Supply Chain Now Episode 337

“We want to keep associates safe. We want to keep the inventory safe. We want to protect the system from needing to be shut down so it can be disinfected. Making changes is very difficult because of the fixed nature of the infrastructure, but we can get higher throughput through the same operation, increasing redundancy and flexibility.”

– Mark Messina, COO of Geek+ 


It is impossible to deny that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown have changed consumer habits and patterns in significant ways. Everything from shopping to entertainment has gone online, and many companies, industries, and supply chains and scrambling to keep up. The current volume of eCommerce shipments truly resembles Christmas in April.

Mark Messina is the COO of Geek+ Americas and Rick DeFiesta is their Director of Business Development. Like everyone else, they are looking at the current business environment and can see disruption as well as the opportunity for different types of companies in the supply chain.

In this interview, Mark and Rick speak with Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton about:

· How cross-generational consumer behaviors and demand patterns are shifting overnight in ways that will have a lasting effect on them and the stores they shop at

· The weaknesses that are being uncovered in detailed, real-time inventory management and online payment systems

· The benefits of automation for improving labor efficiency, especially in the case of order fulfillment

[00:00:05] It’s time for Supply chain now. Broadcasting live from the Supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia, heard around the world, Supply chain now spotlights the best in all things supply chain the people, the technologies, best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.


[00:00:28] Good afternoon, Scott Luton and Greg White here with you on Supply chain. Now welcome back to the show and today’s show. We’re going to be speaking with a few industry leaders in big things and automation and robotics space. In fact, part of our discussion will focus on Kogut 19s, impact on consumer behaviors as well as global supply chain operations. Really a wide variety of early lessons learned. Some more to come on that momentarily. Quick programing note we invite you to find this and subscribe to supply chain now wherever you get your podcasts. We don’t want you to miss a single thing. Want to welcome in my esteemed fellow co-host Greg White Serial Supply chain tech entrepreneur and trust advisor. Greg, how are you?


[00:01:13] I am doing great. I am like many people and as Mark said in the pre-show, one of many people who needs a haircut and you know, since we’re going to talk about immigration to the Scott, maybe there’s something that Mark and Rick can do to help us there.


[00:01:31] Absolutely. I hope that is your worst challenge of the week. No doubt. And speaking, you’ve already mentioned our special guest here today, Mark Masina, chief operating officer with Geek Plus and his colleague, Rick diffee is the director of Business Development of the Americas for Keith, plus, Mark and Rick. Good afternoon.


[00:01:52] Good afternoon.


[00:01:54] Great to have you back on the show. This is the second in a series with a geek plus team. We’ve got a lot of overwhelming feedback really on the first episode that we probably published about a month or so ago. Great to have you back.


[00:02:10] Thanks for having us. Thanks. Good to be back.


[00:02:13] You bet. Well, you know, we’re Greg and I both are really interested in picking your brain on some of the early lessons that your team has been learning and some of your early observations in light of the global pandemic that’s going on around us and that we’re all fighting together. But before we start that conversation, I want to refresh our audience member, audience members that may have tuned into the last one or maybe new listeners that may not know much about either one of you gentlemen.


[00:02:43] So, Mark, if you would, share a bit about yourself with our audience.


[00:02:48] Sure. Thank you for having me today. And thanks for your time. Martin So, you know, I had operations in San Diego for gay plus Americans. Me cover South America, North America, that Chile to Canada. And I have about 20 years in the robotics development space with HIV and AM our technology joint gig plus mid last year and very happy to bring the operations to the states. And I’m very excited to talk to our customers in this time.


[00:03:23] And Geek Plus has been going through a pretty rapid growth phase.


[00:03:31] Yeah, the company was started in 2015 and we are at about eight hundred and fifty people now with a solid half of that dedicated to R&D. So we are really focused on innovations in product development. We also operate our own three people as well as a duress model and sales of our robots around the world. We have about 60 percent of the market in China and we are the key player in Japan. And then we are expanding into the Americas and also Europe. So it’s a really exciting time to be with a company through the growth and even in light of these challenges that we face right now with the pandemic. It’s very interesting to see the demand and the questions coming from our customers.


[00:04:21] So absolutely. It is very interesting.


[00:04:24] Well, I appreciate both of you all taking time to share some of that, which I think our audience is going to find helpful and fascinating and and very practical, so. Rick, good afternoon. Great to have you back. And this time you didn’t we didn’t have to fight traffic on. That’s always a challenge in the metro Atlanta area.


[00:04:41] Rick, if you could share a little bit about yourself with our audience.


[00:04:45] Sure. Absolutely. And that report right now, I guess I would prefer driving through Atlanta like the traffic part later that boy at than normal. Right. Plus, I would have been able to do a little sightseeing compared to my usual travels through the city of Atlanta. But anyway, I’m again Rick Keith. Yes. I’ve been in the automated metro handling industry for well over 30 years. I spent my entire career. That’s faith. I’ve worked with pretty much all the major companies that are now turned into just a few of those major companies. So it’s all you’ve obviously seen a huge trend towards acquisitions and mergers, seeing as most companies today are spending less money on development and more money on just acquiring. So that’s one of the great things here at Keith plus is that we are truly developing products and doing everything we can to stay ahead of the technology.


