Graph stock held by manufacturers and retailers, as measured by Days of Supply in Inventory (DSI), has actually risen over the past ten years

Inventory levels booming, not receding

It could be assumed that several decades after supply chain management practices such as ‘lean’, ‘build-to-order’ and ‘just-in-time’ became accepted across industry, inventory levels would have seen a steady and inexorable decline.
However, the latest report by Transport Intelligence, Inventory Benchmarking Vertical Sector Trends, has found that the stock held by manufacturers and retailers, as measured by Days of Supply in Inventory (DSI), has actually risen over the past ten years.
This data, based on the financial reports of 187 manufacturers and retailers located around the world reveals that, on average, companies in 2017 were holding ten more days’ stock than in 2008: increasing from 80 to 90 days.​ The research also found that the retail industry operates with the lowest average DSI: 33 days in 2017. At the other end of the spectrum, the pharmaceutical sector operates with an average of 186 days.
One of the authors of the report Professor John Manners-Bell said this indicates that reducing inventory levels is just one of a number of competing goals for many companies.
“Despite the textbooks telling us that inventory reduction should be the main goal for supply chain managers, the present market environment requires a far more sophisticated approach, balancing a range of important objectives,” Professor John Manners-Bell said.
Examples of this new approach include Walmart, which now regards the availability of stock to purchase by consumers as a major factor in its existential battle with Amazon, despite the inevitable consequence of higher inventory.​ Lenovo and Hewlett Packard took a similar approach to building up inventory in order to maintain product availability in physical stores in contrast with Dell’s lean inventory strategy.​ Risk is also a factor, as companies seek to avoid the supply chain problems they faced after a number of high profile disruptive events in the early part of the decade, such as the Thai floods and Japanese tsunami.
Co-author Andy Ralls added: “A focus on achieving an appropriate amount of inventory is and always will be hugely important to efficient supply chain management. However, as our research shows, competing priorities, be they driven by e-commerce, changing customer demands, product development, risk or even regulatory requirements, have caused many companies to fundamentally assess their supply chain strategies.”

About Inventory Benchmarking Vertical Sector Trends

A critical benchmark for inventory management, Inventory Benchmarking Vertical Sector Trends compares many of the world’s leading manufacturers and retailers against key financial supply chain metrics.
In particular it:

  • Defines the key ratios available from financial disclosures.
  • Conducts a by-industry vertical sector analysis of inventory management and benchmarking data for the high tech, automotive, retail, pharmaceutical, fashion and consumer goods industries.
  • Examines the supply chain and inventory management strategies of selected blue chip companies with reference to these benchmarks.
  • Where available, examines the different types of inventory held by these companies and how these have changed.
  • Compares and contrasts the performance of these companies.

More information is available here.

From MHD magazine: Sshhhh… it’s a secret!

Helen Masters

Imagine a world where customers care about how products are sourced, made, and delivered, understand what goes into pricing, and generally take great joy in the experience. A world where customers are fluent in the language of supply chain.
It’s not as far-fetched as you may think.
Supply chains solve complex problems, and in the company of supply chain professionals, we use big words and complicated terms to talk about it. Words like multi-modal logistics and global transportation, mass-customisation and postponement, procurement and letters of credit, demand management, the cost of inventory and buffer stock, assurance of supply, warehousing, and the last mile.
We nit-pick over the differences between distribution and fulfilment centres, debate the true definition of supply chain visibility and the role of control towers to support orchestration across a complex network of suppliers, trading partners, and carriers. And we’re still not sure if our industries are facing an apocalypse or simply working through the growing pains of transformation in the digital age.
It’s a mouthful. And as we dive into the technical details and jargon that comprise the modern language of supply chain, one can’t help but picture the average consumer’s eyes glazing over.
But that’s not necessarily the case. There’s mounting evidence people care more about supply chain than ever – they’re just not using our words for it.
Therein lies the secret.

“[The] supply chain can also be related in common terms, as a story of what went into the creation and delivery of a product, and the meaning it has to the all-important customer.”

