Connect with us

Technology

Amazon’s surprising new delivery partners: Rural mom-and-pop shops

Published

on

Since at least last summer, Amazon has quietly been recruiting mom-and-pop shops in rural America to join an experimental delivery program. The company is paying participating small businesses a per-package fee to deliver Amazon orders within a 10-mile radius to their neighbors’ homes in states like Nebraska, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The local businesses Amazon is recruiting range from florists to restaurants to IT shops, and none of them are required to have prior delivery experience — just a commitment to deliver Amazon packages seven days a week, around 360 days a year, and a physical location to receive parcels each morning.

As Amazon’s ambitions to speed up delivery times and handle more of its own deliveries has grown, rural America has posed the thorniest logistical and financial challenges. While delivery drivers in cities and suburbs might be able to deliver two dozen packages per hour or more, the distance between homes in rural and other remote communities means drivers can only handle half that amount or less, making deliveries to these locales more costly. As a result, Amazon has handed off these deliveries to partners including UPS and, most notably, the US Postal Service, to handle the so-called “last mile” in small-town America.

The new local business delivery beta test seems aimed at perhaps one day replacing its existing partners as Amazon’s sales grow and the Postal Service navigates its own financial and operational challenges. Amazon hopes the new program could help it take more control over customer deliveries in sparsely populated areas and improve the delivery speed to these customers’ doors. The company has already tried versions of the program in a few international markets, including India since 2015, but the testing in the United States is more recent.

The delivery program marks just the latest example of Amazon offering small businesses an opportunity to earn new revenue by integrating with the tech giant’s growing ecosystem. From third-party merchants offering up inventory that bolsters Amazon’s massive online product catalog, to urban delivery companies working exclusively for Amazon to ferry hundreds of orders a day to the homes of Prime customers, Amazon has perfected the art of attracting small businesses with new business opportunities, while simultaneously making the Amazon product more attractive — all the while keeping enough distance from the partners so they can avoid liability if something goes wrong.

In the case of the new delivery initiative, Amazon is only recruiting existing businesses, in part because they already possess liability insurance, one Alabama small business owner who is participating in the program says the company told them. Some of these small businesses are being paid around $2.50 to $3 per package, and have recently been successful in persuading Amazon to add modest increases to their rates as gas prices have soared. An Amazon webpage marketing the program says business owners can expect to make $1,500 to $2,000 a week if they deliver 600 to 800 packages weekly. That amounts to roughly $2.50 per package. Marc Wulfraat, a logistics consultant whose firm tracks Amazon’s warehouse network, told Recode he would have expected the pay to be at least $3.50 per package to make the service attractive to businesses.

By positioning the opportunity as a side hustle for rural businesses rather than a core money-maker, Amazon might be able to offer these businesses just enough financial incentive to keep them satisfied with the gig while making the tough economics of rural delivery work. But if Amazon’s history with small businesses is predictive of future relationships, some partners will find great success with the program while others will leave disappointed or disenchanted.

Amazon is pitching the initiative — currently called the Amazon Hub Delivery Partner program internally — as a way to bring in supplemental income by handling anywhere from a couple of dozen to a few hundred packages a day.

“All of our partners operate primary businesses and this program provides opportunity to help supplement their income,” Lauren Samaha, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement.

In return, the small businesses and their workers have to commit to accept and deliver packages every day of the week, including Sundays, with just five holidays off each year, according to answers in a FAQ section of a webpage marketing the program. In the past, Amazon has at times cut back the package volume earmarked for a given small business if they don’t complete the deliveries. But the small business owner who spoke to Recode said the program has provided a nice financial boost for his family during the pandemic, as well as some neighbors he’s hired.

“The appeal is diversifying the business and also creating jobs for people in the community,” the Alabama business owner told Recode. The business owner requested anonymity to speak candidly about the program without Amazon’s permission. “That’s something we care about, and it’s been really good for my jobbers.”

But the Amazon partner also warned that some small businesses have found the commitment too demanding on top of their core operation and have backed out.

“Seven days a week for me is not a big deal because I’m at my shop every day,” they said. “But for some people, it is a big deal.”

