How to automate warehouse

Big enough to manage, small enough to care. It’s a neat line from a software provider looking to make waves in the warehouse and logistics space. Paul Hamblin reports.

Digital transformation is a big phrase in today’s business world, perhaps nowhere more so than in logistics. But digital transformation is about a lot more than slotting a spanking new WMS into your back office. First Line Software is already an experienced player in the logistics sector as it is an implementation partner for Germany’s viastore WMS and its viastore WMS product in Europe. It claims that this existing market experience, allied to its core software expertise, means it can bring some extras to the table in terms of digital transformation for its customers.

Bold claims. How so? “I think the industry understands that digital transformation is not about IT,” argues SVP at First Line Software, and responsible for the founded company’s EMEA business development to add to its North America core. “It’s about business process transformation. That’s why companies come to us – because it’s about more than software, it’s about the experience we can bring in terms of process and in terms of expertise in workflows.” 

Knowledge transfer is key, he argues.“We can transfer the experience gained in one vertical to another vertical.” He suggests that the learnings from one area can make a big difference in another area because the issue is being approached from a new perspective. 

Offering an example to back up his claim, he points to a  visual recognition product the company has implemented in the oil/energy sector which identifies if workers are wearing the correct protective clothing. This has obvious crossover possibilities to warehousing. 

His point is that First Line is a software provider on so many levels and in so many verticals that it can bring unparalleled breadth and an extra dimension to the digital journey for its clients – well beyond the provision of its bread-and-butter, hi-tech software. He makes the point that whereas in the past customers approached software providers because they were looking for IT help or software engineers, today it is different. They have business challenges they need to solve.

Ecommerce logistics is an obvious example of an area where customers can benefit because it involves integrating the nuts and bolts of DC fulfillment with a quite different discipline, that of transferring exciting bricks and mortar retail experiences to a delightful consumer journey now carried out almost entirely online.

Data management, a key skillset of First Line, has a big role to play here. “Our healthcare projects focus on the analysis of sensitive patient data, analysis of diseases, patient care plans,” he explains. “Since we already know how to work with terabytes of sensitive data and to make it accessible in the right way, with the right level of secure information, we can follow those principles to utilize data from any source, to structure it, clean it, and help optimize it in an appropriate way.” 

He says that First Line’s solutions are not standardized, as everything is bespoke for the client, too. What does that mean in practice? 

“Our positioning is a bit similar to a boutique shop for a client. It means you can buy a suit that does the job, or you can buy a made-to-measure suit that fits you perfectly. We are the latter, in terms of software.” 

But as a new customer, doesn’t it make sense for me to work with one of the big beasts, with their tried and trusted products and awesome scale? First Line Software expert shakes his head. “One of our key advantages is that we are not a huge company like some of those in the market with thousands of employees. It gives us the ability to be flexible and transparent with each and every client. This agility and lean structure is the benefit that our clients are looking for. Because when your supplier is huge, and you’re starting small with something, they can’t pay you too much attention because they’re already too big.” 

OK then, I counter, I’ll go with the super nimble, super-hungry start-up instead. No dice, he says. “If they’re too small, only 20-30 people, they can’t supply enough expertise and bandwidth for you. But with our size and scale, we’re big enough to manage, small enough to care.”

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