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Retail Tech: PTC Taps Higg, On Running Opens UK Fulfillment

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

PLM

PTC/Higg

PTC’s FlexPLM solution now integrates Higg’s sustainability insights platform as part of a new collaboration.

With this integration, PTC’s FlexPLM customers will be able to measure, manage and track value chain sustainability in greater detail. The integration enables users to work collaboratively within the FlexPLM platform to give sourcing managers the information necessary to select environmentally friendly suppliers for manufacturing.

Additionally, product designers and developers can better understand the environmental impact of the materials they choose to incorporate into their products. Ultimately, companies can apply Higg insights to inform their digital product creation process and make better business decisions.

“We are delighted to work with PTC to facilitate the integration between FlexPLM and Higg,” said Josh Henretig, Higg vice president of global partnerships. “Thanks to this integration, brands, retailers, and manufacturers can use Higg solutions and data to inform their individual sustainability strategies. Higg is committed to scaling tools and services that help companies address climate change globally. By working with PTC, we can make Higg tools available to more companies committed to improving social and environmental impacts.”

Higg is the exclusive licensee of the Higg Index, which was developed collaboratively over the last decade by a coalition of brands, retailers, manufacturers, and other footwear, apparel and textile industry stakeholders through the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).

The Higg Index enables accurate scoring and comparing of a company or product’s overall sustainability impact, across metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, waste, water usage, and working conditions.

“With many SAC members using the FlexPLM solution to manage their product lifecycle management processes, this new collaboration between Higg and PTC enables FlexPLM users to access Higg’s rich environmental data across materials, products and manufacturing facilities to help users make sustainability a core focus of their design and product development process,” said SAC’s vice president of Higg Index, Jeremy Lardeau.

Fulfillment

On Running/PFS

Swiss performance running footwear brand On has launched a new U.K. fulfillment operation in partnership with e-commerce order fulfillment provider PFS.

Due to rapid growth that has seen the Roger Federer-backed brand sell in 8,000 retail stores in over 50 countries, On set out to create a multi-node fulfillment network across Europe and was seeking a provider in the U.K. to quickly fulfill e-commerce orders in that market.

“We are excited to launch with PFS and provide a faster order delivery experience for our e-commerce customers in the UK,” said On co-CEO Marc Maurer. “It was vital to find a DTC fulfillment partner with strong carrier relationships in the local market, and we are already seeing delivery time improvements. We found a true partnership in PFS and look forward to working with them to grow our e-commerce channel.”

PFS is providing warehouse management, inventory control, order fulfillment and returns management from its Southampton-based fulfillment center in support of On’s DTC e-commerce channel. This solution went live in July 2021.

Multi-node fulfillment continues to be a strategy that brands in the U.K. are enacting to alleviate supply chain-related challenges, such as Brexit. Having an in-country fulfillment center can enable brands to better compete with delivery expectations, optimize their inventory pools and ensure business continuity across their supply chain network.

Free Fly Apparel/Whiplash

Whiplash, a provider of omnichannel fulfillment and logistics services, has partnered with performance apparel brand Free Fly Apparel. The multi-year contract includes services for U.S. direct-to-consumer (DTC) fulfillment and wholesale distribution to specialty retailers.

Founded in 2010, Free Fly Apparel is a digitally native brand that needed a third-party logistics partner with an in-depth understanding of the apparel industry. Whiplash serves 400 specialty retailers nationwide, with 19 distribution centers across more than 7.2 million square feet of space in the U.S., alongside an international partner network.

Caitlin Postel, business development manager at Whiplash, said the company handles volumes from 50 to 2,000 items in a single order.

The account is served from Whiplash’s newest distribution center in Columbus, Ohio, which opened in May 2021. As one of two Columbus-area multi-client facilities operated by the logistics provider within competitive two-day ground coverage to many major metropolitan areas, the 261,400 square foot facility offers order fulfillment services, value-added services and is equipped with autonomous mobile robots.

“We love the simplicity of the Whiplash e-commerce platform, and how easy it’s been to train our staff on it for better insight into our operation,” said Mary-Chelsea Banister, senior manager at Free Fly Apparel. “We’ve also been impressed with how Whiplash has looked to the long-term, mitigating issues with scaling and preparing for the new normal following the pandemic.”

Supply chain visibility

Boardriders/Longbow Advantage

Boardriders, Inc., the parent company of the Quiksilver, Billabong, Roxy, DC Shoes, RVCA, Element and VonZipper brands, has selected Longbow Advantage to implement its new warehouse visibility and labor management solution.

The action sports and lifestyle company, which designs, produces and distributes branded apparel, footwear and accessories, is implementing the supply chain tech provider’s Rebus platform, which is designed to provide real-time views into the warehouse.

