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16 Feb 2022

Q&A with Philippe Sanders from Distrisort


1. Could you please give me a little bit of background about you, your career path in the industry and any notable achievements? 

I come from a different industry and 12 years ago I was offered the job at DistriSort. When I started we were with aprrox. 25 people, nowadays there are more than 170 colleagues. So in de last 10 years we did something right.


2. What is your position within the company and your role and responsibilities? 

Business Developer. I am responsible for helping customers with their requirements in automated sortation. This means both identifying these customers, but certainly also providing them with the information they need to solve their challenges. Usually I will be the first person a (potential) customer would talk to when they are interested in our solutions. I will take them on their journey to find the solution that works for them, before they are handed over to our team of experts that will finalize the project.


3. Can you tell us any technical developments that you are working on at the moment, or what we can expect from your company in the foreseeable future?

A lot is happening at the moment in the market and of course we are also moving. However, most importantly we try to focus on the solution that will help our customers. This can be the smallest things and often they are different for each customer. Last year we launched our free ROI tool that helps customers quickly realize what potential there is for their operation and this is something that we use frequently. Of course we are also continuously working to improve our solutions and we are looking forward to possibly launching something new later this year.


4. At IntraLogisteX, will you be launching anything new to the market? If ‘yes’, what is it and why is it a must-have product/service for our visitors? If ‘no’, please provide some details about a product/service that showcases your expertise in this sphere? (this editorial is designed to get folks to your stand)

We will not be bringing any new products to market at the Intralogistex show this year, but we are certainly happy that we can meet our (potential) customers face to face again. Unfortunately due to travel restrictions we weren’t able to make it last year, but we are very much looking forward to being there again this year. At the show you will be able to talk to us about your automated sortation requirements and we will be happy to discuss your current process and what a sorter can possibly do for you. As mentioned we also have a free ROI scan that we can run pre-show and discuss during a short 20 minute meeting on the show. This will really give you a good idea of how you can benefit from automated sortation.


5. Can you provide a recent case study that highlights your company’s capabilities?

We are working with some of the biggest brands in the world on their sortation challenges, but also with companies that are just starting their automation journey. Almost all of our solutions are bespoke for the process of the customer. And with over 400 sorter solutions in the world we have the experience to find the right solutions for you. We would like to invite you to come on our stand and talk about your requirements so we can find a solutions that fits your needs.


6. We’ve all discussed the pandemic and Brexit to death. What new challenges are you been helping your customers to resolve?

The challenges that we are solving for our customers have mostly arisen from the need to process more items faster. We are helping customers make their picking process more efficient by introducing automated sortation. This is something that is of course from all times, but there is now a big increase in demand for our type of solutions.


7. How can a warehouse stand up to the rate of innovation and changes to customer behaviour?

Depending on their processes and products a good way to start is by automating the sortation process. Don’t try to change everything in one go, but have a look at where your biggest opportunities are to increase your capacity or do more with the same amount of people.


8. How can technology and data be used to make the warehouse and supply chain more integrated parts of retail businesses?

If you look at automated sortation technology can make a huge difference. Retail companies are now also becoming e-commerce companies and they need to be able to support both order flows. With automated sortation this is certainly possible and it allows you to continue to deliver the experience your customers are expecting. Next day delivery, no empty shelves, etc. The increase of returns also needs to be managed better and this is also a process that automated sortation can make more efficient.


9. For all the excitement around automation, most logistics companies have not yet taken the plunge. What needs to change to make that happen? How do we go from circa 5% today to more? Is automation feasible for most?

Some degree of automation is certainly possible for most companies. However the big question is where to begin. With so many providers of warehouse automation it is sometimes difficult to know where to start. Take small steps and work with a company you trust to provide you with the right advice.


10. As warehousing automation evolves, there will theoretically be a decrease in demand for low-skilled workers. If this is a concern, how should it be addressed?

This is not necessarily true. Across the board everyone is struggling to get workers into their warehouses given the rise in demand. This rise in demand will not necessarily decrease so the automation will likely first take over where there is a lack of workers. Also putting automation in place will create new jobs that also need to be filled. And finally, automation will also allow you to move your workforce to where they are needed most and where there is no automation or automation is too expensive. It will be important for employers to provide their employees with the necessary tools to develop to keep them on board to support automation and allow their companies to grow.


11. Planning for peak season 2022 starts now. What is the next big wave in supply chain technology to alleviate these seasonal pressures? What are your top tips for negotiating these ultra-busy times?

If you are planning your automation needs for peak season 2022 now you will find you are likely too late. If you are looking to automate your warehouse for peak season 2023 this is the time to start. Not only is there a lot of pressure on the supply chain, but also companies automating the supply chain. Lead times are slowly going up as the demand for automation increases. Make sure that you are already looking ahead to 2023 and start the conversation today about your requirements then.


12. Many decision-makers are hesitant to invest in a lot of Supply Chain 4.0 technology at once. They’d prefer to see evidence of the positive effects of such spending first. Where is best to take the plunge first?

One of the things that we try to do is provide a Return on Investment calculation. Investing in automation of Supply Chain 4.0 can indeed be costly, but if there is a ROI it makes sense. Based on 20 years of experience and working with many companies around the world we have developed a model that gives a very accurate return on investment for decision-makers. 


13. New technologies, growth in e-commerce and sustainability are mega-trends that will continue for some time. What new megatrends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?

Something that we notice currently is that many people are looking into robotisation of their processes. This is something that is currently still relatively expensive and certainly in our business, because of the wide range of products, rather difficult. However, with the current developments in this arena and the attention it is getting from many companies I am sure this will play an important part in the future of automated sortation. More and more we are seeing solutions where robots are helping in the sortation process and we would be happy to inform our customers about the possibilities.


14. As we (fingers crossed) move into the post-pandemic era, what opportunities are there now to redesign supply chains to be smarter and more resilient? What important things have we learned as a result of how we dealt with the pandemic in terms of resilience?

Flexibility is key. I would say that is one of the learnings that we took. Customers have gotten used to online shopping and therefore the development into a more online world has taken a giant leap. This will remain, although in part we will also return to using brick and mortar stores for our needs. However, whether you are in B2B or B2C you will have likely  been faced with more e-commerce related supply chain challenges and now is the time (if you have not already done so) to put in a sustainable solution to the challenges that arose in the first weeks/months of the pandemic. Luckily our solutions really work well in these environments where there is a sudden growth of orders (or a sudden decrease) and we are therefore very well placed to inform customers on how to set-up their process to be future proof.


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