Top Material Handling System Solution Provider

Top Material Handling System Solution Provider

Leading Material Handling System Solution Provider

PULSE Integration has been featured as a top material handling system solution provider for 2021 by Logistics Tech Outlook Magazine.

Logistic Tech Outlook provides an annual listing of 10 companies that are at the forefront of providing material handling system solutions and transforming businesses.  The magazine is read by over 68,000 subscribers who are key decision-makers in the logistics sector.

The magazine also features contributory articles from senior management executives from distribution, warehousing, manufacturing, supply chain experts, logistics professionals, and other technology decision makers on how material handling solutions improved operational performance in their organizations.

Read The Article Here

PULSE Welcomes You To ProMat DX

PULSE Welcomes You To ProMat DX

ProMatDX
ProMatDX, held April 12-16, 2021, is the new digital event experience designed to power up manufacturing and supply chain professionals from the U.S. and over 140 countries with critical access to the latest solutions they need now to improve the resiliency and agility of their operations.
ProMatDX combines the power of the connections, solution-sourcing and education that only ProMat can deliver with the latest digital event technology in a five-day event that will be the most important week of 2021 for the manufacturing and supply chain industry.
Attending ProMatDX is your unrivaled opportunity in 2021 to find solutions, connect with your peers and leading solution-providers and learn the latest trends and technologies that will take your supply chain to the next level of success. PULSE will be featuring state of the art order fulfillment technology at the upcoming virtual show. Make it a point to visit us

Click Here To Visit Our Showcase

Brittain Ladd, Andrew Benzinger of AutoStoreDon’t Miss Out On These PROMAT DX Educational Sessions!

Micro-fulfillment is one of the most talked about but least understood solutions on the market. Attend this session to learn the Who, What, When, Where and Why of Micro-Fulfillment.
PULSE’s own Chief Marketing Officer, Brittain Ladd, will be co-presenting with AutoStore’s Andrew Benzinger on the topic Why Micro-Fulfillment Is a Must Have.
Learn how combining additional technologies will supercharge your fulfillment strategy and create a competitive advantage
Mark your calendar for this revolutionary educational seminar held April 12, 2021 from 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM CT
Matt Chang and Matt RendallPULSE Integration’s Chief of Strategy & Innovation, Matthew Chang, and OTTO Motors CEO and Co-Founder, Matthew Rendall, share information about The Business case for AMRs in Manufacturing vs. forklifts, conveyors, and other modes of material handling at both greenfield and brownfield facilities.

This session is focused on providing a detailed discussion on the value of AMRs within a corporate supply chain.

Speaker Matt Chang, one of the most experienced experts on the topics of AMRs, will introduce content specific to the importance of companies adopting AMRs and the business case for doing so. Real world examples of how AMRs have been introduced will be provided. Check out more about PULSE’s AMR deployments here. Read our Business Case for AMR’s in Manufacturing here.
Mark your calendar for this revolutionary educational seminar held April 14, 2021 from 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM CT

Don’t Forget to View PULSE’s Product Demos at the Show….

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PULSE.exe
Software Solutions
April 14, 2021
10:00 AM CT
AMR Solutions
PULSE
AMR Solutions
April 13, 2021
10:00 AM CT
PULSE Solutions
PULSE
Solutions
April 12, 2021
10:00 AM CT
The Future of Robotics Solutions & Automation

The Future of Robotics Solutions & Automation

As the world begins to adopt more forms of automated systems, it raises concern for the impact on job loss.  While robotics can automate and improve efficiency it is not a substitute for all operations and human labor in the industry. A study conducted by Deloitte shows that 60% of companies are utilizing robotics as an assist to with current workforce rather than to replace it altogether.

This will lead to a fundamental change in the duties assigned to human roles.  Repetitive, labor-intensive, and oftentimes potentially dangerous tasks will be replaced by robotics while more crucial and analytical roles will still need a personalized touch of human involvement. Robotics and AMRs help boost productivity, efficiency, resilience, and even safety within a facility, however, humans are still needed to play critical roles in the overall system. The ideal solution is a blend of human involvement and robotic automation.

