Unboxing Logistics: An EasyPost Podcast

Logistics Robotics in 2024 and Beyond With Jonathan Briggs From Nimble - Ep. 25

February 21, 2024 | 40:05

In This Episode

As vice president of sales and solutions at Nimble, a fully autonomous 3PL, Jonathan Briggs knows just how powerful warehouse robotics can be. In this episode, he and Lori discuss the history of robotics in logistics, what companies are doing today, and how things will evolve in years to come.

What are robots capable of?

Jonathan explains that in the past five years, the development of sophisticated artificial intelligence has led to “full-task robotics, where a robot can now do a full task of a person end to end.”

“It’s not just moving an item around a warehouse to make it a little bit more efficient. Now we can displace people because [robots have the same] functionality.”

What about human jobs?

Lori poses a tough question: If robots can replace humans in the warehouse, won’t that harm workers? Jonathan says no, explaining that robots aren’t necessarily leaving people jobless; they’re usually used when there isn’t enough human labor to meet logistics needs.

Even more importantly? Robots can perform tasks that are often taxing and dangerous for humans. As Jonathan points out, “Everywhere you look, there's a shortage of labor, there's injuries and accidents. What we do is get rid of jobs that people aren't showing up for, are getting hurt doing, or don't want to do.”

Save money on warehouse real estate

One often overlooked benefit of robots? They allow businesses to make their DCs smaller while maintaining efficiency. Jonathan says, “Most people look at automation through the lens of labor, labor, labor—cost of labor versus cost of machine. But you can add in another layer of dimension there: [you] can shrink the building, [you] can shrink [your] utilities.”



Lori Boyer 00:00

Welcome to Unboxing Logistics, the awesome podcast from EasyPost. I'm Lori Boyer. I'm your host here, and I am just absolutely privileged to be able to talk to a variety of experts here in the logistics industry. We cover all the topics that you could imagine. Such a cool and complex industry. And today is absolutely no different.

We are going to be diving into the world of robotics. So cool, so futuristic. And as my guest today, I have brought on the ultimate guru of robotics, Jonathan Briggs. Jonathan, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself? 

Jonathan Briggs 00:45 

Wow, I mean, what an intro. I don't, I feel like I'm going to, it's all downhill after this, but what a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me. Jonathan Briggs. I'm vice president of sales and solutions at Nimble and Nimble is in the process of rebranding to Nimble Autonomous Industries or shortening that to Nimble AI. Just, just to educate the viewers in the new year. And a little bit from my background perspective, I have kind of 3 sectors in my career: small package and parcel transportation, ecommerce fulfillment, robotics. And Nimble, I roll all of my life's experience up under one as I oversee our sales and solutions. And really what that encompasses is our, you know, obviously selling our solutions and then developing our solutions. I oversee product for our technology that customers face with. And our transportation strategy. So that's a little bit about who I am, and hopefully I can live up to that warm introduction you gave me. 

Lori Boyer 01:44 

Oh, you're gonna do awesome. We're gonna talk today, everybody, really glad you're here because we're gonna talk about kind of robotics, it's beginnings it's you know where we're at the state of robotics the whole evolution. And what the future is looking like for robotics. Whether you are a small business and barely even tinkering with the idea of robotics to if you are the most massive unit out there and want to go fully remote.

You're like, I don't want to see another human face again. We're going to talk about what that means for you and what that looks like in the industry. So really exciting, really fun, interesting topic. But as always, before we get going, we, one of my favorite segments, and I know our community just really loves it too, Jonathan, is getting to know our cohort here in the industry.

It has been super fascinating to learn about all the different people here in the logistics industry. So Jonathan, in Season Two, we're in our second season here at Unboxing Logistics. In Season Two, I am asking all of my guests two simple questions. And so I'm going to do the same with you. The first question is, tell us what you were like in high school.

Jonathan Briggs 02:59 

Wow. Very different than what I am today. Let's put it that way. You know, from a physical standpoint, probably 100 pounds less than I am today. 

Lori Boyer 03:08 

I think that's all of us. So yeah, that's good. 

