Mr. Sangeet Kumar, CEO and Founder Addverb


An exclusive conversation with Mr. Sangeet Kumar, Founder and CEO, Addverb Technologies

“Food & beverage manufacturers are eager to use the latest IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies—artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, automation, big data—to optimize their business operations and supply chains.

1.Please give us a brief overview about Addverb Technologies and its business operation in India.
With a vision to disrupt the manufacturing and supply chain landscape in India, the home-grown company ‘Addverb Technologies’ pioneer in implementing Robotics and Automation solutions for material handling and fulfillment operations. Our products, technologies and solutions are suitable for a wide range of businesses from Fortune-500 companies to small and medium-sized businesses. We leverage technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Robotics, Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), Shuttles, IoT along with our in-house software solutions to improve the performance and accuracy of warehouse and factory operations. We provide end to end automation solutions using a unique approach of 4D’s (discovery, design, develop and dedicate), i.e., discovering the right automation for a customer’s problem, designing the solution to manufacturing the product and project execution and after-sales support.
In a short span of 4 years, we have automated warehouses for more than 100 customers across the world which includes the likes of Reliance (Jio-Mart), HUL, Flipkart, Asian Paints, Coca-Cola, Marico, Varun Beverages etc. Addverb has commissioned a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Noida, where Robots make Robots and is one of a kind, highly automated manufacturing facility in the world. This facility houses an experience centre where any individual can experience the power of robotics and automation by seeing real time applications. 

2.  What are the ranges of product you have for the food, beverages & allied Industries?
Rapidly changing food habits, heightened demand for packaged food, and stringent regulations regarding packing and storage have resulted in a striking power shift from manufacturers to retailers. Touch-less processes focusing on zero contamination, precise storage, and high-speed storage and retrieval operations are the key reasons why automation is an absolute necessity in food & beverage logistics process. We are at the forefront of transforming food & beverage supply chain logistics, powered by smart automation solutions like shuttles, sortation AMR, voice-tech, and robust WMS.

Under Robotics we have the following offerings: 
a) Dynamo- In-house developed Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) that helps in carrying loads of up to 1000 Kg. It works on Natural Navigation and is equipped with advanced safety sensor system that prevents any collision. It can work in perfect harmony with alongside humans. 
b) Zippy- A sorting robot that helps in carrying unit loads of up to 40 Kg without any need of expensive & conventional sortation systems.
c) Quadron- These shuttle robots are beneficial for movement of storage and retrieval of carton loads. Quadron is India’s first manufactured carton shuttle & it allows storing of materials in a carton, crate, or tote, with a varying payload of up to 30 Kg. Carton shuttle racking system offers the highest storage efficiency and facilitates Goods to Person picking.
d) Cruiser- A pallet shuttle robot, ideal for high inventory turnover operations where the palletized load is used for storage and retrieval. 
e) Robotic Packaging - We provide Secondary & Tertiary packaging solutions using robots. Right from conceptualization, the company collaborates with customers to guide them for the right selection of the robot, designing of peripheral systems like grippers. It is ideal for secondary and tertiary packaging.
Software that compliment with the above products: 
Addverb Technologies’ software solutions enhance process optimization through better inventory management, demand planning and reduction of operating expenses. We offer Optimus, a robust and secure WMS, which allows warehouse slotting, systematic storage and retrieval of material from warehouses and captive Distribution Centres. Optimus enables customers to streamline inventory management and facilitate order fulfilment. Another product in this cateogry is Mobinity, Our Warehouse Control System, which enables you to control your warehouse operations by tracking the flow of inventory, utilization of material handling equipment, deployment of human resource and balancing the load dynamically.

3. What are the key trends you observe in Indian food & beverages sector and how you see the scopes for your products?
Food & beverage manufacturers are eager to use the latest IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies—artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, automation, big data—to optimize their business operations and supply chains. New big data applications will expand rapidly throughout the food & beverage and agricultural industries. Reports show there are at least 4,000 early-stage technology companies investing in the food & beverage industry today.
These triggers necessitated a flexible supply chain to accommodate the demand surges & reliable warehousing operations that help in fulfilling the requirement within stipulated time and in an accurate manner. As operations scale up, it is critical to improve the productivity of people working in the warehouses and factories. Under such circumstances, Light, Voice and Vision based systems can improve the productivity of manual operations by almost 5-10 times. Also, they ensure 99% accuracy in warehousing operations. For instance, an operator in a warehouse can pick up to 60 items in an hour if he is using pen and paper to search and locate the item, the same operator can pick up to 240 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Voice and up to 500 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Light solution. Also, our solutions are custom designed to perform with rugged usage like our Rapido (pick-to-light) is quite robust and Khushi, our pick by voice is available in 14 Indian regional languages apart from English & Hindi. Features like these make products quite versatile and universally applicable. To maintain adequate social distancing and to ensure that the product is not touched by many people during the warehousing operations, the Goods-To-Person technologies like Mobile Robots, Carton Shuttle Robots have been picking up extremely fast. These technologies ensure fast, productive, and reliable warehousing operations. Indian companies have also started realizing that to cater to more flexible and dynamic supply chain they need to use technology and go for automation. Covid-19 has only hastened this move towards more automated and reliable supply chain and technology adoption.