[00:05:47] As you know, the last 10 years we’ve seen this huge trend away from just automation being the ability to move things to where today it’s all about improving processes and optimization and doing things better and faster and more accurately. So as Mark mentioned, you know, more almost half of our company is dedicated to that kind of development. And we’ve had some recent conversations about some new products that we’ll be launching very soon. So so even though we’re we’re kind of hunkered down here, by no means that we are we take an arrest taking it back to that time.


[00:06:29] Eric, you mentioned something to get my attention that Marc shared that I didn’t pick up on our first interview, which is half the team at Gates plus is all about what’s next and getting better and better at advancing the technology and automation.


[00:06:43] So that that’s clearly a commitment to to constant innovation in a rapidly changing space. OK. So the whole aim of today’s conversation, I think Greg and I you’ve you and I chatted about this in a couple years or maybe a couple of months, who knows what we experience and how global supply chains have.


[00:07:10] Reacted and navigated through these times. There’s going to be some really big lessons learned that’s probably going to shape industry for generations to come, right?


[00:07:19] Yeah, and we I mean, we see this with so many companies that we’ve talked about even before now, but now with the, you know, the issues that have been raised by the Corona virus pandemic, we’ve seen a greater acceleration, I think, or at least a greater awareness of of these kind of things.


[00:07:42] Yep. Agreed. And Mark, are the first lesson learned. We want to kind of dove into and get you and Rick to weigh in on.


[00:07:50] We all know how important and how consumers specifically drive supply chains with their behaviors.


[00:07:59] What what, you know, early lesson learned here. How do you see covered 19, the current situation, changing consumer behaviors?


[00:08:08] Sure. I think it’s clear that the quarantine. The effect is that everybody is in the house. So most of the shopping has gone to online. I think a lot of people are passing time doing shopping online, doing, you know, consuming entertainment online, these sorts of things.


[00:08:28] They’re only going out for the essentials and even there with food products. We’ve seeing a lot of impact on food delivery, whether it’s through services like Uber Eats or doored to for this sort of thing, but also food becoming an e-commerce specialty. So we’ve seen that trending and it’s been a very difficult problem to solve. But the demand is driving requests for cold deliver cold Logistics robots that work in cold environments, food handling and this sort of thing. And then in general, e-commerce, you know, brick and mortar stores, obviously nobody is going there. They’re all closed. So everybody is purchasing online. So your e-commerce giants are experiencing massive uptick, uptick. And essentially what we’re seeing is the peak that typically happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the states is happening now to the point that, you know, major players are restricting sales or reducing their commitments on delivery time for anything but the essentials. And repurposing their existing Logistics storage space for the essentials. So programs that typically served nonessentials are are shut off. Only essentials are being supplied. And the supply chain is really taxed with keeping up with that. At the same time, shipments from China of of product are not flowing. We’re we’re still seeing sort of the drought in the pipeline or the bubble in the pipeline from there.


[00:10:10] Krier, Cauvin, quarantine, that will resolve and then warehouses will have to balance demand. And hopefully what we will see there is at that point the demand for essentials is reduced because we’re starting to see some flattening of the curve as everybody refers to it. And therefore, the demand for essentials will shift to a more normal demand that people will still be observing quarantine once the quarantine and shelter and home. Shelter in place, orders are lifted. We expect to see the shopping trend continue. The behavior will be will be changed. So, you know, people’s concern for virus or general health concerns around infection, this sort of thing. These are behaviors that will likely not change for a long time. So we expect that our customers are going to experience it. A new median shipping volume and the peak season may be the peak season we’ll return, but shifted up to its its traditional norms. But with this shift up above the median. But certainly we expect the median to have a sustained shift up, which means for Logistics players, a stronger push to that eCom side of the business, whether you’re three people or whether you’re a brick and mortar with an eCom components. The focus will be there.


[00:11:45] Mm hmm. All right. Rick, Mark shared a lot there, and I know that you all really had your finger on the pulse of a lot of what’s going on in the business world. What are some of that ways that you’re seeing consumer behaviors change or are predicted to change based on the current environment?


[00:12:04] Well, I could say ditto. But no, I. Let let you know what’s interesting, right, is that I’m sure all of you have seen it is the amount of communication that you’re having with your family. Right. Probably more so than normal, you know. And not so much, you know. How you doing? How’s the weather where you’re at? It’s it’s. I could tell you some of the conversations we have is with with our elder parents. Right. That that said, I I have no reason to order online. I don’t need to know how to do that. Well, I’m certain they are right that we’re having this whole other market that that we’re, you know, resistant to buying online and using their credit cards online because they didn’t trust things.


