The Summit at a Glance

This year’s Ecommerce Operations Summit was a 3-day event held April 9–11, 2019 in Columbus, OH. Joining me was Crimson & Co Partner Steve Mulaik, and Consultant Rachel Patel. There were several learning events offsite, Steve spoke at a roundtable (Robotic Choices for the Warehouse: From Bots to Arms to Armed-Bots), the Crimson team were exhibitors and attended several sessions throughout the Summit.

The Event Format

The show’s format differed slightly from prior years.

  • DAY 1: Company tours (including Ascena, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ohio State, DHL and many others), followed by a pub-crawl and distillery event.
  • DAY 2: Roundtables, Keynote, exhibition hall opens and sessions begin
  • DAY 3:Roundtables, Keynote, morning sessions and conclusion.

The tours and networking events drew more executive-level clients than in previous years. Steve had an engaged group at the Roundtable he led, and according to Ops Summit numbers, there was a 17% increase in executive titled attendees this year.

We top three topics I heard were: 1. Robotics 2. RFID 3. Peak Season

Abercrombie & Fitch Warehouse Tour

I attended the sold-out Abercrombie & Fitch Tour. The company has a campus with DC1 & DC2 located onsite. The tour covered the direct-to-consumer facility, a recently redesigned 500-square-foot space equipped with Manhattan WMS and Dematic Material Handling Equipment.

There was moderate booth traffic on Day 2. Traffic was very slow during the exhibit hall on day 3, although we did have some good conversations. The show was concurrent with the ProMat 2019 supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution show. According to the show directors, this show drew 18% more executive level leads despite a slightly lower number of overall attendees.

In the coming days, we will share information on a few of the sessions and workshops as well. Overall, the show was great for networking and touring new facilities. There’s a new layout for the exhibit hall and new location in Orlando for the Summit in 2020.

Making Robots Pay for Themselves

During the conference, we offered our Making Robots Pay for Themselves white paper to attendees who wanted to learn more about Steve Muaik’s research he conducted with over 20 robotics vendors. To get your copy, you may download it here.

Smarter, faster, and more agile robotics technology is changing the warehousing and fulfillment industry. During a roundtable, Steve discussed the different robotic options available to companies, including:

  • Cobots—robots that accompany pickers around the facility
  • Arms—fixed robotic arms that can be used for induction, sorting, or packing
  • Armed bots—robots that can drive around and pick pieces or cases from a shelf.

Many of the armed options cost about $100k per robot, so in many places only a 3-shift operation will handle enough volume and generate sufficient revenue to pay for a robot in a well-run operation; however, there are lower performing sites that could benefit greatly from robotics technology.

Operations managers need to think about robots in a new way. Too many people are looking at a one-for-one strategy of replacing a worker in an existing operation with a robot, but the real opportunity may lie in the creation of new operating models that use lots of robots to deliver a much better cost per unit than provided by the one-for-one strategy.

The presentation included a fascinating video that demonstrated how robots in the United States could be operated by people in India at 1/10th the cost—a concept called telerobotics that sparked a vibrant discussion among session participants. One participant indicated that while their robot was subject to more downtime than a human counterpart, they were nonetheless expanding their robot program to reduce the number of human workers they company had to recruit to meet peak demand.

Remember to get our white paper, Making Robots Pay for Themselves, here.


Read about Crimson & Co Consultant Rachel Patel’s review of the Master Class Workshop: The Fundementals of Perations & Fulfillment Details

Here, you can read Steve Mulaik’s coverage of Lucky Brand’s experience going “true multi-channel.”

Steve Mulaik wrote a piece about the session on BOPUS and the rise of delivery lockers in eCommerce.


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