Australian team takes top Amazon robotics prize

An Australian robotics team has taken the top prize in the 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge
Australian Centre for Robotic Vision from Australia succeeded in the Grand Championship Combined Task to win the overall challenge and the top prize of US$80,000 ($99,850), with Nanyang Technological University of Singapore taking the pick task and the US MIT Princeton team, winning the stow task.
“This year’s finalists demonstrated sophisticated solutions combining object recognition, pose recognition, grasp planning, compliant manipulation, motion planning, task planning, task execution, and error detection and recovery to successfully pick and stow unique items,” Amazon said in a statement. “Teams were judged based on how many items were successfully picked and stowed by their robots in a fixed amount of time.”
Joey Durham, Contest Chairperson and Manager of Research and Advanced Development for Amazon Robotics, added, “This year, we made some changes to the Challenge to make it even more difficult and to encourage broader participation from multiple robotics fields – and the response was exciting.
“The versatility of recognition capabilities in an unstructured environment and the dexterity of grasping mechanisms was truly impressive.
“What we’re most proud of with the Amazon Robotics Challenge is its celebration of robotic community and the venue it’s created to share and promote research in a fun and rewarding way.”
The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision team consisted of researchers, early PhD candidates and undergraduate students who combined computer vision, machine learning and a variety of robotic hardware to successfully complete both pick and stow tasks the fastest.

delivery curfew

CILTA to host regional logistics event

The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILTA) will host an event in Wodonga, ‘The Next Generation of Logistics in Regional Victoria’, to discuss infrastructure, the commercial transport industry and more.
The event is timely as the face of regional logistics in Victoria is set to change, according to the CILTA.
“The prospect of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project being realised and the expansion of the High Productivity Vehicle Network throughout the state and along the Hume corridor will bring a new dimension to freight productivity in regional Victoria,” said CILTA.
“Logistics in the Wodonga region has grown massively over the last decade and these new road and rail developments will propel the industry to new heights.”
CILTA has also stated that significant change will impact the Wodonga/Albury region as well as neighbouring regions and their logistics hubs and facilities.
“The logistics industry needs to do its strategic planning now,” said CILTA.
Speakers at the event will include road operators, warehousing specialists, economic planners, infrastructure providers, logistics trainers and other experts.
The event will be held on 8 August 2017 at The Cube, 118 Hovell Street, Wodonga, Victoria, 9am – 5pm.

VIC storage leasers may be eligible for refund

Companies leasing warehouse facilities in Victoria may be entitled to a refund from their landlords thanks to a recent decision made by the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal.
Essentially, the Court held that the lease of premises used to provide cold storage and logistics services was a ‘retail lease’ for the purposes of the Retail Leases Act 2003 (Vic), Hunt & Hunt lawyers has shared.
Hunt & Hunt noted that the decision has practical implications for warehouse operators and freight forwarders, making many entitled to repayment of expenses including land tax and repair costs going back six years.
The Retail Leases Act impacts all aspects of the formation, operation and ending of covered leases. In terms of costs for tenants, landlords are not able to pass on land tax liability or legal costs associated with the preparation of leases, and
landlord are responsible for maintaining premises in the same condition as at the beginning of the lease, this includes equipment, appliances and fittings provided on the premises under the lease.
For the case that brought about the decision, IMCC Group (Australia) Pty Ltd v CB Cold Storage Pty Ltd [2017], the Court had to consider whether a lease of premises used to operate cool storage facilities would be classed as a retail lease.
“The landlord argued it was not due largely to the nature of the services provided and the fact that almost all of the tenant’s customers were businesses,” Hunt & Hunt shared. “The Court of Appeal held that the lease was a retail lease and took the following factors into account: any person could purchase the storage services if the appropriate fee was paid; the tenant’s business was open during normal business hours; and the tenants customers were the actual consumers of the storage service.”
The Court was reportedly not concerned that the premises were acquired for a business purpose.
Hunt & Hunt advises that the criteria for ascertaining whether a warehousing and logistics business’ lease is eligible to be classified as retail will include the rental amount, the size of the premises, whether customers can attend the premises, the hours of operation, the services provided and the permitted use of the premises under the lease.
“Every tenant that provides warehousing and logistics services should have their lease reviewed to determine whether it is potentially a retail lease,” Hunt & Hunt noted. “If it is a retail lease under the law, but the tenant has been paying land tax and maintenance and essential safety maintenance costs, there may be a very strong case to demand repayment of those costs from the landlord.”

