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May 29, 2023
Amazon executive Q&A: supply chain tech and innovation
Moving freight is a complicated process that continues to become more complex as customer demands and supply chain challenges increase. Those within the supply chain must remain ready to adapt when facing unprecedented volatility and leverage technology that can create more efficient logistics networks.

Earlier this month, Indira Uppuluri, Vice President of Product and Technology for Relay in Amazon’s Middle Mile, spoke at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium discussing essential innovations that are supporting shippers, carriers, and consumers, while also improving safety. We sat down with Uppuluri, who has spent 30 years working in the product space across consumer and enterprise tech companies, to learn more about how Amazon is driving innovation across the supply chain.

Q: The scope of supply chain tech is wide. What is one area of tech that is proving to be effective?
You’re right. When someone says “supply chain tech” that can mean anything from a simple electronic proof of delivery to the sophisticated machine learning and AI used to compute the complex variables that go into calculating freight rates.

Probably the most tangible example of valuable tech in action is in the area of visibility. With a fleet as diverse and large as Amazon’s, and the scale at which we operate, keeping track of our vehicles becomes critical for healthy operation. Each of our vehicles is fitted with a GPS tracker device that helps us to know its precise location at any given point in time to help with logistics and planning purposes.

That helps us not only operationally but it also increases the information we can share with customers. Our customers want to know what is happening to their shipment, when it is delivered, and if there has been a disruption.

Q: You have said that Amazon’s key focus areas are safety, scalable tech, and sustainability. How does technology impact safety?
Safety is the biggest driver of our technology investments as we build and maintain the safest transportation network possible at Amazon. We are investing more than $1 billion to create a best-in-class trailer fleet. That’s the same fleet Amazon Freight uses to help shippers move their loads. You can also see our commitment to safety in action within our navigation application Relay where we have pre-trip and real-time alerts for inclement weather, low bridges, and more so drivers are better prepared to safely navigate the road ahead.

The other aspect of safety is compliance. We ensure our Amazon network is abiding by the rules of the road, truck routes, and neighborhoods, as well as environmental issues and protecting customer data. For instance, we have implemented technology to help those in the Amazon Freight Partner program manage compliance and support the safety of their drivers, including tools to help them avoid fatigue.

Q: How are you using technology to aid Amazon’s sustainability efforts?
Tech plays a critical role for us in sustainability. We feel a big responsibility to be a leader in this space in terms of research, technology, and investment. So, we co-founded the Climate Pledge in 2019 because we believe in the science that tells us that we have a limited window of time to draw down greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a net-zero carbon future. The Climate Pledge is our commitment to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement, and it requires a lot of invention, testing and learning, and a completely new playbook.

Q: Are there any specific solutions you’re considering?
Moving heavy freight loads over long distances without using diesel is a big challenge, which is why we’re focused on exploring, testing, and investing in sustainable innovations that can scale across our linehaul network to reduce emissions.

We know we have to be a leader in this space, but we also know we can’t do this alone. That’s why we’re partnering with a number of companies who share our ambition to use more high-performance, heavy-duty vehicles powered by electricity and alternative fuels such as hydrogen, and we're building new and innovative delivery methods.

Q: Shippers are always looking to the future. What do you think the supply chain will look like in the next five to ten years?
Great question and one I have to answer with a perspective from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. When he’s asked what is going to change in the future, he almost always responds with another question: “What's not going to change in the next 10 years?” In other words, he’s searching for the core need of customers today that will remain steady in the future, despite all the upheaval technology and other macro-level factors can bring.

While we may not know exactly what tomorrow will have in store for the supply chain, we can be certain that customer expectations around speed, reliability, and the environment will continue and that technology will help. This includes anything from how packages arrive at customers' doorsteps to the zero-emission vehicles on the road and the delivery drones in the sky. We'll always look for new ways to make things move faster and more efficiently, while strictly adhering to customer needs. If we know one thing, it’s that everything we build will be around our customers.

If you’re interested in how Amazon Freight can help your organization’s shipping needs and supply chain optimization, contact us.
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