Put Strategy First When Pondering Automation for Your DC

April 19, 2022 | 124 views

Put Strategy First When
The unsurprising investment eagerness of venture capital funds is manifesting in an automation tech glut in the distribution center space. Motivated by enabling trends like labor and land shortages, DCs are amid an automation transformation. Never has defining an automation strategy been more important.

There’s no shortage of VC cash available to logistics tech startups 

With a brightly shining spotlight centered on supply chains for the past two years, it’s no surprise that total funding in logistics startups has seen a dramatic increase – growing at over 70% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate). Logistics technology startups raked in over $25 billion in the first three quarters of 2021. That’s more than half of the total amount raised in the whole of 2020, and the incentives for continuing investment persist.


The rise of the of the “micro” DC

“Micro” is a relative term. The size of a micro fulfillment center (MFC) can range from 5,000 to 50,000 square feet. Those reduced square footages allow location in dense urban areas, typically within 40 miles of most of their intended customers. In addition, smaller footprints lead to reduced rents compared to a standard customer fulfillment center (CFC), and the proximity to consumers makes for lower final mile delivery costs. It’s no wonder that MFCs accounted for more than half of the logistics real estate leasing activity in the third quarter of 2021. The “urban logistics” trend is fueling demand for these highly automated, smaller locations.


Vertical logistics integration grows ever more fashionable among retailers

It’s a very “in” thing right now, these acquisitions and partnerships, and they won’t be going out of fashion soon. For example, American Eagle took in Airterra and its parcel optimization tech and third-party logistics (3PL) provider Quiet Logistics.

Target started early. They bought Grand Junction, a software platform that helps retailers determine the best delivery method and track carrier performance, in 2017. Their 2020 acquisition of Deliv brought with it same-day delivery routing technology that they’re now applying to their 2021 purchase, on-demand delivery service Shipt. Target uses Delivs’ tech to generate more efficient routes for Shipt.

Kroger has partnered with UK’s e-grocery specialist Ocado to build automated CFCs across the US and expand their retail footprint. The first CFC opened last spring in Ohio and their second in Florida later that year. They plan to open 20 CFCs over the next three years.

“The proliferation of DC automation solutions and modalities, the rise of MFCs in high-density urban areas, the increasingly automated vertical integration of logistics, and the need to rapidly expand order fulfillment capacity have all, in combination, advanced the need for and application of clearly defined strategies concerning the implementation of automation technology. Do not operate without one.”
Vikas Argod, Principal, Supply Chains Operations practice at Chainalytics 


Coping with shortages in warehouse space and labor availability

Third quarter, 2021 US demand for industrial real estate exceeded supply by 41 million square feet. This pushed the national vacancy rate in the fourth quarter down to a record 3.7% in the Cushman & Wakefield US National Industrial MarketBeat report for Q4 2021. Who knows what the record might be when the Q1 2022 report breaks in a few weeks?

On the labor side, the December 2021 US unemployment rate was 3.9%, lower than in December 2019 (3.6%) yet reflecting a tighter labor market. Labor force participation rates are at 61.9%, nearly 2% below February 2020 levels, because of lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rising wages and signing bonuses of the past year offer silent testimony to the ongoing constraints in today’s labor market.

Both trends will remain with us for the near- and mid-term, making an automation strategy a necessary part of your DC operations as you attempt to mitigate the effects of both. In addition, warehouse labor shortages are most pronounced in markets with high distribution center densities – Greater Memphis, In-land Empire, Allentown, PA, et al.)


Building the capability to rapidly open DCs at scale

No other factor drives home the need for a coherent DC automation strategy like this one. Let’s explore it with an example.

We’ll call this “A Tale of Two Companies.” One jumped on the automation bandwagon without hesitation – not a bad thing – but applied no strategic groundwork. The other is, well, Amazon.

Company one responded to increasing demand by creating DCs in their usual, strategically located fashion. However, with automation, the lack of a logical strategy led to adopting “the best that money could buy.” So, while these DCs work fine on their own (most of the time), each employs unique implementations from a variety of vendors, with little to no overlap of methods, capabilities, and management procedures between DCs. It’s functional, but a needlessly complicated hodgepodge.

On the other hand, it definitely looks like Amazon has a standardized automation strategy. One that can easily adapt to exploit the individual physical specifications of any space. This makes it simple to arrive and equip it with a standard package of automation solutions. That’s probably how Amazon blanketed the US with over 400 new DCs in just the last two years. They waste no time or money on repeating unnecessary decisions along the way. 

Now, we all can’t have the resources of an Amazon. However, the rise of on-demand warehousing companies like Stord and Flexe allow organizations to dramatically decrease the cycle time of standing up additional fulfillment capability.

Developing an automation strategy will feel familiar. It begins with benchmarking, order profiling, current performance drivers, EBIT targets, and theoretical evaluations of newer technology options. All this leads to the creation of a decision framework for DC automation. The goal here is achieving alignment among the leadership on critical capabilities to focus on. These include rapid fulfillment, labor shortage, capacity constraints, safety challenges, or sustainability. Those that commit to this process will start slowly but finish with a strategy that will underpin thousands of decisions and enable sustained rapid growth.