The words used to describe supply chain were different at the recent Shoptalk Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, a gathering of more than 2,500 retailers, start-ups, technologists, and investors all focused on the worlds of retail, fashion, and ecommerce. Though most attendees weren’t purely in the business of operations and supply chain, all were exploring how to reach, engage, and enlighten the customer wherever and whenever they might choose to shop.
And as technology continues to smooth the seams of commerce, the lines between supply chain, stores, digital, and omni-channel have all seemed to blur, and the only thing that really matters (or that’s always mattered) is the customer at the centre of it all.
 Stop and listen
Listen closely enough to your customers and internal stakeholders, and you’ll hear discussions about supply chain’s growing role in an increasingly digital world. People understand and talk about things like visibility and logistics, pricing, and how products are made more than ever – and the effect they have on people’s lives.
Customers care about logistics. They expect to know when and how a product will arrive, what it costs, and what happens if they’re not available to receive it. Gone are the days where a three- to five-hour (or day) delivery window was an acceptable practice.
One example of this evolution is Picnic, a Dutch grocery start-up that, in the words of founder Joris Beckers, has reinvented the milk man. Like the delivery services of yore, Picnic focuses on the direct relationship between the service provider – in this case a delivery driver – and the customer. Picnic solves for the last mile not with stores or outsourced delivery services, but with a fleet of custom-designed electric trucks built for urban areas and driven by delivery people who consistently work the same route in the same neighbourhood every day.
The result is a customer base that’s not only loyal, but that in many cases has adopted their driver as a part of the community. That direct relationship is backed by technology that, similar to Uber, shows customers exactly when their order will arrive and where it is – from the distribution centre all the way to their front door. Though the company started small, Picnic grew fast and grabbed investors’ attention along the way. And while Beckers doesn’t talk supply chain directly, the business has clearly won its customers on shipment visibility, real-time logistics data, and the seamless integration of assortment, inventory, payments, and delivery.
For better or worse, we live in an age of instant access to information. And that access has given customers more insight into how products are made and their true cost. Some businesses are turning that into a competitive advantage.
Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin also presented at Shoptalk, as his company – now owned by Unilever – plans to scale the business and expand overseas. In its rise from modest subscription start-up to a $1bn business, Dollar Shave Club won its customers not only with clever marketing, but with a price and delivery scheme that gave customers greater transparency into what shaving and grooming products actually cost. The company built up a base of more than 4.25m subscribers – all of whom care about receiving products from a low-cost supplier at consistent service levels and with an assortment tailored to their specific needs. To Dubin, DSC is as much a community as it is a business. One that grew because of its supply chain.
For a growing number of people, it’s not just important to know how a product’s made, it’s true cost, or whether or not it’s in stock. Many consumers also want to know whether a product is ethically sourced, has a low environmental impact, or is made under humane working conditions.
One example of customers pushing brands to show their work in supply chain is fast-fashion retailer H&M. The apparel industry is notorious for its waste, environmental impact, and treatment of workers, a fact that makes fast fashion that much more sensitive a space. To help mitigate these concerns, H&M not only adopted practices like clothes recycling, annual sustainability reports, and product listings that go beyond price and description, but also show where a garment is made and what raw materials and processes go into them. Clear signs that customers care about the supply chain even if they don’t use the same words as we practitioners do to describe it.
Ultimately, the supply chain was a big part of Shoptalk Europe – even though only a small slice of its presentations were explicitly about supply chain. And as research has shown, 61% of millennial shoppers will switch brands because of some issue directly related to the supply chain, whether it’s quality, availability, how it treats its workers, or its impact on the environment. They just don’t use the same words as most people in operations and supply chain to describe their feelings.
In any industry, not just fashion and retail, the supply chain has a wider impact than we may think. After all, delivery methods, shopping experiences, transparency, and product insight all derive from some aspect of supply chain. Whether we’re trying to sell customers on this fact or even internal stakeholders within a different part of the company, it’s important to remember that the words we use matter. Indeed, supply chain is a space ripe for analysis, data science, academic study, and creative thinking.
And with the high complexity and widely distributed nature of today’s global supply chains, it’s no wonder we often describe them in polysyllabic and seemingly monolithic terms. But it’s worth remembering that supply chain can also be related in common terms, as a story of what went into the creation and delivery of a product, and the meaning it has to the all-important customer.
Perhaps the secret to making people care about the supply chain is to not talk about supply chain itself, but about the difference it makes in peoples’ lives. There is commonality among all these examples. It’s not just about changes to the world – it’s about how supply chain makes the world a better place.
Helen Masters is the vice president and managing director of Infor South Asia, ANZ & ASEAN. For more information www.infor.com.
 

