You may hate the hassle of returning merchandise, but retailers hate it even
more. For them, managing a flood of returns means added work and added
expense, with virtually no upside. But what if the technology from a popular
smartphone game could help prevent shoppers from buying the wrong item
in the first place?
In recent months, some of the industry’s biggest e-commerce players have
invested in augmented reality (AR), software that overlays digital images of
an object onto the view seen through a smartphone’s camera. The functionality has been around for years but shot to fame in 2016 when the Pokémon
Go game gained popularity.
Last month, the cookware and kitchen décor retailer Williams-Sonoma
Inc. spent $112 million to acquire Outward Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based
provider of 3-D imaging and AR tools that allow shoppers to peer through
their smartphones and see what that new Vitamix Blender or linen tablecloth would look like in their very own kitchen.
The news came just a week after Amazon.com Inc. unveiled its own
augmented reality app, a tool called AR View that lets online shoppers
superimpose a 3-D rendering of certain products onto images of their own
home or office. (You can view a demo at Amazon’s website, www.amazon.
com/b?node=17403032011.) Retailers Ikea, Wayfair, and Houzz also have
features on their mobile commerce platforms that allow shoppers to “see”
how furniture and appliances from the merchants’ catalogs would look in
their own homes.
Can AR stem the tide of returns?
Ship a load of bottles in a trailer or container and you’ll
probably first pack them in cardboard boxes. The boxes
make bottles easy to stack, but they also mean added
cost and weight. That led logistics professionals at Dow
AgroSciences LLC to ask whether they had to use shipping
containers at all.
The answer, apparently, was no. Working in conjunction with plastic container specialist RPC-Promens-Innocan, the Indianapolis-based seed and pesticide company came up with a new packaging system for agrochemical products that
allowed it to do away with cardboard boxes entirely. Their solution replaces
the jerry cans the company had been using with auto-stackable PET (
polyethylene terephthalate) bottles with square sides and shaped bases that fit
together like Lego bricks. Handlers can stack the squared bottles directly on
pallets, securing the load with lightweight plastic film.
The auto-stackable bottles are 30 percent lighter than the old HDPE
(high-density polyethylene) jerry cans, which reduced the company’s carbon
dioxide footprint by 20 percent per liter of product content and eliminated
up to 40 metric tons per year of corrugated paper packaging, according to
Indiana nonprofit Centric Inc., which promotes innovation in the state.
Centric was impressed enough with the bottles that it chose Dow
AgroSciences as one of the winners of its 2017 Indiana Innovation Awards.
Dow was one of nine winners selected from a field of 48 finalists.
Square bottles cut down on packaging
While much of the industry grapples with a skilled-labor shortage,
Ryder System Inc. has filled nearly
6,000 positions from an often overlooked labor pool: retired military
veterans. Veterans with logistics-re-lated experience have proved to be
a good fit with the Miami-based
transportation and supply chain
company’s operations, Ryder says.
“The veteran community … is rich
with disciplined, stand-up individuals whose skill sets match well with
positions in our company, from
diesel technicians to logistics managers,” said Ryder Chairman and
CEO Robert Sanchez in a statement.
Last month, the company was
honored for its efforts when the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce presented
Ryder with its “Hiring Our Heroes
Lee Anderson Veteran and Military
Spouse Employment Award,” citing
the company’s record of hiring and
retaining veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses.
Since Ryder launched its military
recruiting program six years ago,
the company has hired more than
5,850 veterans and increased the
percentage of veterans among its
U.S. workforce to more than 11
percent, the company said.
As part of its recruiting efforts,
Ryder provides a 12-week, hands-on diesel technician training program for military veterans exiting
the service. Hosted at Fort Sill in
Oklahoma and Fort Riley in Kansas,
the program has graduated 43 students to date, with 10 more slated
to complete the training this month.
The company has also created a
Women Veterans Task Force consisting of female military veterans
in managerial or supervisorial roles
at Ryder who serve as brand ambassadors and positive voices in the
Ryder lauded for