New Articles

ProMat Day Three Combines Education, Awards, and Comedy

ProMat Day Three Combines Education, Awards, and Comedy

Thought leaders, exhibitors, and attendees kept the momentum going on day three of this year’s massive ProMat Trade Show in Chicago, despite chilly temperatures. Wednesday’s education seminars continued addressing some of the biggest industry challenges while identifying key differentiators that foster optimal results and competitive advantage.

One of the most talked about themes at this year’s conference is the major issue of labor shortages. Employee recruitment and retention are among the biggest concerns for industry players. As automation continues reducing unnecessary manpower, human involvement has become a complex role to balance. Topic leaders across multiple sectors have already made it very clear that humans in the workplace continue to be a critical component. Even so, some companies continue expressing uncertainty in how to approach tapping into the labor market.

OPEX Corporation’s John Sauer addressed these concerns head-on in a presentation on Wednesday. Sauer is the Senior Business Development Manager for OPEX and boasts 8 years of front line material handling management experience. In his presentation, Sauer confirmed some of the biggest issues among employees in warehouses are factors some might consider to be small – such as climate control, physical demands, consistent hours, and work independence. At the end of the day, employees nowadays are looking for more than just a salary – they want to feel some importance and pride in what they do.

In today’s technology-centric environment, these factors can be addressed through strategic implementation of the technology at-hand. By utilizing technology for optimizations in operations and creating an environment that supports a positive work environment for employees, retention and recruitment challenges can be alleviated.

MHI Industry Night

Wednesday concluded with a special networking event featuring comedian and actor Craig Ferguson following the announcement and recognition of leading companies for “Best Innovations” and Young Professional Awards. There were 108 submissions for the awards and only four finalists were selected for each category. Among the winners included:

Best New Innovations:

Fetch Robotics for CartConnect

Locus Robotics for Gamification

Attachments for Forklift Safety Device (FLSD)

CMC srl for Pick2Pack

Best Innovation of an Existing Product:

ProGlove for Mark 2 Smartglove

RightHand Robotics Inc. for RightPick: The Piece Picking Solution

Artitalia Group Inc. for Versatile Nesting Cart

Swisslog Logistics Automation for ItemPiQ

Best IT Innovation:

Yard Management Solutions for Eagle Eye Yard Management Software

LogistiVIEW for Vision Pick and Put Wall

Schaefer Systems for WAMAS Lighthouse

KNAPP Inc. for redPILOT

Why is there so little expense report misconduct in China?

Recently, I wrote a data-driven piece revealing which countries are home to the most expensive report misconduct. Several of the results were extremely interesting, but the most fascinating piece of data was redacted because it needed to be looked into more thoroughly.

That data point was this: only 1% of expense report items flagged for review by leading automated expense report audits AI software, AppZen in China are ultimately rejected by the client company.

This 1% figure sits at the very bottom of the international list; no other country is even close. For example, Japan, only a few hundred nautical miles away across the East China Sea, ranks in the bottom half of flagged expense dollars rejected, with a much more robust 18%. Here’s the data from the last blog post, but with China put back in.

So what are the explanations for this oddly-low Chinese rejection rate? The answers are somewhat dubious and connect to transfers of wealth. 

Like most nations, China has its unique accounting complexities and one example is the country’s Fapiao system, in which receipts and invoices are actual official tax documents printed on the spot. The goal of Fapiao was to create a transparent system spitting out real-time tax documents at points of purchase across the country, but that hasn’t stopped enterprising folks from coming up with schemes to take advantage of it. 

For example, imagine taking 40 expo guests to dinner after a conference. In America, the hosting employee would simply receive a receipt for the pricey dinner which he would then expense for reimbursement upon returning from the trip. The company submits that receipt as part of its tax return at the end of the year.

Now let’s say some out-of-policy behavior takes place at this dinner; maybe the host employee decided to order several $200 bottles of wine, easily exceeding the $50 bottle company policy limit. AppZen would catch the out-of-policy misconduct on the expense report in this example. 

But in China, Fapiao are actual tax documents and business-related expenses are sometimes used to offset revenue, which allow companies to bring down their corporate income tax. Accordingly, managers subtly encourage their staff to collect Fapiao, and turn the other cheek instead of scrutinizing the documents.

In other words, Chinese corporations can lower their tax bills by indirectly transferring a fraction of those funds to employees via liberal unwritten expense report oversight thereby making them happier, at the expense of The Party’s tax revenue.

