Pizza Robotics

Zume, a restaurant chain founded in 2015, is propelling the food industry into the future by changing the way your pizza is made. The company uses robotics and artificial intelligence to receive orders, prepare, and deliver pizzas. Robots press the dough, squirt sauce, and then a human places cheese and toppings to your liking from an online order. Perhaps most noteworthy, the AI has collected so much user data, it can predict one’s order before they’ve even completed it. Zume’s system cuts order time by up to 20 minutes through these efficiencies. The restaurant’s high efficiency can even churn out 370 pizzas an hour. SoftBank is planning to invest $750 million in Zume’s pizza robotics, setting up this company to be a contender in the pizza delivery industry. Are automated cooking services the future of the food industry? Will human touch be lost in QSR efficiency, or will it remain an integral part of modern day culture?

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Transforming Food Quality

The age of wasted produce has a sustainable light at the end of the tunnel. Apeel, a company founded on the idea of reducing produce waste in grocery stores and supermarkets around the world, is transforming food quality by  increasing the lifespan of shelf items. By using a harmless plant-based coating, it can extend the lifetime on a shelf from days to even weeks. U.S retailers lose up to $18 billion annually on lost produce that’s thrown away.  However, Apeel is looking to cut this number drastically for the years to come. For example, Apeel reduced produce waste by 60% during an initial four month pilot with a leading U.S. regional grocery chain. Apeel executives have stated they plan to grow gradually, despite so much interest from distributors nationwide. The company has also hinted at aiming to stay just within the U.S. However, talks with Peruvian distributors may have the company heading in a more globalized effort in in the future. Food companies must innovate to meet future needs of both consumers and the environment. Where will technology lead us into the future with food sustainability? Will this be a key element aiding global hunger by reducing waste?

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Merck Implementing AI

German pharmaceuticals firm Merck KGaA’s health-care division is aiming to implement a new AI augmentation process. Merck plans to implement the new process after deciding to switch to an automated supply chain system. The new system will incorporate AI and predictive analytics throughout Merck’s entire supply chain in 2019. Incorporating this type of technology is known to provide a competitive advantage in the industry. Merck already is using forms of AI to show trends, dips, and spikes across 100 products in a pilot program. In 2021, so-called AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity, according to forecasts from Gartner Inc. Since the beginning of their implementation, Merck’s CIO, Alessandro de Luca, has seen nothing but positive effects. Their success had led to them to push the pendulum to a fully automated supply chain system across their 5,000 products. Is AI going to be a key element for growth in any industry in the future? Where are there areas where this technology can’t be beneficial to industries of the future?

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Walmart’s Blockchain Patent

Walmart has recently developed a new and technically advanced blockchain system. The retail behemoth has recently applied to the U.S Patents and Trademarks office for the new system. Walmart stated it will “provide a technology for running “in-field authenticating of autonomous electronic devices.” Most importantly, it will enable secure deliveries for a more efficient supply chain. Even more, the patent aims to have two separate autonomous electronic devices verify shipping and delivery methods without human assistance. Walmart has even recently deployed a blockchain “leafy greens” tracker to ensure safety in produce, and reduce E. Coli outbreaks. The entire project will change the way the retail giant ships and delivers packages globally. Therefore, Walmart’s blockchain project will cut spending and time needed to check delivery across all supply chain mediums using. Finally, Walmart has titled the patent “Systems, Devices, and Methods for In-Field Authenticating of Autonomous Robots.” Will companies fail long-term if they refuse to convert to AI supported supply chains, or is it simply an advantage?

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A Digital Future

It’s no doubt we live in a digital society. However, the supply chain industry has remained behind the times for many years, but end-to-end digitization is accelerating. Recently, CB Insights detailed over 125 startups that are leading the charge in revolutionizing the way supply chains operate. Categories of startups include e-commerce logistics, warehousing, food, fleet management, and more. Collectively, these companies are providing enhanced end-to-end visibility, streamlining operations, digitizing previously analog activities, ensuring food quality & safety, reducing costs and mitigating risk. The rise of born-digital competition has followed a spike in supply chain venture funding and industry incumbents are taking notice. In response, they have significantly increased their investments and acquisitions. What do you see? Will born-digital supply chain startups take over the industry? Finally, will the rise in incumbent digitization efforts prevent a leadership revolution to a digital future?

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Profile: UPS

UPS is launching a predictive analytics tool that analyzes over 1 billion daily data points to augment employee decision making and improve logistics planning. It will be available to employees via an app on their smartphones, desktops and tablets. In order to properly launch the tool, UPS first had to integrate their vast amounts of data from multiple applications into a single platform. The predictive analytics tool is just one part of a larger $20 billion capital spending plan that aims to solve rising ecommerce challenges and keep them ahead of aggressive rivals such as FedEx and Amazon.

Read more here in the original Wall Street Journal article. Also, see our case study on how we helped a leading global cold chain solutions provider launch their innovation program to more effectively harness technologies such as artificial intelligence for predictive analytics.

Apple Pushes Sustainability

The technology juggernaut, Apple, is taking a step towards a cleaner, more energy renewable future. The company stated it would invest $300 million through key suppliers to make their supply chain more efficient and cleaner. Furthermore, the project will bring in over 1 GW of renewable energy. This investment is on top of its 25 renewable energy projects it currently runs. As Apple pushes sustainability, it hopefully will encourage other large retailers to begin investing in efficient supply chains. The sustainability movement is in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals, pertaining to affordable and clean energy. Finally, with a target of 1.4 GW of capacity, a project like this among its key suppliers is a step to a better future. Will other companies begin to follow suit? What are ways smaller corporations can invest in sustainability without a budget as large as Apple?

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Cargo Drones


Read more here in the original Wired article. Also, see our case study on ___?

Grocery Ecommerce

FreshDirect has upped the ante in the race to win ecommerce grocery last mile delivery. Their highly-automated, 400,000 square-foot distribution center furthers their aim of providing the freshest food in the shortest amount of time. The facility boasts 15 temperature zones, 9 miles of conveyor belts, software directed order fulfillment, and the ability to receive perishable items such as fish and deliver to customer doors within 24 hours. The total U.S. grocery market is over $700 billion. Ecommerce grocery sales are only a small fraction of that total. However, ecommerce sales of food and alcohol are projected to rise 183% by 2021. FreshDirect is one of many industry leaders investing heavily to capture that growth while cutting order fulfillment times and delivery costs. Amazon, Target, Kroger, Walmart’s and others are also expanding and enhancing their ecommerce grocery last mile and warehouse operations.

Read more here in the original Wall Street Journal article. Also, see our case study on how we helped a leading global cold chain solutions provider launch a global innovation program that explored advanced technologies and the warehouse of the future.

NextGen Cup Challange

Companies around the world are rapidly evolving to meet consumer standards regarding environmental sustainability. With surmounting evidence proving the issue of global warming, industries are beginning to look differently at their supply chains. Two competitors in the QSR world, McDonald’s and Starbucks, are actually teaming up to redesign their cups to be more eco-friendly. The leading initiative is called the NextGen Cup Challenge, and is an unprecedented attempt to reduce a company’s ecological footprint and reduce global waste. The two QSR giants are even encouraging other companies to join in on their quest to a better cup. Within three years, the companies are working together to produce a cup that is completely recyclable and compostable. Along with their new and improved cup, the companies are also planning to incorporate a new lid and straw. Ultimately, these will all reduce plastic, be totally recyclable, and still be functional to the consumer. What steps beyond cups will companies make to promote sustainability? Are McDonald’s and Starbucks ushering in a new era of QSR sustainability?

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