4. Tell us how COVID – 19 has impacted your business operation so far? And what are your plans to overcome the same?
While Covid has proved disastrous for many industries like tourism &“HORECA” due to the outbreak and resulting lockdown, it has also unlocked some new avenues of growth in other sectors especially e-commerce, grocery, f&b, pharma & FMCG industries. Covid has changed the nature of demand and has also changed the way supply chain was handled. It has tested the resilience of the industries and also questioned dependence on contract workforce for critical operations, especially in Warehouses & Distribution Centre. During the first lockdown, we saw a big surge in number of enquiries in Automation, to the tune of 300% but initial euphoria gave way to the new reality and though many requirements were short term in nature and did not materialise, we were still able to increase our order book by 3 times with what we had at Pre-Covid levels. During last six months we not only added new clients like Flipkart, Colgate Palmolive, Diageo, J K Tyres, Lenskart etc but were also able to generate business with our existing key clients like Reliance, HUL, Marico, Amazon etc. Our product, “Decimator” which is used to sanitize buildings, found quite a few takers in US and South East Asia. We expanded aggressively in South-East Asia during this period and opened an office in Singapore and also added quite a lot of partners and clients in this region.
Right now, the consumer-facing industries such as FMCG, F&B, E-Grocery, E-commerce and Pharma industries are heavily investing in automation & they will continue to do so for the next 3-5 years. In the last four years, the Robotics & Automation sector has grown by a CAGR of 500% primarily driven by Retail, Logistics, FMCG, and Electronics. Robots are fast penetrating new industries with each passing day; for instance, healthcare and logistics segments. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has hastened this shift. Mobile Robots Application will soon become the harbinger for the realization of 'Lean Manufacturing' that connects islands of automation across different business functions.

5. What are the big changes and challenges faced by the logistics sector during COVID19 and how is Addverb Technologies addressing them?
The biggest challenges covid-19 posed for the logistics & the intra-logistics sector are;

a.           Transport- which was completely closed in all the three modes – sea, road, air; both domestic & international. This resulted in the complete stopping of transport of raw materials from suppliers to the manufacturers and the final goods to customers.
b.           Shortage of labour–As most people left for the hometown, significantly less availability.
c.            Lack of strong contingency plan – many businesses have not been prepared to handle this unprecedented crisis and at this scale. Certain industries like essentials such as groceries, FMCG, medicines have seen a demand surge, and some other industries like entertainment travel, luxury shopping etc. took a worse hit.
d.           Reduced consumer spends– The uncertainty prevailed in the market made consumers spend averse except on the essentials & also as the economy came to a standstill, there is no availability of liquid cash in the market.
As mentioned, while some industries had an adverse blow due to the shutdown of the economy & the lockdown, some other industries flourished especially the groceries, f&b, pharma & FMCG industries. To meet out the increased demand & the handicapped supply chain, automation has emerged as the levelling point & with-it various distribution concepts such as micro fulfilment centres arose. Till now, the concept of micro fulfilment centres was restricted to some of the advanced countries, but now they are mushrooming in India. With a diverse range of automation product portfolio, we can design multiple solutions for micro fulfilment centres. Some of the major components that can fulfil the customer order fulfilment within an area of 2k to 10k sq. ft. and within 2 hours of order, placement are Dynamo - our autonomous mobile robots, Quadron – our carton shuttle bots, Veloce – our multi-purpose vehicle, Box-it- our picking stations, and the web of smart conveyors.
To successfully fight the pandemic and assist the frontline warriors of Covid-19, we have designed and deployed Decimator – our disinfectant mobile robot across hospitals, and quarantine centres. This can be used across multiple public places such as shopping malls, airports, railways stations, schools etc. to disinfect with UV rays. With 50mj/cm2 UV light, it kills the virus/bacteria/fungi to 99.99% & helps in reducing the contraction of facility acquired infections by keeping the surroundings clean. With the natural navigation capability and the computer vision, Decimator moves from place to place and sprays UV rays in 360 degrees.

