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Retail Tech: New Amazon Robot, Aptean PLM Deal, Mad Street Den Acquires Inturn

The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.

Robotics

Amazon

Amazon has unveiled Sparrow, a new intelligent robotic system for warehousing designed to streamline the fulfillment process by moving individual products before they get packaged.

The e-commerce giant says Sparrow is the first robotic system in its warehouses specifically designed for advanced item handling, with the technology able to detect, select and handle individual products within Amazon’s inventory.

“A critical part of our fulfillment process happens before items are even packaged for shipment to customers. Sophisticated technology moves totes to employees who select inventory to be packaged,” the company said in a blog post. “Once the items are boxed up, our existing robotic arms—like Robin and our recently announced Cardinal—can then redirect packages to various locations in the warehouse before they begin their delivery journey. In our focus on robotics, we knew we had an opportunity to dig deeper into research and development to support individual product handling.”

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Leveraging computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI), Sparrow can recognize and handle millions of items, the tech titan says. Amazon employees have picked, stowed or packed approximately 5 billion packages—or over 13 million packages per day.

Sparrow is designed to take on repetitive tasks, enabling employees to focus their time and energy on other things, while also advancing safety. At the same time, Sparrow can help drive efficiency by automating a critical part of the fulfillment process.

With the Sparrow introduction, Amazon is also promoting its career upskilling program for employees to help advance their careers in robotics. The Amazon Mechatronic and Robotics Apprenticeship is a 12-week classroom apprentice program followed by 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and industry-recognized certifications, designed to help employees learn new skills and pursue technical maintenance roles. Amazon says that following completion of the apprenticeship, employee pay increases by approximately 40 percent for program participants.

Amazon credits its robotics and advanced technology with creating more than 700 new categories of jobs internally.

And the e-commerce giant keeps deploying more of this tech within its fulfillment centers, even developing its first fully autonomous mobile robot, Proteus, earlier this year. Amazon designed Proteus to navigate around warehouse workers on the floor, and complement the movement of its “GoCarts,” the non-automated, wheeled transports used to move packages around its fulfillment centers.

Additionally, the firm debuted its Amazon Robotics Identification (AR ID) capability, which uses computer vision and machine learning technology to enable easier package scanning. AR ID is designed to cut out the manual scanning process by using a camera system that runs at 120 frames per second, which Amazon says can give employees greater mobility and help reduce injury risk.

Supply chain

Trademo

Trademo, a global supply chain intelligence company, has launched a new platform, Sanctions Screener, in an effort to continue expanding of data coverage for global supply chains. With Trademo Sanctions Screener, businesses in industries such as logistics, banking, manufacturing and retail can screen their suppliers, customers, vendors and employees to stay compliant with international regulations and protect themselves from sanction violations.

In 2022, the total number of sanction additions, removals and updates rose by a record-breaking 57 percent year over year resulting in significant supply chain risks, Trademo says. The Sanctions Screener features global sanctions data gathered from more than 500 sources to provide comprehensive sanctions risk coverage for businesses. This data can be accessed with a search algorithm featuring cross-language name-matching capabilities that ensure organizations don’t miss out on information about any restricted entity.

All of Trademo Sanctions Screener’s data is updated every hour to ensure that a business never violates sanctions again. The watchlist feature can be used to send notifications each time any individual or company of interest is added to a global sanctions list. Businesses can also conduct bulk screening for thousands of trade partners in a few clicks.

Over the past year, U.N., OFAC, and E.U. sanction lists were updated, on average, every 22 minutes, said Trademo founding CEO Shalabh Singhal.

Tie Kinetix/Syspro

Supply chain digitalization company Tie Kinetix has joined the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) ecosystem of Syspro, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider specializing in key manufacturing and distribution industries. This will enable Syspro users to use Tie Kinetix’s Flow Partner Automation platform to further digitize their supply chain automation processes and automate the exchange of their electronic documents. This extended capability complements and augments Syspro’s ERP supply chain solution to enhance specific enterprise business processes.  

With the expanded capabilities, and the use of the Tie Kinetix Flow platform, Syspro users can tap into the benefits of having a 24/7 team of global experts to assist them in streamlining procure-to-pay, order-to-cash and end-to-end business processing with trading partners, all while minimizing data entry and errors.  

When a system like an EDI platform is integrated with an ERP, an understanding of both systems is required for effective document exchange and communication. Therefore, Tie Kinetix and Syspro believe their combined offering will further enable them to provide a solution for companies looking to make their processes more efficient while achieving true digital transformation.  

ERP

Aptean/ImPuls AG

Enterprise software solutions provider Aptean has acquired ImPuls AG, a provider of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to apparel, footwear, accessories and textile brands and manufacturers. Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Founded in 1975 and based in Krefeld, Germany, ImPuls ERP is used by more than 150 fashion and apparel companies to better connect business critical activities such as production planning, scheduling, the flow of goods, order management, accounting and retail support.

ImPuls’ modular platform was designed for the fashion and apparel industry and helps customers simplify inventory management and streamline mission-critical workflows. The solution also is designed to improve access to real-time data customers may need to better manage business-critical operations.