Warehouse inventory using drones: nearly there

After almost two years of development, the completely automatic warehouse inventory system using drones, by GEODIS and Delta Drone, will be operational at the end of 2018.
More than 1,000 flight hours in prototype mode across three pilot warehouses were required to arrive at this product, which allows companies to perform completely automatic warehouse inventories without interrupting their usual operations or requiring any human intervention. The main advantages are the productivity gains generated by performing the inventories outside warehouse operating hours, greater safety at work for the site’s employees, who no longer have to carry out this tedious and sometimes risky task, and a greater reliability of the inventory.
In the prototyping phase, multiple tests were carried out in real operating conditions in order to meet the specific constraints of warehouses, such as low light or the impact that the plastic film covering pallets has on image capturing, which required special adaptations to the cameras embedded in the drones.
This phase ended in 2017 with the development of a complete ‘plug and play’ system that can be easily moved from one warehouse to another without requiring that any prior changes be made to the warehouse. It also adapts to all types of warehouse management systems (WMS).

Based on these positive results, GEODIS and Delta Drone are now working on producing a system that can be manufactured, focusing their attention on the solution’s design and the final choice of the best components. The aim is to move to the industrial production stage at the end of the year. Initially, GEODIS will be the exclusive user of this product in its own warehouses.
The system designed by the GEODIS and Delta Drone engineering teams is unique. It combines a ground-based robot equipped with a battery that provides the energy needed to navigate a warehouse and allows freedom from autonomy constraints, and a quadcopter drone equipped with four high-definition cameras. This set, equipped with indoor geolocation technology, operates autonomously during the hours the site is closed. From an IT point of view, the set-up enables the counting and reporting of data in real time, the processing of data, and its restitution into the warehouse’s information system. The tests conducted during this initial development phase show that the system enables inventory to be managed reliably with rates close to 100%.
 
 
 
 

Hays releases 2018 Jobs In Demand report

Recruiting firm Hays has released its latest Jobs In Demand report, covering January to June 2018.
The company expects strong demand to continue in the logistics industry for persons with expertise in the areas of inventory management, import/export, wharves and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) planning.
“Across Australia, positive productivity is linked to efficiency improvements, be that in warehousing, transport or supply chain,” the company said. “Companies are targeting candidates who have a strong knowledge of systems and processes, combined with a proven track record in reducing costs and achieving demanding KPIs [key performance indicators].”
The report identified several roles that the industry is currently keen to fill, including storepersons with inventory management software experience, import/export coordinators with cargo software knowledge, fleet controllers with wharf experience, demand and supply planners with FMCG experience.
Experience in purchasing will also be in demand, as will candidates with knowledge of inventory management software such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and SAP software.
Hays is also seeing an increased need for logistics candidates with heavy rigid or heavy combination licences.

