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Covid-19: Hitting The Economic Reset

“Helicopter Money”, was coined by Milton Friedman in 1969 to explain the effect of monetary policy on inflation. Today, we are practically seeing helicopter money in front of our eyes as US Fed has pumped in trillions of dollars to combat the economic crisis caused due to the covid-19 pandemic. Other countries also seem to follow the suit. While printing currency and distributing to the people seems like an obvious and quick fix solution to tackle the crisis, the way this pandemic has emanated doesn’t guarantee any certainty. Though the virus is not very lethal, the recovery time is anywhere between 12-28 days depending on the severity of the case. This has led to the overwhelming of healthcare facilities even in some of the most developed countries with the best healthcare systems. Gradually, almost all the countries implemented a complete lockdown to flatten the curve and subsequently break the transmission chain of the virus. India also implemented a lockdown on 25th March 2020 which got extended till 3rd May 2020 and a decision to lift the lockdown is yet to be taken by the central government.

Though many expected a fiscal stimulus from the government, to bolster the staggering economy, the government has kept a close watch and has still not disclosed its post-lockdown revival strategy. Though throwing money from the helicopters could be an option, like in other countries, but it might not help the economy in the long run, especially given Covid-19 is here to stay for a time more than we expected. I firmly believe that printing money is not going to solve a problem that has stemmed from a virus that is forcing people to stay indoors. This is a good opportunity for India to put an innovative plan in place and reboot the economy for benefit of all with the following steps:

1) A Wage for Living

This lockdown has for the first time brought the plight of the migrant labor in the living room of India. With heart wrenching videos and photographs of people walking back to their homes with their kids and many unfortunate incidences of people passing away due to resulting exertions have shown the mirror to the Indian society. These migrant labors who have built the metro cities of India, have not been able to find a room for themselves in the same cities. The minimum wage in India starts from around 5000-6000 rupees a month and varies from state to state, it is high time that the government lives by the definition of the living wage which implies a wage which can help a family to pursue education for their kids, healthcare and insurance apart from the basic necessities of food, water and shelter. It will really take care of the people at the bottom of the pyramid and inject much required liquidity if the minimum wage ceiling is raised to rupees 21,000 per month as mentioned by the 7th Pay Commission. Doing this will also ensure that money flows through legally through industries and will reduce the instances of leakages. It is time we respect the hands that have built this nation, in the short term this might be a little painful as industries are reeling under losses, but it will have a positive ripple effect going ahead.

2) Invoke Gandhian Ideas

Gandhi Ji always advocated the idea of villages being self-sufficient. The Covid-19 pandemic, will stoke the flames of de-globalization and also till a vaccine or some sure shot medicine is found (could be herd immunity as well) the global markets are not going to function as they used to in pre-covid times. We have already seen US canceling immigration applications for the next two months. Also, with the outbreak happening in different parts of the globe, it will be wise to create alternatives and re-look at the global and spread out supply chains. Thankfully, India can self-sustain by producing and consuming the in-house goods due to its size and population. Based on the news and cases, it is safe to assume that rural India has been untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic till now. This is the time we start making village clusters self-sufficient by decentralizing small and medium size industries in the hinterland of India. The migrant labors have gone back to their native places and those who are stuck would like to go back to their native places. Equipped with this labor, high end technology and cheap capital made available by banks, the village clusters can house industries which can become the new engines of economy to take the country forward in a world post covid. India of today is vastly different from India of 30-40 years back as today road infrastructure, railway, internet and electricity has penetrated in many parts of the country. These industries will help in import substitution, push Make-In-India and can also be integrated with ‘Skill India’ to develop highly skilled workforce. With such industrial clusters the pressure on supply chain will also reduce and in times of lockdown or an outbreak, we will be able to self-sustain and will be able to generate high quality jobs in Rural India.

