Warehouse of the Future: Adopting Automation within Your Supply Chain – Part 1 of 2

shutterstock_594305333-800x500

There’s currently a digital supply chain transformation that’s happening faster than the physical supply chain can react, requiring hybrid solutions in semi-automated environments where humans and robots work in tandem. New incentives to modernize operational capabilities should be added that capture efficiencies not previously achieved, while laying the foundation of a digitalized supply chain, continuously re-evaluating plans and evolving for performance.

Automation has been looked at as a solution to operational challenges, but trends in the marketplace signify an unprecedented rate of adoption taking hold in the coming decade. E-commerce is driving service expectations to levels that may not be achieved without the use of highspeed picking alternatives to manual operations. The aging generations in mature economies and challenges securing a loyal millennial workforce for repetitive tasks are creating increased disruption to staffing, forcing employers to look to automation to offset risk of labor shortages. Continued innovation has reduced costs of entry for automated capabilities, delivering improved business case justification for automation of many forms.

With such a strong justification, operations leaders across the globe are seeking ways to capture the potential that automation offers. Large scale transformation of distribution networks is capital intensive, however, and rarely warranted given the pace of change – however rapid – and market uncertainties. Therefore, we’re forced to look within existing environments to identify opportunities to introduce automation into existing facilities, combining automated equipment with manual operations, which requires the added complexity of orchestrating work across semiautomated operations. This scenario introduces the question of how to create an optimal environment allowing warehouse management systems (WMS) to orchestrate work across manual and automated areas to ensure efficient operations and maintain quality and service levels.

Part 1 of this 2-part blog series will take a deeper dive into today’s automation systems landscape and retrofitting today’s supply chain with automation. Part 2 of the series will cover disruptive technologies and digitalization and next generation capabilities.

The Current Landscape of Automation Systems

In automated environments, WMS often work alongside warehouse control systems (WCS) that manage the routing of containers as they traverse the material handling equipment, and warehouse execution systems (WES) which often have basic task management capabilities but not the level of control or optimization of a WMS. Below are a few general groupings of automation that typically leverage these entities in different ways.

  • Conveyors and sortation equipment receive destination / routing information from the WMS and leverage the WCS to divert containers to the appropriate location.
  • Pick execution equipment, including pick-to-light, carousels, or A-frames will receive pick instructions from the WMS and rely on the WCS to control the MHE. At times, these devices will manage task distribution and user interfaces for the performance of picks, though often, the WMS will manage the tasks through prioritization, and provide a common user experience (using consistent equipment where appropriate) for work performed in the pick modules and in bulk storage which feeds it (this work would include putaways, cycle counting, and picks where appropriate). Often, a WES has been sufficient for high volume outbound operations in retail, but with increasing emphasis on service levels, the advanced functionality of a WMS specific to inventory accuracy, pick module replenishment, cross-docking, and exception handling, the WMS brings a strong justification for a two-pronged approach.
  • Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) are well established, though adoption is increasing as more forklift providers offer driverless units. These units can take direction from a WMS (typical when involved in semi-automated environments) or WES (often used in ASRS racking systems where materials are commingled or when the vehicles can follow multiple routes to alleviate congestion). In either scenario, a WMS is often utilized to manage inventory allocation to customer and order.
  • Palletizers use visual determination for pallet building capabilities, but most in use require some level of consistency in product dimensions at the layer level. Advanced pallet building and robotic arm picking capabilities are increasing in use, but require some consistency in dimensions. Improvements in digital sensing will soon be changing the game here.

Retrofitting Today’s Supply Chain with Automation

Automation adoption will continue to accelerate in response to advanced service level expectations and e-commerce, with a focus on scale and speed, whereas a continued migration of margin focused businesses will drive adoption of driverless vehicles and high-density storage modules, especially in cold storage or mega-cities with high volume real estate. The introduction of automation into the existing facilities will bring challenges, such as:

