“Let’s just put a stark reality, but the haves and have not, who has the right product at the right time, who has the right infrastructure to service the customers with the right product at the right time.”

  • Jeff Cashman, COO and Senior Vice President with GreyOrange


Companies are running out of people, space, and time. Firms that want to remain competitive have to reduce their dependency on labor and move warehousing and distribution closer to their customers – even though that makes the operation more expensive.

Jeff Cashman is the COO and Senior Vice President of GreyOrange, a robotics company that is fundamentally focused on retail distribution.

In this conversation, Jeff discusses the following topics with Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Scott Luton and Greg White:

  • How easy the challenges of COVID-19 has made it to spot the companies that were ready v. those that were not, and the companies that had strong balance sheets v. the ones that did not.
  • The lasting impact of the massive recent shift to eCommerce, even before the peak season, and the new value proposition this may present for robotics.
  • Why warehouse management systems (WMS) and robotics can no longer operate in silos for companies to achieve the desired level of efficiency.

Intro – Amanda Luton (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, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.

Scott Luton (00:28):

Hey, good afternoon, Scott Luton and Greg white with you here on supply chain. Now, welcome to today’s show Greg, how are you doing? I’m doing great. I’m excited you joining us today. We are. Our audience is in for a great episode here today. We’re featuring an industry leader in the automation and robotics technology space. So yeah, quick. Okay. Programming, if you enjoyed episode here today, be sure to find us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from. Okay. So today we are featuring none other than Jeff Cashman, chief operating officer with great orange. Jeff, how are you doing

Jeff Cashman (01:03):

Good, Scott, how you doing?

Scott Luton (01:05):

Uh, you know, all things considered, right. All right. Right. We’re all getting through these times. Um, great to have you. It was the last time Greg and I were out in person was the mode X mode X week. And that was the last time we caught up with you last I believe. Wow. Long time ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been, uh, three, three months. Gosh. Alright, so, um, and it’s also not your, your first appearance on supply chain now. So that’s always neat to welcome back a repeat guests folks that may have missed that, that episode. What feels like a hundred years ago? Tell us about Jeff Cashman. Tell us about, you know, where are you from and give us an anecdote or two about your upbringing.

Jeff Cashman (01:42):

Yeah. Thanks Scott. Good to be with you, Greg. Always good to, to see and be with you. Thanks for having me guys, you know, uh, you know, Scott, I was born and raised up in the Midwest, uh, outside Chicago, elk Grove, village, Illinois, and, uh, Mmm. Uh, what the university of Illinois, uh, and, um, uh, in Champaign-Urbana, uh, graduated, uh, uh, in, uh, with a degree in economics, um, and, uh, interesting where I am now, uh, to, uh, those days, uh, back in, uh, as an econ major. Uh, but you know, when I was growing up, um, you know, a middle class family, uh, basically, um, working from the time we were eight years old as a paper, a paper boy, never forget that bike. I had two baskets in the back, right. It was my dad’s old bike, throw the papers down the street, um, you know, all the way until graduation.

Jeff Cashman (02:36):

And as I was going through GRA, um, uh, school at university of Illinois, um, um, my summer internships or summer jobs at that point, nobody ever called them internships. I was, I was driving a forklift in a secondary steel plant. Um, uh, outgrow village has a very large, um, uh, industrial park and I was driving a forklift, uh, in this secondary steel plant. Uh, and then, and then, um, right before I graduated, I was working with the, a chain distributor, I mean, like a chain distributor, and I was helping doing inventory counts of change. So, um, as I was growing up, that’s how I went through school, paid for school. And then, um, and then, uh, graduated and went to work right out of school is, uh, Anderson. At that point, it was Arthur Anderson, M I C D, which became, uh, Anderson consulting, which ultimately became Accenture.

Jeff Cashman (03:33):

Right. Let me jump right in to Jeff. So right before we talk more about your journey. Yeah. You had the advantage, um, and it sounds like in college of, uh, being in manufacturing, plants, uh, distribution facilities, I mean, these are things that, uh, a lot of folks don’t experienced that so early in their career, I mean, that gave you a leg up and really understanding what those industries did and what global supply chain was. Right. Well, it really was that secondary steel plant in particular driving that forklift, you know, a buddy of mine’s dad’s brother owned it and said, Hey, they need some help. So I went and drove the forklift, but just understanding where a us steel was coming through. And the secondary steel was basically being pushed off to this, this small plant where they were basically shaving. So yeah, learned a ton about, about global supply chains, about the operations in as of themselves and the people in the operation.

Jeff Cashman (04:31):

Right. I mean, that was the UN right. We have folks from, from Mexico, we had spoke of folks from Poland. We had folks from all sorts of people around the world and working side by side with them shipped by ship. It gave me a real appreciation for the globe, the global supply chain and, uh, and really working in operations. Yeah, for sure. Esprit de Corps that comradery, I mean, yeah, the way I looked at it and, and, um, you know, when I got out of the air force and in Oh two and eventually found my way back and are in the manufacturing, there was a lot of similarities there and, and, and the teamwork and, and the United mission. I mean, there’s something that is so unique to those production sites. So Steve, I need to hear of what you had experienced and then, and really the advantage of experiencing so early in your career.

