KUECKER LOGISTICS GROUP, PULSE INTEGRATION, AND QC SOFTWARE HAVE COMBINED

KUECKER LOGISTICS GROUP, PULSE INTEGRATION, AND QC SOFTWARE HAVE COMBINED

 

Kansas City, July [16], 2021 – Leading integration firms Kuecker Logistics Group, Inc. (“Kuecker”), Pulse Integration (“PULSE”), and QC Software, LLC (“QC”) announced today that they have combined to form a new company, Kuecker Pulse Integration, L.P. (“KPI” or the “Company”).  In conjunction with this combination, funds managed by the Private Equity Group of Ares Management Corporation (NYSE: ARES) (“Ares”) have acquired a majority interest in the Company with the existing owners of all three businesses retaining significant equity stakes.

Larry Strayhorn, CEO of Pulse, will lead the Company, and he will be joined on the leadership team by executives from each of Pulse, Kuecker, and QC.

“Pulse, Kuecker, and QC all hold the same core values of honesty, integrity, and transparency. We are thrilled about the opportunities ahead to combine our companies and extend our track record of value creation, innovation, and success as a larger operator,” said Strayhorn.

Jim Kuecker, President of Kuecker, noted “This is an exciting time for our companies. This combination will enhance our capabilities and scale, and we look forward to working together to deliver even greater value to our customers and suppliers in the future.”

“We have worked closely with Larry and Jim and their respective companies over the years, and we are excited to be combining with them in this next chapter of our evolution” said Kevin Tedford, CEO of QC.

Kuecker is a leading innovative material handling solutions provider for more than 40 years. Using a customized approach, they work to design, engineer, and implement logistics management solutions to increase distribution efficiency. Kuecker provides cutting edge solutions in logistics management, supply chain management, value chain management, industrial automation, inventory management and more.

PULSE is a systems integrator that has over 50 years of experience serving customers throughout North America.  Pulse is focused on helping companies leverage the right mix of technology in their facilities, and works to understand, collaborate, and analyze business needs in real-time, and provide custom-engineered solutions in a tiered delivery process.  Using a data-driven, technology-agnostic approach, Pulse ensures projects are scoped to fit the needs of the customer while remaining adaptable for a changing market.

QC is recognized as an industry leader in providing innovative software solutions for order fulfillment and distribution centers. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, they have been providing software solutions to customers in North America and Europe to streamline their warehouse operations using the most innovative supply chain automation software solutions.

“As a pure-play technology and solutions integrator, KPI is well positioned to serve the requirements of the fast-growing warehouse automation space,” said Brian Klos, Partner in Ares’ Private Equity Group. “This combination will provide KPI with significant scale and expanded capabilities to better serve its customers and drive the next phase of the Company’s growth, both organically and through strategic acquisitions. We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with Larry, Jim, Kevin, as well as the other members of the management team.  We believe this combination brings together a group of uniquely talented and motivated leaders.”

Mr. Strayhorn continued, “Our vision is to build a full-service integrator platform with an industry leading software offering”.  “We believe Ares is the right partner to help us expand our Company and deliver on these important objectives.”

About Kuecker Logistics Group, Inc.

Kuecker is a leading innovative material handling solutions provider working to design, engineer, and implement logistics management solutions to increase distribution efficiency. Kuecker provides cutting edge solutions in logistics management, supply chain management, value chain management, industrial automation, inventory management and more. Not only does Kuecker design and build systems to make business supply chain more efficient, Kuecker acts as a partner and consultant to ensure the success of our implemented services. The strong relationships with clients are testaments to value, commitment, and fulfillment of customer expectations in providing operational analysis, system engineering, system installation, project management, training, start-up assistance and ongoing support.