  • Traditional footprints, system capabilities, and business processes will be challenged when faced with the introduction of conveyance, sortation, and pick execution equipment. A natural inclination to delineate businesses, and potentially create channel-specific operations, can result in artificially inflated inventory levels and/or reduced service levels in increasingly sensitive environments to failures in this area. Multi-channel capabilities can be achieved, often driving operational leaders to adopt pick execution capabilities to distribute work without recognizing the backlash to overall service levels of having disparate capabilities with traditional WMS controlled processes. The results, if not thought through, can have repercussions on inventory accuracy, exception management, and operational efficiency.
  • The introduction of driverless vehicles (AGV or ASRS) offer strong advantages in terms of scale and cost, ROI projections in union environments can often deliver break even points less than a year after go-live, even in new projects. However, legacy storage equipment and material flow can introduce limitations. The environments best prepared for the introduction of driverless forklifts are those managing full pallets in bulk locations (where dimensions are predictable and stack requirements are well documented), or those where racking capacity is capable of managing fixed locations that can be tracked in the WMS (if locations can be dedicated to a specific lot), or in the WCS (where multiple pallet locations can be managed by the WCS but the WMS can manage storage/allocation in concert with non-automated areas). In more complex operations, the WCS can take a more active role in determining work and allocation, but this often drives customization and redundancy with WMS functions specific to the needs of the business.
  • More robust, piece level management in advanced pick modules controlled by ASRS such as goods-to-person automation, offer advanced capabilities for high volume distributors and e-tailers. Often, this will require tote storage of product to standardize the storage capabilities, though concessions for non-conveyables must be considered. Integrating pick and pack operations with traditional areas of the same operation also force decisions on how to integrate inventory management with shipping capabilities, adding complexity to projects as WMS and WCS providers offer similar capabilities.

Check back for part-2 of the blog series, where we’ll go into more detail around the technologies driving next generation warehouse automation and digitalization and next generation capabilities.

For more information download the Future Series white paper, “Adopting automation in the digital age.”

About the Author

0-7

Matthew Butler, Industry Strategies Director, JDA Software

More more information contact, 0414 966 232.

Visit www.jda.com

Advertisements

The $100 Billion Returns Question

Billion Dollar Return QuestionBy Karin Bursa, Executive Vice President, Logility

Now that the holiday season is behind us, retailers can sleep easy, right? Well, no. Seasons are now both shorter and more frequent which means you quickly move on to the next one. However, a large and rapidly growing issue has emerged: the cost of returns. Unwanted gifts, incorrect sizes, styles and fits that didn’t match expectations, the reasons are countless. To attract and retain customers, many retailers strive to make the return process as frictionless as possible. But at what cost? The ease of returning an online purchase has turned the bedroom into the retail fitting room. Consumers now purchase multiple variations of the same product to “try on” at home and then return the rest.

Following the 2017 holiday season, several industry pundits proclaimed retailers would lose about $90 billion (yes… billion!) in returned merchandise that could not be resold (Good news for FedEx and UPS: People just opened $90 billion in unwanted gifts). Recently, another report published claiming this number reached $107 billion for 2017 ($107 Billion Lost In Returns). Regardless of the final number, we are talking about a lot of money that simply should not be “thrown away to erode margins.”

Returns can be forecasted and much of that inventory can be placed back onto store shelves or made available through ecommerce, discount locations, etc. So, if retailers know the returns are going to happen, why are the losses so high? I sat down with retail industry veteran Jim Brown to learn more.

 

Karin: Are you surprised at the high cost of returns?

Jim: Not at all. When I was in the shoe industry, we experienced a higher-than-average rate of returns that could not be sold. Today, the consumer’s mindset has evolved and applied the same logic we saw in the shoe industry, try on a wide variety before you find the right one, to the rest of their purchasing habits. Consumers today are more comfortable ordering more and returning most of that order. It is too easy to add items to an online shopping basket knowing you have the option to return the merchandise with free shipping. And, since you used a credit card, you’ll never have to pay out-of-pocket.

 

Karin: Based on your experience, what happens to this merchandise?

Jim: Basic items typically do not make up the bulk of the returned merchandise. So, if the items are re-saleable, a lot of them will move into a markdown status by the time they make their way back to the store, or into the available warehouse inventory due to selling seasons. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as taking it from the initial customer and placing it back on the shelf. Often, there are many hands that will interact with the merchandise—tags may have been removed, packaging may be defective, etc. All of this takes time, resources and investment to re-create and ready the merchandise for resale. Time is money and each ‘touch’ depletes your margin.

 

Karin: Why are retailers not able to place the merchandise back in circulation?

Jim: Most retailers will try, or have a process that should accommodate getting the product back into the inventory. The reality is most retail supply chains are optimized to bulk move allocated or replenished goods to the stores/locations. Handling one item at a time is a very labour-intensive activity. Determining if the item is damaged, repairable, tagged, packaged appropriately, etc. all adds to this cost. If you consider the margin on a single item, the least costly option may be to not handle it all. Of course, this is dependent upon the cost and margin of the item, so you need policies in place that accommodate all types of merchandise sold. This is the same reason why reducing store-to-store transfers is so important for retailers.

 

Karin: Are certain industries more prone to this issue?

