Talking technology

Paul Phillips Q&A

MHD Supply Chain Solutions sits down with Paul Phillips, General Manager ANZ at Hai Robotics, to discuss the changing needs of the younger workforce, the vast appeal of cost-effective automation solutions in Australia, and his motivation behind joining Hai Robotics as General Manager this year.

What drew you to work for Hai Robotics?

I have worked in the supply chain industry for more than 20 years, primarily working with customers to find solutions to improve their business using technology. Having implemented a variety of technologies from simple RF Scanning, to Voice Picking through to complex AMR solutions, I was attracted to Hai’s innovations in the Case Handling Robots (ACR) space. What appealed to me in particular, was Hai’s focus on being the best at ACR Solutions with a laser focus on this specific technologyand how it can be applied to many industries. Hai’s commitment to using robotics in supply chain to empower and move forward the progress of humanity appealed to me with my passion for technology and working at the forefront of innovation, all in the service of trying to make our customers’ businesses better.

Can you describe your role at Hai?

I joined Hai as Solutions Director in 2022, then in early 2023 I was given the opportunity to lead the team in ANZ. In my current role as General Manager ANZ, I am responsible for the day-to-day operations from solutions, sales, project delivery and finally ongoing support. However, my focus still is in the solutions space, leading the team as we develop innovative solutions to meet the variety of projects where ACR provide benefits to our customers.

Why is Hai Robotics a good fit for the Australia and New Zealand market?

We have seen coming out of the COVID years that there is a shift of mindset in the workforce in Australia. Businesses are no longer able to easily retain skilled staff and generate interest in supply chain roles for the emerging workforce. Employees are no longer a commodity. However, technology-based solutions appeal to a younger workforce, who are used to and seek out more complex systems to pique their interest in their daily work. Hai Robotics solutions appeal to a younger workforce, who find an attraction to working with modern technologies, and autonomous robotics fit well within that category.  Additional to this, the efficiencies that our customers gain through improved throughput with lower headcount reduce the workforce stress related to availability of resourcing.

Paul Phillips, General Manager ANZ at Hai Robotics.
Paul Phillips, General Manager ANZ at Hai Robotics.

Availability and the increasing cost of real-estate is another growing business concern that we can overcome with ACR technology. With high density capacity, and flexibility to scale with ease, ACR is ideal for customers looking to achieve a higher throughput in a limited space with a medium cost capital solution. We see customers now using ACR as a temporary solution to cater for business growth, without the need for significant investment in greenfield sites and the operational impacts that come with site relocations. Then when a customer is ready for a new site, we can very quickly, with limited business impact, move and expand the solution and resume operations.

Can you talk to some of the market feedback for the Hai proposition so far in Australia?

We have received positive feedback from many customers in many market segments, with a number of projects now underway in Australia and New Zealand. Customers and Integrators have very quickly recognised that the cost, flexibility, and scalability of the Hai ACR solution has vast appeal to ANZ supply chain industry. We have projects underway across B2B/B2C consumer goods, Grocery and General Merchandise, Automotive Spare Parts, and Micro-Fulfilment Solutions in retail. Our time to market for delivery of solutions inside of six months is a big appeal to customers looking to make meaningful change, without the long lead-times for more complex fixed-in-place robotic solutions.

Can you discuss any recent success stories in the Australian market?

Harvey Norman Commercial is the first customer in Australia to implement our flagship A42G ACR Robot with our HaiPORT solution, which allows us to handle up to 600 totes per hour to the picking workstations. Implemented by BPS Global Australia at Harvey Norman Commercial’s new facility in Casula in NSW, the operation is seeing significant improvements to their operations. We are currently implementing our first site in Australia with our recently announced combined solution, which encompasses Hai’s flagship HaiPick ACR along with the HaiFlex AMR solution for larger items. This solution will allow our customer to pick items from the totes that have a maximum capacity of 50kg, along with large bulky items which can be up to 1 – 1.5m in length. These can all be picked at the same workstation, allowing orders with items of variable size to be picked and consolidated together, reducing the cost to serve.

What sectors is the Hai solution best suited to?

We see that ACR can be applied to most industries with our primary focus on e-commerce, apparel, small electrical/automotive, and pharmaceutical. With Australian supply chain having a large focus on “less than case picking”, we see opportunities to apply the Hai solutions across most market segments in supply chain. Hai has very strong partnerships with many 3PLs who have recognised the benefits that the Hai solution can bring to multi-tenant operations.

What kind of commitment does Hai demonstrate to R&D and innovation? 

With more than 1600 staff across 20 offices globally we are an engineering focussed organisation. Over 50 per cent of Hai staff are engineers who collectively have worked with Hai to lodge more than 1500 patents globally. As the pioneer of ACR Solutions, Hai continues to lead the field in Autonomous Case Handling robots. 

Harvey Norman Commercial is the first customer in Australia to implement Hai's flagship A42G ACR Robot with its HAIPORT solution, which allows it to handle up to 600 totes per hour to the picking working stations.
Harvey Norman Commercial is the first customer in Australia to implement Hai’s flagship A42G ACR Robot with its HAIPORT solution, which allows it to handle up to 600 totes per hour to the picking working stations.

More than 1000 projects have launched since Hai Robotics was launched in 2016, where we invented what are now commonly known as ACR solutions.

What new developments is Hai set to launch in the Australia market?

At CeMAT in July at the Sydney’s Olympic Park “The Dome”, we demonstrated our newly launched A42TD ACR Robot, which is capable of tote storage to 10 metres, utilising a double deep solution, which allows for increased tote storage density with no impact to operational performance. Along with the A42TD, we will be showcasing our HaiFlex AMR robots simultaneously handling both tote and pallet picking functions. The CeMAT solution will then find a permanent home at our new offices in Gladesville where we will be hosting in-person demonstrations for our customers and partners.

In terms of competition with other robotics providers, what’s Hai’s point of difference and why would you recommend a customer choose Hai over other providers?

Hai has a primary focus on tote and case solutions that work with adjacent solutions like AMR. Our focus is on picking solutions that take advantage of the space available that we see in warehouses today. We do not lose focus on designing material handling solutions that sit outside of this focus. As the inventor and largest supplier of ACR solutions globally, we are many times more technologically advanced than any other ACR/AMR provider in the market. 

For more information on Hai Robotics, click here

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