When it comes to warehouse innovation, automation is the hot trend. But what other technologies — or design — could increase accuracy, speed and throughput? The answer is, no one really knows, but cloud supply chain technology company STORD intends to find out.
The Atlanta-based company announced on Wednesday morning a state-of-the-art fulfillment and innovation hub in Atlanta. The 386,000-square-foot facility will include robotics and automation tools serving customers, but it will also feature an area dedicated to testing new innovations, Sean Henry, co-founder and CEO, told Modern Shipper.
“There will be live STORD customer volume flowing through this facility,” Henry said. “We will also be testing a lot of automation” and using data science teams to build better warehouse management systems and technology products.
Henry said the facility will bring “hundreds of jobs” to the Atlanta market and expand warehousing capacity in a top-five market. The building, which is new construction, is set to open Sept. 1.
The facility will feature Locus Robotics automation from the outset, which will help benefit STORD clients that are increasingly trying to manage inventory flow in an e-commerce world. The robots will triple fulfillment productivity of traditional warehouse operations. The warehouse will focus on high-volume and velocity for business-to-consumer fulfillment, although it is equipped to handle all types of product categories across business-to-business and omnichannel shippers.
STORD provides an end-to-end solution for shippers through a cloud-based platform connected to over 500 warehouses and 20,000 carriers. The company offers national warehouse capacity, digital freight shipping, an integrated logistics network and two-day fulfillment for e-commerce orders from anywhere in the U.S.
“A lot of [warehouses] are behind what the Amazons and XPOs are doing in robotics because it is massively expensive,” Henry said. “To help make supply chains more efficient across the U.S., we are going to be putting in automation like Locus robots in this facility.”
But, as important as the added capacity will be to the Atlanta market, it is the section devoted to innovation that is perhaps most important. Henry said STORD has hired “multiple industrial engineers that will use a small section to test multiple layouts” for new products to ensure they can be stored and picked efficiently.
“Our customers are very innovative,” Henry noted. “STORD runs a multiclient and multitenant environment across the United States. We’re very used to running these multiclient operations, and thinking like that, [the test area] is like running another segment of the warehouse. Customers are asking for this. We’ll be constantly using a small segment of the warehouse that is already predetermined for constant testing.”
As those innovations are developed, Henry said they will be shared with other locations and partners. Part of the announcement is that STORD and its top warehousing and third-party logistics partners will create a Warehousing and Fulfillment Innovation Coalition for the sharing of best practices.
“Our goal is to ensure that whether a customer’s inventory is in STORD’s facility or one of our partner facilities, the customer receives uniform, high-standard and efficient fulfillment services across the entire STORD network,” Henry said.
Atlanta was chosen for the facility for a couple of reasons, including the city’s importance within the supply chain and proximately to STORD’s headquarters.
“Atlanta is our headquarters so that is a key consideration,” Henry said. “While we are a very distributed team … a lot of our data science and engineering teams are located here in Atlanta.”
In March, STORD announced the closing of a $65 million Series C funding round, which followed by mere months the closing of a $31 million round in December. To date, the company has raised $125 million, Henry said, and continues to grow rapidly. Revenues grew more than 300% during the past year and STORD headcount is growing almost as fast. Henry said the company started 2020 with 40 people, finished with 135 and as of July, had over 250 with a goal of reaching 350 by year’s end.
The fastest-growing segment of the company is its software business. Henry said many customers are implementing STORD’s cloud supply chain software over top of their existing technologies, enabling them to exact some operational improvement through better supply chain optimization.
“Most systems are pieced together with multiple suppliers and can be expensive,” Henry said. “As e-commerce surged, customer supply chains got more complex, and while someone like Amazon had no problem reacting when their internal volume broke out,” others could not.
“STORD is on a mission to democratize the commerce supply chain by giving growing businesses access to Prime-like end-to-end logistics capabilities,” he said. “This warehouse and innovation center will improve the physical supply chain experience for our customers while also creating best practices to further optimize the hundreds of warehouses within our partner network. This means continuous improvement, greater efficiency and ultimately even greater service for all of STORD’s stakeholders.”