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….

PULSE.exe
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
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.

Micro-Fulfillment as a Service

Micro-Fulfillment as a Service

A challenge faced by vendors that wish to introduce new technology into the grocery industry is that many grocery retailers are risk averse. Instead of jumping at the chance to embrace new technology, most retailers take a ‘wait and see’ approach. Specifically, grocery retailers wait to see what Amazon and Walmart will do. This has been especially true regarding the topic of micro-fulfillment. Although the use of micro-fulfillment centers within a retailers grocery ecosystem makes operational and financial sense, most grocery retailers have sat on the sidelines.

That has changed as a result of the announcement by Walmart that it is going to install micro-fulfillment centers in an undisclosed number of stores. Walmart will install solutions from Alert Innovation, Fabric and Dematic.

Walmart indicated that they are still in the testing and evaluation phase and that they have not identified the optimal solution. (You can read more about the different micro-fulfillment systems on the market here).

I have proposed the use of micro-fulfillment centers inside retail stores, in buildings next to retail stores, or in offsite ‘Dark Stores’. Micro-fulfillment is a must-have for retailers. However, let me be clear, micro-fulfillment isn’t just technology a retailer can purchase and install. Micro-fulfillment is a strategy retailers can leverage to reduce costs and complexity related to fulfilling online and curbside grocery orders, create a competitive advantage, and enable growth.

Most retailers that choose to leverage micro-fulfillment as part of their strategy have entered into direct arrangements with specific micro-fulfillment vendors. For example, H.E.B entered into an agreement with AutoStore. I rank AutoStore at the top of the list for micro-fulfillment. (Dematic will probably introduce the AutoStore system at Walmart; something I strongly recommend).

Is a direct relationship with a vendor the optimal choice? Is there another option retailers can choose? Yes, there is.

Micro-fulfillment as a Service (MaaS)

I prefer retailers to purchase and install micro-fulfillment centers across their ecosystems. I believe owning and operating MFCs is a wise move strategically for retailers.

However, retailers that don’t want to own and operate MFCs have the option to utilize Micro-fulfillment as a Service (MaaS). MaaS is a service that a few MFC companies are offering to retailers. Fabric has done a great job of marketing MaaS to potential customers.

At a high level, MaaS is a service whereby an MFC company will purchase or lease a building to install micro-fulfillment centers. An MFC company can also install one or more micro-fulfillment centers onsite in a company owned facility.

Once installed, the MFC company will provide the required labor (or use a 3rd party) to run the facility. Customers that sign up for MaaS ship their inventory to a MaaS location where the inventory is either stored or immediately placed inside an MFC. Retailers will have little to no upfront costs to leverage MaaS. The MFC company will fulfill orders for their customers. On average, the MFC company running the MaaS location will charge between $.58 to $.60 per line picked.

Sounds like a great deal!! It’s not. MaaS is nearly impossible to justify due to high operational costs. On average, grocery retailers can lose up to $25 on every online order they fulfill. MaaS reduces the cost of fulfilling online orders but not as much if a retailer operates their own micro-fulfillment centers.

Based on analysis completed by several strategy consulting firms, and based on my own analysis, the MFC companies offering MaaS have greatly underpriced their services. In addition, the projected order volumes that can be filled using a MaaS model will be difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill because of limitations within the MFC systems being used by the companies I evaluated.

Regardless of the limitations, I expect MaaS to grow in popularity for these reasons: Executives at some retailers will be very risk averse. To minimize risk, they will choose to essentially outsource micro-fulfillment. I know of several grocery retailers that are in the process of evaluating micro-fulfillment systems. A few of the retailers are leaning towards using MaaS as a way to reduce capital spend and mitigate risk.

Recommendations

Using real world examples, this is what I recommend all grocery retailers that are interested in MaaS to do.

Albertsons is one of the leading grocery retailers in the United States. The company is led by CEO Vivek Sankaran, former President and COO of Frito-Lay North America. I believe Vivek should be considered one of the best CEOs working today. I have written multiple articles about Albertsons and I have publicly stated that Albertsons should merge with Ahold-Delhaize. If the merger occurs, it would create the largest grocery retail conglomerate in the United States, and one of the largest in the world.

Based on announcements from Albertsons, the company is evaluating options for micro-fulfillment. Albertsons has a relationship with the MFC company, Takeoff Technologies. (I am a former advisor to Takeoff and Fabric).

Full disclosure: I have had multiple discussions with executives from Albertsons regarding the topic of micro-fulfillment. I also advised executives from H.E.B, Ahold-Delhaize, Publix, Amazon and Walmart on the topic of micro-fulfillment. However, I do not work for a micro-fulfillment company. I work for a system integrator, PULSE Integration, that has relationships with several MFC companies. I also write articles on the topic of micro-fulfillment.

I applaud Albertsons focus on micro-fulfillment. However, what should Albertsons do?

In my professional opinion, I recommend that Albertsons purchase and install MFC systems from AutoStore. If there is resistance within Albertsons for such a model, Albertsons should evaluate MaaS as an option. However, instead of only testing MaaS as a solution with one MFC company, I encourage Vivek Sankaran to speak with AutoStore, and negotiate an agreement whereby AutoStore will operate one to three MaaS locations for Albertsons.

AutoStore hasn’t embraced MaaS due to analysis they have performed that indicates MaaS is a higher cost and lower value option for grocery retailers than grocery retailers owning and operating their own micro-fulfillment centers. However, I believe AutoStore has no choice but to offer a MaaS solution due to growing interest in the topic. I strongly encourage AutoStore to partner with Albertsons.

Sankaran should also have one to three AutoStore MFCs installed within their grocery ecosystem, including installing an AutoStore inside a grocery store, to test which MFC performs the best. Sankaran can compare the results of MaaS and a company owned and operated MFC model at the end of one year. May the best MFC solution win.

