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Kevin Paramore, emerging technology commercialization manager at Yale Materials Handling Corporation, works as part of Yale’s emerging technology team to provide problem-solving solutions that leverage the latest technologies, available through national account and dealer sales channels. He has over 15 years of experience leading sales teams and a bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:01
How do you do social distancing in a warehouse and still be productive? Carriers are hitting their breaking point under an avalanche of holiday shipments. And what are some of the technologies that will make major impacts in coming years?
Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast. Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
Logistics Matters is sponsored by Yale Materials Handling, a leading warehouse brand that specializes in much more than just lift trucks. Logistics operations rely on Yale for everything from robotics and advanced power options to the company's most recent addition: an innovative tag-to-tag solution to help enforce social distancing protocols and inform reactive measures to limit virus spread. For more information, visit Yale.com. That's Y-A-L-E dot com.
As usual, our DC Velocity senior editors, Ben Ames and Victoria Kickham, will be along to provide their insight into the top stories of this week. But to begin, how do managers maintain safe social distancing practices in their distribution operations, and still get high productivity from their workforce? To answer that question, here is Ben with today's guest. Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 01:27
Here with us today, we have Kevin Paramore, who's the emerging technology commercialization manager at Yale Materials Handling Corp. Kevin, thank you for joining us today.
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 01:38
Of course, thanks for having me.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 01:41
Kevin, you have a pretty cool title there: emerging technology commercialization manager. Could you give us a quick description of how your specialty fits into the overall mission at Yale?
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 01:53
Sure. It's a very long title, right? So, if you can imagine, it actually takes up the front and back of a business card. Um, but no, all kidding aside, I think it's a fun title. It's a fun job, and really, what I specialize [in] is all the various emerging technologies in the forefront of the material handling space for Yale. And as you mentioned, that is robotics. It is telematics—we have solution called Yale Vision. We also have what we call the Yale Power Suite, which is kind of an agnostic view of what power source is right to drive your lift trucks. So very fun.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 02:28
Gotcha. Really interesting stuff. And some of that technology, I know, that you guys have been working on is particularly relevant to our challenges today. I know that Yale has a new platform that allows greater safety protocols for workers who are in warehouses during these Covid-19 times. Could you tell us a little bit more about that, and explain a little bit why Yale created them?
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 02:55
Yeah. So, it's a great question. So yes, we have what we're calling a social-distancing solution. It is packaged under our Yale Vision portfolio. And, really, what this is, is a proximity tag, or a tag that vibrates when pedestrians come within six feet of one another. So there's very—it's scalable. There's a lot of different function and features to the solution, but right out of the box, it's meant to promote the social distancing of six feet, which is obviously recommended by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:29
And that's particularly important, I imagine for indoor jobs. I mean, we're all familiar, in logistics, you can have an incredibly wide variety of jobs—I mean, a truck driver might be alone in his tab or her cab all day, and forklift operators probably have naturally, a little bit of distance built in with the vehicle around them, whereas picking and packing workers could be standing shoulder to shoulder, so that it sounds like the Yale solution allows for that kind of variation?
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 03:56
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's, like you mentioned, the forklift drivers, yeah, you hope in theory, they have a distance of six feet around them, but those drivers also get out of the seat from time to time and walk throughout the facility. So, it applies not only to the material handling space, but could apply to really any office setting or anything that's out there today. Again, it's that simple reminder that, hey, you're within my six-foot bubble, and it's a reminder to kind of take a step back.
And you have different levels in the different settings that this applies to, such as you have possibly a new employee that's not as vocal as others are a little more standoffish, and when a supervisor comes by and encroaches in that space, they're reluctant to make that request to take a step back, right? So this is a very friendly reminder.
And then, as I mentioned, it's scalable. So depending on what the customer or end user wants to get from the system, you can also do something called contact tracing. I think that's a pretty common term now, unfortunately thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but contact tracing you can do with these tags as well. So, not only can you promote the social distancing, but you can build somewhat of a response plan if, for some reason, unfortunately, you have a positive Covid-19 test result in one of your employees or coworkers.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 05:20
Yeah, important stuff for sure, as we've all come to learn in these last few strange months.