About PULSE Integration

PULSE is a full system integrator working diligently to provide a customized solution for every client. Combining design expertise, seamless integration with intentional transparency Pulse provides clients with scalable engineered solutions. Cultivating over 50 years of material handling experience to specifically help companies leverage the right mix of technology (digital and physical) in their facilities. The Pulse team ingrains Industry 4.0 Thinking into the design philosophy at every level to deliver truly agnostic solutions that adapt to continuous evolving customer requirements.

About QC Software, LLC

QC is recognized as a leading provider of supply chain automation software solutions. Our Warehouse Execution / Warehouse Control Systems streamline warehouse/distribution operations with the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry. QC solutions maximize your system’s productivity and dependability, making us the ideal solution for your warehousing needs.

About Ares Management Corporation

Ares Management Corporation (NYSE: ARES) is a leading global alternative investment manager offering clients complementary primary and secondary investment solutions across the credit, private equity, real estate and infrastructure asset classes. We seek to provide flexible capital to support businesses and create value for our stakeholders and within our communities. By collaborating across our investment groups, we aim to generate consistent and attractive investment returns throughout market cycles. As of March 31, 2021, including the acquisition of Landmark Partners, which closed June 2, 2021, and the acquisition of Black Creek Group, which closed July 1, 2021, Ares Management’s global platform had approximately $239 billion of assets under management with approximately 2,000 employees operating across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. For more information, please visit www.aresmgmt.com. Follow Ares on Twitter @Ares_Management.

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Contacts:

Ares Management Corporation

Bill Mendel

212-397-1030

bill@mendelcommunications.com

Or

Carl Drake

888-818-5298

cdrake@aresmgmt.com

Or

Brittany Cash

212-301-0347

bcash@aresmgmt.com

KPI

Brittain Ladd

469-714-9754

brittain.ladd@kpisolutions.com

Or

Stephanie Fisher

315-778-0138

stephanie.fisher@kpisolutions.com

 

Grocery Reimagined

Grocery Reimagined

Today’s retail customer utilizes technology that has drastically advanced their expectations. For grocery, modernizing through automation is the optimal way to meet them. Advances in microfulfillment allow you to embrace affordable, user-friendly systems that respond to modern shopper demands while greatly improving the end experience for customers. Cuhaci & Peterson Architects PULSE Integration and KPS Global are teaming up to provide powerful end-to-end solutions to reimagine grocery for a brighter future — starting now.

Click Here to Learn More

Should Grocery Retailers Offer On-Demand Delivery?

Should Grocery Retailers Offer On-Demand Delivery?

Prior to the pandemic, online grocery shopping accounted for just 5% of all grocery sales in 2019, according to data from Mercator Advisory Group. As of February 2021, online grocery shopping had increased 230% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Adobe research.

In 2021, consumers continue to shop online, but I’ve found that retailers are under pressure to deliver orders faster. This is no easy task for most retailers, as they don’t have a business model suited to making deliveries in several hours — let alone in minutes.

The desire for speed on the part of consumers has resulted in the creation of a new business model known as “instant on-demand delivery” whereby customers can place an order and receive their delivery in as little as 10 minutes.

New entrants like Gorillas, Fridge No More, Gopuff, Getir, Dija and Jokr have exploded on the scene and are attracting significant investor capital. An advantage of on-demand delivery companies is that they can often launch operations very easily due to lower-cost and lower-tech operating models.

Many retail analysts are claiming that on-demand delivery is the next big thing in retail. Is it? Should retailers embrace on-demand delivery? If so, how? I’ll answer these questions in the next section.

Grocery Retailers Versus On-Demand Delivery Retailers

Although all retailers can technically utilize on-demand delivery, I am using the grocery industry as an example of how retailers operate and the changes they will need to make for the purpose of this article.

With the growth of e-commerce, grocery retailers have invested capital into creating the ability to fulfill online orders themselves or by using third parties that perform most functions for them: Think Instacart or Shipt.