3) Robotics Push

We have always heard from different corners about the infrastructure push that is required in India. Though we need not advocate to remove the focus from infrastructure, but we need to be more forward looking if we are to revive the economy from the impact of Covid-19. Whenever we open our economy and let the factories and warehouses run, it cannot continue in its old form as people will have to maintain adequate social distancing. This will constraint the capacity utilization and will bring it down by 30-40%, coupled with other measures like sanitization etc. will impact the margins of the companies. We have also seen that it makes tremendous sense to reduce the number of touches and contact for products in the light of Covid-19. This is where Robotics and Automation can play a big role by helping industries operate their manufacturing facilities and warehouses at 100% capacity and fulfilling the demand without affecting the margins and productivity. Also, Robots can help in contact less deliveries in hospitals, helping the medical staff from unwanted exposures. May it be for surveillance or sending critical material through last mile delivery, or aiding material movement in hotels, airports or railway stations, Robots will aid humankind in this war against the virus and India should grab this opportunity with both hands. Incentivizing such investments in Robotics by including them in Priority Sector Lending or by providing tax benefits and exemption will help in quick adoption and not only make our supply chain exceptionally reliable and resilient to such shocks but also will generate high quality employment. Just like the Department of Atomic Energy, a separate department for Robotics should be made and kept directly under the Prime Minister Of India.

4) Utilize the Land Bank

With Dharavi becoming a hotspot for the outbreak in Mumbai, it has created a compelling case for decongesting our metro cities and providing affordable houses to the labors. The Public Sector Undertakings are sitting on huge stockpiles of land, with a renewed vigor, these land parcels should be quickly utilized for building affordable houses for Below Poverty Line families and provide them a good standard of living with all basic amenities. This can be done by the government itself or can be done in partnership with private firms. A clear and transparent process will ensure unnecessary delays in the form of injunctions and court cases are avoided. This will boost the infrastructure related sectors in the country. Also, since the traffic and other interruptions are low, the ongoing infrastructure projects like metro, railways, highways should be pushed hard by maintaining the social distancing and safe work norms. It will help us complete these critical projects earlier and save us critical opportunity costs and interest costs on capital.

5) Short Term Financial Balm

While the government has asked the industries to not lay off people, it is becoming increasingly difficult for industries to manage the payroll cost. While it is important to help the industries, it is also imperative to not let unscrupulous managements get away with bad decisions under the garb of Covid. More than 6.5 Lakh people have dug into their PF savings to compensate for the income loss due to Covid-19 lockdown. It would be wise to revisit the PF benefit provided by the government to industries announced on 26th March by covering the employer and employee contribution for all industries irrespective of size of the industry for all employees having taxable income up to 10 Lakhs for next three months. The ESIC contributions for next three months can also be borne by the government. This will help the organizations in reducing their payroll costs. Industries can be provided help in the form of deferment of taxes, electricity dues, lease and rentals for three months. Duration can be changed for specific industries depending on the impact from Covid-19. These incentives should be linked with the caveat to not reduce the employment during the pandemic. Industries can also discuss with employees and focus on taking pay-cuts rather than doing layoffs. Highly leveraged companies will still face liquidity problems and some companies will still fall short of their runway, short term interest free credit line can be granted to such companies through banks to cover their payroll and some fixed cost, provided they do not do mass lay-offs.

Covid-19 has brought the glaring gaps in our healthcare system to the forefront. Needless to say, we must improve the basic healthcare facilities at our government hospitals across the country. This should not be looked at in the terms of economic profit or loss as our Prime Minister has said, “Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai”. We have come out of earlier crises and I am sure we will overcome this crisis as well in time. The economy will restart with a button and a simple push. It will for sure take a lot of effort and perseverance to bring it back on its feet. But one thing I am sure, sooner or later all will be well, and the human spirit will overcome this challenge as well.

Automated Storage and Retrieval System

Reduced lead times, soaring real-estate prices, and the aggressive bottom-line targets made it imperative to adapt dense storage that helps in the maximization of floor space. When a wide variety of SKUs to be handled at an increasing rate Automated Storage and Retrieval System comes into picture. It is the most advanced material handling system that can promptly and accurately handle, store and retrieve products from designated storage locations in fully automated warehouses.

AS/RS or ASRS system consists of dense racking structure, Warehouse Execution/Management System and an SRM (Storage & Retrieval Machine) crane for material handling. It is widely used in production environments, distribution centers and warehouses.

Types of AS/RS Systems
AS/RS material handling systems are designed to handle large palletized loads as well as smaller loads that are usually stored in cartons and boxes. The one deal with large unit loads is unit-load AS/RS systems & the system that deals with cartons/totes is mini-load AS/RS system.

