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SSI inVia Robotics MODEX 2022

By integrating inVia Robotics with Storage Solutions, you can introduce robotics in your facility, delivering goods-to-person picking technology capable of delivering 400-500 units per hour of throughput per picker at a fraction of the capital cost and with significantly less infrastructure than other solutions in the market that can achieve similar rates.

  • Software: Use AI technology to locate inventory and integrate tasks
  • Automated Labor: Yield unapparelled productivity gains with robotics
  • Automated Warehouse: Automate all fulfillment tasks from picking to replenishment

inVia Robotics has applications in new greenfield warehouses and is also an excellent way for customers with existing pick modules to implement goods-to-person picking without the massive cost associated with completely retrofitting their current facility.

Let’s Connect at MODEX!

Our team will be at MODEX and we would like to make great use of your time in introducing you to inVia’s solution set at Booth #C7489. Let’s schedule some time – either at the event or prior – and talk through some challenges you’re facing and determine the best course of action to tackle those head-on.

Reliance on Data is the Key to Growing Your Business

Historically, businesses satisfied with no or slow growth used a qualitative approach to planning, evaluating, and growing their bottom lines. What worked before? What did that one person say that one time? What’s your gut feeling?

Now, as more distribution and fulfillment centers are tasked with meeting increased customer demands, including needing a more comprehensive array of products and expectations of receiving orders in two days or less, those qualitative “hunches” are leaving companies faced with ever-increasing challenges, especially around operational costs.

So, more and more of these businesses are turning to data-based solutions to make decisions and measure performance. However, they may not know where to start. That’s where we come in.

So how does data allow you to grow your business?

Locate and Eliminate Bottlenecks

The quickest place to begin dramatically increasing fulfillment throughput is identifying where your facility is experiencing suboptimal material flow. Typically, we start there in facilities that rely on too much walking – the most costly part of fulfillment. The potentially scariest misconception with the design of material flow is the thought of associating it with massive infrastructure investment. It shouldn’t be. There are solutions available – like inVia Robotics’ PickMate that can improve your team’s productivity by 10x and begin delivering a return on your investment on the first day of implementation.

But it all begins with data. The key to understanding your business needs begins with understanding your current environment, and the key to growth is using that data to make intelligent decisions about how to go about meeting your goals.

Set Benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The first step in starting a data-driven approach is the establishment of benchmarks. Without identifying standards, you don’t know what success is. If you haven’t begun collecting your data in all the focus areas for your business, you can start with industry benchmarks while you manage your data. Industry benchmarks can be found from trade associations, but you can also investigate magazines, articles, case studies, or even networking with colleagues. The key to begin is to do thoughtful, thorough research and don’t necessarily rely on what shows up on the first Google result.

When it comes to measuring one’s business, many have a misunderstanding between “metrics” and “KPIs.” Metrics track what is happening during certain intervals, while KPIs measure your metrics against your desired outcomes. But what are your desired results? Look at the points in the operation where you want to see growth or change. Is it time to ship? Warehouse capacity? Percentage of accurate shipments?

Again, the first place to begin building your benchmarks is by collecting the data. Once you have that data, you can establish your KPIs. You can’t get there overnight; it takes time. You need to think about where you see growth and change to begin. As you collect data, you can start developing KPIs to achieve your realistic, data-backed goals.

It’s all about making data-driven decisions, not intuition-based decisions.

Forecast Growth and Model Changes

Forecasting growth through KPIs is significant to businesses, and it is done by establishing data that can be measured both through repeatability and scalability. While you can forecast growth without scalable and repeatable data, it is likely to be inaccurate. Also, it may be more what you want versus what you can do.

You can play with these formulas, flows, and processes as you build something scalable and repeatable because you’re using accurate data. You can model changes and make more credible decisions that affect your business. Would you rather forecast growth based on what you want or based on anomalies that happened in the past? Or do you want to be 99.9% sure in making the decision? “We want to get to $10 million” is not forecasting; it is an arbitrary goal.

Challenge Current Processes & Equipment to Improve Productivity

Challenging the status quo can be difficult for managers, workers, and leaders. After all, the most common but dangerous phrase in any business is “we’ve always done it this way.” It takes a well-thought-out plan and confidence in that plan to help overcome hesitancy that is natural when change is presented.

