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Rising Warehouse Wages Propel Demand for Automation: ITS Logistics Q2 Report

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Rising Warehouse Wages Propel Demand for Automation: ITS Logistics Q2 Report

ITS Logistics has released the Q2 US Distribution and Fulfillment Index, in collaboration with Cresa. The latest index highlights a significant increase in the National Industrial Real Estate Vacancy Rate, which reached 6.2% in Q2, up from 5.7% in Q1. This rise is accompanied by an unprecedented availability of warehouse space since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Concurrently, increasing warehouse wages are driving a surge in the demand for technology and automation to curb labor costs.

Read also: Optimizing Warehouse Automation: Understanding Key Considerations

Ryan Martin, President of Assets for ITS Logistics, noted the sharp wage increase: “Wages have escalated to a regional average of $18.99, marking a 40-50 percent rise over the past five years. Not long ago, starting wages for warehouse employees ranged from $12 to $14 per hour. As wages rise, employers face pressure, which in turn fuels the demand for technology and automation in warehouse operations.”

A recent report by Gartner underscores the growing importance of warehouse automation in modern logistics. The global warehouse automation market is expected to reach $71.01 billion by 2032, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.91% from 2023 to 2032. Asia/Pacific is projected to lead this growth.

The Q2 index also highlights how rising wages, influenced by inflationary pressures, are intensifying competition for talent in key regions. Federal and state incentives are attracting manufacturing to these areas, further increasing the demand for higher-paying jobs and pressuring general warehouse positions. Regions like Reno, Los Angeles, and Chicago have seen average wages rise to $18.99, outpacing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in many areas, with some experiencing even higher increases.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2024 June Monthly Economic Review, the economy is currently growing, with inflation moderating as consumer spending supports underlying momentum. The NRF review suggests that the rest of the year will largely depend on inflation rates, job growth, and the Federal Reserve’s decisions. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 79.4 in March, indicating a 28.1% increase from March 2023 and a 13.92% rise from December 2023.

Martin added, “The improvement in Consumer Sentiment is a highly encouraging indicator for businesses. Retail sales saw a 0.7% increase in March, seasonally adjusted from February, and a 4% year-over-year unadjusted rise. This growth benefits retailers and includes services.”

ITS Logistics offers comprehensive network transportation solutions across North America and provides omnichannel distribution and fulfillment services to 96% of the U.S. population within two days. Their services encompass drayage and intermodal solutions at 22 coastal ports and 30 rail ramps, a complete suite of asset and asset-lite transportation solutions, and outbound small parcel services.

The ITS Logistics US Distribution and Fulfillment Index monitors the Producer Price Index (PPI) for Warehousing and Storage and provides a regional market overview to help optimize warehousing and delivery costs. Each quarter, the index highlights all major US markets. For a comprehensive copy of the index with forecasts for the US distribution and fulfillment sector, visit the ITS Logistics website.

global trade supply

Automation’s Effect On The Delivery Process: How Do You Solve Fluctuating Supply Problems By Smoothing The Flow Of Products?

Companies have developed a network of market-facing distribution centers (DCs) to meet customers’ requirements for quick, consolidated delivery. For example, in the consumer products industry, this network of warehouses will be supplied by many plants and copackers, each producing various products in different places. The lead time to produce is far longer than the customers’ expectations when they place and receive the order. The challenge is to have the right product in the market-facing DC before the customer order arrives to ensure that when the order comes, it can be shipped complete and on time. This is achieved through inventory set by a demand-planning system (also known as replenishment planning or the distribution requirements planning-DRP system). 

Read also: Automation Effect on the Delivery Process

What most people don’t realize is …

Most supply-planning systems can inflict cost and, in some cases, even position things to prevent the DC from shipping in full and on time. Here is why: Supply-planning systems don’t consider if the supply chain–carriers and warehouses–can move all the products it wants to deploy. They assume infinite:

  • carrier capacity with the same level of service and cost
  • capacity for all the facilities to ship and receive
  • space in each facility.

All these assumptions are wrong. This leads to a deployment signal that can violently change day-to-day and needs to consider cost, storage space availability, and throughput capabilities. On one lane, we saw 24 trucks deployed one day and three the next. How is any transportation manager supposed to deliver cost-effective service with that level of variability? And, when the 24 loads arrive at the receiving location, even assuming that the shipping location can pull together enough trailers and people to load them, they are faced with dilemmas: 

  • Many vans are waiting to unload.
  • How do we explain all the detention and overtime expense?
  • Which shipment should we bring in first?