Some of the popular types of AS/RS or ASRS systems are:
• Unit-load AS/RS System
• Mini-load AS/RS System
• Carousal based AS/RS system and
• Vertical Lift Module (VLM)
As these systems locate and deliver necessary products to a conveyor system or operator station automatically, they help in achieving greater throughput, reduction in manual labour and optimization of inventory levels. This, in turn, helps the organization enjoy higher productivity and improved accuracy as compared to traditional storage and distribution techniques.

How does AS/RS Work?
AS/RS follows a computerized process that assists with the management and maintenance of stored products and materials in fully automated warehouses.
The operator enters the details regarding the product that is required and how many units are required. Then the computer determines where the product has been stored, what is the best way to retrieve it quickly and then executes the program to retrieve the required product(s) with the help of integrated equipment.
Storage –Products and materials that are to be stored are placed in the input station. Then the operator punches in the details regarding the designated storage space. Then the AS/RS system takes the product to the selected storage location and offloads it there.

Retrieval –Once the operator punches in the requirements, WES/WMS directs the AS/RS system towards the exact storage location, from where the product will be retrieved and delivered to the designated location. Automatically the inventory gets updated on a real-time basis as and when the products are stored or retrieved.

When to use AS/RS?
AS/RS systems are commonly used in industrial applications under the following circumstances:
• When picking and shipping speed is of utmost priority
• When storage space is a concern and storage density must be increased
• When a large volume of products is to be handled on a daily basis
• When the safety of stored goods is of utmost priority
• When storage, retrieval, and shipping are the only operational aspects of a business

Benefits of AS/RS

AS/RS systems are widely used for streamlining the warehousing functions in business and greatly helps in achieving the following benefits:
• Maximization of floor space: AS/RS system utilizes height of the warehouse offering higher density through narrower aisle space
• Inventory Management: AS/RS system provides all data related to inventory levels, storage period, and lead times that drive efficient inventory management.
• Fast & Accurate: AS/RS system gives high throughput with utmost accuracy in fetching and storing the load.
• Safe and secure operation: Complete automation and reduced number of touches to the material ensure safe & secure warehouse operations.
• Process Improvement: AS/RS system ensures the seamless functioning of various supply chain processes. This helps in saving time and cost, as well as increasing the efficiency of operations.

Automated Storage and Retrieval System help industrial warehouses comply with complex warehousing requirements effortlessly and are a worthy investment to make the warehouse future-proof. It’s the most advanced & fully automatic system, that provide maximum space utilization through usage vertical storage structure.

Robonomics : The science of Robotic Automation

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law

A robot must protect its own existence if such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

Isaac Asimov, a science fiction author and professor at Boston University postulated the “Three Laws Of Robotics” in his 1942 popular short story “Run-around”. Though these laws appeared fictional at the time of writing, the advent of technology has made humans and Robots work together and these laws more or less, form the crux of the operation in such workplaces. While countries like Germany, Italy, Sweden, France, S. Korea, China, Spain, the US, UK have taken to the use of Robots in a big way subsequently driving up productivity and scale, India has somewhat lagged in the adoption of Robots on the shop floor. As the Government pushes on the idea of “Make in India”, it becomes imperative for Indian manufacturers to adopt Robots at the workplace.

With increased adoption globally, standard robot models are now mass-produced, and this presents a perfect opportunity for small and medium-sized companies to deploy Robotic Automation in their manufacturing and drive the next wave of value unlocking. A holistic view of the costs involved shall allow them to make the decision to adopt the Robotic Automation. At Addverb, we recommend the “FOLDUP” approach to customers to calculate the ROI for Robotic Automation.

Flexibility: Robotic Automation is future-ready automation, by just reprogramming the robot and changing the end tools, the entire production process can be tweaked. This is in stark contrast with the special purpose machines which generally have hard tools that cannot be tweaked. In the case of a manual process, the human workforce clubbed with archaic labor laws makes the production process very inflexible.

Overheads: Once the upfront investment has been made in Robotic Automation, the cost of running the entire system is very less as compared to a manual system. Robotic Automation ensures low or no maintenance and administrative costs, which are quite high while managing a manual workforce. These costs are often not included in the ROI calculation, also the administrative costs (Overheads) generally tend to increase as the number of years of operation increases. Taking this into account results in a very low-cost of total ownership for Robotic Automation.