Amazon developing own delivery service

Anonymous sources have informed news site Bloomberg that Amazon is planning to launch its own US delivery service, ‘Seller Flex’, which has been designed to ease overcrowding in its warehouses and make more items eligible for two-hour delivery.
Research for the US pilot project reportedly began in India two years ago, with Amazon now in discussions with US sellers ahead of a national rollout in 2018.
The sources said that through the service, Amazon will manage parcel delivery from warehouses of third-party sellers to the customer’s delivery address, a role until now performed by delivery partners such as FedEx and UPS.
Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper noted that the relationship between Amazon and its delivery partners may well continue, though the e-commerce company would gain more control over how a package is sent.
He added that this would give Amazon more flexibility and control over the final mile to customers’ doors – opening up opportunities for volume discounts – and help it streamline its warehouse inventory operations, by having external sellers store their goods in their own facilities.
“Amazon’s final-mile efforts reflect a logical extension of its model as it builds network density,” Benjamin Hartford, a Robert W. Baird analyst, told Bloomberg.

Stibo Systems software certified by GS1

Master Data Management (MDM) solutions provider Stibo Systems recently announced that its STEP Trailblazer product has been officially certified by GS1 Australia. It enables suppliers and brand owners to load and maintain the National Product Catalogue in order to provide item and price synchronisation to trading partners.
STEP Trailblazer is a B2B platform that facilitates product data management and B2B transactions between trading partners across the supply-chain process for organisations in the retail, food, manufacturing, CPG, healthcare, agribusiness, transport and automotive industries.
The National Product Catalogue is GS1 Australia’s data synchronisation solution for the Australian and New Zealand markets, allowing trading partners to exchange product details, pricing, trade and marketing-related information across all product categories. The National Product Catalogue Certification Program is conducted by GS1 Australia and is designed to certify a product’s ability to meet the local National Product Catalogue supplier and data source requirements by all engaged industry sectors. The program certifies a product’s ability to meet local requirements.
“Organisations often struggle to trade and transport goods because of inaccurate and incomplete supply-chain data,” said Willem van Dijk, Managing Director, Stibo Systems. “This diminishes agility and impacts the ability to set up new products. Stibo Systems’ STEP Trailblazer solution helps suppliers and brand owners to quickly and easily connect to the NPC, and improves the data exchange throughout the entire supply chain. This reduces errors and creates accurate, up-to-date and compliant information.”
John Hearn, Head of Data & Digital Content Services, GS1 Australia, added, “The certification program is only available to GS1 Australia Alliance Partners. These partners need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the components of the GS1 system, forming the basis for data synchronisation.
“We are delighted to have successfully completed the National Product Catalogue Certification Program with Stibo Systems. We look forward to working with them and their clients to ensure the data synchronisation functionality is a smart and secure way to share product data between trading partners.”

Clorox outsources supply chain to DHL

Family supplies brand Clorox has chosen to outsource distribution of its products around Australia to DHL Supply Chain.
According to a statement, the partnership reflects Clorox’s focus on customer service, innovation and consistency.
Clorox’s decided to outsource its warehousing operation to achieve a more standardised and customer-centric approach, allowing the company to meet customer demands while removing the stress of distribution.
“We were looking for a partner who understands its customers’ business and responds quickly,” said Mike Fraser, Regional Logistics Manager, Clorox. “DHL Supply Chain has enabled us to maintain high levels of speed, reliability and quality control in our logistics processes, allowing us to stay competitive in the industry and help transform our end-to-end logistics operations.
“Our goal is that when a customer reaches for a product at the supermarket, it’s there. With DHL Supply Chain, we are confident that all of our products will be delivered on time and in full. We continue to look to them as a logistics partner of choice for future growth.”
DHL Supply Chain implemented a range of warehouse and supply chain improvements to Clorox’s operations across Australia, including warehousing, value-added services and inventory reduction, helping Clorox improve productivity by developing a more flexible operating model.
“The implementation of the 3PL (third-party logistics) service provided to Clorox has been achieved in just over three months, a process that would traditionally take six,” said Saul Resnick, CEO, DHL Supply Chain Australia and New Zealand.
“For fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) businesses, the logistics process is critical as consumer purchasing decisions are largely based on availability. We ensure all stock is delivered to stores when promised and with as little manual intervention as possible,” he concluded.

