Meet your cobot: the robot co-worker

Warehouse automation company Vanderlande has developed a ‘cobot application’ (a robot physically capable of working alongside human operators) together with the Finnish trading company in assembly and fastening materials, Würth Oy, and its logistics software partner (Leanware Oy) in a shared pilot project. The cobot is now operational at Würth’s logistics centre in the town of Riihimäki, just north of Helsinki.
Robotic technology has long been used in the warehousing industry for the automated movement of goods. However, the SIR (Smart Item Robotics) is unique, with its utilisation of a robotic unit that is able to work harmoniously in the same area as a human operator and is abe to smartly ‘pick and place’ individual items. In this way, the project addresses one of the key challenges in the market, which is the continuing lack of available and skilled workers.
One of SIR’s most significant strengths is its ability to handle various products without SKU teaching. In addition, intelligent stacking enables the efficient positioning of goods, while products are handled smoothly and securely.
After a lead time of less than two months, SIR has been integrated into Würth’s daily operations alongside Vanderlande’s flexible storage, retrieval and transportation system, ADAPTO, to seamlessly pick products for its customer orders. It can be controlled using the same Leanware system interface as other processes in the Riihimäki logistics centre and represents Vanderlande’s Smart Item Robot to be used in live operations.
“In practice, SIR is now entering school, where it will develop greatly,” said Würth’s logistics manager Terhi Vesala. “In the beginning, we will learn what type of products the cobot can handle, how it can better enhance the picking process on site, and the most logical division of work. We are striving for total efficiency in human and cobot cooperation, so that the strengths of each can be optimised. In other words, we are experiencing what this robot is truly capable of.”
“This pilot project will give us invaluable experience in the continued development of robotic technology,” added Terry Verkuijlen, executive vice president Warehousing and Parcel at Vanderlande. “Thanks to the logistics expertise that exists in Finland and the close partnership we enjoy with Würth, Riihimäki had the ideal conditions in which to bring SIR to life. Of course, this is an early stage in its development, so we will be proactively monitoring the situation, and working closely with Würth and Leanware to further optimise SIR’s capabilities.”
 

eBay teams up with Australia Post to fight Amazon

Australia Post has set up an e-commerce 3PL to handle e-commerce warehousing and deliveries.
Fulfilio is the new business of Australia Post, providing e-commerce software, warehousing, ‘pick-and-pack’, and delivery services tailored for e-commerce merchants. Fulfilio will provide warehousing locations across four major capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth), enabling inventory to be located as close to buyers as possible, and therefore ensuring faster delivery times.
eBay.com.au has now announced a partnership with Fulfilio to offer a national 3PL network to its sellers. The new service, eBay Fulfilment Partner, will provide eBay sellers with the best price to pick, pack and deliver their eBay orders, with distribution by Australia Post’s delivery network. There have been more than 53.2 million eBay parcels shipped domestically in last 12 months alone.
With a network of 40,000 Australian sellers and more than 11 million Australians visiting eBay each month, eBay says it is able to offer its sellers the best rates, helping them reduce costs, save time and remain competitive. For example, on 500g parcels sellers will pay rates as low as $5.74 for pick, pack and delivery for a cross-town service, and $6.83 for interstate service – saving sellers up to 30% on picking and delivery costs (based on industry averages across picking, packing and last-mile costs).
eBay’s senior director of product and shipping Dave Ramadge said: “At eBay our number one priority is to support the 40,000 Australian businesses that operate via ebay.com.au. In this partnership with Fulfilio and Australia Post, we are giving our sellers Australia’s most comprehensive delivery network with over 57,000 square metres of storage and distribution space across the country.
“We will continue to deliver sellers the lowest cost to pick, pack and deliver their eBay orders, so they can put their inventory closer to their customers and spend less time packing and more time selling.”
 

Linfox evolves with e-commerce

Transport giant Linfox has embraced the global e-commerce boom by adding a new array of fulfilment services to its portfolio that range from storage all the way through to product repairs.
Known for taking a proactive approach on new technology and shifts in market demand, Linfox has embraced the global e-commerce boom by adding a comprehensive range of fulfilment services to its portfolio.
“The market is moving towards online retailing and omni-channel systems, which is something traditional supply chains can’t necessarily support in a cost-effective way,” John Pucek, General Manager – Operations Development at Linfox, told Logistics & Material Handling.
“That’s why transport businesses like Linfox are evolving into much more multi-faceted organisations. Our new fulfilment operation in Sydney is the latest example of that evolution.”
The Sydney facility is designed to provide comprehensive fulfilment services for e-commerce operations – ranging from basic storage, ‘pick and pack’ and dispatch services through to product customisation, kitting, reverse logistics, repairs and even order track and trace services.
“We’re also developing our own, enterprise-grade e-commerce solution for the consumer goods market,” he said.
“A company will be able to purchase a fully managed service where we provide the e-commerce platform, a management team and online store management. We even do all the content management, and it will be integrated into our fulfilment.”
The service is designed for small- to medium-sized businesses trading between $120–300 million. “Rather than having to invest in their own e-commerce platform, they can get the complete package from us,” he explained – adding that the company launched the fulfilment and e-commerce projects at a strategy level in January 2016.
“We secured our first customer, consumer electronics company Belkin, in November 2016, and then went live in April this year,” he said.
Initially, Linfox will continue to focus on the consumer electronics market, he added, and it was recently announced that the company’s second confirmed customer is audio company Sennheiser. Next up are health and beauty. “The service offering suits many industries, but they’re the two current strategic targets,” he shared.
“We want to be a real partner of consumer goods organisations and retailers,” Pucek added – highlighting the evolutionary leap Linfox has taken from its beginnings as a transport operation.
“We’re hoping to be more so a partner than a 3PL – we want to be more integrated with them to help them grow their businesses, and now we’re looking at the other channels for which they want to grow their business and how we can support them by investing in the technologies for them.”
Pucek said that as consumers and small businesses demand better choice in how and where they receive their products, the market will continue to see change and innovation when it comes to last mile delivery.
“The challenge for traditional operators will be to bend and flex with consumer demand,” said Pucek.
“Linfox is investing heavily in our systems to provide small businesses and end consumers with greater visibility throughout the fulfilment supply chain.”

Kmart: Using the supply chain to pull back from the brink

Five years ago, Kmart Australia was on the verge of bankruptcy. Today, the company is one of the most profitable retailers in Australia – a turnaround credited in large part to their supply chain.

The original Kmart stores were set up in Australia in 1968 as a joint venture with the Kmart group in the US. Today, they are 100 percent owned by Wesfarmers and the name is used under a long-term licensing agreement.

In 2008, the retailer was in trouble, caught in the midst of a recession with zero profit.

That same year, Managing Director Guy Russo was hired to lead the turnaround of the struggling company.

Russo set about reducing costs and optimising product selection, but also displayed clear focus, leadership and a strong strategy, which led to a complete overhaul of Kmart Australia’s sourcing and supply chain process.

 

This article originally appeared on Ferret. To read the article in full click here.

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