The pandemic showed the world that the current supply chain model was modeled after a world that does not exist anymore. Customers demand easy access to products, speed of delivery, and high-touch customer service.

AutoStore automated fulfillment solutionsBusinesses must evolve quickly to navigate the ecommerce demand and to stay ahead of their competitors. Convenience and social distancing take precedence over the in-store shopping experience. Businesses that can serve eCommerce customers efficiently and effectively will win market share.

Today’s competitive businesses are seeing that the use of Robotics is becoming cost effective for order fulfillment. More retailers are relying on automated fulfillment and robotics to lower costs, ensure accuracy, and decrease processing times. eCommerce continues to account for a larger percentage of market share each year. Grocers must meet demand with grocery fulfillment that works for both the business and the customer. Customer expectations have evolved, and efficient grocery fulfillment solutions are quickly becoming necessary for a competitive market. Online shoppers expect to locate the same variety of products, with little to no change in price points. Consumer needs and tastes are rapidly changing, and the dominance of eCommerce has changed customer expectations. New technology enables your business to futurize processes and increase the utilization of existing assets.

PULSE Integration partnered with OTTO Motors to complete the largest at scale deployments of AMR technology in North America. The Business Case for AMR's in ManufacturingDuring the study, PULSE compared AMR performance to existing technologies and human load factors. The result, AMR’s represented 10% of the equivalent manual handling labor costs and 20% of the cost of a forklift.  It is important to note the situational aspects associated with this study. At higher speeds and with advanced safety features, AMR’s outperformed manual carrying, and driver operated pallet loaders over long distances. However, humans have more agility moving goods for short distances or around stations.  It was determined that a blend of both would create the optimum result with output and efficiency. AMR’s would conduct the heavy lifting and repetitive labor while humans would operate at stations carrying out tasks of picking, sorting, or quality control.

Reducing the number of people moving around a facility compounded with the risks of human driver error, and injury related to repetitive “heavy lifting” tasks helped alleviate some of the many key hazards companies continue to face leading to costly accidents in their facilities.

Read More About PULSE Integration and OTTO’s deployment of AMR Solutions in the attached white paper.

Read More Here

AMRs in Manufacturing

AMRs in Manufacturing

OTTO Motors and PULSE Integration have partnered to implement one of the world’s largest deployments of AMR technology. The OTTO material handling platform was deployed at a billion dollar company that is a household name in consumer goods. This was in part because of the ability for the AMR platform to flexibly, reliably and safely move materials but the strength of the business case was a deciding factor in the choice to implement OTTO.

The following conclusions were drawn after a detailed analysis of the OTTO platform vs alternative material handling methods for the customers. When compared for productivity and costs:

  • OTTO was 10% the cost of a full-time equivalent for manual cart movement
  • OTTO was 50% of the costs associated with a driver and a forklift.
  • OTTO was 66% the cost of an AGV equivalent
  • OTTO was 50% the cost of a conveyor equivalent

When the customer began its work with PULSE to transform its operations, four methods of material transport were considered. The customer needed a flexible, reliable and safe solution that would optimize materials movement. OTTO AMRs were found to be more flexible than a conveyor and safer than a forklift. The deployment resulted in an ROI of less than two years, and significant cost savings for the operation. The payback drivers included labor savings, increased productivity, improved safety and ergonomics for operators, lower capital costs, and a more compact facility design.

Competitive Advantage Through Automation

Automation has long been used to improve efficiencies within manufacturing as a way to gain competitive advantage. To see how automation has made an impact we need only look at the automotive industry where automation made Ford’s mass production possible and profoundly changed the world.

Today, lights out production–where entire factories are automated–promises the highest efficiencies, but remains elusive for many manufacturers. One of the last forms of automation to make its way onto factory floors is materials handling. Moving materials has remained predominantly a human task. And because it has been considered one of the lowest valued tasks on the factory floor, materials handling has been ripe for automation.