Jonathan Briggs 03:11

There's definitely that. You know, but I, I don't, I don't know that I deviated all that much. I, you know, I was fortunate enough to accidentally start my career in high school as what I thought was a summer job and loading and unloading trucks at UPS. And here I am 20 some years later, I'm still in some form or fashion of logistics. So you know, I started this journey when I was in high school, so I haven't deviated all that much. 

Lori Boyer 03:37 

Wow. That's amazing. So if you won the lottery today, how would your life look different? 

Jonathan Briggs 03:44 

Well, I probably would not be working in robotics anymore. I would probably coach middle school or high school sports, most likely basketball. Yeah, I. 

Lori Boyer 03:54 

Interesting how you dove right into middle school sports. That's just crazy, Jonathan. 

Jonathan Briggs 03:58 

My kids are middle school, and they're going to be in seventh grade next year, so I would coach my kids, basically, was the moral of that story. I got roped into this thing a couple years ago. Had, had two of my, my sons make the basketball team. And they got put on two different teams because there's a little bit of a different skill set, and the lesser of abilities guy, they didn't have a coach. And so I'm like, you know what, I'll step up and do it.

And you want to talk about using technology. I, my second year I invested in an AI camera and, and could record all the action and capture all the stats. And we'd review film with fifth graders. That's how this is, this is how crazy things can get and how next level we try to take it. But I would, if I didn't have to travel all the time and could be home and commit to it, I would coach school, you know, middle school or high school level sports and probably basketball.

Lori Boyer 04:56 

That's crazy. So high schools out there, middle schools out there, if you're wanting a tech AI driven mega coach, you know, give Jonathan a ring because I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from our robotics. So, okay, let's dive into this whole topic of robotics. Before we even start, it's really important to us here at Unboxing Logistics that people come away with, you know, real takeaways, things that they can implement into their day to day work. What are your key takeaways that you want to share with our audience today? 

Jonathan Briggs 05:32 

Well, for sure, you need to figure out ways to improve your four walls process of your warehouse. That doesn't necessarily mean AI and robotics, but on some level, you've got to either figure out ways to do things more efficiently, more effectively and more ergonomically because the labor force is tapped and they're maxed out.

And in the, as we continue to increase you know direct to consumer and ecommerce as a percent of of overall sales things, it's going to continue to introduce more inefficiencies as you're picking one and two items in order and shipping them to a cul de sac in a small little box or a poly bag or whatever the case may be. So you've got to figure out ways that will continue to improve that throughput and that capability and do it with less people. And then again that could be as simple as going from non WMS to a WMS.

That could be, you know, going to some level of adding a conveyor belt to somebody doesn't have a conveyor belt to, you know, material handling equipment and full-on robotics and sortations and all different things. So just wherever you're at in your journey, you need to go next to the next level of wherever you're at. Right. And so I think that's one. 

Lori Boyer 06:42

There's always the next level, right? 

Jonathan Briggs 06:44 

There's always the next level. 

Lori Boyer 06:45 

Awesome. Okay. Did you have another one, Jonathan? 

Jonathan Briggs 06:47 

I do. And this is so this is outside of the four walls, but tied to four walls, is really looking at and diversifying your transportation strategy. If you're not doing a multi-carrier strategy in 2024, like you are seriously overspending and overpaying and negatively impacting your customer base. And so you know, so my, my suggestion there is if you're tied to one carrier and you're using their shipping software, you should get into the place of a multi-carrier platform. And then that can open the door to a second and a third option either directly with a carrier or through all the exciting programs that exist, like UPS DAP, or some of these things where you, you maybe sign up with one carrier and use the platform’s carrier mix and stuff like that. So those are two, like if you're at the bottom of the bottom, you don't have a WMS and you don't have a TMS, like those would be like, let's do that in 24 type of a thing.

Lori Boyer 07:45 

Yeah, absolutely. And I would say with the multi-carrier mix with today's, you know, everything from geopolitical to natural disasters to, you know, we experienced it in Covid. But the risk management element as well. It's not just going to save you a lot of money to make sure you're diversifying, but it can really help with risk management or labor disputes.