The biggest drivers of costs related to e-commerce for grocery retailers are generally the processes required to pick products from a store shelf or from a location in a fulfillment center, pack the items into grocery bags and totes, and deliver the orders to customers. A detailed example of the costs associated with fulfilling an online grocery order can be found on the MWPVL International website here.

Most grocery retailers operate stores that have their own costs related to store labor, utilities and additional costs associated with running and operating stores. Some grocery retailers fulfill all online orders from their stores, but many grocery retailers fulfill orders from large distribution centers. Distribution centers may employ associates or leverage automation to fulfill orders.

Based on my experience consulting for leading grocery retailers in the U.S. and globally, most grocery retailers are able to offer same-day delivery. Many grocery retailers aim to offer two-hour grocery delivery, but they may not be able to do this consistently without using third-party delivery companies like Instacart or Shipt.

Companies that offer on-demand grocery delivery operate with a completely different business model. For example, the average number of items carried in a supermarket is 28,112, according to 2019 FMI data. This means there can be tremendous variance in the number of products that customers order. The higher the number of products ordered is, the longer it takes to pick the items and fulfill the order. In my experience, on-demand grocery retailers tend to offer far fewer products.

Offering a smaller number of products makes it easier to fulfill orders, especially if customers are ordering fewer items from the on-demand retailer.

Unlike grocery retailers with lots of stores and large fulfillment centers and warehouses, on-demand retailers typically operate manual micro-fulfillment centers in the neighborhoods and regions they serve.

The biggest difference in the model is the way the companies utilize labor. On-demand retailers typically hire workers who can pick and fulfill orders quickly, place the items picked into a backpack, and walk to the customer or ride a bicycle to them. Some companies claim they can deliver groceries in as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

One of the leading grocery delivery companies, Instacart, recently announced that it would be offering an option called “Priority Delivery,” which offers delivery in as little as 30 minutes.

Should Grocery Retailers Embrace On-Demand Delivery?

Many grocery retailers are likely grappling with the question of whether or not they should offer their customers a separate grocery service for essential items. Yes, I think they should. Here’s why.

I believe consumers will continue to push retailers for faster deliveries with a goal of near-instant gratification. I often state in the articles I write that the future of delivery is delivering to people, not places. Gone are the days when retailers only need to deliver to a customer’s home. Instead, I believe retailers will have to deliver to wherever the customer is — and do so quickly.

Retailers should understand that the need for speed will likely only increase, and they should work to become experts at offering this service. As I’ve written about before, I strongly encourage grocery retailers to open micro-fulfillment centers to fulfill online grocery orders and supplement their network with nano-fulfillment centers to reduce the cost of fulfilling online essentials orders. (Full disclosure: My company helps retailers do this, as do others.)

I strongly encourage grocery retailers to leverage data to better understand the daily consumption habits of their customers, too. This requires collecting data to identify what products customers purchase to use and what products customers purchase and eat or drink by the time of day, day of the week, and week of the month. The more granular the data is, the better you can plan your offerings.

In turn, retailers need to build a dynamic pool of easily replenished inventory to meet the needs of their customers 24/7.

I also encourage grocery retailers to explore the use of mobile retail vans for essential items. The business model has been adopted in Japan, as Warehouse Automation explains, and some mobile markets have been developed in the U.S.

What I recommend won’t be easy for retailers to accomplish. However, without the ability to meet the demand for speedy deliveries, retailers may lose customers.

 

How Retailers Can Get Started With Micro-Fulfillment As A Solution

How Retailers Can Get Started With Micro-Fulfillment As A Solution

Surging e-commerce sales appear to be accelerating demand for logistics automation as retailers adjust their business models to adapt to changing economic conditions and consumer behavior. One of the industries that has been most impacted by recent changes is the grocery industry, which has witnessed a 43% increase in e-commerce grocery sales between March 2020 and 2021, according to Brick Meets Click data (via Grocery Dive). However, as the chief marketing officer of a company that offers micro-fulfillment technologies and services, I believe specialty retailers, department stores, warehouse clubs and big-box retailers can all benefit from the use of micro-fulfillment.

