By Brian Baskin
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Amazon.com Inc. is hoping workers in its warehouses are fast learners. The online retail giant is constantly hiring at its rapidly expanding network of distribution centers. That process kicks into overdrive around the holiday rush, when the retailer looks to add 120,000 temporary employees. The company says it can get some new employees up to speed in just two days using technology such as touch screens and robots, compared with six weeks at a typical warehouse job, the WSJ's Laura Stevens writes. That potentially gives Amazon an edge as it competes with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and others for the same limited pool of labor. Amazon's focus on training illustrates the uphill climb retailers face to limit the cost of fulfilling an ever-growing number of online orders. Squeezing out further gains will only grow harder as warehouses become increasingly efficient.
Apple Inc. hasn't said publicly whether its next iPhone will feature a curved screen, but the company's suppliers are gearing up to make the displays. The screens, already featured in Samsung phones, require thinner organic light emitting displays, or OLEDs, that are more expensive to produce. Assuming Apple moves ahead with the technology, long-term supply contracts could generate billions of dollars for display makers that are struggling with stagnating smartphone sales, the WSJ's Takashi Mochizuki and Eun-Young Jeong report. Apple may need to rely on rival Samsung for OLEDs at first, as the Korean company is the only supplier with enough capacity. Others, including LG Display, Japan Display and Sharp, would need to spend billions of dollars to perfect their manufacturing process and scale up to build panels for millions of iPhones.
Gap Inc. is trusting its future to supply-chain managers rather than fashion designers. The struggling clothing company has placed operations experts in key roles, often overseeing duties that were the domain of creative directors, the WSJ's Khadeeja Safdar reports. Chief Executive Art Peck, who took the helm in February 2015, has decentralized Gap's supply chain, including allowing outsider suppliers to produce merchandise without approval from the retailer's in-house designers. Gap had to try something: the company's sales have slumped as young consumers flock to cheaper apparel sold by fast-fashion competitors like Uniqlo and Hennes & Mauritz AB's H&M. Mr. Peck's initiatives aim to streamline and speed up the journey from garment factory to stores, and to position a company that operates 3,700 stores for a fashion world that increasingly conducts business online. Whether his moves will be enough to reverse years of declining sales remains to be seen.
The global oil supply chain is preparing for peak fuel demand. Royal Dutch Shell PLC sees oil consumption flattening sometime in the next 15 years, after over a century of often rapid growth. Others say the peak may be 40 years away - but that's not far off for an industry that plans in terms of decades rather than quarters, writes the WSJ's Sarah Kent and Brian Spegele. Behemoths like state-owned Saudi Aramco are investing in petrochemical production, betting that plastics demand will continue to rise even as emissions regulations and slower economic growth cap fuel consumption. Total SA aims for low-emission businesses to make up 20% of its portfolio in the next 20 years. Even gradual adjustments by companies as big as Aramco or Exxon Mobil Corp. will have enormous implications for businesses worldwide, potentially shifting billions of dollars away from fuel refining, pipelines and shipping and toward renewable energy and petrochemicals. The rewards for staying ahead of changing energy trends are huge, but so is the risk of moving too early, or betting on the wrong technologies.
IN OTHER NEWS
Maersk Line is interested in acquiring Hamburg Süd, the world's seventh-largest container shipping line, people familiar with the matter say. (WSJ)
Importers and exporters in Texas worry Donald Trump's administration could throw up barriers to trade in North America. (WSJ)
The first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba landed in Havana. (WSJ)
Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it would cancel over 1,700 flights as a pilots strike looked set to enter its second week. (WSJ)
The World Trade Organization ruled that a tax benefit granted to Boeing Co. violated international trade rules. (WSJ)
Transportation manager Transplace acquired Lakeside Logistics Inc. (DC Velocity)
The European Commission approved Hapag-Lloyd AG's acquisition of United Arab Shipping Co. (American Shipper)
Yoox Net-A-Porter Group is partnering with a Dubai-based investment group to launch an online luxury retail business in the Middle East. (Reuters)
Amazon-branded trailers will soon hit the road in the U.K. (Logistics Manager)
Freight forwarders face a growing threat from online competitors, a new white paper from Drewry says. (Lloyd's Loading List)
The town of Ontario, Calif. sued local land owners and logistics companies to remove hundreds of abandoned Hanjin shipping containers. (Transport Topics)
Brian Baskin iseditor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @brianjbaskin, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @PaulPage, @lorettachao and @EEPhillips_WSJ, and follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 29, 2016 06:55 ET (11:55 GMT)
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