Crowdfunding Fulfillment Solutions!

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Crowdfunding has given entrepreneurs and inventors greater access to startup capital. You might not be able to get seed money or Series A funding from a venture capital firm for your idea, but backers on Kickstarter or Indiegogo could give you just the leg up that you need.

Crowdfunding has launched everything from the Pebble smartwatch (it was the Apple watch before there was an Apple watch) to the Exploding Kittens card game to movies like Veronica Mars. Increasingly, crowdfunding is used not only by startups, but also by established companies to fund the launch of a new product.

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How AI and the IoT Can Change Transportation Management!

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Blog post originally published by Adam Robinson on 


Analysts predict that by 2020, 75% of new cars will feature IoT connectivity. The percentage increase describes consumer applications, but the idea of connected vehicles should garner interest from other sectors such as shipping, logistics, and transportation.

Leaders in these industries would be wise to plan for a future where AI and the IoT transform transportation management.

Here are five possible applications to consider.


1. Streamline Decision-Making

David Poulsen, CutCableToday’s IT expert, says connected, or autonomous, vehicles, are attractive because of the technologies that undergird them. “The Internet of Things (IoT) is one part of the equation,” Poulsen explains. “The other part is artificial intelligence (AI). It acts as the driver, helping the connected ‘thing,’ which could be a vehicle or inventory system, make smarter decisions.”

As applied to transportation management, that automated decision-making ability is critical. Connected vehicles, shipments, and systems help with tracking and historical reporting. But real-time insights and responses occur through artificial intelligence.

At TOPBOTS, an online, educational resource for all things AI, writer Mariya Yao calls the process “turning supply chain logistics into automated trading.” She gives an example: Amazon’s ability to deliver packages to a person’s door in under two hours. AI and the IoT streamline the entire process, from order to delivery, to save time and money and meet customer demand.

2. Optimize Operations

DHL, the global logistics provider, posits another application of AI and the IoT optimization. Its 2016 Logistics Trend Radar report suggests that big data and automated supply chains could lead to previously unimaginable levels of optimization.

But that optimization isn’t isolated to a single aspect of transportation management. Rather, DHL predicts a world in which manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and deliveries become increasingly efficient, productive, and profitable. The provider believes the trend will come to life in the next ten years.

DHL could be correct. General Electric, for example, has started integrating AI into its locomotives to enhance safety and speed. Daniel Malak at Motionloft offers another use for AI and the IoT: optimizing traffic. He says transportation management companies benefit from Motionloft by using it to study traffic patterns and “optimize business practices such as sending out police forces only during peak rush hours, having maintenance crews repair roads that get the most travel, and deploying sanitation crews to clean public areas only when needed.”

3. Manage Warehouses

Tim Young of Vero Solutions shares another way AI and the IoT Could transform transportation management in his infographic looking at warehouses. He says AI could impact six areas of operations.

“Productivity levels, inventory processes, and employee wages are just three fields,” explains Young, “that are expected to be revolutionized and improved by AI technology in warehouses in just a matter of years.”

The other three areas relate to effective communication, warehouse operations, and robot workers. Young’s example of robot workers involves a company previously mentioned: Amazon. The brand has been testing out robots in its warehouses to increase productivity and, presumably, quality control.

4. Decrease Downtime and Repairs

Transportation companies also use AI and the IoT to mitigate costly repairs and downtime. Internal diagnostics, for example, can alert users to maintenance issues, which keeps passengers safe — no blow-outs while traveling down the road at seventy miles per hour, for example — and increases the lifetime value of the vehicle.

Daniel Dombach at Zebra further illuminates the concept, adding that the Internet of Things delivers remote monitoring capabilities. Companies that employ them can proactively respond to maintenance issues and also assess inventory records and parts availability.

Dombach also proves a valid point, saying that AI and the IoT could “decrease insurance-related costs.” Business Insider’s The Insurance and the IoT Report finds that insurers use vehicle usage data to inform pricing on policies and premiums. The report covers consumer insurance policies specifically, but its findings easily translate to commercial interests.

5. Go Driverless

AI and the IoT could impact more than back-end systems and processes. The two could produce driverless vehicles, a thing seemingly the territory of tech giant Google. But Google isn’t alone in the endeavor. Tesla, Ford, Daimler, and even Uber all claim driverless initiatives.

George Zarkadakis at Willis Towers Watson calls out the Uber story in his article The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Transportation, citing the incident as “a wake-up call.” He continues, “Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could potentially lead to the full automation of truck fleets.”

Of course, Zarkadakis’s remark raises the question of what happens to the truck drivers. Goldman Sachs Economics Research provides an answer. The company tells CNBC that driverless trucks could produce job losses of 25,000 per month in a couple of decades.

