Making Waves: Robotics, AI, Drones & Blockchain in the Supply Chain WarehouseSupply chain industry innovators introduce blockchain, robotics, AI, IoT & drones
Innovation is all around us. If it seems that technology is evolving at a faster pace than ever before, you may be correct. To some people, it seems like only a few years ago, the world of computer science was being taken by storm by the invention of the tablet. For many years, innovation plodded along at a reasonable pace, primarily focused on hardware and software. Now mechanical engineers are evolving robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to do things we could only visualize in science fiction movies.
In this edition of Making Waves, we take a look at companies that are impacting the supply chain logistics industry through their use of innovative technology solutions using: industrial robots, drones, cloud computing, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and Big Data.
IAM Robotics: Robotics for the Modern Warehouse
Question: What is Swift, has a patent for piece-picking and helps warehouses increase workforce productivity?
Answer: IAM Robotics, the 5+ year Carnegie Mellon University spinout company that developed the world’s first mobile picking robot.
As the number of individual online orders continues to expand, supply chain operators need more warehouse workers for e-commerce order fulfillment. Current labor estimates reveal that a labor shortage is anticipated in the warehouse industry for the foreseeable future.
The IAM Robotics team reports that their solution is nearly market ready. Before an IAM robot can work in warehouse operations, the items that the robot will handle are scanned. The robotics technology solution relies on a unique 3D product scanner known as “Flash”. Flash records the item’s measurements and takes high resolution images then loads the information into Swift, the robot.
Crowdz: Blockchain Accelerates Business Commerce
Built on the tamper-proof Ethereum blockchain, Crowdz ZenoChain™ uses an API-based interface to onboard suppliers to the transaction network, making the process quick and affordable. According to industry estimates, the B2B commerce market worldwide will exceed $25 trillion by 2020. By that time only 11% of US B2B sales and 23% of global B2B sales will be digitized. Recognizing both global challenge and opportunity, Crowdz has developed solutions based on B-commerce, blockchain-based commerce. In contrast to other blockchain solutions developed for business, Crowdz was developed to synchronize and accelerate business commerce.
With seven pending patents, Crowdz is poised to make a big splash in the supply chain logistics industry. Currently a beta version of the Crowdz sourcing system is in use by 240 seller companies, offering a total of 1.3 million products. Using blockchain’s distributed, fixed ledgers and disseminated operation facilitates development of permanent databases with vital information including inventory levels, product attributes and provenance, transaction histories and much more. Using this system, transactions can be automated and other activities including the matching of buyers and sellers using artificial intelligence and dynamic price optimization can be facilitated. The Crowdz marketplace is an interconnected network. Each action can trigger additional actions automatically, enabling faster, more accurate transactions across the globe.
Pathover: AI Powers E-commerce for Grocery Retailers
Artificial intelligence for grocery store product delivery to consumers? Not so far fetched any more. A dedicated team of logistics experts have joined forces to crack the code in the slim margin grocery industry.
Taking advantage of their logistics expertise, Pathover has developed a solution that is able to minimize delivery and does not require payment of set up fees, monthly subscription fees or commissions by the grocers. This is possible because Pathover eliminates inefficiencies in the end-to-end delivery process. By handling the logistics operations, grocers can focus on their core business and eliminate the need for capital investments in equipment and technology to handle payment processing, deliveries and more.
G-360 makes it easy for grocers by providing them with a user-friendly interface to automatically create e-commerce sites and integrate with point-of-sale systems. G-360 is also compatible with existing ecommerce frameworks.
Key to the success of Pathover is its inclusion of artificial intelligence, self-learning technology systems that can mine and search data to find the lowest cost delivery options, recognize data patterns such as sales performance and much more. Pathover technology aids in automating manual processes to reduce labor, time and cost.
ShipChain: Blockchain for Freight & Logistics
Across the globe, freight and logistics are essential elements of everyday life. In the U.S., freight and logistics account for over $1.5 trillion annually. Plagued by inefficiencies, labor shortages, complexity, regulatory challenges and cargo theft, the transportation, freight and logistics industry needs cost effective solutions. After all, freight truly makes the world go ‘round.
Over the past decades, companies have started to embrace technology to help optimize transportation and logistics operations and reduce costs, yet the adoption has often been half-hearted and has not solved the most pressing problems. Enter blockchain. Across the supply chain logistics industry landscape, innovative start up companies are leveraging blockchain for more than cryptocurrency.
The ShipChain ecosystem can be used for all types of freight and enables track and trace of shipments from the time they leave the factory through the last mile delivery process to the consumer.
Using the blockchain platform, Ethereum, ShipChain creates smart contracts which digitize and automate transaction recordkeeping operations. As an order is placed, the blockchain contract creates a Bill of Lading. As contract conditions are met, the blockchain systems sets operations in motion, releasing payments from escrow once delivery has been made and the smart contract has been verified.
The entire shipping process can be automated using ShipChain, reducing the labor cost and processing time to the minimum. This includes route planning and scheduling, contract management to outsourced transportation and logistics providers and much more. ShipChain will determine the transportation method as well as the route for each specific shipment. Throughout the entire logistics process, parties to the process will have full visibility and traceability, eliminating human error and the opportunity for fraud. This eliminates the need for freight brokers completely. Another upside is that the ShipChain solution also provides an incentive program to reward solid performance for on time deliveries and minimized idle time.
