Our Industry Innovators series interviews senior leaders across industrial technology industries, exploring the latest trends, upcoming technologies and pressing hot topics that are shaping the future.

I help business leaders in the warehouse automation and intralogistics markets grow their teams and I recently had the privilege of speaking to Parth Pethani, Director, Industrial Engineering and Robotics at Cart.com.

Parth discusses various aspects of the industry and shares his insights and experience.

Watch the full interview here:

 


 

Welcome back to Episode 5 of ‘ Industry Innovators.’ We are very happy to be joined by Parth Pethani from cart.com. Parth, if you’d like to take a moment to introduce yourself.

Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate you having me I’m excited. I’m looking forward to this conversation. Yeah, I’m the Director of Engineering here at cart.com. I’m very much a warehouse robotics enthusiast, and I’m excited about this future of robots in the warehouse. So, I’m excited to talk about more about it.

 

What challenges are you seeing in the warehouse automation industry this year and how are companies needing to adapt to overcome them?

I think one of the things that I have seen starting this year and I think, which will also go in next year as well, is the capitalist cash, right? Money is scarce, it’s going to be hard to raise money or get money or anything around it. So, I think what challenge, or a robotics industry or automation industry is going to be about how to find creative ways to get that cash flow in to, let’s say, source their next automation project or automation companies coming out with different flexible financing options, for companies to adopt robotics or automation. So, I think that’s one of the challenges that as an industry, it’s ging to be solving for either end user solving from their end as well as the vendors are solving from their end. So, I think capitalist is going to be is a challenge.

I think next couple of challenge that comes to my mind is I think, and I think this is more specific to the vendor side or maybe the seller side, is the design to implement stage, it’s long, right? For most of the new vendors in the space, they are learning as they go. They have the good solutions, but at the same time, they’re learning as they are implementing. I think one thing that they should start thinking about is standardizing the process. No doubt each warehouse is unique, but at the same time, there are some aspects of warehouses that can be standardized, or the sales cycle can be standardized. So, I think long design to implement stage or longer design to implement the challenge as well, shorter it is better it is because then companies can adopt it faster to realization.

And I think the third one that is on top of mind right now is the supply chain issues and impacts. So, I think many of our good automation providers are from Europe, right? And when it comes to the supply chain or even from the East Asia, right, when it comes to the supply chain of parts, I think one of the challenges we have is that the longer lead time can clearly create challenge from an automation perspective. So, I think one of the requests and one of the things that I think many vendors started looking into it, like as the adoption increases in America, they are trying to find or trying to find a solution where they can basically house those parts, critical parts or spare parts list within the United States. So, I think when we talk about North America, those are the 3 challenges that I really think about it when it comes to automation market.

 

You talk about automation, OEM, or suppliers, standardizing processes. Are you currently seeing kind of an issue or ramifications as an end user or a customer to automation? And what are your top 3 issues in automating warehouses as an end user?

For me, I think one of the things that always come to my mind is like integration, right? Integration, not just software, but as well as within the facility, right? How does a new piece of equipment get integrated into our business without impacting our most important metric, which is shipping, right? The integration complexity or how it talks to our existing WMS. So those integration issues or integration challenges that it’s what as an end user comes to the top of my mind.

Another thing that really comes to mind is like the re-skilling or if you think about developing a new team you for taking care of an automation, right? Let’s say we get a new automation solution in, let’s say Idaho, right? For that we need to think about how we deploy our maintenance staff or how we deploy our supervisors, how we deploy our end users to really take care of that piece of automation, because automation itself is of course, an expensive undertaking, but at the same time maintaining is what really matters to us as an end user. Because for me, the success story of any automation is like not just the go live but still providing value for the next 3 to 5 years, it was intended to do that. So that’s something is very important to be re-skilling or skilling for automation.

And I think one challenge, or one issue is the ROI. And of course, the ROI is a measure of cost or revenue. For me, the ROI also comes into play off how much longer the time to design to implement it, because as a 3PL, our customer contracts are not long enough for us to really take a year of design and then implement it, right? We need something faster quicker, install time quicker as well so we can start the automation within those 3 to 5 years of cycle of a customer, we’re able to gain the ROI that we’re expecting out of it. So, they are the 3 things I think that are important for me when it comes to thinking of new automation.

 

I know that you’re a man that’s very connected with the space so what are your kind of like top 5 innovations and companies this year? Who are you excited about?