Jim: Definitely. Health and beauty is a good example because this industry is heavily regulated. Once a safety seal is broken, that item is off the market for resale. Ready-to-wear is another good example due to its specific sizing which is also prone to returns. Technology becomes obsolete quickly, and the packaging is almost impossible to return to its’ ‘factory fresh’ condition. This forces the majority of these returns to be sold at a markdown, contribute to that staggering number you mentioned earlier and result in ‘open box’ promotions and discounts.

 

Karin: What are some of the ways retailers mitigate this issue?

Jim: This has become increasingly more difficult. In the past, retailers could require return authorizations or a short return window. However, in today’s competitive environment where shoppers have more options, retailers are hesitant to put up any customer service barriers. The prevalence of social media means one bad experience can be amplified across a broad audience and impact future sales. If I know the return process will be a hassle, chances are I will shop elsewhere. The best way to mitigate returns is to get the transaction right with the customer at the point of purchase. By providing as much information about the item to them as possible, easy access to customer reviews, etc. will lessen the chance that an item will come back up front. Some retailers are experimenting with virtual dressing rooms and other innovative technology to help minimize the volume of returns.

 

The cost of returns is truly an astonishing figure; however, as Jim outlines retailers are just not set up to handle the one-off item returns in a cost-effective manner. There are ways to minimize the burden including getting the sale right from the start. Additionally, retailers need to forecast the returns as a part of their planning process and develop more cost-effective measures for handling the merchandise as it comes back. If you are able to better predict the amount of returned merchandise you are likely better equipped to collaborate with your suppliers and partners to mitigate the cost to you while still delighting your customers.

 

About the Author

11-10-41.jpg

Karin Bursa, Executive Vice President, Logility

With more than 25 years of experience in the development, support and marketing of enterprise software solutions, Karin is able to provide The Voyager Blog several provoking perspectives including market-shaping events, end-user perspectives and technical reviews. She is a widely quoted source on the evolution of the supply chain, frequent author to many leading publications, and can be found speaking at many of the industry’s leading conferences.

Changing the Status Quo to Stay Ahead of the Amazon Effect

By Henry Canitz

Picture1.png

Planning teams face multiple dilemmas including promoting and supporting top line growth, containing cost, efficiently managing on-going operations and finding new ways to drive innovation. To complicate matters, supply chains are growing more complex as product proliferation and customer service expectations rise driven in part by the “Amazons” of the world.

Increasing complexity due to larger product portfolios drives demand volatility, more distribution channels and wider-spread supply chain networks. Traditionally, complexity required increasing inventory levels to buffer against the unknown, which in turn brought about more scrutiny from senior management as working capital increased. The answer, while simple to state, seems to allude many organisations: hold the right amount of inventory in the right locations to improve cash flow and provide better responsiveness to dynamic customer demand. Industry research and surveys point to Inventory Optimisation (IO) as a key capability to combat these growing supply chain stresses.

A form of prescriptive analytics, IO determines where and how much inventory to hold to meet a designated service level while complying with specific inventory policies. Through sophisticated algorithms, IO makes stocking recommendations to satisfy demand with the least amount of inventory. Inventory Optimisation can have a huge financial impact by minimizing inventory and freeing up working capital while guaranteeing the right stock is on hand, when and where needed.

Change the Status Quo through Multi-echelon Inventory Optimisation

Multi-echelon Inventory Optimisation (MEIO) goes a step further to simultaneously optimize stock locations and amounts across all inventory types in a supply chain network. Through advanced mathematical algorithms, MEIO models inventory flows through every interdependent stage and location of a supply chain to create an optimal configuration of internal and external inventory buffers to handleScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 12.18.12 pm demand and supply uncertainty. MEIO can model component/raw, work-in-process (WIP) and finished goods inventory to ensure the right amount of each is stocked in the right locations enabling powerful postponement strategies.

MEIO’s rapid “what-if” scenario analysis to modify stock buffers (lowering some, raising others) and revamped policies and targets around the supply chain has shown in the real world to reduce inventory 10% to 30%, freeing millions (and in some cases, billions) in working capital that was trapped in excess stock and carrying costs.

Multi-echelon Inventory Optimisation, at its simplest form, enables the trade-off between service level and inventory cost modelled across the efficient frontier (see Figure 1). The Inventory Efficient Frontier shows that, for any status quo, it will always cost more to achieve higher service levels. However, through MEIO initiatives we can change the status quo and create a series of new curves that deliver a desired service level at less cost than the formerstate allowed.

 Picture12.png

Figure 1: The Inventory Efficient Frontier

 

MEIO’s Impact on the Supply Chain

MEIO modelling compares actual demand to forecast, and actual receipt of goods to the plan for each SKU. MEIO models identifies forecast accuracy and safety stock issues while factoring historical forecast accuracy into the equation enabling predictive service level calculations. This fact-based approach to inventory targets allows you to right-size inventory by SKU and location.