How will transport succeed in a ‘higher expectation’ future?

What will transport look like in the future? Will people and governments ever accept driverless B-doubles careering through city streets? Will we see flying delivery vans? Near-instant drone deliveries, or delivery by particle beam, Star Trek- style?
Change won’t be smooth. Driverless trucks might be available, but the regulators will be well behind. All of these innovations raise serious questions about safety and security, which will become political as the regulators and the public weigh up the pros and cons.
Rather than focus too heavily on what might be coming, we need to step back and consider the principles which will drive future developments.
The big picture tells us transport is often a source of great angst in the supply chain, as it’s one of business’s greatest costs. It also tells us that both B2B and B2C customers are becoming more savvy, and expecting more.
Our ability to succeed in this ‘higher expectation’ future will come down to applying timeless principles of successful delivery transport: the ability to offer personalised service, efficiently.
We need to continually ask: are we able to meet or even surpass the consumer’s expectations? Already, supply chain innovation from global behemoths such as Amazon is having a knock-on effect across many industries. We all need to put ourselves in the mindset of the ‘want-it-now’ shopper.
Consumers see innovations like next-day or half-day delivery, or parcel delivery tracking, and it becomes a standard expectation. Can same-day delivery become same-hour delivery? If consumers come to expect it, we will need to figure it out.
A key principle is that the wrong transport option fundamentally affects a product’s cost viability to market and the customer experience, both of which determine future sales. This applies to driverless vehicles, drones or standard delivery methods. If driverless trucks require a babysitter driver for safety reasons there may be some efficiency gains regarding fewer accidents and better fuel efficiency, but will there be big savings? How do we measure the performance? No matter what the method, you need a mentality to continually question and analyse to get results.
Unfortunately, many organisations fall over at the first step – not fully understanding their transport costs since many variables need to be accounted for. While technological tools are available, the knowledge to use these tools to their potential is often missing. Without this crucial starting point, it’s difficult to keep tabs on how your transport costs can be reined in and performance improved.
Greater efficiency and responsiveness is key, which means greater flexibility across the supply chain is needed. Technology plays a key role – in transport we are seeing supply chains across the board benefit from telematics and RFID technology to track deliveries. QR codes are good for inventory and protecting against lost or misplaced goods and play a big role in customer service by automatically updating customers on a parcel’s delivery status. It’s now a standard expectation among both B2B and B2C customers.
We can expect more data-driven decision-making in a quest to become more efficient. New technologies such as blockchain, a distributed ledger system, may introduce greater transparency and security for contracts.
You don’t necessarily need to be first to the market and take undue risks, but you do need a finger on the pulse to understand the changes and be open to new ways of doing things.
We can expect refinements in areas aside from technology, including more specialists in the market, more collaboration with clients, 3PL providers being more integrated and accountable, and collaboration between specialist suppliers across the supply chain.
This may include insourcing specialist teams which include back-up personnel for when you have absentees or when you need to increase resources quickly, working untraditional hours to increase delivery efficiencies, re-evaluating whether outsourcing the warehousing, transport and other supply functions is better than doing it in-house. While insourcing is nothing new, it remains underutilised by many.
With mounting pressure to be faster and more traceable, and the competitive pressure of global markets encroaching on traditional local areas, companies will increasingly avoid running an entire end-to-end service themselves. Partnering with the correct suppliers who specialise in areas of the supply chain will be just as critical to a client’s success in the future as it is now. The delivery method – whether it be a plane, drone, train, truck, driverless car or pushbike – is still inefficient unless the cornerstones such as correct processes, systems, management and KPIs are in place.
The good news is that many of the solutions which make you more efficient are becoming more accessible. Insourcing a dedicated transport team makes you more responsive, and gives you more flexibility with costs, while telematics technology is now available to everyone via smartphone, whereas previously it was only accessible to the larger freight companies.
A healthy supply chain benefits business like a healthy cardiovascular system benefits an individual. It’s inseparable from business success. Whether the crucial transport delivery happens via flying van or particle beam will be fascinating to see.

