For example, Westfalia Technologies is quick to dispel the myth that automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are only for high-rise warehouses. Dan Labell, president, explains that, “While our competitors focus on storing products only one, two or three deep, we have the technology to go from one to 12 deep. Depending on the SKU mix of fast, medium or slow movers, a high density, low bay automated warehouse system is feasible. It really comes down to the SKU mix.”
The company has solutions for facilities as low as 20 feet with equipment that can work with packages, cans, bottles, baking trays, bags and more. Food and beverage companies are a key sector for Westfalia.
At the ProMat 2013 show, Daifuku Webb demo’d the Model 100ST SmartCart Automatic Guided Cart (AGC). “The Model 100ST is low to the ground, allowing it to tunnel under customized carriers,” says the company. “It is available with an automatic hitch for coupling and decoupling carriers. SmartCarts are flexible, low cost Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) that can be used in assembly lines, to deliver pallets to and from stretch wrappers, roller conveyors and palletizers, as well as to simply move loads around a facility. SmartCart’s CartTools and Cart Management System software were recently enhanced making them even easier to use. Customers are able to make their own changes to the system and to troubleshoot problems without outside assistance.”
ITW Warehouse Automation prides itself on being able to “start small” with a customer and then quickly and easily scale up when it’s time to according to Scott Smith, director of marketing. That could mean starting with a case picking solution then graduating to an AS/RS.
Beer distributors comprise a significant portion of ITW Warehouse Automation’s customer base. The proliferation of craft beers, in particular, is changing the market, as well as the warehousing operations that support it, says Smith, who says he’s seeing more customers invest in warehouse automation. A primary objective is to help customers get the most efficiency out of existing facilities and avoid the cost of new construction.
As an independent system integrator, Retrotech’s strategy is to identify warehouse automation solutions that meet the individual customer’s business objectives. For companies who are relatively new to warehouse automation, this unbiased approach can help provide clarity in the decision making process and ultimately save the company from overspending or making the wrong investment for their needs.
Acquisitions, alliances and more
It’s worth noting that a number of acquisitions and alliances have occurred in recent months. In general, this uptick in activity is creating some very interesting partnerships, not to mention companies who are now able to offer customers an incredible selection of products and services.
LogFire, a leading provider of cloud-based supply chain execution and warehouse management solutions, and Blue Ridge, which specializes in planning, forecasting and replenishment solutions, announced a strategic partnership in early January, just prior to the National Retail Federation’s convention in New York City. According to a press release, the partnership will enable retailers to close the loop between demand-shaping activities and product availability.
Greg White, CEO of Blue Ridge, explained that, “Our companies share a vision of a completely connected supply chain that meets the needs of today’s omni-channel retailer. Our multi-tenant solutions allow us to innovate at a rate never before seen in supply chain solutions; providing enhancements throughout the year instead of waiting for an annual release, or a large, risky, costly upgrade effort.”
Diego Pantoja-Navajas, founder and CEO of LogFire, added that, “The cloud has enabled us to provide a cohesive supply chain solution, driven by consumer demand. By seamlessly connecting previously disjointed phases of the supply chain, we ensure that a company’s supply chain management is tightly integrated and visible, increasing efficiencies and creating profit-driving opportunities. Our solutions are not just hosted versions of traditional licensed products, we offer true multi-tenant cloud platform solutions.”
Reflecting on the advantages of the recently announced partnership between the two companies, Larry Ferrere, executive vice president of strategy, business development, and chief marketing office, told Food Logistics that until now, no other company has truly married planning and execution to this degree, “at least not in the cloud.”