I’ve come across three logistics products and services in recent months that intrigued me.
The first product is called the “TruckTrainer Warehouse on Wheels System” by Demountable Concepts. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I recommend that you watch this video on Demountable’s website to fully understand what this product/system is about. Briefly stated, two “detachable trailer bodies” are mounted onto a Demountable Concepts semi-trailer at a central distribution center. Each body has front and rear overhead doors, so both bodies can be loaded through one loading dock door. The semi-trailer with the two loaded bodies is then long hauled to a regional location, where the driver demounts the bodies using Demountable’s hydraulic chassis lift system (i.e., the bodies are lifted off the chassis, metal legs extend down to the ground to support the bodies, and the power unit pulls away). Two straight trucks (non-CDL in most cases) then mount each loaded body using the hydraulic chassis lift system to make the local deliveries.
In short, “Warehouse on Wheels” is a truck-based alternative to hub-and-spoke distribution and cross docking. This technology/concept is not new (Demountable has been in business since 1989), but it’s new to me. The system is most commonly used for home delivery of furniture, direct store delivery of food and beverage products, and site deliveries of home construction materials to contractors.
Of course, trailers have long served as mini-warehouses. But if you are going to store inventory in trailers in your yard, you’d better have high fences and a security system in place. ViewPoint CRM offers products and services for “intelligent surveillance” or “remote guarding.” The basic idea is that traditional camera security is either too expensive or ineffective. Camera systems that are monitored continuously by humans can be costly, and the person doing the monitoring can become bored or experience sensory overload, and as a result miss key events. If you don’t monitor the cameras in real time, then all you can do is potentially identify a thief after a robbery has occurred.
But if you combine digital cameras with advanced software to analyze the captured images, loudspeakers, digital storage, and fast data networks, then you can monitor sites more cost effectively and successfully from a centralized remote location. The intelligent software combines motion detection and surveillance analytics to highlight events that need attention from the monitoring agents. For example, if a monitoring agent at Viewpoint’s command center sees a person engaging in potentially questionable behavior, he can announce himself to the person via the installed loudspeakers and let the person know that their action is not permitted. Viewpoint’s agents are trained to use vocabulary designed to diffuse, not escalate, problematic situations. Their agents can also open yard gates remotely for late-night truck arrivals.
The third product was brought to my attention by enVista’s management team during a recent briefing at our office. enVista participated in a very successful project with Nature’s Best that involved both lean consulting and the implementation of a WMS solution from Manhattan Associates. Nature’s Best had gone from four warehouses down to one consolidated warehouse. As part of that transition, Nature’s Best needed to decide what type of material handling to use as this choice would directly affect the rack design. They selected a cherry picker style electric lift from Atlet called the Tempo. Tempo can lift an operator (“selector”) up to 37 and a half inches off the floor to pick products (cases or individual items). Picked items are then placed on pallets pulled behind the Tempo.
You can watch a video case study on YouTube that explains the project and the benefits achieved, but in brief, the Atlet Tempo allows workers to pick fast moving products from higher levels. As a result, more SKU’s can be stored vertically, thus shortening pick paths. With other equipment, the average selector spends 80 percent of his time traveling between pick locations, and achieves about 70 case picks per hour. By using Atlet and shortening pick paths, selectors can pick over 200 items per hour. Nature’s Best claims to have avoided over $1 million in steel (racking) costs, plus achieved additional savings from needing fewer pieces of material handling equipment and fewer workers.