The implication of leaving the products on trailers is that they may be needed for immediate customer orders. The result is often a service failure.

SIMPLE MANUAL SOLUTIONS MAY HURT 

A simple approach may be to set some boundaries on each lane. For example, limit the lane to between five and 10 trucks. However, this needs to include the total picture. What if there are urgent customer requirements? Is it better to save a few dollars in freight while paying customer fines for poor customer service than spending extra freight dollars? 

Instead, there needs to be a tradeoff and understanding of the right balance of cost vs. service. Also, what if there is limited origin-site shipping capacity and another lane urgently needs that limited shipping capacity? In the CPG world, where moves between sites are in full truckloads, it’s essential to understand what is happening in each vehicle. So, it is challenging to ascertain whether the “urgency” of need on lane “A” is more critical than the needed products that will ship on lane “B.”

THE SOLUTION HAS TO BE HOLISTIC AND AUTOMATED

Any solution must encompass the whole network; otherwise, it is just like squeezing the proverbial balloon: fix something in one place, and it pops out somewhere else. Add to this a variety of deployment shipment lead times and the complexities of shipping only full-truckload among facilities, which means any solution must be automated. And yes, with new technology, it can be done.

Because the supply planning solution suggests a significant number of requirements–in many instances, more than can be shipped in a capacity-constrained world–what goes on with a limited number of trucks must be prioritized. This is not a trivial problem, so it must be automated. Such automation needs to build shipments to maximize payload and ensure that the most urgent product is loaded and arrives damage-free.  

IT MAKES LIFE BETTER

Making optimized tradeoffs across the whole network generates many vital benefits: The most needed shipments are prioritized, enhancing customer service. At the same time, as cost and capacity are considered, the operational cost is minimized using a uniform set of tradeoffs. This uniformity is another benefit of automation.

Automation of the process of modifying supply-planning solutions to consider real-world constraints and optimally building loads is a major win-win-win.

  • Carriers win because they see significantly less volatility and can operate more efficiently.
  • Shippers win because they can now fulfill orders more completely and at a lower cost.
  • The environment wins as carriers travel fewer deadhead miles, and load optimization generates fewer trucks, reducing carbon emissions.

Author Bio

Thomas A. Moore is the founder and CEO of ProvisionAI, the only provider of a patented optimized replenishment transportation scheduling solution. He has founded multiple successful supply chain software companies. Working with industry leaders such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle and Kimberly-Clark, he has led the creation of warehousing, truck loading, and network optimization solutions like AutoScheduler, AutoO2 and LevelLoad. Mr. Moore has also held line positions in manufacturing, warehousing, and trucking operations. 

 

autostore global trade

AutoStore Unveils U.S. Headquarters in Salem, New Hampshire

AutoStore™, the pioneering global warehouse technology company renowned for revolutionizing warehouse automation through modular storage solutions, has disclosed its intentions to relocate its United States headquarters to a state-of-the-art facility in Salem, New Hampshire. This strategic move, slated for April, heralds the creation of over 100 job opportunities within the greater Boston region, underscoring AutoStore’s steadfast commitment to fortifying its presence and investment in the North American Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) market.

Spanning an impressive 40,000 square feet, the new headquarters is primed to deliver enhanced support to end customers through an expanded service team, revamped training initiatives, and immersive onsite technology showcases. A notable addition to this facility is the inauguration of the AutoStore Academy, an innovative platform offering both hands-on and virtual training sessions tailored for integration partners. These sessions will empower participants with the skills to adeptly design, install, maintain, and service the AutoStore System. Complementing this educational endeavor is the Experience Center, featuring a fully operational storage and retrieval system adorned with active robots and workstations arranged across a vast grid. This setup will facilitate live demonstrations and training exercises, offering attendees an unparalleled insight into AutoStore’s cutting-edge technology.

Paul Roy, Vice President and Managing Director of North America at AutoStore, remarked, “With sustained growth momentum across North America, our new U.S. headquarters will serve as a catalyst for expanding the cube-based ASRS market and enhancing warehousing capabilities throughout the region. We are particularly enthusiastic about the hands-on initiatives and regular onsite demonstrations, which will provide our clientele with exclusive opportunities to witness AutoStore’s innovative technology firsthand.”