You know, we've seen that recently. So awesome. Those are great. And I'm going to circle back to them. But before we even move further into that, I want to talk a little bit about robotics specifically. So, tell me about the past of robotics. How did robotics kind of first start getting into the logistics industry? What did it look like 10 years, 20 years, I don't know, 100 years ago? Wherever you want to start, tell me about the past and, and let's talk a little bit about how that's changed. 

Jonathan Briggs 08:37 

Yeah, you know, they're not new. They've been around, especially industry, maybe not necessarily logistics, but they've been around industry since the early 60s. You know, General Motors deployed robotic arms in their, in their plants. So, you know, what are we talking 60, 70 years ago? And that wasn't the first robotics, but that's probably like the biggest, like, biggest name, biggest thing, union employment, you know, lots of hours of labor involved in there. And that, you know, for the next 40 years, I don't know that there was any change.

It was what they call a six-axis robot. And what that means is it can move in six different ways. And it's got all the things you see when you go to a trade show and the arms are moving and doing all this different stuff. And that was about precision. And doing a repetitive motion task, right? So I would, you know, in that scenario, maybe it was a weld or it was a hold the door for somebody to attach something.

And it did 1 task all day, every day, 24/7 and that was great. And it simplified and solved things, but not everybody works in an assembly line and does the same item all day, every day. When you get into logistics, whether it's in a, in a warehouse or into a partial delivery network, you have a much different rate of speed and you have an exponentially greater amount of variability of, you know. If you think of an apparel brand as an example, a midsize apparel brand is going to have at least 10,000 SKUs. And I'm not talking like, 10 to 20 million a year apparel brand in that in top line sales may have up to 10,000 SKUs.

And so having a, you know, this, this capability of putting in an automation in there that for 40 years did 1 task all day every day, that's why we didn't see it be adopted. One, they're very expensive and two, it was very precise and repetitive. And so we really, you know, if you fast forward to where we're at in like you know, the ecommerce and, and distribution landscape. It's like the early 2000 mark with, Kiva was really that next big thing that happened and what they created was called a goods to person solution. Most people may not know that name if they're fairly young, because that's called Amazon robotics.

They got acquired in 2011, 12-ish timeframe. And so, that was probably innovation one. And tied to Kiva, I think, is maybe innovation two. So, I was fortunate enough and lucky enough to work for the first 3PL that used robotics. And that was a company called Quiet Logistics. And they went to, they went in their first deployment, they were the first 3PL to use Kiva Logistics, or Kiva, or Kiva Robotics. And so, they were using it, and then Amazon shut it down. 

Lori Boyer 11:24 

And Jonathan, what did the Kiva do? For those people who don't know. 

Jonathan Briggs 11:27 

So Kiva is, if you see the video with like a cart moving around a warehouse and going to a person that picks an item out of there, it's taking the shelf to the person instead of the person to the shelf is the simplest way to put it.

Lori Boyer 11:39 

Okay, so it's the robotic picking element. 

Jonathan Briggs 11:42 

But the person is still picking. So it's just, it's a material handling equipment. It's, it's, it's, you know, normally you walk into a warehouse and it's a fixed position. They have all these shelves and you send somebody or something to this location. Now what you're doing is saying, we ultimately got to get everything out to the shipping station, move the shelf to shipping is basically what you're doing.

And then somebody would reach in and take an item and then the shelf goes back. And so that's where it started. Well, as a result of Amazon buying that and then decommissioning it for the rest of customers to use, that opened the door for what became Locus Robotics that spun out of, of Quiet Logistics.

And so that is then put into motion what is called AMR, or Autonomous Mobile Robotics. Again, a material handling equipment. A little bit misnomered, I think, in calling it a robot, because all it's doing is moving something from point A to point B. And it's more of like a conveyor belt that can go anywhere.

So still super, super, you know, innovative and efficient and everything like that. And that's probably an entry way for people to get into robotics. They've had a lot of mass deployments because of being able to come into a brownfield environment. But really, the last five years or so is where we've seen this explosion of artificial intelligence and what we would refer to as full task robotics, where a robot can now do a full task of a person end to end.

And now it's not just moving an item around a warehouse to make it a little bit more efficient. It's about now we can displace people out because they can fully do the functionality. So what's happened now in AI, to go back to the 1960s robot that we talked about with GM, is we've now taken human-like skills through artificial intelligence and transferred to this rigid, precise robot that was a six axis robot.

