Accelerating growth

After the recent acquisition of Cohesio Group, Nishan Wijemanne, CEO at the company, sits down with MHD to talk about what the industry can expect now that the business has joined the larger Körber family.

Körber AG is the holding company of an international technology group with around 10,000 employees worldwide. Head-quartered in Germany, the Group has a global presence with more than 100 locations. In 2018, the group generated €2.5 billion in sales.

Under the Körber logistics brand, the company has product solutions, systems integration and software businesses. Cohesio will join the software business unit of the organisation and will join other leading organisations including Aberle, Cirrus Logistics, DM Logic, HighJump, Inconso and Voiteq.

“This is a really exciting time for us. This gives us the opportunity to take Cohesio to the next level. We’ve had significant growth over the last five years but this investment from Körber will allow us to accelerate that growth and develop our offering even more,” Nishan Wijemanne, CEO of Cohesio Group says.

According to Nishan, this isn’t the first time that Cohesio has been approached to partner with a larger organisation ­­– but Körber is the first company that he felt shared the same values and culture as Cohesio.

“Culturally the alignment was really strong right from the beginning. Where they are heading, the team, their vision and their market strategy– we really felt like this was such a good fit for us,” Nishan says.

Körber has been tracking Cohesio for quite some time, according to Chad Collins, Co-CEO at Körber Logistics Software Business Unit. Cohesio’s rapid growth and prominent market position as one of the leaders in voice solutions within the Asia Pacific region fits well for Körber’s global voice strategy and growth ambitions.

“Cohesio’s market-leading position in the deployment of autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) solutions in the region makes them even more attractive, showing their innovative approach to providing value-adding solutions to their rapidly expanding customer base. With its broad, technology-orientated product and service portfolio, the Cohesio team is an ideal fit for Körber Logistics Systems,” Chad says.

Business as usual

Though going through an acquisition can often create a feeling of uncertainty or change, for Nishan and the team at Cohesio it’s business as usual. “In some ways it’s a little emotional, somewhat a case of our baby’s all grown up, but at the same time many aspects of our day to day operations will be business as usual.  Körber gives us the tools we need to continue to grow at the rate we have been,” he says.

To meet this growth, Cohesio is expanding its team here in Australia and in the more general Asia Pacific region. With recruitment plans in Singapore, Philippines, Sydney and Melbourne.

For Nishan, Körber’s broad portfolio offers a number of different opportunities, with Cohesio Group customers now able to benefit from the organisations rich portfolio of supply chain solutions.

It also creates a network for Cohesio to learn and share experiences across different verticals, something that Nishan has seen start to take place already. “The level engagement after the announcement was very high. We’ve having a whole bunch of new conversations with similar clients who are in the same verticals that we have worked in before,” he says.

One area that Körber was particularly excited about with this acquisition is the work that Cohesio is doing in the AMR space as it would add to their growing and extensive automation solution-set. “AMR is very attractive right now to Körber, and with Cohesio they really saw a pioneer that could help them move forward in this space,” Nishan says.

Körber is approaching the AMR solution space as a market leader, having recently appointed John Santagate as Vice President of Robotics in USA. John is building a global strategy for AMR. “Körber is developing its own vision of how they want to move this tech going forward and we are a major part of that,” Nishan says.

Cohesio is an experienced player in this space, with a number of major robotic deployment projects under their belt. “Deploying robots are easy. However, implementing them into a solution environment is critical. By having thorough understanding of DC workflows, the operational opportunities, the local support and infrastructure, Cohesio brings a powerful proposition for those looking for AMR solutions in this region,” Nishan says.

Early adopters

In Nishan’s experience, some organisations are apprehensive about implementing AMR. “There is a lot of interest for sure, but at the same time there is a bit of apprehension. Some people are a bit reluctant to take that leap of faith,” he says.

What Nishan has found is that many businesses think that AMR is built largely for e-commerce, so if they’re not operating in that area they think it isn’t the right solution for them. “I beg to differ, we like to challenge the norm and we have found significant productivity and efficiency gains across a number of different sectors,” he says.

This is evident in the Galipo Foods deployment of voice solutions and automation. When Galipo first approached Cohesio, the business was turning over $45 million annually. Seven years later after using Cohesio-designed warehouse execution software, voice-activated solutions and automation the organisation now makes $110 million every year.

“This is a great example for us. We knew we could prove the case and now we are rolling out phase two as the business is realising significant benefits. They can service their clients quicker, get trucks out the door quicker and make their deliveries quicker. We were able to modify a traditional workflow with our solutions. To apply a pick to pallet model with AMR – this had never been done before,” Nishan says.

There is a lack of knowledge with AMR because it is so fresh and new, people think it’s about moving a rack with a robot and yes it can be as simple as that, Nishan says,

but it’s the level of throughput that the tech offers that is so impressive. Cohesio has the ability to design a dynamic AMR solution with desired flexibility, scalability, growth demands and cost reduction due to non-existence of fixed assets in DCs factored in right from the outset.

While AMR presents a number of significant benefits, Cohesio works closely with clients to work out if it is the right solution. “We want to understand where the business is heading and work out if AMR is the right solution. It’s not fit for everybody, we often have to tell an organisation that they are not ready yet but they could revisit the idea in six months’ time and in the mean time they could change certain processes to improve productivity,” Nishan says.

Nishan says that for Cohesio, it’s more about understanding the journey the client is on rather than putting an order in for how many robots they or racks they think they may need.

Benefits of a local partner

One of Cohesio’s strengths is that they have a local presence in the Asia Pacific region. This was attractive to Körber as they were keen to expand their presence in this market and claim a global market leadership approach.

“For Körber it was about entering APAC with a strong player, rather than trying to create this kind of footprint themselves,” Nishan says.

When implementing new technology and automation one area that should not be overlooked is change management, an area that Cohesio has a lot of experience in.

“We’re very involved in every step with our clients. We start off having a look through their DC, understanding the level of sophistication they have currently,” Nishan says.

“Putting in new tech requires a lot of change management, we do a lot of that with our process. We advise our clients to involve employees from the outset. To make sure they are engaged from day one,” Nishan says.

Cohesio also tries to put the onus back on the operators and ensure that they have super users, so that they are able to have support on hand.

“We’re not about selling a solution and then offering a hefty support contract. That’s not how we work. We’ll be there at 3am if we need to and we want to empower our clients so that they have a high understanding of the tech as they move through the sophistication levels,” Nishan says.

A shared vision

Looking to the future both Körber and Cohesio have the shared goal of innovation. “We’re doing some really exciting things at the moment and so is Körber. We’re looking at real-time analysis traffic in the warehouse for example. The possibility of smart watches from a health and safety perspective. There’s so much scope for us,” Nishan says.

“Combining the capabilities of Körber Logistics Systems and Cohesio enables companies on a global scale to capitalise on all voice and AMR technologies have to offer, and in turn, benefit from an automated, connected supply chain of the future,” Chad says.

For Cohesio their market approach and strategy will be unchanged.  They will continue to innovate and challenge the status quo within logistics and distribution. “Körber has been very clear that we are not to slow down, they want us to continue to run our own race but we now have the financial stability and support to take Cohesio to the next level,” Nishan says.

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