I'm curious about what some of the technology challenges that you've faced in in creating the solution, that, for instance, we write about, you know, technologies like, you know, wireless sensors or RFID sometimes in warehouses, and there can be challenges there, with the metal racks, or if there are liquids that are stored, sometimes the signals don't work so well, in terms of communicating. Were there some of those challenges that you had to overcome to create this solution?
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 05:57
Yeah. So again, depends on the solution, you're going after, what feature functions you're getting after, but really the social distancing, the vibration within itself, it utilizes what's referred to as ultra-wideband, or people refer to it as UWB. It really offers no or little interference, as it pertains to other—if you're looking at a wireless network or cellular network, it really doesn't interfere with those. So there hasn't been a lot of technology challenges.
I will say, if you're in an office setting, right, so let's say there are walls, or racking or some other, some other structure in between two operators or two pedestrians, these walls, they don't come into play. So if you have somebody in an office setting sitting at a desk, and it is a normal process for people to walk by her or his office, within six feet of distance, if there's a wall or not, it is going to vibrate or count that as an occurrence. So it's just knowing these, how efficient, how effective these tags are. It's good to know your business rules or internal setting.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 07:07
Yeah, absolutely. That's really interesting. And, as you mentioned, about business rules, I imagine that the tags fit into sort of a range of other safety measures for avoiding coronavirus infections. I mean, people talk about, you know, measuring body temperature when people show up at work sometimes or, of course, there's the hand washing that we're all used to. And making sure that you offer paid sick leave to ensure that people stay home when they have to. This sounds like it also, you know, fits into a bigger picture there, of supporting the continued warehouse work.
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 07:43
Sure, I mean, let's face it, I mean, there's not a known silver bullet in combating the Covid pandemic in the workspace. I have to say that social distance, the social-distancing solution that we offer is a complement to all of what you just referenced, tight? So, wearing a mask is a known, washing hands is a known, and social distancing are all [a] must, but the question is, how do you provide data around it?
So, even measuring body—you mentioned measuring body temperature is helpful, but it's not foolproof, right? So, it's known that many asymptomatic individuals are walking around the warehouse today with a virus, and that would there would be no increase in body temperature. Yale's social-distancing system really differentiates itself in a few ways.
One, it promotes that, you know, it right out of the box, it promotes the social distancing, which is one of the key deterrents.
Two, it offers, you know, data to back communication to your workforce. So, in other words, if one person on your assembly line should test positive, without data, you know, all of your assembly line more than likely would quarantine, you know? You would, unfortunately, probably shut down the line. You'd be forced to halt production, sanitize the area, and then find skilled replacements to fill during that quarantine period, potentially. Now, with the data, you can pinpoint who and how many of the line workers were within that six-foot radius during the duration for that, whatever the time is that CDC recommends, which I think now it's 15 minutes. Within a 24-hour period, you have that actual data to back your decisions and notifications to fellow employees, and follow your internal guidelines and how you communicate that.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 09:26
And I think, for this next question, it sounds like we sort of covered it in some of our previous discussion of this interesting platform, but does Yale see this kind of tool as something that could be used outside of the warehouse as well? Or is it more specific to logistics work?
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 09:43
Yes. So, again, this is not specific to a warehouse. It's not tagging on to a WiFi network at certain, at the base level. So, it could be used in an outdoor setting, indoors, doctor's office, prison, school system. I mean, it could go across many different applications.