Found in translation – Exporting the Australian logistics mindset

This article first appeared in the February/March 2017 issue of Logistics & Materials Handling.
Three Australian logistics veterans have been tasked with rethinking Japan’s supply chain strategy, mixing the traditional and the modern to achieve unprecedented growth.
Even when you’re the biggest name in your market, that’s no reason to rest on your laurels. While Coca-Cola is the market leader for beverages in Japan, there are five other major players vying for a share of the action. Market pricing has been declining steadily over the past 16 years, putting a squeeze on margins and forcing beverage suppliers to stay vigilant to remain relevant. According to Bruce Herbert, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Coca-Cola East Japan (CCEJ), consolidation and diversification have been key strategies for many in the industry. “Coke in Japan is not just carbonated drinks, over half our volume is sugar-free teas, coffee and water,” he says. “A very strong innovation and new product pipeline has to be filled every year from our own plants and a network of contract packers.”
Covering over half of Japan and serving a population of 60 million, Coca-Cola distributor CCEJ is in a constant state of metamorphosis, always looking for ways to increase efficiency and cut costs. The US$6 billion ($8.2 billion) bottler was originally formed in 2013 through the merging of four smaller bottlers and has since absorbed a fifth one. It will soon merge with Japan’s next biggest beverage distributor – Coca-Cola West – and cover some 90 per cent of the market. Set to take place in 2017, the merger will increase the company’s value to US$10 billion ($13.7 billion) and increase its assets from eight factories to 17, 250 sales warehouses from 150, and 800,000 vending machines from 400,000 and 3,500 daily semi-trailer loads shifted per day from 2,000.
CCEJ recruited supply chain experts from around the world, including Bruce, to come to Japan and lend their expertise and, as a result, has been hugely successful in cutting costs and increasing profit. Bruce is joined by two other Australian supply chain experts, cherry-picked for their knowledge of the beverage and retail industries with decades of experience working with supply chains in Australia, Asia and Africa – Edward Walters, now Senior Executive Officer, Planning, Logistics & Distribution at CCEJ; and Distribution Transformation Manager, David Sim.
The Japanese market has presented a challenge, thanks to the country’s complex traditional business etiquette, though Bruce found its workforce’s strong work ethic and customer service to be worthy of admiration. “In Australia we take for granted that change and improvement are part of working life,” he says. “Especially at [Coca-Cola’s Australian-based bottler, ed.] Amatil, where supply chain transformation has been progressing since the mid-90s and many world-leading initiatives were started. Coming to a business which was effectively five small Japanese businesses just three years ago, I have realised just how far ahead some of those things we were doing in Australia were.
“In one way we have a big advantage of having lived in what will be ‘the future state’ for the supply chain here. Of course, there are many things to be learnt from the Japan model as well, but knowing that changes needed here have worked elsewhere gives us a big head start.
“I respect the Japanese working style. My Japanese colleagues are extremely hardworking and focused on detail, in a way that most Australians would find very challenging. Workers regularly work very late in the office, never hesitate to stay back or work over weekends and don’t give up on a problem. So much so that Government and companies are focused on encouraging people to relax more and take more time off, take more holidays etc. – this is definitely not a problem in Australia.”
The Japanese approach to life in general, including even how seemingly ‘logical’ issues are approached is quite different to the West, according to Bruce. “Not better or worse, but different,” he adds. “Whilst basic human reactions and motivations are the same, the way they express themselves is different. Relationships are much more important and sensitive here, as is loyalty to the business or community. All of these things translate into business culture and relationships.”
In some aspects, Australia’s logistics sector could benefit from observing the Japanese workplace, says Bruce. In particular, he believes that the value placed on quality and customer service in Japan would do wonders for Australian business. “Japan is surely the most quality-focused country on earth, and customer service is seen as an extension of quality,” he says. “Near enough is not good enough, perfection is sought after and worked towards at every level. It is deeply ingrained into everyday life – I don’t think we would ever have to ‘train’ for customer service as it is intrinsically understood. This often leads to failures by multi-national companies who don’t understand what Japanese consumers and customers expect. Likewise: quality. Australian businesses may be more ‘lean’ but often do so at the cost of customer service and quality.”