MEIO strategic inventory modelling answers more difficult questions, i.e. where to make or stock products or the impact of distribution or manufacturing facility closures and openings. Strategic inventory modelling can provide quick, side-by-side scenario analysis to help make the right decisions. MEIO enables timely answers to complex “what-if” questions including impacts of channel changes and stocking policies across a complex and volatile omni-channel distribution network.

 

A Proven Three Step Approach to MEIO:

A simple three-step approach has been proven effective to achieving a successful MEIO initiative:

  1. Assess your organization’s capabilities from the perspectives listed below to understand your current state and to lay the foundation for a solid business case that delivers real-world results:
  • Inventory performance
  • Business process and inventory management expertise
  • Technology and organizational readiness
  1. Create a future state MEIO capability—process, technology, organization—that provides your supply chain team with a roadmap to success.
  2. Drive fundamental strategic changes that create greater resiliency and agility throughout the supply chain and establish a cycle of continuous improvement.

 

Time for Change

The benefits of Multi-echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) are well established by hundreds of companies of all sizes and in many industries. Leading organisations have shown that right-sizing inventory buffers and restructuring where and in what form inventory is held can drive powerful financial benefits. Inventory Optimisation provides a knowledge platform for better decision-making and enables organizations to use inventory as a lever for balancing supply and demand.

Amazon and other large e-retailers appeal to consumers on product offering, price and speed of delivery. They are able to effectively compete in these areas due to economies of scale that lower operating costs. To compete against the “Amazons” of the world, companies must find ways to simultaneously lower costs and improve customer service. MEIO is a modern weapon that does just that by enabling companies to selectively pick where to engage. MEIO allows companies to optimize inventory for the markets they want the battle to be fought in, for select customers, and select products.

 

About the author

Hank Canitz Picture

Henry Canitz is The Product Marketing & Business Development Director at Logility. To read more of Henry’s insights visit www.logility.com/blog.

BAEP’s Beaumont on understanding the economics of innovation

1515326886990by Julian Beaumont

For all the interest in self-driving vehicles, blockchain, 3D printing and the like, very little time is spent by investors in understanding the economics of new innovation and who might actually benefit.

Most investors in these hot industries can’t fathom anything other than a bright future. With the benefit of hindsight, however, investing in the latest hi-tech industry isn’t necessarily the easy path to riches most might presume.

Looking out from the 1920s when air travel was just taking off and the commercial airline industry was attracting much excitement, few would have been disappointed by its subsequent growth or importance to society. Investors in airlines, however, have been losing money ever since. Indeed, many airlines have gone bankrupt, including Ansett and Compass, and most have at some time required bailouts.

Consumers, however, have benefited, especially through lower flight prices over time. And to prove innovation isn’t the key to success, the supersonic Concorde stopped its super-fast flights in 2003.

Similarly, automobiles, plastics, personal computers and dot-coms were all once new-age industries that have caused carnage for investors. Picking the few winners that will emerge from the hype is often difficult.

From the dot-com bubble, Amazon is obviously one. Other big tech winners, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix, weren’t even listed at the time.

To date at least, Amazon has won with profitless prosperity, with arguably little profits to show for its success. Online retailing has been a tough place to invest.

Here, the value of the innovation accrues to customers rather than shareholders, as those in Surfstitch and Temple & Webster can attest.

Improved range, searchability, price transparency and convenience all clearly benefit the customer, but come at a cost to retailers – particularly due to increased price competition and expensive delivery costs.

Interestingly, it has been bricks-and-mortar retailers like Zara and H&M whose fast fashion and express supply chains have been among the most profitable innovations in retail in recent years.

Right now, investors are enthusiastic about lithium stocks, disruptive tech names, pre-profit concept stocks and bitcoin. Of course, that which is new and lacks much historical track record allows this optimism, with little in the way of disproof.

The key for investors is not to focus exclusively on the importance, societal value or seemingly exponential growth of the innovation, but to understand the economics behind it.

For example, if lithium is ultimately plentiful, it won’t be lithium miners that will prosper from the electric vehicle revolution. Nor will it necessarily be Tesla, as incumbent auto manufacturers can just as easily go electric.

Ultimately, whether any one company truly benefits from innovation comes down to whether they have something unique – a competitive advantage – that limits the extent to which the value of the innovation is competed away or otherwise passed on to the customer.

A common example is where the innovation makes for a unique product or service. Often forgotten as innovators are a number of world class Australian-based healthcare companies that include Cochlear, Resmed, Sirtex and CSL.