Renowned for its widespread adoption as the premier automated fulfillment system globally, AutoStore has empowered leading brands and logistics providers such as Puma, Gucci, BestBuy, Medline, Helly Hansen, and DHL to expedite order fulfillment with unparalleled precision, boasting a staggering 99.7% accuracy rate. With over 232 systems, 14 million bins, and 17,000 robots deployed solely in the U.S., the inauguration of the new headquarters will serve as a pivotal pillar in supporting AutoStore’s relentless expansion endeavors across North America.

supply wms global trade WMS global trade warehouse

Optimizing Warehouse Automation: Understanding Key Considerations

Understanding how AS/RS and AMR solutions differ from one another is the first step to not only determine which one is best for your organization’s warehouse, but also where their joint use can optimize workstreams and throughput.

By Andy Lockhart, director of strategic engagement, warehouse solutions, North America, at Vanderlande

Consumers’ affinity for online shopping appears to have finally reached an equilibrium where e-commerce growth is in line with expectations. Although macro-economic trends, such as inflation’s impact on consumers’ buying power and capital costs for sellers, continue to raise questions, most believe we have reached a new normal in which the omnichannel shopper reigns supreme.

The United States Census Bureau’s Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales Report quantifies the trends.  While consumers continued to enthusiastically frequent the stores they missed four years ago, e-commerce continues to grow. Total estimated retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2023 increased 2.4% from the fourth quarter of 2022, but e-commerce sales increased by an estimated 7.2% in the same period. Online purchases also accounted for 17.1% of all sales versus 14.7% of all sales in the previous year.

Consider the Software

While robotics and singular innovations like AI receive the lion’s share of hype within the warehousing and DC communities, much of the transformative innovation shaping materials handling operations is taking shape at the software layer, a reflection of the fact that numerous automated systems and machines must be integrated and working in concert with one another to maximize efficiency. For this reason software – from task specific applications like the vision software used by robotic pickers to the platforms that tie everything together – should be carefully considered.

In particular, fulfillment operations should look for the hallmarks of robust software.  These include:

(a) User experience and ease of use;
(b) Security; 
(c) Integration capabilities; and 
(d) Support and service.

In light of this, materials handling and fulfillment organizations for U.S. retailers doing business with global brands are actively looking for ways to not only make their operations more efficient, but also to address a wide range of longstanding hurdles. These include the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining warehouse and distribution center (DC) employees, higher operational costs, demand for faster delivery times, increased throughput and order accuracy; and greater pressure to avoid the bottlenecks that result from manual operations and processes.

As a result, more companies are looking at where to begin their warehouse automation journey or how to refine it, with fulfillment operations offering the greatest opportunities to drive bottom-line and top-line results. Not surprisingly, Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) and Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) are key components in these efforts.

Despite this, many organizations struggle to determine which solution is best for their organization, how AS/RS and AMR solutions differ from one another, and where they can collaborate. These questions only grow more complex when considering the rise of Automated Case-handling Mobile Robots (ACRs). To understand the optimal solution or mix of solutions their organizations’ unique warehouse needs, the following considerations must be made: 

 

  • Dynamic or static? — AS/RS systems are static and typically shuttle-based systems that store and move product to goods-to-person or goods-to-robot pick stations. Once installed, they cannot be easily moved, although when created in a modular fashion – something most AS/RS manufacturers now do – they can easily be expanded to add additional storage and throughput capacity. In contrast, AMRs operate in a dynamic environment, moving among workers and assisting in the sortation and transportation of goods. ACRs include aspects of both – functioning as AMRs but storing and moving products similar to an AS/RS, but using more traditional racks rather than lifts and shuttles, and achieving slower throughput than shuttle-based systems. 

 

  • Sorting, moving, picking or all three? — If you are looking for a warehouse solution that simply moves product within the warehouse, then an AMR is the logical choice. AMRs can dramatically increase a warehouse’s output while addressing what is often the single most significant time sink: the 70% or more of the workday employees spend walking to access and move items.  

 

  • High throughput or even higher throughput? — In operations where maximum throughput is required, a shuttle-based AS/RS is the gold standard, offering not only the speed but also the exceptional sequencing capabilities needed to move high levels of inventory out of storage in the right order. But such systems require scale – more on that below – to function at their full capacity. This of course is relative, as ACRs also achieve high throughput when compared to the manual processes they often augment or replace.  

 

  • How varied are the SKUs you must process? — Today’s AS/RS are widely versatile – some systems handle cartons, trays and totes for greater versatility. However, AMRs can transport an even greater range of SKU than tote-based AS/RS, including heavier or larger items. Regardless of the SKU variety, sequencing needs must be considered as well. As previously noted, AS/RS offer exceptionally robust sequencing abilities.  

