By Jennifer Smith
Walmart Inc. is using artificial intelligence to build on-demand delivery for its e-commerce war with Amazon.com Inc. Workers at Walmart’s Jetblack personal-shopping service are training algorithms to respond more effectively to customer texts, the WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer reports, automation aimed at helping the company prepare for the next phase of digital commerce. Amazon has sold millions of Echo speakers that let consumers place audio orders, skipping stores and websites altogether. Right now the money-losing Jetblack still largely relies on human agents, but Walmart sees the service as a research hub for testing AI and voice shopping as the world’s biggest retailer scrambles to expand market share online. Jetblack CEO Jenny Fleiss says Walmart’s extensive retail and supply chain infrastructure will help speed delivery of items from nearby stores and warehouses.
Labor peace is settling over the U.S. trucking industry. YRC Worldwide Inc. and the Teamsters union reached a tentative deal on a new contract covering thousands of workers, WSJ Logistics Report’s Jennifer Smith writes, settling their high-stakes bargaining a little more than a week before their current agreement was due to expire. The pact removes a cloud hanging over one of the biggest truckers in the U.S. and puts YRC in position to extend a turnaround effort after several years of financial struggles. Neither side would release details of the agreement but said the current contract was extended into May to allow time to work out details and take ratification votes at national carrier YRC Freight and the company’s regional units. The new deal comes after agreements last year between the Teamsters and YRC unionized less-than-truckload rivals UPS Freight and ABF Freight.
Luxury-car maker BMW AG is losing some of its shine. The company plans to cut thousands of jobs this year and slash up to $13.62 billion in costs, the WSJ’s William Boston reports, as global economic and trade pressures ripple through automotive supply chains. Companies from Ford Motor Co. to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are tightening their belts, and BMW says the U.S.-China trade dispute, exchange rates and raw material prices are all weighing on margins. The auto maker is considered the strongest in the sector, so its report of an 8% decline in profit in 2018 could “increase worries about weaker names,” says one analyst. BMW’s U.S. production remains strong, and the company has been expanding operations at its assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., that has helped make the company the largest U.S. automotive exporter by value.
More leadership changes are underway at the biggest freight broker in the U.S. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Clarkewill leave the company at the end of March, the WSJ’s Ezequiel Minaya writes, the second C-suite shift for the company this year. C.H. Robinson said last month Chief Operating Officer Robert Biesterfeld will replace Chief Executive John Wiehoff. Mr. Clarke has overseen the company’s finances since 2015 and his departure comes as the company adjusts to a loosening freight market. Analysts warn it could be tough for the logistics operator to match last year’s gains, with included a 31.6% jump in net profit, to $664.5 million. The company has said it will focus more on volume than it did in 2018, and expects technology investments to drive productivity in 2019.