I mean, this solution really started, and we were able to bring the solution very quickly to the market for a couple reasons. You know, one, we had, let's just say a major customer that we had partnered with and a great technology partner. We were working on a solution to really do the same thing, but around forklifts, right? So forget about the pedestrians and the tags for a minute, but we were looking at how do we offer real-time locations sensing? How do we buffer the distance around forklifts? So when Covid set in, it made an easy gateway to kind of go down this path to offer this. We have customers that are requesting this, and how do we develop this quickly and bring it to the market? So we've had some great deployments, and, again, not just in the material handling space, but outside of that as well.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 10:57
That's really interesting, Kevin, and for sure, here at the magazine, in our coverage, we've seen a lot of really inspiring creative solution-finding by companies throughout the logistics sector as they continue to operate through these times. Kevin, we really appreciate your being here with us today and bringing us up to speed on some of the latest technology.
Kevin Paramore, Emerging Technology Commercialization Manager, Yale Materials Handling Corporation 11:19
Of course. Thanks again for the time, and again, if you have further questions, feel free to reach out to your local Yale dealer.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 11:25
Sure will, thanks. Back to you, Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 11:28
Thank you, Kevin, and Ben. Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week. Victoria, we all knew that with the high amount of online shopping that is going on this holiday season, it was just a matter of time before carriers hit their capacity limits. And it certainly seems that many carriers are now reaching that exact breaking point. What have we learned so far?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 11:51
Yeah, thanks, Dave. Yeah, that's right. So, it's really getting to crunch time for shippers to get their, this year's massive increase in e-commerce orders to customers by the holiday and the news we've heard, as you mentioned, sort of about UPS and FedEx, you know, taking steps like raising prices and adhering to strict volume limits, is really having an impact on delivery throughout the supply chain.
So I spoke to leaders at last-mile technology company Convey about it this week, and they put the issue into perspective with some on-time performance statistics for the Big Three parcel carriers: UPS, FedEx, and [the] U.S. Postal Service. So, Convey tracks this information through its, what it calls its Parcel Network Pulse Dashboard, and that provides real-time parcel-shipment data from its clients' base, and it pulls in other industry data, and weather, and all that to really help retail clients spot fulfillment bottlenecks that are affecting their e-commerce deliveries. So I took a look, you know, as I said, talked to them about that.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:45
And what do those statistics show?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 12:47
Yeah, so well, for instance, looking at Black Friday through Cyber Week, the statistics show that FedEx and UPS saw only a slight dip in on-time performance, and that's largely due to the measures they've taken to manage this year's volume, like we just talked about.
The U.S. Postal Service, on the other hand, saw on-time performance drop in the same period. It's important to note the Postal Service is taking packages that UPS and FedEx won't, and that it's also seen unprecedented volume this season, on a different level, you know, including an increase from mail-in ballots for the recent presidential election, and then the uptick, as we said, from holiday shipping.
But Convey's data shows that the Postal Service has actually doubled its market share in e-commerce since October, but, again, they've seen a corresponding decrease in on-time performance. I think it's dropped by something like 10% each week for the last couple of weeks.
Another interesting statistic is that, what they call their click-to-deliver performance, or CTD performance measure. And this is the time from when a consumer hits purchase to when the order is actually delivered, and it takes into consideration both fulfillment and transit time. And that statistic, that measure, has risen considerably in the last few weeks, the biggest increase being on the fulfillment side, which is from purchase to when the product's picked up for delivery, as they measure it. And that's increased about 72% in the last month or so. So, for shippers, all this means that as they work to get their orders ready for delivery, many of those packages are sitting on docks, or just waiting to be picked up by carriers.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:17
So what are the shippers doing to address the problem and make sure that their orders are delivered on time?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:23
Well, that's the big question, right? Because we want to all make sure our holiday packages are received on time.
Much of this was planned for early, from what I'm told. You know, we've talked a lot about this extended peak season we're in. You know, we had Amazon with its Prime Day in October and efforts by some of the other large retailers—Walmart, Target, Best Buy—to really encourage early shopping through this, through sales and promotions. The idea was to spread out demand and try to address some of these issues ahead of time. So that's one thing.