 

  • More space around and overhead? — AMRs result in more traffic, which when combined with the humans they function alongside require more warehouse floor space. AS/RS in contrast require a much smaller footprint and offer the potential for far greater storage capacity, but need more overhead height to keep lifts working at all times to achieve maximum throughput capabilities. The taller a structure, the more effective an AS/RS can become, while ACRs – at least for now, are largely limited to racks that are 35 feet high or less.

 

  • Greenfield or brownfield warehouse? — In addition to requiring greater height to maximize efficiency, AS/RS are highly advanced systems best deployed in purpose-built facilities that can take advantage of the smaller footprint they can operate within and feature stronger floors to handle the equipment. In contrast, many older or brownfield facilities do not offer the height and required floor strength, making it easier to deploy an AMR-based solution.

 

  • Is an automated fulfillment system needed right now? — AS/RS systems should be designed to address each organization’s unique needs, whether it’s the need for exceptionally fast throughput and extensive storage density or robotic picking stations. To design, build and test such a system is a project measured in months, not days. In contrast, an ACR system can typically be created and deployed in much less time than a shuttle-based system. AMRs also do not need to be a long-term capital expenditure – a benefit for smaller warehouses that are just beginning their automation journey. This is driving the Robots-as-a-Service trend, in which organizations lease AMRs as needed – for example to augment a picking operation during the peak holiday season.

Just as important as the above considerations, materials handling leaders must remember that AMRs and AS/RS can complement one another. For example, an AMR can move items into reserve storage when overflow capacity is needed, deliver items to an AS/RS system, handle items that are too heavy or large for a shuttle, transport goods as needed from station to another in an AS/RS facility, or even sort goods for individual orders by picking from a pallet or tote. 

Every organization has unique needs, constraints and opportunities that will determine if an AS/RS system, AMR – or ACR – are best for them at any given time. Simultaneously, all warehouse automation should be considered in an integrated fashion, something that requires partners who have experience orchestrating the expanding array of automated solutions omnichannel retailers have to choose from.

Author Bio

Andy Lockhart is the director of strategic engagement, warehouse solutions, North America, where he provides Vanderlande’s retail customers – including many of the world’s best-known brands – with the innovative, scalable systems, intelligent software and reliable services needed to optimize distribution and fulfillment operations. Lockhart received his master’s in electrical and electronics engineering from King’s College London and his bachelor’s in electronic physics from Royal Holloway, University of London.

 

workforce shortages global trade trax softeon operations

Descartes Study Reveals Supply Chain and Logistics Embrace Automation Amid Workforce Shortages

A recent study conducted by Descartes Systems Group sheds light on the strategies employed by supply chain and logistics operations to address workforce shortages. Findings indicate that 54% of industry leaders prioritize automation to enhance productivity, particularly focusing on automating repetitive tasks. Delivery route optimization and real-time shipment tracking emerge as top technology choices to drive efficiency.

In addition to technological investments, companies are adapting recruitment and retention strategies to tackle workforce challenges. The study highlights alterations in hiring practices for both laborers and knowledge workers, with flexible working hours and technology adoption as key attractors. Meanwhile, on-the-job training and competitive compensation are vital for retaining talent.

Chris Jones, EVP, Industry at Descartes, emphasizes the need for continued investment and evolution in workforce strategies. The study reveals varying approaches based on financial performance, growth, and the perceived importance of supply chain operations.

Surveying 1,000 decision-makers across manufacturing, distribution, retail, carriers, and logistics services sectors, Descartes and SAPIO Research aim to understand the industry’s response to workforce challenges. The report offers insights into productivity enhancement, employee retention, and alternate labor sourcing.

For a comprehensive overview of the study’s findings and the impact of workforce shortages on supply chain and logistics operations, readers can explore Descartes’ full report.

packaging automation

Global Packaging Automation Solution Market Expected to Reach US$ 155 Billion by 2033

The global packaging automation solutions market is poised to achieve a significant milestone, with projections indicating it will reach a value of US$ 155 billion by 2033. This growth is expected to occur at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% from 2023 to 2033.

Packaging, typically conducted towards the end of the production line, involves the organization and protection of products for storage and transit. Utilizing various technologies, this process aims to enhance efficiency and speed. Packaging automation refers to the method of packaging products without human intervention, ranging from simple machinery to comprehensive packaging lines. These automated systems can handle tasks such as packing, stacking, and unitizing products, thereby streamlining operations.