Jeff Cashman (05:22):

So now you started to talk about your professional journey prior to gray orange. So please tell us more. Well, you know, I, so I graduated from university, uh, and, uh, and to your point, um, no, so I hopped in to Arthur Anderson and company lot. At that point, there were a bunch of a bunch of consulting groups, fundamentally just kicking up at that point, crackers and vibrant and Arthur Anderson at KPG. They were all hiring kids out of college, basically that we’re going to go help, you know, start deploying these massive systems, processes, and systems. So I jumped in there what the bootcamp, uh, which is, uh, Arthur, Arthur Anderson boot camp, the green books and all that stuff back in Chicago. Right. Was it back in Chicago then? Yeah, in fact, I was based in Chicago, 33 Westman row. And, but, uh, the campus training campus was out in st. Charles, Illinois. Right. And they basically had bought a, a, an old Catholic, uh, university, uh, and that’s where they held their training program right there on the Fox river in st. Charles, Illinois. So, uh, great memories there. Uh, basically at that point, from a computer perspective, we’d go through computer programming classes, but we were using cards, punch cards. Let’s go talk about those the other day.

Jeff Cashman (06:41):

And one of the tricks, and you go through this, you know, you’re, you do pull an all nighter and you do these punch cards, and then you give them to your supervisor and they carry them in. And, and the, and the, you know, they spooked everybody because after that, all nighter they’re walking with your deck of cards, and now it was a spoof. It was somebody else, you know, but here that is, I’m going to get fired. It’s all over, but it was very good experience. Um, you know, it’s interesting a quick aside about punch cards. We just learned this as Greg mentioned the other day, the, uh, what prompted folks to figure out even a punch cards and early computers is that it was taken the U S government eight years. It’s a process since this results way back at the end of the 19th century.

Jeff Cashman (07:29):

So even the punch cards or, uh, quite a bit, uh, in our rear view mirror now at the time, as you know, it was revolutionary and it allowed us to move faster, as crazy as it sounds today. Unbelievable. And literally when I went out, I was on my first project. It was all cobalt programming at that point. Okay. So all of a sudden we were in the new world, we learned on the old moon, I moved to the new, uh, went through, you know, basically blocking and tackling projects with Anderson, but my first project, um, happened, uh, industry. My second project was in distribution and it was on inventory management and warehouse control. It was with, um, United stationers up in Desplaines. Yeah, right. Yeah. And, uh, I was, and we were implementing an inbound inbound warehouse management, inbound warehouse, uh, inbound warehouse manager, inbound inventory control system.

Jeff Cashman (08:25):

And, um, Anderson had a product at that point called a DCS logistics, which is distribution control system logistics, big mainframe software order management, inventory, warehouse management stuff. And I was on the inventory side and that was on the warehouse side and kind of going back to, you know, the, uh, the secondary steel plant and the, and the chain distribution plan. I’m like, I kinda liked this, you know, I liked seeing to your point, the spree decor people working together around a problem to solve of the operation. And, um, and now we’re bringing technology to it. And, uh, and it was light years ahead of where they were to where we were bringing in mainframes and big old sheets in of, uh, uh, of, um, basically reports that operates, uh, operate the, uh, run the operation. So that was my first taste of technology in a warehouse with United stationers in 19, basically 1988.

Jeff Cashman (09:27):

And at that point, it clicked in that I would move into this, uh, DCS logistics product. So I’d be part of that team on the go to market side and really became a solutions consultant around DCS logistics. And for the next two years, that’s what I did walking into all these sites, understanding how we would deploy DCS logistics and help sell it. And then, uh, the team would hand off and deliberate. Mmm. Uh, and then that lasted till 1990. And Jeff, I’m going to interrupt just for a second, because I’m just like your earlier career, you were having a taste of industry and production and manufacturing and distribution earlier than most. It sounds like to me that you are also getting a heavy dose of technology before most folks new what business technology, and certainly supply chain technology was right. Really good point. Right. We were so siloed at that point, you know, at that point it was, um, transportation and warehouse and their various even called supply chain at that point.

Jeff Cashman (10:31):

Was it? Yeah, yeah. Right. Yeah. Um, operations. So it’s a, it’s a really good point, Scott, because now the technology was really these advancements and the buyers were the warehouse operator, but ultimately it was the CFO and the CIO, which is interesting. Um, so we kind of progress of through the ADA late eighties and then Anderson, um, they’ll never forget this call. Three of us in a room. They say, Hey, look, we need one of you guys to go to Japan. We need one of you guys to go to Europe. Uh, I’m married, my wife, Chris. We were pregnant with our first daughter at that point. And she was working at first Chicago. And, um, and I said, came back to Chris. I said, she was going to have to take time off. Hey, look, we go to Europe or Japan, where would you like, let’s go to Europe.

Jeff Cashman (11:23):

So I come back, the following week said, Hey, look, we’re super excited to go to Europe. He goes, great. We’ll see you Japan. September 1st, somebody had already nabbed Europe. They already know they already nav Europe. I took, we went to Japan. So, um, at least our daughter was born on July 29th. I started in Japan September 1st. And so we moved to Tokyo for the next three years where we were basically doing the same, same, um, DCS now in Japan, very different market, very different hierarchical distribution network. They had a, uh, fundamentally a distribution network of seven layers called the chill eye, which basically kept everybody employed. If you think about it, there was very, very little unemployment because everybody’s touching product through these seven layers of distribution. So we were there in Japan from 1990, till 1993, but a couple of major things happened there. At that point.