Prior to 2020, retailers would often adjust to increased demand for online groceries by hiring more people to fulfill and deliver online orders, or contracting with a third-party fulfillment company like Shipt or Instacart.

Recently, however, a small number of grocery retailers began to experiment with a new technology designed to automate grocery fulfillment.

Micro-fulfillment centers, or MFCs, contain robotic systems from companies like AutoStore, Attabotics or Alert Innovation. Retailers can install MFCs inside a grocery store, beside a grocery store in a separate building or inside a “dark store” where inventory and products are staged but customers are not allowed to enter.

I believe MFCs are quickly becoming the next big thing in retail, and Research and Markets projects that they will amount to a $10 billion opportunity by 2026.

2021 has seen an explosion in popularity for MFCs: H.E.B., Ahold Delhaize, Kroger, Walmart, Albertsons and many other grocery retailers are installing or assessing the use of MFCs within their grocery ecosystems. Third-party online fulfillment company Instacart is exploring the use of MFCs to fulfill orders for their grocery customers.

I believe the growth of MFCs will have a significant impact on the grocery industry. However, not all grocery retailers have the desire or capabilities to purchase and install their own micro-fulfillment centers. This has created the opportunity for a new business within the grocery industry to meet the needs of retailers seeking an outsourced solution for micro-fulfillment.

Service Or Solution: What’s Best? 

As micro-fulfillment grows in popularity, so too could the desire on the part of grocery retailers to find a way to outsource micro-fulfillment. Several companies offer outsourced micro-fulfillment services, but I’m not convinced that outsourcing micro-fulfillment makes sense strategically or financially based on my research.

For example, robotics companies are great at manufacturing robots but may lack experience running operations for companies across different industries. I can’t stress this point enough — just because a company manufactures micro-fulfillment technology doesn’t mean that it’s an expert at outsourcing, logistics, inventory optimization, transportation, operations or last-mile delivery. Based on my experience, third-party logistics companies that leverage MFCs as part of their logistics and supply chain solutions are often the most qualified for managing outsourced micro-fulfillment requirements.

Typically, outsourced micro-fulfillment providers utilize MFCs to fulfill online orders for multiple customers at the lowest costs. I disagree with the business model for one simple reason: Micro-fulfillment centers aren’t always enough.

My experience in micro-fulfillment led me to design what I refer to as Micro-fulfillment as a Solution, or MaaS. I originally referred to MaaS as Micro-fulfillment as a Service, but upon reflection, I concluded that grocery retailers and the retail industry need a solution for their fulfillment requirements more than they need a company that only provides a service to fulfill online orders.

I do not market MaaS. I created the concept of MaaS to improve the micro-fulfillment industry. Everyone is free to leverage the information contained in this article to their benefit.

MaaS is a solution whereby multiple technologies are combined to provide an end-to-end solution for shifting from manual, in-store fulfillment of online grocery orders to utilizing automation to efficiently meet customer demand at lower costs and faster speeds. Among the technologies and strategies a company can consider utilizing are:

  • Supply chain network optimization and consulting to identify the optimal number of MFCs required to cost-effectively meet customer demand while achieving the necessary service level for each customer.
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to streamline material handling and minimize the need for human intervention.
  • Automated guided vehicles (AGV) to improve efficiency in manufacturing and warehousing.
  • Teleoperated delivery vehicles that can deliver groceries to customers within three miles of an MFC.
  • Last-mile delivery software to orchestrate, optimize, route and schedule deliveries.
  • Logistics software to optimize and replenish inventory to the MFC.
  • Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma to help eliminate waste in the processes required to fulfill and stage online and curbside pickup orders.

I believe a solution-based approach to fulfilling online grocery can reduce cost and complexity; increase speed of deliveries; and accelerate the process for opening more MFCs to support regional or nationwide fulfillment requirements for grocery retailers.