The increasing adoption of advanced packaging technologies across diverse industries is anticipated to drive the growth of the global packaging automation solutions market. This trend is fueled by the desire to reduce labor costs and enhance productivity. Furthermore, factors such as rising industrialization rates and increased manufacturing activities, driven by population growth, are contributing to the expansion of this market.

Rising concerns for worker safety within manufacturing, coupled with notable technological advancements like packaging robots, autonomous systems, and digital manufacturing, are anticipated to drive the global market forward. Additionally, intensified competition among industry participants, heightened demand for seamless supply chain integration, the expanding globalization of production, the imperative for cost-effective manufacturing practices, and escalating labor costs are all poised to further fuel the growth of the global packaging automation solutions market.

Here are the key insights from the market study:

  • The global packaging automation solution market was valued at US$ 75 billion in 2023.
  • By the end of 2033, it is expected to reach US$ 155 billion.
  • The demand for packaging automation solutions is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2023 to 2033.
  • Asia Pacific accounted for 39% of the global market share in 2022.
  • The packaging robots segment is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 6% throughout the projected period.

According to an analyst from Fact.MR, the main drivers of the global packaging automation solutions market include increasing adoption of automation in manufacturing, rapid industrialization, expanding manufacturing activities due to population growth, and the imperative to reduce labor requirements.

Regional Analysis:

During the study period, Asia Pacific is poised to dominate the global packaging automation solution market. This dominance is driven by the region’s expanding industrialization and rising living standards, which have led consumers to prefer higher-quality goods and services. Additionally, the growing e-commerce industry in the region has heightened the demand for automated solutions to facilitate efficient inventory management.

Competitive Landscape:

Key players in the packaging automation solution market are employing various marketing tactics such as investments, alliances, acquisitions, R&D activities, and technological advancements to expand and sustain their global presence. Additionally, several startups are introducing technologically advanced products to capture market share.

One such example is NEXA System Engineering, a Polish startup specializing in robotic packing stations and labeling and marking systems. Their packaging machines utilize SCARA, Delta, and 6-axis robots, offering production flexibility.

ULMA Packaging showcased the TSA 400, a compact tray sealer, at IFFA 2022. This versatile machine is suitable for MAP, SKIN, LEAFMAPTM, and LEAFSKINTM applications, boasting a small footprint and high-speed output, making it ideal for space-constrained layouts.

MULTIVAC introduced the W 500 as a universal flow packing solution in April 2022. This highly versatile product can pack a wide range of food items and can function as a stand-alone solution or as part of an automated line, catering to diverse needs in the market.

In March 2022, ULMA Packaging announced the integration of BETTER-SEAL technology into their machines. This innovative technique enhances sealing in mono-material solutions, reflecting the company’s commitment to innovation and environmental sustainability.

Key Companies Profiled:

  • Automated Packaging Systems, Inc
  • ABB Ltd
  • Kollmorgen Corporation
  • Beumer Group GmbH & Co. KG
  • Rockwell Automation, Inc
  • Emerson Electric Company

More Valuable Insights on Offer:

Fact.MR introduces an impartial analysis of the global packaging automation solution market, offering comprehensive insights based on historical demand data spanning from 2018 to 2022 and forecast statistics covering the period from 2023 to 2033.

The study delves into crucial aspects of the market, categorizing insights by product type, including packaging robots, automated packagers, and automated conveyors & sorting systems. Additionally, it examines various end-use sectors such as food & beverages, logistics & warehousing, retail, healthcare & pharmaceuticals, semiconductors & electronics, and other industries.

These insights are further segmented across five major regions: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and MEA, providing a thorough understanding of the market dynamics and trends on a global scale.

product

Automation Effect on the Delivery Process

How do you solve fluctuating supply problems by smoothing the flow of products?

Let’s set the stage. 

Companies have developed a network of market-facing distribution centers (DCs) to meet customers’ requirements for quick, consolidated delivery. For example, in the consumer products industry, this network of warehouses will be supplied by many plants and copackers, each producing various products in different places. The lead time to produce is far longer than the customers’ expectations when they place and receive the order. The challenge is to have the right product in the market-facing DC before the customer order arrives to ensure that when the order comes, it can be shipped complete and on time. This is achieved through inventory set by a demand-planning system (also known as replenishment planning or the distribution requirements planning (DRP) system). 