[00:12:58] And and all of a sudden, here they are. They’re they’re learning and and finally accepting it as, as Mark mentioned, you know, especially in the food thing. So. So even though, you know, maybe they don’t get home delivery, but they’re they’re learning how to pull up in front of the the grocer or the big box retailer and and calling the number that says, you know, bring my stuff out to the car. And they’re starting to see the advantages of of being able to have this technology. So. So, again, it’s kind of forcing a lot of people that that weren’t willing to accept this new world that we’re in. And now embracing it. Right. And and, you know, one of the things that we’re doing, instead of sending gift cards, we’re actually calling in grocery orders for our families and they haven’t things dropped off. So. So the other thing that that I can see happening is that, you know, obviously all this this uptick is putting a lot of strain on systems. And one of those strains is visibility into what’s on hand. Who would have thought that a grocer would have had to know whether or not they have eggs and stock? Mm hmm. Right. I mean, I mean, they they probably never needed to know that if someone went online that that, you know, the message is what’s in stock.


[00:14:26] There’s no lot of grocery orders now are only getting fulfilled. That and maybe 50 percent. Sure. And people are are upset because they said, hey, I went online. It you know, I was able to put two in my shopping cart and I didn’t get it. It so did I get charged with a you know, so. So it is, again, putting a strain on those systems. So I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of activity on the visibility side of being able to see more true real time, not only true real time inventory, but what’s already been purchased and taken out of. Now, I know a lot of companies have that capability, especially when they’ll have one or two and they say, hey, you know, we can hold this in your shopping cart 15 minutes. But but a lot of a lot of companies never even thought of that being an issue worth where they had to know anything that was allocated by, you know, multiple people online at the same time trying to make that purchase. So so that part will be challenging in the future. But but I but this is going to be that that definitely the new norm of doing more and more of your consumables online than than people were accustomed to.


[00:15:41] Yeah. Great point there. And great you to based on what Mark and Rick here have shared on this this canvas, first lesson learned. What’s your key takeaway?


[00:15:50] Well, I think we you know, we’ve seen that the the move towards e-commerce is like many shifts in in commerce or business in general is is caused by need. Right. So, you know, we’ve seen the largest retailers hiring people to fulfill orders, hundreds of thousands of them. And that is a shift that two things we have to think about. One is the level of permanence of it, meaning how much of it stays and how many people go back to go back to buying in-store and what segment of a product continues to be bought. The E commerce and what shifts back. And the other is how do we maintain what will? Undoubtedly I. I completely agree with Mark and Rick. An up tick, substantial, I believe, uptick in e commerce. Effectively, because hiring hundreds of thousands of people is not cost effective to do that. All of those people had I mean, let’s face it, all of those people had jobs before this. The reason they’re taking those jobs is because they need them right now. But when their regular job comes back, we won’t have the workforce to fulfill those hundreds of thousands of jobs. And it’s going to require us to use, I think, automation to fulfill.


[00:17:21] So, Greg, you mentioned a big risk that will be posed. A lot of leaders are Canstar. Certainly before the pandemic workforce needs to keep all our leaders up at night. Let’s additionally risk mitigation and risk management. Is is going to be some early lessons learned as we work through this. This current landscape. Mark, I’ll bring you back in here. When we think about risk mitigation and we think about automation and robotics. How does that play into risk mitigation strategy?


[00:18:00] Well, I mean, it goes into the core of the opera business, and we saw this in our last session where you have the flexibility with these systems to de-risk your operations because you can handle highly variable product mix.


[00:18:19] So, for example, today we’re seeing that in the key E coms, they’ve stopped several of their their programs that allow external sellers to sell through their platform and through their through their fulfillment centers so that they can handle a completely different product mix now with traditional warehousing. You wind up having a major impact your operations to make this shift both from a software and hardware perspective and the human factors, elements. And it’s very inefficient and it shows up as reduced cube cubic density in the warehouse. So cubic density is the metric by which everybody measure is how effectively they can fill their warehouse. The more air, the less efficient the warehouses with goods person systems specifically. You have very little air volume.


[00:19:14] You can really fill the space, especially the mezzanine up, but also the ability to change your product mix is very easy because of the automation. So the software adapts very easily. The hardware is very flexible and the human factors remain unchanged because the human doesn’t really interact with the product except for a workstation. There’s a completely new aspect to security. And and what I would call hardening your operations in the Logistics space, which is we’re seeing now fulfillment centers and distribution centers being shut down because they have infected employees. And it makes sense because the employees are walking up and down aisles collecting items for the orders and they’re interacting with each other, with other employees and they’re also freely interacting with the inventory.


[00:20:07] So you’re seeing that they could sneeze or cough and there’s no way to know where that’s happening and they could infect each other or product that’s shipping to a customer. And nobody wants to be responsible for that risk. So they’re shutting down these these huge operations in order to disinfect them, which the interruption is costly, the disinfection process is costly and the PR hit to your orders is significant. So we look at how do we how does our technology address this? And it’s very important goods. The person segregates the inventory entirely from the operator. So we can add our software has the ability that where the goods, the person system we see that we can track.


[00:20:56] If we have an infected individual, we could track every inventory shelf that that person interacted with and we could. Without interruption to operation disinfect those shelves or taken to the extreme, we can disinfect every shelf regularly, automatically without impact. So the technology offers through technology, you see a lot of benefits for the industry.


