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Körber’s AMR Strategy – An Analyst’s Perspective

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Analyst Perspective on Körber’s AMR Strategy

Storing and fulfillment is one of strongest pillars of supply chain. Today’s volatile and unpredictable market conditions are constantly challenging fulfillment strategies. On the one hand growing eCommerce and on the other  geo-political conditions are changing the dynamics and call for flexible and agile fulfillment centers. The traditional approach to flexibility, like increasing manpower, is not the answer and neither is changing the whole warehouse – both are costly options. These are perfect scenarios where Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are best suited to handle all the challenges related to warehouses – be it labor shortages or handling operational adversities. As much as autonomous robot and sensor technologies have advanced, so has the importance and adoption of AMRs in warehouses. AMRs are advanced tools built on the foundation of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and designed to be more flexible and versatile. To be fully operational, AMRs need an ecosystem of hardware, software, and integration providers. Körber, one of the leading Warehouse Management System (WMS) providers, has a very big role to play in this industry given its expertise and well-established partner network.

Körber Business Area Supply Chain, of which the robotics practice is a part, has a broad range of solutions to fit customers’ size, business strategy, and appetite for growth. The portfolio of offerings includes software, voice solutions, robotics and material handling, plus the systems integration expertise to tie all together. As much as Körber is technically advanced in achieving this, it is approaching this strategically too. A right mix of in-house developments, acquisitions and strategic partnerships have started to garner attention for Körber and its network.

Business Strategy of Körber’s Business Area Supply Chain for AMR

Körber’s value proposition is realized not by selling isolated solutions, but by supporting a wide portfolio of technologies and taking a consultative approach to designing solutions and finally delivering them end-to-end. Sustainable competitive advantage is not always derived from positioning or having certain resources. It mainly spurts from an organization’s ability to experiment with business models, processes, and strategies. Körber, with its ability to manage a complex and interconnected system of multiple partners, in-house research and development, underscores this philosophy. The way Körber has shaped itself as a company relies on various components – its customer orientation, developing a strong partner ecosystem, acquisitions, and mergers to fill gaps in the portfolio.

Körber’s Customer Orientation Approach

Körber offers business solutions built around innovative, technologically leading-edge products. The company is also a provider of business software solutions, comprehensive consultation, and system integration services. But above all, the basic approach of Körber is to focus on meeting (and exceeding) customer expectations and create significant value for them. Based on our understanding of Körber’s business operations, we believe that the company endeavors to remain its customers’ preferred supplier-partner while strategizing its own growth. This is supported by some key customer stories.

Customer Case Studies

The company is conscious of the fact that customers are truly interested in the outcome of their investments in technology solutions. It recognizes that its clients are driven to invest in enabling technologies because of their power to solve their business problems. Körber’s customer oriented approach is to place the needs of the customer above its own business needs. It aligns its business goals with those of  its customers.

The company has executed many successful AMR projects and its achievements are documented and highlighted in the following examples. The below gives a glimpse of the success of its customer orientation approach.

  • Integrated Supply Network (ISN), a large independent automotive tool and equipment distributor that services a diverse customer base was experiencing  rapid growth. It realized the need to improve the productivity of its workforce and to overcome challenges, such as long travel times in aisles, low product picking speed, worker acquisition, training and retention etc. ISN recognized the need to deploy AMRs and their benefits and engaged Körber to implement their partner solution Locus Robotics, which Körber successfully accomplished. ISN realized several key benefits, such as the completion of the solution integration, deployment in less than four months, training in mere hours and nearly a 250 percent improvement in picking speed and quality. The result: significant cost savings. This success has made ISN confident and led it to initiate similar measures at its other sites and extend the use of AMRs for other applications.
  • Ariat International is an American footwear, apparel, and accessories brand for equestrian sports, work industries and other outdoor activities. It pursues functional innovation and raising the performance, fit, and craftsmanship bar for its customers and prospects. The company was seeking a solution to mitigate issues of labor inefficiencies and facility optimization. Warehouse work was physically demanding for their associates. In addition, manual processes and high SKU velocity caused inefficiencies. Ariat was looking at Körber in collaboration with Geek+ for solutions to improve its workforce conditions and customer experience. The company was already an existing user of K. Motion Warehouse Advantage (WMS).  Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) were considered to increase throughput and maximize the capacity of its central warehouse. Ariat rolled out around 120 robots for the fulfillment of its entire portfolio of products at its Texas DC. The benefits of the integration of advanced robotics and AI technologies into Ariat’s warehouse operations were  increased efficiency, flexibility, and a future-ready scalability. These enhancements strengthened the company’s employee and customer experiences.

Besides these, there are other AMR success stories like Bolloré Logistics, CEVA Logistics, and Evo validating Körber’s customer orientation.