What most people don’t realize is…

Most supply-planning systems can inflict cost and, in some cases, even position things to prevent the DC from shipping in full and on time. Here is why: supply-planning systems don’t consider if the supply chain – carriers and warehouses can move all the products it wants to deploy. They assume infinite:

  • carrier capacity with the same level of service and cost
  • capacity for all the facilities to ship and receive
  • space in each facility.

All these assumptions are wrong. This leads to a deployment signal that can violently change day-to-day and needs to consider cost, storage space availability, and throughput capabilities. On one lane, we saw 24 trucks deployed one day and three the next. How is any transportation manager supposed to deliver cost-effective service with that level of variability? And, when the 24 loads arrive at the receiving location, even assuming that the shipping location can pull together enough trailers and people to load them, they are faced with dilemmas: 

  • Many vans are waiting to unload.
  • How do we explain all the detention and overtime expense?
  • Which shipment should we bring in first?

The implication of leaving the products on trailers is that they may be needed for immediate customer orders. The result is often a service failure.

Simple manual solutions may hurt. 

A simple approach may be to set some boundaries on each lane. For example, limit the lane to between 5 and 10 trucks. However, this needs to include the total picture. What if there are urgent customer requirements? Is it better to save a few dollars in freight while paying customer fines for poor customer service than spending extra freight dollars? Instead, there needs to be a tradeoff and understanding of the right balance of cost vs. service. Also, what if there is limited origin-site shipping capacity and another lane urgently needs that limited shipping capacity? In the CPG world, where moves between sites are in full truckloads, it’s essential to understand what is happening in each vehicle. So it Is challenging to ascertain whether the “urgency” of need on lane “A” is more critical than the needed products that will ship on lane “B.”

The solution has to be holistic and automated.

Any solution must encompass the whole network – otherwise, it is just like squeezing the proverbial balloon: fix something in one place, and it pops out somewhere else. Add to this a variety of deployment shipment lead times and the complexities of shipping only full-truckload among facilities, which means any solution must be automated. And yes, with new technology, it can be done.

Because the supply planning solution suggests a significant number of requirements – in many instances, more than can be shipped in a capacity-constrained world, what goes on with a limited number of trucks must be prioritized. This is not a trivial problem, so it must be automated. Such automation needs to build shipments to maximize payload and ensure that the most urgent product is loaded and arrives damage-free.  

It makes life better.

Making optimized tradeoffs across the whole network generates many vital benefits: the most needed shipments are prioritized, enhancing customer service. At the same time, as cost and capacity are considered, the operational cost is minimized using a uniform set of tradeoffs. This uniformity is another benefit of automation.

Automation of the process of modifying supply-planning solutions to consider real-world constraints and optimally building loads is a major win win win.

  • Carriers win because they see significantly less volatility and can operate more efficiently.
  • Shippers win because they can now fulfill orders more completely and at a lower cost.
  • The environment wins as carriers travel fewer deadhead miles, and load optimization generates fewer trucks, reducing carbon emissions.

About the Author

Thomas A. Moore is the Founder and CEO of ProvisionAI, the only provider of a patented optimized replenishment transportation scheduling solution. Tom has founded multiple successful supply chain software companies. Working with industry leaders such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle and Kimberly-Clark, he has led the creation of warehousing, truck loading, and network optimization solutions like AutoScheduler, AutoO2, and LevelLoad. Tom has also held line positions in manufacturing, warehousing, and trucking operations. 

 

movu

Movu Robotics Transforms Kris De Leeneer’s Logistics Operations with Innovative Automation Solution

In a groundbreaking collaboration, Movu Robotics has implemented its cutting-edge atlas pallet shuttle system at Kris De Leeneer’s (KDL) state-of-the-art Distribution Centre (DC) in Lokeren, Belgium.

This collaboration marks a significant milestone as the first Movu atlas system tailored for the third-party logistics (3PL) market. The innovative automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) provides KDL with approximately 45,000 storage locations and the capability to handle up to 11,000 pallet movements per week, offering unparalleled flexibility and scalability.

Founded in 2001, KDL has positioned itself as a leading logistics service provider, dedicated to enhancing supply chain management for its clients. The Movu atlas shuttle system, integral to KDL’s new 10,000 square meter DC, plays a pivotal role in achieving KDL’s vision of “better, bigger, and easier.” Located in Lokeren and adjacent to the highway, the DC optimizes vertical storage to minimize its footprint, embodying KDL’s commitment to sustainability.