And now we, we, all these things we take for granted, like our eyes. Now called a vision system in the robotics world, and most of what we need to know to pick something up happens to our eyes, right? We see something our brain knows, oh, that's heavy. Bend with your knees. Oh, that's light. You can just pick it up with 2 fingers, you know, all this.

So you take a vision system and you and now you start programming it to recognize, you know, all these tens of millions of different items to say this is heavy. This is light. This is soft. This is fragile. And that's one. And then now you start introducing with dexterity, the hand type stuff that we really take for granted of how soft or hard to grip something, how much force.

So now things like sense of touch and force control and motion and, you know, take into account things like swing factor and all these things. And so, that's really been exploding over the last, maybe a little bit longer than five years, but really COVID set that thing on fire and lots of investment dollars got into motion.

Everybody was dropping out of PhD programs to start companies and trying to figure out, right, because you think about it, you know, there were months in 2020 that people couldn't report to a warehouse. We were shutting states down and then all of a sudden everybody's at home, not working, has extra money, still getting paid, has all this time on their hands and they're buying like crazy. Warehouses are shut down and demand is at an all time high.

And so people are like, we've got to figure this thing out. And so, now, artificial intelligence is transferring the human like skills, and now we can do a full day's work, so to speak, of a person, and we can pick things, and we can lift things, and we can move things, and, and we can pack things, and, and all of these things, and that's really.

We're starting to get excited and the, you know, the future is now and we can really start to impact an operation and start getting closer to this dream state of a lights out warehouse. 

Lori Boyer 15:28 

Okay, so wow. There was so much in that and I have a few takeaways right off where I'm gonna have people saying Jonathan, you know, you talked about it replacing people. You know, isn't that a problem?

What is this gonna do for our jobs? What about, you know, we love our labor. And while labor is a constant struggle for us in the logistics industry, a constant, constant, constant struggle. On the flip side, don't we still need people? You know, if I go get all these robotics and I get rid of everybody, you know, what kind of culture is that? Like, how do, how does robotics fit in with that human element? 

Jonathan Briggs 16:05 

Well, there's a couple, there's a couple schools of thought there and there's a couple different ways to think about and look at it. One, every company that's invested in robots has still grown their head count in people. And so you look at the growth of Amazon, you know, they've got hundreds of thousands of robots and they have over a million people working in a warehouse environment still. So we're not seeing it. So the number one thing is there's parts of the country we just can't get people to show up to work. Like, there's just more work than there are people available or that are willing to work. And one thing that blew me away is a couple of years ago, I got to hear one of the CEOs in the express parcel industry share what they see and talking about this post Covid. This 45 to 55 year old group that is a heavy part of all the supply chain and logistics work. 10 million of them left the market and are not returning to work in that type of work.

And so now 10 million of the key, in the right age, you know, all the experience still, sound body, sound mind, all those things not coming back to work. We know the opposite end of that spectrum, the people that should normally replace that, the let's call it the 18 to 25 year old crowd, none of them are coming into the warehouse.

So we're retiring off and sending off the older side of the workforce and not replacing it with the young because they don't want to be in the warehouse environment for all kinds of things. So that's one aspect is you may have to do it just because you can't get people to show up. And we've seen countless businesses have to cap their top line sales because they just could not get enough people to do the work that they need to get done. So there's a revenue impact to a lot of major businesses just in that alone. So that's one aspect 

Lori Boyer 17:53 

There's more work than there are people Yes, right. So one key takeaway there. There's more work than there are people. This is a problem you feel like is going to be exacerbated as all the boomers hit this retirement stage and we have kind of a different population. Some of the same questions we have around AI when people say AI, you know is that going to steal all of our jobs? But you're saying no. It simply is replacing work that is needed, but we don't have enough people for. And point two, what is the other argument you were saying?

Jonathan Briggs 18:25 

So the other side of it is there's a raising, rising cost and there's a decline in the quality of the labor that is showing up and so that's impacting all this, right? We're living in inflation. You know, the levels we haven't seen in 10 to 15 plus years, right? And some of us may not even seen. And so you, we can't as consumers just keep taking double digit cost increases year after year after year.