Walter Scremin, General Manager, Ontime Group.
Walter Scremin, General Manager, Ontime Group.

Walter Scremin is General Manager of national delivery transport company Ontime Group, which provides tailored, agile delivery transport solutions to a range of clients including SMEs and large listed companies.
Walter is passionate about measuring performance and leveraging technology and has overseen several technology projects including Ontime’s unique Fleet X-Ray analysis software, a telematics tracking system and smartphone app designed to track vehicles and deliveries.

Melbourne attracts nation’s biggest-ever transport and logistics show

Supported by the Victorian State Government, Melbourne will soon play host to the most ambitious transport, logistics and supply chain event ever staged in Australia.
Aptly named MEGATRANS2018, it will make its debut from 10 to 12 May 2018 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and will cover the entire supply chain from point of origin to point of sale – including the wider infrastructure and logistics industry.
According to Show Director, Simon Coburn, MEGATRANS2018 is a direct response to megatrends such as population growth, urbanisation, congestion, demographic change and sustainability. “Transport and logistics are not about transporting goods from A to B anymore – they’re evolving constantly and involve much more complex services,” he told CRTNews – adding Australia could be on the brink of a logistics revolution.
“Whole new markets will emerge under our nose as we embrace the sharing economy, Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence, while others will become obsolete overnight. MEGATRANS2018 is Australia’s response to what could be the biggest industrial revolution of this generation – after all logistics touches every single industry serving the Australian people.”
Urgently needed supply chain and logistics solution
Honouring the size and scope of the “tectonic shift” that is to come, Coburn said MEGATRANS2018 will bring together stakeholders from all sectors affected by it – ranging from road, rail, air and sea transport through to logistics management, warehousing, materials handling and infrastructure development.
The three-day expo will thus provide a “platform for everyone involved in planning, executing and documenting the flow and storage of goods” between the point of origin and point of consumption.
Spread across a 30,000mfootprint, MEGATRANS2018 will distinguish between four distinct functional areas, including Logistics & Material Handling; Warehousing & Storage; Road Transport, Air, Sea & Rail; Infrastructure; and Technology, explained Coburn – adding that the highly topical issue of safety features prominently across all sectors and modes of transport and will be a key focus area of the show.
“As the borders between industries blur, new, multi-dimensional concepts have to rise to the challenge, and MEGATRANS2018 is leading the way.”
Providing a forum for industry interaction
Coburn added the show was meant to facilitate in-depth discussions on how global megatrends will affect Australian supply chains, uncovering new business trends and exploring new, innovative technologies along the way.
As such, MEGATRANS2018 will provide the stage for not only the largest exhibition of its kind in Australia, but also a variety of international and domestic conferences by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA) and the Victorian Transport Association (VTA). MEGATRANS2018 will also host the Global Shippers Summit.
The show will also feature site visits of Australia’s leading supply chain infrastructure, Industry 4.0, a technology showcase, key industry networking events, ministerial and government department round tables.
Nationwide support from key leaders
In line with that, MEGATRANS2018 has already garnered the support of an array of industry partners and associations, including the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA), the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA), the Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA), the National Transport Commission (NTC) and the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), which represents over 800 employers and businesses across the entire transport and logistics industry and will host its annual Freight Outlook at the show.
The Victorian State Government has officially endorsed the event as well and is actively supporting it, prompting VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, to reemphasise just how important the event is for the future of both the local Victorian and the Australian economy.
“MEGATRANS2018 will be the essential trade event for companies looking to be at the forefront of innovation, technology and industry collaboration. To be in partnership with MEGATRANS2018 is an incredible opportunity that will bring increased value for all attendees.”
ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff, said MEGATRANS2018 was a timely opportunity to unite a range of highly fragmented industries and create synergies that could benefit everyone in Australia: “The Australian Logistics Council is focused on improving supply chain efficiency across the freight logistics industry and ensuring increased value and economic benefits for our members and the broader community.”
“As such, we are excited to support MEGATRANS2018, knowing it will play a vital role in connecting industry players to create collaborative opportunities and facilitate thought leadership engagement.”
Already a success
Coburn told Prime Creative Media that with such outspoken support from both industry associations and governments, MEGATRANS2018 has created a buzz from the get-go. Leading fleets and 3PLs have already come on board in support of the event, with more enquiries coming in by the day.
“The initial feedback has been overwhelming and clearly shows that MEGATRANS2018 will meet and exceed expectations in delivering a comprehensive and unique platform for the wider Australian infrastructure sector,” he said.
“As an exciting new trade show, the scope of which hasn’t been done in Australia before, MEGATRANS2018 will be a hub for industry representatives across the entire supply chain,” he explained.
“We’re inviting everyone to be a part of this game-changing expo format – from hands-on decision makers in the supply chain and logistics industry to CEOs, COOs, regulatory bodies, urban planners and government on all levels. Now is the time to bring everyone together and start connecting the dots.”
Key facts
When? 10 – 12 May 2018
Where? Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
How big? All 20 bays of the Centre; 30,000m

