Supply chain software startup SensorThink has released a specialized warehouse execution system (WES) product designed to serve automated distribution centers (DCs) such as those being launched by parent company Tompkins International.
Tompkins, a Raleigh, N.C.-based consultancy, co-founded SensorThink 18 months ago and holds an ownership stake in the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company. Tompkins recently unveiled a plan to create a fourth-party logistics provider (4PL) division called the MonarchFx Alliance, build a network of six highly automated DCs, and manage a team of logistics partners featuring prominent third-party logistics (3PL) providers, software vendors, and a delivery company. MonarchFx plans to start shipping orders by August, and all its fulfillment centers will utilize SensorThink, Tompkins Chairman and CEO Jim Tompkins said.
SensorThink defines its software as a WES product combined with an Internet of Things (IoT) platform and a data analytics engine. Working together, those components tie the various elements of warehouse production, performance, and execution into a single platform, the company said.
"Nothing new has happened in warehousing for a long time; the warehouse management system (WMS) has been the core technology there for 15 years," SensorThink CEO Eric Peters said in an interview. "But we saw the connected car, the connected city, the connected home, and that led us to the conclusion that we're soon going to have the connected warehouse. Cameras, drones, robots, connected thermostats...they're all coming to the warehouse, and the industry is not prepared."
The SensorThink platform enables users to manage that broad collection of smart devices from a single computer screen, analyzing the performance of the entire building from a dashboard view, Peters said.
The system gathers data from nearly anywhere in the building, including IoT-enabled devices that share information through networked sensors, as well as non-IoT connected machines and other software solutions. Data sources in a warehouse could include security devices, building automation, fleet management software, or the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that control manufacturing hardware, Peters said.
SensorThink will not compete against established platforms like WMS, labor management system (LMS) or transportation management system (TMS) software, but rather will make it easy for warehouse managers to collect information and analyze it in ways they couldn't do before, he said.
"Customer demands are stressing the warehousing sector because of the pace of change in retail," Peters said. "Amazon and e-commerce are changing the industry by offering next-day delivery, free shipping costs, and allowing customers to search the Internet for the lowest price. If you're not the leader, you're just going to fall farther behind Wal-Mart and Amazon."