With the help of its partners, supply chain software company HighJump is bringing new logistics, freight and warehouse technologies into South Africa and Africa.
These technologies include the use of voice commands, which will be important to interact with automated systems and robots that are a growing part of the industry.
Speaking at its Africa roadshow on Wednesday, HighJump COO Joe Couto highlighted the company's new owner, German diversified industrial company Körber and the range of technology and software products that this makes available to it, its long-term partnerships with local warehouse management systems software company iWMS and local enterprise logistics software solutions company Dovetail, as well as its voice technology partnership with industrial technology multinational Honeywell.
The company will be introducing, besides other technologies, Körber subsidiary Cirrus' warehouse layout design and simulation, as well as its Cost2Serv module, which enables modelling for the placement of distribution centres and optimisation of primary and secondary distribution networks, in South Africa,.
It will also deploy its small and medium-sized business Edge warehouse management product, which readily integrates with existing enterprise resource planning and warehouse management systems that a company has in place, locally and in Africa. The product could also be deployed as a cloud-based system that supports mobile work.
Additionally, iWMS was developing two automation projects in the Middle East and Australia that involved two main warehouse automation systems, Grey Orange and Geek Plus. It aimed to bring the expertise back to its customer base in South Africa, iWMS CEO Richard Evans said on Wednesday.
"A core focus of our company is to ensure that the technology is usable by a company in its environment, which is often complex and uses systems from many companies. This is important because our customers will want to leverage the systems they have in place, at least for a while, after they have acquired a new company or facilities," said Couto.
HighJump is developing a platform for users of its vastly expanded supply chain software suite, but Couto highlighted that most of its systems could be implemented as standalone systems and easily integrated with existing competitors' software and systems.
The platform will provide the capabilities for customers to deploy automation, including the voice engine and as a way of managing robotics.
"We are looking at expanding the platform and it has enabled us to bring new products onto a common platform. Its key aspects are flexibility, scalability and that it is secure and extendable. The three key pillars, or solutions, of the platform are the 3PL logistics solutions, the small and medium enterprise Edge solutions and the enterprise warehouse management system Warehouse Advantage.
"Our sister companies are also part of the same platform and we can plug in their solutions as clients request them. As we acquire more companies and products, we will be able to add them to the same platform and provide the same experience for customers," said Couto.
He added that Körber has subsidiaries that manufacture industrial machinery, as well as logistics and supply chain machines, has invested in picking robotics and is capable of providing turnkey facility automation solutions. HighJump in partnership with Dovetail and industrial technology company Schaeffer automated a Durban warehouse of local retailer Ackermans. The warehouse went live two weeks ago, noted Dovetail CEO Ralf Rolle.
Digitalisation is part of the future of the industry, but the most simple aspect is that it must remove clutter and enable businesses to be more efficient, noted Couto.
HighJump CTO Sean Elliott, in a recording, said that providing and adapting the software to align with and support the development of clients' businesses remained its foundation principle.
"Our customers are using their data to generate insights to take actions that lead to better outcomes. If you expand the data pool, you expand the insights and, therefore, the sophistication, leading to continuous improvement. Robotics, similarly, are only as good as the data that powers them.
"The evolution of the industry is not concluded, and we are looking at how we can capitalise on emerging customer expectations. The party that can say yes most often to customer demands will win market share. Companies need data to recognise when strategic decisions must be made to adapt processes," said Elliott.
"In line with our core strategy and value proposition, we are developing the platform to align more proactively with our customers' business needs, not ours, and our investments are aimed at enabling a technology platform that can help them to drive their business forward."
Analytics systems and artificial intelligence will enable the system to respond more rapidly and effectively analyse the data to produce more insights as the business evolves. The Internet of Things is a source of data that connects the world tangibly and in real-time, which enables us to take more advantage of data and take data-driven decisions on the basis of practical reality, added Elliott.
"We believe that, as an organisation and partner in the industry, it is important that customers are able to leverage technology to improve their businesses. This is why the platform is in place for today's uses and for the future," confirmed Couto.