With MODEX 2016 right around the corner, I took some time to speak with our Atlanta Regional Director, Brian Ulanch, on the growing opportunities and benefits of doing business in Atlanta and the importance of hosting one of our industry's biggest shows.
1. What is driving automation in the Southeastern U.S.?
There are a few factors driving automation in the Southeastern US. Similar to the rest of the world, customers are demanding faster delivery times and big box retailers are demanding that shipment and orders be accurate. Regionally, the anticipation of the Panama Canal expansion is driving companies to reevaluate their supply models and execute a cost analysis versus faster delivery times. This analysis will drive the investment of more automated distribution centers in port areas. The expansion has also driven the port systems to invest in dredging and expansion as well to accommodate these larger ships, meaning more product producing more throughput.
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Brian Ulanch, Atlanta Regional Director, Bastian Solutions[/caption]
2. Does the unemployment rate dropping below 5% impact the receptivity to conversations about ROI of automation?
Not necessarily. With customer demands like faster response times and customer service expectations there is still a payback for more automation without reducing labor. If companies are not innovating, they will struggle to remain competitive. Rates and accuracy are growing characteristics that can no longer be achieved by a manual process. Automation will also help operators with more ergonomic system designs. One reason operations will have a human element is the investment in scaling automation systems when business models change.
Companies are also reexamining their e-commerce model, incorporating more of an omni-channel approach. Some brick and mortar retailers are also considering distributed order management to reduce final-mile shipping costs and faster deliveries.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber has worked hard to bring jobs to Atlanta. In fact our industry is in need of people. Our industry is currently experiencing the baby boomers retiring and finding qualified replacements is difficult. The local Universities have recognized this gap and have adjusted curriculums and degrees offered accordingly. Local Professional Associations, like CSCMP
are now offering more educational programs for young professionals. There are also not enough truck drivers to fill the forecasted need.
3. Over the past year, what factors have changed the most in the Southeast that impact growth of distribution centers and manufacturing?
Atlanta continues to develop and expand the airport. This draws more international companies to the Atlanta area due to the ease of more direct flights around the world. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, the growth of the Savannah port, and focus on travel and logistics within the Atlanta area, the Southeast provides an excellent opportunity for new or re-locating companies.
In general, there has been a population growth in the Southeast with more people moving toward the Sun Belt. As more people move to the region, it drives demand for business, and nearby distribution centers to fulfill orders same or next day. Companies and DCs tend to follow population growth.
4. Is it fair to cluster the region? Are there differences between Georgia and the Carolinas?
There are a lot of unique characteristics for each of the states. For example, in North Carolina the population is more diversified throughout the state versus Georgia where the population is primarily in the greater Atlanta area. Georgia has focused on growing its logistics infrastructure, especially in regards to the airport. With the emphasis on logistics and urbanization, Georgia is a strong location for corporate headquarters, job opportunities, and thus, population growth.
5. How does having a Bastian Solutions office in Atlanta help the local customer? What kind of growth is your office predicting for the next 3 years?
As Bastian Solutions continues to grow and become a national leader, having a local presence in the southeast ensures we can effectively assist our clients as needed. We can meet with them face to face on a regular basis, personally see that their projects are on target, and provide a partnership approach.
The growth of the Atlanta region and Southeast in general has allowed our local office to experience tremendous growth and success during our five years of operation. There are a lot of great companies in Atlanta and a lot of opportunity coming this way. It’s been a pleasure supporting our clients, and we look forward to growing that relationship with more customers each year. Our goal is to see a 20 percent year over year growth for the next three years.
6. Explain why MODEX 2016 in Atlanta is so important?
Atlanta is a strong logistics and supply chain hub. From the Savannah port to the airport, it is easy for companies to transport goods and run a business. You combine that with the educational opportunities through Georgia Tech, and you not only have a strong supply chain economy, but also a work force to support it.
MODEX Show is at the center of all that. It is a great time to showcase the city’s opportunities. Plus, you can’t beat the Atlanta weather in April!
About: Brian Ulanch
Brian graduated from Kettering University with a BSEE. While there, he co-oped with Dematic. Following his time at Dematic, he moved to Atlanta from Michigan to join the Intelligrated team in a sales role. In 2014, Brian joined the Bastian Solutions team as Atlanta Regional Director. He has a broad expertise on automated material handling systems and is currently the President of the Atlanta CSCMP Roundtable.
Meet and talk with Brian and other Bastian Solutions engineers in booth 3779 during MODEX Show 2016 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, April 4-7. Bastian Solutions will be showcasing the latest in order fulfillment technology including a full Servus robotic shuttle system, Exacta supply chain software, and a new robotic document inserter. Learn more or register here.
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