And so now that AI and robotics have gotten to a steadier state, I will, you know, it's not superhuman yet, but a steadier state and a little bit more reliability and a lot more capability. It's now, there's a tipping point where the cost of labor is now passing the cost of automation and robotics.

And so I think, no matter if we're talking about robotics, conveyor belts, whatever, that's always been the argument. As soon as there's an inflection point where I can do something more efficiently and cheaper than whatever it is, I'm going to invest in it, right? And then we, then they start building up a business case and an ROI.

So that's, that's kind of two of it. Three is, there's a, there's a lot of danger in a lot of these jobs. So, like, if you think about truck loading and unloading and you know, people driving forklifts around and all these different things. Or working in high, high pick environments there's just a lot of safety things and some of that repetitive motions that are poor in ergonomics.

And, you know, there's people that talk about, you know, folks that load and unload a truck in a, you know, in a warehouse environment will move multiple tons a day. I mean, just think about that multiple tons a day who signs up for that and whose body can handle that all day every day? And so like. 

Lori Boyer 20:05 

I've been watching so I just recently moved to Texas and a house across the street from us is being built. And it is fully brick, and we have been watching the people throw these massive piles of bricks up, floor by floor, up to each other, these big old stacks, and I said that exactly, obviously that's not a warehouse, but it's the same sort of like, my word, their bodies must hurt. Hour after hour, just throwing these massive bricks up, you know, flights to one another, and it is, I can see how if you had some sort of robotic system, so much easier on your body. So anyway, I just thought that. 

Jonathan Briggs 20:45 

No, no, great. I'm glad because there's automation happening there too. Like they, we're seeing it in the trades. Everything, everywhere you look there's shortage of labor, there's injuries and accidents and all these different things, right? And so now what we do is we get rid of jobs that people aren't showing up for, people are getting hurt doing, don't want to do, high turnover low morale.

And we, we, we automate those functions. And now we displace people into higher paying jobs, higher skill jobs, more rewarding jobs that are more of a career base. Like, so if you think about it through the lens of my world, we don't have a picker in my warehouse. Everything is picked through our robotic stack and, but I have technicians.

I've got, I've got engineers, I've got, you know, service people, like I have all these different things that there's lots of, there's still people in my building, not nearly the number that we would, we would see, but they're at a much higher you know, capability, requirements, skill, pay, all those types of things.

So even us, as we're, you know, launching, you know, have launched our network and tried to build it around our robotic system there's still people involved in just at a different level. So we will continue to, to add you know, engineers, developers, technicians, all of those types of things to our things, but less of the laborious, painful type of things.

And then in between there, most everything has got some form of, of, you know, hybrid approach where people and and the systems are able to interact and work together. And, you know, there's still manual things that we do in our warehouse and we will probably do for a long time to come, that they can do their job and the robots can do their job.

And so you know, what I noticed when I walked through a warehouse like ours: very quiet. There's no conveyor belts running and banging and clanging. You can, you know, you know, no impacts to your hearing. The work that's being done is, even the physical stuff is still very ergonomic. It's very you know, I think the morale is very high.

And so that helps us in retention and recruiting and all those things. So you know, for all the people to say that it's killing jobs, just fear mongering. It really is. It's here. Just like AI, you know, for other aspects, right? What we do is AI in the robotic space, but even AI and all the chat bots and all the other things we do, they're not, we're not getting rid of the people that are doing all that other work. There's still lots of work to be done. 

Lori Boyer 23:20 

Okay, so my next, I'm like keeping you in the hot seat today. So my next thought is, this sounds super cool, sounds amazing. I love the idea of giving people better high paying jobs that they enjoy and they want to stick around and reducing all those accidents.

But Jonathan it's sounding kind of spendy. Right? I mean that's gonna be everybody's thought, like this seems expensive. So you're saying I'm gonna pay people more and I have to get all these robotics. You know, how do you know when this is a financially viable thing? Do businesses slowly integrate robotics, you know? So question number one, I guess here on the hot seat, money.