Labour: At present, the majority of the jobs that absorb most of the labor are repetitive in nature, these kinds of jobs do not add any skill to the people who are employed. This, in turn, results in stagnation of labor which creates a hostile industrial relations scenario. With Robotic Automation, the labor that is required to maintain the robots is highly skilled and as such this provides better employment opportunity, resulting in harmonious industrial relations. Quite a few jobs in manufacturing take place in an environment that is hostile to the human body, using robots for such processes is a great investment that also ensures harmonious Industrial Relations.

Dependability: The manual process often results in variability and quality defects. Robotic Automation is highly dependable, and robots often prove to be superior to humans in terms of quality of the work for most of the production processes. Robotic Automation can drastically reduce the number of defects and improve the quality of the inspection. As Robotic Automation displays zero deviation from the production process, the resulting quality of the finished products is quite good. This cost often gets overlooked as a manual process usually results in high-quality defects, affecting the overall brand of the company as well.

Usage: This is the most important criterion that must be factored in while implementing Robotic Automation. Robots allow three-shift operations, 7 days a week and 365 days a year without any interruption and stoppage. While comparing with a manual process, this must be compared to an equivalent workforce that shall be required to manage such operations at this scale. It ensures continuous production without any stoppages due to administrative issues.

Productivity: Apart from non-stop usage, one of the most neglected aspect of Robotic Automation is the increase in Productivity. Having a Robot is like having a highly skilled resource available, round the clock. Unlike Robots, the human body is susceptible to short-term fatigue, injury and disability. Many jobs in manufacturing typically either because of the hostile environment or being repetitive in nature result in low productivity after some time. This is not the case with Robotic Automation, which ensures constant productivity throughout.

Even with all this, the most important factor that determines the success of Robotic Automation in a factory is an “Integrator”- a company which completely understands the nuances of Robotic Automation and can design complete solution that will maximize the output by selecting the right robot, designing the layout, integrating the vision system, etc.

Robotic Automation offers a very reliable and efficient production process, robots typically can be refurbished and used again after a period of 10-12 years with ease. All these factors make the ROI on Robotic Automation attractive, a good rule of thumb is to target a minimum of three years for calculating the ROI. After these three years, typically Robotic Automation results in positive cash flow for the company with minimum variability and high-efficiency. That’s the stage when actual value unlocking happens for the organization. It becomes imperative for small and medium enterprises, who aim to grow, to look beyond the near future to truly ascertain the gains obtained from Robotic Automation.

Technology trends in industrial automation for 2018

When Moore observed the fact that the number of transistors in an IC doubles approximately after every two years, it was believed to be the basic principle for the survival of any technology. Later, Moore’s observation was loosely stated as any technology doubles its productive capacity in 18 months. This laid the foundation for all technological developments. Further today we observe that even this 18 months period has been shortened and technological leaps happen within a year. Manufacturing typically is the most impacted field due to any technological advancement. Here we look at the five technological trends that will disrupt the manufacturing sector in the next 12 months in India:

1.Adoption Of Voice: For quite long, scanning as technology has dominated the warehousing industry. Barcodes have been seen as the most effective solution for picking & put away. With AI-based Voice engines becoming more mature, reliable and their availability in regional languages, there shall be increasing use of Voice in warehouses for picking and put-away process. Due ease of use, increased productivity and robustness, voice-based solutions are poised to replace scanning in warehouses in India.

2.Bluetooth Based Asset Tracking: With the logistics startups disrupting the transportation sector and incoming of GST reducing the Truck Turn-Around Time during transportation, companies would be focusing on optimizing their internal workflow and keeping operational costs low. As such cost-effective asset tracking solutions shall be the talk of the town. Being Robust with longer battery lives, encryption-based security and very high accuracy, “Bluetooth Low Energy” beacons based RTLS solutions and asset tracking will replace the existing RFID based asset tracking systems.

3.Smart Factories: For quite some-time now we have been hearing and talking about smart factories. Smart factories are all about connected machines. Competitive pressures and onslaught of technology such as cloud, augmented reality, etc. will prompt manufacturers to look to Industrial IoT solutions to connect the different processes to drive operational gains and to drive agility and scalability. Areas like remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, fire hydrant management shall be the first areas for disruption and prove to be successful use cases for IoT solutions.

4.Entry Of Mobile Robots: With the automated driving market heating up with a multitude of startups competing to take the lead, resulting in the maturity of technology, this year will see the adoption of automated guided vehicles in the manufacturing and warehousing sector in India. The industry will migrate to more advanced navigation technologies such as LIDAR, RADAR & Cameras from the existing basic magnetic tape solutions.