Jack Stewart at WIRED offers a more positive perspective; he says traditional driver jobs will change once autonomous vehicles become a reality, but these jobs won’t necessarily disappear. He also adds other positive effects of this change, such as cutting costs and improving road safety.


The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are coming to transportation management. The technologies provide too many benefits for them to be ignored.

Businesses that wish to succeed in the future should consider these five examples of how the IoT and AI can impact transportation management and then decide where and when to apply these features to their existing operations.


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Rise of the Warehouse Robots!

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Article provided by Mike Futch of Tompkins International at 


Customer expectations are changing as new sales outlets are being used. With the application of social media, omni-channel and e-commerce customers now have more price options, selections, delivery methods and shopping experiences. The ability of a business to keep the customer satisfied greatly depends on fulfillment capabilities.

Progressive businesses have realized the critical nature an operations strategy has on designing a working supply chain. Combining distribution and fulfillment operations into a single facility has become the base of the supply chain network, as they allow a single location to stock a vast number of products and service multiple channels.


Since order fulfillment first became more automated for catalog sales back in the 1980s, its main justification has been to remove the travel time and distance by staff involved in processing orders, while improving accuracy and order fulfillment cycle times. With the rapid growth of online ordering and e-commerce in the past decade, the opportunity for automation of order fulfillment has hit new heights.

Much has changed since then with both customer expectations and technology. The elimination of walk and travel time, while still a key component in evaluating automated solutions, is not necessarily the driving criteria. Today’s distribution centers (DCs) and fulfillment centers (FCs) need to add flexibility, scalability and reduced reliance on temporary or unreliable labor pools to meet their operational requirements.

With the recent evolution of goods-to-person and robotic order fulfillment technology, your operation may be in a better position to incorporate these automated solutions now than in the past. In many cases, the implementation of automation to reduce or improve the leverage of labor is a key driver now. In addition, many new automated solutions can be obtained at a lower capital investment and be expanded as needed, which reduces the initial investment and improves the overall return on investment.

There is a new world of automation options on the market, from robots roaming a DC/FC, to highly automated conveyors and equipment that assist staff with faster fulfillment processes. Traditionally, products are moved around a DC/FC using humans, human-operated machines, or conveyor system that have been around for decades. Although robots have been around for many years, until recently, they have been very limited in capability, functionality and performance in the world of DC/FC.

Today, there are many types of robots available to help with DC/FC operation tasks. These robots can assist with loading, unloading, sorting, picking, transportation, storage, delivery and audits. Robots helping with these tasks come in all shapes and sizes. They also use different forms of navigation tools such as rail, wire-guided, labels, magnet tape, laser, vision, geo-guidance and others. This article focuses on the robots that assist with the picking and sorting of items that go into a unique order.


As e-commerce continues to grow and the replenishment to stores moves to less than case quantities, the trend away from case or bulk movement handling toward single SKUs and piecemeal items expands along with it. Anyone who has gone to a material handling trade show or has read industry journals are aware of goods-to-person systems that have evolved over the past decade. Many will remember the introduction of autonomous robotic solutions such as Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva). In addition, other solutions were developed to effectively compete in this space.

These types of goods-to-person systems have taken the form of large, forward pick, racked systems that use robotic vehicles and carriers to bring cases and totes of goods to stations and then return the item container back into storage. At each station, an operator is then directed on the quantity of each item to pick and which order or orders need the items. The pick and placement of items is directed and the operator works at a highly effective rate due to no travel, system direction, and the fast introduction and removal of goods and orders to process.

There are many versions of the goods-to-person systems available on the market, including systems from such companies as AutoStore, Dematic, OPEX and SSI Schaefer. These systems operate with the same basic process described above.

AutoStore has a unique, high density storage design with the robotic vehicles operating on a grid above the storage system, which minimizes space and eliminates all aisles while performing the putaway, retrieve and movement functions. It is a new and different design that is gaining user acceptance. In fact, it was recently announced that Dematic will be an authorized distributor of AutoStore, while it also continues to sell its own proprietary goods-to-person Multi-Shuttle system.

In recent years, there has evolved a trend of picking enhanced by robotic equipment and systems that do not require a large infrastructure and high capital investment, such as the typical goods-to-person system. Locus Robotics is one such solution and has engineered a new approach to less-than-case fulfillment operations.

These are autonomous mobile robots, called LocusBots, that work safely alongside human employees to deliver higher e-commerce and less-than-case fulfillment throughput and efficiency. LocusBots automatically detect a wide range of worker’s languages, changing instantly as they interact with each worker to help speed workflow and minimize errors. The integrated scanner confirms the item and ensures near 100% accurate pick and put operations.