By relying on a data-driven plan, one that is based on your business’s unique challenges, one that is well modeled based on your internal models and projections, you can have confidence that you can overcome those challenges that come with growth, labor challenges, and supply disruptions.

How Can We Help?

In speaking with our engineering group, we can help determine potential growth areas within your organization with our data-driven analysis of material flow. With even just a few pieces of data, we can get started because we can use our operational knowledge of available solutions to fill in any gaps. By increasing storage density, identifying opportunities to improve throughput dramatically, and seeking opportunities to reduce labor costs as your business grows. We can develop that roadmap with you.

We have in-house expertise on staff with real operational experience in designing optimal material flow, dynamic solutions in everything from conveyance to automation, technological solutions like warehouse execution systems and warehouse management systems (WES/WMS), and plenty more. Give us a call today or let us know what your needs are in this form, and we can talk about what steps you can take to solve the challenges around your unique needs.

Planning for Future Flexibility

Depending on your business cycle, planning comes at different times of the fiscal year. Typically, we see businesses planning for next year’s budget or big projects toward the second half of the year, especially in the third quarter (and sometimes, into the fourth).

However – as evidenced in almost every line of business – we are in a different world this year. Between the changing dynamics caused by COVID-19 and its variants, supply chain shortages, and fluctuating labor availability, planning for a flexible operational future has never been more critical.

Some of the common challenges that have affected the warehouse industry have been there for decades. Labor availability, rising prices, and material flow challenges have all been around for years. However, warehouses and distribution centers have been tasked with some unique challenges over the last two years, including the Amazon Effect’s dramatic rise, an incredibly volatile trade landscape, and unique labor challenges that started with the onset of COVID-19 in the United States.

At the core of finding solutions to these challenges is planning for flexibility in your operations. If there were a common thread among successful businesses amid the pandemic, it would be those who were dynamic, technologically adept, and those who maximized the value of their fulfillment operations. So, going into the next year or extensive set of projects, it stands to reason those companies will continue their success.

Steel prices are high, lead times are long, and that may not be changing soon.

According to Mining Technology, in July 2021, steel prices have been trading around 200% higher than during a pre-pandemic March 2020, and there isn’t any market movement to indicate price reductions until at least 2022. The report states, “Prices are expected to remain high due to the massive outstripping of demand vs. supply, and the time it will take for supply to catch up and replenish depleted steel stockpiles.”

So, not only is steel more expensive, but it is also more challenging for some companies to source materials; there is little inventory available. It helps to be a distributor of the size of Storage Solutions. Because we are the most significant storage equipment integrator in North America, we can leverage our unmatched partnerships with reserved production capacity programs for pallet racking, mezzanines, pick modules, and other equipment needs. However, just because we are more likely to source steel doesn’t necessarily mean it will be cheaper.

It is challenging to plan for a scenario like this. For example, let’s say you plan a project to start in a year, and the material price jumps 200% and cannot be guaranteed for delivery; what do you do? For us, it means our team of experts understands market forecasts like this, advises our partners on the best course of action early, and helps find the material they need to stick to their budget more closely. After all, when you’re building a three-level mezzanine with pick modules and vertical reciprocating conveyors and a 10% spike in pricing is coming, it is better to work with a partner who knows the market and can advocate action before that spike becomes 200%.

Labor challenges are real, expanding, and causing chaos in nearly every industry.

Suppose there is one common challenge among most companies in North America – if not the world – is the ever-evolving labor market. At the same time, labor challenges have been common in the warehousing industry for decades. However, during the same period in which warehouse managers are battling a volatile steel market and long lead times, they are also fighting “The Great Resignation.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.7% of the entire U.S. workforce quit their jobs in July 2021, and a majority of these resignations took place in retail, professional services, transportation, warehousing, and utilities. The hope is that July 2021 was the peak of “The Great Resignation,” the term that refers to a rising turnover trend that arose in March 2020 with the start of COVID-19 spread in the U.S.

Some of the variables behind these trends are in a company’s control. There are elements like workplace conditions, benefits, flexibility, and more that can be managed to some degree. However, what happens when the competitor down the road can offer slightly better conditions or pay? What happens if another “Act of God” causes significant supply chain disruptions and strained conditions? How do you keep your business running if your employees can’t go to work?

At the same time, costs are also rising – not only with the actual labor rates and what is needed to complete order fulfillment. The operational costs go into recruiting, hosting job fairs, hiring, training (and then repeated if that process when the employee leaves). When those “soft” labor costs get added into the complete picture, then the situation becomes clear: you need to find a fix.