[00:21:23] So, Rick, we weigh in on the broader picture of risk mitigation when it comes to automation and robotics. You know, what else would you add to what Marcus Sheer? And Rick, you may be mute there, so. There we are.


[00:21:43] Yeah, I’m here. I noticed that when I muted it actually helped my marks connection better side. If it’s related. But anyway, so.


[00:21:54] So the I guess more fundamentally, as far as our type of solution is we we take away the single point of failure compared to other technologies where, you know, you have this big infrastructure that if if one piece of it were to were to have any type of disruption or failure, it basically takes the whole system down. So so in worst case scenario, if our system the way it’s configured is that you could actually go into it manually if you had to set that be the absolute worst case where there was a let’s say, a power failure in an area. But but less than that, that catastrophic failure, we would just, you know, tends to reduce some productivity. So so by having all these basically independent, freely moving bot driving through a system, you know, they they they interact with one another, but yet they don’t affect one another as far as their ability to get work done. So. So, again, with the increased capacity in demand that we’re seeing there, there’s probably a longer run in times and systems were originally designed for. And in our system, with the constant monitoring of batteries and charging, you know, none of that situation affects our capacity. So all you’re doing is either adding workstations and or adding hours to the day. But what you’re able to get through those those peak times with the system as is. Mm hmm.


[00:23:41] And Mark, I think one important takeaway, when you consider a lot of the elements that automation and robotics add to operations these days, they allow you to really minimize disruptions. Why? Why is that so important, Mark?


[00:24:00] Well, the redundancy in the system and the flexibility in the system so we can we can pour more robots into the system to get higher throughput through the same operation. We can add more workstations so you can have higher throughput through the operation. So we’re very flexible in that we can react to a shift in peak and a shift in median without major surgery to your operation and with traditional bolted to the floor automation, which is I would say at best, somewhat intelligent but not very intelligent. Making changes is very difficult because of the fixed nature of the infrastructure. Another point that I would I would add is. You know, saucing labor is increasingly difficult and we see that labor is very sensitive now to their safety in the work environment as it relates to the pandemic. This technology allows social debt, social distancing. We want to keep them, you know, associate safe. We want to keep the inventory safe. We want to protect the system from needing to be shut down, to be disinfected. So these are all facets that help us to react to changing situations. Now, one could argue, well, what are you doing in an earthquake? We haven’t yet solved that problem yet. Well.


[00:25:24] And it’s tough to solve for all. As as we know, we’ll take each of these big challenges one one at a time. One other element that I understand related to your solution and really related to any operation when you can minimize disruptions is beyond protecting the workforce along the lines of what you just shared. Mark, you can also keep the costs of products low, which is of course, a tremendous benefit to the consumer, especially during these times when, as Greg has alluded to, you know, jobs stability, of course, is a big concern in the minds of many consumers to talk talk to that a little bit more.


[00:26:04] Well, every every operations manager will tell you that they’re they’re ranked on their cost per unit shipped.


[00:26:11] So anything that they can do to reduce the operating expense related to delivering product from the dock to the customer is they’re keenly tuned into this technology means that you get two to three X efficiency on your labor. Labor is traditionally the highest cost in the system. So we can maximize that. We can maximize the footprint or maximize the density of the footprint of the building. These are all things that allow much more lean operation, which translates to quick return on the investment, happier operations. And because of the efficiency, the operation is greatly simplified. So there’s less overhead in terms of management of the operation, in terms of optimizing the UPS, the operation, et cetera.


[00:27:07] So, you know, this is where we apply our technology, both in hardware, software and cloud based A.I. to TEIL these benefits.


[00:27:17] All right. So, Greg, we have come a long way in just 20 minutes of talking with Mark and Rick here.


[00:27:26] What we’re talking about, the benefits of successful automation, robotics and some of the environmental dynamics that we’re all dealing with right now.


[00:27:36] What what are what’s some things you’re hearing? I think that, you know, there are a couple things that we’ve talked about already. One is I think we have to acknowledge that automation is not may not be how we picture it. It’s not a robotic arm picking something off a conveyor necessarily that could be part of it. But you have to think of it more in a Star Wars fashion, and that is little droids running around the shop floor or plucking the goods that you knowing where the goods are and plucking them out of the shelves and putting them in the right bins and things of that nature. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about automation, which we’ve already addressed, the fact that the workforce was virtually 100 percent employed prior to this and that this is not a desirable job for many, many people. And that’s there’s a lot of press and a lot of studies to support the fact that it was difficult to get people to do some of the jobs in the warehouse.


[00:28:36] But now companies like Geek Plus are providing automation for.


[00:28:40] And this is how automation occur has occurred over time. It’s either vastly more efficient at a lower cost, more effective, I should say, at a lower cost and therefore more efficient. It’s it it allows humans to do higher level things rather than the mundane, repetitive in it. And as Mark just alluded to, some of the less safe or more challenging aspects of the work. And this is this is how we move towards automation. And again, and I you know, I harp on this all the time. We are experiencing the greatest generational transition in the history of the planet. Ten thousand people a day are leaving the workforce. And those people are or have in the past been doing some of these jobs and we don’t have enough people to replace them. So we need automation to do that. And I think we will see a future where automation will not cost people jobs. In fact, with this most recent pandemic and people wanting to diversify sourcing so that they’re not beholden to a single vendor or country for their sourcing, I think we’ll see a lot of people doing this not only for for fulfillment and within the warehouses, but also within their manufacturing facilities, largely for the same reasons as I’ve just outlined.


