Archives for April 2017

Material handling equipment plays starring role in Monsters, Inc.

By Ben Ames | April 21, 2017 | 7:43 AM

Any one of the 45,000 people who attended the ProMat trade show in Chicago this month saw a huge variety of material handling equipment on the vast floors of the McCormick Place convention center. From automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) at SencorpWhite and conveyors at Intralox and from the most basic racks, totes, and pallets to the latest augmented reality smart glasses at Zebra and the autonomous robots at Otto Motors and Locus Robotics.

It was more warehouse hardware in one room than most people see in a year… that is, unless you have kids who are fans of the 2001 animated Disney movie “Monsters, Inc.”

I was recently writing one last ProMat story for our conference coverage and pulled a classic double-take when I glanced up from my laptop to see the very same equipment on our family TV set. It was the climactic chase scene at the end—you know, the one where the loyal monsters Sulley and Mike are defending the cute kid they’ve nicknamed “Boo” from an assault by the scheming monsters Randall and Waternoose, who…

OK, let’s move past the complex plot twists and get back to material handling equipment. The scene unfolds in a massive warehouse packed with thousands of closet doors that are carried by an automated carousel system with diverters and mergers, connected to conveyors and compactors, as robotic arms grasp and release the inventory, and managers sort the goods with a computer keyboard that must have been connected to a warehouse management system (WMS).

As a dedicated consumer of animated children’s films (no really, I have young kids), I can vouch that it was probably the most high profile display of warehouse tech in an animated film since, well, “Storks.” But that’s a different story.


Razor warehouse generates chuckles and profits

By Ben Ames | April 06, 2017 | 10:10 AM

Running a retail business from a distribution center is a great way to cut overhead costs like supporting and staffing a brick and mortar store, but the strategy has an additional benefit—it can be just plain fun.

Hard-working logistics professionals don’t often have a chance to get a chuckle out of warehouse work, but when Dollar Shave Club founders Mark Levine and Michael Dubin launched their company in Venice, Calif., in 2011, they needed a way to recruit new customers to their innovative startup.

The video they produced of Dubin pitching the business as he strolled through their warehouse became an instant classic. It featured the founder triggering mistakes and uttering profanities, quickly netting the young company thousands of new customers and overwhelming its then-immature fulfillment network.

Dollar Shave Club soon recovered, and this week it had another good laugh at its competitors’ expense. Under pressure from online retailers such as Dollar Shave Club and its fellow direct online retailer Harry's Inc., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette division is cutting its prices in order to stay competitive, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The global grooming giant is feeling the razor-burn as its young rivals leverage the powerful efficiency of warehouse operations to cut the legs out from under the shaggy supply chain of a traditional storefront strategy, with its wholesalers, middlemen, and transportation costs. By exchanging the overhead costs of supporting a brick and mortar storefront for a simple monthly subscription fee, online purveyors can take advantage of economies of scale to buy inventory directly from suppliers.

That smooth operating model is not restricted to shaving products—just ask hardware store owners about a related strategy for ditching the brick and mortar store, deployed by The Home Depot Inc. and Lowes Companies Inc. when they invite shoppers right into their distribution facilities. Or ask home goods sellers about Costco Wholesale Corp.’s similar approach in selling everything from paper towels to television sets directly off of shipping pallets.

There is no word yet if those retailers are also producing humorous warehouse videos to promote their services.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.

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