efficiency will have to continue fighting their old foe – variability – albeit in a set of new clothes.
One emerging way to combat demand variability is to locate (some) manufacturing closer to the customer. By reducing lead times due to shorter delivery routes, inventory and waste in the system can be reduced without sacrificing service levels. Much of the recently observed reshoring efforts fall into this category.
Highly flexible manufacturing goes a step further by moving from a Built-to-Stock to a Built-to-Order system for the most erratic demand pattern. Amazon’s printing and binding some of its demand at centers close to their customers while serving base demands from stock is one example of this approach.
The terror attacks in Paris are a stab to our collective heart. The choice of the location for the terror attacks aims at the three core values of Western civilization: liberté, egalité, fraternité.
Since Sunday night, France’s President Hollande has used the word “war” to describe the relationship between his country and the terrorists of the Islamic State (IS) or ISIS and has intensified military strikes in Syria. Although the wisdom of that decision and that word can be questioned, there is definitely a warlike situation in Paris now. But what kind of war is it–between whom and what?
We know that framing this as a religious conflict against (radical) Islam would not only be wrong (consider that in Iraq alone more than 10,000 people — many of them Muslim — are killed through mostly IS led acts of terror per year), it would also serve as the perfect recruitment tool for the IS worldwide.
In mid-October, US Airways ceased to exist as an independent entity. Many passengers will doubtless say “good riddance,” for they voted the carrier a two-star rating from J. D. Power and ranked it below average on almost every dimension. But US Airways deserves a much fonder farewell than that.
I study aviation safety, and paid particular attention to the airline in the early 1990s, when it experienced a series of accidents culminating in a 1994 Boeing 737 crash near Pittsburgh that killed 132 people. Had US Airways suffered a temporary spasm of bad luck, or was the problem more systematic? We now know that bad luck was the main culprit. The 737 crash (which killed more passengers than the others in the series combined) was caused by a subtle defect in the rudder controls, which could have struck any airline that operated the plane. Moreover, US Airways experts were instrumental in uncovering the defect before it could cause further tragedies.
The world’s population is expected to increase from 7 billion today to 9 or 10 billion by the end of the century, according to the United Nations. We also can expect more pressure on the food supply as people in the developing world adopt middle class lifestyles, which usually involve eating more meat. To satisfy global demand, we will need to roughly double today’s output, which means getting smarter about how we produce and manage food.
The good news is that innovation is coming to the farm. Advanced information technology, improved communications systems, robotics, drones, and other new technologies have the potential to boost agricultural yields and reduce waste while tempering environmental degradation.