[00:30:09] So, Rick, I want to bring you back into the conversation here. Greg just mentioned that a variety of different environments where companies are deploying robotics, automation solutions. What are some of your observations there?


[00:30:24] So I guess, you know that they half glass as the glass half full or half empty. The thing is there’s always room for more wine. So.


[00:30:37] So the I love the way you think. So.


[00:30:42] So with that being said, you know that there’s that right now, to Greg’s point, there’s going to be a a turn in everything that’s happening. Right. People are accepting work.


[00:30:56] I happen to have some some people that I speak to pretty regularly.


[00:31:02] And, you know, they’re there. up-tick has been, you know, 300, 400 percent of of what they are used to seeing in the volume on the eCom side.


[00:31:16] So but understandably, there’s there’s a lot of companies that are kind of hit the pause button because they’re saying that, you know. What’s going to happen? Is business going to come back and when is it going to come back? So. So I think, you know, again, looking at the glass being half full here, that worked.


[00:31:38] When these people when the situation does change and improve, they’re all sudden going to be faced with, you know, how to life fill that void that was created by, you know, people returning to their their past positions. And I think that’s one of the huge advantages that we have as a company, is that our our systems are very, very quick to deploy. So, you know, unlike a lot of planning that would normally take pay place for a large installed fix system.


[00:32:13] You know, we’re just going to calculate basically it, you know, what do you see? Four requirements for throughput, productivity, storage. And we can very quickly put together a solution and prove the solution either through the math or even doing a simulation. So so not only that, quick to deploy the A, the solution is very quick to identify. So. So there is a very good chance that we can be in place ready for that peak that that potentially is going to happen yet this year with which you just basically can’t do when you’re in you’re building a large system and haven’t haven’t manufacturer by foot and by pallet position or by top position.


[00:33:02] So Rick and Mark both have mentioned peak Marco. I want to get you to weigh in here. Let’s talk about we all know when Peak usually takes place.


[00:33:13] Speak a bit more to what we’re seeing right now. When Peak started and what you see, how long do you think this current peak we’re in will last?


[00:33:26] Yeah, that’s that’s a great question and I wish I had a better answer, but I can tell you when it started, you know, we saw Amazon hire a hundred thousand people to react to the situation.


[00:33:38] So clearly there was a start to peak. As far as when peak settles out and we return to what I would call sort of a new medium, a new mean average.


[00:33:51] That’s a really difficult one to two. You know, if I was able to answer that, I’d probably be in a different line of business if you were investing in the market for for people like Warren Buffett and that sort of thing. Because that’s anybody’s guess. The labor market is going to be a bit squarely there.


[00:34:11] Unfortunately, there’s a lot of small businesses and some large businesses that are going to go under as a result of this situation.


[00:34:20] I think anybody who wasn’t all that healthy beforehand as far as a company goes, much like much like humans are going to be. Really impacted by this situation and we can see some of them pass away just like we will see humans, unfortunately. So what that does to the labor market and people’s ability to spend and how willing they are to spend is going to be questionable.


[00:34:45] I think that if we see the quarantine have a major impact. In other words, another let’s say another two months, we’re still in the same situation. The impact to the economy is going to be great. And at that point, we would start to see people going into one. You know, real capital preservation mode.


[00:35:07] In other words, becoming very thrifty, a lot like in in maybe. Previous world wars or depressions, this sort of thing, and those behaviors becoming spendthrift, they don’t go away easily.


[00:35:21] Much like our shopping behaviors that already have changed and I think in some ways very permanently, people’s spending habits will change. So our hope and I think everybody’s hope is that this situation resolves quickly for many reasons. Loss of life, loss of loss of income changed to this fabric of the country. This sort of thing. But. Nobody knows what the answer is, that question.


[00:35:49] And we’ve seen some. And I think it’s fascinating that the stock market is reacting in the way it does. We haven’t seen a crater quite as much as a lot of people would expect. How long we can sustain that? That’s a good question. And that all has impact on everybody’s business.


[00:36:05] Great point. OK, so Rick, Marc touched on a couple of things there. Obviously, he addressed Peak.


[00:36:12] He also referenced some of the things that may that may make up this new normal that we’re all hoping to get to sooner rather than later. What’s your take regarding it? Feel free to weigh in on peak and what we see, what we’re seeing there and what’s to come or speak to the new normal.


