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The 10 most innovative logistics companies of 2021

The Fast Company provides numerous top-10 rankings for the most innovative companies by categories such as, architecture, beauty, robotics, gaming, energy, logistics and others that you can find in their website.
This article introduce 10 Logistic Companies that have applied innovation in their procesess, products or services, to provide solutions during 2020 -a challenging year even for innovators- and at the same time, gives interesting examples of how logistics can be applied in a wide variety of industries in different stages of the value chain. Visit their websites to get more info!

1. GOTRG

“Reverse logistics” company goTRG specializes in helping retailers to reshelve, reclaim, and repurpose returned inventory. In 2020, the company launched several dedicated TV refurbishment centers at a major US retailer, redirecting hundreds of thousands of units out of landfills and into resale streams.

2. COUPA

Its new offering, Source Together, allows buyers seeking the same products to band together on “community sourcing events” to collectively choose, bid on, and award contracts, reducing their rates and providing suppliers with larger orders.

3. NARVAR

In response to the pandemic, Narvar rapidly rolled out solutions for companies facing store shutdowns, including returning in-store purchases through the mail, pivoting stores to ship merchandise, facilitating buy-online-pickup-curbside options, and expanding paperless returns (using a QR code) to all three major U.S. mail carriers.

4. VECNA ROBOTICS

With the release of Pivotal, a “multi-agent AI-based orchestration engine,” the company introduced the ability for clients to quickly and effectively coordinate and delegate work for both human and robot workers, reportedly helping clients double throughput.

5. PROGLOVE

In 2020 wearable scanner company ProGlove released the Mark Display, a matchbox-sized scanner and screen that, via a glove, mounts on the back of warehouse workers’ hands for simple, lightweight scanning.

6. CAHOOT

Cahoot’s Shipping Label Solution helps members analyze all combinations of fulfillment location, shipping distance, and cost to surface the cheapest way to get product to customers on time. This year it grew to more than 100 peer-to-peer merchants, and and moved more than $300 million in product.

7. BREAKTHROUGH

Breakthrough’s Network Intelligence system (launched in 2020) allows shippers to dynamically engage with their contract carriers, adding or removing partners as needed. The company’s dashboard houses thousands of data points about trucking companies, allowing clients to evaluate potential partners based on cost, speed, or quantity, and surfacing AI recommendations based on their priorities.

8. SHIPBOB

ShipBob fulfills orders for more than 3,500 DTC merchants. In 2020, the company expanded to international fulfillment centers, added free analytics tools to estimate shipping times and costs, and introduced new integrations with Loop, Shopify, Squarespace, Google and eBay.

9. RANPAK

In 2020, it introduced three paper-based solutions to its suite of eco-friendly shipping products: AccuFill, an automated system for cushioning packages that ensures just enough paper filler is used to be effective; PadPak Guardian, a machine that quickly and easily pads light and heavy items with paper bundles; and FillPak Trident, a paper alternative to plastic packing pillows.

10. 3RD STONE DESIGN

In 2020, 3rd Stone Design was awarded from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Grand Challenges for its Stone Cold Systems for vaccine delivery. The battery-powered portable vaccine refrigerators, designed for deployment in low- and middle-income countries, keep medical products cold without the use of electricity, and can be remotely monitored for temperature and location.

the race for covid-19 inoculation

At the beginning of the pandemic, the global objective was to “flatten the curve” of contagions. One year later, the objective is to “accelerate the curve” of vaccination to achieve immunity in the shortest time possible, a medical and logistical challenge at global scale.

Eyes are on the global race to vaccinate the population to stop the advance of the Coronavirus pandemic. Until March 31, 2021, a total of 595.92 million vaccines have been administered globally acccording Our World in Data.

The total number of vaccination administered give us a preliminar idea of what is happening but, do not reflect the number of people vaccinated because most of the vaccines available needs two doses to generate the desired immunity. In the following graph we can see the share of population by country that at least have recieve one dose of vaccination.

From there, we can analyze possible factors that might caused that some countries, such as Chile have already reached the 35% of the population in their vaccination campaign, aiming the ambicious objective of reaching 80% of population by the first semester of 2021.

Sanitary and logistical capacity installed to be able to carry out mass vaccinations.

A system that is based on a strong network of primary health care centers at the city council level makes it easy to create a calendar according to the age of the population in order to prioritize patients who are older and at risk of disease, also seen in Israel strategy. Nevertheless, health centers and hospitals are not enough, specially when the sanitary system its reaching limits as consequence of the outbreak.

