April 2021 | Commentary | Checking In

GM & Kroger: Transformers

Tags: Warehousing, Food Logistics, Technology

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

The interconnection between advanced manufacturing, automation, and supply chain management had a boost in the past year. Part of that boost was due to the virus economy, but most was due to the genius and creativity of those seeking solutions to tough business challenges amplified by ever-evolving customer demands. Transformation.

Just as the silo-crashing impact that supply chain management practices has had on enterprise operations and supplier/customer connections, this confluence is tearing down silos between manufacturing and brand operations to the benefit of customers and profit & loss performance. Old-world business operations are being torn apart and reconfigured and will leave late adopters behind. The evolutionary pace has quickened with dramatic impact. Here are a couple of examples:

  • In late 2020, General Motors debuted a new manufacturing facility dedicated to additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing. The facility is small by GM standards—only 15,000 square feet. But it looms large in future importance. This Additive Industrialization Center holds two dozen 3D printers capable of printing parts and components in plastic, polymer, and metal. GM engineers soon will have access to an entire operation they can use to speed vehicle development and cut costs when designing new vehicles.
  • Another benefit of the 3D printing operation is to reduce the cost and time to develop and prototype expensive "what-ifs", which may not be tied to specific vehicle development but will raise knowledge and experience useful for future vehicles and products.

  • On the branding side, supermarket giant Kroger is applying new technology in a futuristic warehouse using picking robots. The mission? To enhance its brand, Street persona, and operations. The new facility is called a "shed" and is the first of 20 automated warehouses allowing Kroger to build grocery orders containing 50 stock items in 6 minutes, versus 30 to 45 minutes when employees do the walking and the picking.
  • Kroger stunned analysts with a 92% e-commerce gain year over year, and it is staging "sheds" to maintain that trend. "We continue to be excited about the elevated experience that this will bring to our customers across the country as we continue to open additional facilities," said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger. The Street analysts agreed but their focus was a different kind of stock picking.

    Your own transformational toolset is at hand in this edition of Inbound Logistics. It is packed with real-world technology for everyday business leaders seeking to drive enterprise advancement. You are not just adapting and adopting these technological improvements for your own company; you are also setting the example for others to follow and playing a crucial role in business process evolution empowering demand-driven enterprises.






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