[00:36:31] So I guess what is peak now? Right. We have an event that that’s creating a huge demand that that’s in many ways far beyond what what we see and peak, especially in certain market segments again. You know, grocers are seeing demand like they’ve never seen before. You know, as I mentioned, I communicate with someone who is in the the fulfillment end for a very large grocery part of their their division. And one of the things that he shared with me is that, you know, for for most of us this weekend, this is very special for us. It’s Easter weekend. And and in the past, we all used to decorate eggs. Well, I I he shared with me that all the eggs that they purchased for Easter are already gone. So, so so the idea of dying AIGs and high hiding them and all that, there, you know, people won’t be doing that that this year. Because because, again, the the surplus that they ordered to meet the typical Easter rush is already been consumed. So. So the idea of peak is, you know, that’s a hotness. As Mark said, it’s a hard thing to answer. Who would have thought that we see a peak like toilet paper? Right.


[00:37:55] That, you know, when will we recover? I’m sure he’ll get enough toilet paper or paper towels. Right. So here we’ve created a. Is it. Is it a false demand or is it to. Or surprisingly, is it a new demand that that people are are going to be, you know, make this effort to be cleaner in general? Right. Or are we changing the way we are as far as what our daily lives will be after this? And will that create a new or new standard as far as what we consume? So. So that’s you know, that’s the. The negative. All this is what we’re doing. A lot of things that are more reactionary. But we’re you know, we’re all kind of sitting back and saying, well, you know, it is this is this new level. You know, is it really going to be our non-peak? Is this what we’re going to see? So so that’s what’s been very difficult as far as forecasting. When I’m talking to current customers that are seeing this huge uptick that that they have no idea what what is what is the new peak?


[00:39:06] All right, so Greg, before we pose the question to Marc and Rick about some of the things that companies can do now to prepare for what that new normal looks like.


[00:39:20] I know you’re chomping at the bit based on what Marc and Rick have already shared about peak and demand and the new normal.


[00:39:28] What you hear there or what will you boldly predict? You know, this this forecasting allocation, planning replenishment, all of that is is what I have done for so many years and.


[00:39:45] This is peak is predictable.


[00:39:51] First of all, and it has a predictability in terms of both scale and the items that are impacted.


[00:39:59] Toys are impacted heavily.


[00:40:01] Games are impacted heavily at Christmas time right back. You know, notebooks and laptops are are impacted heavily at back to school time. This is a catastrophic anomaly. That has no rhyme or reason and may never happen again. And that’s that’s what makes this so difficult. Right. It will have some ever lasting effects. And I think I can tell that Mark is probably raised by parents or grandparents coming out of the Great Depression, having recognized that that that thrifty spirit occurred. My great grandparents and great grandparents were very much like that. You know, clean everything on your plate. Nothing goes to waste kind of thing. We will have some of those behaviors as well. And it may be that people start to keep. Large amounts of toilet paper. But in truth, even the toilet paper thing was just a shift in demand. We aren’t using more toilet paper, we are buying more toilet paper. So all we’ve done is we’ve bought next month’s toilet paper this month. In addition to this month’s of those kind of things, as Mark alluded to, we’ll start to level out, but there will be shifts and I think those will be difficult to predict. I really do. I can tell you that in the households arm around speaking to frozen pizza is is a safety idea. So, you know, it could be that those kind of things have a lingering effect. And the truth is we won’t know until we’re through it. You know, how how people respond to it. And in fact, there will be some people who will influence others. So the people who think that they are or who turn out to appear the most prepared will will impact the rest of us as we know, as we make decisions about shifts in demand or prioritizing certain items and things like that.


[00:42:09] What sounded like we were about to have Alexa join in the conversation a day and give her give us her bold prediction. Jerai Flourish couldn’t. She couldn’t. All right.


[00:42:20] So, Mark, unless you want to touch on anything Rick and Greg shared and we’ve shared a lot. I mean, a lot of big picture thinking in the last five or seven minutes here. But what we’re we’re really interested in having you weigh in on is, you know, what things that companies can be doing right now to prepare for whatever the new normal might look like.


[00:42:45] What’s your take on that, Marc? Well, mean, the easy answer there is everybody should be looking at their operations and understanding what’s working right now, what isn’t, and what can be supporting this sustained peak and what can be done to address the labor situation moving forward. And regardless of whether the labor market is returning to the normal that it was, which I don’t believe it. Well, I think we’ll see some jobs permanently lost, which is helpful for labor. But the reality is, generally, people don’t want to work in a warehouse environment. So looking at technologies that they do all the things we’ve already discussed, but also from an employee perspective, our perspective is that employees like to work around technology that makes her life easier.


[00:43:38] In this case, are you know, the technology can not only make the life of the employee easier, but also address their safety concerns. So hiring is easier when you look at your technology roadmap. It’s certainly a consideration. So I think, you know, understanding the range of solutions that are out there and the benefits that that are associated with each one.


[00:44:02] We invite customers to have a discussion with us and get a proposal that they can have ready when they start to look at their capital planning. And we we see that capital budgets are on ice right now as everybody reacts to the situation. But when they thought the focus is going to be on operational improvements as a result of where things did not work as they should have during this situation, then we we know that from discussions we’re having with customers now. So it worked. Weigh in on that. I know both of you all again are talking with a wide variety of customers and other industry leaders fighting a good fight out there. What are some of the things that you’re seeing companies do to get ready?