5. Data Speaks Up: Big Data has been in vogue for quite some time and manufacturing has already been having a big chunk of data to operate on. This year we will see a business using AI-enabled software platforms to make complex decisions on predicting the breakdowns in machines and avoid downtimes. Products that can help in predicting breakdown patterns and improve productivity shall be the mainstay in manufacturing this year.

Daag ache nahee hain: Vision Management System

Cleanliness is key to holistic healthcare and laundry is an essential but often under-served component in healthcare, addressing this area is “Shubhram Hospital Solutions”, it provides holistic, high-quality linen management and laundering services, guaranteeing infection-free linen that complies with international standards. With their state of the art facility, they ensure that thousands of patients need not face any problems in hospitals.
In order to add more reliability to its process, Shubhram used to manually check the cloth after it was cleaned, this was done to ensure that no stain remained on the cloth and also to add more reliability to the process. In order to make this process more efficient and agile, Addverb provided Shubhram with a “Vision Management System”. VMS captured any stain, wrinkle and identified the torn bedsheets as well. Vision Management System consisted of cameras which were installed at a location that could capture and identify stains. With the help of a sensor and a PLC, VMS could detect any abnormality in bedsheets resulting in rejections and the rejected bedsheets could be further rewashed or discarded.
Quality is a prime business principle and becomes extremely critical in the healthcare sector. Addverb’s VMS added more reliability to the process and enabled Shubhram to operate at 98% accuracy in its daily operations and delighting the customers.

Khushi: Power your Warehouse by Voice based picking

You are sitting in your office and discussing an important project. You suddenly get a birthday reminder for someone important in your life. Since you didn’t remember the birthday, you haven’t sent any gifts. What do you do?………. You open a shopping app, pick same-day delivery, and voila! The app helps you order a gift that will delight your loved ones. But, what took you a few clicks to finish is, in fact, the result of heaps of teams working in tandem around the year. The most important part of this entire chain is the “Warehouse” which stores these “gifts”. Warehouses are the hidden fulcrum of supply chain management, without their smooth functioning, the entire supply chain would collapse. There’s a lot to proper warehouse management than what meets the eye. From taking care of time-critical packages and dealing with inaccurate inventory to employing strategies to minimize labor costs – the world of warehousing is as tricky as a “dusra” cricket delivery indeed!

Out of all the activities in a warehouse namely in-warding of goods, storage, order picking, and dispatch, order picking forms the backbone of the entire operations. Picking up the correct order is critical as it directly affects supply chain productivity. Collecting articles for every order placed by the customer, as per the right quantity, while making sure it’s the exact product as was ordered- for millions of customers, every single time – is a Herculean task indeed!

To make this task easier and increase efficiency, it is recommended to use Voice-directed warehousing, or Pick-by-Voice as many call it. It comes to warehousing operations as an improvement upon the older version of HHT based scanning system for picking and is a new opportunity to win the upper hand in the aggressive supply-chain market.
Voice Picking Software- What’s In the Voice and How Does It Function?

Pick-By-Voice is a speech recognition and voice direction software installed in a small, wearable device. Here’s how it works:

1. Warehouse employees carry the voice unit with them
2. They receive verbal prompts from the mobile unit
3. They are directed to predetermined locations in the warehouse as per the algorithm
4. They read confirmation codes (check digits) of the products and speak predefined commands into the mic of the headset
5. The speech recognition module verifies the worker’s response and reverts with the picking quantity
6. After confirming the quantity picked, the worker collects the product and moves on to the next location

The entire system is designed to optimize the pick path of the operator thus improving the overall efficiency of the system

Pick-by-Voice Versus Traditional Warehouse Management Methods- What Makes the Former Special?

For one, a system that is entirely centered around speaking and listening gives your employees freedom from holding anything other than the product that they’re supposed to be handling. There are no instruction sheets, code scanners, devices, or checklists that they may need to put down and pick up before and after dealing with a product.

This subsequently simplifies employee functionality. In fact, this causes a 35% to 85% increase in productivity and accuracy respectively.