During its beta phase, ShipChain attracted substantial backing from notable investors and raised over $30 million in funding. Accepted as a member of the Enterprise Ethereal Alliance (EEA), ShipChain is now included in the prestigious group which includes such trusted brands as Microsoft, Intel and MasterCard.
PINC: IoT, Drones & Robotics for Warehouse & Yard Management
Across a variety of industries, businesses have recognized that transportation delays often start in the yards of manufacturing plants, warehouses and distribution centers. During the shipment lifecycle, goods can traverse multiple yards, each with errors and inefficiencies. During this process, these problems become amplified, leading to multiple effects and delays across the supply chain.
PINC leverages a combination of the latest technologies including IoT, drones and cloud computing to provide a seamless flow of actionable data that can be used for decision making, process improvements and other purposes, providing immediate value.
For companies in need of an innovative cloud solution for advanced yard management, PINC solutions provide the means to increase visibility, manage dock, assets, gate, yard and network operations efficiently. Utilizing a considerable network of IoT sensors including GPS, RFID, optical and cellular technologies enables PINC to capture and provide real time information via a web API. PINC automates warehouse yard operational processes, can be integrated with existing systems and provides data rich reports to help optimize performance.
Will robots take over the world? Not today, but they can take over the tedious task of conducting inventory checks. One aspect of the PINC technology solution suite is inventory robotics, warehouse inventory drones that can be used on demand to conduct inventory checks and avoid the use of human workers. PINC solutions are used in the automotive, food and beverage, 3PL, manufacturing and retail industries.
From Wall Street to Hong Kong, companies across the world are imagining a world in which blockchain technology can be used to solve some of the supply chain industry’s most pressing problems. With venture capital, imagination and some motivated innovators, the future of blockchain technology seems bright.
Energy efficient humanoid robots working in blast chillers of cold storage warehouses? Robot dogs, specialists in fetch robotics working in the warehouse? What’s next?
Today’s supply chain is exploding with new, innovative ideas for hardware and software, alternative power sources and much more. Maybe in a few years, every warehouse will have to have its own robotics team and mechanical engineer and warehouse workers will need to know robotics basics as part of day-to-day operations? Quite possibly.
Blockchain technology may turn out to be the most valuable intellectual property on the planet (and in the digital world) if it is able to live up to its initial promise to do much more than enable people to buy bitcoins. This invisible technology that’s changing the way the business world looks at transactions and traceability is already nearly ready for prime time. Look out Satoshi Nakamoto. Blockchain is currently being examined for well beyond the world wide supply chain, but also for digital currency, land registry, private key access control, smart contracts, medical records, financial transactions and central banking and food traceability. Could this be as transformative as the world wide web? Who knows, but you do not need to be a Harvard Business School graduate to see the potential in this technology and the significant benefits for companies that adopt blockchain.
Blockchain networks operate as immutable, transaction based distributed ledgers. For those especially concerned about cybersecurity, permissioned blockchains have an access control layer that limits certain actions so that they can only be performed by specific identifiable participants. This would enable businesses the ability to secure especially sensitive information such as medical records and financial transactions, improving the likelihood of blockchain adoption in these industries.
According to the “Summary of the 2018 White House Summit on AI for American Industry”, artificial intelligence, commonly referred to as AI is already in the process of transforming American life and industry. Whether your perspective mirrors that of Bill Gates or Elon Musk, one has to admit that using AI can help meet some of the greatest challenges faced by the supply chain industry today.
Is artificial intelligence useful in the supply chain? No longer science fiction, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used in voice recognition for natural language processing, as well as in software development, data management and operations research for warehouse, distribution centers and supply chain operations. The use of AI enables systems to take Big Data for a wild ride, providing in depth, business intelligence including advanced analytics, predictive trends and forecasts, pattern recognition and more, highly relevant insight to supply chain operations and manufacturing. Artificial intelligence technology is at the boiling point, ready to erupt and bring forth a world of more accurate forecasts, faster operations and new possibilities. Using AI enables operations to potentially operate faster and more accurately, saving time, resources and money.
From life-changing technologies and artificial intelligence to robotics and blockchain, the supply chain industry is evolving and improving its position to better respond to the fast-paced consumer demand for e-commerce omnichannel ordering and last mile delivery and changing supply chain. That is good news for all of us.
We invite you to read more about other innovators in the supply chain and logistics industry in our previous blogs:
- Darkstore, last mile delivery/on demand fulfillment and delivery
- Deliv, last mile delivery
- ShipHawk, transportation management platform
- Narvar, CX for omnichannel retail
- Postmates, last mile delivery/on demand delivery
- Transfix, transportation and logistics
- KeepTruckin ELD, transportation and logistics
- Elementum, supply chain network management
- Shippo, freight and shipping management
- Doorman, last mile logistics/last mile delivery
- Roadie, last mile logistics/last mile delivery
- Trucker Path, transportation
- Bringg, last mile logistics/last mile delivery
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