The platform is specifically built for distribution teams who need access to make point-in-time decisions about their warehouse operations, labor management, and inventory.

Longbow says Rebus can aggregate and harmonize all logistical data, resulting in real-time visibility into critical data needed for better business decisions.

“We were looking for a solution that could provide us with the critical information and visibility we did not have with our current platform,” said Cory Durrett, director of inventory control, Boardriders, Inc. “Our reality involved making decisions on gut instinct and sporadic reporting throughout our workday. Rebus will provide us with unprecedented access into what is really going on in our warehouse—up to the minute—with real-time knowledge of what we are receiving or sending out of our warehouses.”

With retail purchases rising and the labor market shrinking, warehouses and distribution centers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to continually optimize internal warehouse processes, as well as the workforce that is running the facility.

“While the initial value will come with the increased warehouse visibility, Rebus’ Intelligent Labor Management will then help us to better utilize our workforce, giving us insight into every action scheduled and in process, to attain optimum productivity in our warehouses,” Durrett added.

Rebus Warehouse Visibility is built to enable teams to see and react to activities in the warehouse when they happen, across distribution centers and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to make more intelligent decisions.

Robotics

Berkshire Grey, an AI-enabled robotic solutions provider, has introduced its next generation Robotic Product Sortation (BG RPS) solution for order fulfillment.

This automated solution robotically picks, sorts and packs individual items into outbound order containers without the need for operator interaction. The latest version of BG RPS includes a dual wing design that increases speed by over 25 percent and doubles the simultaneous order processing capacity. This approach is designed to augment human labor and provide additional order processing capacity in existing operations, and improve warehouse operations for customers currently handling increasing labor shortages.

BG RPS is specifically designed to autonomously pick, sort, and pack large orders in high volume operations for store replenishment, e-commerce and B2B fulfillment. BG RPS systems integrate into existing operations to process growing e-commerce and less-than-case order volumes to help fulfillment operations overcome labor scarcity issues.

The systems are compatible with a broad range of products, packaging, and order types including health and beauty items, apparel, electronics, housewares, packaged food, childcare products, pet care, office supplies, toys, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other general merchandise items.

The RPS solution is powered by Berkshire Grey’s core AI-enabled Software Platform that underpins all of its robotic automation solutions. The systems can be used as stand-alone modules, in conjunction with other advanced Berkshire Grey technologies, e.g., mobile robots, or integrated with leading ASRS solutions from multiple suppliers. The modular design allows enterprises to scale the number of simultaneously fulfilled orders into the thousands and the number of items robotically picked per week into the millions.

BG says the sortation systems enable retailers to increase throughput of existing fulfillment operations by up to 2X without adding labor, and improve shipment capacity and container cube utilization by up to 10 percent.

Additionally, the robotics solutions can integrate order processing with automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) to maximize the ROI from automation designed primarily for storage, and scale processing across multiple BG RPS systems.

The solutions can be installed into existing operations with a small footprint of less than 2,500 square feet.

BG RPS is part of Berkshire Grey’s portfolio of robotic pick and sort solutions that also include Robotic Package Sortation and Identification, Robotic Shuttle Put Walls, Robotic Shuttle Product Sortation, and Mobile Robotic Sortation and Fulfillment.

Berkshire Grey’s automated solutions are modular, flexible, and available via Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) implementation models, allowing customers to adopt the technology without upfront capital expenditures.

Natural language processing

Bridgeline Digital

Bridgeline Digital, a cloud-based marketing technology software provider, said that its site search product has been chosen by an unnamed German sports apparel business to support its lead augmentation software.

The German retailer chose Bridgeline’s product to take advantage of Natural Language Processing (NLP) in site search. The online sports retailer integrated Bridgeline’s site search technology, identifying NLP as a core part of its conversion strategy. With the NLP technology in hand, the business can differentiate between major brands, product variations and complicated queries within its catalog of sports attire.

The tech provider says its site search’s advanced AI algorithm is ideal for high SKU-count catalogs in languages across the globe.

Smart lockers

Direct Source/Safco/Synq

Direct Source, a retail technology services and solution provider, has partnered with workspace furnishings manufacturer Safco and retail security solutions company Synq to deliver smart in-store contactless product retrieval lockers.

Designed for retail customers who want to build out a self-service transaction experience, the multi-use Smart Locker Systems allow shoppers to order online or in-store, retrieve their products or services from a secure locker and enable shoppers to make contactless returns using their smartphone, with no app required.

Lockers can be placed either inside or outside the store for easy access and come in a variety of sizes to fit various retail footprints.