The less cynical explanation picks up the same thread of employee satisfaction without looping in Fapiao: the Chinese are, in general terms, lax in their enforcement around expenses; they turn a blind eye to most expense ambiguity to help incrementally raise employee take-home pay. In other words just as Silicon Valley companies are happy to supply their employees with millions of dollars in free meals and snacks at the office to supplement incomes, many Chinese companies are similarly, indirectly liberal outside the office, around expenses.

Either way, the title of this article is somewhat misleading. The Chinese have an average number of expense items flagged for potential conduct by AppZen relative to other countries. The difference is that Chinese companies are choosing to reject these flagged expenses at an unusually-low rate of 1%. The reasons for this are Fapiao loopholes and cultural norms around allowing employees liberties with their work expenses. 

Josh Anish is Senior Directing of Marketing at AppZen,the world’s leading solution for automated expense report audits that leverages artificial intelligence to audit 100% of expense reports, invoices and contacts in seconds.

ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 Breaks Traditional Barriers

Thanks to increased efforts in autonomous Artificial Intelligence, the ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 – created by Brussels-based company MangoGem S.A., is now capable of handling levels of resources and scenarios of equipment, people, and consumables.

“The ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 uses AI-assisted autonomous machine learning to explore optimization scenarios better than traditional approaches, combining the best of machine computing power and human know-how to facilitate better planning and scheduling,” said Ben Rodriguez, Chief Technology Officer of MangoGem. With solver heuristics notoriously difficult to fine tune, the ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 discovers which settings work best, checks validity and detects trends in data to improve ramp-up and adoption. It can also discover the most promising improvement scenarios and propose them as potential solutions to human planners. It combines several AI-assisted machine learning meta-heuristics including Genetic Algorithms (GA), Taboo Search (TS), Simulated Annealing (SA), Swarm Intelligence (SI) amongst others.”

Photo: MangoGem S.A.

By breaking the barriers of a traditional APS, ORITAMES APS v2.5 sets a new standard by taking on and solving complex and multi-layered cases typical for larger companies.

“The use of AI-assisted autonomous machine learning also eases the integration and reduces the cost of implementation of the ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 within overall supply chain management (SCM) strategies by making modeling easier, improving data quality and decreasing dependency on human expertise,” he concluded.

This advanced software platform was specifically designed to cater to a variety of industries including discrete manufacturing, construction and infrastructure projects, logistics and transportation, equipment and property maintenance, engineering projects and service organizations.

“The AI-assisted disruptive technology delivered in ORITAMES APS Scheduler v2.5 is capable of solving many of the operational performance challenges of Industry 4.0,” concluded Ben Rodriguez, CTO of MangoGem. “It uses AI-assisted autonomous machine learning techniques with multiple solvers and heuristics and, depending on an analysis of the case at hand, will apply many methods to find the one that produces the best results.”

Rigado and Partner for Addressing IoT, AI Challenges

Intelligent analytics paired with innovative solutions will extend the IoT and AI networks of Rigado and through their recently announced partnership.

“This partnership addresses the key challenges of commercial IoT by combining a robust, ready-to-deploy intelligence platform with secure and scalable edge infrastructure,” said Kevin Tate, Chief Revenue Officer at Rigado. “The Simon AI is an impressive complement to our secure edge infrastructure, and it allows companies to immediately translate data from Rigado into the insights that apply to their business.”

By bringing together Rigado Cascade IoT Gateways’ edge connectivity, computing and security with Simon AI’s abilities in location and sensor analytics software, the partnership aims to reduce complexities and costs associated with optimizing asset management, logistics and operations.

“The value of Simon AI relies on being able to receive rich, real-time data from the smart environment,” said Philipp von Gilsa, CEO at “The Rigado Cascade solution provides a secure, scalable and cost-effective way to receive that critical data, no matter the scale.”

Google Cloud added to Blume Global’s Advanced Technologies Toolbox

Blume Global and Google Cloud announced their technology partnership earlier this week, adding to Blume’s already extensive tech toolbox. The company confirmed the partnership will help to improve artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms and machine learning for customers.

The Google Cloud platform provides companies with increased visibility on shipments while enabling them to more accurately predict estimated time of arrivals through its real-time cloud-based performance features.

“Digital supply chain capabilities are evolving quickly and partnerships like this play a critical role in connecting those capabilities and enabling next level integration. A strong ecosystem of partners is crucial to the success of a modern supply chain,” said Simon Ellis, program vice president, global Supply Chain Strategies at IDC.

Blume currently employs data management, blockchain, AI/ML, cognitive interfaces and visualization as part of their strategy to support customers with supply chain solutions.