Then, there is a matter of labor safety. With fewer obstacles in the way to divert the attention of your operator, the potential of any harm to the product or injury to the personnel reduces as well. Even if they are picking an exceptionally heavy object or handling a fragile item, the chances of hurting themselves or vandalizing the product go down significantly.
Ultimately, this system eliminates any paperwork requirement. And, voice picking training is not only quick but also hassle-free. Plus, since it makes the operator’s job a tad bit smoother and easier, it gradually leads to a more satisfied and hence dedicated operator.
But, Why Would You Jump on this Bandwagon at All?
Here are the problems voice picking solves for you:
1. Improves inventory accuracy, picking accuracy, and employee productivity
2. Increases operator-safety
3. Reduces training time for operators
4. Eliminates paperwork, and hence redundancy
5. Leads to a better customer experience

The system converts speech to data with advanced speech recognition software. This software learns what each word sounds like – regardless of language or dialect, so the operator of any region irrespective of their mother tongue, can adjust as easily as those whose first language is English or Hindi. Today, Voice Technology is available in Indian regional languages as well. In other words, this system can work anywhere around the world without any difficulty.
The global reach for this tech is expected to touch a staggering USD 2.5 billion by the end of 2018 from its previous value of USD 900 million in 2017. It’s not just flexible but also offers a stellar increase in productivity and efficiency for warehouses. And, the market is expected to adopt voice picking systems in the upcoming years readily. With the scale of warehousing picking in India, voice is expected to be the next technology that will hit a tipping point. We suggest you jump on this ship while the good seats are still available.

Pickathon: Order Picking

Technology has fundamentally altered our lives. It has led to the disruption of business models and the development of innovative products to drive up efficiency. “Industrial Revolution” led to mass manufacturing and an increase in the scale of operation, this led to the creation of big factories followed by large warehouses. Warehouses have become the cornerstone of supply chain management and the warehousing process elements have become the source of the proverbial “Competitive Advantage”.

One of the most pivotal parts of the warehousing process is “Order Picking”. Research has pegged the cost of the “Order Picking” process at approximately 55% of the total warehouse operating cost. With such critical importance, it becomes imperative to look at the factors that determine the outcome of the “Order Picking” process. Order Picking primarily depends on the following factors:

1. Level Of Automation: Warehouses can be completely manual, semi-automated or fully automated. The degree of automation involved impacts the service levels of Order Picking.

2. Layout Of Warehouse: Building a warehouse depends on customer demand, economy, product consumption pattern, accessibility and inventory levels. These collectively determine the layout of the warehouse for instance number of aisles, storage locations, etc. This, in turn, determines the methodology.

3. Operational Policies: One of the critical factors on which Order Picking depends is operational policies/decisions. They comprise of storage patterns, customer demand patterns, routing and order release mode.

4. Methodology: Order Picking methodology can be broadly classified as:

Person-To-Item: The person (Picker) goes to different storage locations to collect the items.
Item-To-Person: The person (Picker) collects the items from a picking bay. Through equipment such as sorter, conveyor, etc. items are put in picking bay from the storage area.
Zone Picking: The entire warehouse storage locations are divided into sub-units (Zones). Each person (Picker) picks only items of the order which fall in his zone. Zones are activated in serial order, one after the other. The order is complete after passing through the last zone.
Wave Picking: In this again, the entire warehouse storage locations are divided into sub-units, items from different orders from one zone are picked together and consolidation and final sorting of orders happen later.

Key parameters to determine the proficiency of Warehouse Order Picking  are:

Delivery Time: This is the time taken from releasing order to completion of the order and final delivery of order for dispatch. A manual system such a Person-To-Item leads to high variability resulting in irregular dispatch and loss of flexibility. Shorter delivery time ensures more bandwidth to handle run-time changes in the order. Minimizing the Delivery time is the primary measure of an Order Picking System.
Reliability or Order Integrity: Picking up the correct item is critically important as a wrong order can lead to a disgruntled customer.

Correct picking ensures that a company is able to meet the demand of the customer on-time every time. The person-to-item methodology is the most commonly used methodology in warehouses today, typically it involves quite a lot of human interface and leads to a lot of variability in the operation. On average a Picker usually spends 70% of his time traveling and searching. With so much time spent on this activity and only 15% of the time spent in actual picking, the rest of the time is spent in setting-up and completing the pick ( validating the checklist). This entire process has a lot of scope for improvement. Add to the fact that the organizations face a lot of attrition at the level of Pickers. Quite a lot of time is wasted in training the new pickers and optimizing their working routes and working patterns. Going ahead, we shall take a look at how Addverb harnesses the technology to automate the Order Picking and address the inefficiencies.