Qube raising $350 million equity for Moorebank

Qube has announced a $350 million equity raising to fund new warehousing and strategic growth initiatives for Moorebank Logistics Park, Australia’s largest intermodal precinct.
Earlier in May, Qube officially commenced development at Moorebank and it is now in discussions with potential tenants for the development.
Qube has announced that it expects to fund the construction of at least $80 million of new warehousing for Moorebank, including the warehouse for the soon-to-be-announced first tenant as well as an initial warehouse facility for Qube Logistics, and construction is expected to commence in early 2018.
“Qube is pleased to have achieved a further important milestone, with the development of the first new warehousing at Moorebank bringing us a step closer to realising the substantial benefits that the Moorebank project will deliver for customers, suppliers, and the entire East Coast freight and logistics chain,” said Maurice James, Managing Director, Qube.
“We are delighted with the initial reaction of potential tenants to the transformational proposition that is provided by the Moorebank facility” he added.
New warehousing at Moorebank is to be built on demand and with pre-commitments from tenants.
Qube has invested around $140 million in the 2017 financial year to date to acquire the remaining 33 per cent of Moorebank it did not already own and on initial development capital expenditure, Qube expects to invest $400 million of capital expenditure in the development of Moorebank – excluding warehousing and rail shuttle capital expenditure ­– over the first 5 years.

Modest pay hikes for Australia’s logistics workers

Seventy-one per cent of Australia’s transport and distribution employers will give their staff a pay rise of up to three per cent in their next review – compared to 65 per cent of employers across all industries nationally.
The annual Hays Salary Guide, released in early June also shows that 16 per cent of transport and distribution employers will not increase salaries at all, above the 11 per cent non-industry-specific average.
Hays Logistics reported that 10 per cent of transport and distribution employers intend to award a salary increase of between three and six per cent in their employees’ next review, and just three per cent will increase salaries at the higher level of more than six per cent, compared to19 per cent across all industries.
The Salary Guide shows that many employers have a positive outlook yet remain cautious when it comes to salaries.
“2016–17 proved to be a mixed year for the logistics industry and, while costs remain tightly managed, recruitment activity has increased across all job levels,” said Tim James, Director, Hays Logistics.
“3PL providers continue to grow and the trend towards outsourcing logistics functions means salaries are being squeezed to accommodate aggressive pricing strategies geared to win new business on lower margins.
“Across Australia, positive productivity is linked to efficiency improvements, be that in warehousing, transport or supply chain. 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.
“From a supply chain perspective, companies continue to seek jobseekers who have strong systems knowledge, especially SAP/APO. However these skills are scarce and subsequently salaries for these roles have increased, especially in NSW and Victoria,” he said.