CCEJ looked at successful logistics strategies in use around the developed world when searching for ideas to rejuvenate their own approach and, according to Bruce, flexibility and a laid-back Australian style have been instrumental in ‘cracking the code’ for the company’s logistics strategy. “I think openness to different ideas has been key,” he shares.
“I experienced some changes put in place here earlier by some of our colleagues from the US, but many of them did not work as they were simply ‘cut and pasted’ ideas from the US. Aussies may be proud of their country, but they usually don’t expect that they have all the answers.”
Edward likens the challenge of solving CCEJ’s issues to the task of unravelling a badly tangled set of Christmas lights – difficult to unravel without breaking a light and stopping the business. “We discovered that, over many years on the quest to providing high service and quality, network efficiency at CCEJ had been eroded severely,” Bruce adds. “This had happened steadily and high transport, warehouse and other costs had been accepted as ‘normal’. As there was little benchmarking of supply chain costs outside Japan, and since the costs were not easily ‘visible’, they had not been tackled by investment or progressive change either and a gap grew between global practice and Japan Coca-Cola practice.”
In order to ‘crack the code’, Bruce shares that two major changes needed to be introduced. “First was a painful implementation of a new SAP ERP system which replaced multiple legacy systems and gave central visibility to live data,” he says. “Second was more instinctive – we cut inventory by about 20 per cent – a very brave move in Japan – and thereby decongested the network, eliminating double handling, waiting times, extra transport and product write-off.”
A third big change, which is currently in progress, involves moving inventory upstream, closing small sales centres and cross-docking others, together with possible investment in new warehouses at plants and picking automation. CCEJ is already seeing positive results from the change, with over 25 billion JPY ($290 million) supply chain savings both from manufacturing and logistics/distribution improvement since its inception in 2013.“This year, heavy transport cost is down 20 per cent and write-offs are down 50 per cent,” Bruce shares. “So we are already almost halfway to the long-term cost reduction goal after just one year.” The 2017 merger of Coca-Cola East Japan and Coca-Cola West is expected to create opportunities for further savings.
Bruce attributes his team’s success to a combination of factors, from slow and cautious implementation of changes to constant re-evaluation of direction. “We didn’t approach this as a ‘project’,” he says. “We tackled this as a management challenge – to implement changes, monitor them closely and adjust as we went along. In that way the original ‘plans’ were gradually changed – with successes amplified and failures dropped quickly. Good real-time data access and manipulation was crucial here.
“Thanks to methodical and detailed execution of strategies by our team here, the changes we made to inventory levels, planning processes, truck routing, pallet configurations etc. were executed without impacting customers or quality. This meant that the costs we saved were not lost in upset customers or lost sales, but could flow directly to the bottom line.
“We discovered a clear and costly link between inventory levels and transport costs, which had never been uncovered before. I’d like to say we found this by a big analytical study, but actually it only became clear by trial and error – which is why an army of experts and analysts had failed to find it before.”
CCEJ now encourages its employees to make suggestions for improvement of processes, and implements over 100,000 small innovation ideas per year on ways to improve quality, safety, service and cost.
The notoriously rigid traditional Japanese business culture presented a particular challenge for the CCEJ supply chain team, Bruce explains, though they were still able to achieve “massive change and results” thanks to their measured approach. “Resistance to change remains a constant both within the business and with customers and some suppliers,” he says.
“This is largely due to the extremely high standards set by customers and consumers and fear of making big mistakes. We were able to overcome this by making many small progressive changes, and avoiding – for the most part – big bang or sudden, unplanned change.”
Bruce believes that if applied in Australia, his team’s strategy could result in similarly positive outcomes. “The approach we have taken here has been based on numerics and data combined with good management routines, not just ‘hardware’,” he shares. “It can therefore be applied anywhere, to any problems.”
The CCEJ supply chain team have developed their own version of the revered – though oft-misunderstood – ‘Kaizen’ (kai: change, zen: good) business philosophy whereby big changes can be achieved through small, continuous improvements in all aspects of business. They are confident this method could be applied with success in any business environment. Bruce adds, “All I know is that after 35 years in this game there has never been a change as big and fast as what this team has achieved here in Japan this year.”