Jeff Cashman (12:22):

One was in Japan of the big store law passed because if you’ve been to Japan, a lot of little marks, little stores, that’s how the communities are formed. And the culture really is. And the, and the big store law was passed by, by toys R us entering into Japan. They wanted access and they forced their big footprint. And then all the other Japanese large retailer said, we’re going to do the same, but that fundamentally then blew up a massive distribution network because now these little marks were going away and it was going to the big store. It took years decades to fundamentally evolve that way. But that was in, [inaudible] talk a little bit about the Eureka moment. You talk about the, yeah, that was it right up a country, a distribution environment now turned upside down because of an event. And this event happened to be called, what was it called?

Jeff Cashman (13:21):

The big store law. So before we call it disruption really fundamentally. Yeah. And culturally, I mean, it was a massive cultural shift too. So that Eureka, you read my mind because that’s what I was going to ask you next. That was one of your bigger Eureka moments. What, what were you thinking at the time that the next 20 or 30 years? I mean, what were you thinking? Was it, were you thinking at the time that that was going to be, you know, a big ripple and have a huge ripple effect and we’re going to see the same needs that sounds like this regulation opened up in Japan elsewhere in retail? Well, you know, it was, uh, I wish I was that good. I, I did. You saw the impact in Japan because there were protests. I mean, this was impacting millions of people that were going to be out of work, right.

Jeff Cashman (14:13):

Ultimately out of work, they were protesting and so forth. So you saw the, the disruption Greg, as you call it. I mean, this is real disruption at the, at the, at the heart and soul of, of, of, uh, of, uh, this community. Um, I took that experience though, Scott, to your point. And when we came back to the States in 94, then I then got it right now. The big stores were absolutely in place. Supply chains were forming, the Walmarts were moving. The toys are us, we’re moving, right. This linear supply chain now was starting to begin massive manufacturing at that point, uh, in the eighties, nineties was Japan. Right, right. Fina not really yet online, uh, and starting to see now this massive movement of manufacturing on the water distribution stores and hence the linear, you know, supply chain began. Right. And, um, and at that point with, uh, um, Anderson consulting at that point back here, um, I then came back and worked on a very, very large project with a very large brand out of Portland, Oregon that was global in nature, uh, and was dealing with exactly that, where am I going to put manufacturing fundamentally, cross-docking it leverage, leveraging the Philippines and rifling them into the States already at that point, how can we start to think about flow and movement of goods at a velocity that fundamentally met the consumers needs and in this instance capture a market.

Jeff Cashman (15:48):

Right? So that was where I, I, I basically ended my time with, uh, Anderson consulting at that point 97 and then, and then came over to the dark side, uh, or onto the software side, the tech side with a company at that point called McHugh Freeman. Okay. Um, McHugh Freeman, uh, was part of a very large automation company. So you’ll see this go full circle. Exactly. I called pinnacle automation and they had bought bushmen all the conveyors and a bunch of other guys and McHugh Freeman was kind of their software underneath it built on a digital or a deck platform if we can say that these days, but there was a company, a great technology called digital back in the day. Um, and fundamentally was a warehouse management system. And there were a couple others out there at that point. There was a company out of Dallas called Dallas systems that was doing a ton of work in grocery company here in Atlanta called Manhattan associates that were just getting going, uh, in the nineties and then, and then McHugh Freeman, uh, and big customers, you know, uh, Proctor and gamble and big, big PNG, um, uh, uh, big, big, uh, CPG guys.

Jeff Cashman (16:58):

I was there for a couple of years. We basically carved McHugh Freeman out to become a separate entity. And you’re focusing on providing automation solutions, right? This big brand warehouseImanagement system fundamentally. And they were getting into retail, um, a big retailers they were working with and CPG customers. And they, uh, we basically raised $50 million, uh, from a, uh, venture capital firm, carved it out as a separate entity in 1998. Uh, and I left at the end of, uh, 99. Uh, but that company became red Prairie that became JDA. That’s now part of blue yonder. Gotcha. Um, and during that period of time, we had, we bought a, uh, we bought a labor management system at that point, uh, called Gagnon and associates, uh, based out of Minneapolis and put the two together. So now you’ve got warehouse management, labor management coming together, and we had also purchased a company called Wesley transportation management systems. So here, you’ve got this MCU software, You know, pulling together warehouse management, transportation with Wesley, and then also, uh, labor management Ghanian coming together with what we called at that point

Scott Luton (18:16):

Logistics execution system, Les, no more WMS, no more TMS for integrating them or holistic. We were bringing it together to drive synergies between,

Jeff Cashman (18:30):

Um, between, between the warehouse and transportation, inbound, outbound.

Scott Luton (18:34):

So Jeff, if I could pause for a second, because Greg I’d love to, uh, as Jeff was describing a story and we’ve got just a little bit more to go before, great orange enters the picture, but what, what stands out the most from Jeff’s experience and especially him being on the front line of these big transform these disruptions as you call it? Yeah. Well, I mean, I, I’ve known a little bit about Jeff’s history for a few years. We’re not old friends, we’re young friends forever from an old time ago. Um, so, um, you know, what really stands out is, is that what you experienced, Jeff was the start of technology when it was essentially custom, every single time it was built. And then you progressed into this acute, this progression of, and transformation of accumulations of technology that instead of standing in silos, which you said, right, we were very siloed at that time, right.

