“Planning is everything in automation for the solution to last long, sustain the rigour of operations, and achieve the required throughput along with ensuring highest safety standards,” highlights Sangeet Kumar, CEO & Founder, Addverb Technologies.
How is automation shaping the future of logistics?
Driven by increasing customer expectations on faster time-to-markets, delivery accuracy & smaller and customized deliveries, many companies are resorting to automation powered with technological advances. ‘Digital fitness’ is a guiding force in exploiting a whole range of new technologies, from data analytics to automation and platform solutions.
How difficult has it been for you to convince customers on automation advantages?
One of the biggest challenges has been the resistance from customers to adopt the latest technology. So, our team changed their approach and started “Educating the Customer”. This helped build credibility and change the very way in which people think about warehousing; for instance, typically, Indian customers talk about warehouse space in Sq. Ft. terms, but once you start targeting to utilize the height of the warehouse, storage space is measured in Cubic Feet & there is more space utilisation in your existing warehouse. This leads to value unlocking for customers in the same space. As the customer could see their productivity and space utilization going up by 200-300%, adoption eventually became easier.
Another biggest challenge was in building a stable and reliable supplier base across the country and globally. Manufacturing of these high-tech industrial products require lot of spare parts from across the globe and procuring them at the right time and right quality significantly impacts a project delivery & performance. But with time, business expansion and streamlining of our operations, we overcame that challenge.
What have been the challenges in implementing automation in the already up & running platform?
Limitation with Solution Engineering: It is very important to understand that automation is not merely application of some products, but it involves detailed engineering determining the flow of material, unit of handling, storage mechanism etc. While doing a greenfield project, you can innovate with these parameters, but while doing a brownfield project, you have relatively less freedom and it is not a wise idea to disrupt the ongoing operation. It becomes critical to integrate the existing operation with the new automated operation. Also, many a times, infrastructure becomes a challenge as it is difficult to change any infrastructure in an ongoing operation.
Integration with Software Platforms: Integration in case of a greenfield project is much easier. With a brownfield expansion project, the software layer like a WCS or WES must be integrated in such a way that it does not hamper the ongoing operations or change the existing software integration drastically. Also, in many cases, this leads to higher number of touch points and as such increases the complexity of the software integration. We address this problem through our modular software architecture.
What’s the step by step approach to go for incremental automation in logistics?
Planning is everything in automation for the solution to last long, sustain the rigour of operations, and achieve the required throughput along with ensuring highest safety standards. Identifying the need for an automation or drawbacks of the existing systems is the first step towards automation journey. However, to get the right automation solution, one should be clear about the objectives. Because one objective can be achieved through multiple solutions and there is a plethora of technologies available today, so choosing which one to opt for is a daunting task & requires both business understanding as well as process understanding backed by data analysis.
Some of the critical parameters to be considered are:
• Maturity of the technology that is being proposed
• Process dependencies – What are the systems to which the output of this automation will be going to and what are the input feeding systems to it and any special details to be considered
• Criticality of the solution – What are the performance expectations in terms of capacities creation, SKUs to be handled, orders to be processed, productivity to be achieved etc.
• Existing infrastructure – How flexible are existing systems, processes and their capability to support this automation, sometimes a semi-automated solution might yield better results compared to a fully automated system.
• Automation Strategy – Knowing where your facility is on the automation path and determining where you would eventually like to be. It will help in determining where and when to start/upgrade automation.
• Budgets & ROI expectations – One of the first parameters to be evaluated. Comparison of existing total operational costs with the estimated cost of an automated solution will help in better decision making.