Retailers can evaluate their operations by contracting a logistics consulting firm or a third-party logistics company. Make sure any company you’re considering has experience in MaaS, micro-fulfillment technology, operations and optimizing logistics. Ask about each one’s process for conducting a thorough review of your retail business and operations to determine if MaaS is right for your needs.

Introducing MaaS requires making changes across many aspects of a retailer’s business, including inventory replenishment, transportation and last-mile delivery, so you should anticipate and address those changes before adopting MaaS.

Interestingly, as an example, an analysis may determine that a retailer should leverage MaaS in specific regions of the U.S. and introduce company-owned micro-fulfillment centers or larger customer fulfillment centers capable of fulfilling thousands of orders weekly in other regions. Situations like these are why it’s important to analyze the needs of the business and identify the optimal strategy versus making decisions based on gut feelings.

I believe e-commerce will continue to grow further, which could strain retail business models and supply chains. Based on my experience, MaaS is an option worth considering.

Read this as well as additional article from PULSE CMO, Brittain Ladd on Forbes

The Biggest Opportunity In Retail

The Biggest Opportunity In Retail

I often write about the topic of retail strategy because I find the topic interesting, and I have a way of coming up with ideas that generate a lot of interest from Wall Street, retail analysts, business executives and casual followers of the retail industry. For example, I recently wrote an article about the retail industry and it proved to be wildly popular with readers. Why? Because I’m not afraid to share my opinion or publicly state what I believe certain companies should do.

The retail industry is in a funk. Several large retailers like Walmart, Target and Amazon are doing very well. However, many other retailers have either filed for bankruptcy, closed stores, or gone out of business. The best retailers are those companies that have an executive team carefully analyzing market trends and the needs of their customers. Retailers go out of business due to a lack of leadership, imagination and innovation, and not because of a lack of products on their shelves.

Although the retail industry is struggling, there are unique opportunities that I believe should embraced. For example,

  • Facebook or Shopify should acquire Instacart
  • Amazon should divest Whole Foods and acquire Kohl’s
  • Zoom should acquire a gaming company like Electronic Arts or Activision Blizzard
  • Tesla should acquire Jeep

On the surface, the opportunities I listed may not make sense to some people because they’re counterintuitive to what they already know the companies I listed. Amazon divest Whole Foods? Why? Didn’t Amazon just acquire Whole Foods?, are questions I’m confident many readers are asking themselves. Let’s dive deeper into this recommendation.

I am recognized as being one of the first people to recommend to Amazon to acquire Whole Foods. I outlined my argument in this 2013 research paper. At the time I wrote the paper, I believed that Whole Foods was strategic to Amazon. However, in subsequent articles I wrote about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, I made it clear that Amazon should sell CPG branded products at Whole Foods to increase customers and sales. That didn’t occur. Instead, Amazon is building their own 35,000 square feet supermarkets selling all of the traditional products found in supermarkets. Amazon is also selling organic products in the stores.

Here’s the problem. Amazon acquired Whole Foods but Amazon hasn’t improved Whole Foods. The percentage of customers shopping at Whole Foods has decreased. Amazon’s grocery stores, however, are very popular and highly rated by retail analysts. Amazon is creating a business model where they will sell more groceries in their Amazon Fresh stores then at Whole Foods. In fact, it’s logical to conclude that Whole Foods sales will decrease or remain stagnant.

Whole Foods is no longer strategic to Amazon. What should Amazon do?

Amazon should divest Whole Foods. The company that should own Whole Foods is Target. Whole Foods customers overwhelmingly shop at Target, and Target must improve its grocery business. If Target acquires Whole Foods, it can open Whole Foods Markets inside its Target stores. Whole Foods is strategic to Target. If Target doesn’t acquire Whole Foods, they should explore a merger with Kroger or assess selling their grocery business. (I have encouraged Amazon to acquire Target since 2018. Among the reasons for doing so is that Amazon can open Whole Foods Markets inside each Target store. I believe Amazon will acquire Kohl’s, not Target).