For Chilean politician, the logistics plan must include the use of adapted areas, such as: schools, colleges, public gyms, stadiums, and even drive-in’s were up to four people can recieve the shot. In this logistic bet, dozens of vehicles line up to enter a health circuit where the first stop is vaccination and the second, a parking lot, which functions as an observation area for possible adverse reactions. For them, the aim is to multiply the number of people vaccinated, reaching 15.000 vaccination centers, and being able to inoculate up to 319,014 people in a day.

Vaccination Drive in’s in Chile.
Massive and diversified purchasing strategy to have vaccine availability.

Diversification of suppliers has worked in the midst of a global context of limited distribution, especially for those high-income countries that bet only on vaccines produced in the West. In the contrary, the case of Chile, which vaccinates 3 times faster than Spain, has reached agreements for the acquisition of 36 million vaccines and has already bought the companies Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, AstraZeneca and they are still in negotiation processes for the purchase of Sputnik V and Cansino to ensure availability of supplies, in addition to be part of the Covax program. The European Union, for its part, bet mainly on AstraZeneca and Pfizer, which have had logistical problems to produce and deliver the committed quantities, with contracts that favor them in these cases and with agreed quarterly deliveries, added to the preventive suspension of the vaccination for 2 weeks due to suspected side effects, causing a delay in vaccination throughout the region.

Mobilise all available resources

About 3.7 billion of the 6.8 billion doses of vaccines have been purchased by wealthy countries, according to an analysis by Duke University. Those who have been able to negotiate purchases by investing large amounts of public funds and generating price and volume agreements. Then there are the middle-income countries, which, with limited purchasing power, use other strategies to get ahead of the line, such as India and Brazil, which have managed to negotiate large commitments for the main vaccine candidates as part of the agreements. manufacturing.

There is also the case of Chile, which, although it does not have the capacity to manufacture or develop vaccines, can host clinical trials, which has allowed it to negotiate purchase agreements, and despite being the second most unequal country in the OECD, only behind Mexico, it has privileged resources and extensive business connections with vaccine producing countries.

Global logistic challenge

Imperial College of London researchers say integrated modelling for accurated prediction on how optimize procesess and flexible planning approach to multifactorial problems will be essential for manufacturers to meet the global COVID-19 vaccine demand.

In the current climate supply chains could face significant disruption from closed borders and limited international travel and transportation and additional pressures caused if personnel cannot work due to health issues, or if production processes break down. Their expert recommendation is: Optimising production, It is essential that manufacturers tackle capacity limitations and identify an efficient strategy that will enable them to be effective. Scale-out of manufacturing reduces the risk of losing production and supply capacity, by increasing the availability of operational facilities over a wider geographic area. This means that if one facility fails, others will be able to continue with production. Re-routing supply chains and distribution networks  it’s vital that supply chain networks are agile and flexible to mitigate risks related to route, and to be responsive to needs. In the early stages, vaccine availability will be insufficient to immediately cover global demand, so strategies will have to be decided at governmental and global levels to decide who will be prioritised for the initial doses. This will define the target for the supply chain and will change over time.

Amazon robotics, building an army for logistics

Regarding automatization in warehouses, today it has been announced the opening of Amazon’s fourth robotic distribution center in Spain (first was built in 2017), this time located in Murcia, which will join those in Seville and Barcelona with more than 160,000 square meters equipped with Amazon Robotics technology, to support the Amazon operations in Spain and Europe, let’s take a look at robotics within Amazon.

After the adquisition in 2012 of Kiva Systems, most of technology and robotics used by Amazon is developed in-house through its Amazon Robotics division, headquartered on the outskirts of Boston, and is not marketed or sold, it’s developed only to build their empire. It took amazon six years to get 100,000 robots working for them in their warehouses but in just the last two years that number has already doubled to 200,000 robots. Amazon is investing heavily into building their robotics where it is currently investing $ 40 million in a new innovation hub, which will feature research and testing labs, as well as manufacturing space to design and build new robots designed by highly skilled teams.

At amazon’s fulfillment centers robots transport items to humans who then pick and pack them to be delivered. This robot alliance raises a human’s productivity from 100 items packed per hour to around 300 to 400 items an hour. Some of the Amazon robots:

The first in the family coming from Kiva Systems, is called Drive (changing the original name Kiva) and is very easily described if you imagine a Roomba, as well as their bigger cousin Hercules. Both capable of lifting and moving from 450 to 1,300 kilograms of products in a special rack called Pod on the surface on which they operate, called Robotics Field, at a speed from 5 to over 6 km/hour.

