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Distribution & Fulfillment
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Material Handling Equipment

Using Telepresence Technology in Warehouse Operations

Posted by Trever Ehrlich on Jan 11, 2018 8:00:00 AM

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I recently had the pleasure of working with Suitable Technologies in an interview piece on how telepresence technology is a travel game-changer––specifically in our widespread logistics work. “Telepresence” is a term that is already buzzing a great deal in office-to-office communication tech, but using it to add versatility and ability to the warehouse was an exciting new frontier.

Last year, we scoured the market for telepresence innovations for our operations, and quickly realized that Suitable’s Beam device could be a good fit. After several months of rigorous testing, experimentation, and review-gathering from our team, we were able to improve a revolutionary idea even further, ensuring our warehouse, our clients' supply chains, and our mutual industries could all reap the benefits.

Here is my perspective on the interview, our customers’ success, and the future of telepresence tech:

Kenco Embarks on a Telepresence Journey

kenco BEAM.jpgKenco's innovation lab keeps our company on the forefront of new tools and techniques through internal research and partnerships with complementary company peers. We're able to put tech, like the Beam (pictured at right), to demanding real-life tests, helping uncover potential issues and offering recommendations to overcome, from an insider perspective.

This collaborative aspect helps our partner companies get a solid, dependable product to market faster, as well as giving them a point of demonstration to support the usefulness of their product.

Kenco gains exposure and valuable first-hand knowledge of tools and tech that we can then pass on to our clients, and in return we collaborate with vendors on case studies, whitepapers, and testimonials; it's a clear win-win for everyone involved, as is shown by our Beam experience.

Innovation for All

Telepresence has been mainly a tool for the boardroom; a way for international C-suite members to stay in touch and be an active part of meetings across the globe. The Beam unit can be easily driven by a distant user, and onboard microphones, cameras, and speakers let remote co-workers and peers feel like they are right in the room alongside them.

Largely relegated to static meeting rooms or predictable office layouts, navigating the busy aisles of warehouse operations posed a new challenge for the Beam unit, particularly where visibility is concerned.

To safeguard team members working around the Beam as well as protect the technology itself, Kenco recommended and implemented high-visibility additions to improve safety, such as flag and reflective tape placement on the Beam unit. These simple steps protects against unexpected forklift "fender benders," particularly during busy pick/pack time slots.

From there, we were able to get this piece of tech out to our sites, navigating and working alongside our team members and providing visibility for remote users who normally would never be able to feel “on the floor.”

Kenco Customer Reactions to Telepresence Technology

Our customers have adopted the possibilities of the Beam enthusiastically. Not only does telepresence offer a certain amount of high-tech prestige in an arena once confined to function alone, but it also allows companies and decision-makers to be proactive out on the warehouse floor even if they're across the country.

They can make virtually every meeting their schedule allows, which keeps their proverbial finger on the pulse when it comes to operations.

Decisions are more informed, teams feel more in tune, and unpleasant surprises in operations are severely minimized, if not eliminated altogether.

During our quarterly business reviews, Kenco presents innovations we've been testing to our customers, and telepresence is a perfect example of an exciting project that we’ve been able to successfully trial and deploy.

We're pleased to say our customers are very excited about us becoming the "eyes and ears" for new tech in their network––literally, in the case of telepresence breakthroughs like Beam. While some aspects of warehousing would be familiar to a worker from 50 years ago, there are other points that have intensely evolved under the pressure of supply and demand; for these, technology like this can be a priceless bridge to a more efficient, more successful business model.

3PL Adoption of Telepresence Tech

While telepresence as a concept isn't necessarily new technology (with some footholds in offices, academia and medicine) bringing it to in a 3PL life requires a great deal of collaboration and coordination. In the course of our research, Kenco had observed many other companies who were dabbling in telepresence technology, but again––these were in industries that never crossed paths with warehousing and 3PL providers.

We knew Beam's talented vision combined with our drive for innovation was the perfect match: that's why, to date, we believe we are the only 3PL using Beam-level telepresence at the warehouse operations level for our clientele. Through our innovation labs, we're funding Beam's use at several of our sites. We have also facilitated client purchases of the Beam technology, giving them an unprecedented level of involvement and workflow oversight.

Within our company, Beam has also allowed us to communicate situations with crystal clarity––a picture, to paraphrase a popular saying, is worth a thousand emails. When one of our warehouses recently ran into an issue of box accumulation and a customer frustrated with lag time, we were able to instantly give them a glance into what we saw on the warehouse floor, and make corrections as a team.

Frustration and anxiety are a natural byproduct of business cycles, but when communication is as clear as the Beam makes it, business suddenly feels a lot more collaborative, rather than adversarial.

Is Your Warehouse Being Left Behind?

In business, things change day to day, if not hour to hour. The sales platform you lean on today could go under, merge with a rival, or change format entirely over the next few years. That's why having full control and full transparency at the warehouse level is vital.

You won't be able to switch gears and ride out changes if your workflow is chained to a single "right" way of doing things. Instead, embrace the possibilities that new technology can offer to your fulfillment centers and 3PL needs: download our information-packed New Supply Chain Innovation eBook today and stay on the forefront of your industry––today and each day after.

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Trever Ehrlich

Written by Trever Ehrlich

Creative Solutions Manager at Kenco Innovation Labs