The smart lockers integrate with back-end point-of-sale information, inventory management and distribution systems to help store associates view orders, track and load approved purchases into a locker. Customers can open the lockers via their personal smartphone.

For retailers, in-store lockers help reduce costs associated with fulfilling and shipping online orders, with the added benefit of bringing shoppers into the store where they may choose to make additional purchases.

Canadian Tire, which started testing smart lockers in a pilot roll-out in 2019, has announced an expansion of the program to hundreds of their retail locations across Canada.

“Smart lockers are ideal for high-value items that should be secured—yet easily accessible—for customers who want a fast, easy pick-up experience,” said Justin Young, dealer of Canadian Tire in the Hillside neighborhood of Victoria, British Columbia. “Adding smart lockers alleviates wait times at the customer service desks that have traditionally been used for customer pickup. Now, these associates can focus their attention on customers that need immediate help within the store. As a result, store associates can maximize productivity and efficiency, which is crucial with the labor market sensitivities we are facing.”

The locker systems could be useful for pre-ordered and pre-paid purchases and equipment rental and services.

Customer data platform

Kuiu/Amperity

Kuiu, a direct-to-consumer performance hunting gear and apparel company, is using Amperity’s enterprise-grade Customer Data Platform (CDP), including its AmpID and Amp360 features, to better inform customer acquisition strategies based on real-time customer data insights.

The DTC brand was looking to expand access to first-party data  to better know and engage individual customers. Before Amperity, the brand found it difficult to identify and understand unique customers.

Using Amperity’s end-to-end CDP platform, Kuiu has more than doubled the number of customer records it maintains and analyzes. Kuiu integrates Amperity customer data with other data sources like Google Analytics and transactional data from ERP solutions, to create dashboards for monitoring all sales and performance data and develop more personalized, targeted customer experiences.

“Kuiu serves its customers by innovating new products that bring them closer to their passion for the outdoors,” said Christy Ansari, chief planning officer at Kuiu. “Amperity’s platform enables us to better understand our customers, helping us to build stronger relationships and identify new customers for our performance hunting equipment. Before Amperity, we struggled to understand our customer acquisition rates and process customer data in real time. Amperity CDP has allowed us to identify the tools that increase acquisition, bolster retention, and understand the behaviors of returning and first-time customers.”

NFTs

GigLabs/Shopify

GigLabs, a blockchain company that enables brands to bring their IP to life through non-fungible tokens (NFTs), announced its GigLabs NFT App for the Shopify App Store will be made available for eligible Shopify Plus merchants.

Within the app, merchants can create and sell NFTs on their Shopify storefront in minutes without any prior development or blockchain experience.

“Our growing NFT app ecosystem demonstrates our commitment to offering merchants an accessible approach to selling digital assets directly through their Shopify stores,” said Robleh Jama, director of product, Shopify. “We’re happy to welcome GigLabs to the Shopify NFT ecosystem to help merchants build unique commerce experiences through NFTs.”

GigLabs partners with brands, agencies and creators to provide tools for generating, minting, and selling NFTs that can be presented within fully customizable brand experiences.

BreakingT and Infinite Objects are the first companies to launch NFTs using the GigLabs NFT App on Shopify to develop a new revenue stream and deepen customer loyalty. Both brands worked closely with GigLabs to design and build the app.

BreakingT helps fans connect to their favorite teams and athletes by commemorating the best moments in sports with real-time fan apparel and other licensed products.

“We’re continuously monitoring social data with our CrowdBreak platform, looking for fan engagement and consumer intent related to these big moments in sports. If Fernando Tatis hits a walk-off grand slam on Tuesday night, it’s a shirt by Wednesday morning,” said Alex Welsh, CEO of BreakingT. “We’ve integrated the GigLabs NFT app capabilities into our 24/7 business model, and can now quickly turn these same moments into NFTs and reach a whole new audience.”

And Infinite Objects offers collections of video prints that can be hosted online and treated the way a framed photograph or art print would be in the physical world.

“Infinite Objects believes that moving images should be appreciated the same way posters, prints, and photographs have been for decades,” said Joe Saavedra, CEO of Infinite Objects. “With the GigLabs app, we’ll be able to add NFTs to our content offerings in a seamless end-to-end and customized experience.” An Infinite Object Video Print is one video art collection, looping forever and can hold up to 24 hours of video.

GigLabs enables eligible Shopify Plus merchants to mint and sell NFTs on the Flow Blockchain. Flow has a blockchain with over 2 million accounts, over 17 million individual NFTs minted and more than 10 million secondary market NFT sale transactions. Flow leverages an environment-friendly design via Proof-of-Stake that consumes thousands of times less energy than Proof-of-Work blockchains.

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