The Pegasus, which also moves pods on the robotic fields. However, it is only 19 cm high, 10cm less than the original Kiva. These alone make up 200 000 of amazon’s robots. The Pegasus is also intended to be a generic base for different attachments on top, such as The Pegasus X-Sort Drive which has a different fuctionality as the following video shows.

The technollogy keeps evolving and The Pegasus already has a succesor, The Xanthus, first presented at the Amazon MARS conference in June 2019. This new model is much thinner, has one-third the number of parts, and costs half as much as the original Kiva, and as the Pegasus has the option of different attachments, but in a wider variety. The Xanthus sort bots (similar to the Pegasus X-Sort drive) is used for sorting parcels to different chutes. The Xanthus Tote Mover can move the yellow boxes with items (called totes at Amazon) from picking to packing, and also if needed to multi-sort and gift wrap.

In order to keep adding robotics in the logistic chain, Amazon bought Dispatch in 2017, an urban delivery robot startup and in 2018, Canvas Technology, a robotic startup that specializes in autonomous carts for moving goods near humans. By January of 2019 Amazon starts Field Testing for a new, fully electric delivery system added to the well-known Drone delivery system project – The Amazon Scout – designed to safely get packages to customers using autonomous delivery devices of the size of a small cooler that rolls along sidewalks at a walking pace. For Valantine’s day in 2020 Amazon celebrate their employees with a love story featuringthe very adora-bot Amazon Scout in this cute video.

Artificial inteligence is already being used to predict what you are going to buy before you even go to the amazon website. Since 2015 deep learning AI has been predicting what is going to be bought, and getting it to the nearest fulfillment center, before it is even ordered. This means that when you shop online products are readily available, cheaper to ship and since they are waiting at a center near you they will ship to your doorstep faster. Amazon is also investing 10 billion dollars to build a satellite internet network just like Spacex’s Starlink. Amazon’ s version would require 3236 orbiting satellites and they have already received FCC certification.

In 2020 amazon acquired Zoox for 1.3 billion dollars, which is a self-driving vehicle company. This technology could be used to create self-driving delivery or workhouses vehicles, such as cars and forklifts.

Maybe one day, whole delivery chain will be run by robots, from artificial intelligence predicting what you want to buy to self-driving planes that deliver the goods to a robotic fulfillment center, where self-driving forklifts supervised by drones and driving units and robotic arms get the items packed and send delivery robots that take the packages and deliver to your personal robot at home.

Revolutionizing Businesses through Augmented Reality.

Immersive technologies are transforming the way of doing business through virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, which companies are implementing in different areas, such as Sales, Logistics and Mantainance.

This technology applied have great potential in companies, and Daniel Iribarren and his team knows it, dedicated for more than 8 years to bring virtual and augmented reality solutions for efficiency and safety in the industrial sector through their company IMOVA, which has been developing solutions with immersive and gamification technology to help businesses to train employees and improve operational efficiency. Since 2019 their Spinoff GOT IT, has specialized in operations management, delivering solutions that improves efficiency in logistics, maintenance, and security, ranging from providing remote assistance in real time, to “vision picking”, in which big players in Logistics Industry are taking part, such as DHL or Wallmart.

Picking and packing tasks in warehouses, can be improved by reading with Augmented Reality glasses, that have a special card which contains information like order number, code of the product to be collected, its location in the warehouse, in which basket / dispatch of the cart it must be placed, progress, among others. In this way, the operator can carry out his activities faster, without repetition and reducing errors, improving efficiency up to 25% according to a DHL trial developed in Netherlands. In addition to the order storage system using Augmented Reality vision, the report from DHL describes the best practices and use cases of this technology in logistics.

AR applied in picking process. Source: IMOVA.cl

Other relevant topic for Logistics is Safety, especially in warehouses or other facilities where machinery is manipulated by operators and have risk of accidents, which can end fataly. Training through virtual reality can help operators to identify risks, retain information, reduce onbonarding times and improve their skills and productivity. In this video a Demo developed by IMOVA to see how a training for a forklift operator using VR Glasses would look like.

Source: IMOVA LAB Youtube Channel

Personal approach

Using virtual reality and augmented reality aplications for sales area, places, products, equipment or machinery can be shown interactively and with all detail needed, for example, the interior of an engine, the detail of any product you are looking at or the interior of a house which has not yet been built.
My personal experience from Chile, while working in real estate and hospitality companies in marketing and sales area, I have learned to use VR to show houses, hotel rooms and buildings remotely, which is especially useful for a first approach to the customer in the sale process, when the project is in a different location from the client or is in an early stage of the construction, helping them to understand better the distribution of the space and interact in diferent levels.

Source: IMOVA LAB Youtube Channel