Revelations of the new delivery program come as Amazon continues to take control over more customer orders from the time an order is placed on its app to the moment it arrives at a customer’s door. Amazon is doing this partly out of necessity as online shopping volumes, especially during holiday seasons, outstrip the transportation and delivery capacities of the country’s largest parcel delivery companies. Amazon would also eventually like to offer its logistics services to other companies as an additional money-maker.

Through a division called Amazon Logistics, or AMZL, Amazon now oversees the delivery of an estimated two-thirds of customers orders in the US, while the share of Amazon packages sent through USPS and UPS continues to decrease. Amazon’s share of package delivery has been growing each and every year since the inception of AMZL, and Amazon’s global consumer CEO Dave Clark said Amazon will likely become the largest delivery company in the country this year.

In cities and suburbs, packages shipped through Amazon’s own AMZL delivery network are contracted out to thousands of delivery firms — referred to internally as delivery service providers or DSPs — that are created by entrepreneurs to exclusively service Amazon with fleets of 20 to 40 vans. The employees or contractors hired by these firms typically drive Amazon-branded vans or trucks, wear Amazon-branded uniforms, and are monitored and judged by Amazon technology and performance expectations.

But Amazon doesn’t recruit entrepreneurs to start these companies in rural areas because the volume of packages in these geographies hasn’t historically been able to support standalone businesses. Enter the small-business shops looking to just make supplemental money as part of the new rural delivery program. These business owners and their workers use their own vehicles to handle deliveries.

In job listings, Amazon hiring managers say the program is expanding in 2022. The Alabama small business owner said that Amazon reps have told them the program is emerging from the pilot phase and has been approved for greater investment. Samaha said the program is still in beta testing.

In a short, taped webinar online, Amazon said that one of its earliest partners — a florist in Nebraska — began delivering Amazon packages in July 2021. In recent months, Amazon has been joining local chambers of commerce in rural communities and pitching the program in town hall-style gatherings. A public webpage says the company is currently accepting business referrals in just 10 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Nearly a decade ago, Amazon started offering Sunday delivery of packages through a partnership with the US Postal Service to make the shipping perks of the Prime membership program even more attractive. But even years later, the USPS does not support Sunday delivery in every town in America, leaving a hole that these small mom-and-pop establishments are now being asked to fill.

“Small towns are not used to that,” the Alabama small business owner said. “Customers have been very thankful for that.”

Rural USPS postal carriers and postmasters have also previously told Recode that the increase in e-commerce shopping during the pandemic has at times led to an overwhelming amount of Amazon parcels on top of regular mail, resulting in routes taking considerably longer than the amount of time carriers are actually being paid for.

Amazon’s other logistics end game is to eventually make its delivery network available to non-Amazon businesses, though the timeline of fulfilling that ambition was pushed back by the pandemic. Yet if Amazon eventually wants to do that, it may need to prove that it can offer wider and more consistent delivery coverage than the traditional players do today.

“Amazon is trying to figure out ways to be smarter than the established [shipping] carriers,” said Marc Wulfraat, the logistics consultant. “They want to cover any zip code so they can go out to market and [sell] their logistics as a service. The problem is… it’s a huge expense to get to that last 15 percent of the population.”

But with rural mom-and-pop shops taking on some of those expenses, Amazon may very well get there. Along the way, even more of the country will end up working for the Amazon labor machine.

This Article was first live here.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Technology

HP refreshes Spectre x360 laptop with Intel 12th-gen and Ryzen 5000 chips, Intel Arc GPU, beefed up webcam, and a quieter fan, starting at $1,650 (Scharon Harding/Ars Technica)

Published

on


Scharon Harding / Ars Technica:

HP refreshes Spectre x360 laptop with Intel 12th-gen and Ryzen 5000 chips, Intel Arc GPU, beefed up webcam, and a quieter fan, starting at $1,650  —  HP Spectre laptops try out Intel discrete graphics, boosted webcams, new hues.  —  HP has revamped its Spectre x360 lineup of convertible …

This Article was first live here.

Continue Reading

Technology

What Tools Do You Need to Wire Your Home for Ethernet?

Published

on

RandomMoments/Shutterstock.com

DIY projects can be fun and rewarding, or they can be complete nightmares. Having the right tools for the job help ensure that a project doesn’t turn into a terrible time. Here are some tools you’ll probably need to run your own Ethernet cables.