Shopping 4.0

Shopping is an important aspect of all our lives, many people consider it a stress buster and often indulge themselves in it. It would be interesting to understand how the changing nature of technology impacts the very process of shopping. Let’s take a look at a typical shopping experience.

In a multi-brand store that offers all types of clothing, customers generally prefer to have their own space while shopping and don’t involve the sales representative in their shopping spree. After finding a shirt or trouser of their choice customers generally find that it is not available in the desired size. On approaching the sales representative and asking him to check if the shirt/trouser in the required size is there, generally, customers end up disappointed when the response comes in negative. By this time, the sales representative gets to know that the customer is genuinely interested in shopping and tries to sell a different shirt or a trouser. Despite his herculean efforts, not all customers buy something else and quite often leave the store disappointed. This is a routine which many of us follow and have experienced quite often.

How could we change it? How can technology ensure that a customer can have his own space without the mediation of a sales representative and never return disappointed? Technology can truly enhance the shopping experience of customers, giving the word “Customer Delight” a new dimension. After all, as mentioned above people shop for various reasons and invariably it gives them happiness, not being able to buy the item that one likes ruins shopping for you and it wastes a lot of time. How could this experience for a customer be enhanced? All these questions point towards Industry 4.0, the next wave of technological advancements that are altering manufacturing processes. Industry 4.0 solutions, if applied to shop could fundamentally alter the experience of shopping altogether.

Before looking at the future of shopping, we should first have a look at why stores keep Sales Representatives:

Facilitate the customer by offering the products that she needs and also guiding her to different sections

Provide her clothes that fit properly as per customer’s need

Help her come to a satisfactory decision

Drive-up the sales volume by converting more customers

To make the shopping experience for a customer “Delightful” a sales representative would have to put in a lot of discretionary efforts especially in a product category like clothing and hence this job becomes very “Critical”. Then why do we see many customers avoiding these sales representatives and buying on their own, the chief reasons can be:

Choosing something that you like and later realizing its not in your budget can be socially embarrassing in front of sales representative

Customers feel that these sales representatives push certain brands and items

People want their own privacy while shopping

It will be interesting to see how the application of Industry 4.0 solutions can truly change the shopping experience to “Customer Delight”.

Every customer before shopping shall have to enroll herself with the shop. This will only take small details like name, mobile number, age, e-mail id, etc. These details shall be available to all the branches of the shops across India through a cloud-based system. Through this, all the details of shopping that have been done by the customer shall be uploaded in the database. Whenever a customer shall go shopping, she will be provided with a Google glass with intelligent simulation software (her very own version of “J.A.R.V.I.S.”), based on her past shopping trends, the software will then guide her to the requisite section with the directions to reach that section as well. The decision as to which section she should go, would come from Data Analytics, “Jarvis” (let us call this software Jarvis for a while) shall take into account her age, her past shopping details and based on that will make an estimated budget, along with this it will process the latest fashion trends for that age category in that budget and guide the customer to the requisite section across different brands. Once the customer reaches the section of her desired brand or clothing, she can try on different clothes that she likes and interact with “Jarvis” to navigate to different sections as per her need. Once a customer finalizes a product she will purchase it by just scanning the product and making the payment. Wait! But what about the issue of not finding clothes according to your size? How will “Jarvis” solve this problem? It is straight “3-D Printing”, customer can order Jarvis to 3-D print a particular product in the size she wants. Jarvis using its capability of augmented reality will show her the design and the final product and will also communicate with the 3-D printer to print the product after her approval. Once the printing is done, the customer through their glasses can just scan the bar-code and money will be deducted from their bank account, no more frustrating queues (Lately we have had a lot of problems with queues). Once the entire shopping is done, the customer shall return their google glasses and thank “Jarvis” and shall never have to get disappointed while shopping again.

