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05.05.2020

Looking Back At Elevate and the Role of Warehouse Robotics as Körber

Back in March, I attended my fifth consecutive HighJump Elevate user conference. Elevate has grown steadily year after year, with the 2020 conference seeing its highest attendee showing ever.

It was all a bit different for me this year though. Instead of attending as an analyst with IDC as I had in years past, this year I attended as a member of the team. Interestingly, it was my first year attending as a HighJump team member, and the last time the user conference will be hosted under the HighJump banner.

Rebranding

At Elevate, the company announced that moving forward all companies under Körber Logistics will be known as Körber. (If you weren’t aware, HighJump was acquired by Körber back in 2017.) The move to converge and rebrand not just HighJump, but a total of 12 supply chain businesses as Körber, allows us to go to market as a singular brand with an end-to-end-supply chain execution set of technology products. The companies that have converged represent a wide range of technical competencies, including: 

 

 

As expected, the response to the announcement of the rebranding was met with a significant positive response. Some customers had concerns about losing the innovation and customer-centricity HighJump focuses on, which is an understandable question mark for these types of circumstances. To this point, I can confidently say that this culture has existed across the various Körber companies, and will continue to be a differentiator in the marketplace for us under the brand Körber. Further, as a unified organization, Körber will deliver a more robust suite of products for supply chain with the ability to deliver greater outcomes to lessen operational complexity and drive significant value for customers. 
The rebranding announcement and related discussions played a significant role at Elevate 2020. But, there were several other notable announcements and events that were equally impactful.

Robotics

HighJump and Körber initiated a robotics business unit in the fourth quarter of 2019 and has been building a global presence with the ability to advise, sell, implement, integrate, support, and develop intellectual property for warehouse and supply chain robotics. This global organization is leveraging the deep base of existing resources while strategically positioning specialized resources in its effort to become the leading integrator of flexible automation for the supply chain.
The emphasis that Körber is placing on robotics was evident from the start at Elevate 2020, which was sponsored by six different AMR competitors, each with highly visible presences at the event. This includes two strategic partners of Körber (Locus Robotics and Fetch Robotics) and four others that Körber recognizes as significant competitors in the market, including 6 River Systems, IAM Robotics, Vecna, and Next Shift). 

Not only were robotics companies a featured element at Elevate, but Körber also provided multiple robot demonstrations. For the attendee gift delivery, Körber successfully showcased Fetch Robotics and Locus Robotics operating at different points in the same process. As far as I know, this is the first time that two competing AMR vendors have played nice within a single process. 

At Elevate, we also successfully showcased a voice integration to Fetch Robotics during the keynotes. A voice pick process was used to engage the robot which then moved through the audience to deliver an “order” to keynote speaker Sean Elliott, CTO Körber Supply Chain. This demo drew a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd. This was the first time many people saw robotics in such a capacity. Put on top of that the voice integration with the robotics that prompted an action without any physical interaction. You could almost see the lightbulbs turning on for those in attendance seeing these technologies converge before their eyes. It was a special Elevate moment. 
Additionally, during the Keynote session, Körber Supply Chain VP of Robotics John Santagate (that’s me) announced our strategic global partnership with Fetch Robotics. This partnership, coupled with the recently announced partnership with Locus Robotics and a partnership with Geek+ through the Cohesio Group, give Körber a deep portfolio of AMR capabilities to address the many workflows that exist within our customer ecosystem. 

In addition to the partnership announcements and very cool demos, we also had a dedicated robotics track. The track’s sessions included a wide range of coverage presented by customers, partners, and industry influencers. One of which was a session to educate the audience on the basics of AMR that was presented by Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. Other speakers in the robotics track included:

  • John Santagate, VP of Robotics at Körber Supply Chain
  • Nishan Wishan, CEO, Cohesio Group
  • Karen Leavitt, CMO, Locus Robotics
  • Dean Hoerlein, VP of Logistics, Verst Logistics
  • Keith Shaw, Editor-in-Chief, Robotics Business Review
  • Vince Martinelli, Head of Product & Marketing, RightHand Robotics
  • Leif Jentoft, Co-Founder & CTO, RightHand Robotics
  • Richard Evans, CEO, iWMS
  • Guy Courtain, Channel Lead, Six River Systems
  • Wes Reid, Senior Product Manager, IAM Robotics
  • Stefan Nusser, VP of Product, Fetch Robotics

This represents the first time that a supply chain software company fully featured a dedicated track so rich with content related to warehouse robotics. Not to mention that two of the winners of the Top Women Leaders in Supply Chain awards were representatives from leading autonomous mobile robotics companies: Melonee Wise, CEO Fetch Robotics, and Karen Leavitt, CMO of Locus Robotics.

This year’s emphasis on robotics for the supply chain showcased the emphasis that Körber is placing on this market. During the keynote sessions, the reasoning as to why Körber is entering this market became crystal clear. There are three primary drivers, among others, supporting this strategic direction:

  1. The Customer – over 70% of HighJump customers surveyed last year indicated an intent to inject autonomous material handling equipment into their supply chain operation within the coming five years. So, since such a significant proportion of customers are intent on acquiring this technology that aligns perfectly with the existing product lines it only makes sense to build competence in this space.
     
  2. Technology Alignment – Körber is a company with an end-to-end approach to supply chain execution technologies. The portfolio of products at Körber provides everything from simulation and planning technology to direct store delivery and everything in between. And, in between, exists warehouse management products that happen to integrate with robotics to deliver autonomous warehouse execution processes. So, there’s a perfect alignment between the existing technology area and this new business area.
     
  3. The Market – Customers today are facing a market in which speed, variety, flexibility, and growth are core challenges that need to be addressed. Not only are companies straining to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the market, the constrained labor environment pushes businesses to modernize. All of these factors, among others, drive businesses to demand this technology, resulting in a market expected to grow at greater than a 20% CAGR over the next five years.

These points were identified and emphasized as key drivers of the reasoning behind Körber’s entry into the market for autonomous mobile robotics. 
Overall, Elevate was a smashing success. Greater attendance than ever before; significant announcements that drove many high-quality discussions during the conference, and an agenda packed with technology demos, insights, and best practices.

Gear-up for 2020 and beyond—it’s going to be a wild ride. As supply chains continue to grow in complexity, Körber is dedicated to helping its customers conquer supply chain complexity.

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