Scott Luton (19:36):

Instead of standing in silos, you were starting to accumulate TMS and WMS and LMS and, and make a suite of products that started to solve the problem rather than attack the individual issues. And, and that to me is what leaps out at me when you tell this story. Mmm. Also the other, the thing that leaps out at me is I’m curious, how is your Japanese these days? Yeah, right. I can, I can order a beer and, you know, getting a taxi cab and that’s fine. That’s good. And that’s heads and shoulders above many language. You need to know how to order a beer, identify that your friend will pay, know where the bathroom is and getting a taxi. All right. So back to your story, Jeff, where you were implementing these logistics execution systems, Les, these holistic packages suites is, as Greg was calling it, what come, what, what’s the big roles. Thanks that come next. Just prior to gray orange.

Jeff Cashman (20:33):

Yeah. So then we go through and do a startup here in Atlanta called velocity, a supply chain integration, visibility to execution, basically planning to execution platform, uh, that was during the.com bubbles ran and fast for that one, quiet five companies pulled them together. Mmm. After that went over to a company here in Atlanta called Mapex, which is a supply chain, but much more manufacturing, SMB side of the house and MRP side, basically running at that point, uh, um, ran, uh, the, um, international operations piece of the business. Uh, and then I moved on to, uh, Manhattan associates and was at Manhattan associates for 13 years. So Andersen consulting 13, uh, to, to, to Manhattan Manhattan associates for, uh, 13. Uh, and, uh, and at that point, you know, with Manhattan really started to understand now customers solving the problem, the value proposition, uh, how we can start to leverage technology further into, um, the, these functions of now order management, inventory management, warehouse management, transportation.

Jeff Cashman (21:51):

So that’s where, you know, if I think about all those roles, um, you know, I really learned, uh, through that process about, um, how we’re going to create a platform, would that platform to create fundamentally a value proposition that is 10 X, what solving a problem is versus looking at the solution and how we’re going to think about deploying that solution in this platform way. And then, and then, um, my last turn was, uh, just briefly before gray orange was with a, um, a small company here in Atlanta called, uh, LA commerce. And in allied commerce, we were fundamentally e-commerce distribution, um, and, uh, worked with a lot of small manufacturers that needed an eCommerce presence and then delivery. So it was a third party logistics provider as well, really learned a lot about now the operation side of the house, versus just the technology, right.

Jeff Cashman (22:45):

Going back to the roots of my roots, where we were operating in a, in DCS and manufacturing plants, and fundamentally put my feet on the ground of how we’re going to now optimize and run this distribution center. Before that I moved over to gray, orange, orange, one thing that you went from kind of a physical environment to virtual or technological environment, and then back and now at gray orange here you are in a, in a physical environment solution with a ton of technology backing and driving it, right? Yes. Yeah. And tell us a little bit about what Greg, we’re more, let me, let me, but one more time in, because I’ve got one question for Jeff. I drove a forklift well years ago, and I still miss it to this day. Do you miss driving that forklift back from that steel plant years ago? So two things about that forklift, the first time I drove that forklift and I picked up that secondary steel, a roll I went over, I could get right over.

Jeff Cashman (23:44):

I had a too up on the, uh, too far. Right. That’s tough. I learned a lot. So that’s a no. Alright, Greg, sorry. I didn’t even realize that we all have forklifts in our history because my first quote, unquote supply chain job was working at a Kmart store carrying bringing the oil into the main store into the automotive department from the automotive service center. And because I was only 16 when I started, I was doing that on a handcart right. And eventually I got the right to drive a forklift. So we’ve all had that experience and it is one of the greatest experiences is really good on top of my list, I’d have to say, but second is forklift driver. Um, so well, so anyway, you did get to experience a lot of physical right aspects and operational, as you said, operational aspects of supply chain, but also the technology.

Jeff Cashman (24:41):

And now you’re combining the two to create a solution. Yeah. Actually deploys vehicles, if you will, right. To do some of the things that humans have done in the past. So tell us a little bit about gray, orange, what the company does. Yeah. So a gray orange is a robotics company, fundamentally focused on distribution and primarily in retail, right. Uh, that’s our target markets. Uh, but what’s really unique about this and, and, you know, you, you take my story and apply it here. It’s, it’s all about that software integrated to these robots, right? Because over the years we’ve seen the interfaces to all sorts of agents, whether it be robots or ASR S or any type of, um, of automation, but here it’s integrated to this robot. So the robots learn from the software, the software learns from the software, learns from the robots all in real time.

Jeff Cashman (25:42):

And, uh, you know, as I sit back and I think about why, you know, I’ve been asked several times, why did I take this job, right? And there’s this Holy grail ever since, uh, in, in working in the operations, the idea of getting to real time optimization on the floor is where it happens, fundamentally bringing planning and execution together. Um, that’s, that’s the Holy grail and the technologies that we’ve been talking about, and I’m not a technologist, but I’ve been working around them for a hundred years. The reality is the technology’s never been there. Right. But now with this very unique technology, this platform we’re leveraging, we call it gray matter. Our software built on this very powerful technology integrated into these robots is what brought my attention to gray orange, how they’re solving this, no problem. Um, and, and then the application of that across industries, we happen to be focused on retail.

Jeff Cashman (26:51):

And, um, and when I think about, uh, the, the value prop of gray orange, um, they, we started in 2011, um, uh, in India, um, Akash group does our CTO and somebody coli is our CEO and they studied in university robotics. And, uh, I mean the humanoid type robotics, I mean, and they want all sorts of awards and they got a lot of attention in India about these, you know, fascinating and very technologically advanced robots. Um, and as they started to win these awards, they said, okay, so what is the business problem we want to go solve? And they focused on supply chain. And so in 2011, that’s kind of what they did. They said, okay, let’s go take this and go focus on, sortation get some software integration around it, then get the robots in and take that journey through 2014, 2015, they’ve done very, very well with some very large customers, eCommerce platforms in India, very well.