You know, how do we justify having that? And then my follow up question is going to be, you know, if you were going to just start, where do you feel like are the big bang for your buck sort of robotic things that you should add that are kind of no-brainers? 

Jonathan Briggs 24:17 

Yeah, well, there's one scenario, and this is kind of what we've built, is you can go into, you can outsource. You can go to third party partners that are investing in the infrastructure but not charging you for that capital up quit, you know, uptake and all the maintenance and know how to run it.

It's already deployed. It's suited for your type of product. And so now you can take advantage of that, and just pay in a transactional environment for pick, pack, ship operations. And so that's one, one, one aspect of it. Two, you can, you need to build a business case, right? I think typically there's some type of ROI.

So you have to understand what does it really cost you in your current environment? So you need to know. I will say, since I've gotten into robotics in the last couple of years, the most technical question that I feel like I've asked or conversation been a part of is, what do people truly pay, fully loaded, for their labor?

It sounds simple, right? Like it seems like it's a no brainer. It's like a wage thing and a tax thing and maybe a benefits thing. It's so much more complicated than that because there's multiple departments in a big business that get involved with it, right? There's the HR aspect of hiring, recruiting, and turnover.

There's the training departments. There's overtime. There is, you know, all the safety insurance, IT, they don't account for the supervisory level and the management level. There's, there's also people that are, you know, you know, it's gotten very competitive over the years. They might get their tuition reimbursed for going to college.

They might, they might get some type of money towards childcare. They might get you know, some type of perk benefits. They might, they might bring in meals every day so that the employees are fed. There's all these things. And so it takes a lot of effort to figure out what the labor really costs them. So that's one, is you got to figure out what's the baseline. What is our cost of doing this? 

Lori Boyer 26:08 

Okay. So guys, community, if you're interested and you're like, okay, I love robotics. I'm a nerd who grew up watching Star Wars. And this is my dream. I gotta convince the big boss. You gotta get that business case.

Think about the full range of costs of your employees. Don't just be like, oh, here's my salary. Here's our benefits. This is how much we're doing. Look at it holistically. Love that point of view. Okay, Jonathan, go ahead. Sorry I interrupted you. 

Jonathan Briggs 26:39 

No, no, please at any time. Stop me. It's a great, great call out. So one, understand the labor. There's other aspects of it. So, like, for example, with our solution we completely redefined the warehouse. So we got rid of racks. We got rid of aisles. We work vertically 30 ft high in all of our buildings. So we shrunk our building down by, you know, 70 to 73 percent the size of my peers in the industry to get the same throughput in terms of volume coming, you know, of units shipped and orders shipped.

So if they were going into a new building, and I'm now say, going from 500,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet. You need to understand what I just do to my square footage cost. What did I just do to my electricity and utilities and insurance and all the other stuff? And I think most people look at automation through the lens of labor, labor, labor, cost of labor versus cost of machine.

But if you can add in another layer of dimension there of, I can shrink the building, I can shrink my utilities. I can, you know, all these other things and we can add other layers. That business case starts to get real real interesting, real fast and starts getting a lot more legs to it. And. 

Lori Boyer 27:49

I want to say as well, I just had to say this reminded me and talking about the vertical buildings. I recently, you know, sustainability, it's a huge initiative in the industry, as well as, of course, just in the world. But, I was speaking with a sustainability expert recently, and one of their recommendations was exactly that, was going vertical in your building size, and how that's going to become more and more critical.

So, kind of a trigger point for you guys out there in the community. If you are looking to switch warehouses, if you are getting a new facility, there are certain times when it makes sense to look into things like robotics. But from your business case, sustainability is also a big element in going vertically. You do actually significantly reduce some of your output by doing that. So anyway, go ahead, Jonathan. 

Jonathan Briggs 28:35 

No, absolutely. And you know, if you think about this, I don't know how much you pay attention to law in California, especially now that you're further away in Dallas. There's a bill that's been passed.

I believe it goes into effect in 24. That companies doing business in California have to understand their impact to the environment, to the third level. Not just what they cause directly, indirectly and then the third level. So they're gonna actually have to be accountable for it and measure it and, and, and you'll need to understand all those things.

