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The Convergence of Innovation in a Place Where Tradition Abounds
Tecsys User Conference 2019
The Convergence of Innovation in a Place Where Tradition Abounds
Tecsys User Conference 2019
September 30, 2019
couple of days ago, I was lucky enough to attend the Tecsys User Conference 2019 held at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort in Phoenix. I say lucky for two reasons; the content of the conference and the destination. The Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort is a Native American-owned resort designed to be an authentic representation of the Gila River Indian Community’s heritage and culture of the Pima and Maricopa tribes. The architects and designers built a riverwalk alongside a recreation of the Gila River. It was an inspirational departure from the typical luxury resort.

The conference itself was designed to be interactive and user-friendly. Every element, from the mobile app to selecting your sessions to the user lab instead of an exhibit hall, was shaped to get attendees to engage and learn. Tecsys didn’t focus as much on themselves and their solutions as some technology user conferences tend to do. You could listen in on a product session if you wanted to but you could also attend sessions that highlighted cool companies that were innovative in amazing ways. They took the opportunity to provide insights into a much more futuristic supply chain industry for the customers they serve and with whom they have developed strong relationships.

The content of the sessions and the speaker presentations gave us real-life examples of the technologies that would be driving the 4th digital revolution. Peter Brereton, Tecsys President and CEO, highlighted some of these new technologies in his opening keynote entitled “Empowering Good Companies to be Great: Digital Transformation and Supply Chain Convergence.” He referenced the Brittanica.com description of the 4th Industrial Revolution as being “driven by the convergence of digital, biological, and physical innovations” such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and robotics.

Check out Stadia, for example, a company that offers “games without consoles” and may someday replace Xbox by leveraging the power of 5G and reducing latency to the point where a simple display is sufficient to interact with games. Or data lakes that provide a framework for machine learning and real-time advanced analytics. IBM has partnered with Cloudera to offer products and services to help you build one. Utilizing augmented reality, a “Skinny Mirror” can make you look 5 pounds lighter! Not sure what that says about the importance of a person’s size and shape but it is an interesting application of AR.

Of the sessions I was able to attend, two stood out. One because it captured my imagination and the other because it reinforced what it takes to differentiate your business to be competitive in a David vs. Goliath arena. The first, entitled “How 3PL Leaders are Using Technology to Satisfy, Retain, and Even Delight Their Customers”, highlighted companies that have leveraged technology in crazy cool ways.

Barrett Distribution has managed to change how picking products works in a warehouse. The robot comes to the picker. Since no warehouse infrastructure changes are required, a 3PL can be up and running with a few robots to start out, adding them as needed. This low initial investment makes it more accessible to their customers and changes how we think about the way in which robots are utilized. In this case, the robot comes to the picker, reducing errors and increasing productivity.

Capacity Fulfillment designs warehouses and fulfillment services by collecting all of the data that the 3PL has available. If a potential customer can’t make that available, Capacity doesn’t consider them a good fit. They engineer each project specifically for their partner and can help a customer achieve a 99.92% accuracy rate while also reducing touch times and the labor required to complete the tasks.

My all-time favorite was Ocado, who basically “flattened” a warehouse in order to optimize fulfillment to serve the large grocery chains that have entered the online sales and delivery space. Using only robots and air traffic controller technology, they can pick hot, cold, crushable, and controlled (like liquor) products into a bin that is later packed into grocery bags – the only human interaction in the pick and pack process. You’ll just have to check out the videos on Tech Insider and Wired to get the full impact.

The other session that I mentioned was called "How to Hold Off the Best: Competing in the Amazon Era.” The speaker, Bill Denbigh, Director of Business Development for Tecsys, began with the bad news – how well Amazon is capturing data from every seller and utilizing that to compete with those very same sellers. But he went on to offer ways to hold off Amazon, namely uniqueness; something Amazon doesn’t offer. He also suggested that individual sellers can offer niche technical expertise such as customer-specific pricing, pre-processing orders as a convenience for the customer, and special delivery, set up, and training. Not everyone is buying or selling on price alone. Even companies as large as Office Depot have recaptured market share from Amazon by expanding their private label. Office Depot's “Workonomy,” a suite of business services geared toward home businesses, offers on-demand expertise, coming to their home to set up their network.


On the occasion when you feel it’s hard to justify being away from the office to attend conferences and tradeshows, just wait until you get a chance to be a part of one that inspires your sense of wonder and makes you want to try new things. It’s a blast!

Julie James
Channel Sales Manager ~ ConnectShip
Julie James has spent more than 30 years in marketing, 10 years in shipping solutions, and two years in program management - just enough to be dangerous managing business requirements through product launch. When not writing for this blog, Julie is a partner relationship manager for ConnectShip, amateur market researcher, and occasional webinar moderator. She resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her partner and plumber, Greg Phillips, Phillips Plumbing, “wrangling water for the last 40 years.”