This transaction strategically builds on Aptean’s commitment to serving the fashion and apparel industries with an established and successful provider in the DACH region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

As part of Aptean, ImPuls wants to bring the benefit of digital workflows and business processes to help customers improve efficiencies and better navigate the changing landscape within fashion.

Aptean has fortified its own enterprise offering over the past year, acquiring apparel-focused ERP software providers Exenta and RLM Apparel Software Systems, and most recently scooping up the planning and product lifecycle management (PLM) divisions of retail technology solutions provider Aptos.

Inventory

Mad Street Den/Inturn

Mad Street Den, a computer vision AI solutions provider, has acquired Inturn, an enterprise solution designed to manage and optimize slow-moving or excess inventory. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Mad Street Den operates Vue.ai, a platform built to help retailers reduce operational costs through automation and increase revenue with personalized customer experiences. Combining Inturn’s inventory workflow tools and margin optimization capabilities together with Vue.ai’s retail AI suite, customers should be able to use AI to optimize supply chain processes and planning, while also weaving it into customer experiences to create efficiencies across the entire retail value chain.

This strategic move comes as a natural extension of Vue.ai’s vision to provide customers with intelligent solutions to not only manage but also more effectively optimize supply chain processes and planning.

On its own, Vue.ai is an AI-powered retail automation and experience management suite which combines product, customer and business intelligence using computer vision and natural language processing (NLP).

Vue.ai uses Mad Street Den’s proprietary AI stack, Blox. With a combination of ready-to-use APIs, no-code, and low-code tools, Blox enables marketing, product and technology teams to bring an order of magnitude improvement to lead generation, churn reduction, revenue growth and cost efficiency. Blox is currently deployed across several industries, including retail (under Vue.ai), healthcare, finance, media and entertainment, education and more.

RFID

Snipes/Nedap

Sneaker and streetwear retailer Snipes has partnered with Nedap to deploy the RFID solutions provider’s solutions across its European brick-and-mortar footprint.

Stocking global brands such as Nike and its own brands such as Karl Kani, Snipes said its partnership with Nedap began in Germany earlier this year. All German stores, equivalent to nearly half of Snipes’ European stores fleet, will deploy iD Cloud before the end of the year. The rest of the European stores will be added to the project before mid-2023. 

The partnership will support Snipes as it implements omnichannel services such as buy online, ship from store in the future. Stock accuracy is one of the key basics that Snipes expects will lead to higher merchandise availability across channels.

The business case for the RFID project was made on Nike and Levi’s, whose items are fully source-tagged. Snipes’ own brands are currently being added to the project. Other source-tagged A-brands will be added before mid-2023. 

“In order to further consolidate our omnichannel approach, it is essential to provide our community with the products they want, regardless of the channel they choose to use. Nedap appeared to be the only vendor in the market that was able to strip away complexity from RFID projects,” said Daniel Bontjer, head of retail Europe at Snipes, in a statement. “RFID is a great technology, and the possibilities are countless. Instead of wanting to do everything at once, we focused on improving stock accuracy, in-store refill and DC-to-store replenishment.”

The iD Cloud platform enables retailers to refill the sales floor based on real-time RFID inventory data. As a result, Snipes can prevent overproduction, improve safety thresholds, and won’t have to rely on conservative forecasting to ensure item availability.

“Having that stock accuracy baseline now opens the door to our digital channels,” Bontjer said. “We can now lower our safety thresholds with a high degree of confidence, as we know that products in stores are also available to be sold online. Nedap’s pragmatic approach and understandable solution made a substantial impact immediately. Defining clear milestones makes it easier to implement RFID and paves the way to scale up when we are ready.”

Product information

Propel Software

Product value management (PVM) solution provider Propel Software has added product information management (PIM) capabilities to its platform. This enhancement is designed to deliver accurate, tailored product content to customers across every sales channel. By connecting manufacturing and marketing teams with a continuous, trusted product record, Propel can help companies capitalize on new product launches sooner and capture new market opportunities faster.

Propel’s PIM offering provides a continuous thread that can transform technical data into customer-facing product content, all on a single platform. The solution is built to enable dynamic collaboration, synchronized workflows and data continuity throughout the whole product lifecycle.

Companies looking to shorten product innovation and go-to-market cycles work in parallel with Propel to create more resilient supply chains to ensure product availability and launch products faster.

Propel is built to empower fast-paced, innovative B2B and B2C companies to create engaging experiences with data, attributes and digital assets centralized in the product record. By ensuring consumers receive accurate product information across every channel, Propel can help build customer engagement and boost customer lifetime value.

“Despite product development technology improvements, teams continue to miss budgets and time-to-market objectives,” said Jim Brown, president, digital innovation research, at technology research firm Tech-Clarity, Inc. in a statement. “Siloed processes and technology solutions are hindering collaboration between product and commercial teams. As a result, commercial teams lack the product information needed to do their jobs, delaying sales and marketing efforts, forcing serial work processes, and increasing the time needed to launch new products. Propel’s strategy is poised to address these gaps and create efficiencies that drive faster time to market and product profitability.”

