Category Archives: Technology

Supply Chains Staying the Course in 2017

The overall outlook for supply chains in 2017 is quite rosy, but let’s identify some specific areas where the industry could or should be headed this year.

Staying the Course

First and foremost, I suspect that we won’t see any significant technological breakthroughs or paradigm shifts in 2017 that will disrupt current best practices in the supply chain. Instead, I’m certain that we’ll see a steady stream of developments that continue to improve existing efficiencies or reduce costs, in addition to a widespread push for vendors to demonstrate added value.

Consumer demands continue to drive technology adoption

E-commerce and the omni-channel experience will continue to capture buyer mindshare over more traditional brick-and-mortar retail models, which are suffering from over-capacity. We can expect long-term customer loyalty to be driven by the so-called unified experience or continuity of experience. Vendors able to consistently deliver perfect shipments will be able to capitalize on this trend. For companies in supply chain logistics, this will require ever-tighter carrier relationships and technologies, which will eventually include the emergence of autonomous commercial freight deliveries. These companies are also likely to deploy GPS-enabled tools that provide up-to-the-minute information about freight location, en route conditions (like temperature), and arrival time estimates.

3PL vendors benefit

These trends may help 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) providers gain significant market share, but may also force some industry consolidation. One differentiating factor will be analytics, and how data can be used to capture pick, pack and ship costs. There is a cost associated with managing warehousing and logistics internally versus outsourcing, so the ability of a company to evaluate the overhead for storing and retrieving inventory efficiently and accurately will remain key in delivering shipments profitably.

Hype, with a grain of salt

While autonomous vehicles and drones are certainly breakthrough technologies, numerous barriers need to be overcome before these become mainstream. These include regulations around safety (or perceived danger) and privacy, as they attempt to coexist with traditional modes of transportation. It is my view that the use of drones for shipping will be confined to very short-range hovers or stops based on battery limitations, FAA altitude restrictions, drone pilot certification and autonomous flight technologies, and clearances limited to line-of-sight flying.

Whatever 2017 brings, it is shaping up to be a busy, productive year in the world of logistics and supply chains. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

About the author

Eric Allais, President and CEO of Washington-based PathGuide Technologies, Inc., has over 30 years of experience in marketing, product management and sector analysis in the automated data collection industry, including warehouse management practices in wholesale distribution.

What e-Tailers Can Learn from Amazon’s Technology Investments

Our partners at Software Advice are always on lookout for ways to help companies compete and find the best tools for their business needs. One of the company’s market research assistants, Forrest Burson, recently published an interesting piece entitled: “6 Ways Amazon Is Changing Supply Chain Management in 2016,” (link). Not only did this article reinforce the view that Amazon is leading the way in terms of logistical speed and efficiency, it also shone a light on the possible future of supply chain management.

With that in mind, we reached out to Forrest for more background into what e-Tailers can learn from the trail that Amazon is helping to blaze. You’ll also find a couple of links back to their content where you can find additional information.

PathGuide: What can smaller businesses learn from Amazon that may help them compete?

Forrest: Amazon is well known for the automated robots it uses in its warehouse, which of course cost a pretty penny to implement on the scale that Amazon does things. So, I’m not sure any small company could replicate that. But, what small businesses can do is automate manual processes through warehouse management software.

PathGuide: So, if SMBs can’t compete on scale, are there any areas where they can possibly beat Amazon?

Forrest: There are some instances where SMBs can have the edge over Amazon, especially if they are a niche retailer. So, one way to keep a competitive advantage is to build up a client base that keeps coming back—offering them deals, always having a stocked inventory and providing a superior product selection.

PathGuide: Amazon is always in the news. Is it important to track what they’re doing?

Forrest: For a lot of small retailers, Amazon is both a competitor as well as a service they rely on, and a channel they might even sell through. It’s critical to keep an eye on what Amazon does because when it moves, the world tends to shake.

 

Guest Post: Latitude with QubeVu for Accurate Dimensioning

Hi everyone. My name is Kim Karvonen. I’m a sales manager at Postea, one of PathGuide’s unofficial technology partners. I had the opportunity to speak with many of you back in May at the PathGuide Latitude User Conference where we demonstrated our QubeVu Dimensioning Solution, working together and integrated to Latitude’s Manifest and Shipping System. PathGuide was kind enough to let us introduce ourselves here and explain what we do and how it might be helpful to your business.

What’s QubeVu?

QubeVu offers the most advanced technology in the dimensioning market. Our solution provides certified dimensions of any object – regardless of shape – in under a second.

Scanning is automatic with no button presses or special alignment required.