Advancements in robotics, computing power, and AI have made way for a new class of automation for material handling to emerge. The autonomous mobile robot or AMR combines the flexibility of a human with the efficiency of a conveyor while safely moving materials in pedestrian-heavy areas. The first industrialized implementations of the technology have in the last decade. Yet, there have been few examples of meaningfully scaled deployments in manufacturing.

One Company.
Two Scaled AMR Deployments.

OTTO Motors, one of the pioneers of the AMR industry, partnered with PULSE Integration to implement one of the world’s largest deployments of AMR technology. The companies deployed the OTTO Materials Handling Platform at a billion-dollar company that is a household name in consumer goods.

PULSE Integration was initially retained to evaluate various materials handling technologies for two facilities, one greenfield and one brownfield. AMRs, conveyors, forklifts, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) were evaluated for comparative productivity and costs. The OTTO Materials Handling Platform was selected for both sites. The decision was made because of the ability for the AMR platform to flexibly, reliably, and safely move materials. The strength of the business case was also a deciding factor in the choice to implement OTTO.

OTTO Autonomous Mobile Robots:

10% THE COST

of a full-time human labor equivalent

20% THE COST

of a driver and forklift

Cost savings resulted in:

ROI of <2 YEARS

and

IRR of >50%

OTTO Autonomous Mobile Robots were found to be 10% the cost of a full-time equivalent for manual cart movement and 20% of the costs associated with a driver and a forklift. OTTO was also compared against fully automated technologies. Again, when directly compared for productivity and costs, OTTO was a fraction of the cost of traditional conveyance and automated guided vehicles (AGV). These cost savings resulted in an ROI of fewer than two years and an IRR of >50%. To achieve these results, the payback drivers included labor savings, increased productivity, improved safety and ergonomics for operators, lower capital costs, and a more compact facility design.

Deployment Considerations

A number of deployment considerations were taken into account for the deployment of the OTTO Materials Handling Platform.

OTTO Materials Movement Platform

Design

A critical part of the project was in the design phase. The goal of this phase was to design the optimal flow of materials. Simulation was used to compare machine and material staging layout configurations to aid the customer in making decisions about facility layout. By simulating the process options ahead of time, the customer was able to make the best decision for layout and process while de-risking the deployment well before the commissioning of the fleet started.

The teams also used simulation to test how AMRs would react in every scenario. For example, they were able to model the physical constraints of the operation when testing against various parameters like vehicle speed, traffic management, and opportunity charging. Simulation allowed the system designer to stress test the AMR fleet and check for “corner cases.”

A thorough design phase can also be used to prepare for the following situations:

  • Restarting a facility after a prolonged shut down (holiday shut down)
  • Manufacturing line change over from one product to another
  • Recall of goods in an eCommerce operation requiring reverse logistics
  • “Cut-over” of plant from manual to autonomous operations
  • Introduction of new work process

Safety

The downside to manual material handling goes beyond poor utilization of a limited human workforce, it also presents health and safety risks. According to the US Department of Labor, materials handling is the number one cause of compensable injuries. The various mechanisms for transport that are human-powered, such as traditional fork trucks, are fraught with safety issues that can result in injury or death.

OTTO was designed to work around people and other vehicles.

OTTO AMRs are pedestrian-safe robots and use safety-rated sensors. Simply put, OTTO was designed to work around people and other vehicles. This is made possible through sensor fusion and onboard AI to enable local route planning and collision avoidance. OTTO routinely navigates traffic with other vehicles at intersections and passing scenarios using OTTO Fleet Manager. “Rules of the road” can be custom configured per site, including speed limits and sensor sensitivity. Further, OTTO can be programmed to understand the overhang of a load and to account for oversized loads while maneuvering.