Acquisitions and Partnerships

Building strategic partnerships and acquisitions is an efficient way to expand the business and customer base. This strategy also helps in achieving economies of scale, establishing market leadership, acquiring adjacent competencies and expanding into new markets and sectors. This is a cost-effective and quick way to broaden the company’s portfolio of product and service offerings and to acquire additional resources, both financial and talent. Körber is not only diversifying horizontally into different supply chain areas but is also integrating vertically using the partnerships and acquisition strategy in the AMR area.

Building an ecosystem to continually expand into adjacent business areas through acquisitions and partnerships to create significant value for customers has been Körber’s horizontal diversification in AMR strategy. This strategy is also helping the company emerge as a leading player in logistics and supply chain software solutions; and offer best-fit mobility solutions to customers.

In 2019, Körber expanded its business by acquiring a majority stake in the Australian-based Cohesio Group Ltd. And Otimis Ltda., a Brazil-based supply chain management software and consulting company. While Cohesio is a leading integrator of voice-directed and autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) solutions for logistics, Otimis Ltda is a supply chain management software and consulting company. These acquisitions, respectively, helped Körber to grow its business in the Asia Pacific Region and expanded and extended the service and support capabilities, especially in Latin America.

Körber Business Area Supply Chain has developed partnership arrangements with numerous international robotics manufacturers such as Geek+, Fetch Robotics, Locus Robotics, Balyo, and Libiao Robotics. With these, it not only  emerges  as the company that has a vast and comprehensive portfolio of AMRs, but also as a company that can offer  best-fit mobility solutions.

In 2020, Körber and Geek+ announced their global partnership agreement to work collaboratively in implementing the mobility automation solutions through AMR deployment. They are working together as partners in providing AMRs that will enable efficient, flexible, and smart logistics solutions.  It also inked the partnership agreement with San Jose, California based robotics company, Fetch Robotics (owned by Zebra Technologies). Under the terms of the agreement, Körber will act as a global reseller, advisor and integrator of Fetch’s AMR solutions and cloud robotics software. The same year Körber also announced an exclusive partnership with Locus Robotics, a US-based provider of AMRs for warehouses.

Moreover, Körber has teamed up with Libiao Robotics, a leading supplier of AMRs specializing in sortation in 2021. By adding Libiao Robotics’ autonomous mobile sorting robots to its offering, Körber hopes to provide the flexibility and scalability that businesses need. In the same year, Körber announced its strategic partnership deal with Balyo, a technological leader in the design and development of innovative robotic solutions for material handling fork based vehicles. Körber will work with Balyo to integrate its range of robotics to overcome challenges associated with pallets, bulk movements, and heavy goods. They find wide applications in warehouses and their use helps increase warehouse throughput, productivity, and safety.

Körber Business Area Supply Chain as an end-to-end Workflow Solution Provider

Körber’s R&D expenses have been around 7% on average in the last three years. With a wide range of product and solution offerings, deep domain knowledge, competencies and expertise relating to supply chain, logistics and workflows, the company is well positioned to act as an end-to-end workflow solution provider. It can address the requirements of e-commerce companies, direct-to-consumer markets, retail store distributors of apparel, luxury goods, etc., cold chains, 3rd party logistics providers, distribution centers, and others.  The company has global reach, service- and decision-support provider capabilities, and a proven track record as a successful provider of integrated and comprehensive supply chain, warehouse, transportation, logistics and mobility automation solutions.

Körber’s sales, solution design, project management, engineering and software integration support teams have the competence and expertise to offer complete solutions to its clients to overcome their supply chain challenges and complexities and the capabilities to support complete system integration, reselling its partner products and implementing them.

The Last Word

At a recent event, Körber unveiled its unified control system (UCS) which is aimed at providing a single, vendor-agnostic solution for configuring and managing multiple technologies. This solution is aimed at addressing the issue of siloed solutions in the logistics network. This is a big step of its kind in the industry, as there are variety of players in each segment, be it AMR, Voice, material handling, WMS, and WCS to name a few. There is a lot of potential to bring it all together in a cohesive manner and if done right, Körber is at a pedestal of immense growth potential. General availability of the UCS will be the third quarter of 2023.

The robotics market is underpenetrated, and with the maturity of technology on the supply side and pressing requirements on the demand side, organizations need to look at this as an opportunity. When the industry follows this sort of a growth trajectory, customers need more than a vendor, they need partners. Körber is well positioned to play this role in the warehousing and fulfillment industry.

Author

neelam

Neelam Singh, Practice Directorat Quadrant Knowledge Solutions

Quadrant Solutions

Quadrant Solutions

Quadrant Solutions

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