Jeff Cashman (27:57):

And they decide to move out of, uh, out of India and land first in Japan, uh, and in Japan land, uh, for very, very large customers deploying our set of, uh, our, our robots, what we call ranger, GTP. So goods to person. And we also have another solution of a ranger mobile soar, which is a sortation Oh, robotics. But at this point it’s goods to person that we’re, we’re solving the problem for. And then that’s the deployment in Japan, from Japan. Then they moved to Europe, um, and they land very, very large customers in Europe. And then about 2017, 18, they land here in North America and they land a very large customer, uh, publicly, uh, uh, publicly public statement, uh, with, uh, was XPO and XPO basically created a very strategic partnership with, uh, with gray orange about, uh, you know, moving, um, our GTP robots into, uh, their ecosystem and their customers, and fundamentally creating a massive differentiation against any other three PL we have about 600 people globally.

Jeff Cashman (29:10):

Majority of our team is in India, but we have folks in Japan operations here in North America here in Atlanta, it’s Roswell. Uh, and then also, uh, in, in, um, in Europe. Uh, and so that’s, that’s who we are, uh, to date. We have just, we have a little over 4,000 robots deployed. So when you thought, when you think about scale, you think about maturity in this market. Um, we have been in, we have been at, uh, we been in this market for a long time and solving these problems for a long time. And at scale, these are generating operation, no value out of the shoot. We don’t do a lot of proof of concepts. We don’t, because the way you demonstrate value is by putting them into the operation, generating the, generating the value. And that’s what we’ve, that’s what we’ve done and been very, very successful along the way, uh, with our customers.

Jeff Cashman (30:10):

So it’s interesting. Um, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to follow you guys even before you were there, Jeff. Um, yeah. Oh, I was associated with a company that installed robotics and distribution centers and did some preliminary, I think they did some preliminary work Mmm. With your team a few years ago. And it was really impressive. What do you know, what the business problem that you’re attacking and that you’re giving companies an alternative to the established fulfillment methodologies out there? Right. So, um, you know, I sort of, um, have created this category of companies. I call ABA anyone, but Amazon, right? Part of the issue for companies that are currently tethered to the big river is that they, they don’t know where to go. They don’t know what their options are. They don’t know how to deploy other ways and solutions like yours solutions like XPOs and others give them the full ability to do exactly what is being done for them today, but with fewer tethers and, and know less threat from marketplace intervention and that sort of thing.

Jeff Cashman (31:25):

So I really applaud what you all are doing to enable that. And that is a big portion of your target is not just bricks and mortar retailers, but also e-commerce or people who are crossing, um, both areas. Absolutely. Right. Absolutely. And, and Greg, to that point, when you think about these retailers and large brands, small brands, however you want to think about these, these, uh, these brands, um, are, uh, for you and I, as consumer here are really, really important how they get to us is now as important, right? Um, the, the, uh, the Amazon folks who have that have set the standard, the bar at an incredibly high level of service. And if I’m not serviced that way by a product I may love, but Amazon gets it to me, a different product at a different, uh, at the, at the service level, I expect I’m now I I’m, I’m at risk of the brand.

Jeff Cashman (32:26):

I was that right out of the gate risk, right? So they have to find a way to meet and, or exceed that service level. And given the challenges that we have today in the market. And this is a COVID statement, I’ll talk COVID, uh, but fundamentally, why would people think about a solution like gray, orange, right. With its very powerful software, integrated robotics is we’re running out of people, right? This is not only a state. And this is a statement, a global statement in Japan and Europe and here in North America, but we’re fundamentally running out of people, uh, from, uh, who watched the work at a distribution center, uh, in August, um, you know, um, uh, with a couple of hundred people around you. So we’re, we’re running out of people. Um, that was kind of the one objective. So what are we going to do to replace those people become more efficient, the distribution center in the fulfillment center, how are we going to become more efficient?

Jeff Cashman (33:27):

So we’re running out of people, we’re running out of space because of these consumer demands that we’re putting on the network, meaning that, that supply chain network, distribution network fulfillment network, we’ve got to move closer and closer to where you and I are. These inventory nodes are going to be closer to where we’re at. So we’ve got to go get space. That’s more expensive. How can I use my current space in a more efficient way? Think micro fulfillment, I’ll come back to that in a minute. And then the third piece is we’re, we’re running out of time. And, and what I mean by running out of time is those shipping windows are getting more and more compressed. And I missed the window. I missed the service and I, and then the brand has lost the promise to you and I as the consumer. So we’re running out of people, we’re running out of space and we’re running out of time.