6. What are the challenges you face selling your products in India, keeping on view of the traditional & cost-effective processes is still in use in manufacturing units?
We would like to answer this question in the perspective of automation in large. Indian industry is graduating and is graduating fast from go-downs to modern warehouses. In yesteryear's go-downs, the goods were kept on the floor in an unorganized fashion, and material movement used to happen through people carrying the goods from one point to another. But due to the rise of ecommerce, GST and tremendous competition, some companies started taking the 1st step to build quality warehouses that is warehouses that are structurally strong, stable, with suitable flooring and a height of minimum 7m-10m & these companies are gradually moving towards modern way of handling material. Still, this is 20-25% of total warehousing and is not enough to bring a significant transformation in material handling. In fact, automation is much more meaningful when vertical space is utilized along with reasons such as throughput requirements, which can't be achieved by increasing labor, space constraints such as single facility operations, equity or customer demand for instant gratification such as 2-4 hour delivery window, then people need automation. So, after knowing the levers of automation in the Indian context, let's look at the significant impediments of modernizing material handling.

1. Infrastructure availability – Height, quality, floor of the building etc. is one of the major impediments to adopt automation and modern-day material handling using robots, shuttles and other automation equipment. Some of the green field warehouses are built with acceptable standards, but most of the warehouses are not.
2. Knowledge of the people – Handling automated systems requires skilled manpower. Today the kind of manpower employed at Warehouses does not have the skills to run modern warehouses. People will need to be trained on such systems; most of the technology is very intuitive in nature.
3. Automation providers – Most automation providers, do not educate people enough about the different types of automation solutions. During our initial days, we gained the trust of customers through PoCs wherein we demonstrated the capabilities of the systems at a miniaturized scale before implementing at a large scale; virtual commissioning of the solutions, workshops and training etc. More and more players should do such knowledge workshops, supply chain meets, PoCs etc. to educate the customers and to widen the knowledge of the customers and to enable informed decision making.
4. Customers measurement of automation KPIs- Wrong KPIs to measure the ROI of the equipment– Substituting manpower with robotics gets justified in developed economies such as Europe & US, but not in India. Here, the parameters that justify automation should be- solving the real problems like the scale of operations, picking accuracy, reduction of reworks, increased throughputs, storage density, dispatch accuracy etc. More & more projects and operations people must follow this to get approvals.
5. The very mindset that warehouse operations can be done by people who have limited knowledge of the technology – Though this scenario is changing; still, this is one of the major impediments of automation.

7. How successful is your R&D department for developing a new & innovative product?
We have a strong team of 400 multi-disciplinary engineers, namely design engineers, automation engineers and software engineers who work together to create innovative products for us in the category of Industrial robotics and automation. We are one of the rare Indian startups which is into hardware and software both. A large chunk of 400 engineers, is working in the R&D, driving our innovation through various products and building solutions that seamlessly integrate with any software or hardware in factories and warehouses. Our products are enabled with advanced technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning etc., thus giving us an edge compared to the existing products and players in the market. We have also commissioned a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Noida, where "Robots make Robots", and it is one of its kind in the entire world. This manufacturing facility helps us to descend the design to the manufacturing cycle and lets us experiment with different iterations of products. The manufacturing facility comprises an advanced electronic manufacturing line, fully automated tool room, paint booth, machine shop & automated assembly sections and material storage. With innovation being at the core of our DNA, we spend 10% of our revenue on R&D, which has not only played a pivotal role in creating the extensive product portfolio that we have but has also shaped our journey by making these products affordable to a lot of SME businesses through affordable and sustainable technologies.

We have recently developed our own AI engine for "Text-To-Speech" conversion which powers our product "Khushi", voice-based order picking system for warehouses. We have also launched, "Veloce, a hybrid product which adds the reach of a carton shuttle and the flexibility of mobile robot, thus proving to be the most flexible product in warehouse automation segment today in the whole world. We are also working extensively on low-cost vision picking solutions and have launched multiple variants of Dynamo (500 Kg & 1 Ton) with tugging application.

8. What are your firm's recent achievements and future plans?
This year has been very eventful for us. We have onboarded clients from various sectors and have deployed our automation solutions across the country's length and breadth. We very strongly feel that this is the time to take Indian Technology global. We have opened an office in Singapore and have completed a couple of big-ticket automation projects in Europe. Our global footprint is expanding rapidly, and we aim to make a stronghold in international markets in the coming years. India continues to be our focus area. We will continue to provide affordable Robotic and automation solutions, leading to higher adoption among Indian companies. We will also penetrate in the education, hotels, and airports industries.

We aim to become the world leader for the mobile robotics segment and intend to make India the world's factory and a hub of innovation for industry 4.0 technologies. In the next three years, we aim to generate revenue of INR 4000 cr & looking forward to penetrate the consumer industries such as education, hotels, and airports through another level of breakthrough solutions. The end goal is to pioneer human-robot collaboration to deliver affordable and sustainable technological solutions.