Innovation drives supply chain optimization. As you’ll see in the profiles of these six forward-thinking companies, fresh ideas can create new efficiencies, solve persistent problems, and open the door for new opportunities in supply chain effectiveness.  

We’ll look into the latest advances in logistics hardware, software and strategy. Plus, a peek at what’s coming down the road in the industry. You may discover some new ideas to power your own supply chain—or you may get inspired to create innovations of your own! 

Attabotics: Reimagining the Warehouse 

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Inspired by the efficiency and structure of ant colonies, Attabotics is using robots to take the warehouse in a new dimension: up. 

What if you could reduce the footprint of a warehouse from 1.5 million square feet to just 340,000—and pave the way for game-changing, robotics-fueled fulfillment at the same time? That’s what Attabotics is aiming to do with their radical redesign of the warehouse as we know it.  

Inspired by the vertical design of leaf-cutter ant colonies, Attabotics believes the future of warehousing lies in a compact, vertical tower of boxes, staffed by robots. When an order is placed, the robot navigates to the right box, removes it from the stack, then delivers it to human packers on the floor. The obvious benefit (and savings!) lie in the immediate reduction of a warehouse’s footprint. Additionally, Attabotics’ design also means that warehouses could pop up practically anywhere, not just in areas that allow for a wide, horizontal floor plan. For companies looking to establish mini-fulfillment centers in crowded urban areas, Attabotics’ design might be just the ticket.

Target: Expansion Through Acquisition 

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The company acquired two companies to kickstart its same day delivery program.

Target, Amazon, and Walmart are all locked in a tight battle for consumer dollars. One of the major competitive milestones? Putting their products in customers’ hands faster, namely through same-day delivery: 

  • Amazon offers free same-day delivery to Prime customers on orders over $35. Customers without Prime can receive same-day orders for $12.99. 
  • Walmart offers free same-day Express Delivery to Walmart+ customers on orders over $35. Non-members can receive same-day orders for a fee of $10. 
  • Target offers free same-day delivery to Shipt members on orders over $35. Non-members pay $9.99. 

The three retailers are practically in lockstep when it comes to the details of their same-day shipping program. However, what’s different is the way they’ve gone about it. Amazon has steadily been building its own Amazon Logistics fleet for last-mile delivery. Walmart has done the same, although they just recently announced that they will open their last-mile delivery service to other retailers, who will be able to hire their fleet for their own packages. 

Target, however, took a different path, namely by acquiring two companies in 2017: 

  1. Grand Junction, a transportation technology company whose software manages and routes local deliveries. 
  2. Shipt, a same-day delivery platform, which has continued to deliver to other retailers, such as Petco and CVS.  

By leveraging their stores as fulfillment centers, as well as greater efficiencies of Shipt’s client base, Target has made same-day delivery profitable, according to the company. After all, consider that a Shipt delivery truck may drop Petco, CVS, and Target orders in the same neighborhood. In that case, the costs for that delivery can be spread amongst all three retailers, rather than falling entirely on Target.  

As the race continues, we look forward to seeing which of these three companies chose most wisely when establishing their last-mile delivery fleet.ii 

ControlantCold Chain Logistics Service

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As more companies rely on cold-chain, Controlant is turning a complex undertaking into a packaged service. 

Between Chipotle’s outbreaks of food-borne illness and vaccine refrigeration requirements, it’s clear that cold-chain logistics are rising in both need and importance. Enter Controlant, a company offering Cold Chain as a Service (CCaaS) solutions. Customers include organizations as diverse as poultry suppliers, major pharmaceutical companies, and even beer manufacturers adamant about maintaining the temperature of their kegs during delivery throughout Mexico.  The company offers a bundled trio including: 

  1. IoT data loggers
  2. Cloud-based software
  3. Data analysis and monitoring services

Controlant allows its customers to quickly pinpoint and eliminate failure points within its cold chain. The results—reduced spoilage, quality assurance, and massive cost savings—are undeniable. iii 

Colgate-Palmolive: Forefront of Sustainability 

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Many companies are making strides toward sustainability, Colgate-Palmolive stands out for its commitment. 

Colgate-Palmolive has made environmental sustainability a clear priority across its organization. They’ve built 18 TRUE Zero Waste-certified facilities on six continents – more than any other company on the planet. To qualify for this certification, Colgate’s facilities divert at least 90% of all solid waste from landfills and the environment, with no incineration of any materials.  

To offer a real-world example of this mindset at work, Colgate took a hard look at the disposable cardboard core at the center of the shrink wrap rolls it uses to package pallets. Because these cardboard cores couldn’t be reused, the company’s team decided to replace them with plastic cores. These cores are then returned to the shrink wrap supplier for reuse, eliminating any waste.  

Other notable initiatives include regular “treasure hunts” within Colgate facilities to identify energy waste and brainstorm solutions, as well as a first-of-its kind recyclable plastic tube. Colgate implemented this tube within its Tom’s of Maine toothpaste brand—and then they took it one step further. They shared the technology with anyone who wanted to use it, demonstrating a true commitment to global sustainability for all.iv 

Orbital Insight: Cradle-to-Grave Sourcing 

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As consumers demand transparency from manufacturers and suppliers, Orbital Insight helps trace firstmile sourcing. 

How do you know whether your suppliers are truly harvesting their goods from trustworthy, sustainable sources? Global consumer goods company Unilever encountered this challenge when purchasing palm oil. The company uses this vital ingredient across many of its products, including cosmetics, foods, and soaps. However, palm fruit harvesting can come with serious environmental baggage, having been linked to deforestation and land rights issues.  

When they decided to commit to creating a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023, Unilever looked to Orbital Insight and their AI-powered Geospatial Analytics platform. Using mobile device data, the two companies were able to track Unilever’s palm oil all the way back to sustainable plantations that meet their standards. This combination of geolocation data and satellite imagery is a striking new way for concerned companies to reliably trace every ingredient back to its source.v 

SpaceFillThe Airbnb of Warehouse Space 

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Need temporary warehouse
space? Have space that’s going to waste? SpaceFill
wants to play matchmaker. 

The concept of Airbnb was delightfully simple. It matched hosts who had extra rooms with travelers who needed temporary accommodations. Now, apply that same concept to commercial warehousing, and you’ll understand the business model of the French company SpaceFill 

Currently, SpaceFill offers solutions for companies who want to store as few as 20 to as many as 10,000 pallets throughout their network of 3,000 partner warehouses in Europe. For companies looking to expand throughout the region—especially in France—Spacefill might be just the right partner to support those 

The Innovations That Create the Future of Logistics 

As companies continue to develop new technologies, launch new business ideas, and nurture out-of-the-box thinking, supply chains will only get faster, sleeker, and more efficient. By keeping the pulse of these emerging ideas, you might discover something new to benefit your company—or the inspiration you need to create the Next Big Thing in logistics. 

Want to talk more about how supply chain innovation can help you create new efficiencies? Talk with one of our experts! Reach out for a complimentary consultation to discover more.  

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