Jeff Cashman (34:17):

That was fundamentally the mantra coming into, um, the business, right? And the value prop is very powerful, uh, on how we’re going to fundamentally reduce the dependency on labor. You don’t take labor away completely because it’s very much integrated with labor, right? But reduce the dependency on labor, especially with these retailers and brands dealing with these massive peak seasons. One of our, one of our customers that we’re dealing with at peak, they have a non-peak, they have about a thousand people at peak. They have 4,000 people. They have to bus people in to have this work, if they could even find them

Scott Luton (34:56):

Right. And that’s getting exceedingly hard to do, and wages are going up. And at the same time, the workforce, the workforce that wants to do physical work is getting smaller by 10,000 individuals a day, right? As the baby boomers, exit the workforce, the younger generations want to do technical and analytical work. And I think the other thing that what you all do, Jeff, that particularly adds value. Is it not only elevates Mmm. What humans do in that they still get their, a spree decor, but now they’re doing a more elevated what humans are more equipped to do. Um, robots are doing what robots are more equipped to do, and it creates a safety

Jeff Cashman (35:38):

Factor in the facility as well, because you’re, your robots are programmed not to collide into one another. Right. And they are very active. They’re never looking the other way, right. Accidentally run into things. Um, plus they do those jobs that are repetitive and mundane and, and straining. And, and you, you don’t have the physical injury risk that a human being has. And I just think that elevates everyone’s existence in a distribution center when you do that. It does, you know, I think that safety piece, you know, now, as you look at where we are in COVID, and what’s really interesting in this COVID times is as we hit that February, March timeframe, things started to kind of pause, stop felt a little bit like, Oh, uh, end of Oh seven, going to Norway. And except everyone was that already at home. Well, that’s a good point at this time.

Jeff Cashman (36:34):

Right. Exactly. Right. Right. And so at that point, that freeze was very interesting to watch who accelerated through it, meaning who had the balance sheet, who was ready for it. I’m not COVID, but this, this shift in demand yep. Uh, who was ready for it and who wasn’t. Right. And so the extra peak season, I mean, extra peak season and we’re funding that, or yeah. Trough season, depending on the business and the product you’re talking about as well. That’s, that’s true as well, but, and, and you kind of move to this house and have nots, right. When we’ve always talked about them for as long as I’ve been in the business, who’s doing it, who doesn’t do it, who has it? Who doesn’t have it? Yeah. Let’s just put a stark reality, but the haves and have not, who has the right product at the right time, who has the right infrastructure to service the customers with the right product at the right time.

Jeff Cashman (37:27):

Right. All of these scenarios use cases start to play out [inaudible] you can clearly see, who’s been thinking about this who’s ahead of it and who’s not right. So you go through this period of time and post COVID, and what’s even more, uh, interesting in this very uncertain time is I need more people. We have 40 now, 42 million, 43 million with a million and a half. Now, again, 43 million people, unemployed, still people aren’t showing up to work. Now, a lot of reasons for that, there’s a fear and a, a very, a very real fear of, of COVID. Uh, what does it look like? What is, how’s it going to impact me? Um, and, or, um, right now with, uh, the government packages and unemployment, the market, uh, the reality is, um, uh, these, uh, the distribution workers, the associates are making 166% more than, uh, you know, their wage.

Jeff Cashman (38:28):

So why work? So that’ll end, it should end and it’ll evolve back and people will come back to, but there’s still this reality for a period of time of safety. What does this distribution center looked like? And with this massive shift, this massive shift to e-commerce yeah. E-commerce in the last six months, we’re not done with a year 45% growth in e-commerce where we were seeing eight to 10% growth per year, 45% growth year to date. Right. Yeah. And we haven’t hit peak technical peak. Right. You know, and now we’re even less equipped to handle peak because with physical distancing requirements, for even those people that do come back, you, you can’t create the same capacity because of the physical distancing of humans you’ll have to augment. So I think COVID really becomes an accelerant for automation and robotics in, in fulfillment and distribution. I agree.

Jeff Cashman (39:31):

And so quite frankly, we’re inherently built to be, you know, social distance, right? Our pickers are picking stations are literally six plus feet apart, right. Robots are robots, right. We’re, we’re, we’re built in with that safety net from a, from a, a COVID and, and, and, uh, and a controlled perspective that allows for, uh, allows for our customers to deploy, uh, these solutions in a way that’s safe and efficient for their associates. All right. I’ve got 22 pages of notes. I can’t keep up with, with both of y’all, but, but Jeff Mmm. In a, in a short span, we’ve already been, if that doesn’t give you a great sense of what’s taking place. Uh e-commerce any retail, I mean, um, folks are getting their money’s worth today, for sure. You’ve already addressed as we should shift gears a bit, and we’re going to start moving, moving a little more broadly with the conversation you’ve already addressed.

Jeff Cashman (40:28):

You’ve been reading them on this next question, because you’ve already touched on a lot of the reasons for automation and robotics in industry before we kind of really, before Greg really broads it up, give us, yeah. What do you think and w in the world of automation or robotics, what is the one key development that you’ve recently observed or something maybe we should keep our finger [inaudible] [inaudible] yeah. You know, what is becoming a parent, uh, over the last year, and even, even my time with Manhattan associates, what is becoming apparent is that the, the technologies of today warehouse management systems and automation living in silos doesn’t work anymore. It can’t work anymore. If in fact, we’re going to truly, if in fact, we’re going to address the topics we’ve already talked about, right. Being able to fulfill that, that customer need doing it in a safe and effective way COVID or COVID

Scott Luton (41:34):

Being able to drive efficiency and accuracy. Uh, and, and in a way that addresses, um, I’m not gonna have enough people I’m running out of space and I’m running out of time. I need to be able to drive that efficiency. So old tech, the technologies of the past and the recent past is solid technology, but it’s not going to address the next five to 10 years. And, and this, this, this paradigm of integrated software and robotics is the thing that’s got me. Well, I’m, I’m SU I’m, I’m super excited about it because it’s, it is, as I mentioned earlier, a little bit of the Holy grail of planning and execution coming together in fulfillment. Right. Um, and that to me is the, um, the thing that I’m seeing in, in drilling a sorter to a floor or drilling more conveyor to the floor, only limits my space, limits, my flexibility limits, my ability to scale that’s right.