And so my guess is, at least in the state of California, that there's probably some type of tax credit like we saw with the EVs and all that, those other things. So it's getting more and more complicated, but we really, you know, think very much in that regard of sustainability. That's why we're so excited about shrinking that building so exponentially and then also regionalizing it.

So people can spread inventory around the country. You know, on average, when people come into our network, we see a 550 mile or so reduction in package travel, distance travel. That's real, real impact. I think there are companies that may even look cost aside and look heavily in the sustainability component of these things and start measuring that because some of the legislation is starting to trickle down at the state level, like I alluded to in California.

Lori Boyer 29:54 

So Jonathan, which things then? So let's say that you're not doing a ton in terms of robotics or, you know, autonomous things. What, where are some of those no brainer like, okay, this is a really great ROI or this is a great first step to kind of be dipping your toes. If you were creating your own, what would be like an absolute deal breaker.You want to have X, Y, or Z.

Jonathan Briggs 30:17 

Well, I think there are some minimal systems you need to have in a warehouse regardless of how big or small. So I think you have to have some form of warehouse management and you have to have some form of transportation management. Like those are like bare minimum. 

Lori Boyer 30:29 

I read a study that there was a surprising number. I'm not going to say the percent because I will get it wrong. But there was a surprisingly large percent of warehouses that don't have warehouse. 

Jonathan Briggs 30:39

I think I read the same thing you're talking about and I can't remember the number. But it was obnoxiously high. 

Lori Boyer 30:42 

I'm like, how is this possible? So, yes. Please, step number one, just get a WMS. You need to be looking at the data, automation. There's so much out there for you. So great. I think that's great. 

Jonathan Briggs 30:54

And the alternative to that is I think there's a, there's a strong. This year, 24, is probably the strongest use case ever in terms of looking to outsource your fulfillment, right? Because. 

Lori Boyer 31:08 

Okay, why so?

Jonathan Briggs 31:09 

Well, a couple things. Cost of capital is really high, right? So people that are owning buildings and stuff like that, I mean, the interest rates and everything like that, you can put that money to use somewhere else. So, you know, sell off that building, outsource and do other things. One, transportation, as you, you know, you live in this space.

The rate of inflation and cost increase, you know, and it used to be GRIs were once a year. They're like once a week now. I mean, really, that's what it feels like. So, it's just the transportation side of it. And then and then just getting all that critical mass and that expertise of all these high level systems, you know, if the percent is true of what we talked about in that study, you know, it was north of 50%.

Lori Boyer 31:53 

Yeah. You know, it was too high. You should be getting that for sure. Step one. If you haven't done that. 

Jonathan Briggs 31:59 

Yeah, because you think about all the licenses of WMS and the licenses of TMS and all those different things. Like maybe maybe those do get a little bit in your way. But if you go into somebody that's part of their core business, you're going to get all those things. You're going to get multi-carrier rate shopping.

You're going to get new age technology and automation that's going to continue to iterate and innovate. Because really even in our, even in our world, when we deploy a feature, it's already like too late. Like the rate of change is so great. Like, so we're constantly iterating and doing things. And we're a tech company that has an operations department.

Imagine if you have none of those things and, like, you spent two years trying to figure out which WMS to buy. By the time you've deployed that WMS, you've already got the wrong WMS. Like it really like I mean, it's really kind of the rate of things that's happening. 

Lori Boyer 32:47 

Yeah, I spoke recently to a really interesting guest, talking about product, and they shared that very, you know sometimes you got to go for the quick wins because of how quickly things evolve. When you do hold off for several years, you know, by the time you get it implemented, it is out of date.

And even in the sustainability field, we talked about, you know, don't lock into five year contracts on your fuel because five years from now, there may be something better out there. And so, it is a little bit of, you know, just take a little step. Get in the door a little bit. Tell me, we're, we're running a little low on time.

So I want to make sure I hear your predictions for the future of robotics. And by the way, I do want to say, okay. This is not even any sort of, this is going to be a shout out for Nimble. Your website's so fun to look at because you have fully automated 3PLs. It kind of blows my mind. So I would say go onto their website and look at it cause you could just see the robots going everywhere.