Parkes NSW makes cheeky Amazon bid

Parkes, New South Wales, a town perhaps best known for its reknowned annual Elvis festival, has released a light-hearted video detailing the reasons why Amazon should choose to set its fulfilment operations up there when the eCommerce giant arrives in Australia.
Telling the story of a man using Amazon to get his hands on an Elvis costume, the video notes that Parkes’ air, road and rail connections make it a worthy contender for Amazon’s warehouses.
Parkes Shire Council noted that the town is an intermodal national logistics hub situated where the north-south and east-west rail corridors intersect, “at the crossroads of the nation,” with a regional airport and accessible road networks enabling over 80 per cent of Australia’s population to be reached overnight.
The Council added that Amazon and Parkes “adds up,” as it offers intermodal transport, affordable land and liveable communities.
Check out the video below.


Flexe – the Airbnb of warehousing

US start-up Flexe is revolutionising the way merchants secure storage, using an Airbnb-style model of allocating under-utilised warehouse space, as first reported by Bloomberg.
In less than five years, the Seattle company has established a network – or marketplace – of 550 warehouses, without spending any money on facilities. What’s more, its recently launched overnight US-wide delivery service is better than even Amazon can offer.
Flexe currently has 2.3 million square metres of storage, approximately one quarter of Amazon’s capacity, and the company expects to add a further 930,000 square metres this year.
Flexe has been designed for start-ups that do not know their capacity needs for the future; previously they were obligated to lock themselves into long-term contracts that may prove to be insufficient or overly ambitious for their future needs.
Flexe’s founders decided to tap into underutilised warehouse space, renting it out in the same way that homeowners lease their properties for short periods. The company approached large companies with space booked year-round about using their underutilised space when busy season – be it summer, Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day – has ended.
They then launched ‘overflow’ services, for retailers and wholesalers needing to store pallets of inventory for short periods, later adding online order fulfilment, enabling warehouse operators to charge more to pack and ship orders directly, by truck rather than plane due to the coverage provided by the network of warehouses.
Flexe is proving popular with online brands in the US such as mattress seller Casper as customers can order through the merchant’s own website.

Awards celebrate Australia's manufacturing industry

Redarc Electronics has been crowned ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ at the 14th edition of the Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Awards, held in Melbourne.
The Adelaide-based company beat out of 33 finalists from across the country to claim the evening’s top honour, and also took home the ‘Global Supply Chain Integration of the Year’ title and ‘Most Innovative Manufacturing Company’ award.
Sydney-based hydraulics specialist Enerpac was recognised for its Electric Torque Wrench, taking home the ‘Australian Industrial Product of the Year’ award.
Tasmania’s Greenland Systems was the winner of the ‘Environment Solution of the Year’ accolade for the development of its GLX100 Orange Series solar heating solution.
The ‘Safety Solution of the Year’ award went to United Forklift and Access Solutions for the design of its Athena 850 Bi-levelling Tracked Scissor Lift, while Solentive Software and Clipsal by Schneider Electric won the ‘Technology Application’ award for its Clipsec Application.
Other winners included Crop protection specialist, Nufarm, which was named ‘Exporter of the Year’, and Melbourne’s Yumarr Automation took home the ‘Outstanding Start-up’ award.
“Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners of this year’s Endeavour Awards,” said John Murphy, Managing Director of Prime Creative Media. “Prime Creative Media and Manufacturers’ Monthly are proud to recognise and reward the leaders, the innovative – the very best of what Australian manufacturing has to offer.
“We’d also like to extend a big thank you to our Endeavour Awards’ networking sponsor Industrial Capability Network (ICN), as well as our event sponsors Beckhoff, CSIRO, SICK Sensor Intelligence, SEW Eurodrive, the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council (AAMC), Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), the ANCA Group and Air Liquide for all of their support.”
The Endeavour Awards are the most esteemed and prestigious Awards program for the manufacturing sector in Australia.

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