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Warehousing & Fullfillment

How Körber Helps Solve Customer Challenges with Automation Solutions

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Compared to manual operations, AMR can help improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chain operations.

Manufacturers and warehousing organizations are resuming operations with a renewed interest in increasing productivity and capacity as well as having the ability to efficiently and quickly scale up and down. Twelve supply chain technology companies from around the world recently transitioned into Körber to meet its customers end-to-end supply chain needs.

“We are a worldwide operation that provides end-to-end supply chain execution technologies,” says John Santagate, vice president of robotics at Körber Supply Chain. “There is no other company that offers the depth and breadth of digital technology combined with physical technologies that we do. When it comes to supply chain execution technology, we have a solution for pretty much anything.”

Körber’s solutions go beyond software to include automation, voice/vision/mobility, robotics, materials handling and the systems integration knowledge to tie it all together. After joining the company in September 2019, Santagate started the autonomous mobile robots (AMR) division of Körber Supply Chain.

Compared to manual operations, AMR can help improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chain operations. From improving floor operations, transportation and processing to generating warehouse layout reports, AMRs allows manufacturers to increase efficiency, growth, scalability and speed, Santagate says.

With its global network reach and infrastructure, expertise in warehouse and automation technology, and a portfolio of partnerships with leading manufacturers and innovators in the market, Körber has a wide range of product offerings relevant to its customers’ businesses. As an AMR partner, Körber is helping guide its customers towards the best fit AMR solution for their needs and evolve their workflows.

“We are really building this practice around partnerships,” Santagate explains. “We aren’t manufacturing robots but we are productizing a go-to-market strategy around AMRs.”

Optimizing Automation

A core competency of Körber’s AMR division is its ability to advise customers on the best fit rather than just any fit. “As an analyst who studies this market, early on, customers would see a shiny object and think it’s great. So, they end up piloting it and buy it,” Santagate explains. “In the end, they were happy because they received their proposed return on investment, but at times, some could have done better with a better fit solution.”

Partnering with Locus Robotics, Fetch Robotics and Geek+, Körber’s AMR division helps customers identify and design the AMR solutions that will help them address their specific challenges. Those challenges often include labor, need for speed, capacity increase, flexibility and scalability without needing to throw people at the problem.

While automation will not completely replace the need for humans, it is easier to add a few robots and reduce the need for an abundance of skilled laborers who are often hard to come by. “Robots are a tool that augment human performance,” Santagate explains. “It’s a digital tool that provides an organization an abundance of information that may not be otherwise available.”

In addition to its focus on operational excellence, Körber also looks more generally at how it can help support its customers. For example, Körber recently unveiled Körber Contact Tracer. The solution tracks the locations of people, devices, orders and the corresponding use of equipment throughout the warehouse to protect workers and operations.

Contact Tracer works with data from the WMS to monitor the potential movement of coronavirus. Examples include tracking the cycle of events and locations of an employee, devices, equipment and inbound and outbound orders throughout the warehouse, narrowed to a specific timeframe.

True to its focus on end-to-end supply chain execution technologies, Körber is also one of the world’s leading integrators of voice technologies. Worldwide voice provider Voiteq is part of Körber. With voice technology, warehouse employees are equipped with headphones and a receiver that leads them via spoken dialogue through various work processes such as goods receipt, storage and transfer processes, picking, loading and inventory — without requiring a keyboard or paper.

To top this off, Körber has developed a voice integration to its AMR partner Fetch to allow for voice-directed workflows and processes enabled by robotics.

Körber says its voice-directed solutions used to optimize intralogistics processes increased significantly in March due to COVID-19 and changes in consumer shopping behavior. “Voice-directed solutions are used in grocery picking, so that accelerated quickly and we supported that growth for our customers by helping them acquire the technology,” Santagate explains.

In addition to its voice technology, Körber delivers other forms of automation. To support this, the company has a warehouse control system (WCS), which can be integrated with customers’ existing WMS.

The WCS orchestrates the work within the warehouse through automation and equipment, including conveyors, sortation, and other forms of automated equipment.

Driving Innovation through Collaboration

Santagate says Körber’s AMR vendors have good data capture capabilities and consider themselves software companies. Körber works with its vendors to integrate their systems into its WMS to automate the end-to-end process flow.

“By doing so, we create additional value back to the customer,” Santagate says. “For example, we are drawing the connective tissue between item location, inventory and tying that into fulfillment execution and material movement in the warehouse.”

Co-innovation between Körber, its vendors and customers is a value proposition of the company’s supply chain, Santagate says. “We are actively working with our customers to find those most challenging problems and work collectively with our vendor partners to solve a problem,” he explains. “For example, we have accelerated integrated modules that allow us to install robotics and get them live even faster.”

Körber also collaborates with customers that have processes they couldn’t automate in the past and it finds solutions by combining its technology with its vendors’ AMR technology. For customers that have Körber’s WMS, the company can have robotics integrated and up and running in their facilities in as little as four weeks. In some instances, where the workflow can be executed without full on integration, deployments can be even faster.

Moving forward, Körber’s AMR division will continue to develop global strategic partnerships with its vendors and customers, embedding itself into the operations of these companies. “Our intent is to become an extension of our AMR vendor partners and strategic partner for our customers,” Santagate says. “We are doing that by maintaining a stream of communication, treating the partnership as a cohesive unit and engraining the AMR modeling and mission into our existing organization.

Körber’s AMR division is also looking at today’s mobile robotics and automation and working to develop new processes and products to help establish it beyond current capabilities. “We have taken what I believe to be the most strategic and robust approach to AMR relative to the business we compete in, and no other company has the depth and breadth of partnerships that we do today,” Santagate concludes.

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