Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week:  Embracing tech standards before pandemic benefited manufacturers; eBay opens platform to millions of sellers in Latin America; Bull Moose Tube announces Texas mill; and CBP seizes $4 million in fake items at Port Houston.

Embracing tech standards before pandemic benefited manufacturers, survey finds 

Manufacturers and suppliers that adopted Industry 4.0 standards prior to the coronavirus pandemic were better equipped to handle the disruption, according to the BDO 2021 Industry 4.0 Survey.

The survey, which polled 100 CFOs from different manufacturing sectors, also said that companies embracing Industry 4.0 standards are better positioned for growth compared to those less digitally advanced firms. 

Industry 4.0 has been defined as a new phase in the Industrial Revolution that focuses on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning and real-time data to reduce the costs of running inefficient supply chains.

“The biggest thing that we saw on the results of the survey is really the accelerent catalyst that the pandemic has been to organizations really taking action to adopt new technologies to digitize their supply chain,” Eskander Yavar, national leader of BDO manufacturing practice, told FreightWaves.

Chicago-based BDO USA LLP is a professional services firm providing tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a range of publicly traded and privately held companies. 

BDO’s 2021 Industry 4.0 survey was conducted in January, polling 100 manufacturing industry CFOs for companies with revenues ranging from $250 million to $2 billion.

Yavar said prior to the pandemic, manufacturers and suppliers had only been making “incremental changes” in technology investments.

“With the widespread impact of the pandemic that turned everything upside down in the past 12 months, you see people really doubling down on 3D printing, blockchain, 5G in the sense that will be coming to Internet of Things (IoT) technology,” Yavar said. “Companies are at this point in their evolution with all these — call it nontraditional factors like national trade policy, pandemic supply chain issues — where it’s almost like, if you don’t start digitizing, you’re at the point of being irrelevant in the years to come.”

One of the key survey findings was 88% of (re)born in digital manufacturers plan to increase their digital spending over the next 12 months, compared to 47% of legacy manufacturers.

(Re)born in digital are manufacturers that are either newer companies that integrated Industry 4.0 technologies throughout their operations from their founding or incumbent organizations that have embraced Industry 4.0, according to BDO. 

The number of (re)born in digital manufacturers was only 24%, compared to 76% of legacy manufacturers (less digitally advanced), according to the survey.

Yavar said the disparity could be attributed to how fast technology arises, as well as the cost of adopting IoT technologies. He said he expects the number of (re)born in digital to increase every year as companies become more knowledgeable of emerging technologies.

“We’re really finding that more and more newer companies every year are really starting to be (re)born in digital, versus those legacy manufacturers that are struggling to get the capital investment to do some type of improvement from an automation digital perspective,” Yavar said. “Think about the distribution space, where more and more companies are going to a business-to-consumer model with a strong e-commerce engine and order fulfillment mechanism in their warehouses. We’re just seeing that trend elevate more and more year over year.” 

eBay opens platform to millions of sellers in Mexico, Latin America

eBay is partnering with Latin American e-commerce services hub StoreON to streamline the sale of products and services from Mexico, Colombia and Peru to the United States, according to a release

The partnership will allow up to 2 million Latin American sellers to use eBay’s platform  for cross-border e-commerce to reach more U.S. buyers.

Sellers from Latin American countries using eBay will not have to worry about English language skills, the international logistics operator, the handling of foreign currencies or the nationalization of products, according to Ilya Kretov, eBay’s general manager of global emerging markets.

“With our global buyer base of 187 million, eBay offers a reliable platform for businesses to successfully expand and become part of the global economy, especially in critical times like these,” Kretov said in a statement.

Bogota, Colombia-based StoreON helps small and medium-size enterprises that want to expand through online sales.

Bull Moose Tube announces Texas mill

Bull Moose Tube plans to construct a hollow structural section tube and sprinkler pipe mill in Sinton, Texas.

The 350,000-ton-per-year mill will be built on Steel Dynamics Inc.’s upcoming flat-rolled steel plant’s campus in the same city. 

“The new mill will expand our geographic footprint and allow us to better serve customers not only in the Southwest, West Coast and Mexico markets, but across the entire business,” Tom Modrowski, president and CEO of Bull Moose Tube, said in a statement

Sinton is about 25 miles northwest of the Port of Corpus Christi. The Bull Moose Tube mill, which will create about 50 jobs, is scheduled to open in early 2023. 

Chesterfield, Missouri-based Bull Moose Tube manufactures welded steel tubing for the construction and transportation industries, as well as other markets. The company operates seven plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Steel Dynamics is building a $1.9 billion flat roll steel mill in Sinton, which is scheduled to open in 2021. The company is one of the largest domestic steel producers and metals recyclers in the U.S., with customers across North America.

CBP seizes $4M in fake Apple, JBL items at Port Houston

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Port Houston recently intercepted over 70,000 counterfeit Apple and JBL electronic items.

When the shipment arrived at Port Houston, CBP discovered various Apple products such as AirPods Pro, Apple watches, Apple lightning cables and iPhone cases. Officers also discovered JBL speakers in the shipment. CBP did not specify when the seizure took place.

Images of the items were sent to the trademark holders, who confirmed the items were counterfeit. The retail value for genuine Apple and JBL products would have been $4 million.

“Transnational criminal organizations are relentless in their effort to fund their illegal activities by manufacturing poor imitations of authentic designer brands,” said Houston CBP Port Director Roderick Hudson.

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