Payload

At the Greenfield facility, OTTO 100 was used to replace the human labor of transportation carts of materials and goods. The equivalency between humans and AMRs in terms of transport workload is at parity. AMRs travel faster over long distances and their maximum speed is 4.5 miles per hour (a light jog). In short transports and docking maneuvers humans are faster and more nimble.

OTTO Motors Payload

As a general conversion factor for a large workspace (>100,000 SF) a designer can use an AMR to Human equivalency factor of 1:1. For smaller spaces (<50,000 SF) a more detailed study of maneuvers may be needed to establish the true relationship. The findings from the design was that the OTTO platform generally outperformed simulation expectations.

At the Brownfield facility, OTTO 1500 was selected to replace forklift labor of transporting loaded pallets of finished goods and raw materials. OTTO 1500 can carry a payload of 3,300 lbs on a pallet. OTTO 1500 is compatible with all of the pallets in the facility which included:

  • Common wooden pallet types
  • Plastic pallets
  • Supersack on pallets
  • Vendor supplied raw material pallets
  • Manufactured WIP and finished goods pallets

The OTTO 1500 is capable of interfacing with manual or automated forklifts via the use of pallet stands, which enable load transfer and for the OTTO1500 to drive underneath the pallet load. While in transport the AMR is beneath the pallet load, meaning the space requirement for maneuvering is little more than the pallet dimensions. Automated processes can be implemented with retrofits to existing equipment or AMR interface design of new equipment.

The Network Effect of Scale

As more AMRs are deployed in the system, the more efficient the entire fleet becomes. As an example, consider that in an operation with substantial human labor, the humans cannot simultaneously communicate to each other. Instead, humans rely on hearing, line of sight, and communication devices like radio. One human that is idle is not instantaneously alerted to a condition of extra work being required somewhere else in the operation. With AMRs, the communication is immediate and the dispatch from Fleet Manager to an idle AMR is done using a combination of computer logic and artificial intelligence. Therefore, as the AMR fleet size grows the efficiency of the fleet improves. For large footprint operations at scale, AMR efficiency can exceed human efficiency.

The Instacart Deception

The Instacart Deception

One of the most read and quoted books on military strategy and tactics is called The Art of War written by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general, philosopher, and military strategist. One of Sun Tzu’s most famous observations is that “All warfare is based on deception.” I like the quote and I agree with the majority of the strategies proposed by Tzu.

The quote could also have been written to state the following, “All business is based on deception.” In fact, deception is a common practice in business. For example, Apple founder Steve Jobs hid the bugs that could have destroyed the reputation of the iPhone. To prepare for a demo of the iPhone in 2007, Jobs painstakingly identified how to demo the phone in a certain way that camouflage all of the bugs. It worked. The demo was a massive success.

I believe we are witnessing another executive and company practice the art of deception in plain sight, Apoorva Mehta and the company he founded, Instacart. Here’s why.

 

Instacart’s 20-Year Game 

A challenge faced by some executives, especially executives that run startups, is appearing more capable and intelligent than they really are. This isn’t a slam or criticism, it is a fact. I’ve interviewed dozens of executives that lead or work for startups and I’ve been able to get them to open up to me about their fears. The biggest fear I identified is the number of executives who had to accept that luck played a large role in their success and that sooner rather than later, the success or failure of the company would depend on their leadership abilities and business acumen. The executives were afraid because they weren’t leaders or skilled in business. Over 50% of the executives I interviewed went on to fail.

Apoorva Mehta legitimately deserves credit for recognizing the need for a company to fulfill online grocery orders and deliver them. Mehta worked very hard to get Instacart off the ground. However, many retail analysts recognize that Instacart not only benefitted from luck, but their growth can directly be traced to actions taken by others and events that haven’t occurred for over 100 years.

If Amazon hadn’t acquired Whole Foods, and if COVID hadn’t appeared, I wouldn’t be writing this article. The acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon scared the majority of grocery executives into thinking Amazon would soon take their customers. Instacart benefitted from the panicked executives who contracted Instacart to provide online grocery fulfillment and delivery.