A Bit About Safety

Ethernet cabling — usually CAT 5e, CAT 6, or CAT 6a in April 2022 — isn’t high voltage, and shouldn’t be attached anything that can push a lot of current, either. That means it isn’t really dangerous in and of itself, if used as-intended.

That said, there are some precautions you should always take while working around the AC power lines in your home, or putting holes in the structural components of your house, including when you’re installing Ethernet cables.

Electricity

Always shut off power at the breaker box. If you’re running an Ethernet line through the wall from Room A to B, be absolutely sure that the breakers for both rooms are off.

To be completely sure, grab a lamp, and verify that the power to the rooms is actually off by plugging it into the outlets in the room.

Flip the lights in the room to the “On” position as well, and make sure none of them work. Lights, fans, and other things like that are often run on separate electrical lines from the outlets on your walls.

Drilling Holes

All Ethernet cables should be placed as far from the AC power lines in your house as is reasonably possible. The National Electric Code (NEC) requires unshielded Ethernet cables be a minimum of 8 inches away from any AC wiring. Follow this rule even for shielded cable — it won’t do you any harm.

AC electricity produces a magnetic field that can interfere with the signals running along your Ethernet cable, or even induce harmful voltages in the Ethernet cable.

Be sure to make the hole in your stud (or other framing member) only as big as it needs to be to accommodate the wires you’re running. Don’t make a hole larger with a diameter larger than 40% of the width of the framing member. If you need to route multiple wires, make multiple holes that are vertically separated by at least a few inches. Try to put the hole in the middle of the stud — if you put it too close to an edge, a screw or nail could easily pierce your Ethernet cable.

And, as always, wear eye protection.

Ethernet Cable Anatomy

All Ethernet cables are made up of 8 wires (four pairs) that are color-coded. They are: Orange and white/orange, blue and white/blue, brown and white/brown, and green and white/green.

Zakhar Mar/Shutterstock.com

Each colored pair is twisted together to help reduce noise and interference, which helps ensure that you get the maximum performance possible. Some Ethernet cables include a special shielding that sits between the plastic sheathing, usually called the jacket, and the twisted pairs inside to further reduce interference.

A Drill and the Right Bits

Ethernet cabling can be installed in conduit, raceway, or directly through the studs in your walls. One tool you’ll definitely need — irrespective of how you install it — is a good drill. You can get any drill (not an Impact Driver!) you want, but you can’t go wrong with DeWalt or Milwaukee.  Their top-of-the-line tools do command a premium price—but, like with most high-end tools, they’ll last for a very long time if you take care of them.

Through the Studs

You’ll need a drill with a reasonable amount of horsepower (literally) if you want to easily bore through a bunch of studs. The flexibility of a wireless drill is also great in this situation — having to contend with a cord can be annoying.

You’ll need the rights bits, too. Auger bits and spade (paddle) bits are popular choices for this, but some people use hole saws as well. Spade bits will be less expensive, but they tend to produce messier holes and they’re a bit harder to keep straight. Auger bits will stay straight more easily, and they almost always produce neater holes.

Note: If you go shopping for auger bits, make sure you get the kind designed for wood, not for soil. They have the same name but are completely different.

Everything Else

If you’re installing raceway, conduit, or doing anything else, you’ll probably need a few different phillips and flat head bits. You don’t really need anything special, though. This set from Dewalt will work. Any set you can buy at your local hardware store will work just fine, too.

Wire Cutters

You need to be able to cut your Ethernet cables to the correct length. Most every crimping tool will have a pair of cutters that will go through Ethernet cables without a problem. A dedicated pair of wire cutters are well worth it if you’re going to take on other home improvement projects in the future, however.

There a number of high-quality cutting pliers available, but the J2000-48s from Klein Tools are great for general-purpose cutting tasks. They’ll go right through any kind of wire you need to cut in your average DIY project.

A Punch Down Tool

Most Ethernet wall panels will have multiple sockets, or jacks. Each socket is connected to the Ethernet cable running in or on your wall by pushing each colored wire into a small groove with tiny metal blades inside. The metal blades slice through the insulation around the wire, and the blade is “punched down” into direct contact with the conductor in the wire. The blade itself is connected to the pins in the Ethernet jack. Then when you plug an Ethernet cable — like from your computer or TV — into the jack, the signal travels from the pin in the jack, to the blade, and then into the Ethernet cable in your wall.