Samsung, Packsize receive Australian supply chain excellence award

Packsize International together with its customer Samsung Electronics Australia received the ‘Excellence in Manufacturing Supply Chains’ award during the recent Smart Conference and Expo 2017 event.
Industry judges awarded the On Demand Packaging implementation at Samsung Australia’s Spare Parts and Logistics distribution centre in Sydney. In partnership with DB Schenker, Samsung Australia used Packsize’s custom packaging solution to streamline processes and optimise delivery services. Among the results achieved were production, inventory management, and stock control improvements, less corrugated fiberboard and void fill and reductions in product damage and freight costs.
Within three months of implementing the service, Samsung reported an approximately 50 per cent reduction in concealed damage and a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in the cubic volume of items shipped.
“Stock-takes that required three days can now be done in three hours,” said Samsung Australia’s Spare Parts and Logistics Manager David Ungar. “Packsize is a collaborative and enthusiastic partner, willing to share their experience and knowledge to deliver benefits, and is committed to a long-term relationship.”
“As packaging’s role in the value chain expands, so will our ability to support new operating models, improve logistics, create even greater customer satisfaction, and deliver smarter packaging design,” said Sean Ledbury, General Manager, Packsize International’s Asia-Pacific subsidiary, Packsize Propriety Limited.
 

Butler robot contract awarded for large home furnishing chain in Japan

Technology company GreyOrange and logistics technology provider GROUND Inc have been awarded the contract to supply robotics solutions to the Nitori Holdings Group, Japan’s largest furniture and home furnishing chain with over 400 stores. The robotics system will be deployed at Home Logistics which is a logistics subsidiary of Nitori Holdings, operating 34 distribution bases and an efficient logistics network for product delivery to stores and e-commerce customers across the country.
Manabu Matsuura, Corporate Officer of Nitori Holdings and CEO of Home Logistics said, “We were impressed to find that the GreyOrange Butler is an entirely new robotics concept for warehouse automation unlike automated storage and retrieval systems. Also, Butler satisfies our corporate philosophy that we always pursue ideal workplaces for everyone. For example, we have been an early adopter of technology solutions and were the first user in Japan to leverage robotic storage systems in our warehouses last year.”

Manabu Matsuura, Corporate Officer of Nitori Holdings and CEO of Home Logistics, and Nalin Advani, CEO - APAC, GreyOrange.
Manabu Matsuura, Corporate Officer of Nitori Holdings and CEO of Home Logistics, and Nalin Advani, CEO – APAC, GreyOrange.

Hiratomo Miyata, CEO of GROUND Inc., exclusive provider of GreyOrange Butler in Japan, said: “We are really happy to announce that Home Logistics has become the first user of the Butler in Japan. They have evaluated several options and are glad to use the Butler as they believe the Butler goods-to-person technology will be a driving force in their strategy to increase productivity in their warehouse operations through robotics.”
The GreyOrange Butler system will be installed at the Home Logistics Osaka distribution centre, to handle automated inventory storage and picking. The software adapts in real-time to changing inventory profiles and order fulfilment patterns, for high productivity and accuracy.
Nalin Advani, CEO – APAC, GreyOrange said, “Japan has one of the world’s most mature distribution infrastructure and it is the fourth largest e-commerce market. Over 75 per cent of consumers regularly shop online and e-commerce is forecasted to grow to US$200 billion ($260 billion) by 2020. We are honoured to work with Nitori Group, including Home Logistics, to deploy our Butlers. The Nitori Group is far-sighted in anticipating the challenges of warehouse operations and addressing it with robotics. We are also excited to be selected for the Japan market where specifications for technology are among the most demanding in the world.”

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