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.
Gather AI is now the market-leading company using drones to automate inventory monitoring processes for warehouses. With their recent acquisition of Ware, they are serving more customers than any other autonomous inventory management company.
They provide real-time visibility which ultimately decreases the cost of inventory and leads to operational efficiency, improved productivity and a revenue boost.
Their software-only AI enables drones to fly autonomously through warehouses to photograph inventory stored in pallet locations. Their Machine Learning engine reads bar codes, labels, counts boxes, empties and other information, automatically compares it with what’s in the warehouse management system (WMS). This means employees no longer spend long, tedious hours doing manual inventory with forklifts, and there’s less likelihood of misplacing product (no overordering, no more delayed shipments and more).
The warehouse manager can view inventory data in real-time from a web dashboard and easily identify and fix inventory exceptions, even creating a to-do list for their teams. This process is up to 15 times faster than manual cycle counting, and our solution can be applied to virtually any warehouse type with racking.
How did you start the company?
I was inspired to start the company while doing the final demonstration of the world’s first fully autonomous full-scale helicopter at the FBI training grounds in Quantico. I developed the safety and sensor planning algorithms for the helicopter during my PhD, and it had just covered 10 km of path length while making a beautiful 3D map of the environment it had traversed. The project went on to win the Howard Hughes award, AUVSI Xcellence award and was nominated for the Collier Trophy. But I was struck by the amazing data gathering capabilities that the helicopter had.
Along with our Co-Founders Geetesh and Daniel, I dedicated my thesis work on how to make drones effective data gatherers – how to make them curious – and we spun-out of Carnegie Mellon to use drones to digitize the world.
The exact application was confirmed through talking to around 200 potential customers through customer discovery phase, where we discovered real-time inventory monitoring was an urgent and important problem to solve for supply chain operators.
How have you seen the Logistics and E-commerce space grow within your career?
US Department of Commerce data shows ecommerce sales have been growing steadily for over a decade, with significant growth in the past three years. This means warehouses need to operate as efficiently as possible, given many of their orders will go to a single home or location.
The watershed point came during COVID-19 where ecommerce adaption truly accelerated, and at the same time supply chain uncertainty grew. That trend has carried on as warehouse crews experience labor shortages, supply chain delays and demand and price fluctuations caused by the pandemic. Couple this supply chain decentralization from China, and the need for digitization is apparent far and wide.
Whereas in 2018 we were just talking to early adopters, today our customers are some of the best supply chain organizations in the world who understand the need for digitization.
We’re eager to help warehouse teams keep their inventory organized, so they avoid lost inventory, delays, line-down situations and more.
Have you seen any challenges in expanding talent within your teams? How have you overcome these challenges as you continue to expand?
The first challenge we saw was during the pandemic, when we had to switch to hiring remotely. I was concerned about our culture of excellence being preserved without the high bandwidth of communication that in-person work offers.
However, we grew remote hiring as an organization and love the flexibility that it offers to us in procuring the right talent – also the flexibility it offers to our people.
Since we work on the cutting edge of robotics, our bar for hiring is fairly high. Initially it took us a lot of time to onboard our early hires for that reason. Today, our value system and culture has established itself and is attracting the right set of people, even though we still hire on an average once a month.
To finish, what changes do you envision seeing in the space in the next few years?
Operators are realizing that digitization is a powerful tool to stay on top of a dynamic supply chain environment, especially as we deal with after effects of COVID and make our supply chain networks more robust through on-shoring. We will see more and more adoption of AI to optimize operations, and the need for feeding the right data into AI will become greater.
In fact, we’re already seeing our customers deploy the Gather AI solution in multiple warehouses, to digitize their facility networks and provide data-driven efficiencies across them. I also anticipate solutions like ours being used outside of the warehouse in yards as well to increase the digitization benefits.
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