The other big tactic is to leverage sort of alternate fulfillment methods, particularly curbside pickup and things like buy online, pickup in store. Curbside has been a big push, as I think we all know, due to the pandemic, and people, you know, not wanting to go into stores. Retailers that have been able to be really successful with these kind of alternative fulfillment methods are much better off than those who are trying to, who are solely relying, I should say, on the the Big Three for, with delivery. So, it's an issue that's going to continue, as we've talked about, even on this podcast last, you know, several weeks, you know, through the holiday season and even into the return season.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:26
So, bottom line, if you're a consumer, you want to get those packages mailed very quickly, at this point.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 15:32
Absolutely. Yeah. No more, no more waiting.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:35
And Ben, you've recently written about a number of technologies that we believe will make significant impacts in our industry in the coming years. Can you tell us more?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 15:44
That's right, Dave. It's sort of, often at the end of the year, we often take a look forward at sort of forecasting what's going to be coming up in the coming year or years. In this case, there was a recent forecast on the topic from the technology advisory firm Lux Research that we wrote about this week, and they listed 12 transformational technologies that they are predicting will have a real impact over the next decade. So, while the list spanned five different industries, there were several items that were very familiar for supply chain companies.
The first one on the list was autonomous vehicles, which will come as no surprise for people have been following the progress of self-driving trucks on the highways and autonomous mobile robots inside warehouses. Especially for autonomous trucks, that sector has hit some delays lately. Remember that Tesla's big announcement of its electric Tesla Semi, which is supposed to be highly automated, if not fully self-driving, was originally supposed to ramp up production back in 2019. So we're still waiting for that, obviously. But remember, this list from Lux Research covers the technology we'll see over the next decade, so there's still some time to develop that.
The second item on that list was natural language processing, which sounds a little wonky, but that's actually the technology behind a lot of familiar stuff that we use every day. Like, if you might have an Amazon Alexa, virtual assistant, or use the Siri and Google smartphone voice interfaces, even from the television remotes from Comcast and some other providers.
And the fourth one was artificial intelligence-enabled sensors. Again, definitely something we've been tracking in logistics, you know, we see sensors increasingly important for track and trace, for inventory management, and that's supposed to really accelerate even faster with the rollout of fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless data networks.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:49
Did the report mention any specific companies that are using these technologies?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 17:55
A good question. The report did not. The Lux technology, they were just talking about the general technologies themselves. However, we've covered another couple stories in recent weeks, where we saw some specific examples.
One of them, just two days ago, was a third-party logistics provider called Port Logistics Group, and they said that they're going to launch 150 autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, in a single one of their warehouses in California. Those AMRs are from Locus Robotics, and they're supposed to help warehouse workers do faster fulfillment to handle that flood of e-commerce orders that Victoria was talking about, as well, and, of course, also while helping to support social-distancing guidelines, as we were talking about with our guest from Yale.
And about a month ago, we covered another example, where FedEx said they were using autonomous tugs from Vecna Robotics to move, again, the large e-commerce packages around their DCs.
And FedEx is also experimenting, even, with an outdoor last-mile delivery scooter that carries parcels down the sidewalk to consumers' homes. That one comes from a company called Deka Research, which is the firm that invented that Segway scooter that you might see around for doing sort of tours around cities kind of thing, so. So, it's interesting that there there are definitely some examples where these things are getting traction.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:24
Yeah. Well, it'll certainly be fun to watch which of these technologies will actually pan out to make a true and lasting impact in coming years. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 19:33
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:34
We encourage listeners to go to DCVelocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories. Go there to check it all out.
Thanks, Ben and Victoria, for sharing Highlights of the news this week.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 19:46
Thanks, Dave. It's always fun.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 19:47
Yes, my pleasure. Thank you.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 19:49
And again, our thanks to Kevin Paramore for being with us today.
We encourage your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to rate this podcast if your podcast platform allows for that. We appreciate your feedback.
And a reminder that Logistics Matters is sponsored by Yale. High-performing warehouses depend on Yale for industry-leading lift trucks and much more: for robotics, power options, and even solutions to help with social distancing and reactive measures to limit virus spread. Visit Yale.com for more information.
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