If, in the end, you decide that automation is not right for your operation, that’s a perfectly valid strategy as well. So long as you have a method to evaluate all of your options, and you base your decision on cost-service-sustainability trade-offs, the right strategy for your organization may be no automation at all.


There’s no point in chasing shiny robotic objects if automation makes little sense‌.

The rise of automation and the multitude of technologies to choose from require the development of a strategic decision framework. Contact us and see how Chainalytics – an NTT DATA company – can be your guide in developing this critical part of your foundation for growth. Our top supply chain talent, enabled by proven, leading-edge digital assets – tools, methods, and content – deliver actionable insights and measurable outcomes to some of today’s largest and most complex supply chains.

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Green Bay Pallet

GREEN BAY PALLET, INC. is your pallet and packaging solutions provider. We provide high quality pallets (standard, custom, export certified, military spec, and recycled/remanufactured), skids, boxes/crates, and other specialty wood items. We take our manufacturing role very seriously and are committed to exceeding the needs of our customers.

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4 Ways of Using Advanced Analytics in Supply Chain Management

Article | July 8, 2022

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How to Test Major Changes in Your Supply Chain Process

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VINFAST ENTERS STRATEGIC GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP WITH INFORM TO IMPLEMENT VEHICLE LOGISTICS SOFTWARE SOLUTION

VINFAST | November 24, 2022

Under the partnership, INFORM will provide advanced vehicle logistics management software solutions to VinFast, including Transport Management Software (TMS) and a vehicle Yard Management System (YMS). These software solutions will deliver end-to-end transparency along with optimized processes from ordering the vehicle to its delivery to customers, making the delivery process faster, more efficient and sustainable. VinFast can monitor its EV logistics, optimizing processes from vehicle ordering andvehicle delivery, to vehicle recalls. Major ports in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Vietnam will benefit from INFORM's solutions through optimized yard management, workshop scheduling activities, workforce management, and logistics service provider routing activities. In the first phase of this partnership, INFORM's software will be implemented in the United States, Canada, and Vietnam, with Europe following closely behind, effectively supporting the transportation of VinFast electric vehicles to customers. The entire INFORM solution is projected to be in place across VinFast's entire ecosystem within 18-24 months. "VinFast is currently in the process of mass production and delivery to global customers. INFORM's expertise is the key to VinFast's logistics, offering end-to-end solutions from when the vehicles are exported from Vietnam to when they are delivered to the customers. INFORM's technologies will help VinFast achieve faster, more efficient, and sustainable vehicle deliveries." -Mdm. 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Strongly committed to the mission for a sustainable future for everyone, VinFast constantly innovates to bring high-quality products, advanced smart services, seamless customer experiences, and pricing strategy for all to inspire global customers to jointly create a future of smart mobility and a sustainable planet. Learn more at: https://vinfastauto.com About Vingroup Established in 1993, Vingroup is one of the leading private conglomerates in the region, with a total capitalization of $35 billion USD from three publicly traded companies (as of November 4, 2021). Vingroup currently focuses on three main areas: Technology and Industry, Services and Social Enterprise. Find out more at: https://www.vingroup.net/en About INFORM GmbH/INFORM Software Corporation INFORM develops software for the optimization of business processes using Digital Decision Making based on Artificial Intelligence and Operations Research. 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Freight Technologies, Inc. Collaborates with Prestigious University in Mexico

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OnProcess announces Agora DSI™ – a software management tool that provides deep new levels of actionable insight across the service supply chain

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VINFAST ENTERS STRATEGIC GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP WITH INFORM TO IMPLEMENT VEHICLE LOGISTICS SOFTWARE SOLUTION