The Movu atlas system, installed in the summer of 2022, boasts a 28-meter-high rack with ten levels, covering a footprint of 60 x 100 meters. The system utilizes 20 Movu atlas pallet shuttles to transport pallets within the rack’s storage lanes. Movu’s Warehouse Execution System (WES) software efficiently manages shuttle traffic, seamlessly integrating with KDL’s Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Kris De Leeneer, CEO of KDL, emphasized the unique advantages of the Movu atlas system, stating, “Movu’s atlas is an efficient and scalable automated warehousing solution that can adapt to our requirements due to its modularity and the ability to add shuttles as required.”

The collaboration between Movu Robotics and KDL extends beyond the atlas system, encompassing integrated in/outbound zones, advanced conveyors, and turntables. The result is a streamlined flow of goods from storage to the dispatch area, featuring ten loading docks.

One of the key strengths of the Movu atlas system is its inherent flexibility. KDL benefits from the ability to easily increase pallet throughput by adding more shuttles, ensuring adaptability to changing business levels and customer demands. The modular rack design allows for future expansion, providing a future-proof solution for KDL’s evolving needs.

Stefan Pieters, CEO of Movu Robotics, expressed the significance of the project, stating, “This project is a great demonstration of bringing easier automation to all warehouses. The atlas shuttle system offers a flexible, scalable, modular approach to automation.”

The success of this collaboration exemplifies the seamless integration of innovative technology into logistics operations, showcasing the potential for automated solutions to enhance efficiency, throughput, and adaptability in warehouse environments.

outrider

Outrider Unveils Advanced AI-Powered Perception Tech for Enhanced Yard Automation

Outrider, a leader in autonomous yard operations for logistics hubs, has announced the latest release of its AI-driven perception technology, setting a new standard for autonomous yard performance and safety. Trained on millions of data points from Fortune 500 customer distribution yards, Outrider’s yard automation solution demonstrates an understanding of, anticipation of, and interaction with the diverse array of fixed and moving elements within a yard. The updated perception system aims to achieve critical safety and performance milestones for commercial driverless operations in 2024.

Andrew Smith, Outrider Founder and CEO, emphasized the complexity of distribution yards as outdoor environments, stating that Outrider’s autonomous system is designed to seamlessly operate alongside various actors, including yard trucks, semi-trucks, trailers, delivery trucks, golf carts, pallets, and personnel. The latest perception technology enhances the efficiency and safety of Outrider’s autonomous system in moving customer trailers and containers.

Outrider’s advanced perception technology identifies specific characteristics of yard actors, such as orientation, position, and velocity, anticipates their trajectories, and responds using predictable, human-like behaviors. Deep-learning models, based on a vast dataset collected from diverse distribution yards, enable the autonomous system to continuously improve its intelligence and precision in automating yard tasks.

Luciano Spinello, Senior Director of Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence at Outrider, highlighted the system’s continuous learning from real-world experiences, drawing from the industry’s largest dataset to operate in more complex traffic scenarios and move trailers with the highest degree of safety and speed over 24-hour periods.

To facilitate the latest perception capabilities, Outrider upgraded its multi-modal sensor platform on each autonomous yard truck, increasing range and sensor data tenfold. This enhancement supports critical safety and performance objectives for scaled driverless operations. Outrider has been collecting perception-based data points across various distribution yards, contributing to the safety and efficiency of operations at each customer site.

The release of the latest perception technology complements Outrider’s industry-firsts and patented innovations, enabling fully autonomous trailer movement, including hitching, backing, trailer brake line connection, and yard inventory tracking. Outrider’s breakthrough year in 2023 includes the addition of trailer inventory tracking technology, a 20% expansion of its engineering workforce in Europe and Latin America, and the announcement of a $73 million Series C financing round, bringing total funding to $191 million.

intelligent warehouse

The Top 5 Inexpensive Warehouse Automation Solutions

Logistics leaders may hesitate to implement upgrades due to their estimated warehouse automation cost calculations. They can be substantial, climbing into the millions of dollars. However, there are various types of warehouse automation to consider, so people can prioritize the least expensive possibilities rather than ruling out automating some processes. 

1. Motor-Driven Roller Conveyors

Warehouse workers don’t make the best use of their time when moving goods from place to place. This approach also prevents them from doing other, more valuable tasks. However, motor-driven roller (MDR) conveyors are affordable ways to automate product movement through a warehouse. 