So, I think for me I might have a mix of companies as well as innovation, not specific companies in that innovation space. So, the thing for me, the very first comprehend that comes to my mind is Prologis. I think they are coming with smart ideas -embracing the technology and the AI revolution that we are seeing. I think for example, they started a partnership with Locus recently about having their tenants use Locus if they want to use, and I think they charge some on the square footage charges but includes the automation that was exciting play for me or creative way for me that I was like, wow, okay. The real estate agent who always was just taking money based on the real estate is now embracing the automation and the robotics and the technology that is coming. So, I think for me I keep an eye on Locus as always, because I feel like they come with different ideas and that can of course I feel like they are way ahead of just being a typical landlord relationship. But at the same time, having the tech division is exciting for me to just keep watching them or how they grow.

Another company that I’m following quite closely is Dexory as well. So, Dexory pretty much came out of stealth mode recently this year where they have an AMR to do the inventory tracking and have a digital train in the warehouses. They are supported by a lot of big companies. I think the reason they I’m looking forward to their updates is  because I think they are solving a problem, which I felt like many people are trying to solve in a different way. Drones were there, and there was a camera on a full cliff that can solve us as well, but whereas the solution is pretty much independent solution that doesn’t depend on a drone. So, I think for me, that’s the company that I look forward to and just keep an eye on.

Then the next one pretty much I’m very excited about and very much looking forward to is the new Devlock in the ASR space. With the auto student Ocado judgment that happened earlier this year, I have started seeing at least on my LinkedIn feed or just my news, I’ve seen started seeing a lot of new companies coming out into the cube ASR space. It’s really interesting to me and I just I want to see how that area or how that innovation or how that technology plays out because there are solutions which can be a little lighter on your facility needs and might be able to provide similar solution or similar dense requirements that an auto store or an Ocado can provide. So, I’m looking forward to learning about that space.

And I think finally, of course, I think top of the whole world is the generate UAI, right? The generated AI playing into the WMS space, is what I’m curious about. When it comes to generated AI playing into a WMS space, I feel like I’m very excited about that as well, because there is so much potential, of course, done, right. There’s so much potential to take away a lot of unnecessarily monitoring stuff from like the people.

 

We’ve seen massive high from covid and then a massive low after Amazon retracted the business they did. So, what are your market outlooks for the rest of this year and for next year?

I think for me it’s going to be, at least from my perspective, is like profitability and cost savings. Those are the 2 key drivers that any action items I take within my role currently and future next year as well is going to be like, how do I save some money somewhere and make sure I have profitable during that process, right? Those are the 2 things that really comes to mind. So even when it comes to automation, I was like, yeah, of course, I’m ready to invest some dollars in it to make an automation play, but if the automation saves me money, has a better ROI, and has a better cost savings, we will make a case for it. But eventually those 2 are the primary drivers – profitably and cost savings, just considering the market right now and just how the capital is very limited. So, it’s very much focused on those 2 primary drivers for us.

 

And you’ve been on the AMR side you’ve been on the end user or customer side. And part of what we do on the show on the podcast is we talk about kind of a question from the last executive. So, when you were at an OEM, if a third party offered a more competitive product or offering, how do you get out of your own way and your own solution to collaborate with that third party to create an effective solution for the customer?

I have seen instances where we have collaborated in my past life in my past previous work experience, we have collaborated with different OEM’s. It was a complimentary solution, right? They collaborated to present a solution to the client and client was okay to accept that because clients realized that both has their own strong suit, and they are trying to put them together to give us a holistic solution to me as a client. And to be honest, the client brought that to our process. I think we appreciated client bringing together both of us and we had a good conversation, we started designing the solutions and we both to understood each other strong points and they collaborated, they had a good working session. So, yes, it is possible. The only challenge is going to be of course when it comes to the IP protection, right? We are seeing instances where if it’s not complimentary, right? First, if it’s not complimentary to each other and if they are just as both are doing the same thing, of course, then they cannot go together. They might have to find a way where they can sell x and they can still be y. But anyways, it is possible it is being done or no doubt about it. But of course, both will be very protective of their IP, but how can they make it work.

And as a bit of a closing tradition, we ask the same if you as has been we asked to Vincent, which is for the next interview. What is it that you want to know from your fellow supply chain executives? Like what do you want to ask them?

The one thing that I’m really trying to understand and trying to validate is how do decision makers think about automation within their warehouse? Do they think as a tactical step or a strategic step for a long-time success or a technical starting to just save cost or labour savings, right now? How do they think about it and what drives that perspective?

 


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