Our workstations are available in several small-footprint configurations to fit into any warehouse or distribution center. All are built for rugged industrial use, with no moving parts. In addition, QubeVu takes a picture of every object it scans – indispensable for verification and claim protection. See more details about our products here.

QubeVu is fully compatible with the Latitude WMS and the Latitude Manifest & Shipping System to record dimensions and print accurate shipping materials on the spot. PathGuide and QubeVu engineers can provide a custom solution if you have specific needs.

Why is accurate dimensioning important?

Many major carriers have switched to a dimension-based pricing model, so companies without the ability to automatically measure package dimensions – or those who regularly ship oddly shaped items – will struggle to quote shipping costs to their customers at the time of purchase. Knowing the exact dimensions of SKUs also lets them cut costs by using the correct sized packaging to eliminate void space.

Many of our customers also use QubeVu to verify that their shippers are billing them correctly. In one case, a customer discovered they were being overcharged and used the data from QubeVu and Latitude to negotiate a substantial refund from the carrier. That company realized ROI for the implementation in just a couple of months!

Other benefits of more accurate dimensioning include the ability to:

  • Store dimension data and pictures for each SKU in Latitude WMS master files to check insurance claims
  • Reorganize the warehouse more efficiently by dimensioning all incoming items
  • Use size data for better-informed negotiations with carriers
  • Cut picking and packing times by picking directly into the correct size box

Watch this video about one of our joint success stories with PathGuide and Cascade Orthopedic to see QubeVu in action and hear how it integrated with Latitude WMS: http://resources.pathguide.com/h/i/258241248-qubevus-cascade-pathguide-story

To learn more about QubeVu, you can reach me at kim.karvonen@postea.com.


Author:  Kim Karvonen, Sales Manager | Postea

 

 

Latitude Tips and Tricks: A System Audit

Welcome back to “Tips and Tricks for Latitude,” our series of blog posts to make you a Latitude power user. Let’s take a look at what a Latitude System Audit is, and why you should be taking advantage of it.

As you can see from our past four blogs, Latitude has plenty of useful tweaks and features. On top of that, our engineers are always adding new features to Latitude in response to customer requests, so it can be hard to stay up to date on everything that our WMS can do. We understand that, when a warehouse is operating well, most people won’t bother to re-check their processes and see if they could be doing better. But even if you don’t perceive any problems in the warehouse, you still might not be using Latitude WMS to its full capabilities.

That’s why we offer a System Audit to our customers. When you schedule an audit, PathGuide employees will visit your warehouse, check on how you’re using the Latitude WMS, and suggest ways that you can be more efficient. Our experts are up to date on all Latitude features and almost always find ways that companies can improve their work processes. There is a cost for the System Audit, but it’s often included in the general system purchase – you may have already paid for it (check with our Support Team to see if this is true for you).

So if you want to get even better at using Latitude WMS, give us a call. The logistics of scheduling the visit are definitely worth the improvements on the warehouse floor.

Be sure to keep an eye on this blog and our Content Marketing Hub for things to read, watch and share. And, as always, if you have a suggestion for a new Latitude feature or a specific problem you’re trying to solve, please contact our Support Team at 1-888-627-9797.

New Technology and Old Business Smarts – MODEX 2016

The PathGuide team was at MODEX 2016 from April 4-7, networking, learning from the experts and checking out the latest in supply chain technology. Here are some of the highlights.

Technology

Automation, automation, automation. This year’s show focused heavily on robotics (automated guided vehicles in particular), shuttle systems, advances in real-time processing and optimization, and other solutions aimed at e-Commerce fulfillment. Not all are at the stage where they are commercially viable for distributors, so it will be very interesting to see how they evolve in the next few years.

Keynote Speaker

Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank fame was one of several keynote speakers. He gave an excellent presentation on business management called “Lessons from a Dragon,” which gives you an idea of how ruthless his advice can be. Here are his tips for being a successful manager:

  1. Employees are your most valuable asset, but not your friends.
  2. Maintain a clear line of command – and make it clear who’s running the show.
  3. Always be accessible, it shows that you’re invested in people’s success and you’ll be respected for it.
  4. Delegate, make sure both parties understand the goal, then get out of the way.
  5. Don’t procrastinate. Great leaders understand this.
  6. Never pass the buck. It’s your problem if you can’t accept responsibility.
  7. Customer service always trumps price.
  8. Use technology as a weapon.
  9. The boss doesn’t always make the most money.
  10. Business is war, there are winners and losers. Always think globally, even if you’re a small business.

Thanks to everyone who came to meet us in person. Looking forward to seeing you again next year, or earlier at our own Latitude User Conference next month!