“We need to know what’s going on with the sheep.”

So wrote the 9-year-old daughter of former FCC chairman Ajit Pai in her notebook, according to a tweet posted by Pai.

Then comes this story from China, as reported by The Daily Mail, about “a flock of sheep [that] he was caught walking in circles for twelve full days without stopping… The baffling sight has left people shocked and confused as they try to make sense of the behavior in the viral clip.

I think Pai’s daughter is right: these sheep may be up to something.

If the pigs spring into action, be careful as we humans could get kicked off the farm.

Moving forward, here are the supply chain and logistics news that caught my eye this week:

How do these export controls work?

As Ian Talley reported in The Wall Street Journal, “New intelligence gleaned from downed Iranian drones over Ukraine shows that most aircraft parts are manufactured by companies in the United States, Europe and other allied nations… Western parts documentation it shows how Tehran has armed itself and its allies with powerful new weapons despite being the target of one of the most comprehensive sanctions regimes in modern history.

About three-quarters of the parts are American-made, according to Ukrainian intelligence estimates. One of the vendors mentioned in the article is Microchip Technology Inc., based in Arizona. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Brian Thorsen, a spokesman for Microchip Technology, said the company “takes care to maintain supply chain integrity,” which includes customer screening. He also said that in addition to having more than 120,000 customers in industrial, aerospace, defense and other industries, third-party distributors also sell his products worldwide.

I’ve written many times about how companies need to map their supply chain, with an emphasis on gaining more insight into their supplier base, especially beyond tier one suppliers. Well, it seems there are a lot of black holes at the customer end of the supply chain as well.

Who are your n-tier customers? This is perhaps a more difficult question to answer than on the vendor side.

Add this to the list of things the scope of supply chain visibility solutions must include.

The sad truth, however, is that when bad actors want to get their hands on something, they will always find a way to get it, no matter how many laws and layers of red tape you add.

Sparrows and pickles: robots in the news

Amazon recently unveiled its “Sparrow” robot, which uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to pick a variety of products of different shapes and sizes — such as “a board game, a bottle of vitamins, and a set of papers — all sorts of items that could flow through one of the company’s warehouses,” writes Annie Palmer on CNBC. Here’s more from her article:

Suction cups attached to the robot’s surface allow it to grip objects firmly. Previous iterations of robotic arms have been able to pick up boxes, which are generally uniform in their shape but could vary in size. But Sparrow can handle objects with varying curvatures and sizes, said Jason Messinger, principal technical product manager of robotic manipulation at Amazon Robotics, in a demonstration.

See Sparrow in action in this video:

In other robot news, TechCrunch reported that Attabotics, which “builds densely packed vertical storage structures that use robots and AI to find and retrieve items,” has raised $71.7 million in Series C-1 funding. TechCrunch also reported that Pickle Robot Company, which makes truck unloading robots, has raised $26 million in Series A funding.

As quoted in Brian Heater’s TechCrunch article, Attabotics founder and CEO Scott Gravelle says, “Amazon remains the best member of our business development team, as companies look for alternatives and look for ways to stay competitive. Amazon has set expectations. of customers in North America for years.I am the point of reference.

I repeat what I said in January: whether driven by a reduction in labor supply or the need to cost-effectively scale operations, companies and logistics service providers will almost certainly continue to deploy robots and other types of warehouse automation in the years to come. The question for most businesses is not whether to implement these technologies, but when.

Not surprising: Microsoft ran its supply chain operations using Excel spreadsheets

This past Wednesday, Microsoft held its “Supply Chain Reimagined” virtual event to promote the launch of its Microsoft Supply Chain Platform. (There’s that word again, platform, which I also wrote about this week). During the opening session, Panos Panay, executive VP, chief product officer at Microsoft, said that until about 5 years ago, the company managed its supply chain operations using Excel spreadsheets.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be, since Excel has always been the champion of supply chain apps, even among multi-billion dollar companies.

Fast forward to today, Microsoft has moved from on-premises applications to the cloud and uses 15 Azure products, has a data lake larger than Lake Michigan, and leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to power its global supply chain operations and complex.

And now Microsoft also wants to help you navigate the digital transformation curve of the supply chain.

Here is a short video highlighting the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWxOPWhYHI

There’s too much to unpack here, so I’ll share more thoughts on that in a future post. But I want to focus on one aspect of the platform, as shown in the video and described as follows in the blog post:

“With Teams’ secure, integrated integration, customers can mitigate supply constraints by collaborating with external suppliers in real-time to secure new sources of supply, resolve transportation issues, and communicate impacts upstream and downstream based on changes “.

This isn’t as sexy or captivating as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and optimization capabilities, but I believe it can deliver significant business benefits.

Way back in the dark ages of 2012, I wrote a post titled “Do you want a rapid response supply chain? Facilitate communication between people.” Here’s what I wrote at the time:

In many cases, the quickest way to resolve a problem or address an exception, to create a more responsive supply chain, is to facilitate and scale communication between people instead of integrating multiple computers with each other.

And four years earlier in another post (“Facebook in Supply Chain Management”), I wrote the following:

Instead of finding and connecting with friends [using social networking tools], we will find and connect with suppliers, customers, couriers, logistics providers, distributors and others involved in our daily working life. And when I say connect, I don’t mean in an EDI way, where one computer sends digitized information to another computer; I’m talking about human connections, where one person establishes and maintains a relationship with another person. With so much technology around us, enabling “lights-out” and “hands-free” computing, it’s easy to forget that human relationships remain the life and blood of any business.

I also revisited this topic under “Facebook for Supply Chain Communication and Collaboration?” (August 2014).

Will Microsoft be at the forefront of making interpersonal communication an integral component of supply chain management platforms? Better late than never.

And with that, have a nice weekend!

Song of the Week: “20” by Air Traffic Controller

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