Another evolving trend is using robotic machines to perform the pick process. These systems can detect, reach out, grasp and place into a receptacle items to fulfill an order. RightHand Robotics, for instance, provides end-to-end solutions designed to reduce the cost of e-commerce order fulfillment of electronics, apparel, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and other industries. The core competency of the RightPick solution is picking “pieces” or individual items. Unlike traditional factory robots, RightPick handles thousands of different items using a machine learning backend coupled with a sensorized robot hand that works in concert with all industry-leading robotic arms.


Currently, there are not many applications of robots doing item sortation in the United States. A technology that has been around for decades is the automated guided vehicle (AGV). An AGV is a portable robot that follows markers or wires on the floor, or uses vision, magnets, or lasers for navigation. AGVs have been used for case, pallet, bulk, or specialized container movement for many years across a wide range of industries and applications.

A recent example of an AGV used in sortation is t-Sort, a new material handling system created by Lab Z that has applications for both unit and parcel sortation. It performs much like a traditional automated sortation system, such as a tilt tray or crossbelt sorter. However, it uses completely independent robots, which are the equivalent of having a tilt tray with no rail. They can go to any divert and induction station autonomously along the shortest path.

Robots, chutes or receiving receptacles, and induction stations can be added modularly at any time with no interruption to operations. t-Sort is a means of automated order fulfillment for units to complete an order and parcel shipping operations, allowing for better planning, implementation, controls efficiency, flow of goods and customer service. The system is flexible and can be deployed in any size DC/FC.

Another example, Sure Sort, is a scalable, configurable, small-item sorting system. Designed and manufactured by OPEX Corp., Sure Sort is a robotic item sorter that handles complex variables and delivers a variety of single items to their final location in a single pass. Its compact array of sort locations can be scaled, sized and customized as well. It delivers by reducing the number of touches, transfers and conveyors required to run existing sorters.

The system can handle a range of sizes, different packaging and varied orientation of an item. It automatically reads a barcode and delivers each item in a single pass to a designated order consolidation point. It is suitable for small businesses looking for a cost-effective entry into warehouse automation as well as large fulfillment operations looking to streamline their process.

The Economics of Robotics

Supply chain DC/FC performance is very sensitive to changes in business strategy and operating environments. Some of these changes include market changes, acquisitions, new products or packaging, new sales channels, and growth. There are also factors that impact DC/FC operations such as market wages, labor availability, process flow and customer requirements.

To maintain a competitive advantage, the best companies have made automation a goal for ongoing DC/FC improvement to meet overall business objectives. Designing an effective profit producing supply chain is an ongoing process that needs to change with the times; businesses today should consider the benefits robots provide to the supply chain operation.

While automated robotic pickers and sorters can increase efficiency in many distribution facilities, each application needs to be carefully considered and designed to work with the rest of the process flow and operations. A business must carefully evaluate the requirements of the robotic automation and the overall business requirements for each situation needs to be considered, including capital expense, operating savings, performance improvement and customer service enhancement.

Some of the largest DC/FC operators in the U.S. have plans to automate almost every physical move in their facilities within the next two to three years. Robotic automation can extend the capacity, hours of operation, and life of a DC/FC. Robots are more affordable than ever and increasing wages and lack of available workers makes the economics more attractive and justifiable than in the past.

The future of the warehouse is happening now with robotics. Take a closer look at your operations to determine if robotic technology could be right for you.

Mike Futch is executive vice president of supply chain consulting and implementation firm Tompkins International, which is the exclusive U.S. distributor of the t-sort AGV.


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Freight and Logistics – Breaking the Traffic Jam that is your Supply Chain!

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Does anyone like being stuck in a Traffic Jam?

Prior to one Holiday season several years ago the volume that was coming into the Distribution Centre receiving area was unprecedented and unpredicted.   We were out of room on the docks and we were out of storage space but trucks kept on coming.  And we were still weeks away from being able to ship product to stores to relieve the pressure.

We were gridlocked.  We kept inching our way along but we were very, very close to having this traffic jam of activity shut us down.

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The Hottest Jobs in Supply Chain and Procurement! (Infographic)

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Blog post provided by  Argentus is a boutique recruitment firm focused on Supply Chain and Procurement.


It’s an exciting time to be involved in the Supply Chain and for Supply Chain jobs.  Across every industry, every geography and every country there are advances in Technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and more.

But none of this can function without Supply Chain professionals.  Your expertise and experience are the backbone of developing the strategies and action plans for making these evolutionary and revolutionary improvements .

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What are the Top 7 Trends in Last Mile Logistics?

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Blog post created by Adam Robinson and originally published on October 13, 2017 on 


Shippers face many challenges in successfully delivering products to end-users, and last mile logistics will be a core focus of change in the coming months. Consumer demands and expectations are rising, and up to 25 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for same-day delivery.

