Afternoon Coffee: Companies asking for longer supplier payment times after Covid pandemic; US gets $2.3 million of Colonial Pipeline ransom back; DHL expands use of robotics

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Research from the Hackett Group revealed that the Covid pandemic prolonged payments to suppliers and that companies are trying to use this model going forward, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The advisory firm gathered data from corporate disclosures of 938 of the largest US companies by revenue. The data found that companies took an average 58 days to pay suppliers in the first quarter of 2021, up 5.5% from 55 days at the same time last year. In fiscal 2020, businesses took 62 days to settle dues with suppliers, up 7.6% year-over-year.

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The WSJ reported that Macy’s and Mondelez International Inc., a food company, are negotiating longer payment times in wake of the Covid disruption. However, accounting professor Andrew Schmidt said that companies need to walk a fine line between better payment terms and imposing financial strain on suppliers.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he told the WSJ.

US gets $2.3 million of Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack money back

US law enforcement officials confirmed yesterday that they recovered $2.3 million in bitcoin paid to the criminal cybergroup DarkSide after the hackers conducted a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, according to CNBC.

In a press briefing, officials from the FBI disclosed details about how they were able to seize the funds. The FBI declined to share precisely how it uncovered the bitcoin wallet, citing a need to protect tradecraft. But Elvis Chan, an FBI assistant special agent, told reporters that even the foreign-based cybercriminals like DarkSide use American infrastructure at some point in the course of the crime. It then gives the FBI a legal authority to recover funds.

DarkSide, believed to be a Russian-based organization, operates as a “ransomware as a service” business model. Its hackers develop and market ransomware tools and sell them to criminal affiliates, CNBC reported. The attack in question shut down nearly 5,500 miles of American fuel pipeline.

“Today we turned the tables on DarkSide,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during a press briefing, saying that the money was seized via court order.

DHL expands use of robotics

Logistics and transportation brand DHL is expanding the use of Locus Robotics assisted picking robots, aiming to have 2,000 of the machines in its facilities by 2022, according to Supply Chain Dive.

Locus Robotics already has 500 robots deployed to 13 DHL facilities. Another 500 are expected by the end of 2021, and the remaining 1,000 will roll out in 2022. One warehouse was able to improve pick speed from 78-unit picks per hour to 150 after the use of robots.

"Without the robots, the humans are spending a lot of their time — the bulk of their time — walking, which is not picking," Karen Leavitt, Locus Robotics’ CMO, told Supply Chain Dive. "And we're able to eliminate about 60% of their walking time."

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