MDR conveyors can also alleviate warehouse automation cost concerns if people switch to them after using other types. For example, replacing a 5-foot chain-driven live roller with an MDR of the same length could save as much as 81% in energy usage, making the change an excellent investment. That’s partially because they only use electricity when moving things. 

People with modest conveyor belt budgets should make the most of their resources by considering which processes or areas of the warehouse could most benefit from this type of automation. Ordering conveyors in precisely the length needed will keep costs down and help them immediately start taking advantage of this investment. 

2. Warehouse Management Systems

A warehouse management system (WMS) can automate numerous tasks, and people will get the best results if they take the time to learn what’s possible and how to take advantage of the various features. These systems are ideal for eliminating manual tasks such as monitoring inventory levels or counting items. 

Many facilities achieve significant accuracy and product volume gains after implementing WMS. Even if the initial costs are higher than desired, they often pay for themselves over time by enabling process improvements and reducing errors. 

People can also use WMS platforms to create digital guides showing all merchandise locations and storing similar products together in the warehouse. Those are more reliable than paper copies, which can easily get lost or damaged. Plus, a document showing how to find different products is particularly valuable for newer employees who need to become more acquainted with a warehouse’s layout.

WMS providers often allow customers to opt for monthly or yearly billing cycles. The latter type is usually less expensive. However, when decision-makers are on tight budgets and not ready for long-term commitments, they may go with monthly bills to see whether the chosen solutions work as well as expected. 

WMS platforms may also include free trials that let people see what they offer before making billing cycle decisions. Alternatively, product walkthroughs led by sales representatives provide similar information without as much freedom for potential customers to explore the software themselves. 

3. Predictive Maintenance Sensors

Statistics suggest that 90% of maintenance work involves addressing crisis breakdowns. In an ideal situation, people would spend much more time keeping critical machines in good condition, making those urgent circumstances much less common. Predictive maintenance sensors enable this. 

Many commercial solutions automatically collect data and alert the proper parties to abnormalities. Sensors are extremely versatile compared to other warehouse automation types with more limited applications. People can use them on almost any piece of equipment and enjoy the assuredness of getting real-time information streams. 

People can also customize the total warehouse automation cost for this approach by deciding how many sensors they want to use and for what reasons. Being strategic about the options lowers expenses and helps decision-makers get the desired results. 

One possibility is determining which warehouse machinery pieces break down most often.

Alternatively, people can choose those that take the longest to fix or cause the biggest disruptions when issues arise. Next, they should purchase sensors to measure the most common symptoms of abnormalities, whether elevated temperatures, strange vibrations or something else. 

4. Pay-Per-Use Types of Warehouse Automation

Automating a warehouse requires financial resources, even when people aim to do it as affordably as possible. That’s one of the main reasons for the increase in services that allow access to various types of automation without the typical high upfront costs. This trend has resulted in the automation-as-a-service market. 

The specifics differ by provider. Generally, customers pay fees depending on how much they use the automated equipment in a given month. Their subscription prices usually include all maintenance, repair and upgrade costs. 

One company that recently began offering a pay-per-pick model to customers requires them to pay upfront fees to cover the necessary grid infrastructure. The estimated warehouse automation cost in such instances is 20%-40% of the total expenses. After installing the grid, clients budget for recurring subscription fees based on how many robots and other associated technologies they require to meet goals. 

5. Automated Mobile Robots 

Automated mobile robots (AMRs) provide the material-moving capabilities of conveyor belts with even more flexibility. AMRs have sensors and built-in computer vision technology, allowing them to automatically map out a warehouse and recognize obstacles. This means they can move safely around facilities without requiring extra infrastructure. 

People with cost-related concerns should discuss them with their preferred automation providers. Many companies offer finance plans so customers can spread the costs over time. Some may offer refurbished machines priced more reasonably than newer ones. 

Keeping AMRs affordable also means scaling up gradually. A decision-maker might initially only buy a few for some of the most labor- and time-intensive transport-related tasks. That’s an excellent strategy for ensuring people get the anticipated return on investment before purchasing more. 

Warehouse leaders should also ask for feedback from employees, learning about which movement-related tasks are most cumbersome or often take them away from other duties. Those responsibilities could be among the best to automate first. 

Control Warehouse Automation Cost Hesitancy

These types of warehouse automation solutions are among the most affordable possibilities, provided the people involved think carefully about how and why to use them. Although automating a facility requires investments, people can keep costs down by remembering they can gradually implement their plans and wait to see results before committing to additional technologies.