Also, same-day delivery will reach a 25-percent market share by 2025. By 2018 alone, same-day delivery and last mile logistics will be valued at more than $1.35 billion.

E-commerce is the driving force behind the sudden uptick in last mile logistics, and as explained by Logistics Management, e-commerce is expected to grow to $2.4 trillion by 2018 as well.

To gain a competitive advantage in last mile logistics, shippers need to understand the top seven trends in last mile logistics.


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9 Key Considerations of an Effective Last Mile Delivery Strategy

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Blog post created by Adam Robinson and originally published on October 2, 2017 on 


Understanding last mile logistics is only half the battle. Shippers need to reevaluate their existing last mile logistics processes and devise an effective last mile logistics strategy that aligns consumer and business expectation.

This is the only way shippers can safeguard their position in the market and continue to provide products to their consumer basis. In fact, an effective last mile logistics strategy must consider these nine key points.

1. Planning Is Essential To Have an Effective Last Mile Delivery Strategy

Any effective strategy must begin with effective planning. Shippers must evaluate current last mile logistics strategy processes and create plans for managing the creation or adoption of an effective last mile logistics strategy. As explained by Tarra Singh of Supply Chain Beyond, this includes prioritizing planning and establishing standard operating procedures for managing last mile logistics

2. Leverage the Right Technology as Part of Your Strategy

One of the first problems with creating a last mile logistics strategy is cost. According to Mitchell’s NY, last mile logistics is seen as the least efficient leg of shipping, and it accounts for up to 20 percent of the total shipping cost of a product. Last mile delays and problems during delivery can eat away at fuel costs and seriously devalue a brand, but shippers can leverage technology, such as Big Data, to make small changes and improvements to last mile logistics processes.

Shippers considering implementing or upgrading technology to meet last mile logistics demands should also consider ease and speed of implementation prior to making any such decisions. E-commerce markets move at the speed of light, and unnecessary delays could result in customer losses.

3. Analyze Everything

Nothing should be off the table when considering an effective last mile logistics strategy and implementation. Shippers should analyze everything from the biggest to the smallest possible influencers.

4. Manage the Whole Last Mile Delivery Process

Shippers must manage the whole last mile delivery process in effective last mile logistics strategies. This includes the driver, the shipment, the trucks, the technologies used to track such shipments, online platforms and consumer devices. Obviously, shippers cannot track what consumers use their personal devices for all the time, but they can use metrics and Big Data to track what consumers are doing on their respective e-commerce sites.

5. Be Consumer-Centric

An effective last mile logistics strategy must be focused on consumer needs. This is the cornerstone of all modern logistics strategies, regardless of whether it is direct to consumer or business-to-business sales.

6. Think Outside-the-Box

Traditional standards of delivery do not work effectively in modern last mile logistics strategies. Companies must think of unconventional solutions to meet last mile delivery demands, like Uber, Instacart or Deliv. These app-based last mile logistics providers are disruptors, but they can enable shippers to meet consumers growing demands for faster, tighter delivery Windows.

7. Measure Performance

Amazon sets industry standards for last mile delivery, reports the Supply Chain Game Changer, and the e-commerce giant’s free shipping services, otherwise known as Amazon Prime, highlights why shippers must measure performance.

With up to 6 percent of consumers in the US willing to pay for same-day delivery and 28 percent of consumers are willing to abandon their shopping carts due to excessive fees, shippers cannot afford to forgo measuring performance. Performance measurement goes back to cutting costs wherever possible, without sacrificing quality or service.

8. Manage Returns Thoroughly, Effectively

Managing returns and reverse logistics are another consideration in creating an effective last mile logistics strategy, reports Industry Week. Retailer differences in SKUs and returns options for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar store purchases can complicate the issue.

As a result, shippers should consider the form, function and placement of inventory, including inventory coming in from reverse logistics channels, in their entire warehousing and distribution network. This will ensure the company has product, even if it is refurbished or returned product, available nearest to consumers.

9. Location. Location. Location

One of the final considerations goes back to how quickly a product can be mobilized and delivered. It goes back to the location of the product and the location of consumers. Shippers must create robust last mile logistics strategies that shrink the distance between warehouse and consumer.

This might include using stores-as-a-distribution center. Ultimately, shippers that reduce this distance as much as possible and through as many means as possible will be able to create a tighter, more effective last mile logistics strategy.

What’s Next?

After crafting an effective last mile logistics strategy, shippers come to one ultimate conclusion. They need to revamp the technology and processes used in managing both overall and last mile logistics. Moreover, last mile logistics is key to reducing overhead and improving customer service.

As a result, more shippers will turn to technology and newer transportation management systems (TMS) to aid in the efficient execution of the last mile.


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