In addition to micro-fulfillment, I strongly encourage Albertsons (and all retailers) to test the use of last mile delivery carts from the company Tortoise, and testing mobile retail using vans from Robomart. Both companies are generating a lot of interest from retailers. (I am an advisor to both companies).

Finally, I recommend that Albertson (and all grocery retailers) to improve the customer experience for online grocery delivery by providing their customers with a DynoSafe or a similar product. This article outlines the importance grocery retailers “winning the porch.”

Publix, Kroger, Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Macy’s, owners of malls, convenience store chains, and large retail development companies should also test MaaS and operating MFCs within their retail ecosystems.

What’s Next for Micro-fulfillment? 

I am convinced that Instacart will invest heavily in micro-fulfillment centers starting in 2021; probably with Fabric. Instacart will go public in 2021. By 2022, 80 to 100 micro-fulfillment centers will be dedicated to Instacart’s needs. By 2025, Instacart will become an online grocery retailer fulfilling orders direct to their customers. Instacart will end their relationship with their current customers. I anticipate that Instacart will open Instacart-branded stores in select locations. If I’m correct, Instacart should acquire Fabric in 2021. (Instacart is in an interesting position. I recommend Shopify, Google or Facebook to acquire Instacart).

Amazon is investing heavily in micro-fulfillment. I anticipate that Amazon will soon unveil a 20,000 square feet MFC built inside one of their AmazonFresh branded stores. I’m convinced that Amazon has no choice but to explore the use of Nano-fulfillment centers inside Whole Foods stores. I designed one of the first micro-fulfillment centers specific to the needs of Amazon. You can read about it here.

Amazon is creating a business model whereby they will sell more groceries through their Amazon branded stores than through Whole Foods. Why? Because Amazon is going to sell branded CPG and organic products inside its supermarkets. When Amazon acquired Whole Foods, I stressed to Amazon that they should introduce branded CPG products at Whole Foods to increase customers. The stores could be re-branded to ‘Whole Foods Plus.’ Amazon didn’t introduce branded CPG products at Whole Foods and sales have stagnated.

An argument can be made that Amazon should divest Whole Foods and focus on its own AmazonFresh brand. Target is the company that should acquire Whole Foods. Target can open Whole Foods Markets inside its stores. I have recommended to Amazon on several occasions to acquire Target and also open Whole Foods Markets inside Target’s stores. Since the acquisition hasn’t occurred, I’m skeptical that it ever will. If Amazon is not going to acquire Target, divesting Whole Foods should be explored.

Amazon and Kohl’s are piloting an AmazonFresh store inside a Kohl’s store; this is something that I recommended to Kohl’s and Amazon over two years ago so I’m glad that pilot has begun. If the pilot is successful, I recommend that Amazon should acquire Kohl’s.

DoorDash, Postmates and other restaurant delivery companies must expand into delivering groceries. I strongly recommend that these companies should invest in opening their own micro-fulfillment centers powered by AutoStore or some other MFC system. Grocery retailers are actively looking for a replacement for Instacart. Postmates, for example, could open MFCs; receive inventory from grocery retailers; store the inventory inside each MFC system; fulfill online and curbside orders; and use their own delivery drivers to deliver orders.

I also believe that restaurant delivery companies that partner with grocery retailers should teach their grocery retail customers how to open dark kitchens and offer their own branded meals.

Micro-fulfillment is going to grow in popularity. Every retailer needs to ask and answer this question: What is our micro-fulfillment strategy?

For more information on micro-fulfillment, you can read articles located here and here.

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

Proving the Case for Autonomous Mobile Robots

Proving the Case for Autonomous Mobile Robots

PULSE Integration partnered OTTO Motors, to undertake what is the world’s first in-depth analysis of automated mobile robots (AMRs) deployed at scale in industrial facilities.

Working with an F500 company, OTTO deployed the OTTO Materials Handling Platform at a brownfield and greenfield site. PULSE then compared performance with:

  • Forklifts
  • Conveyors
  • AGVs
  • Manual material handling

The fact that these deployments were carried out at scale was important. What we have found amongst all but the digital leaders is that businesses look to adopt the technology bit by bit, trying to hedge their bets on their investment risk and keep all stakeholders happy. The result is that you tend to get islands of automation across a business or a production facility, missing out on the network effect you get with a large scale implementation where all pieces complement each other to achieve a greater whole.

Analysis and Conclusion

The findings of PULSE’s study were unanimous – on a per-unit basis, they found that:

  •  AMRs were significantly cheaper compared to other materials handling solutions
  • 90% cost saving compared to manual handling
  • 33% saving compared to AGVs.

Depending on the investment model used (system lease, vehicle-only lease or capital funding), PULSE calculated that this would translate to ROI being achieved in one to two years.

These are significant figures for an industry that has long tended to view robotics as an expensive solution with a high bar for ROI. As McKinsey puts it, the robotics market, in the past, leaned towards customers with the biggest spending power, focusing on proprietary, non-standardized whole factory solutions that kept costs high – and meant only those firms with the deepest pockets could forge ahead.
PULSE’s study is proof that times have changed. AMRs offer a specialized automated solution for one critical area of manufacturing operations, materials handling and intralogistics. PULSE and OTTO have demonstrated how AMRs can boost agility, efficiency, productivity and space utilization in the factory, while also driving down costs.
Critically, AMRs do this in a way that is more cost-effective than other available solutions, with an ROI that fits well within standard financial reporting cycles. If, as the likes of Interact Analysis forecasts, this leads to significant growth in the mobile robotics sector, this will also help to close manufacturing’s digital divide.