The pressures of providing logistics services in 2019 is driving increased investment in the digitization of the supply chain as tech vendors and customers alike seek answers to challenges in workforce, transportation, and data, according to supply chain technology vendor HighJump Software Inc.
Even as companies struggle to hire, train, and retain enough workers, consumers are pushing them for improvements in flexibility, transparency, and data privacy, HighJump CTO Sean Elliott said in remarks at the firm's Elevate user conference in San Antonio, Texas.
The combination is forcing retailers to look for new logistics and fulfillment approaches before disappointed consumers take their business to competing e-commerce sites. "And we're not yet prepared for that," Collins said. "[The industry] may have some good starting points, but the supply chain of the future is not the supply chain of today. We need a digital transformation."
According to Minneapolis-based HighJump, that transformation could take the shape of software tools that allow companies to run simulations on their DCs and supply chain networks to model "what-if" scenarios and experiment with new approaches, an approach often referred to as building a "digital twin."
In recent weeks, the firm introduced a product called HighJump CLASS, a simulation tool that allows retailers to test warehouse layouts in a virtual world, running 2D and 3D visualizations based on real-world supply chain data. In a demonstration of the product at the user conference, HighJump said customers could use a "what-if wizard" in CLASS to emulate the sudden surge of volume that typically happens on Black Friday, and trace the impact of that event on their own virtual DC by using heat maps to detect potential backups.
In another application of the tool, users could feed the platform with their own DC data from the day before or even the shift before, then run a replay of the events to detect tripping points, almost like hitting the DVR button on a cable TV remote, Elliott said.
Other advances may come from HighJump's collaboration with its new Germany parent company, Korber AG. Since being acquired in 2017, HighJump has been able to tap into the resources of Korber Digital, a research lab that combines the efforts of HighJump and its sibling tech firms. Based in Berlin, the lab works on research projects in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and big data.
Three specific projects under development in that lab now include a wearable computing device enabling vision-assisted workflows for product returns, a "digital echo" platform that uses real time location systems (RTLS) to trace forklifts and other assets in the warehouse, and an AI platform for helping third party logistics providers (3PLs) onboard new customers and their master data.
Based on research in projects like these, HighJump traced its plan for technology developments in 2019 and beyond. In a statement to attendees at the user conference, the firm said its priorities include: artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous robots such as products from Locus Robotics or Magazino, the internet of things (IoT) and predictive analytics, and workforce productivity tools like voice and vision.