Scott Luton (42:39):

And, and I believe those days are, are going to go, it’s looked at beginning of we’re in the early innings here, for sure. It’s like the faster you can go, the faster you can go. It’s like riding a horse, you know, the more horse runs the faster it wants to run the longer it wants to run. And it’s exciting to hear you talk about Mmm, okay. Constantly improvement between the, the software and the robotics themselves, and just the constant learning environment. Right. And you’re able to move faster and faster for the customer. They, one of the comment before I, I, I get Greg back involved and he’s gonna go a little more broader. Yeah. As I was checking and doing my homework on gray orange earlier at the very top of your website, uh, it, it kind of parallels an earlier conversation. We had way back when, which I wish I’d recorded quite frankly, between you at Terry and Greg and some others, I would have been great podcasts.

Scott Luton (43:33):

Yeah. They’re less your attention and your company’s attention, appreciation and recognition of the workforce in these fulfillment centers and distribution centers and warehouses, there are so many great people that have been on the front lines throughout this pandemic, and then some [inaudible]. Yeah. Clearly it’s part of y’alls culture to appreciate and levelness folks. And it is so needed. Not only is the recognition needed, but, you know, protecting these folks that are, that our meeting, you know, between that and all the technology and robotics are meeting that 45% growth, you know, and, and making it easier for not just Americans, but consumers okay. Around the world, two navigate through these challenging times. So kudos to you and your organization for recognizing and clearly making that a priority. Thank you. Thank you, Scott. And it’s real, right? Your point is real. Um, we, we, uh, at gray orange, I have personally felt that, right. We’ve got folks out on the, uh, on the front lines

Jeff Cashman (44:32):

And we’ve had we’ve, uh, we’ve had some personal loss with COVID in our family, um, our, our gray, orange family, uh, folks that are on the front line. That’s what they do. Right. So it’s real. And thank you for bringing that up. You bet. All right. So, Greg, um, on a much brighter note, we’re going to kind of go a little more broader, uh, globally. Yeah. I mean, I’m almost afraid to ask Jeff, you’ve seen so much change. You’ve seen so much evolve. I know you have a vision of, of what the future could be, and what’s important now, but let’s do go a little bit more broad let’s let’s, let’s tune into your crystal ball a little bit or anything. That’s got your attention right now. What really are you seeing that, you know, either inspires or concerns or, or ignites [inaudible] Mmm. In terms of, of technology or supply chain or really any topic?

Jeff Cashman (45:32):

Yeah, well, uh, supply chain for, because it’s, it’s who I am, this is where I’ve spent my career. And my, my passion is, is there in, in, in, in warehouse and fulfillment and, and what, what has been igniting my, uh, interest, what has really inspired me, uh, my career has been created a couple of different recreated, a couple of different times. Um, and it’s all been around you and I as consumers. And finally, finally, the supply chain is aligned with the pole versus the push, right? And, and I’ve, uh, that you’ve been in that business forever, Greg, uh, when, when we start the fi and bayzos figured it out, and they put a bunch of big barriers in the way for us to, you know, to compete with that. But fundamentally it’s in the right place. Now how everybody basically aligns around that gets aligned around that it’s no longer linear it’s thousand points of light about how we’re going to service you and I, as a consumer, as we start to recreate this new distribution network, all these different inventory nodes, whether it be a store, whether it be a kiosk, whether it be, you know, a large regional distribution center fulfillment center, that network, as it evolves from where it was, was is six months ago, it was a right or less, or to where it’s going is all about that inventory, being a place where it’s going to be positioned to service the customer in a way that is, uh, that is, uh, creates that trust between the brand and that consumer people were coming, and it’s going to get out, it’s going to happen and to do that, you don’t have the people to get it done.

Jeff Cashman (47:24):

And so therefore I’m back onto the, the message of gray and what we’re doing in the power of this software integrated to drive this, these technologies, which is we call them agents or robot. Yep. A conveyor of sorter, how we want to basically manage and orchestrate agents within a fulfillment center within a note. Yeah. We have conversations going on right now. And, and we’ve got really smart people, uh, at gray orange. And they basically are saying we could stand up a 6,500 square feet, give me a store opening a week. We could pump out five to 10,000 units a day. Let’s go put it in 6,500 square feet and get something up and running quick, just that sort of innovation that sort of push on fulfillment of the demand to achieve what the brand wants to achieve is something that I’m just super excited about.

Jeff Cashman (48:22):

And, and, you know, long, long ago, we used to drill stuff to the floor and I just think that’s not gonna, that’s not going to be the way five years from now. We’re in a very, very different mode, very different mindset. When I started very orange, I’ve had the opportunity to work with, um, some great supply chain experts. And they’re now chief supply chain officers. And back when I started, I first two months, I went Chadwell. I said, so did I, what do you think about what I’m doing? And does this make sense? And nine out of the 15, this is a mandate over the next five years is we redesigned our distribution network. This is a mandate, no it’s robots that just sellers, but it’s a mandate that it’s gotta be a, we’ve got to change. And me that is [inaudible] now with COVID, it’s accelerated.

