Pal Narayanan, CIO
If one were to compare a business to the human body, then the supply chain would probably be circulatory system and management its heart. Commodities serve as the lifeblood of any operation, emphasizing the crucial role that supply chain management plays in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. This profound significance of supply chain management technologies is apparent from the increased adoption of disruptive tools that help enterprises enhance their logistics operations. It is also evident that the growth of the global economy depends on the robustness of supply chain management technologies and their models of delivery. This paves the need for the development and implementation of innovative technologies to streamline logistics operations and an improvement in existing onboarding processes, using agility and efficiency. As such, enterprises require robust solutions to align well with their ecosystem, to ultimately induce a positive impact on their workflow.
Realizing this need, GEODIS, a global supply chain operator, provides their comprehensive Warehouse Management System solution package to its clients, helping them streamline their logistics operations. “We are dedicated to delivering complete satisfaction to our stakeholders at every step of the supply chain,” says Pal Narayanan, CIO, GEODIS Americas. On their service methodology, Narayanan adds, “We adopt a ‘startup culture’; a Silicon Valley-style startup state of mind which enables us to be agile and innovative in finding solutions for our clients.” Along with its result-driven culture, GEODIS adapts established onboarding processes which allow its IT team to treat each client as a small startup. The deployment of a dedicated team allows the company to focus on delivering industry-best solutions that can eliminate the setbacks associated with legacy methods. And while each solution is customized, the GEODIS team is always thinking of ways to share these best practices with every client. “When we create technologies, we make sure that they can be used and scaled in all our clients’ warehouses,” quotes Narayanan. The company adopts multipronged methodologies and solutions to raise the standards in how its clients execute and enhance their supply chain operations.
“We are dedicated to delivering complete satisfaction to our stakeholders at every step of the supply chain”
Nullifying Setbacks with Technical Edge
In light of their experience in the supply chain space, GEODIS understands that speed-to-market is one of the significant challenges enterprise brands face. As a result, the company ensures that it is agile and quick to adapt and listen to their customers when developing solutions to help them achieve their business goals. GEODIS continues to modernize its platforms by keeping up with the trends pertaining to newer technologies, such as the cloud and machine learning, to align them in tune with the evolving needs of the logistics business.
We adopt a ‘startup culture’; a Silicon Valley-style startup state of mind which enables us to be agile and innovative in finding solutions for our clients
Another challenge that Narayanan believes is affecting the logistics industry is the shortage of talent available, which can bridge the gap between IT and logistics. Numerous IT professionals are either capable of coding or have significant experience in the logistics industry. However, finding the right talent, which can effectively apply that technology to run an organization’s day-to-day operations, is difficult. At GEODIS, a portion of their IT staff works within the warehouses, giving them firsthand knowledge about how the technology is operating within its four walls. “We have around 10,000 to 12,000 warehouse associates working in different warehouses across the globe,” adds Narayanan. By appropriately positioning IT inside the warehouse, they can see the technology they are working on in live operation, allowing them to get a better understanding of how to build, support, and improve this technology.
Fostering Innovation: The Stepping Stone
GEODIS prides itself on its culture of innovation. “Fostering innovation” is one of their strategic focus areas and that culture permeates throughout the entire organization. With the passion for revolutionizing supply chain management operations, GEODIS’ teams continue to innovate and add value to its solution stack. Having a clear understanding of the evolving needs of the space, the firm modifies its offerings accordingly, helping it establishes its position among the top providers in the landscape.
For example, as Narayanan points out, “While it is common to see the usage of smartphones as a scanner by associates in big box retailers, we at GEODIS decided to take the technology, one step further.” They reinvented their platform to not only support these hand-held devices but redesigned the software to improve the user experience. Internally dubbed the “Fitbit” for warehouse management, GEODIS’ platform keeps track of the number of items picked by each associate and incentivizes them for extra items (pay-for-performance plan). It is also built with the capability to collect and store this data. By gamifying the technology, multiple associates within the warehouse can work together to “compete” and collect points. They can redeem these points at the warehouse’s store at the end of the month.
Along with increasing productivity through gamification, GEODIS developed analytics tools to aggregate all the data being gathered in the warehouse, which can build real-time 3D and 2D heat maps of their warehouses. These heat maps allow GEODIS to see any congestion or aggregation of people within the warehouse. By identifying these hurdles, the team can design a plan to streamline the movement of people and improve overall operations.
Rolling out Integrable Solutions
Agility comes in many forms— customizability being one of them. GEODIS develops and uses its tools that best suit its clients’ changing requirements. By doing so, the company can eliminate the cost of licensing, which can be a considerable burden for providers.
“We have our internal Warehouse Management System (WMS), and most of our innovations and solutions revolve around our WMS,” says Narayanan. These “in-house” tools allow GEODIS to deliver solutions to its clients at a reasonable cost.
Narayanan points out that in supply chain management operations, enterprises are vulnerable to shortcomings about the transportation of commodities and efficient warehouse management processes. GEODIS, with its technical edge in the space, helps its clients to overrun these setbacks. He recalls the engagement with a reputable apparel company in Europe who approached GEODIS to resolve their transportation challenges. GEODIS successfully managed its transportation and improved margins by reducing overall operational cost.
To achieve these results, GEODIS’ robust WMS software neatly interfaced with an automated unit sorter to ensure accurate and efficient order fulfillment. It also utilized a custom integration with an external Transportation Management System (TMS) to provide end-to-end visibility while enabling the European company to meet its customer delivery promise at the best cost. Other custom integrations between WMS and SAP enabled the management of warehouse stock and visibility into the movement of goods to provide this European company with the data they needed to support business decisions.
Leaving No Stones Unturned
Automation is accelerating in the warehouse management space. With the current labor shortage and eCommerce boom, automation has become a necessity for brands¬—particularly in the retail or consumer goods space. After extensive research, GEODIS integrated robotics into its platform to improve overall productivity and efficiencies in applicable operations. These robots can be onboarded in as little as 3-4 weeks, and GEODIS has seen productivity double in the activities where they are being used.
Since its successful pilot in 2017, GEODIS has rolled out over 800 robots in various operations and will continue to deploy similar platforms based on their clients’ evolving needs. It is also planning to reduce the turnaround time for integration. “We innovate our platforms with the capability to scale and go to the market in an agile fashion. We keep modifying our solutions and ensure that they can be used in different use cases to keep our costs down,” states Narayanan.
Continually Broadening the Horizon
This Paris-based firm, with its value-bound solution stacks and startup nature, has established its presence in 67 countries across the globe. GEODIS is planning to assimilate the critical insights they have received from the longstanding operations in the US, and implement them in Latin American countries. Dedicated to helping enterprises in the Latin American region to revolutionize their supply chain management operations, GEODIS provides multilingual capabilities and integrates cloud technologies into its novel tech stack. To further ease its engagements, the company is adopting an intuitive user interface, giving its clients full visibility into their supply chain to make informed business decisions.
GEODIS continues to operate with its startup / SCM Skunk Works style culture, enabling it to have close relationships with clients while delivering the best solution for each one of them. To the company, the onus is and continues to be on their pursuit to streamline workflows that will guide each client to the best of their potential.