[00:44:48] So we’re literally we’re in headsets all day long.


[00:44:56] Customers are. They’re planning. They seem to be interested in knowing what else they they could be doing or should be doing. So the the amount of of interest is is incredibly high.


[00:45:12] But but as Mark mentioned, there’s there. They’re not taken, you know, opening up the purse strings right now. But I think they’re all prepping and looking at at their operations and and what they can do better. You know, one of the things that that we talked about earlier is trying to hire people. Well, some of those hires weren’t for lack of of people or the need of additional people.


[00:45:43] It was actually to to help the people that are afraid of working right now. Right. There’s there’s actually people that have asked to stay home because of the fear of what they might get in a warehouse environment with, you know, being around a lot of people.


[00:45:59] So. So as we talked about earlier, you know, having systems like ours that are actually capable of of assuring those that that whatever they’re coming in contact with can be disinfected and tracked so that you can keep people separated, you know, is going to make their their lives. And I enjoy that. What they do a lot more readily than than in the past, again, of this of this other social mixing or separation that we’re forced to have.


[00:46:36] You know, even at work, because, again, you can only have so many people in a building, it’s not like you can add all the fork trucks they would need and all the other handhelds and the other technology. So, you know, so that’s been the other challenge for the customers as well. So so it gets back to, you know, our ability to very quickly expand, but yet have a very enhanced environment for them to work in.


[00:47:03] So, Mark. I was told that you all are doing walkthroughs of facilities, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, maybe other sites remotely and helping give insights, observations, exploring a variety of relationships. Tell us about that. Yeah. You know, in this.


[00:47:27] In this business, face to face meetings go a long way, as they do with most businesses, but understanding on a walk through the customers operation the little details that are very difficult to capture otherwise. You know, this is this is the situation right now that we cannot visit in person because most operations have their own policies, that they are not allowing any visitors or this sort of thing for obvious reasons.


[00:47:56] But also just travel in general is restricted.


[00:47:59] So normally we can we can do most of our proposal with a discussion and with collecting order profiles and a lot of other business details. But still, it’s very difficult without actually seeing the environment. So what we are doing now is actual just based time video tours.


[00:48:23] In addition to our normal meetings that we would have and then we would normally go off for a visit. In this case, we’re using the technology and we’re we’re just doing face time tours or or WhatsApp video tours, tours of a facility asking all the questions. And we’re seeing that this is an effective way to communicate the details that we would have that we would normally be able to capture or face to face.


[00:48:53] Rick, anything to add there? There’s it is really challenging as someone that has always loved plant tours have been on over 300 tours of plants and sites and other facilities. I’m definitely a tour geek and being able to have those in-person consulting conversations or, you know, comparing them, note that such a valuable thing for industry.


[00:49:18] I loved to hear. How are ya? Or are navigating through that remotely to help keep the ball moving forward there. So so yes. I mean I mean, all of us that are are more accustomed doing solution based selling. Right or or fact finding. Because if if the if everybody knew exactly what they needed by any vendor, not you know, a lot of us wouldn’t be needed. Right. They just go to a catalog and order it. So so the customer is looking, you know, for our expertise. And and and again, it’s really, you know, that those that are acknowledging, they don’t know what they don’t know. So.


[00:50:02] So by our ability to use the technology to kind of walk through their process and understand it and be able to see things that they may be doing that, you know, we’ve been able to solve or change, you know, it is still absolutely required. So so unfortunately, because of a still that gap of not being on a walk around their building, even though we can’t do the face time, you know, it’s kind of hard to get that 360 degree view. So what? Which is, again, helpful that we can do that visual, but it can absolutely understand why the hesitation to pull the trigger on actually moving forward and to make that final visit. So. So I guess I’m being optimistic here that that we have a lot of opportunities identified. We have customers that that are absolutely interested in in making that that investment in their facilities, but that they’re looking for that confirmation then. And to be able to do that, quite honestly, remotely is very challenging. And I wish that I could say that there was a simple fix for that.


[00:51:23] But until we can again just just make that visit, it’s going to be difficult to get anybody to comment on that solution.


[00:51:33] Yeah. Good point there. All right. So we’re starting to kind of one down this episode. We’ve been talking with Mark Masina, C.O.O., and Rick T.P.S., the director of business development for the Americas for Geek. Plus, Greg, as we wrapped up that last segment there.


[00:51:51] Any anything really stood out in your mind?


[00:51:54] Get your house in order. I mean, this you know, this this is a catalyst for a motivator for that. But the truth is, so many companies, particularly in Supply chain, have been under strain or or directly under attack for so many years that, you know, that this is just an acceleration of what we’ve all seen coming. I think you have to acknowledge that companies have to get their processes squared away. They have to hoard cash. Unfortunately, that will probably put further brakes on the economy for a short time. But. You know, the companies that can get efficient and that can generate cash from their own operations or can save cash will be much more likely to come out of this with a glass half full.


[00:52:50] But as I’d like to point out, maybe one of the most important things said on Supply chain now today is whether the glass is half full or half empty. There’s still room to fill it up with wine. And I mean, I think that’s the important thing to think about, seriously.