Jarvis will provide customers their privacy by helping them shop alone and will also create a delightful shopping experience for them by using Simulation, Augmented Reality, IoT, Big Data and 3-D printing. Online shopping is already using algorithms based on the past buying patterns of the customer to recommend the products, but they need to feel the product for items such as clothing means the brick & mortar shops shall continue for some time to come, but they will have to make use of the technology to stay relevant. Many might argue that this will take away jobs of Sales Reps & Cashiers but it would take away jobs that do not offer many avenues for growth. Also, because of high attrition in these jobs, it takes a lot of time and resources in developing the staff and since the necessary efforts to delight the customer are discretionary they vary from person to person, as a result, the customer experience can also vary. This is exactly a kind of role that our Jarvis can really take up as he would provide great customized service to each buyer delighting them manifold and increasing the business. In order to run Jarvis effectively, new jobs would be created as we would require many engineers and designers and with proper skilling people can take up these jobs which would be more satisfying and worthwhile. While today Mark Zuckerberg has his own version of Jarvis, in future we shall have one too and it will ensure that we can shop and never be disappointed again.

RFID: Enabling Mass Customization

Paytm tied up with NHAI to make the highway tolls cashless, this news went unnoticed until November 8th, when demonetization was announced. Though people were given exemption from tolls for some time, the cashless payment at Tolls got a boost. The underlying technology which facilitates this cashless operation on tolls is Radio Frequency Identification popularly called “RFID”. RFID tags have hit their tipping point and have found wide-spread applications in retail, inventory management, tracking assets and as we discussed above to facilitate cashless payments. The RFID market worldwide is estimated to be at a whopping 10 billion dollars and is expected to reach 20 Billion dollars by 2025.
RFID which traces its root back to World War has been used extensively in the first half of this decade. RFID typically comprises a reader (scanner) and an electronic tag. The reader communicates with the electronic tag by sending a signal. Each tag responds with unique information stored in it. These tags can either be Active or Passive. Active tags are equipped with a battery that allows them to transmit the signal over a long distance approximately 100m while passive tags use the electromagnetic energy of the reader (or scanner) to transmit the signal back resulting in an application for short distances like 20m. The range of the RFID tags varies with the frequency at which they are operating. When frequencies increase the range also increases.
The proof of the pudding is in eating, passive tags have huge potential to disrupt the entire manufacturing process. The ability to store information in RFID tags can change the traditional process of production. Usually, the instructions are passed out manually in a production process and thus necessitate cumbersome process checks and slow down the speed of production also hampering the flexibility. RFID tags can have pre-programmed information about the product and the process. This shall enable the tags to give commands to various elements of production with the help of a reader which shall communicate with the machines, thus eliminating cumbersome process instructions. This shall enable mass customization of products during manufacturing. The use of RFID shall also reduce manufacturing defects and lead to better reliability of the process. Scale and reliability along with flexibility is a dream combination for any manufacturing process and RFID technology seems to provide them.

BEACON : Whose Signal Is It Anyway?

Recently the students of IIT revolutionized the markets of Dharavi by using “beacons” to provide customized offers to the people visiting the markets. This illustration of the ability of beacons to change the entire experience of customers underlies the capability of beacon technology to fundamentally alter various processes across different domains in manufacturing and retail.

What is a Beacon? In ancient times, beacons were fires lit at different locations and used for signaling purposes. They were used to signal warnings, celebrations, navigation, signify an important location, etc. With time and advent of technology, beacons became more sophisticated and their application more widespread and today we typically see a beacon as a very small electronic device type of the size of buttons of a shirt that emits radio signals in close proximity of varying strengths.

How Does Beacon work? Beacons use technology such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or UWB. Most commonly used beacons are equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) also called Bluetooth Smart. BLE allows the beacons to continuously emit radio signals which contain packets of information. These signals are visible to all the Bluetooth enabled devices such as our smartphones and are sent out typically every 1/10th of a second. In order to emit these signals, beacons have to be connected to a power source such as a battery. BLE requires very little energy as compared to regular Bluetooth and hence the beacons can run even for years with the help of just small button cells.

What shall these Beacons do? The Bluetooth enabled devices (smartphones) through the signal are able to identify the beacon, once the phones identify the signal of the beacon it implies that they are within range of the beacon and a predetermined command on the relevant app shall be triggered. Internet connectivity for this stage is necessary for the app to trigger the command. These commands can be discount coupons, navigation options, any new product arrival, register attendance, etc.

The signals that beacons emit can be used to measure the location of the device around the beacon. The signal strength can be converted into the distance to know the exact location of the device from the beacon. Though one inherent problem that can occur is that beacons emit radio signals and they can be absorbed by objects in between the receiving device thereby altering the strength of the signal and thus affecting the conversion into the distance. With another technology, it is completely possible to address the problem but let us reserve it for another day!