The vast majority of you are probably not at that place where you're going to have a fully automated 3PL. But it is crazy because I see those kinds of future things. So is that what you're seeing is coming, Jonathan? Are we going to continue, do you feel like we're going to get more hybrid? What are your predictions? Jonathan Briggs predicts the future of robotics right here, everybody. Let's hear it. 

Jonathan Briggs 34:10 

Well, I'll just do it through the lens of the strategy and roadmap that I own in our business. And I think this will cover a lot of bases, right? So we've solved picking to date and we've solved building size, storage density, all those things.

So then we've got a road map. We've now deployed, robotic packout. So we've got a product profile that if it's just, you know, soft goods going into a poly bag, we can pick through ship without a person touching that product. So. 

Lori Boyer 34:41 

Without ever a person touching it. 

Jonathan Briggs 34:43 

That's it. And so, because it'll go into an auto bag, it self labels right out of our TMS and then it self seals and then it goes out a shoot and it's, it's waiting for the carrier to come pick it up.

So we will continue to invest in and improve that capability to where we can get less and less people at pack out. Then we go from there. We're doing robotic sortation for the parcel carriers. I want you know, we, we need. The more that we can take work out of parcel carriers, the more you can decrease your cost because they really want you to do more.

More stuff for them, right? And if you do it cheaper than they can do it, they'll give you a discount for it. So sorting beyond, you know, which, you know, care, you know, carrier and service level, you know, get into zip codes and states and regions and do them. So, we'll do some robotic sortation, trailer loading and unloading's on the docket for us to get people off.

That's what, most of my personnel sits on the dock between receiving, packing and shipping. That's where our headcount is today. And so and then from there, as I said, you know, we kind of rebranded the name of being autonomous industries. We think we have a vision of being a fully autonomous company.

And that means it's outside of the four walls. So we've got scenarios that will go into trucks and trailers and things of that nature. And we will do things in autonomous delivery where there'll be sorting on the road and picking on the road and delivering without a person being in the truck. So that's the long, the long range view of when I, and I'm just looking through my roadmap of our own business you know, of what we're doing there.

And so ultimately, it gets as close as you can be with that, you know, everybody talks about the lights out warehouse. I don't think we're getting rid of lights and lighting in warehouses. I think you still, and I talked about, we got to service the machines and we've got to, we still need people to do certain tasks and inspections and so on and so forth. But we will have very, very few people doing the pick, pack, ship operations in our business in just a matter of a couple of years. 

Lori Boyer 36:48 

That is awesome. That's so incredible to even think, like, the Jetsons were finally coming, maybe. We'll see. We're all still waiting for that. But I love your takeaway from the beginning: just pick one thing, look at your warehouse, look at your processes.

What can you do to automate just one step further than what you're doing right now? Everybody can do it. Take an inventory. Just know that this is an area that's sticking around and is really cool and is really going to be critical. You know, we're not going to be able to just use paper and spreadsheets and walking around and doing everything manually forever if we want to keep up.

So, really, really neat. It has been so great having you here today, Jonathan. Is there anything else, any other final comments you want to make? Or is there anywhere that people could connect with you if they want to follow you? 

Jonathan Briggs 37:43 

Yeah, please. You know, I love talking shop. So even if it's not a scenario, you know, to sell something or anything, I just love talking, you know, about the industry and stuff like that. So for sure, reach out. I'm very active on LinkedIn. Look me up on there. You can go to our website that you alluded to, Nimble.AI. It's that simple. There's a Contact Us form in there, that'll flow into me and my team. But for sure. Reach out, have conversations, explore what's out there. We are by far, I think are the greatest secret in supply chain right now.

And you know, we lived in stealth through 20, most of 23, with this little secret network we've been building. But this year we really, you know, we wanna fill the buildings and so, you know. We're probably not in your RFP led you know, led by a consultant cause the consultants don't know what we're doing. So definitely reach out, have a conversation and you know, let's, let's chat for sure. 

Lori Boyer 38:33 

I love it. Again, Jonathan, thanks for being here. 

Jonathan Briggs 38:37 

My pleasure. Thanks for having me. It was, it was a ton of fun and I can't wait to see it in the real world. 

Lori Boyer 38:43

Awesome. And we'll see you guys all next time.