Leif Jentoft, co-founder and chief strategy officer of RightHand Robotics
‘Supply chain resilience is one of the biggest concerns for everybody,’ begins Leif Jentoft, co-founder and chief strategy officer of RightHand Robotics during an interview for The Logistics Point. Geopolitical uncertainties are creating headaches and in addition many facilities are running below their capacity due to shortages of labour. We talk about how technology and robotics is helping these problems and the recent announcement by RightHand Robotics of raising new funding.
Labour costs are rising very quickly around the USA and other developed countries. ‘Everybody believes that many tasks will not be performed by people in the future,’ says Jentoft. For piece-picking this means more robotics and even further adoption of technology. The technology is proven and scaled warehouses are operating well. That in return is driving interest up and more organisations are looking into similar solutions.
Jentoft quickly addresses the topic of what happens to employees once robots are deployed. ‘Our customers’ concerns are around how they can get more output from the people they already have.’ Warehouse jobs will be different and more people would need to have skills that would enable them to maintain and work with robotic systems. ‘There are new and interesting job opportunities.’
Across the investment space many people are recognising that automation in the distribution and warehousing space will be the next big thing. Jentoft points at the growth of RightHand Robotics and many of its partners and competitors who have quickly expanded and found new markets. ‘The technology delivers real customer value and this is what is exciting to me.’ The real transformation of attitudes is brought about because technology is being applied to real problems.
Full training programs will be needed and RightHand Robotics is already doing this with its clients.
RightHand Robotics is investing in a few key areas. One of them is investing in their channel program. A second area is in the piece-picking space. ‘Very few companies have scaled installations,’ claims Jentoft. Product and development is an important part of what the company is doing.
‘Piece-picking has passed the point where the rough edges need trimming,’ Jentoft says and assures that the technology brings real and tangible value to those who use it. Changing the way warehouses operate will bring huge value. In Jentoft’s words, picking should be put in the forefront. Designing the warehouse with picking in mind will save not only costs but also time and increase customers’ satisfaction.
Investing in innovation
Exciting players on the market are accelerating their investments. Competition is fierce and many areas are getting more mature and it is harder to enter. Piece-picking was something that was not well developed five years ago but today it has shown to be a beneficial tool.
The store retrieval market is another area that Jentoft expects to see growth. ‘The real question is how technology can be connected to a specific need,’ he says. He believes that companies should firstly learn about what technologies can do and how they fit in their operations. Waiting might not be an option but good due diligence is crucial. ‘Running tests is essential.’ Understanding what the goals are and why you are automating is also important. Looking at the right KPIs is another area.