“We’re delighted that Blume Global will bring its leading digital supply chain capabilities to Google Cloud” said Kevin Ichhpurani, Corporate Vice President, Global Partner Ecosystem at Google Cloud.  “Retail customers want to modernize quickly, and our partnership with Blume will be an asset to them, letting them leverage Blume’s expertise in supply chain alongside the scalability, flexibility and leading AI and ML capabilities of Google Cloud.”

“By joining Google’s Cloud Technology partner program, we are able to focus more on developing our proprietary technology to create advantages in the supply chain,” said Pervinder Johar, CEO, Blume Global. “We chose Google Cloud because they are an open, neutral cloud platform that allows us to scale quickly and take advantage of their expertise in technologies like AI and ML.”

Transplace and Partner for AI

TMS and logistics technology provider Transplace announced, a leading provider of Enterprise AI® applications, as its newest partner to support additional artificial intelligence and technology integration initiatives.

Noodle utilizes the curated external data sources in addition to applying predictive technology solutions for supply chain, manufacturing, and logistics-focused businesses.

“Transplace is committed to being a technology leader – not just in developing innovative logistics solutions, but in the technology we incorporate into our business,” said Frank McGuigan, CEO, Transplace. “Partnering with supports this commitment by allowing us to further integrate AI and machine learning into our organization and deliver greater value to our customers.”

“Enhancing our use of data science through AI and machine learning will enable our customers to make more strategic, data-driven decisions, and allow Transplace to further leverage its large network of shippers and carriers, to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve service.,” added Transplace CTO Jim French. “These technologies will become an increasingly important part of our technology strategy as we explore additional applications to improve process automation and service predictions.”

Source: Outlook Marketing

Lineage Logistics Makes the Cut with Innovative Solutions

Lineage Logistics is proud to announce recognition from Fast Company as one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2019. The company – known for its stellar role as a leading provider of temperature-controlled logistics solutions, accredits its strategic and intricate use of thermodynamics, mathematics, AI and robotics, statistics, oceanography and more to create some of their leading data-driven solutions.

“When it comes to issues like energy and food waste, we see an opportunity to apply Silicon Valley-style innovation to not only help preserve and protect the products with which our customers entrust us but also transform the world’s food supply chain,” said Greg Lehmkuhl, President and CEO of Lineage. “Our team is passionate about challenging the status quo and finding more efficient and sustainable ways to address the complexities unique to the temperature-controlled logistics industry. We are honored that such a prestigious publication as Fast Company would recognize us in this way.”

The Top 50 list aims to recognize companies that create significant impact on an industrial and cultural level through innovative and competitive strategies and solutions.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work, dedication and creativity of our entire team,” said Sudarsan Thattai, Lineage’s Chief Information Officer. “From our technologists and applied scientists, whose expertise in the space today is competitive with those at any Silicon Valley technology company, to our team members on the warehouse floor, we are an organization that is innovative, bold and deeply committed to our purpose of connecting people to food.”

Source: RAM Communications

Automation Changing the Pace for Shipping Operations

Recently, Avantida announced Maersk’s implementation offering Container Triangulation for the Canadian and U.S. platforms, enabling communication between dispatchers and planners almost instantly. The process of automation will take place on Avantida’s platform, providing an opportunity for the company to penetrate the market regions.

“Both shipping lines and transporters continue to look for agile, cost-saving tools that can optimize their planning, and our platform has a proven track record of improving efficiency,” said Luc De Clerck, CEO, Avantida. “The platform has changed the way shipping lines in Europe are doing business, and after our launch in Mexico, it was a natural next step to introduce Avantida to the United States and Canada.”

Another example of how digitization is changing the pace of the market expansion is seen in the recent announcement from the digital freight forwarder, Twill. The company confirmed efforts to expand its 19-country network to the Nordic regions through operations in Denmark and Sweden, where they are being welcomed with open arms primarily because of the digital solutions platform providing customers increased visibility into each step of the process. More importantly, Twill’s online platform is applauded for the ability to co-create with its customer base. This unique feature is what sets the company apart, creating a hefty competitive advantage.

“The world is already becoming more and more digital around us, and with Twill we are challenging the fundamentals and changing perceptions in the freight forwarding industry,” says Ricco Poulsen, chief operating officer for Nordics and Eastern Europe at Damco said. “We want to be the market leader in digital solutions and our investment in this area will bring significant benefits to our small and medium customers, old and new. There are a number of ways in which Twill will continue to develop and support customers over the coming months, and we look forward to playing our part in that.”

Before understanding the impact that digitization solutions bring to the market, company leaders must first understand the core of digitization is rooted in customer demands. Without fully understanding what the customer’s needs and demands are, it can be a challenge selecting which tech solution will meet both customer and company needs, all while creating a competitive advantage and staying ahead of compliance.

