Looking at what changes will impact supply chain management, Logistics Viewpoint highlighted a few young companies that are working on robotics, IotT and the sharing economy.
-Locus Robotics, a Massachusetts based start-up, recently put their product on the market and it is being used within its sister company’s (Quiet Logistics) fulfillment operations. Associates scan, then place items into totes placed upon and transported by the robots. The robots autonomously navigate through the warehouse infrastructure along with others in the fleet, guided by the Locus server. The value driver of this solution appears to be its flexibility and the intelligence with which it utilizes the robots and staff to efficiently manage the facility’s workload.
- Fetch Robotics, a Silicon Valley start-up, developed a pair of robots, branded Fetch and Freight. Freight augments manual picking by following associates through the picking process and then autonomously dispatches the order to its warehouse destination while the picker continues with his/her picking process, supported by another Freight unit. Both of these solutions offer cost-effective alternatives to manual picking processes. The reasonable upfront investment costs of these systems and the potential ROI they can deliver will be factors driving user adoption and deployment of these systems.
The Internet of Things
Based in Silicon Valley, the company was founded in 2010 by ex-Cisco supply chain practitioners. Their cloud solution includes modules for conflict minerals compliance, business continuity planning (BCP), and corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as supplier capacity management and supplier parts change notification. And, the network of participating supplier sites grew to over 50,000, representing approximately one million parts. Companies such as GM, Amgen and Millipore are customers.
The company is a startup composed of five members who are dedicated to the development of new technology and applied science to enhance consumer experience. Reckon uses an abstract representation of the facility (such as a laser point cloud), Wi-Fi signatures, and signatures derived from the Earth’s magnetic field. These data sets are combined to establish a 3D representation of the facility along with the distinct signatures associated with locations. Once the facility representation is established, mobile magnetic sensors, such as those in a smart phone compass, are used to capture magnetic data that is transmitted to the back-end system. The cloud-based back-end application hosts the calculation algorithms and database that turn magnetic readings into location data. Reckon Point claims that its system provides sub-meter location accuracy, 5 second ping frequency, and precise navigation capabilities.
The development of engineered labor standards in a warehouse is a strong fit for this technology. The use of a location based service such as Reckon Point’s can enhance labor time studies with other valuable data including visual representation of travel paths, warehouse foot traffic, and other real-life constraint data.
This company describes itself as a marketplace for warehouse space. It is a cloud-based marketplace platform analogous toairbnb. Flexe works in much the same way. So for example, if you are a distributor of Halloween costumes, your warehouse is far from being fully utilized after the holiday the holiday. Your company can list your excess capacity on Flexe and provide companies that need short term warehousing services – perhaps a toy company with a hot new product release – 3PL warehousing services.
Deliv describes itself as a bridge for the last mile gap between retailers and customers. The company is a crowd sourced delivery option that stretches across multiple retail segments. This company uses a smartphone app to alert pre-qualified drivers of a pending delivery, and the driver picks up the merchandise from the retailer and delivers it to the customer. This is all generated from an e-commerce order where a customer selects same-day delivery from the list of fulfillment options. Once the order has been picked up, the customer receives real-time tracking information to ensure they are home to receive the order. Deliv currently works with over 125 retailers in 17 markets across the U.S. and is continuing to expand. With a large percentage of retailers interested in the use of crowd-sourced delivery options, this is a market that could continue to see new players in an already crowded space.