Welcome to the ‘Logistics Bulletin’ with Emma Callahan, a Q&A focused on changemakers and leaders in the logistics and e-commerce technology space.
These interviews dig deeper into what differentiates the players in the space and where the vertical is predicted to head in the coming months or years. The industry leaders will share insights into top technologies, changes in the space, and what finding talent looks like in the current market.
Numina offers consulting services and material handling solutions to provide companies with process improvements to reduce labor costs, eliminate errors and increase order throughput. They analyze product velocity, and order profiles to design and recommend warehouse layouts and automated material handling systems.
Tell me a little bit more about your organization, a brief introduction.
The Numina Group is a top-tier designer and integrator of warehouse automation solutions. Founded in 1986 by Dan Hanrahan and Mark Woodworth, the company offers decades of experience in warehouse design, warehouse software, material handling equipment, systems integration, and implementation services for mid- to large-sized enterprises. Their team has designed and successfully implemented over 1,000 warehouse automation projects in diverse warehouse environments throughout North America. Numina is differentiated from other warehouse automation companies by our comprehensive solutions and services:
How did you first start your career in the logistics space?
I started my career in supply chain at around 14 years old. My father managed a warehouse management software company. It was really from the moment I could sit at a kitchen table; we were talking about configuring billing modules for third party logistics companies. It was very normal dialogue growing up to talk about the projects that were going on and the business itself.
Of course, with my father being involved in that business, I naturally started working there. I sold and helped implement my first WMS project when I was 15. From this, I grew a career. This is what I know, it is what I love to do, and cannot imagine my career doing really anything else.
Fast forward a decade, and I continued to work with the family business. There was an emergent situation where I ended up having the opportunity to take over the organization. At this time, I took an owner-operator role. There were a handful of events but within the next 12 months, we led the company to an acquisition by Aptean which is a company owned by VISTA Equity Partners. Following that, I went into the consulting world. I was offered an opportunity to join Oracle’s Cloud WMS service line at Capgemini, a French-based strategy consulting firm. I helped grow that organization for the next 12-15 months and had incredible results, including tripling service line revenue and then doubling the install base. While at Capgemini, I saw this wave of automation happening. Specifically, in the fulfillment space, which is the exact space I was selling WMS in years prior. Due to this, I knew the business problem, intimately. I learned about a company called 6 River Systems in essentially in its infancy, that produced an innovative solution for cart picking. I was fortunate to be an early employee, one of the first go-to-market hires. We scaled it up to a point where we could lead it to an acquisition by a company called Shopify. Shopify acquired 6 River Systems and formed an entity know today as Logistics by Shopify. From there, I made the decision to join the Numina Group.
The Numina Group has been around for 30 years. What differentiates them is they have an incredibly well-established warehouse execution and warehouse control software. From my experience in the space, I saw no greater opportunity than to partner with an organization who is well established and has 200 installations of this product.
I joined The Numina Group to evangelise a few things, one, the warehouse execution software as a function of automation. And then secondarily, pack and ship. We launched a product called Pakt several months ago, that is a brainchild of 120 deployments in pack and ship automation. The thesis is as follows: there have been 10’s of billions of dollars invested in picking automation. Currently, there is no shortage of ways you can pick an item today. There are dozens of vendors that are solving the same problem just one degree differently than the next. We saw a huge wave of picking investment and little investment in packing and shipping.
You can think of a warehouse as just one flow like a hose. The width of that hose dictates the volume that you can push through it. Now, think about connecting three hoses together, the first one is picking, the second one’s packing and the third one is shipping, if your diameter of your hose for picking is larger than the diameters of the other hoses you are only going to be able to push out a certain amount of volume out of your building. If your shipping hose is a certain size, then you are limited in the amount of volume you can push out. A lot of investment has gone in increasing the throughput and the pacity of their picking but hasn’t increased the capacity or the performance of their packing and shipping. It’s still fully manual in most cases.
Numina had the most experience in the landscape of designing pack and ship solutions. And so, I wanted to go take that technology and synthesize the complexity, Traditionally, you would have to approach an integrator, which is what The Numina Group is, and you would have to have to custom engineer a solution that was purpose-built for you. This, of course, sounds great until you must support it, upgrade it, or have any change in your organization that affects the software. Being able to standardize the offering, we can then have some redeploy ability of that technology, which allows us to sell it as automation as a service.
Since positioning your career in this space, how have you seen the logistics/e-commerce space grow?
I believe there will be a lot of consolidation. If you look at the third-party logistics segment, there are so many different providers that are in the space. Naturally, from an investment thesis, there’s good reason for consolidation.
There is also a consolidation to be had from a technology perspective. If you went and bought a bunch of different third-party logistics companies combining them into a single stack, you would have some congruency on the IT side of things.
Outside of consolidation, the rate of adoption on automation is accelerating. People need to be wise in the organizations that they invest in right now. If you look behind the curtain, there are a lot of companies going under. There have been massive layoffs at a large amount of venture capital automation companies. And it’s because of that bubble that I described before, too many players solving too many of the same problems with too little of a total addressable market.
What hiring challenges have you run into in this space?
I think the biggest challenge I find on the commercial side is finding people that are good enterprise sellers, but also have strong domain expertise in warehousing. As you continue to peel back the onion, you see how complex solution designs can get in a warehouse. You might look at it for the first time and think “Oh, orders coming in, orders going out, or purchase orders in, sales orders out, and inventory in the middle,” there is a lot of information to understand for you to be credible. Additionally, you need to always be taking in new information and that is because of how competitive the vendor landscape is.
From a hiring perspective, I think it’s imperative for candidates to have warehouse experience. Additionally, the more experience and knowledge they have in the space the less ramp up time it takes. History also tells me that it takes at least 18 months to onboard into the industry, and then around an equal amount of time to understand the vendor landscape and to be able to sell competitively. So, the biggest challenge is finding the unicorns that are professional sellers, who also understand warehousing inside and out.
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