AI Will Transform Our Borders – From Travel to Trade. Here’s How.

Technology is evolving at a dizzying pace, and artificial intelligence is no exception. Today, artificial intelligence is being deployed in our cars, computers and social media networks.

It would be easy to assume a crisis of public confidence and trust in AI – not least around its use in public services. As with any emerging technology, there are concerns about the implications and impact of different AI applications, such as “black box” problems relating to machine learning management and regulation. However, Accenture’s recent Citizen Survey across six countries found that 50 percent of respondents support the use of AI in the delivery of public services and that support rises noticeably when presented with specific benefits. One of the most promising public applications of AI? For our border agencies.

Although government executives often reference “smart border” capabilities, this vision has not been fully realized.  Today, the focus is largely on merging historical data from border and customs systems and applying analytics to realize process efficiencies.  This approach is valuable but limited. Rather than playing a supporting role in border management technology, AI should take centre-stage.

If deployed fully, AI has the potential to vastly improve travel and trade across our airports, shipping ports and other ports of entry. Border agencies must not be daunted or overwhelmed by the latest AI capabilities – or let fear of the unknown detract from the valuable opportunities this technology affords.

As cross-border trade and travel value chains become increasingly digitized, five value-drivers can help border agencies maximize the benefits of AI:

Responsible AI

People must feel confident that AI decisions are ethical and reliable. Fortunately, agencies are already working to establish public trust in AI. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 report, 78 percent of public service executives say they’re seeking to gain citizen confidence by being transparent in their AI decisions. Since these AI systems can make choices that affect trade, border agencies must think carefully about how they’re adopted, understand the implications for public sector organizations and their workforces. At the same time, border agencies must teach AI systems to act with both accountability and transparency.  Given the right strategy and controls, combined with a willingness to learn from other sectors, ‘responsible AI’ offers great benefits for border agencies.

Intelligent automation

With artificial intelligence gaining momentum across enterprises and industries, we’re entering the era of intelligent automation. Intelligent automation is much more than the simple transfer of tasks from man to machine; its real power is to transform traditional ways of operating by revealing what can be accomplished by integrating systems, data and people. Most process automation currently deployed by border agencies handles mundane and repetitive tasks rather than those requiring cognitive intelligence. However, that’s rapidly changing. Future AI use cases might include a chatbot that answers complex questions to an entirely autonomous port where humans’ only role is monitoring and security.

Enhanced judgements

It will be many years before AI can reliably make decisions on complex issues, such as determining what goods or visitors pass through a border and into a country. But AI does have a valuable role to play in augmenting human judgement and supporting choices about the “next best action” on case work. Take an area where humans’ visual perceptions are used as the basis for decisions – as in the classification of goods for customs declarations. Currently, these decisions may differ from port to port and from person to person, often resulting in delays. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can crunch vast amounts of data 24×7, removing subjectivity, inconsistencies and delays – especially when deployed uniformly across border agencies, shippers and traders.

Enhanced interactions

One of the biggest benefits of digitization is the ability to eliminate paper forms and provide more personalized online and in-person service. With AI, personalization can be elevated to a whole new level – and in an environment like customs, the impact on user experiences can be transformational. A border agency’s wealth of existing and historical data about each transaction or entity means routine information-gathering can be almost completely automated, enabling the agency to focus on providing a positive experience and facilitating the safe and frictionless passage of people and goods. In the airport of the future – humans will collaborate effortlessly with machines, combining instantaneous facial recognition with flight data to validate each passenger’s identity and travel itinerary, drawing on his or her full travel history and other data to assess risk levels. Then, if necessary, the AI system will prompt its human counterpart with questions for additional human-human screening.

Intelligent product categorization

Customs classifications processes are notoriously complex and bureaucratic, and the descriptions often are esoteric – yet any individual or organization that gets the classification wrong can face severe penalties. Artificial intelligence has enormous potential for simplifying these complex nomenclatures, making it easier to find the right classification while improving understanding, reducing costly errors and fostering the effective flow of trade.

It’s the nature of emerging technology to have ups and downs. Whatever the latest headlines may say, the genuine promise and business case for Artificial Intelligence at the border remain as compelling as ever.  It’s vital that border agencies stay focused on the value that AI can deliver – and don’t let short-term concerns distract them. So far, most border and customs agencies have only scratched the surface of AI’s potential. It’s now time to dig deeper into AI capabilities – and combine humans and machines in ways that don’t just improve efficiency at the border but reinvent border processes altogether.