Not everyone will agree with my recommendation.

CVS Pharmacy And The Biggest Opportunity In Retail

In 2015, Target made the decision to sell its pharmacy business to CVS for $1.9B. Most retail and Wall Street analysts supported Target’s decision. This link provides an overview of CVS.

I believe CVS should consider making a decision similar to Target. Specifically, I believe the biggest opportunity in retail is for CVS to sell the retail portion of their stores while maintaining ownership of the pharmacies in each store. CVS operates 9,900 stores including pharmacies inside Target’s stores. Here’s why.

Walk into most retail pharmacies and what do you see? Usually its a mixture of products often with no rhyme or reason. CVS Pharmacy, for example, advertises itself as a ‘Pharmacy and drugstore which fills prescriptions and sells health products, snacks, and basic groceries.’ The problem is that CVS isn’t a grocery store or a traditional convenience store.

The focus at CVS is on fulfilling prescriptions. It appears that the products in the stores are there to fill space and entice customers waiting for their prescriptions to be filled to buy something. Anything. And that’s a problem. It’s also an opportunity. Selling their retail operations will generate generate a significant sum for CVS, and allow the company to focus exclusively on their pharmacy business.

The following is a list of companies that could potentially be interested in acquiring most if not all of CVS’ retail locations:

  1. Amazon could open AmazonGo and Amazon Go Market stores inside each of CVS Pharmacy’s retail locations except where CVS operates pharmacies inside Target’s stores. Amazon is at the top of the list of the companies I believe that should acquire CVS Pharmacy’s retail operations.
  2. Instacart could partner with CVS to design, implement and manage all retail within the stores; Instacart leverages the stores as grocery drop off locations. It’s plausible that Instacart would be interested in opening Instacart-branded stores complete with a CVS pharmacy inside each.
  3. Shopify could opens a new form of retail store focused on displaying and selling products from Direct to Consumer brands. Not my favorite option but the idea has potential.
  4. Walmart would certainly be interested in extending its reach with a new retail format.
  5. Grocery retailers would certainly be interested in the opportunity to leverage the stores. Lidl should jump at the chance of acquiring CVS locations.
  6. Couche-Tard, the owner of Circle K convenience stores, would be able to do some very interesting things if they acquired CVS’ retail business. (The weakness in the convenience store industry is the lack of a format that includes pharmacies).

There are other companies I can name, but one name stands above the rest and that’s Target. Because of their relationship, I believe Target is the ideal company to approach CVS about either acquiring their retail operations, or forming a partnership with CVS for Target to open a small retail format inside their stores. CVS Target. I like the sound of that. However, AmazonGo stores are likely the best fit hence the reason why I rank Amazon over Target.

The Wild Card – Google acquires CVS’ retail operations and reimagines the retail experience across nearly 10,000 locations. Google’s focus on enabling retail isn’t thinking big. I strongly encourage to start making acquisitions. Instacart, TikTok, Target, the list is nearly endless. Partner with Shopify. Do something BIG, Google.

If CVS keeps their retail operations, I encourage the company to consider making an acquisition of goPuff and/or Sprouts Farmers Market. Another option is partnering with the Russian retailer VkusVill. CVS must create a better experience for their customers which should include an increased selection of groceries and also delivery. I also encourage CVS to go big into private label brands for better pricing. What’s certain is this: CVS cannot maintain the status quo in their stores.

I encourage CVS, and any retailer that would acquire the retail business from CVS, to introduce the use of micro-fulfillment centers across the CVS retail store ecosystem. Due to the small size of the stores, leveraging micro-fulfillment will accelerate the ability to carry less inventory in the stores while maintaining high in-stock levels through rapid replenishment. CVS is making a mistake by not already implementing micro-fulfillment centers.

Read more articles like this from PULSE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Brittain Ladd