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XPO Logistics workers in Carlstadt, NJ. (Photo: Hope King/Axios)

Pallets of sodas, jewelry boxes and baby car seats competed for attention with 75-inch TVs, snow blowers, and crates of bolts for bridges — all at a delivery warehouse on Monday. Each was destined for one of about 75 XPO Logistics trailers waiting to be loaded and moved, in freezing conditions.

Why it matters: The mix of consumer goods that a company like XPO has to transport is at its highest since the onset of the pandemic, which instigated a host of supply chain snarls.

  • That shift in cargo need has added to the demand for workers, who have plenty of other options up and down Moonachie Avenue in Carlstadt, NJ — at places like UPS Freight or CDL Last Mile.

“Multiple small orders are harder to deal with than fewer large orders … Each unit needs handling,” says Rudi Leuschner, director for the online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management program at Rutgers Business School.

The big picture: The build-up in supply chain constraints has pushed retailers to a less traditional shipping pattern — spreading out what they need delivered, and when, to avoid the inventory problems that could arise from concentration, according to supply chain researchers behind the Logistics Managers' Index.

  • Sellers have also piled on the pressure by warehousing less of their goods themselves, relying instead on logistics centers like the one Axios visited. 

The impact: “It feels like there’s more tonnage [this year],” says Paul Emmert, senior service center manager, less-than-truckload, at XPO. But the reality is that the frequency and number of smaller orders have increased, he adds.

State of play: “The hardest part about this job right now … is to stay staffed,” says Emmert.

  • The warehouse has also been beset by equipment breakdowns, which were hard to fix because of — you guessed it — supply chain issues, says Tavio Headley, vice president of XPO investor relations.

The bottom line: “We’re as close to maximum capacity, highest prices, highest utilization that we've ever seen in [transportation and warehousing],” says Leuschner.

Go deeper

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
Jan 13, 2022 - Economy & Business

Companies turn to "shrinkflation" in bid to avoid price increases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The four-decade high in inflation is leading companies to look for alternatives to price increases to avoid scaring off customers.

Why it matters: With annualized inflation registering at 7% in December, businesses are turning to a mix of price increases and "shrinkflation" — cutting the amount you get, not the price you pay.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

1 hour ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.

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