Twisted pairs inserted into ethernet socket.
Anastasia T/Shutterstock.com

You don’t really need to buy a special punch down tool if you’re only doing one or two sockets. Most of the kits you buy at your local big-box hardware store will include a plastic punch down tool that will get the job done. You can even use your fingers or a small flathead screwdriver if you’ve got steady hands and are careful.

It is a different story if you plan on doing a whole bunch of them. Doing a dozen sockets means punching down and trimming about 100 tiny little wires — it is already tedious work, and doing it without the right tool makes it way worse. A good punch down tool will easily push the wire into place and trim the excess wire off the end, so you don’t have to do it with a razor or knife.

A punch down tool in use.
Nick Beer/Shutterstock.com

Klein manufactures a screwdriver, the VCV001-081, that can take multiple bits, including a punch down tool. It also has Phillips and flat-head attachments that match the standard screw sizes you’ll find in household electrical boxes and plates.

A Crimp Tool

If you’re putting Ethernet cabling into your home, you’ll need to have a router somewhere, and you might want to plug the Ethernet cables directly in the router rather than ending your run in a panel and then running patch cables between the wall panel and your router.

RELATED: How to Crimp Your Own Custom Ethernet Cables of Any Length

RJ45 plugs (the plug you’re familiar with on Ethernet cables) come in two basic variants: pass-through and non-pass-through, and which you use determines what kind of crimp tool you need.

When you attach a normal RJ45 connector to CAT cable, you need to trim the jacket back to expose the right amount of length wire so the twisted pairs can seat fully in the connector, while retaining enough of the jacket so that the connector can clamp down on the jacket when crimped. It is fairly easy to mess up, and getting the twisted pairs to go into the connector evenly takes some practice to do reliably.

Pass-through connectors make everything about that process a bit easier. You don’t need to worry about getting the jacket cut back to exactly the right length, and you don’t have to worry about making sure your wires go in perfectly straight — as long as they make it through the end of the plug, you can gently pull on them so they’re all even.

Pass Through RJ45
Klein Tools

There are crimper tools specifically designed to work with pass-through connectors. The major difference between a pass-through crimper and a regular crimper is the addition of a blade to trim the excess wire off the end of the RJ45.

You can use a regular crimping tool with a pass-through RJ45 plug, but you’ll need to trim the extra wire off. You can do that with a razor or a very fine pair of flush cutters. On the other hand, every pass-through crimping tool is fully compatible with non-pass-through RJ45 connectors.

The VDV226-011 is a regular crimping tool from Klein that works reliably. If you want to use pass-through connectors, Klein makes the VDV226-110.

Screwdrivers

You will need a set of screwdrivers if you don’t have some already. The faceplates of the Ethernet panel usually attach with a small flathead screw, and some of the boxes (the things that attach inside of the wall) use screws to clamp into place.

If you’re looking to buy something top of the line, Wera and Wiha are consistently ranked among the best you can buy. The good news is that — as long as you take care of them — they’ll probably last for the rest of your life. The downside is that they do command a premium price point.

Those options might be overkill if you don’t plan on a lot of DIY projects in the future. Realistically, any set of screwdrivers from your local hardware store will work just fine for this project.

There are screwdrivers that have interchangeable bits. Some of these, like the one we recommend from Klein, even have the Ethernet punch down tool built into them. If you have no other use for screwdrivers besides installing Ethernet panels, just get the all-in-one tool.

A Razor

A razor might seem like an odd addition to this list, but they can be handy. Most crimping tools also include a special stripping tool to remove the jacket from the Ethernet cable and expose the twisted pairs. Unfortunately, they don’t usually work very well — it is extremely easy to cut too deep and nick the twisted pair underneath.

A razor, however, is a lot easier to carefully control. You can very gently cut part of the way through the jacket of the Ethernet cable and then pull it off. You can also cut the wire to the precise length you want, which might make it easier to get them into an RJ45 connector or the slots on a wall socket.