Prior to COVID, only 3% of grocery sales were online. When COVID arrived, the need for online grocery fulfillment and delivery exploded. To the credit of Instacart’s executive team, they took full advantage of the opportunity to grow their business.

 

(Note: I continue to read articles or hear talking heads on news programs claim that COVID is a ‘Black Swan‘ event. This is false. The shift to agrarian life 10,000 years ago created communities that made epidemics and pandemics possible. The Black Swan event wasn’t COVID. The Black Swan event was that many countries voluntarily shut down their economies creating a global economic disaster).

Will Instacart continue to grow in a post-COVID world or will the luck run out? I believe Instacart will grow because Mehta and his executive team are already planning well into the future.

According to Mehta in a recent Forbes interview, he’s “playing a 20-year game.” Mehta also states that Instacart isn’t trying to take away customers from the grocery retailers they serve, and that Instacart has no plans to “ever sell groceries directly.” Is that true? Let’s turn to Sun Tzu for guidance on how to answer the question:

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

If Mehta is playing a 20-year game, what then does the future hold for Instacart and it’s customers? Are we honestly to believe that the Instacart of today will look very similar to the Instacart in 2040 except for better analytics? Even though online grocery fulfillment will increase to become 50% or more of a retailers business, we are to believe that grocery retailers will be happy to turn over their customers and business to Instacart? Gosh, is Instacart going to run the grocery stores too in a mutually beneficial relationship with their retail partners where love and respect drives all?

Based on discussions I’ve had with numerous industry experts, retail analysts and individuals who work for Instacart, this is what customers of Instacart can expect in the coming years in my humble opinion.

Instacart will go public in 2021, 2022 at the latest.

I’ve been told by multiple sources with first-hand knowledge of the matter that Instacart is actively engaged in discussions about opening micro-fulfillment centers (MFC). Fabric is one of the companies Instacart has spoken with about Micro-fulfillment as a Service. (Note to Instacart: Drop your insistence on technology exclusivity and acquire Fabric). Instacart has engaged in discussions with other MFC vendors according to executives I spoke with this.

Instacart will need a minimum of 50 MFC locations to begin with but the number of MFC facilities could eventually exceed several hundred. The challenge for Instacart will be convincing their retail customers to sign up for the service. Make no mistake – Instacart will convince a few customers to contract Instacart for fulfillment. When this happens, a flood of customers will follow. (I believe a partnership with AutoStore for Micro-fulfillment as a Service is the best strategy for Instacart to pursue. I don’t believe micro-fulfillment is enough. AutoStore is an ideal company to enable Instacart to become a fulfillment powerhouse).

Micro-fulfillment centers will allow Instacart to remove grocery fulfillment from the stores of their retail customers and reduce costs. This is actually a wise move and it is something I’ve recommended several times to Instacart. Grocery retailers can ship inventory to each Instacart MFC and leveraging technology from Fabric or other MFC vendors like Geek +, Attabotics, AutoStore, etc., online and curbside pickup orders can be automatically fulfilled using the MFC. Some products will continue to be picked by hand. Instacart will be able to reduce the costs associated with fulfilling orders significantly increasing their value to their grocery customers.

Micro-fulfillment centers will allow Instacart to expand their business model. According to Mehta, he wants to expand Instacart beyond supermarkets and has signed deals with Sephora, Best Buy, and 7-Eleven. Opening micro-fulfillment centers will allow Instacart to offer ‘Micro-fulfillment as a Service’ to fulfill online orders and replenish inventory rapidly in small format stores; like Sephora and 7-Eleven, for example.

Micro-fulfillment centers will also make it easier for Instacart to become an online grocery retailer and open their own physical stores. This is something I estimate will happen by 2025 at the latest. Grocery retailers pay Instacart an average 10% per order. In 2019, Instacart was losing $2.00 on every order they fulfilled. (Mehta claimed Instacart was profitable in 2019). In 2020, Instacart is grossing $3.00 per order. When COVID is tamed, which it will be, Instacart is going to again lose money or barely break even. Maintaining the status quo won’t work.