Jeff Cashman (49:16):

So that’s kind of what I see. Well, I mean, flexibility is key in any retail environment, it was changing dramatically even at eight. So 10% of a shift towards e-commerce now it’s changing even more rapidly and it, and it will peak and then fall back to whatever growth rate we wind up settling at. Right. Um, and that requires its own flexibility day to day. It can require flexibility in terms of, Hey, today is a big day. It’s the last day of the month. You know, I know a little bit about distribution the last day of the month, everybody’s getting paid cigarettes and beer are going to sell like crazy, right? It’s the fifth day of the month. Whatever’s happening that day that, you know, it’s Thursday, it’s Tuesday, whatever is happening. And because with robotics and without the boundaries of those, those agents, those, those entities, uh, stuck to the floor, you can literally reconfigure a distribution center or a store or a fulfillment center day in and day out and even intraday based on the volume that, of the types of products as being produced throughout the day. And it’s all aligned to demand and it’s all to the pole

Scott Luton (50:28):

Versus the push. Yeah. We got to remember supply chain. This is critical for our evolution revolution in terms of supply chain. We have to remember that the supply chain begins and ends with the consumer. And of course, those are, those are beautiful, uh, um, uh, transformations. And, uh, um, it’s great since removed that way because that’s going to help us tackle a number of other issues. And, you know, we were talking earlier today, circular economy sustainability. Well, if, if we’re really demand driven, rather than push all this stuff out yeah. Less waste and that much other things to deal with. So yes, Jeff, I wish we had about five hours with you. Um, because one hour does not, do you justice? It really doesn’t. I mean, it’s, it’s clear to me, Greg, at least, but not only is he a walking a funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia about all things supply chain, but he’s so passionate about it.

Scott Luton (51:25):

I mean, he loves this stuff. I mean, and it’s, it jumps out of the video. It’s interesting to hear you, Jeff say you work with a bunch of really smart people. I just think that’s really, that’s true. Of course you do. Right. But I think you, you’ve got to count yourself among those. Not just, not just smart, but also not experienced. Right. And introspective, because you’ve captured a lot of this. You went all the way back to your paper route, and I’ve only ever heard one other person, Chris Gaffney, right. Coca-Cola who went all the way back to the learnings that he had from his paper route and how that helped teach him supply chain. Yep. That kind of introspect is really, really valuable. And I bet you’re going to have a lot of people wanting to get ahold of you. So let’s go to the toughest question of the day.

Scott Luton (52:13):

How can people reach you or how can they reach grey orange? So gray orange, for sure. It’s heading to the website. Right. Um, so it’s gray, orange.com, all one word.com gray with a knee gray orange. That’s right. That’s a good point. That’s right. Uh, and, um, and I’d recommend going there and, and, and reach out that way. And of course you can always reach out to me directly@jeffdotsieatgrayorange.com. Um, I would love to, would love to be a part of the conversation. There’s so many folks what I’m, what I’m also finding is these use cases just keep changing. How do you, how can we use these now? So I’m sure that I hope this conversation has sparked some interesting. What about this? Because yeah, well, that’s kind of where we are early innings. The ability to start define what these use cases are for this brand new technology.

Scott Luton (53:10):

That’s going to change the change fulfillment now the future. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. So Jeff will hit the wrap up, uh, but we’ll have to bring you back for a second installment. Soon enough. We’ve been chatting with Jeff Cashman, chief operating officer with gray orange. Jeff, thanks so much for your time, Scott and Greg, it’s always great to chat with you and look forward to listening more to you and seeing you soon. Absolutely. Alright. So Jeff, Jeff, don’t go into where we’re going to wrap up here at this point, Greg, uh, Greg, what a, um, as promised what a great conversation. Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, again, talking about the, you know, the inherent knowledge there, the, the ability to introspect on it and evolve it into, from a physical to a technological and then a combined environment, and to see the future, that way we need more people in supply chain that have that kind of capability.

Scott Luton (54:05):

And that’s the message here. I think that comes through loud and clear. Right? Agreed. Mmm. You know, we, we, we ha we want leaders like Jeff, thank you, Jeff. I’m like, he’s not here. Like you Jeff in supply. Well, great stuff, uh, to our audience. Thanks for tuning in here today. Be sure to check out our June 25th webinar on ERP, best practices in post pandemic environment and in particular, uh, join us on July 15th. As we have a very Frank conversation on race and industry, and we’ve got a great panel, uh, we’re going to have a global interactive audience that going to weigh in and share their insights experiences, and we encourage you to join us for that. Check out all of that stuff, as well as our podcast or live streams. You name it, watching out radio.com on behalf of our entire team, including Greg white, Scott Luton wish you a wonderful week ahead. Hey, do the right thing, give forward and be the change. We’ll see you next time here.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott and Greg welcome Jeff Cashman to Supply Chain Now through our YouTube channel.

Jeff Cashman is the COO and Senior Vice President of GreyOrange.  Jeff brings 30+ years of supply chain technology experience to GreyOrange, most recently as the CEO of Ally Commerce, an e-commerce service provider for brand manufacturers. He also spent 12 years as an executive in Accenture’s Supply Chain Strategy Practice as well as 13 years as SVP of Business Development at supply chain solution provider Manhattan Associates. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Management Information Systems from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Learn more about GreyOrange: www.greyorange.com

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: www.trefoiladvisory.com 

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. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here: https://supplychainnowradio.com/


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