In terms of labor, planning for flexibility could mean a higher reliance on warehouse robotics and technology to solve these challenges. Solutions exist that can dramatically improve fulfillment rates while reducing dependence on human labor and lower costs. This environment doesn’t mean replacing your workers, only reducing your turnover. You can keep your best employees participating in higher-level tasks than walking around. For instance, inVia’s PickMate solution assists employees who are picking products by calculating the most efficient and accurate path to get products from storage to pack-out. This solution does not require an investment in infrastructure and can deliver an ROI on day one of implementation.

PickMate is just one example of the countless options that can improve aspects of your operation and better your bottom line. There are certainly systems out there that can enhance your operations. The best way to start is to work with an industry leader like Storage Solutions that takes an agnostic approach to find the best solution for you based on your operational needs and business goals.

So, what can you do to plan for flexibility in the future?

If you need some help determining how to move forward, give us a call. With our robust project management, creative design engineers, and network of manufacturing partners, we take most of the burden off of the planning process because we know all aspects of the project, from design to installation, through implementation and support.

Whether your challenges are sourcing material, designing material flow, labor challenges, or meet changing customer expectations, we can be there to assist in building out a roadmap that helps you reach your goals, both short-and-long-term. We’ve worked with companies along the distribution chain to develop simple, smart, and strategic solutions to their storage, picking & operational challenges.

While some of those challenges can be solved with active project management and responding reactively to problems, we take the correct approach – a proactive one – in recommending flexibility in developing your plans. Let’s get started today!

inVia Robotics SSI Partnership

Storage Solutions is excited to announce a new partnership with inVia Robotics, a leading provider of automation solutions, that will allow the two companies to provide innovative solutions to challenges faced by warehouses, distribution centers, and fulfillment centers across North America.

As “The Amazon Effect” continues to challenge these facilities with quicker fulfillment demands, rising labor costs, and inefficient processes, the barrier to entry historically has been the investment that comes with adding infrastructure or reconfiguring an operation. inVia Robotics’ warehouse fulfillment solutions are designed to help clients meet today’s customer demand while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to tomorrow.

Their Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) subscription-based pricing model also allows warehouses to adapt their traditional pick modules and shelving units into a true goods-to-person picking environment without requiring a massive investment in physical infrastructure. inVia Robotics offers the only automation solutions that can back that claim.

This new partnership will bring forth three levels of automation to fulfillment centers:

Software Only. inVia Logic starts with software that optimizes the most inefficient and costly fulfillment task: picking.

InVia Picker. When you add robots to perform some tasks in a facility, you can automate select tasks – like picking and replenishment — prone to inefficiency and inaccuracy.

inVia Picker+. This option will upgrade your operations to automate all fulfillment tasks by adding workflows and warehouse locations, giving you full automation benefits.

The modular, scalable offerings mitigate the cost of change for warehouses, allowing warehouses to plan by pacing deployment as their needs evolve. When fully deployed, robots can retrieve all goods for each day’s orders overnight and consolidate them in one forward picking location. That means your human labor can do higher-level tasks like sorting and packing, rather than spending that time walking and gathering.

“When you optimize your operations, you can truly start to grow and scale your business,” explained Kurt Nantkes, Chief Revenue Officer at inVia Robotics. “Our business model is built on integrated, long-term customer relationships like these, where we can focus on supporting growth.”

“With our ‘simple, smart, strategic,’ approach, we can examine a facility’s operations and fairly quickly find opportunities for automation, bringing increased throughput and cost savings via lower labor costs,” explained Eric McDonald, Chief Customer Officer of Storage Solutions. “Our clients partner with us because they know we bring the expertise in storage design, picking and process optimization. We see this partnership as a huge value for our client base, particularly those who are interested in automation but unsure where to start.”

inVia Robotics was recently recognized by Frost & Sullivan as a 2020 Best Practices’ New Product Innovation Award winner for North America for the development of their goods-to-person robotics systems. Their solutions bring unmatched order, accuracy, and efficiency into your warehouse, translating customer demands into business realities. All these systems are adaptable and fully scalable, providing a return on investment on the first day the software or robotics are integrated.

To learn more about inVia Robotics’ warehouse fulfillment solutions, contact a Storage Solutions expert today and let us share how these integrations can help you introduce or expand automation in your operations.