From a strategy perspective, the smartest move for Instacart is to continue to be deceptive about their future plans. Deception isn’t illegal. From the quote above, “When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.” Instacart must continue to sign new grocery retailers and do everything they can to maintain their current retail customers. Why? Data. Instacart understands the value of data. Instacart also understands the value of convincing grocery retailers that allowing Instacart to maintain a list of their customer names, email addresses, physical addresses and other data is nothing to be concerned with.

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”

If Instacart chooses to become an online retailer, they will easily convert customers from shopping at their favorite online retailer to shopping at Instacart. Why? Because Instacart owns the customer relationship. When Instacart launches their online grocery business, they will have the best pricing, assortment, promotions and the best advertising campaigns for brands. I warned grocery retailers in this 2018 article that if they contracted Instacart, they would be teaching an eventual Trojan Horse their strengths and weaknesses. I was right.

Instacart not only knows how to serve their current grocery retail customers, Instacart knows how to take their customers and put them out of business. Mehta recently stated that Instacart is “actively hiring dedicated Instacart analysts who will be embedded in retail partners’ headquarters to support them.” Am I the only person screaming and laughing at the absurdity of grocery executives who will allow Instacart to embed analysts?

Note to Dunnhumby: You need to target every Instacart customer and market your services. I’m amazed you aren’t more aggressive in an industry actively looking for an alternative to Instacart. Retailers have a growing desire to analyze and monetize their own data vs. allowing Instacart and other third parties own and control the data.

Grocery retail isn’t only about online shopping. The grocery industry in the U.S. is estimated to be a $1T industry with most sales taking place in retail stores. Regardless of the denials, Instacart will leverage the mountain of data they’ve collected, and continues to collect, from their grocery customers. The data will identify exactly where Instacart must open stores to serve the needs of customers. Instacart branded grocery stores will become a reality.

Instacart is going to face an extreme amount of pressure in the coming years. For two years, I’ve had discussions with Postmates, DoorDash and the other restaurant delivery companies, about the need to fulfill and deliver online groceries and also teach their grocery retail customers how to install dark kitchens and sell restaurant quality food direct to their customers. Micro-fulfillment is a major topic of discussion. Uber Postmates, DoorDash, Grubhub, etc., must invest in opening their own micro-fulfillment centers. It’s happening. (Full disclosure: I continue to advise several restaurant delivery companies on the topic of micro-fulfillment).

What about Shipt? My advice to Target is divest Shipt. The company has failed at every level to become a competitor to Instacart even though the opportunity to do so exists. Shipt never lived up to its potential, Instacart exceeded theirs.

Instacart has no choice but to be deceptive. As with all deception, however, at some point the truth becomes known. Odds are high that by 2025, the deception will end and the truth will be told – Instacart is going to become the largest online grocery retailer in the U.S., and will open hundreds if not thousands of stores.

Conclusion

Instacart has every right to do what I outlined above. In fact, I hope it happens. But will it? The unknown is whether or not Instacart will be acquired. I have stated in writing and publicly that Shopify, Berkshire-Hathaway, Facebook, FedEx, Target or Google should assess acquiring Instacart. Amazon could acquire Instacart as doing so would eliminate a major competitor. Walmart could acquire Instacart.

The challenge for Instacart is that they’re vulnerable. The sun has shone brightly on Instacart for several years but storm clouds are gathering. DoorDash and Uber Postmates have exceptional potential to go after Instacart’s customers.

Most of Instacart’s customers can enter into agreements with micro-fulfillment companies to purchase and install MFCs within their retail ecosystems thus eliminating the need for Instacart.

Instacart going public may turn out to be its last hurrah if it’s not careful. Investing in micro-fulfillment, becoming an online grocery retailer, and opening their own stores remains the best strategy for Instacart.