They spend big on researching and developing new and better medicines and medical devices.

Their products are protected by intellectual property rights such as product registrations and patents, allowing them to reap the profits of their innovation. Interestingly, investors don’t seem to attribute much value to R&D spend, perhaps because it usually represents an expense and subtracts for profits.

For example, CSL’s pre-tax profits would be almost 40 percent higher but for its R&D investment, which is rarely raised by those focused on its apparently lofty earnings multiple.

Other examples on the ASX include Aristocrat, which is spending more than $300 million annually on developing new market-leading slot machines and online social games; Reliance Worldwide with its Sharkbite push-to-connect plumbing fittings that offer ease and time saving in installation, and which are taking share by disrupting the market; and Costa Group, with its intellectual property in blueberries that improves quality and all-year-round availability.

As these cases attest, seemingly boring innovation can produce exciting profits.

Another less risky way to play innovation is by understanding where it can augment a company’s competitive advantage.

For example, the stock exchange ASX Limited is soon to replace its CHESS settlement system with blockchain technology that is expected to reduce costs and provide added functionality.

Another good example is Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, which operates a franchise of pizza stores. The company has very profitably leveraged new innovation to improve the efficiency of its operations and the cost, convenience and appeal of its customer offer.

For example, new ovens cook pizzas in less than four minutes, its GPS tracker helps speed up deliveries and grows the appeal of using its online ordering app, and DRU (Domino’s Robotics Unit) delivery robots save on costs and are fun for customers.

Of course, it is hard to get ahead using innovation that is readily available – all supermarkets now get the labour savings of self-service checkouts, for example – but Domino’s has been ahead of the curve in integrating new technologies into its customer proposition and thereby advancing its competitive advantages.

There are two takeaways. Firstly, to profitably invest in innovation often means looking beyond the latest sexy sector, including to second derivative beneficiaries. And two, looked at this way, the Australian market is full of innovative companies that are worthy of investment. After all, miners like Rio Tinto have already started using driverless trucks and trains, well ahead of Silicon Valley.

Julian Beaumont is the investment director at Bennelong Australian Equity Partners.

Source: Australian Financial Review


Read more:
http://www.afr.com/markets/baeps-beaumont-on-understanding-the-economics-of-innovation-20180102-h0cdwv#ixzz53eEa52qM
Follow us:
@FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook

 

 

 

 

ASCI2018 Advisory Panel

Our journey continues on the path to ASCI2018. Our main announcement has been made and the implementation is well under way. Our next step is to announce our advisory panel, and here it is.

·       Pieter Nagel, CEO, ASCI – Dr Nagel has spent his whole working career of more than 30-years, in the Supply Chain domain. He has achieved a dynamic balance between corporate, consulting and academic positions and has always endeavoured to advance the logistics profession. He developed an international reputation as a leader in Supply Chain Strategy.

·       Penny Bell, ASCI Director and Supply Chain Director, Medical Devices, ANZ, Johnson and Johnson – Penny Bell is a highly effective strategic supply chain executive, with well-developed general management competencies who focuses organisations on their strategic direction, challenges the status quo through continuous improvement initiatives, guides transformational change programs and identifies and develops high performing talent.

·       Henry Brunekreef, ASCI Director and Director Advisory Services, Supply Chain and Operations Management, KPMG – Henry Brunekreef is a Senior Manager with nearly 20 years of industry and consultancy expertise in leading organisations to operations excellence, with extensive domestic and international experience in all aspects of Supply Chain, Customer Service, Logistics and Project / Change Management. First-class strategic thinking, networking and interpersonal skills allow him to create high performing teams and drive necessary change. Henry is result driven whilst constantly focusing on customer requirements.

·      Laynie Kelly, ASCI Director and Marketing Manager ASIA Pacific, IPTOR – Laynie is an accomplished marketing and communications executive and advisor with more than 20 years corporate development experience in the technology, food & beverage, automotive and media sectors, managing sales and creative project teams. Laynie specialises in applying her expertise and market knowledge to consistently exceed the marketing performance of her clients.

Our advisory panel will be able to provide the strategic advice and relevant industry knowledge to take ASCI2018 to the next level. The panel includes an array of experienced professionals from across the supply chain, as you can see above.

With such a strong advisory panel, ASCI2018 is sure to be a unique opportunity. Each panellist comes from varying sectors within the industry, meaning your organisation will be able to engage everyone, from logistics to procurement and overall, your entire organisation can benefit from the latest industry advances.

You are also invited to take part in our survey and let us know what you want to see and hear at the conference – HERE

 

Regards,

Pieter Nagel
CEO
Australasian Supply Chain Institute