Available to Propel customers this month, Propel’s PIM enables users to load information from source files and adjacent systems, including direct connections to Propel PLM and ecosystem partners. Governance and role-based user groups can ensure data integrity throughout the enrichment process.

Users can focus on relevant information through robust search, attribute filtering and list-saved views. Leverage data inheritance in category hierarchies and variant structures to add and edit content across large groups of SKUs without duplicate entries and errors.

The company says its flexible data model has unlimited configurable attributes to adapt with changing product lines and channel requirements. Users can both author content and connect digital assets to product records within a familiar user interface, and apply cross-functional workflow and content scorecards to streamline launches, updates, and approvals. Additionally, users can export selected categories or records for omnichannel distribution.

Subscription retail

Ordergroove

Ordergroove, a subscription management software for retailers and direct-to-consumer brands, has secured $100 million in financing led by growth equity firm Primus Capital Partners.

The raise will be used to double down on the company’s investments in its subscription technology and continue to develop frictionless shopping experiences. That will include bringing on more services to enhance “prepay” subscriptions, which are discounts on pre-buy items or services that are redeemable in the future, and also deeper analytics capabilities to give richer insights into buying patterns to Ordergroove’s customers. The focus is not primarily on subscriptions, but building retention among consumers by adding more valuable features.

Ordergroove projects the e-commerce subscriptions market to approach $1 trillion by 2026.

The company has more than 500 customers including Walmart, Nestlé, L’Oréal, The Honest Company and PetSmart. Ordergroove doesn’t disclose revenue figures or whether the company is profitable, but said it drives “billions” in gross merchandise volume (GMV) on an annual basis. This year, Ordergroove saw a 59 percent increase in GMV over 2021.

Ordergroove’s platform-agnostic design allows the company’s technology to integrate with e-commerce platforms including Shopify, BigCommerce, Salesforce, Magento, SAP Commerce and custom e-commerce platforms.

Ordergroove has raised approximately $150 million to date.

Order management

Orium/Fluent Commerce

Fluent Commerce, a distributed order management solution (OMS) provider, has partnered with e-commerce consultancy and systems integrator Orium. The two companies will leverage their joint commerce expertise to help retailers design omnichannel experiences using modern retail technology.

Members of the MACH Alliance, Orium and Fluent Commerce will build on their shared partnerships with MACH commerce platforms like Commercetools and Elastic Path.

The partnership will enhance Orium’s work with retail clients challenged with the operational complexity of a modern, omnichannel strategy, deploying Fluent Order Management to deliver highly customizable order logic and real-time inventory insights.

Both B2C and B2B organizations rely on Fluent’s cloud native, scalable distributed order management platform to transform fulfillment complexity into a competitive advantage. Fluent Order Management is built to provide near real-time inventory availability across multiple locations, order orchestration, fulfillment optimization fulfillment location management, in-store pick and pack, customer service and reporting. This can enable retailers, brands and B2B organizations to fulfill orders profitably, while also delivering a better customer experience.

Augmented reality

Fatboy/CGTrader

When bean bag and furniture retailer Fatboy needed a new Snapchat Lens to reach its target customers, the company selected 3D models and digital content provider CGTrader to lead the Lens creation process. CGTrader leveraged Modelry, its full-scope custom 3D production platform, to develop an augmented reality (AR) Lens to promote Fatboy’s furniture and branding.

Headdemock Foldable Hammock
Fatboy CGtrader

With a focus on improving brand awareness through the growth of its performance channels, Fatboy turned to Snapchat. The new initiative, designed to promote Fatboy’s latest line of outdoor furniture, included developing a Snap Catalog-Powered Shopping Lens that Snapchatters could use as they shared pictures and videos with their friends on the platform.

After partnering with CGTrader to bring the project to life, Fatboy chief digital officer Tom De Vos moved to get the proof of concept up and running to scale the company’s use of AR.

“AR is the future. Or it’s ‘now’ already,” De Vos said. “Especially for furniture, people feel reassured that they’re doing the right thing before purchasing a big-ticket item. AR is one way to show people what they can expect.”

The decision to include an AR component in the interactive experience came from Fatboy’s leadership team, which is currently adding AR capabilities to the rest of the company’s product line. The integration of AR will further enhance the online customer experience, allowing users to visualize products in their space before committing to a purchase, Fatboy says.

“The Lens was great this time. We even checked it with our product development and creative team, and they are always very critical,” De Vos said. “[It was] more expensive, but people engaged a lot more. Definitely more qualitative traffic.”

Fatboy chose the Headdemock Foldable Hammock as the featured product of the Snapchat AR Lens campaign. The product possessed high conversion potential due to its seasonal popularity, easily recognizable shape and engaging color configurations. After publishing the Lens publicly, Fatboy achieved a significant boost in engagement through its Snapchat campaigns, which were over 3,000 percent more effective than traditional promotional efforts.