[00:53:12] You know that that’s you have to think like that, right? You’re half dead. You’re half alive. You know, they don’t really only one choice. Right.


[00:53:27] All right. Well, good stuff there. Greg, appreciate that. Mark, love for you to kind of share with our audience how folks can connect with you and certainly connect with the geek plus team.


[00:53:39] Yeah, definitely. So you can always reach out to us. The Keith plus dot com and the Web site. Here’s a contact form there. Or you can send us Neeman email it sales at gig plus dot com or info geek plus dot com.


[00:53:55] We’re also on LinkedIn and Facebook etc. So there’s always a way to reach us.


[00:54:02] I’m always happy to have a discussion about technology and different applications. Well, and I think before the certainly before the world changed here in the States, you had a big exhibit, as did we at no-tax. And I want to say in social media, in the last few days, I think mutex recognized your team with one of the best exhibits or something like that, most engaging or some kind of recognition.


[00:54:29] Yeah, we were in the top 20 of the motets exhibits. It’s a nice honor and hats off to our team Fish and Luke, who put that together.


[00:54:41] Outstanding. OK, Rick. I would love for you to make sure.


[00:54:45] I think a lot of folks would enjoy comparing notes with with both Marc and Rick here. Rick, how can folks connect with you?


[00:54:53] Same. Same as connecting with mark up that sales at Keith plus that club does eventually get to me. So.


[00:55:02] So, so, yeah. Absolutely.


[00:55:04] And again, if anyone is interested in hearing more, we we we’re happy to share that story through a webinar or at their convenience.


[00:55:15] Outstanding. Greg, I know about you, but I feel like we’ve been on ten episodes with Marc and Rick. Really, I’ve enjoyed getting to know all the cool things that geek +s up to and really equally as important getting their their business leadership in science, which is one of my favorite aspects of this.


[00:55:37] Well, the benefit that you know, that Marc and Rick have is they experience it globally. I mean, with the U.S. as a relatively new market, them they’re seeing probably seeing the world first. And and that’s that’s a great perspective for us to have here, because we always see us first. Right. So I love that global perspective. Good point. Good point.


[00:56:01] And we were both in China when we came back just a few days before they shut the shut down flights out of one in play. And I recall that. Very interesting. Yeah.


[00:56:12] Well, welcome back. And we’re glad you’re here.


[00:56:15] Definitely unique times, challenging times. But, you know, we’re all we’re gonna get through this and we’re going to get to that new normal. It’s just a matter of how soon. So really appreciate. Mark Masina and Rick Fiesta with Gig Plus coming in today. As busy as you are sharing some these insights and again, these early lessons learned, we’re all going to learn so much more as we fight. We break through here to our audience. You you can connect as we’ve shared geek plus robotics dot com to learn more. And hopefully you’ve enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I have. Greg, final word before we sign off here.


[00:56:56] Yeah. Look, I think the.


[00:57:00] We’re going to see a lot of changes we’ve talked about today. And just keep your head up. And, you know, I have to reiterate one final time what Rick said. Whether the glass is half empty or half full, that’s just your status right now.


[00:57:15] Remember, there’s still upside to the top of the glass. Fill it with one. T-shirts, Rick, are combat T-shirts. You all right? Well, I feel better just having heard that I’m not lying. Yes. You know, there’s a lot of truth in that. We have to tackle that on the next episode. But big thanks to the whole geek plus team love what you’re doing on a variety of levels. Again, Mark Masina and Rick Dief. Yes. All the best to you and your family. And we look forward to reconnecting with you soon to our audience. Be sure to check out what variety of industry thought leadership at Supply Chain Now Radio, BCom, Findus and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from on behalf of the entire team. Scott Luton. Wish you a very successful week ahead. Again, stay safe. Don’t panic. Please follow the expert advice and precautions that have been distributed and know this as Greg and Rick and Mark all shared.


[00:58:09] Brighter days certainly lie ahead. We’ll see you next time on Supply Chain Now Radio.

Prefer to watch the podcast rather than just listen?  Watch Scott and Greg as they welcome Mark Messina and Rick DeFiesta to Supply Chain Now on our YouTube channel.

Mark Messina has twenty years tech and product development running engineering and deployment organizations for major MNCs. My work covers many aspects of automation and robotics – factory, medical, logistics (agvs, drones, amr, etc). I’ve been with GeekPlus since September and have relevant background with iHerb, Mattel and Amazon.

Rick DeFiesta as business development and partnership director for the Americas, Rick DeFiesta will drive sales and customer relations. Rick has been in the industry for over three decades and has worked for some of the largest material-handling companies in North America such as Honeywell, Daifuku Wynright, and Siemens Dematic, managing sales and implementing large automated systems on the customer side. He has assisted hundreds of customers in distribution, order fulfillment, manufacturing, and assembly by implementing the latest technologies in complex integrated solutions.

Greg White serves as Principle & Host at Supply Chain Now. Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998. In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory:


Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. He also serves as an advisor with TalentStream, a leading recruiting & staffing firm based in the Southeast. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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