Single Edge Razor Blade

A simple, no-frills, single edged razor. It’ll go through the jacket of an Ethernet cable (or any other wire) without an issue.

Fishing Rods, Fishing Tape, and Pulling Ethernet Cable

Unfortunately, it is difficult to say specifically what tools will be necessary to actually get the wire into place. If you’re working with a gutted room or a completely gutted house, then you might not need anything at all — you can probably just use your hands, though a fishing rod (sometimes called a pull or push rod) would be extremely useful if you’re going between floors.

Fishing Rods

If you’re working with completely finished walls that are filled with insulation, and you’re not running ethernet through conduit, you will definitely need a fishing rod. A fishing rod is a narrow piece of fiberglass (or other non-conductive, flexible material) that you can use to force Ethernet cable up or down a wall, or across a ceiling, even if you’re pushing through insulation. Fishing rods come in different lengths, and you can also get them with different levels of flexibility.

If you have no idea what kind you need, this mid-flex 25-foot fishing rod manufactured by Klein is a good all-around option.

Tip: Some fishing rods glow in the dark. It sounds a bit silly, but being able to see it while you’re peering into a small hole in the wall can be extremely useful. If you don’t get the rod we recommended, you should still try to get one that glows.

Fishing Tape

Fishing tape is useful if you need to move Ethernet cable through existing conduit or raceway, large empty spaces (line in an attic, above the insulation, or in an interior wall), or even through loose insulation. You will probably have more trouble forcing it through insulation than a fishing rod, but fishing tape is also a lot more flexible. For example, fishing tape is probably going to be easier to use than a fishing rod if you have to get wire around a corner.

This 25-foot fishing tool from Klein is great for most home projects, and the tapered tip makes a noticeable difference when using the tool — it snags significantly less.

Pull Line

If you might ever replace the Ethernet cable you’re installing, or add another line between the same places, you absolutely need to leave pull line in place. It’ll save you a ton of time later.

A pull line is exactly what it sounds like — you use it to pull new or additional Ethernet cables where you’ve already run one cable. Attach the pull line to the first Ethernet cable you put through, and then tie it off at the box, out of the way. If you have room, you can make the line twice as long as the cable’s run; that way, when you need to move a new line, you can just pull the pull line back and forth without having to worry about losing an end in a wall!

Any string will do, but ideally you want to use something that won’t mold, rot, snag, or rip easily. You can use heavy fishing line in a pinch, but there are plenty of specialty products available from manufacturers like Klein or Southwire.

Klein Tools 56325 Fish Rod Set

An excellent general purpose rod for fishing wire through walls and ceilings. It is long enough for almost any DIY Ethernet cabling job, and isn’t too stiff.

Miscellaneous Items

Tags

You should label all of the Ethernet cables, or at least label them by panel or room. It isn’t strictly necessary, but it’ll save you time if you ever need to troubleshoot. Something basic like these colored adhesive tags would work fine.

Cable Management

Most residential applications don’t involve enough cables to warrant a cable comb, but it is still good to try and be organized. If nothing else, keeping your cables tied together while pushing or pulling them through holes in studs will prevent you from driving yourself crazy. You can secure cables together most any way you want, but there are three popular options: lacing tape, zip ties, and velcro straps.

It doesn’t really matter which you use, it just comes down to personal preference. Zip ties are the easiest to use, but they’re prone to snagging when you pull them through holes. Lacing tape is the most difficult to use, but will pull more easily. Velcro is extremely easy to put on and take off if you need to adjust something later, but tends to snag if you’re pulling a whole bundle of cable.

Velcro Straps (3/4 inch wide)

The Velcro Straps are 3/4s of an inch wide. They present a happy middle ground as Ethernet fasteners go, and they can also be used to help contain the rat’s nest behind your TV or PC.

This Article was first live here.

Continue Reading

Technology

Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, says it will offer 10% faster CPU performance, 10% faster GPU clocks, and have up to 30% better power efficiency (Sean Hollister/The Verge)

Published

on


Sean Hollister / The Verge:

Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, says it will offer 10% faster CPU performance, 10% faster GPU clocks, and have up to 30% better power efficiency  —  Bragging rights (and battery life?) for gaming phones  —  Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 set the stage for the biggest Android smartphones …

This Article was first live here.

Continue Reading

Trending