VINFAST | November 24, 2022

Under the partnership, INFORM will provide advanced vehicle logistics management software solutions to VinFast, including Transport Management Software (TMS) and a vehicle Yard Management System (YMS). These software solutions will deliver end-to-end transparency along with optimized processes from ordering the vehicle to its delivery to customers, making the delivery process faster, more efficient and sustainable. VinFast can monitor its EV logistics, optimizing processes from vehicle ordering andvehicle delivery, to vehicle recalls. Major ports in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Vietnam will benefit from INFORM's solutions through optimized yard management, workshop scheduling activities, workforce management, and logistics service provider routing activities. 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Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vice Chairwoman of Vingroup and Chairwoman of VinFast According to INFORM Software Corporation's Chief Operating Officer Justin Newell: INFORM is extremely pleased to announce our strategic partnership with VinFast as they are a new premier EV manufacturer that is striving for a more sustainable future, which aligns with both INFORM's corporate and sustainability goals. INFORM's ability to deliver solutions across the entire vehicle supply chain from the factory out gate to customer handover is a key deliverable for our VinFast project. INFORM's software solutions can also easily integrate with VinFast's other enterprise management software such as SAP – Enterprise Resource Planning solution, and Salesforce CRM – customer relation management program. These technologies will fully support VinFast's high standards for customer service, sustainability, and supply chain resilience. INFORM develops software for optimizing business processes using Digital Decision Making based on Artificial Intelligence and Operations Research. While standard data management software only provides information, INFORM systems can analyze large amounts of data in a matter of seconds, calculate numerous decision variants, and suggest the best possible solution. Currently, INFORM has been working with over 1,000 customers worldwide, including manufacturing, commerce, airport, port, logistics, banking, telecommunications, and insurance businesses. About VinFast VinFast - a member of Vingroup – envisioned to drive the movement of global smart electric vehicle revolution. Established in 2017, VinFast owns a state-of-the-art automotive manufacturing complex with globally leading scalability that boasts up to 90% automation in Hai Phong, Vietnam. Strongly committed to the mission for a sustainable future for everyone, VinFast constantly innovates to bring high-quality products, advanced smart services, seamless customer experiences, and pricing strategy for all to inspire global customers to jointly create a future of smart mobility and a sustainable planet. Learn more at: https://vinfastauto.com About Vingroup Established in 1993, Vingroup is one of the leading private conglomerates in the region, with a total capitalization of $35 billion USD from three publicly traded companies (as of November 4, 2021). Vingroup currently focuses on three main areas: Technology and Industry, Services and Social Enterprise. Find out more at: https://www.vingroup.net/en About INFORM GmbH/INFORM Software Corporation INFORM develops software for the optimization of business processes using Digital Decision Making based on Artificial Intelligence and Operations Research. The company supplements classic IT systems and increases the profitability and resilience of many companies. While data management software only provides information, INFORM systems can analyze large amounts of data in a matter of seconds, calculate numerous decision variants and suggest the best possible solution to the user for implementation. Today, more than 950 software engineers, data analysts and consultants support more than 1,000 customers worldwide in manufacturing, trade, airports, ports, logistics, banks, telecommunication, and insurance companies. Processes including sales planning, production planning, personnel deployment, logistics and transport, inventories, supply chain management as well as fraud prevention in insurance, telecommunication, and payment transactions are optimized. www.inform-software.com

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PROCUREMENT AND SOURCING,FREIGHT

Freight Technologies, Inc. Collaborates with Prestigious University in Mexico

Freight Technologies, Inc. | December 02, 2022

Freight Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: FRGT), (“Fr8Tech''), a technology company based on its custom-developed Fr8App platform, is powered by AI and machine learning and offers a real-time portal for B2B cross-border shipping and domestic shipping within the United States-Mexico-Canada (NAFTA) region, expands its training program, Fr8University, by directly collaborating with one of the most prestigious private Universities in Mexico. Fr8University, an educational program offering classroom and on-the-job training for incoming Fr8Tech team members and university students, was started in late 2020 and matriculated its first graduating class in early 2021. Fr8University is now moving beyond training and hiring students by directly entering into a collaborative agreement with a leading University in Mexico to secure the company’s access to talent with the view to ensuring continuity in the Company’s growth as well as providing academia with access to real-time business experiences and technology development challenges. “We have established a University-Company collaboration model, where an alliance has been created for educational reinforcement through the development of specific projects around new technologies. With this, we reaffirm our commitment to keep innovating at all times and collaborate with the professional learning community. The market for talent in our sector is increasingly impacting companies within the sector and we believe this alliance will give us a leg up on our competitors while providing a leading university with some unique offerings for its student body.” -Mario Mena, HR director at Fr8App Javier Selgas, CEO of Fr8Tech, said, The students will be immersed in the logistics world by participating in our Fr8University program. With the knowledge gained from our program and their understanding of computer science, the Company gains insights on the latest trends in technology and the students get to have a real impact on some live projects taking place at our company. About Fr8University Fr8University program was initially designed to develop our collaborators by providing training in an extensive list of topics in different areas that facilitated their successful incorporation into the truckload freight industry value chain workspace. Now, Fr8University is expanding its program scope by creating alliances with universities, where university talents have the opportunity to collaborate on real projects that add value to our operation. About Freight Technologies Inc. Freight Technologies (Fr8Tech, Nasdaq: FRGT) is a technology company developing solutions to optimize and automate the supply chain process. Its wholly owned subsidiary Freight App, Inc. (Fr8App) is a B2B cross-border shipping marketplace in the NAFTA region powered by AI and machine learning. Focused on making shipping transparent and efficient, Fr8App provides carriers with increased growth opportunities and shippers with flexibility, visibility and simplicity for the once-complex process of international over-the-road (OTR) shipping. Fr8App uses its proprietary technology platform to connect carriers and shippers and significantly improve matching and operation efficiency via innovative technologies such as live pricing and real-time tracking, digital freight marketplace, broker, transportation management, fleet management, and committed capacity solutions. The company is headquartered in Houston, Texas. For more information, please visit fr8technologies.com

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PROCUREMENT AND SOURCING,SOFTWARE AND TECHNOLOGY

OnProcess announces Agora DSI™ – a software management tool that provides deep new levels of actionable insight across the service supply chain

OnProcess | November 17, 2022

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